Japanese food

Hi friends and family,

By popular request, a Japanese food email. Mostly pictures.

This is a fairly typical Japanese lunch, especially in this hot, humid climate: cold buckwheat noodles (soba) with shredded dried nori (toasted sheets of seaweed) on top, a dipping sauce into which sliced scallions and wasabi is mixed. Dip cold noodles into cold dipping sauce and slurp away. Tempura'ed shrimp also over soba in a clear, dashi-based sauce with chopped scallions. This is served hot. Again, slurp away. We had this at a small restaurant at Daikoku-ji Temple, Kyoto.

Sashimi with intricately carved carrots. Don't ask me what the different fish are. I know one of them was sea bream. Very delicious, but we later went back to another restaurant which was equally delicious and served larger servings. Does anyone really care about those gorgeously carved carrots? Chandra and I had this at a restaurant in Pontocho, the (I think former) geisha in training area in Kyoto.

A beautiful and delicious kaiseki meal at a Tokyo restaurant recommended by a Japanese friend of Lewis'. We had another beautiful kaiseki dinner in Naoshima, but it just didn't measure up in taste. I don't even know the name of this restaurant, as I never saw it written in anything but calligraphy, but it was in the Ginza in a building called the Jujiya (or perhaps Jijuya) building, across from Matsuya Ginza, next to Chanel and on the 5th floor of the building. As Lewis' Japanese friend said, she took some friends there and they said it was the most sublime dining experience they had had in all of Japan. I think we all agreed - sublime. It came to about $30 each, including the beer. Great value. Cooking like this is incredibly labor intensive.

The first course is salad with a lovely dressing and tuna sashimi in the cantaloupe bowl. The little glass holds the dressing. The little round bowl contains what I think is a tofu and root vegetable mixture lightly fried or perhaps baked and then stewed in a savory jelly-like sauce, apparently made glutinous by some mushrooms. Very subtle and delicious, although it may not sound that way.

The main course: Starting from what we all know, the tempura, shrimp, eggplant, some type of green pepper.

In the bowl shaped like a yellow and green leaf: some type of tofu baked with what appeared to be raisins inside of it, sesame on top - Not my favorite; the red ball made to look like a little fruit is actually a small egg yolk of a bird smaller than a chicken, marinated in something which made it go clear and red; grilled eel sushi with a piece of pickled ginger.

In the white eye-shaped bowl: a salad of seaweed, cucumber, fried tofu, sliced and marinated, and a Japanese dried gourd, sliced and marinated. Excellent.

In the little square blue dish: I think this was some type of almond milk jelled and cubed (or made from some sort of nut), with a caviar sauce.

In the polka dot cup: Chawan mushi, a savory egg custard (not sweet). It usually has little bits of shrimp and fish, perhaps vegetables inside.

In the red lacquer cup: A cube of tofu with sauce.

In the shallow bowl to the side, a dipping sauce.

There was a rice course with shredded egg and other things, which we all forgot to photograph. Can't remember very exactly now.

Dessert course: Very good ice cream, which had bits of rice in it. It was rice flavored. Japanese apple pear in the little maple leaf plate.

Just this evening (back in Kyoto) we found a restaurant which served delicious Japanese vegetable dishes, buffet style, over 20 items to choose from, and brown rice. Just what we had been hoping for. Then we heard from Lewis and Chandra, back in Napa. They just had an Italian dinner at some friends' house with a bottle of Napa red wine, that doesn't sound bad either.

Last night we broke from Japanese food, went to a Spanish restaurant and had Sangria, grilled vegetables, a tortilla and a paella. Not as good as Cesar's or our paella, but it was pretty darn good. Our waiter was a young Japanese who spoke English and Spanish and has traveled to 13 Latin American countries on his own. He said Era looked like his mother, and the family is from the Kyoto area. Don has not been feeling tip top and the Sangria helped to settle his stomach.

Tomorrow we go to Mt. Koya (Koya-san) to stay in a Buddhist temple for a couple days. One of the attractions is all vegetarian food which the Buddhist monks have been developing for centuries. Then we float home. But I'm very behind on my emails. Still have to tell you all about Tokyo and our opening. Hopefully I'll get to that before we return home (maybe on the plane) or it will never be written.

Best to all, and Envision Obama as President,

Era and Don