Wednesday, 9 January 2008
Back from Japan
I know I'm only three posts in - but I feel I am already falling behind.
When I finally got the courage up to start this blog, I was determined to write regularly - but Xmas and travel got the better of me - oh well - I guess I can add it to the list of New Year's resolutions.
So my excuse for not writing for a few weeks is that the chef and I just got back from a couple of weeks in Japan, which was a bit of a foodies fun trip.
One of our aims is to dine at the all of the 100 best restaurants in the world - but unfortunately none of them are in Japan. That isn't to say that there aren't fabulous restaurants there - just that none of them are acknowledged on this particular list. Instead, we stuck to small, simple, authentic restaurants. Overall the food was fabulous, but there were a few highlights.
Our main aim was to get some good Kobe beef. This is beef from Wagyu stock that is fed beer and hand massaged to produce beautifully marbled meat. We had been eyeing up potential places for about a week (by looking at the wacky plastic displays out the front of restaurants) and had tasted a few bits of nice beef as part of other meals, but we hadn't found quite the right place. That is until we stumbled upon a butchers in Kyoto specialising in Kobe beef. As we drooled at the beef in the window we realised that they had a restaurant upstairs. We rushed up as quickly as we could rip our shoes off, and sat down on tatami mats around a low table with an integrated hotplate. We decided to keep it simple: premium beef (you can specify the grade you want) cooked on the hotplate in front of us. Now people bandy around the term 'melt in your mouth' without really giving it much thought - but it really did - it was amazing!
Our other aim was to brave the fugu - poisonous blowfish. The poison in this fish is 30 times more deadly than arsenic and chefs are only allowed to prepare it after 3 years training. We decided to forgo the fugu on New Year's day - we didn't want some chef hung over from an all-nighter karaoke night slicing up our poisonous fish - and since we were hung over from an all-nighter karaoke night, we thought we might not appreciate it properly. But we finally found a good fugu specialist in Osaka and took the plunge. We ordered the fugu served 10 ways, including sashimi, sushi, fried, tempured, and grilled. We had read that the first sign of poisoning is a numbing of the lips - so the sake that we drank didn't help our paranoia - but we managed to survive. And the verdict - it really does taste just like chicken.