December 1, 2018

Japan 2018 day 1: beggars can't be choosers

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We're off to spend a week in Japan, and I'm returning to Hokkaido for the first time in almost two decades. 

We had time to kill at New Chitose Airport, so we hit the Calbee+ to snack on some potato chips that had just come out of the deep-fryer.  We picked the double cheese as well as the bacon asparagus flavors.

After a journey of almost 11 hours, the three of us finally arrived at the Windsor Hotel Toya Resort and Spa.

As we arrived just after 7pm and many of the restaurants in the hotel take their last orders at 8pm or so, we hurriedly asked staff at the front desk to book us into one of the Japanese restaurants.  Much to my surprise, we were able to get seats at Shoan Kogetsu (祥庵 こげ津) - the restaurant serving sushi.  I had been resigned to taking the set menu at Toji Sanka (杜氏賛歌), but it turns out they were full.

We were led to a private room as there seemed to be no room at the counter.  I knew this would have an affect on the quality of the sushi we were getting, but we didn't exactly have a choice.  For service, were also assigned someone from China - a sign of things to come during our stay.

The ladies didn't want to eat too much, so we chose to forgo the sushi sets and cherry picked our favorites à la carte.

North Pacific giant octopus (水蛸) - this apparently came from the head of the octopus, which was marinated in miso and spring onions.  Nice and chewy.

Mozuku (モズク) - nice to have something a little acidic to whet our appetites, although since our my last proper meal was about 8 hours ago... my appetite didn't really need any help.

Herring roe (数の子) - softer than I had expected.

The ladies had been pretty excited about starting our trip with some of Hokkaido's famous crabs, so we had ordered up a whole Japanese horsehair crab (毛蟹).  Unfortunately we were told that they had run out of stock, which was understandable as it was almost time for last order.

Grilled scallop with butter (帆立バター焼き) - this was pretty good, but I was hoping for the scallop to be a little bigger...

Steamed abalone (鮑のやわらか煮) - now THIS... THIS WAS THE SHIT!  This was one of things we wanted in Hokkaido, and it certainly did not disappoint.  The whole abalone came with a sweet, red miso with citrus flavors.

And it was so, soooo soft... Just beautifully cooked.

We each picked out the different sushi we wanted, and no surprise that I had the most number of pieces...

Rockfish (そい) - not sure which type of rockfish this was as the menu simply said "local rockfish", but this was kinda chewy with a good amount of bite.

Conger eel (穴子) - yes, like every other piece of sushi that came together on a big plate, this was already cold.

Seared kinki (炙り喜知次) - how could I not order up broadbanded thornyhead when in Hokkaido?  Of course this, too, was cold.  But the fat was still liquefied from the torching process, and the smoky flavors were nice.

Squid (烏賊) - a thick cut with a chewy texture.

Sailfin poacher (八角) - a curious-looking fish whose colloquial name comes from the octagonal shape of its cross section.  This came as a pretty thick cut, so the texture was pretty crunchy.

Botan shrimp (牡丹海老)

Mackerel (鯖) - I am now realizing that the neta (ネタ) here is usually cut pretty thick, and with this piece the skin was a lot thicker than what I'm used to... with almost a crunchy texture.  A little smoky, and the vinegar wasn't very strong.

Surf clam (北寄貝)

Abalone (鮑) - it's been years since I last had abalone sushi, and now I remembered why... This was soooo hard and crunchy, and so tough to chew on.  Not enjoyable at all.

Japanese horsehair crab (毛蟹) - they didn't have a whole crab to serve us, but they did have little bits of leg for sushi.  OK lah...

Sea urchin (雲丹) - pretty good lah... but nothing like the top produce I'm getting used to.

Born Chogin Junmai Daiginjo (梵 超吟 純米大吟醸), 30BY - seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 20%.  Mostly sweet on the attack but dry in the middle and on the finish.  Good concentration mid-palate, and definitely turns dry and spicy (辛口) towards the end.

I didn't have much expectations for this meal, so I guess I wasn't really disappointed. We were just happy to have been able to eat a proper meal, given our late arrival and the fact that this hotel doesn't have room service.  The main event will come tomorrow.

After dinner I went for my first onsen (温泉) bath in quite a number of years, but unfortunately I couldn't see anything from the outdoor bath as it was dark.  Maybe I'll see if I can go in the morning just before we leave...

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