April 19, 2023

Japan Michelin tour 2023 day 5: sukiya dinner

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Dinner tonight was at Chisou Nakamura (馳走 なかむら), a well-respected kaiseki (懐石料理) restaurant whose taisho (大将) had trained in Nara. We were fortunate enough to park ourselves at the 7-seat counter so as to watch chef Nakamura Akira (中村 亨) in action.

I was so, so happy to see a written menu. I used to think that written menus were standard at kaiseki restaurants, but that just shows me how little I know... This was hand-written in calligraphy by the okami-san (女将さん).

As they knew we are foreign guests, the okami-san painstakingly tried to translate the menu from Japanese to English and delivered us another handwritten menu. I am incredibly grateful for her effort, although there are naturally a few things which got lost in translation.

Sakura kosen (桜香煎) - a lovely touch, with lightly-salted cherry blossom petals.

Cockle, seaweed, asparagus and Japanese spring orchid, ginger vinegar jelly (先付: とり貝  若メ  アスパラガス  春蘭  生姜酢) - a refreshing dish with cockles (とり貝) and a gélée made of ginger vinegar.

Prawn with bamboo shoot, fish minced and steamed, spring vegetable warabi, bonito and kelp soup (お椀: たけの子真蒸  車海老  わらび) - beautiful dashi (出汁), and the sansho leaves (木の芽) were very fresh so they definitely left a tingling, numbing sensation on the tongue.

The shinjo (真蒸) fell apart easily, crumbling to show the chunks of bamboo shoots in addition to the big chunks of tiger prawn and fish. A very lovely dish and one that the restaurant is very proud of.

Stone fish: fish skin, stomach, liver and roe, vinegar soy sauce (向付: 季節の盛り込みあしらい) - the fish was pretty crnchy, and the skin was chewy as expected. A little different as they also incorporated the fish tripe, roe, and liver. Served with ponzu (ポン酢) along with soy sauce and wasabi.

Said of soy and kelp sauce (醤油と昆布の和え) - very tasty condiment.

Sea urchin, top of Japanese caviar (うに  宮崎キャビア) - the caviar from Miyazaki (宮崎) was seasoned with soy sauce and mirin (味醂), the eggs were on the small side but tasted fine.

Abalone, said of nori with liver boiled in soy sauce (鮑  肝あおさのり煮) - the abalone was steamed in sake, and the texture was OK but not exceptional. Served with a sauce made of abalone liver and sea lettuce (あおさ海苔), which offered up familiar umami (旨味) without being too heavy on the liver.

Hassun (八寸) - the classic hassun here is beautifully laid out, with containers in the shape of a pair of male and female mandarin ducks.

The whole layout was meant to evoke a flowing river.

Fava beans seasoned tofu sauce (おたふく豆白和え) - this was a little sweet.

Grilled firefly squied, pickled in soy sauce (ほたるいか酒盗) - as expected, this was pretty salty.

Japanese egg rolled omelette, dried mullet roe, butterbur sprouts pikled in plum vinegar (出し巻玉子  からすみ  ふき梅肉しょうゆづけ) - the mullet roe was pretty sticky, with good depth of flavors along with a good amount of bitterness.

Grilled sea eel with grated radish spicy vinegar (穴子ろり酢) - the conger eel was nice and springy, love the skin. The grated radish came with good acidity.

Grilled Japanese spiny lobster botan shrimp (焼物: 伊勢海老牡丹海老石焼) - chef made a last-minute substitution when they got some live botan shrimp and he couldn't pass it up. Cooked inside this stone cup along with some scrambled eggs as well as sea cucumber ovaries (干し子).

Deep-fried shark fin, spring vegetables (揚物: ふかひれ  春菜) - shark's fin is normally not my thing but... gotta admit the texture was great once it's been fried. Served with spring vegetable like ostrich fern (こごみ), koshiabura (コシアブラ), and Japanese angelica shoots (タラの芽).

Green peas tofu (冷物: うすい豆とうふ) - the texture of the tofu was bouncy because of kudzu (葛). The dashi came with bits of green peas, and some pickled ginger.

Japanese Kagoshima beef, Japone sauce top of Japanese pepper flower (牛肉: 鹿児島黒毛和牛  花山椒) - I couldn't begin to describe how happy I was at the sight of all those pretty little flowers. YASS!!!! I'm in Japan during sansho flower (花山椒) season!!!

Chateaubriand (シャトーブリアン) - this was fine, of course... after all it's one of the best cuts of beef from a Japanese kuroge wagyu (黒毛和牛). Very silky and smooth, without a ton of fat.

But this... THIS IS DA SHIT! The aitchbone (イチボ) has been cut into very thin slices and rolled up. And now that it's been cooked, the fat has been melted and oozes out in response to pressure from the teeth. This was soooo soft, soooo fatty, and soooo tasty! I can't believe I only got 3 measly little rolls!!!

Bamboo shoot rice (ご飯: たけの子ごはん) - delicious rice from a clay pot, steamed with bamboo shoots.

Japanese pickles, miso soup (春の物 汁)

Strawberry sherbet with raspberries sauce, strawberry and mango (水物: 苺シャーベット  宮崎マンゴー) - the strawberry sherbet was really, really good and packed with flavor, and came topped with white wine gélée. Served with Awayuki (淡雪) strawberries and Miyazaki mangoes.

Japanese confectioneries "mountain in spring" Japanese cake in sweet red been-paste (お菓子: 春の山) - so classic. So pretty.

Green tea matcha (お抹茶)

I asked okami-san to help us pair some sake with dinner:

Kokuryu Kuzuryu Tarekuchi (黒龍  九頭龍  垂れ口) - seimaibuai of 65%. Rounded on the palate, sweet on the attack but gives way to medium-dry. A little lactic acid here, perhaps? Kinda refreshing.

Jikon Jyunmai Ginjyo Yamadanishiki (而今  純米吟醸  山田錦), from isshobin - seimaibuai of 50%. Medium-dry, thin on the palate at first but got more viscous. Sweeter now but still got the dry finish.

Juyondai Tatsunootoshigo Daigokjo Nama Junmai Daiginjo (十四代 龍の落とし子 大極上生 純米大吟醸), from isshobin - seimaibuai of 35%. Very fruity and floral, plenty of banana. So easy to drink as always.

We were really, really happy with dinner tonight. It's been so long since I last enjoyed a proper kaiseki meal, with all the trimmings that come with one. Would love to come back again.

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