Tokyo Day 4: Gora Kadan Dinner

I took a bit of a detour from posting all our amazing Tokyo vacation experiences. Hard to believe that the trip was 2 months ago already.  But the memories are still fresh in my mind.  It was certainly a time in my life that I will never forget.

We last left off with arriving at the first class ryokan, Gora Kadan, in Hakone.  The rain was coming down in earnest, but as we were there to enjoy the hot springs, getting a bit wet simply wasn’t an issue.  After Taka-san, our personal attendant, gave us a tour of the suite and some tea to settle in after the journey from Tokyo, a dip in the private bath was priority.  After a soak (or two) we slipped into yukata and Taka-san began serving dinner.

adi and sheri before dinner

Kaiseki Formal Japanese Meal

japanese dinner place setting

Kaiseki cuisine  is a serious affair.  Chefs go to great lengths to ensure an exquisite level of taste and and an equally esthetically pleasing visual story.  This type of cuisine typically uses only the freshest of seasonal ingredients.  The presentation of the dishes are carefully crafted and will use real flowers or edible garnishes to resemble seasonal themes.

While not an official course of the meal, even our sake was delivered in a manner appropriate for the kaiseki style.  I took the flowers from the presentation with me when we left and they became a charming floral arrangement in the apartment for many days to follow.  There were several buds still on the branch and each blossomed in their own time.

kaiseki serving of sake during traditional japanese dinner

Hours d’oeuvre: Lotus root sushi, prawn, Japanese thicker omelet, water shield with dashi vinegar, masu trout with dengaku miso, broad bean, dried hoshiko, boiled Japanese pepper flower

gora kadan japanese dinner first course

Side dish: Green peas tofu, deep fried ainame (fat greenling) with dashi sauce

shrimp and tofu tempura dish

Soup: Clear soup with scallop dumpling topped grilled scallop, garnish with three color vegetables and pepper buds

japanese grilled scallop in broth

Sashimi: Catch of the day with tosa soy sauce and salt ponzu vinegar

uni sashimi gora kadan ryokan

Grilled fish: Dried ayu sweet fish, myoga ginger pickles in vinegar, simmered sweet potato {I clearly was too into the sashimi as I only have this one photo which includes the ayu}

takasan serving another dish

Steamed dish: Dried flowering fern, young taro potato, fried eggplant, boiled abalone, snap bean and a grated yuzu citrus

seaweed course ryokan traditional meal

Small dish: Grilled Japanese beef filet with starch power, boiled bamboo shoot, and Japanese pepper flower {as we don’t eat meat, they served us a lovely lobster instead}

lobster course ryokan dinnner

Rice dish: Seasoned burdock rice, anago (sea eel) boiled with arima pepper, assorted Japanese pickles, and dark miso soup with seaweed

unagi and rice course

Dessert: Loquat and warabimochi (bracken startch dumpling) with soybean flour

cherries and japanese jelly dessert

like a bowl of cherries

Surprise! While we finished dinner, Taka-san left a little treat for us.  On our bedside table was a note wishing us sweet dreams and a little something to be enjoyed as a late night snack.

sweet dreams note from taka-san

Tokyo Day 3: Dinner at Aoyagi Part 2

So where did we leave off.  Oh yes, the sake was flowing…

lots of dassai sake at aoyagi

… and flowing…

3 friends and lots of sake

Course 5

And the food was still flowing as well.  And the proportions suddenly grew making me wish I had worn an elastic waist skirt that night.  Course 5 included sashimi adorned with daikon cut in the shape of falling cherry blossom petals served on dish featuring a willow and a bridge.  So appropriate for the season.  The sashimi was accompanied with a seaweed soup and a small side dish which my memory has failed to remember exactly what it was.  I do know it was very very tasty.

aoyagi meal 5th course

Course 6

Up next was a few bites of grilled eel. We were all chatting and interested in the technique used to prepare the eel.  It was very soft and not chewy at all.  At which point Kimiko magically produced a book full of incredible photos from the restaurant.  She showed us a 2 page spread featuring preparation of this specific dish.  The cutting technique is critical to its success.  And the flavor imbibed from the grilling was extraordinary.

aoyagi meal 6th course

picture book of aoyagi dishes

Course 7

Up next was a tuna sushi roll and a piece of pickled myoga ginger. Forget the typical slices of ginger that are served with everyday sushi.  That little chunk of ginger was spectacular.

aoyagi meal 7th course

Course 8

I am not an anime otaku by any stretch, but when this single piece of sushi arrived I couldn’t help but channel Haruhi from Ōran Kōkō Hosuto Kurabu. FATTY TUNA!!!  Need I say more?

aoyagi meal 8th course

Course 9

Surely, I thought, the fatty tuna must be the climax of the meal.  I was wrong.  More dishes were still ahead of us.  Next up, a slice of grilled fish.  The grilling gave it a wonderful bouquet and a distinct texture.  Still soft on the inside but moist on the outside.  Adi raved about this dish the entire cab ride home.  As he is our resident chef, I think that says something.

aoyagi meal 9th course

Course 10

I confess, when this mystery bowl arrived I was nervous.  How on earth am I going to eat any more.

hum what is inside this bowl?

And then more and more and more plates kept coming.  And then a giant nabe of rice too!  The good news, we had reached the grand finale.  The bad news, it was a delicious conclusion and I just couldn’t eat it all.  Lucky for me, Asumi had no issues and helped me out. Dōmo Asumi, dōmo.

aoyagi meal 10th course

Dessert 1

Ah, but wait, there’s more.  No meal is complete without dessert.  This evening it was a slice of musk melon and a strawberry topped with a sauce and mint. おいしいですね!

aoyagi meal 1st dessert

Dessert 2

Maybe I should have split this post into 3 parts.  Cause even dessert was turning out to be a serious affair.  This dish has a little story to it.  On the surface it looks like a straight forward manjū, bun filled with anko bean paste.  But this little treat was especially made using Dassai sake lees.  A very thoughtful and special touch for our dinner party.

aoyagi meal 2nd dessert

What is Going On???

As I mentioned in the last post, while this all looks very posh and proper, the giggles in our little private room were anything but.  There were jokes relating those in our party’s ability to consume sake as compared to Starbuck’s serving sizes.  I am a “tall” if you must know.  And some very interesting attempts at translating using a combination of Japanese, English and French.  But those are our secrets and shale not be spoken about further.

However, it seems I have some gaps in memory not just about the food.  My camera captured a few shots where I am still not exactly sure what was going on.  Looks pretty serious!

don't drink and play with wabocho

And so that concludes our evening at Aoyagi.  I’ve been fortunate enough to dine at some of the best restaurants in NYC.  Sorry Daniel, but I did just find my new, most favorite restaurant on the planet.

Aoyagi
2丁目-3−20 Azabudai
Minato, Tokyo 106-0041, Japan
03-3224-3405

40×Tokyo: Tsukiji Market

40 x Tokyo

T-minus 39 days and counting.  Today’s birthday wish is to visit…

Tsukiji (築地)

tokyo trip tsukiji

I am particularly excited to see Tsukiji Market before it is moved to its new location.  Their move has been delayed but just the same it is a now-or-never experience.  There are actually 5 wishes for the Tsukiji district:

  • Tsukiji Market – You might have expected my first stop to be Harajuku, and for all I know it might be, but I am truly elated to, after all these years, stroll the fish market. I am a pescatarian after all and rather fond of Life’s Sweet Essential – Food.
  • Namiyoke Inari Shrine – My travel buddy might not be as into this as me, but I just adore all the temples and shrines.  I can’t wait to see the big Lioness (shishi) that represent the Gods Inari and Benzaiten.
  • Hamarikyu Garden – I am very hopeful that I will be able to get a glimpse of the end of Cherry Blossom season.  While I will be there late in the season, I am sure that the garden will still have plenty of spring flora to offer.
  • Tsukiji Honganji Temple – I love that Japan has balanced both the Shinto and Buddhist pantheons in such harmony.  In particular, this temple has me intrigued for its additional influence from Indian Hinduism.
  • Tamasushi Kitaro Tsukiji – This sushi restaurant looks out of this world! Their website makes me drool just thinking about the sushi that awaits us.

Links:  Tsukiji English Site  |  Market Guide

Credits:  (1)   (2)   (3)   (4)   (5)

Note to self: I should try and collect charms and phone straps as a way to commemorate the trip.

日本語のクラス (Nihongo no Kurasu)

Japan Society NYC Nihongo no Kurasu

I have learned more in 20 sessions of Japanese than I did in a few years of Spanish and French.  The Toyota Learning Center at Japan Society in NYC has really done an impressive job both with the selection of their instructors and the curriculum.  Another key difference in this experience is that all the students really want to be there.  It is not like learning a language in high school because there is an obligation.  My classmates and myself are very intent on learning the language.

My class is a great mix of those who have Japanese spouses, those infatuated with manga and anime, and those doing business in some form with Japan or Japanese nationals.  For me it is my complete and total obsession with the fashion, arts and culture in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Party @ Izakaya Riki

Japanese class party at Riki restaurant

After our last class we all adjourned to the local salaryman’s bar, Riki Restaurant.  Last semester we reserved the tatami room, this time around we had one of the karaoke rooms upstairs.  Tons of fried food, bowl upon bowl of udon, and infinite pitchers of beer and bottles of sake were exactly what was needed to cement in everything we had learned!

biiru o kudasai

Sweet Dreams, Sheri

 

 

 

P.S.  And in case I haven’t had enough sake, I have a team outing at the Riki this Friday! (^_-)☆

Sushi Yasuda in NYC

Sushi, sushi, and more sushi.  I have been in a rut lately – a rut that I am not complaining about one bit.  On a special occasion recently my love and I had the chance to dine at Sushi Yasuda in New York.

I learned about the restaurant during Japanese class at Japan Society.  Sensei used a list of great Japanese establishments in the city as a way to teach us how to say phone numbers.  And on that list, yes you guessed it, this sushi-ya. The next step was finding the place.  It is on a very unassuming street in the business district by Grand Central Terminal.  And the signage for the restaurant is even more unassuming.

what to look for to find sushi yasuda's storefront

Itadakimasu

The restaurant is sharp.  Floor to ceiling bamboo wraps you in an inviting warmth.  The sake selection was OK.  I give the sushi a 4 out of 5.  It is good, very good, but I have been spoiled.  They lost a point for portion sizes (very small nigiri) and the rice more than anything.  It had a bit too much bite for my liking.  But I know a lot of people like that so do be sure to try it yourself.

sushi and sake at sushi yasuda

Gochisosama

There was something kinda cute on their website.  Looks like they sell some sushi oriented origami as souvenirs.

sushi yasuda origami

Sweet Dreams, Sheri

 

 

 

 

Dassai X Megu

You know how I mentioned the other day that I signed up for emails from the Japanese Culinary Center.  Well it has already paid off.  Heading out in a little while to Megu for a Dassai sake tasting dinner!

Here’s a caption from the email:

“Dassai, one of Japan’s most sought-after sake breweries in Japan, crafts only ultra premium Junmai Daiginjo [Sheri’s heart begins to melt] sake made exlusively from Yamada Nishiki rice, the finest sake rice available from Hyogo Prefecture.”

The event is limited to 20 guests.  I am very excited we were able to get tickets.  Looking forward to mingling and meeting new people.  Well and am elated to enjoy a 5 course meal at Megu!!!

Exquisite interior featuring the Lord Buddha in center stage at Megu in NY.

Kanpai!!!

Sweet Dreams, Sheri

 

 

Credits:  Dassai flyer photo from Japanese Culinary Center’s email campaign; dining room photo from  megurestaurants.com.
 

Japanese Culinary Center

Stumbled upon the Japanese Culinary Center in NY during my walks from Grand Central to classes at the Japan Society.  It looks really interesting.  A quote from their website gives a pretty good overview:

“Your One Stop Shop to the Flavors of Japan… to bring an extensive collection of culinary items from the world of Japanese cuisine to New York City.”

View of the Center from their gallery on japaneseculinarycenter.com

Their list of offers covers the gamut of Japanese Life’s Sweet Essential #1 – Food.

  • Japanese Professional Knives
  • Ceramic Ware and Pottery
  • Kitchen Utensils
  • Japanese Foods & Ingredients
  • Kitchen Disposable Items
  • Uniforms for Restaurant Use
  • Custom Made Professional Tools
  • Cooking Books
  • Sake Tasting Seminars (oh yes!)
  • Cooking Classes (sign me up)

I have to give them very low marks for their website, it really is dreadful.  But having walked past their extraordinary window displays for the past few months I am going to let that slide.  So I’ve signed up for their emails in the hopes to checkout their upcoming sake tastings and cooking classes.  Will keep you posted.

Sweet Dreams, Sheri