I’m always game for trying new foods. I’ve had reindeer and moose in Sweden. I had lutefisk in Norway. I’m always down for sushi – even the dreaded uni – and I’m a big fan of the goat at my beloved Taqueria Zamora.
While in Japan you can bet I did my best to sample as much new cuisine as possible.
First up was a kaiseki meal in Kyoto. Kaiseki is a fixed menu consisting of many courses. The place we selected was called Uzuki and is located on Pontocho Street. (The Globe and Mail says it’s the best place in Kyoto to try kaiseki.) Clearly it must be as Tom Hanks ate there during his Da Vinci Code PR tour.
This blog has a great description of a meal at the very same restaurant. Each course was served on a carefully arranged plate. Some were almost too pretty to eat… but I ate them anyway. I wasn’t exactly sure what was served with each course but everything was delicious.
I love sushi so I ate a LOT of it while we were in Japan.
While I’ve always been a big fan of nearly any kind of tuna I found myself largely avoiding it except for otoro, a very fatty and very expensive cut. It can set you back $12-15 for two pieces while the regular akami cut you get will only be $4-5. Splurge next time you have sushi if otoro is available. Totally worth it.
Anyway, there were two especially memorable sushi meals. The first was in Kyoto where we charmed the staff by ordering three warm sakes… but only two “chef’s choice” sushi dinners. The chefs were really fun to talk with.
I had uni here again. I thought it was disgusting the first time I tried it in the States. It reminded me of cold, fish-flavored meringue. At this sushi place in Kyoto, though, it was delicious. Perhaps I’ll have to try it again…
The second memorable meal was, again, breakfast at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. For relatively little money we got an absolute pile of sushi, including some arc shell (akagi) and sea bream (tai). I really wanted to try the cockle (torigai) but was too stuffed to order it.
Food On A Stick
We ate at “food on a stick” restaurants twice in Tokyo, both times in Akihabara. The first was a yakitori (skewer grill) place. Everything at the place was some form chicken. Except, of course, the vegetables. There was chicken breast, chicken thigh, “dark meat with gristle” and, my favorite, chicken heart. Yum, yum!
The “dark meat and gristle” stick became a great joke for the rest of the trip. We thought it was a perfect name for a band, probably heavy metal. We came up with great song titles like “Strength of a Thousand Babies” and even had a name for the second album. As it turns out Gristlestick is an awesome name for a band… and they’re from Maine. Buy their album on iTunes or at CDBaby.
The last exciting meal was at a kushiage place. Everything is, again, served on a stick but this time any meat (beef, chicken, seafood), lightly battered and fried instead of grilled. The batter is really light, not at all like tempura.
The chef prepares things in courses, one item at a time and presents it to you and indicates what sauce to pair it with. You eat until you wave him off and say no more. I literally had to hold my fingers up in the shape of an X and say, “No more!” to get him to stop.
The most interesting item here had to be the whole shrimp. That’s right, whole shrimp. Head, eyes, antenna, tail… everything except the main shell. The chef presented it to us and said, “Eat whole thing.” We must have eyed him dubiously because he repeated, “Yes, all.”
I tell ya after a few sakes fried shrimp head can be pretty darn tasty.