November 9, 2019

27 hours in Fukuoka: ancient river

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It was tough waking up this morning after my late night run, but I needed to have one last lunch with The Dining Austrian before flying home.  Oryori Furukawa (御料理  古川) has gotten themselves two little macarons in the latest guide from the Rubberman just a year after opening, so naturally this was on my friend's hit list.  I was only too happy to go along with my friend.

Furukawa-san is apparently a friend of Tabara-san from last night, and had received a picture of us from Tabara-san... So it's a very small world, indeed...

Fried chicken mushrooms with spinach, soft tofu - on top of the very soft yuba (組み上げ湯葉) with the texture of cream cheese was a pile of spinach and fried chicken mushrooms (丹波しめじ).  We've also got a gelée made with chrysanthemum petals and flavored with a little wasabi.  This was very clean and refreshing, and a great way to kick off the meal.

Soup: tilefish with turnip (吸物:甘鯛  蕪) - the tilefish (甘鯛) came from Kanezaki (鐘崎) in Fukuoka Prefecture (福岡県), and the texture was pretty nice.  The fish also came with light sweet flavors, which I guess fits well with its Japanese name.  The thin slice of pumpkin in the shape of a ginkgo leaf was a nice touch, and of course the yuzu (柚子) rind provided the requisite fragrance for this delicate dish.

Sashimi: bonito and wild sea bream (お造り:鰹  天然鯛) -

Furukawa-san took a piece of hot binchotan (備長炭) with tongs and placed it directly against the piece of bonito to sear the skin side. The smoke instantly filled the room. The bonito was sooooo tender, and the flavors were so beautiful… especially with the smoky, charred skin.

The wild sea bream came from Fukuoka, and had wonderful springy texture along with some crunch, but was still tender in some parts.

Hassun (八寸) – it’s been some time since I last saw hassun presented on a tray, as was traditionally done. Our large lacquered tray came with small dishes for the three of us, and the kitchen team had created a scene which reminds one of autumn.

The offending item was in full view, and cod sperm fish cum is a #FUCKNO. The Dining Austrian didn’t even blink when I handed my serving to him.

The barracuda (梭子魚) came with nice, smoky flavors thanks to its lightly charred skin, and the cooked eggplant underneath also came with smoky flavors – no doubt by having its skin burnt before being peeled. There were also tiny bits of crunchy taro stem (芋茎)) at the bottom as well as a sprinkle of diced myoga (茗荷).

The chunk of deep-fried lotus root was crunchy and delicious, coated with a layer of tiny, crunchy bits of puffed grains. The egg custard is apparently what the restaurant is known for, with a much firmer texture that wasn’t at all jelly-like, and certainly tasted of some type of alcohol.

In the cup we had chunks of persimmon, apple, propagule (零余子) and peanuts with a thick paste.

Grilled dish : Spanish mackerel Saikyoyaki (焼物 : 鰆西京焼) – the texture of the Spanish mackerel was, not surprisingly, pretty firm, but there was still some juices left after grilling.

Taro, mizuna, watercress (里芋 水菜 クレソン) – the taro came from Shimane Prefecture (島根県), while the wild watercress came from Oita Prefecture (大分県).

Pot rice : kayaku gohan (釜:かやくご飯) – this was similar to gomoku rice (五目御飯) with lots of vegetables, but clearly much more wet.

The shredded vegetables included burdock, caroots, and shiitake mushrooms.

The pickles.

Fruit : Shine muscat and pear jelly (果物:シャインマスカットと洋梨のゼリー) – this was nice, and not that sweet.

Sweets : azuki bean soup with chestnuts (甘物:栗ぜんざい)

The matcha (抹茶) today came from Fukuoka.

This was a very filling meal, and overall pretty delicious. It is clear that Furukawa-san cares a lot about ingredient sourcing without resorting to the cliché of throwing expensive ingredients at the diner.  And both his execution and flavor combinations were very good. When the bill came at the end, I had to do a double-take. Lunch for three cost less than a similar dinner for one in Tokyo. As Eddie Murphy used to say: “WHAT A BAARGIN!”

I bid my friends goodbye after lunch, and made my way to a couple of stops before heading out to the airport. This involved walking through Nakasu (中洲), the little island which is effectively the city’s red light district, and populated with lots of soapland (ソープランド), cabaret clubs (キャバクラ), and other types of entertainment. On a whim, I had decided to take a turn to follow a couple across a bridge instead of walking down a main street. This was when I sudden found myself – a lone middle-aged man – walking down an alley with establishments on both sides… and greeted constantly by people who invited me to enter.

But I was focused on my agenda – the first of which was grabbing a cuppa at FUK Coffee. This place has made a name for itself thanks to the clever name, and they certainly know how to milk it with all the merchandise they sell in the small shop.

I was told to get myself a Houjicha latte, and I did. This was a mistake. While I love houjicha (焙じ茶) and many things made with it, I had forgotten how much I dislike matcha latte for its particular strong flavor of… “milkiness”. I struggled to drink down half the cup, and ended up pouring the rest down a drain on a quiet side street.

Because of my curtailed itinerary, I was unable to join S for dinner at La Maison de la Nature Goh. S had lunch with Goh-san today, and suggested that I drop by the restaurant in the afternoon to see him. Unfortunately, though, I arrived a little too early.

I headed back to Hotel Nikko Fukuoka to fetch my luggage. As I waited in the lobby, a hotel staff came and offered to take my empty and crushed paper coffee cup away. Yes, I had been walking around for the last hour or so carrying around an empty paper cup because there are almost no public trash cans in the city. Japan wants you to take your trash home so you can separate it, and the result is that other than recycling bins dotted here and there, one doesn’t have much choice when it comes to non-recyclable garbage.

My last stop of the day was Royal Food Court (ローヤルフードコート) at Fukuoka Airport. I had to buy myself a one-way ticket on a budget airline to get home today, which meant I needed to pay extra for questionable meal service onboard. After a short debate with myself, I ended up getting a bowl of chanpon (チャンポン) for the abundance of vegetables. Unfortunately, this was very, very salty… so my 27 hours in Fukuoka started on a high and kinda ended up a low note.

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