I went to yamanoue restaurant in Ochanomizu this week. This tempura restaurant is located inside of the yamanoue hotel. The hotel itself has a bit of Barton Fink to it — a once grand hotel, where apparently a number of famous Japanese writers went to craft their novels in the 50s and 60s — that has seen better days. The restaurant, though, is still at the top of its game.
I went by myself, since Yukari had some sort of business junket in Akasaka. When we’ve gone together, the service has always been incredible. Yukari thinks it’s a combination of the fact that I’m a foreigner and that we eat like starving children. I was a little worried that, on my own, the experience wouldn’t be as enjoyable.
No worries, though — both the meal and the service were incredible. The food blew me away: highlights included tempura fiddleheads (kogomi), fugu shirako and shirakozake, a blend of fugu shirako and sake, warmed and served in a tiny porcelain cup.
But the tastiest morsel was a shiitake mushroom, lightly grilled, filled with chopped live shrimp (well, I guess it wasn’t live by the time they got done chopping it) and then fried. While shiitake and shrimp have totally different flavors on their own, together they enhanced one another. The shiitake tasted more meaty and umami, while the mushroom accentuated the sweetness and texture of the shrimp. Incredible.
The whole experience was a little embarrassing, however. I was sitting at the counter and the restaurant was jam packed. While the other customers got their fixed courses, I kept on getting little tidbits from the chef and staff. “Oh, you haven’t had this? You have to try it…” Many of these items were premiums. The fugu shirako, for example, commands a 3000 yen supplement. Halfway through the meal, three pieces of pristine sushi appeared out of nowhere. “I know you like sushi,” explained the maitre d’. Which is true, but so did the other 15 people sitting at the counter, I’m guessing.
Even with all these extras, they charged me the same fixed price as everyone else. This is one gift horse I’m not going to be looking in the mouth.Posted by pmk at February 27, 2004 2:58 AM | TrackBack