Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dinner @ Fijisan's Foothill

Note the sashimi at the top of picture, the white flesh, they were soooo fresh and delicious I wanted to have them all to myself. They exuded essence of the sea without a hint of fishiness and so so sweet. I didn't want to mar the taste by dipping them in wasabi/soy sauce, so, for the first time I had sashimi straight.

This is the fish who sacrified for the culinary best of this Japan trip.

Assorted sushi paled in the light of the sashimi but I love them all the same, probably just for the rice beneath.

Three types of grilled fish.

Perfect tempura, so light that I had 4 helpings. Lucky me, I am yet to come across bad, soggy tempura in Japan.
There were lots of other food that didn't leave any particularly fond recollections so I omitted them...but wait, I am not about to forget this...

This was from our breakfast the next morning, I mentioned this because this 'hot spring' egg is one breakfast item we don't like to miss. I am not sure if it is cooked in hot spring but it is the most perfect half-boiled I ever tasted anywhere and it is served cold. The texture of the egg white and yolk is unbelievable. Crack the egg into a very light soy dressing, slurp it in a mouthful or two (no chewing required) and let the smooth silky delicacy slide down the throat. So good...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Cozy Dinner

Met up with an old friend, T who used to worked in Malaysia for more than ten years. He brought us to his favorite diner here which was tucked in one of the many small alleys of Takayama and I have no recollection how we got there. It was a very warm, cozy traditional eatery serving hearty home-cook food.

We had this exquisite fish roes for appetizer.

What is a Japanese dinner without sashimi...

A Korean kimchi soup which was surprisingly tasty. I am not one to eat foreign food when in Japan but I must say this was very good, especially in the cold weather.

A tofu steak.

Basically just mashed tofu with eggs, seafood and cooked in a cast-iron pan. A little too oily and salty for me.

These yakitori were my favorite, grilled just right, moist and tender with just the right balance of seasoning.

Japanese love their sake as much as their food and many of their food are created to compliment the drinks rather than the other way round.
T was showing us how the taste of sake can change with different serving cups.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Best Soba

I love soba, a noodle made of buckwheat flour unique to Japan. Whenever given a choice, I would always have it over udon or ramen.

We were strolling around Takayama old town area when we chanced upon this shop.
There was a crowd of people in front taking pictures of this man making fresh soba, so we did what everyone was doing...

I stood there for about 15 minutes just to watch and take pictures of this amazingly skilled noodle maker. He flattened the dough ever so evenly with several sized rollers that were about a meter each in length until the required thinness. It was really amazing as the dough expanded to the size of his working table measuring more than a meter square without a single breakage.
He then folded the thin sheet into this thick pile and sliced through it effortlessly with a steady rhythm. We just couldn't walk away without a sample of this...and so glad we did as we both agreed that this got to be the best soba we have ever tasted.

Cold soba with tempura

Sansei (mountain veggies) soba

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Japanese Public Bath

Am blogging this from Heather's computer in Shanghai and although there is so much to tell about this phenomena city I have no pictures to show as this computer cannot upload the pics from my camera. So that will have to wait until we get home.
As I have tons of Japan's pictures, I would like to talk about my favorite, favorite to-do list whilst in Japan. This is a MUST for me whenever the opportunity arises. The hot spring public bath. I managed to take this rare shot as there wasn't a soul (naked or otherwise) around.
The golden rule, first and foremost, you have to be in your birthday suit, no bikinis, towels or handkerchief. Don't worry, public baths are all like-gender only. And whatever you think you see, do not stare.

Then, scrub and clean every inch of you body from head to toe sitting here by the side of the pool. Only then, you can slowly dip your body into the the hot tub. Be very careful, don't plunge in as the water temperature is about 40c - 42c.

This has been addictive for me since my first dip more than 20 years ago. Heavenly. Guarantee a good night sleep after an episode of this.
My dream is the real outdoor hot spring bath, onsen in a rural ryokan. Maybe next trip...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hida Beef At Its Best

Looking through all the food shots I took in this trip, I was appalled. I didn't realized we ate that much and that, I realised was the main reason why my jeans were so uncomfortable and it wasn't the water in Japan which I blamed for shrinking them. We were constantly overdosed on carbohydrates as I couldn't resist the sticky Japanese rice and hubby the ramen and soba. 
I won't go into the food meal by meal but instead group them. I'll start with the famous Hidagyu (highland beef) and the many different ways we had them.

Hidagyu hoba miso. Grilled atop a piece of magnolia leave with miso, mushroom and veggie over a charcoal blazier. You cook the beef the way you like it - rare, medium or well done. The leaf lends an amazing flavor to the dish. Best eaten with the gorgeous Japanese sticky rice as the miso can be quite salty.

The traditional sukiyaki done in the most unpretentious homely manner. The hida beef was A5 according to the proprietor of this small restaurant we stumbled upon.

She also took the order, cooked, washed and finally, was the cashier too. The one and only staff in the shop.

She spooned two pieces of these beef fat onto my bowl and insisted I eat it. I hesitated, wanted to pass them to hubby but she made gestures which I guessed meant they were good for my face (how did she know I'd do anything for my face???). I took a bite and needed no more persuasion. They were very light and didn't felt oily at all with a very light buttery fragrance, softer than the tenderest tendon. Never tasted anything like this before and hubby never got to taste any :-b. 

The beef in a popular Japanese snack food.

It wasn't that good as the beef was too cooked and I think I still very much prefer the takoyaki, traditional balls with octopus filling.

I saved the best for last...

You have got to taste to believe this beef can be sooo goood. I was lost for words when I took my first bite. Now I understand what it meant when the phrase 'melts in the mouth' is used on meat. This piece of meat is 150g and I could only imagine how much more succulent a 200g piece would taste and hit myself for not ordering that! Can you see how juicy they are?? It was simply cooked with no fuss but perfectly done and the flavor of these black cows is amazing. If you are anywhere near this highland never go away without at least a taste of this. I didn't even bother with the gravy that was provided on the side. 
Writing this post is tormenting.  

This restaurant, about 20 minutes walk from Takayama train station, is actually more famous for its very own brewed beer called Korikori. 

It is called a Be-Pub for beef pub.

The owner who also waits and serves on tables. 

He serves three different kinds of beer with very distinct taste each. You can opt for the set, only 700 yen.

This is called Harmony and is only available during the colder months. It has a rich malty taste with a slight coffee flavor.

The draft handle for dispensing Harmony.

I like this one called Alt. It has a light and honey taste. Very light and soothing on the throat but packed with a mighty punch and after downing one glass, all true spirits emerged...

This is where the beer is produced. The brewery is within the shop and can be viewed through a glass window.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mount Fuji

We were told that Japanese do not call this mountain Fujiyama but Fujisan because to call it the former would be too disrespectful as this mountain is viewed by all Japanese as sacred. So, any idea why is fujisan more respectful than fujiyama? I don't know as my Japanese is as good as my French.
I have been to Japan many times but where Mt. Fuji is concerned it had been very shy with me and this trip was the only instance I was accorded a full view. Only now I can truly say I have really been to Japan. 

The mountain taken from our hotel at night. I do need a stand for this shot, don't I?

An old fashion key to our hotel room, a rarity in today's digital world.

We managed to get to the Kawaguchi fifth station.

I was standing next to this sign for a picture but with the relentless wind I had a whole mop of hair over my face. So I cropped the photo and all you can see is a little of my pink scarf.

The view from here was spectacular and breathtaking and so was the wind. We could hardly place one foot in front of the other without a fight. We didn't stay long as we found our fingers and noses started to freeze. 

Today I was told to submit our passports for the Chinese visa and is exactly a week to go before the trip to Shanghai. 
Ackk!! Am still acclimatizing to our heat, suitcases in the process of unpacking, the warm clothing are still drying on the line and photos of Japan trip yet to be uploaded to the flickr... this is not a complaint but to this, my hubby would surely say "it's a hard life" with tongue in cheek :-p.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Autumn In Japan

Arrived home today. Have to just leave you with some Japanese autumn tapestry until I get to sort out the home and this huge pile of photos. With so much waiting to be done and hardly any energy left after the exhilarating but exhausting holiday this could take a while...zzz

Love the autumn colors and the weather in Japan. Heard the cherry blossoms season is glorious too...