Shizuoka Izakaya: Drinking History at Yasaitei

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Last night I was invited by the owners of Odakkui, Katayurimo and Hana Oto Izakayas to share a very special bottle of sake (above pic).
This sake, a superlative Daiginjo, had been brewed back in 1997 by Okada Brewery which eventually ceased operations in 2006. In spite of its old age (for a sake) it had preserved in perfect condition all the time at very cold temperature by a collector cum liquor shop, Matsunagaya in Shizuoka City.
For the connoiseurs, this Daiginjyo is called Okinabeneten, brewed by Okada Brewery in Fujieda City. Rice: Yamada Nishiki milled down to an extravagant 35%. The yeast was a Shizuoka NEW-5 Yeast. Dryness is only +7~+9 and acidity a very low 1.0~1.3. The drawing process was “Fune shibori/tank press”. Alcohol was standard 15~16 degrees.
A great sake, so pleasant to drink with a dry elegant entry, short tail and a complex and rich aroma and taste. Tended to show different facets with food, alternatively turning drier and sweeter. An incredibly extravagant sake to drink with food. We drank it both chilled and heated.

Now, what did we eat with such a nectar?
First of all, sashimi of course. Not one kind, but two!
First seafood sashimi as shown on pic above:
(From top clockwise) Fresh Shirasu/baby sardines, Akami/lean tuna, Madai/red snapper, Hotategai/scallops, Katsuo/bonito. In the centre is boiled Tako/octopus. The whole was provided with wasabi (real one!), grated ginger, myoga cut into very fine strips and chopped thin leeks.

Yasai sashimi/vegetables sashimi, the specialty of the house. Great juicy and crunchy cucumber, daikon, red radishes, celery (Shizuoka Prefecture produces half of all celery in Japan!), myoga and sweet red pimento. You probably noticed the big shiso leaf concealing chopped sweet onions. A treat for vegetarians (and vegans!)!

Yasatei is also renown for its superlative Kansai-style oden!

And finally another treat for vegetarians: renkon/lotus roots sauteed with soy sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds!

Great food for a great sake!

Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Tokiwa-Cho, 1-6-2 Green Heights Wamon 1-C
Tel.: 054-2543277
Business hours: 17:30~22:00
Closed on Sundays
Reservations highly recommended

Today’s Bento/Lunch Box (31)

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Yesterday’s bento was a bit of repeat with the main difference that residing with the chicken.

The rice came under the form of three distinct nigiri/rice balls half-wrapped in fresh green shiso/perilla: Sweet seaweed/konbu, finely chopped Japanese pickled cucumber and umeboshi/pickled Japanese plums. Three plum tomatoes for the vitamin C and some French cornichons.

The deep-fried chicken were whole thighs on the bones. I did eat them with my fingers wrapped in the fresh lettuce after having pressed the lemon slice over them.
This time dessert was not forgotten with some processed cheese and seedless Japanese grapes!

French Cuisine: Dinner at Les Cinqs

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It did take time after all to finally be able to enjoy dinner with friends at Tetsuya Sugimoto’s new restaurant, Les Cinqs, but it certainly was worth all the waiting!

(Cremant de Bourgogne, Blancs de Blancs, GAEC Rousset)

My friends being wine-lovers, we skipped the great Shizuoka Sake on their special list and explored the extensive wine menu. After some hesitation whether we would go for some Champagne, we chose a Cremant de Bourgogne, which is always yen for yen (or euro for euro) far better value than their overpriced cousins. The only difference being the locale, we were not disappoined and started the dinner on a great note.

The great menu could be described as a course three times repeated as almost came in three varieties.
The first amuse was Gougeres au Pate de Porc. My American friend could not help comment he was eating a mini French hamburger! He genially pointed out it was certainly better value than some famous/notorious brands.

The second amuse was Mousse de Fromage blanc. Light, almost ethereal, it was accented with a touch of Argan oil from Morocco.

The third amuse was a Salade de Calamar: raw cuttle-fish cut in thin strips and decorated with delicately chopped vegetables and a few extra-mini tomatoes. The cuttle fish was counterbalanced with a mixed fish tartare.

The first hors d’oeuvre/starter came in the shape of “Goma-Dango”/ deep-fried sesame ball with Japanese anko/sweetmeat and foie gras inside served with aloe jelly and a small glass of Sweet white Jurancon.

The second hors d’oeuvre was a salad of smoked salmon trout from Fujinomiya City (it takes them three years to reach maturity and your plate!) topped with a salad of fine vegetables and edible flowers grown locally, and topped with an emulsion.

(Gevrey-Chambertin, 2003, Red, Domaine-Rossignol-Trajet)

The Cremant had disappeard by then, and it was grand time to start some serious drinking. We chose a nectar from my (French) sister in law’s village, Gevrey-Chambertin. This is a celebrated wine and does not really need another compliment. Just let me tell you that it was full with red fruits and drnk so smoothly in spite of his young age!

And then it was back to the third hors d’oeuvre: Potage froid de Potiron. The simple explanation does not pay justice to the sublime taste of Ebisu Kabotcha/Ebisu Pumpkin grown in Hamamatsu City!

At long last the first main course: Poelee de Rouget aux Champignons sauvages/skillet red sanpper (amadai in Japanese) from Ogawa Bay and wild mushrooms freshly picked at the foot of Mount Fuji!

The second main course was a discovery: Roti de Pigeonneau/Roasted young Pigeon. This was the first I saw and tasted it under such a concept. Can you see the half head with its brains (cooked). I ate the whole lot, brains, skull and beak! Yes, you read it, and it was a beautiful experience (stop shooting, will ya?)!

The day’s Granite to help us along to the dessert was another discovery: Granite de sureau/Elder Tree Flowers Granite! I might ask fiends in North America for some explanations!

The first dessert was a Gelee de Raisin/ Fresh Kyohou seedless grapes groen in Hamamatsu City in the own jelly. A continuation of the Granite!

The second dessert was a Gateau au Chocolat. Sorry, I did not listen to the explanation lost as I was in the next sight!

(1967 LBV Port/ Real Oporto, P. EALCA VELHA)

Mr. Sugimoto had brought a present from a friend on the table: Port wine! What with the chocolate cake, the mignardises and coffee, it just made for the perfect final combination!

Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Shichiken-cho, 17-14, Amble Court 1F (along north side of Aoba Park beyond Aoba Park Police Box)
Tel.: 054-251-7728
Cards OK
Reservations recommended (obligatory for the counter and private rooms!)

Shizuoka Izakaya: Bu-Ichi (re-visited)

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(Oumuraya Brewery, Hakuen Bishamon Honjozo)

The Missus has this special liking for Bu-Ichi Izakaya (which I share!), not only because she loves the food, drinks and atmosphere, but also because she always happens to learn something new she will be glad to try reproduce (in her own way) back home! I’m not one to complain, and I certainly enjoy writing about the place over and over again!

One thing is certain: this is one the very best places in the whole Prefecture to enjoy sashimi as once again demonstrated by the succulent katsuo/bonito served with grated ginger and thinly-chopped leeks.

Another reason is the top-class Shizuoka Sake!
I (my wife drinks wine as a matter of course) chose this very limited edition (only 300 bottles) by Oumuraya Brewery in Shimada (Tim, are you reading?):
Hakuen Bishamon, Honjozo, a very soft, almost sweet sake (Dryness: +1, acidity: 1.3).

Sanma/Mackerel Pike is in season. We ordered a yaki sanma sarada/grilled mackerel pike salad. The fish is first grilled, then shred into small bite-sized chunks and served with vegetables and home-made dressing. This is the recipe that the Missus has a special interest for!

Talking of vegetables,Bu-Ichi, in spite of all its great fish and meat, would be the perfect place for a vegetarian too thanks to perfect vegetables tenpura! Wherever they come from, they are always exlusively seasonal!

With such meals, sake tends to disappear too quickly! My next order was a Kikuyoi Tokubetsu Junmai by Aoshima Brewery in Fujieda City. Mr. Aoshima makes superlative sake getting recognition all over Japan in spite of its relatively small size. Incidentally he also speaks fluent English for those who would like to visit his brewery!

As we are both omnivores, we felt a little meat was in order to finish our meal (we usually skip dessert in Japanese restaurants as there is always the open possibility to visit another one later!).
Bu-Ichi serves a scrumptious sansho tori karaage/fried chicken with Japanese pepper. A beauty that my American friends in particular would swim across oceans to taste!

Look forward to the next meal there!

420-0032 Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Ryogae-cho, 1-6-10, Dai 2 Matsunaga Bldg. 2F
Tel.: 054-2521166
Closed on Wednesdays
Reservations advisable

Simple Recipes: Shiso/perilla Flowers and Leaves

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I felt compelled to answer a question from Rowena and provide some useful information on “shiso” or perilla/beefsteak plant in a simple posting that I hope will help Japanese food lovers and vegetarians!

First of all, one can grow shiso, be it green or violet, almost anywhere as long as you have plenty of sunshine and water opportune times (as long as you water it yourself, fine!).
For example, Rowena presently lives in Italy and has successfully grown some from seeds I sent her.

Seeds should be planted in March/ April. The hotter the prevailing climate, the earlier it should be done. Prepare some moist vegetables-growing soil and make small shallow holes on top at a comfortable distance from each other. drop 2 or 3 seeds in each hole. Cover with more soil and spread a newspar sheet over the lot. Keep in shade. Once the first shoots have come out, take newspaper out and expose to sun all day long. Water morning and evening at the base of the stems, not on the leaves (or they wuld “burn”!).

By August (or earlier) to September the shiso will start flowering!
These flowers, if picked early enough are edible!

(Pic taken at Tomii)
Reputable Sushi and Japanese restaurants extensively use them all year round. They make for exquisite decoration and are really tasty!

Now, if you want your own seeds, wait until the folwers and stems turn brown and shake them over a plate. You should get plenty of minuscule seeds for the following year. I checked this very morning with my neighbour, a retired farmer who is looking after his own garden. He said there is little use to keep them indoors in winter unless you want to start a greeh House business with all the hassles involved! Just collect the seeds and replant! Actually such seeds could become a source of business in Italy and elsewhere!

Now, the leaves can be accomodated in hundred of ways. Pick them up young and tender enough. The Missus keep them in a plastic Tupperware-type box with a sheet of clean kitchen paper imbibed with clean water (put it at the bottom of the box) before storing it in the fridge vegetables compartment.

You can wrap them around nigiri/rice balls instead of nori/seaweed.

(Pic taken at Oddakui)

Make a liberal use of them with sashimi!

They are also great as tenpura!
Do not hrow away the small or damaged leaves. Chop them fine and add them to fresh salads or to any stews and ratatouille!

The violet variety is edible of course, although the Japanese do not use for decoration like the gree one, except for the flowers.
They usually pickle them for their sake or add them to other pickled vegetables such as cucumber.
They also make juice, sherbet or sauces with them, too.

French Cuisine: Hana Hana Lunch

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Typhoon 13 still keeping me away from Cricket, I decided it was about time to check on one of my favourite Frestaurants in Shizuoka!
Hana Hana has the merit not only to serve good food at very reasonable prices, but also to be very relaxed about it. Thinking of what, if customers relaxed a bit more too it would be the perfect place to enjoy lunch on a rainy afternoon!

Week days or not, they propose three plentiful set lunches for 1,680 yen, but I prefer to raise the ante a little and go for the 3,000 yen (less than 30$) menu which allows to choose one dish each from 5 starters, 7 main dishes and 5 desserts, bread, butter, amuse and coffee/tea included!

Like the menu, the amuse are essentially seasonal. The sweet red pimento mousse was certainly a discovery for all its simplicity. The right little morsel to encourage you ask for a glass of wine. I actually found out that not a single person out of the dozen guests (Hana Hana is a fairly small cozy place) was drinking wine. They don’t know what they miss!

Choosing the “starter” actually took me some time. I finally opted for a light fare, Suwa Crab Salad. Light, tasty and elegant, it spurred my appetite onto a favourite Hana Hana dish:

“Stuffed Quail”. I never bothered to ask the Chef what came into the stuffing as it tends to vary. I’m pretty sure that this time it included some foie gras. The quail is roasted to prefection. The sauce has great sweet and peppery balance. The vegetables are all seasonal, including the new potatoes with their skin.

But one day I will ask the Chef where he finds these enormous quails. I can guarantee you I sucked every bit of flesh off its fat legs to the dismay of my manner-conscious neighbours. When something is good, do not be afraid of using your fingers! I felt in a bit of wicked mood and I made a point of licking my fingers!

Finally it came to enjoy dessert.
Now, I’m sure that Taste Memory Girl, Rowena and all the ladies with a sweet tooth would have liked to kick me out of my chair to steal that one morsel (I will have to find a way to notify you all one day!!
Caramel Creme Brulee tooped with a generous Caramel Ice-Cream!
Need I describe it?
My neighbours had turned envious by then!

Hana Hana
420-0037 Shizuoka City, Hitoyado-cho, 1-3-12
Tel. & Fax: 054-221-0087
Business hours: 11:30~15:00, 17:30~22:00
Credit Cards OK
Closed on Wednesdays

Today’s Bento/Box Lunch (30)

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Today’s Saturday, a heavy work day. As Typhoon 13 menaced to come back again the Missus thought it would be better to see me off all day!
As I had requested Tamagoyaki/Japanese Omelette, she had it ready in a jiffy!

She steamed rice with thinly chopped fresh ginger roots (it is the season. You can them raw with miso paste!), made nigiri/rice balls, topped them with Japanese cucumber pickles and half wrapped hem in shiso/perilla leaves.
On a bed of lettuce she set the Japanese omelette (she mixed the eggs with flying fish roe) cut to size with French cornichons.

The salad consisted of finely chopped raw veg with pieces of processed chees, fried sausages, plum tomatoes and cress on which I poured some dressing kept in the office fridge.

Blimey, she forgot the dessert again!