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little ms foodie

eating in Japan

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How do you like it as a city. I really need to visit for work but I've kind of been avoiding it.

I see no reason to avoid it. I mean it’s not Tokyo and it’s not Osaka, but it has a much more manageable “downtown” than either of those. Kind of intimate by Japanese standards. The yatai are kind of tourist traps but you have to do them once.

 

So I had a Japanese roommate in law school (he was a grad student) almost 20 years ago. We met up in Osaka (hadn’t seen each other since 2002). Yeah, this is one country where you really do have to eat with someone who speaks the language. Night and day difference. Started out with a multi course fugu nabe thing...I actually don’t think it’s a very tasty fish but worth doing once. Then ended up in a seafood centric izakaya (only Japanese spoken) and had course after course of perfect mentaiko, roe-filled rice cakes, braised sea cucumber (this dish seemed Chinese to me actually), etc.

 

In Kyoto now.

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The streets smell like pork bone, and yes the yatai have been dead for a very, very long time after all the good ones have moved into permanent locations, but it's a nice town, the most studential of any I've been to in Japan. Horse, mentaiko, tripe, Tenzushi, etc. You couldn't be more wrong about fugu. 

 

I never responded to The Flon. 

 

Sapporo - 

 

A meal at Oshidori is, to me, a must. All the fish and seafood comes from the chef's home county and with few exceptions is from less than 24 hours ago. Go with the most expensive menu, tell the chef I sent you there for the gout plate. The sake selection isn't great so there's no need to drink too much and so you can then go to Bar Proof - a legend and rightfully so even if I drank all their old whisky, nano gould - in the same building - not entirely to my taste (lotsa sweet fruity stuff) but good nonetheless, maybe yamazaki or hermitage. 

 

There are many good options for Hokkaido style ramen that you can google, but I actually prefer the superb tantanmen at 175 DENO (they recently opened in Tokyo as well, but I haven't been) 

 

Gyosai is a terrific little Izakaya with a very good sake list and great food. Very homey and it might be difficult without Japanese but they'll warm up to you and try to help you order well. 

 

I'll post sushi, french, kaiseki options and a few more random places later. 

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Oh, but before that, if you're at all interested in a Genghis Khan meal (a sort of lamb yakiniku endemic to Hokkaido) then go to Daruma.

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The streets smell like pork bone, and yes the yatai have been dead for a very, very long time after all the good ones have moved into permanent locations, but it's a nice town, the most studential of any I've been to in Japan. Horse, mentaiko, tripe, Tenzushi, etc. You couldn't be more wrong about fugu. 

 

I never responded to The Flon. 

 

Sapporo - 

 

A meal at Oshidori is, to me, a must. All the fish and seafood comes from the chef's home county and with few exceptions is from less than 24 hours ago. Go with the most expensive menu, tell the chef I sent you there for the gout plate. The sake selection isn't great so there's no need to drink too much and so you can then go to Bar Proof - a legend and rightfully so even if I drank all their old whisky, nano gould - in the same building - not entirely to my taste (lotsa sweet fruity stuff) but good nonetheless, maybe yamazaki or hermitage. 

 

There are many good options for Hokkaido style ramen that you can google, but I actually prefer the superb tantanmen at 175 DENO (they recently opened in Tokyo as well, but I haven't been) 

 

Gyosai is a terrific little Izakaya with a very good sake list and great food. Very homey and it might be difficult without Japanese but they'll warm up to you and try to help you order well. 

 

I'll post sushi, french, kaiseki options and a few more random places later. 

I can't thank you enough for this! 

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Any other suggestions for Fukuoka as well as other areas of Kyushu? A friend will be traveling around the island in May and has asked for suggestions. Not just food, but also photogenic spots/places. He's quite a good amateur photographer, and whenever he puts out a call for recommendations, I only give him food-related ones. I'd like to surprise him with something different!

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The streets smell like pork bone, and yes the yatai have been dead for a very, very long time after all the good ones have moved into permanent locations, but it's a nice town, the most studential of any I've been to in Japan. Horse, mentaiko, tripe, Tenzushi, etc. You couldn't be more wrong about fugu. 

 

I never responded to The Flon. 

 

Sapporo - 

 

A meal at Oshidori is, to me, a must. All the fish and seafood comes from the chef's home county and with few exceptions is from less than 24 hours ago. Go with the most expensive menu, tell the chef I sent you there for the gout plate. The sake selection isn't great so there's no need to drink too much and so you can then go to Bar Proof - a legend and rightfully so even if I drank all their old whisky, nano gould - in the same building - not entirely to my taste (lotsa sweet fruity stuff) but good nonetheless, maybe yamazaki or hermitage. 

 

There are many good options for Hokkaido style ramen that you can google, but I actually prefer the superb tantanmen at 175 DENO (they recently opened in Tokyo as well, but I haven't been) 

 

Gyosai is a terrific little Izakaya with a very good sake list and great food. Very homey and it might be difficult without Japanese but they'll warm up to you and try to help you order well. 

 

I'll post sushi, french, kaiseki options and a few more random places later.

 

We've secured a booking at Oshidori. Thanks again for the recommendation. My email correspondence with the restaurant went very smoothly. Looking forward to this.

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Going to be in Tokyo from 2/28-3/8  - but weird day trip schedule around japan ; Sendai-Morioka-Fukushima-Toyama-Fukuoka-Kumamoto-Nagoya-Osaka means I don't know how much eating I'll get done, however the missus is coming over for the weekend in Tokyo (in theory we could go to Fukuoka for the weekend as I need to be there Monday AM, but that feels like a lot of travel for her.)

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btw, if you discuss Ishikawa's chewy sea bream sashimi on MF often enough, eventually you're offered a plate with two pieces Ikejime, and two Kobujime

 

We start with this ikejime discussion that people seemed interested in a while ago

 

Note that nowadays Brits on baby-sized boats are getting into ike too, even Shrimpy’s skipper (whose specialty is super smart cephalopods such as octos, squiddlies and cuttles) is into it !

 

Kinda cool, right ?

 

Bonner, read carefully because it's not just about texture ... that's in play but it's more than that

 

And I'll note that you find ike all over the place nowadays ... assuming you are eating "real" food ... France, Spain etc 

 

Let’s play a game … is his personal pollack black or white … place your bets, ladies and gentleman … Chambo’s a betting man and he knows how he would be betting …

 

 

OT - I just spun the wheel and I’ve been spinning my wheels here too long so I’m about to go out for a spin … I got a TON of good stuff to post and I WILL get to it … I’m juggling too many balls and I’ve been playing with fire and I’m fighting a million fires trying to keep the Empire afloat and the good news is that we’re not sinking just yet but we’ve taken on some serious water and sake and gin like you wouldn’t believe … I’m truly hoping that in the next few days things will be less out of control and we can get down to serious business … I know that sounds a bit fishy coming from Chambo and I fully understand … but if Chambo is posting in this thread, it will be (a tiny bit) less complex … I’ll leave the small leaps of imagination, the rocket science and the giant leaps for mankind to threads that I created (for the most part) …

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but we’ve taken on some serious water and sake and gin like you wouldn’t believe …

and sake goes down easy ... REALLY REALLY easy … bottle after bottle after bottle … so then you need more … so you buy 3 more … but they disappear before you've had time to blink ... so you get a couple more ... but you have no idea what you're doing or getting ...

 

Gin goes down easy too, I find … and beers are no exception ... but I can handle making decisions about that stuff for the most part ... with a little help from my friends of course (@AaronS ;) )

 

NEfHfBU.jpg

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It has come to my attention that the EXCELLENT Ikejime article below required an Economist account to fully see it, and even though this account can be FREELY created, there are those who will still opt for less knowledge. Since it is essential, basic information required to ever intelligently discuss the topic, all unnecessary friction has been removed ...

 

 

btw, if you discuss Ishikawa's chewy sea bream sashimi on MF often enough, eventually you're offered a plate with two pieces Ikejime, and two Kobujime

 
We start with this ikejime discussion that people seemed interested in a while ago
 
Note that nowadays Brits on baby-sized boats are getting into ike too, even Shrimpy’s skipper (whose specialty is super smart cephalopods such as octos, squiddlies and cuttles) is into it !
 
Kinda cool, right ?
 
Bonner, read carefully because it's not just about texture ... that's in play but it's more than that
 
And I'll note that you find ike all over the place nowadays ... assuming you are eating "real" food ... France, Spain etc 
 
Let’s play a game … is his personal pollack black or white … place your bets, ladies and gentleman … Chambo’s a betting man and he knows how he would be betting …

 
Stories of an extraordinary world
 

It’s big in Japan, and it’s starting to catch on with chefs elsewhere

20191005_efp001.jpg

Oct 4th 2019

This piece comes from 1843, our sister magazine of ideas, lifestyle and culture

 

“I’LL HAVE to have a pair of glasses to do this shortly,” says Daniel Wood as he threads a wire through the spinal cord of a dead sea bass. As the wind whistles eerily through the fishing lines, the dead fish seems to spring to life. Its fins flare, its mouth gapes and its body spasms as the metal filament proceeds along the length of its spine, destroying nerves. When the filament reaches its cranium, the fish relaxes. Wood removes the wire, checks the incisions at the tail and gills and submerges the bass in a bucket to bleed out before transferring it to a cooler filled with a slurry of water and ice.
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It’s a calm day in Cornwall and we’re drifting in Wood’s boat, Orca, just off the Lizard, the southernmost tip of mainland Britain. Wood, dressed in a sun hat and a thick camouflage-print jumper under heavy-duty yellow waders, is one of a handful of British fishermen practising ikejime, a Japanese way to kill fish which – its advocates claim – is both more humane than other methods and likely to result in tastier fish. Wood was taught ikejime by Yoshinori Ishii, the head chef at Umu, a restaurant in London with two Michelin stars. When Yoshinori arrived in Britain from New York nine years ago, he was appalled by the quality of produce available. “It was like I lost a hand,” he recalls. “Ingredients are most important in Japanese cuisine.”

20191005_EFP002.jpg

Yoshinori is a trim, energetic man, whose little free time is filled with artistic pursuits like flower arranging, calligraphy and kintsugi (the Japanese art of repairing broken pots). As he sips espresso in his wood-panelled restaurant, he laments the freshness of fish in Britain compared to Japan. The fish you eat at a restaurant in Kyoto, where Yoshinori trained and worked, might have been caught as recently as six hours beforehand – even live fish can be delivered to order. Over here it’s a different story. “When fish comes to London, it’s already a question mark for me,” he says. Unless a boat comes in the same day as it goes out, a catch might have already lingered for a day in the hold. Even if the fish is treated well – kept cool, handled carefully – its freshness rapidly diminishes, along with its taste.
Yoshinori was determined to bring ikejime to Britain, and, five years after getting in touch with Kernowsashimi, the Cornish wholesaler that employs Wood, he finally convinced a handful of their fishermen to practise the fiddly and time-consuming technique. Ikejime, which translates as “closing the fish”, was refined about 200 years ago during Japan’s Edo period. The development of innovative ways of killing and preparing fish had been encouraged by Japan’s 1,200-year-long ban on eating meat, which wasn’t lifted until 1872. Ikejime prolongs the length of time for which the flesh remains fresh beyond other methods of slaughter, meaning chefs can take advantage of a greater range of textures and control the development of umami as the fish ages. What’s better for the chef is also better for the fish: ikejime involves ending the fish’s life in the least stressful way, as soon as it comes out of the water.

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Japanese chefs will tell you that there are three variations on ikejime. You can simply submerge them in ice water (a method known as no-jime). You can stun the fish, immediately spike them in the brain and leave them to bleed out in water through an incision in their gills (standard ikejime). Or, like Wood, you can feed a wire along the fish’s spinal cord in between spiking and bleeding (shinkei-jime). All three methods delay the process of putrefaction. Shinkei-jime is the most effective because it destroys nerves that would otherwise encourage the build-up of lactic acid.

Sashimi benefits most from ikejime. Whereas sushi is best once the fish has passed through rigor mortis – when the flesh has become tender and the concentrations of umami acids have risen – the best time to eat sashimi, according to Yoshinori, is before rigor mortis. No-jime can delay rigor mortis for an hour, standard ikejime for about eight hours and shinkei-jime for up to 24 hours. Yoshinori serves me a bowl of turnip purée, garnished with caviar and draped with slices of raw Arctic char, a cold-water fish from the salmon family. The texture is extraordinary: silky but crunchy, like microscopic bubble-wrap. To follow is a plate of turbot usuzukuri, sliced to translucence. It too snaps between the teeth and while there’s depth to the flavour because the umami has had time to develop, it still tastes freshly caught.

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Simon Bradley (pictured) also works for Kernowsashimi and learned ikejime from Yoshinori. Fish prints line the walls of his home in the picturesque fishing village of Cadgwith and a chunky silver ring in the shape of a fish hugs his little finger. Bradley was a policeman in London until a car crash damaged his spine so badly he had to retire on medical grounds. His wife encouraged him to move to Cornwall, where he embarked on his new career. He skippers a boat called Shrimpy and his specialty is cephalopods, “octos, squiddlies and cuttles”, which he describes as “super smart”. He believes the speediness of ikejime minimises any suffering the fish might feel: “As soon as you go in and through [with the spike], it’s no longer a living soul. You know that sense when something’s gone?”

Most fish caught on British boats die long, drawn-out deaths, suffocating in the open air or expiring as they are eviscerated. While European and British law protects farmed fish from pain and distress at the time of slaughter, wild fish have no such protections. “A method that ensures immediate brain death is the most humane,” says Dr Lynne Sneddon, an expert on fish behaviour. She recommends that fish are stunned before spiking, but warns that it might not be possible logistically when killing fish on an industrial scale. In Britain ikejime has so far been restricted to fishermen on smaller boats using lines, as opposed to nets. In Japan, where demand for ikejime fish is much higher, commercial fishermen have streamlined the process and tuna caught by Australian and New Zealand fleets bound for Japanese markets is often killed using the method. Ikejime fish can command a higher price than fish killed in other ways: in Britain the mark-up is about 150%. As a recent editorial in Fishes, a scientific journal, put it: “when the welfare of animals is improved, both the quality of the product and its value increase – a rare case when the interest of the industry and the ethical standards underlying its activity walk hand in hand.”

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Yoshinori is happy to pay more for quality: “If it works for fishermen’s lives and fish’s lives, it’s much better.” An increasing number of London chefs – and not just those cooking Japanese food – are coming round to his point of view. “It’s very trendy,” says Dylan Bean, the owner of Kernowsashimi, listing the top restaurants he supplies. For Michael Harrison, sous chef at Smoking Goat, a Thai restaurant in Shoreditch, the appeal of ikejime lies in its ability to extend the sell-by-date of the fish, letting chefs experiment with new techniques. He previously worked at a fishmonger in Australia which was pioneering “dry-ageing” fish, hanging it up for three or four weeks like meat – a process that can work only if the fish have been killed by ikejime.

Back on the Lizard, Wood pulls into Church Cove. Thatched cottages line a lush ravine that winds up a valley alive with the clack of jackdaws. The tide has risen and the steep slipway is shorter by a good five metres. Standing calf-deep in water, he tells me that ikejime isn’t cost-effective for every type of fish. Low demand for pollock, for instance, means the ikejime rate doesn’t justify the extra effort. But when it comes to the difference in taste between ikejime and non-ikejime fish, he’s sold. “I mean, I say I don’t do it with the pollock but if I’m going to eat it, I will.”

 

Katherine Waters is a freelance journalist based in London

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Some meals about a month ago.  

 

Tokyo:  Manten.  Best value on the planet.  It shows up on everyone's insane value for the price omakase....tablelog too.  they're all right.  great uni, good o-toro, ikura, unagi etc....two hours where the food did not just stop coming.  $65 for lunch.  go now.  All other customers were Japanese.

 

L'Effervescence.  I mean I get why it has two stars.  The service and room were impeccable.  A couple dishes were very good...venison, the famous turnip.  but overall this kind of thing just doesn't work for me anywhere.  And like other SP restaurants it could be located anywhere.  (Although, unusually, the crowd was all Japanese...albeit very well-heeled, Birkin bags and the like.)

 

Osaka:  We had excellent yakiniku (Japanese-only, guided by a Japanese friend), all sorts of cuts of beef, horse carpaccio (very good), raw tripe tastes identical too and has the same texture as cooked tripe, etc.

 

sidenote: I love Yokohama.  two nights there and it wasn't enough.  great town, found an izakaya so good that repeated the next night, on the other hand the famous Yokohama Chinatown is bullshit. it's just a tourist trap (for Japanese tourists).

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