Thursday, February 12, 2015

Back in Japan (February 2015)...Family time, then back to LA

Regular amount(?) of shopping

As always, I also enjoyed some local dining.

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There is an extremely popular hole-in-the-wall ramen joint near my mom's place. People make a long line to get in there. Their very rustic ramen is always very good. Then, at another Chinese (but a little more sophisticated) place, I like to order shrimp in chili sauce whenever I go there. The shrimp are so big and plump.

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My mom turned 75! So, we had a birthday dinner for her at her favorite bistro near home.

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It was a short but productive stay back in Japan this time. Before I headed to the airport, we had tempura lunch together. My nephew, Wataru, was so bummed that I had never watched Heroes 6 movie, as he was crazy about the movie. (He said, "I can't believe you live in America and you've never watched the movie!"). Then, I found it in the returning flight's on-demand movies. So, I chose it, of course, and enjoyed it!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Back in Japan (February 2015)...Lemon Nabe...Hiroshima-style donabe hot pot dish

In Ginza, I met another old friend from high school.

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We went to a Hiroshima cuisine restaurant in Ginza. Hiroshima is famous for oysters and seafood. Sashimi course was super fresh. Fried oysters and oyster rice were sublime. Those large oysters were so plump and rich.

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Then, each of us were served an individual size donabe hot pot dish. It's called Lemon Nabe (lemon hot pot), which has become a local specialty of Hiroshima past years. Hiroshima is also known as the largest lemon producing region in Japan. In a small donabe, sea bream head, pork belly, oysters, and vegetables were cooked in a lemon-dashi broth, then to finish, the dish was topped with slices of lemon and green onion and cooked (covered) for extra minute or so. Hiroshima lemons are quite delicate and mild, so we were encouraged to eat the lemon slices, too. The dish was really delicious! it was rich in all the flavors and somewhat refreshing at the same time.

Once I return to LA, I want to recreate a lemon hot pot with California meyer lemon in my classic-style donabe!

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We talked and laughed over wonderful meal. Happy donabe time.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Back in Japan (February 2015)...Zen dinner in Tokyo

A course of seasonal dishes at Sosaibo

Back in Tokyo, I got together with two of my best friends from high school.

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We met at Sosaibo. It's a hidden tiny restaurant called, Sosaibo, in Meguro. My friend, Rie, is a frequent diner there. Sosaibo has been run by a husband and wife team for 31 years! Once you enter, there is a tiny kitchen in the front and a tatami room with just two tables in the back.

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They specialize in Zen (Buddhist) cooking. So, they make mostly vegan shojin dishes, but they also serve fish and meat, if you request. The dishes are served in multiple courses, so we requested a meal including shojin hot pot as well as non vegetarian dishes. They also offer a wide selection of sake! Every dish was so carefully prepared with such details. They represented philosophy of zen, the harmony, and also the season.

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The main course was a shojin-style hot pot. It was amazing. The "shime" finishing course was soba, cooked in the remaining broth.

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We had a wonderful time with great spiritual dishes!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Back in Japan (February 2015)...Relaxation in Hakone

Time to relax in Hakone

A day after coming back from snowy Niigata, I packed again and went on another trip. This time, to our regular resort in Hakone.

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Because we were worried about the snow, we decided to take a train this time. It's just a little over 1 hour from Tokyo to Odawara. After nice soba lunch, we were picked up by the resort's shuttle.

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It took about 40 minutes from Odawara to the resort. The resort is in Gora district of Hakone, and it's a historic retreat area in the mountain. From our room, we can see a big Chinese character, "大" (meaning "big" or "great") in the mountain. Every summer, in the "Daimonji-yaki" Festival, torches are lit to form this character. So, that's what's left after the festival. Contrary to our worry, it was a beautiful sunny day in Hakone, and we found only a little residue of the snow on the ground.

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After the relaxing onsen (hot spring) time, we enjoyed aperitif time with Champagne and raclette in their lounge.

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We enjoyed dinner and more relaxation. My nephew, Wataru, is now taller than me! He is turning 14 this May.

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The next morning was another gorgeous day. I alway look forward to their breakfast including freshly baked bread and pastries. Can't wait to come back next time.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Back in Japan (January 2015)...Visit to Kiminoi Shuzo

Sake Tasting at Kiminoi Shuzo

After the amazing sushi lunch with Kanzuri's Tojo-sans, we had an appointment with Kiminoi Shuzo, an artisan sake brewery, run by the same family since 1842.

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Kiminoi Shuzo is also located in Arai district of Myoko, Niigata. Tanaka-san, the current generation of the brewery family, came to welcome us there. In fact, Kanzuri's Tojo-san and Kiminoi's Tanaka-san are very good friends.

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We had a tour of the very historic brewery. It was like, we time-travelled to Edo Period.

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The polish rate of the rice for their Daiginjo sake is 35%. The remaining 65% of the rice is sold to rice cracker companies and bakeries. Nice idea!

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We got to see almost the entire process of their sake making. It was really nice.

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After the tour, we tasted their sake line-up with Tanaka-san. Kiminoi Shuzo makes truly artisan sake, and I loved them so much. Thank you so much for the generous hospitality, Tanaka-san!

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In the late afternoon, we left the snowy country. I can't wait to come back!