Saturday, January 9, 2010

Japan Day 7 & 8

Day 7 marked the day Jess and John departure from Japan. So what better way to celebrate the end of a successful trip than to go for a fancy-fancy meal?


The one word mentioned by Ray from Day 1. The one thought haunting Ray's mind from Day -30. The one restaurant name and waitress Ray remembers until Day +44 (today!).

Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course Japanese meal and also symbolises the collection of skills for the preparation of such meals. What is so special about it besides the price is the fact that it is considered a form of art, striking a balance between taste, texture, appearance and colour.

The courses comprise of dishes designed according to the freshest seasonal ingredients. The ingredients is then prepared using methods which best enhance their flavor. Hence, you cannot choose the dishes in the course.

Why is it fancy? Everything is served up to you, plated and garnished perfectly with real flowers, to reflect the seasonal theme.

The restaurant we chose was Kitaoji, located at the Imperial Theatre just minutes of walk from the Hibiya subway line. We were lucky we went there a few days earlier as we realised we needed a booking for kaiseki aand promptly made one on the spot.

Everyone has to order the same course as it facilitates the serving up procedure.

Snippets of conversation

Me: Hmmm, the 5000 yen course or the 7000 yen course?
Jess: The 5000 yen one?
Me: Har??? We are all the way here, why not we upgrade?
Jess: Okay! Relax! 7000 yen here you go.

Kitaoji is a traditional Japanese style restaurant with private rooms. And why did we choose Kitaoji? Because we had a 10% off voucher (follow the link for the voucher)! And why did we choose kaiseki lunch? Because lunch is cheaper than dinner (9000-15000 yen)!

With the beautiful and soft spoken waitresses in kimono (I mean literally) and the tranquility offered by the private room we were allocated in, everyone suddenly became really. . . proper.

I was addressed as Lolita-sama!
Upon taking off our shoes, the waitresses rearranged them to face the exit!
It was "Shitsurei shimasu" or something along those lines whenever anyone came into our room or served something!
They explained about each dish to us (not that we could understand)!

Okay, you get the gist why everyone was so. . .proper.

But of course, there was still someone losing his composure when the pretty waitress was away.
I'll try my best to explain the dishes we had!
First dish: Appetiser of tamago, scallop, seaweed, mushroom slices in broth and a very nice and sweet fish.

Second dish: Futamono (a typical lidded soup dish) of meatball and enoki mushroom in mild soup.

Third dish: Mukozuke (sliced dish of seasonal sashimi) - notice the real chrysanthemum flower?
Snippet of conversation:
Jess: The flower. . . is it edible?
Me: Yeah. (Half hearted trick)

Fourth dish: Shiizakana (?) (a substantial dish such as hot pot) - thin slices of beef simmered until the broth becomes thick.

Snippet of conversation:
John: Can the chrysanthemum be eaten?
Jess: Yeah.
John: *tries eating then spitted out* Yucks.
Me: Why did you eat the flower?
Jess: I thought YOU told me it was edible!?
Me: . . . . .
So to commemorate Jess's courage and my lack of judgment:-
Fifth dish: Crabmeat, yam and tofu (?) in thick broth.

Sixth dish: Deep fried variety of fish slices. The black piece was coated with black sesame.

Seventh dish: Squid slices with a special sauce.

Eigth dish: Lightly fried rice with seaweed and other accompaniments in mild tea-flavoured soip.

Ninth dish: Mizumono (seasonal dessert) - Tofu-like mouuse with fruits and ice-cream with strawberries.

We were very happy after that, can you tell?

After sending Jess and John to the train station, Ray and I went to Shinjuku for a look-see. We just strolled around waiting for dinner time and couldn't help but be mesmerised with the lights. We were also trying to look for big supermarkets (in preparation for our Coles haha) to buy snacks, fruits and other weird stuffs. But failed to find any.

You might think we had a heavy lunch from kaiseki but believe me, the magic is none of us felt stuffed/jelak from the nine dishes. Just perfect.
All that is to support the fact that we went to Ryougoku (sumo central) for chanko nabe!
Chanko nabe is a Japanese stew eaten in massive quantities by sumo wrestlers for breakfast as part of a weight gain diet! (How it suits me, eh?)
It is made up of proteins proteins and proteins usually consisting of meat, tofu and vegetables (to balance!). As a carnivore, tell me what is heaven.
While we were choosing our Chanko nabe restaurant, we saw this!
Puffer fish! Fugu!
Snippet of conversation:
Ray: Just you wait, I'm coming for you tomorrow.

Chanko nabe time.

The same night we finally stumbled upon a small fruit stall ready for closing. Went in to buy a super sweet persimmon. It was like scooping honey out of a fruit.
Day 8 marked our very last day in Tokyo.
Our original plan was to go to Takao-san (Mount Takao, an hour away by train) as it was considered one of the best places to view the red autumn leaves (ko-yo). But we finally decided against it as it might be too rushy. Hence gone was our Matsuzaka beef at a budget plan and Ghibli museum plan.
Instead we went to Harajuku for shopppppppiiiinnnnnnggggg (and Ray looking for Mos Burger). No pictures as my hands were too busy.
And lunch at this restaurant! For fugu!

Why is fugu such a big deal and so pricey?
Fugu has to be prepared by a qualified chef with a license. This is because its liver and ovaries contain sufficient poison to kill many adults. Worse still, there is no known antidote as of now. So you pay for the price of out gluttony.
Given the pricey fugu meals, we opted for lunch again because it was a lot cheaper.
I ordered a lunch course which cost about 980 yen.
It came as rice with chunks of fugu meat and bits of fugu skin with seaweed in light soup, a radish accompaniment and fried fugu meat and fins.

Ray ordered a higher class lunch set with fugu nabe. A bit like hot-pot minus the pot.

When his fugu came, the fin portion of it was still moving! To my surprise, and . . . . shock?

I must say fugu meat. . . is kinda nice. It is tougher and chewier than normal fish meat. But I heard the best way to eat fugu is to eat as sashimi. Apparently, they taste sweeeeet.
After whale sashimi, I guess fugu sashimi is the next on the list!
That ends my Japan posts and begining of my next travel plan!
I shall write a post on survival or tips to travel in Tokyo soon!

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