February 3, 2008
AEJ and I spent our entire honeymoon in Japan sick. I never quite got as sick as she was, but we were both in pretty bad shape the whole time, and we still haven’t quite recovered. As a result, we didn’t get to accomplish a lot of what we planned to do in Tokyo. On Saturday night, we had plans to join several of the “Kingfishers Catch Fire” consortium directors for dinner. AEJ, though, was too sick, and spent the night in bed at the hotel. I managed to go to dinner, and I’m glad I did. It was a pretty special dinner…
Dinner was at Imahan Ningyocho, the most famous Japanese sukiyaki restaurant in Tokyo. Sukiyaki (per the Wiki) “consists of meat (usually thinly sliced beef), or a vegetarian version made only with firm tofu, slowly cooked or simmered at the table, alongside vegetables and other ingredients, in a shallow iron pot in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. Before being eaten, the ingredients are usually dipped in a small bowl of raw, beaten eggs.” I’m in!
The restaurant is very traditional Japanese — starting with the removal of shoes upon entry.
We sat in a lovely private room with a tatami floor.
As soon as we sat down, my hosts gave me a wedding present! (Presents are a big Japanese custom, and wow did I feel like an ass for bringing nothing.)
The present was a pair of beautifully lacquered Japanese bowls and sake cups.
The painting on the inside of this bowl’s lid looks like a treble clef.
The beer is here!
I don’t understand more than a few words of Japanese, but I did hear Mamoru Nakata (our main host, and the man who organized the Kingfishers Catch Fire commission in the first place) ask the server for “omakase” — meaning basically “chef’s choice.” This would be fun — and the real deal. The first course was this soup with a seaweed broth, whitefish, and teeny tiny tomatoes.
The next course (like all of them) was just beautifully presented. Check out the hand-painted paper on the bottom, and the wire basket holding the fish (on gold foil paper) in the center…
One of the bowls had a swan lid. In the background, you can see one of the three dishes in this course — fish liver with pickled vegetables on top. To be honest, I was… a little apprehensive. Nakata-san said, “it’s like fois gras, only with fish liver instead of goose liver.” He said this as if it made it okay. In fact, it was pretty tasty – as long as I didn’t let myself think, “this is fish liver.”
This shot shows some of the fish on the foil paper (on the left) as well as some more pickled vegetables.
The next course was simply sashimi. The back is tuna, the right is squid, and I forget what the front is. They typed the name of it into their little hand held translator machines (why don’t I have one of these gadgets?), and it translated it something like “raper fish,” which, again, didn’t really clear it up for me. No matter — it was all delicious — even the squid, which I’ve had trouble with in the past. (This was very tender squid. I once spent 11 minutes chewing a piece of squid at another sushi restaurant.)
This next dish was a little challenging, even for a few of the people at the table. Talk about making it extra-scary. It’s one thing if they’re all like, “mmm! We love this fried fermented soy curd!” It’s another when a few of them are grimacing while eating it. Surprisingly to me — I liked it.
Well, the flavor. The texture was rather challenging. But honestly, that’s part of the fun.
Here come the vegetables for the main course!
And here’s the star of the meal: the Wagyu beef — heavily marbled Japanese beef raised on a diet of beer and sake. (It’s also known as Kobe beef if raised in Kobe.)
Here our server whisks the raw egg that would be mixed with the cooked beef and vegetables.
Here the beef cooks (briefly) in the special mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin.
Can we get another look at the “before” picture?
And here it is when served with the vegetables (and raw egg). It was delicious. The beef is insanely rich, and the egg gives the whole thing a silky texture.
Perhaps I’ll have a sip of hot sake. I may as well drown my lingering cold with hot liquor!
The next course is the miso soup.
And for dessert, yuzu ice cream. This was a funny one, because I loved it — and some of the native Japanese guys thought it was too tart.
And, since it’s Japan, and I’m nursing a cold, let’s finish with some green tea.
I was sad that AEJ couldn’t be there. It was a wonderful meal. I think I’m still stuffed. A sincere thanks to my hosts!