Italian Gastronomy: End of The Year Dinner at Soloio!

Service: Pro and very friendly
Equipment & Facilities: Great overall cleanliness and superb washroom
Prices: Reasonable
Strong points: Fresh local ingredients whenever possible. Both traditional and inventive Italian cuisine. Good wine list at moderate prices. Open late!

End of the year parties and dinners are a tradition in Japan before the New Year when people meet at families’ homes.
These can either be very private or quite raucous affairs with enormous crowds in the latter case.
For private reasons the Missus and I had decided to limit ourselves to a group of three (the two of us and a special friend) and have our dinner at our new favorite Italian restaurant, namely Solio in Shizuoka City!
I don’t need to introduce any more Chef Takehiko Katoh/加藤武彦 and Sommelier Mieko Osawa/小澤三江子, so let me just show you what we had the pleasure to savor!

The first (the others were forgotten in our conversations!) bottle of wine was a Red Chianti, Panizzi 2008 Sangovese grapes.
Very solid and fruity!

Our first appetizer was Shizuoka Suruga Bay madai/true seabream carpaccio!

Very fragrant thanks to the fresh herbs!

Second appetizer: Italian raw ham and salami with pears and liver paste!

As pasta, Genovese-style pasta with Shizuoka-grown broccoli!

Very light and tasty pasta dish making use of all the parts of a branch broccoli!

As for rice, a dish famous all over the city: Milano oven-baked saffron risotto!

As it comes out of the oven!

Very much lighter than you might expect!

And then we switched to fish: Suruga Bay kanpachi/環八/Amberjack pan-fried with Shizuoka vegetables!

Extravagant simplicity with such fresh local products! No wonder some local celebrities also start to patronize the establishment!

The meat dish was an “imported” affair: Venison/Deer foreleg from Nagano Prefecture stewed in red wine!

It was so tender you had no need for fork! Mind you, it took no less than seven hours to prepare!

Italian restaurants are not famed for elaborate desserts, but Solio’s desserts are irresistible in their simplicity!
Tiramisu!

So light and unctuous!

Pudding with almaretto caramel sauce!

Don’t bring your kids along! LOL

Panacotta with Shizuoka strawberry coulis!

I had a hard time resisting the impulse to lick the whole plate!

See you next year, or more aptly said, next season!

SOLOIO
420-0858 Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Tenmacho, 9-7, Kita, 1
Tel./fax: 054-260-4637
Business hours: 16:00~24:00
Closed on Monday
Credit cards OK
Private parties welcome!
Smoking allowed BUT Non-smoking until 20:00 everyday!

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Must-see tasting websites:

-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery

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Japanese Vegetarian & Vegan Cakes: Wagashi/和菓子 18: Sweet Potato Wagashi Recipe

Sweet potatoes or Satsuma Imo/薩摩芋 in Japanese are a popular vegetable throughout the world as it can be accomodated both as a vegetable dish or a dessert!
The Japanese make a great use of it in Wagashi/和菓子/Japanese cakes, especially in home-cooking!
Here is a very simple and easy to adapt recipe that will please vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike, kids and adults!
The style is ohagi/おはぎ!

SATSUMA IMO OHAGI/薩摩芋おはぎ RECIPE

-INGREDIENTS (for 6 balls)
Sweet potato (steamed): 70g
Marmelade or yuzu (Japanese Lime) jam: 1 tablespoon
White miso paste (shiro miso): 2.5g (small teaspoon)
Sweetmeats/Anko/餡子: 120=150g
Ground sesame seeds: as you like

-RECIPE

Steam the sweet potato or soften it ina microwave oev. Mix it well with the white miso and the jam.

Form 6 balls of equal size.

Divide the sweetmeats into 6 equal portions.
Spread one portion over a piece of cellophane paper into a circle large enough to wrap around the whole sweet potato ball.

Place a sweet potato ball in the center of the sweetmeat circle.

This is the only “difficult” part you will master easily enough: bring the cellophane paper sides up and twist them together so as to form a ball by bringing the sweetmeat around the sweet potato ball.

If you think that the ball is too warm to unwrap easily after all this work, leave it in the fridge until before serving (not in the freezer!).
Unwrap the balls over a serving plate and sprinkle them with ground sesame seeds.
Naturally it is open to your imagination!

Have the kids make them!

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Adventures in Bento Making, American Bento, Beanbento, Bento No1, Bento Wo Tsukurimashou, Cooking Cute, Eula, Hapabento , Happy Bento, Jacki’s Bento Blog, Kitchen Cow, Leggo My Obento, Le Petit Journal Bento & CO (French), Lunch In A Box, My Bento Box, Vegan Lunch Box; Tokyo Tom Baker, Daily Food Porn/Osaka, Only Nature Food Porn, Happy Little Bento, The Herbed Kitchen, J-Mama’s Kitchen, Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat; Bento Lunch Blog (German); Adventures In Bento; Anna The Red’s Bento Factory; Cooking Cute; Timeless Gourmet; Bento Bug; Ideal Meal; Bentosaurus; Mr. Foodie (London/UK); Ohayo Bento

Must-see tasting websites:

-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery

Japanese Crustacean Species 3: Shako-Squilla/蝦蛄

shako1.jpg

The Squilla or “Shako” (蝦蛄in Japanese) is a delicacy that appears on the sushi bar counters from April to Summer, although different varieties can be found in Hokkaido markets (Otaru City in particular) almost all year round.
You will discover it under names such as “Shaku” and “Gazaebi”.
They are actually caught in almost all Japanese seas, but the best are supposed to originate from Hokkaido.

Like any crustaceans, they can be eaten in many ways.
The Japanese favour the small kind with a violet back. I had the opportunity to buy some very large specimen in Otaru, and eat them just boiled and served with rice vinegar mixed with a little Japanese mustard, or in salads.

They almost disappeared from Tokyo Bay in the 1960’s but reappeared in the 1970’s. Most fishermen in the Kanto area will place them in boxes themselves to sell them directly at fish markets. The market value can vary wildly, but look for the genuine harbour markets and buy them yourself.

Naturally, they are most popular as nigiri sushi. Customers jokingly ask for “garage” (in English) as “shako” also means (different kanji, of course) “garage”!

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Adventures in Bento Making, American Bento, Beanbento, Bento No1, Bento Wo Tsukurimashou, Cooking Cute, Eula, Hapabento , Happy Bento, Jacki’s Bento Blog, Kitchen Cow, Leggo My Obento, Le Petit Journal Bento & CO (French), Lunch In A Box, My Bento Box, Vegan Lunch Box; Tokyo Tom Baker, Daily Food Porn/Osaka, Only Nature Food Porn, Happy Little Bento, The Herbed Kitchen, J-Mama’s Kitchen, Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat; Bento Lunch Blog (German); Adventures In Bento; Anna The Red’s Bento Factory; Cooking Cute; Timeless Gourmet; Bento Bug; Ideal Meal; Bentosaurus; Mr. Foodie (London/UK); Ohayo Bento

Must-see tasting websites:

-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery

Café & Brasserie: Patina in Shizuoka City!

Service: Very friendly and smiling
Facilities: Very clean. Beautiful washroom.
Prices: Reasonable
Strong points: A true cafe where to relax and enjoy a good light meal any time of the day.

The fashion for a long time having been to patronize famous/notorious fast-food cafes with a dubious approach to gastronomy and atmosphere the more traditional cafes with a far more authentic cachet had all but disappeared.

Unfortunately Shizuoka City had not escaped from the trend and had, but for one or two establishments, become a barren land as far as coffee shops were concerned.

At long last some courageous individuals and companies are beginning to help reverse that sorry situation.
“Patina” opened on the 12th of December in increasingly fashionable Tenmacho for the pleasure of haven seeking patrons!

Right from the moment you enter you realize that the establishment is both different and reassuringly familiar as if you were traveling back to a more comfortable era.

The whole place is a comforting kind of jumble with seats for every taste from a personal table tucked in a corner to long sofa benches along the wall and mismatched arm chairs at the counter.

You will need quite a few visits before you elect to sit at the same place!

The place doubles up as a cafe and a light meal bistro/brasserie-style coffee-shop so much in evidence in any French city worth its salt. This implies you can either settle for coffee or tea or start drinking in earnest with food to accompany any time of the day!

The whole staff are ladies and the young Chef, Ms. Akiko Kondoh/近藤亜希子さん has plenty of experience and (dinner will come in another article) her elegant confectioneries are worth the visit!

Her apple millefeuille with ice cream is fast becoming a favorite!

And their teas and coffees are not only delicious but served the traditional and proper way!
I’ll meet you in the evening in front of a pâté de campagne and a glass of wine next time in the evening!

PATINA, Café & Brasserie
Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Tenmacho, 17-9
tel.: 054-266-9500
Opening hours: 10:00~20:30 (last orders)
Holiday not decided yet
Non-smoking but for a small table away from the other patrons at the end of a long hall before the washroom

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Adventures in Bento Making, American Bento, Beanbento, Bento No1, Bento Wo Tsukurimashou, Cooking Cute, Eula, Hapabento , Happy Bento, Jacki’s Bento Blog, Kitchen Cow, Leggo My Obento, Le Petit Journal Bento & CO (French), Lunch In A Box, My Bento Box, Vegan Lunch Box; Tokyo Tom Baker, Daily Food Porn/Osaka, Only Nature Food Porn, Happy Little Bento, The Herbed Kitchen, J-Mama’s Kitchen, Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat; Bento Lunch Blog (German); Adventures In Bento; Anna The Red’s Bento Factory; Cooking Cute; Timeless Gourmet; Bento Bug; Ideal Meal; Bentosaurus; Mr. Foodie (London/UK); Ohayo Bento

Must-see tasting websites:

-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery

Shizuoka Sake Tasting: Sugii Brewery-Suginishiki Nama Moto Junmai Nakatori Genshu

What I like about Sugii Brewery in Fujieda City is that they are never short of words when it comes to explaining the manufacture and the ingredients of their nectars!

“Nama” means that it was not pasteurized.
“Nakatori” means that the sake was collected some time after the beginning of the pressing and only until some time before the end, meaning basically the best part of the pressed sake.
Finally “genshu” means that this is original sake with no later addition of pure water.

“Nama moto” means that the sake was made according to old traditions with natural lactic acid.

Rice: Shizuoka-grown Yamada Nishiki 100%
Rice milled down to 60%
Alcohol: 17~18 degrees
Dryness: + 4.5
Acidity: 1.5
Yeast: Shizuoka HD-1
Bottled in December 2011

Clarity: Very clear
Color: Faint golden hue
Aroma: Sharpish, fruity and complex. Pears, oranges, dark chocolate and banana.
Body: Fluid
Taste: Dryish, fruity and complex attack backed up with a pleasant combination of alcohol and junmai petillant.
Very deep pleasurable acidity.
At first reveals oranges and a faint note of dark chocolate while warming up the palate.
Lingers on for a while before disappearing with dry mandarines. Coffee beans peek out later in further sips with a junmai petillant comeback along with notes of greens and dry almonds.
Varies little with food. Marries well with izakaya-style or European stew-like food.

Overall: Unusual by Shizuoka standards, but eminently drinkable on its own. Marries well with food.
Does not linger that long, thus inviting you to the next glass.
A sake perfect for hot winter food!
Its deep and pleasant acidity combining with complex fruitiness define its character.
A sake for people who love the izakaya gastronomy!

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Clumsyfingers by Xethia
Adventures in Bento Making, American Bento, Beanbento, Bento No1, Bento Wo Tsukurimashou, Cooking Cute, Eula, Hapabento , Happy Bento, Jacki’s Bento Blog, Kitchen Cow, Leggo My Obento, Le Petit Journal Bento & CO (French), Lunch In A Box, My Bento Box, Vegan Lunch Box; Tokyo Tom Baker, Daily Food Porn/Osaka, Only Nature Food Porn, Happy Little Bento, The Herbed Kitchen, J-Mama’s Kitchen, Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat; Bento Lunch Blog (German); Adventures In Bento; Anna The Red’s Bento Factory; Cooking Cute; Timeless Gourmet; Bento Bug; Ideal Meal; Bentosaurus; Mr. Foodie (London/UK); Ohayo Bento

Must-see tasting websites:

-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery

Japanese Crustacean Species 2: Botan Ebi-Large Prawn/牡丹海老

botanebi1.jpg

Botanebi/”Botan” Prawn/牡丹海老, or “Pandalus nipponesis” for the specialists, is a large prawn found in all seas of Japan at depths varying from 300 to 500 metres. They are caught at 200~300 metres depth in Suruga Bay and along the Western coast of Izu Peninsula In Shizuoka Prefecture. Once abundant, they have become scarce and only small specimens are found, whereas Hokkaido produces up to 20cm-long prawns.

sushiko-08-12-25-31

They are known under different names: “Toyamaebi and Kijiebi”.
It is not a cheap morsel in Sushi bars. But it is interesting to note they are essentially eaten raw as like “Amaebi”. They become very sweet after some time in the refrigerator.

oda-4.jpg

Now, if you are lucky enough to find them fresh with their eggs, ask your chef to dress them as above, or even better, put the eggs on top of a “gunkan nigiri”!

sushiko-08-12-25-5

And one more thing, if they are fresh again, don’t forget to ask for the heads deep-fried!

Incidentally, botanebi change sex (gender) with age to end up as big juicy females!

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Adventures in Bento Making, American Bento, Beanbento, Bento No1, Bento Wo Tsukurimashou, Cooking Cute, Eula, Hapabento , Happy Bento, Jacki’s Bento Blog, Kitchen Cow, Leggo My Obento, Le Petit Journal Bento & CO (French), Lunch In A Box, My Bento Box, Vegan Lunch Box; Tokyo Tom Baker, Daily Food Porn/Osaka, Only Nature Food Porn, Happy Little Bento, The Herbed Kitchen, J-Mama’s Kitchen, Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat; Bento Lunch Blog (German); Adventures In Bento; Anna The Red’s Bento Factory; Cooking Cute; Timeless Gourmet; Bento Bug; Ideal Meal; Bentosaurus; Mr. Foodie (London/UK); Ohayo Bento

Must-see tasting websites:

-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery

Italian Gastronomy: Risotto Symphony at Soloio in Shizuoka City!

Milano Oven-baked Saffron Risotto!

Service: Pro and very friendly
Equipment & Facilities: Great overall cleanliness and superb washroom
Prices: Reasonable
Strong points: Fresh local ingredients whenever possible. Both traditional and inventive Italian cuisine. Good wine list at moderate prices. Open late!

Many local gastronomes consider that Chef Takehiko Katoh/加藤武彦 concocts the best risotto in Shizuoka City and Prefecture!
Since it is possible to visit Solio just for a glass of wine and a dish, risottos are perfect by this cold weather!
Here is a collection of the risottos I’ve had the pleasure to savor!

Fresh Italian Porcini Risotto!

Unfortunately it is already not on the menu any longer as Takehiko uses only seasonal products, but it will be there when the season comes back!

Mussles Risotto!

Actually, it was never on the menu but prepared as a special request of mine!

Home-made Sausage and Chestnut Risotto!

Another seasonal dish which has already disappeared from the menu!

Italian Black Truffle Risotto!

Beautiful truffles!

This is an offering that will disappear from the menu as soon as the truffles are exhausted! Hurry up!

Milano Baked saffron Risotto!

The rizotto as it looks out of the oven!

Don’t worry, Takehiko intends to serve this risotto all year round!

SOLOIO
420-0858 Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Tenmacho, 9-7, Kita, 1
Tel./fax: 054-260-4637
Business hours: 16:00~24:00
Closed on Monday
Credit cards OK
Private parties welcome!
Smoking allowed BUT Non-smoking until 20:00 everyday!

RECOMMENDED RELATED WEBSITES

With a Glass,
Clumsyfingers by Xethia
Adventures in Bento Making, American Bento, Beanbento, Bento No1, Bento Wo Tsukurimashou, Cooking Cute, Eula, Hapabento , Happy Bento, Jacki’s Bento Blog, Kitchen Cow, Leggo My Obento, Le Petit Journal Bento & CO (French), Lunch In A Box, My Bento Box, Vegan Lunch Box; Tokyo Tom Baker, Daily Food Porn/Osaka, Only Nature Food Porn, Happy Little Bento, The Herbed Kitchen, J-Mama’s Kitchen, Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat; Bento Lunch Blog (German); Adventures In Bento; Anna The Red’s Bento Factory; Cooking Cute; Timeless Gourmet; Bento Bug; Ideal Meal; Bentosaurus; Mr. Foodie (London/UK); Ohayo Bento

Must-see tasting websites:

-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery