Tuesday was my last dinner of 2010 with Atsushi. Our bon-enkai! Japanese don’t celebrate Christmas that much but New Years is very important to them. And so there are many ‘Bon-Enkais’ which are end of year partys. On Christmas it is traditional to eat fried chicken or sushi followed by extremely elaborate Christmas cakes. New Years Eve is more of a family occasion, after midnight they all go to pray at their local shrine. One of the teachers at school told me that each shrine has a territory, so whatever shrine territory your house is on, you go and pray at. For myself and Atsushi’s bon-enkai we went back to the very first restaurant that he had brought me too. It’s a great spot where you can see into the kitchen and watch the master chef do his tricks. Hence my numerous visits to the bathroom so I could spy on him and his wonderful kitchen! He and his wife run the restaurant together. They are always very friendly and happy, so it’s very easy to peek into the kitchen and and up talking to them about all the wonderful ingredients I see. The master chef will never serve the same menu twice, Atsushi has been going here for almost 10years and has never had the same menu. The chef believes variety is extremely important. Some dishes are repeated but never an entire menu. The best thing about these dinners is arriving and instantly getting served a cold draft beer and a nibble. We started with a New Year designed plate, which was a sea shell, sweet potato, and a cheese flavor dressing on fresh oysters. These were amazing, the cheese and oyster was a fantastic combination along with the soft tender sweet potato, the shell looked a little scary but was not a bother to swallow!
The sashimi plate came next, again with new cuts of fish but I’m sorry to say I still can’t identify them. I think the dark red one was the heart of some fish, this is from talking to the chef but he could have been pointing at something totally different to what I ate! I ate the flower which was a really bad move, it was insanely bitter and it took a long time to get the taste out of my mouth. I believe you are only supposed to eat a few leaves as opposed to lashing the entire thing (stem and all) in your mouth, which was a school boy error.
Then came a small soup bowl with a deliciously tender fish fillet, daicon vegetable, spinach and scallop swimming in light soup. This was a cosy dish and went down with ease.
So now, now we have the pregnant fish. Yes a pregnant fish. The fish is caught just before it releases its roe, then fried and served. It comes to the table bulging with fish eggs. Slight panic. It was nice, nice to get to the fillet of the fish but I found there were too many eggs to handle and they were kind of gooy and slimy after they were lightly cooked. Atsushi went to the kitchen and was able to bring back an un-cooked one to show me, which was amazing. I actually didn’t realize until I saw it that the fish is cooked with its own eggs inside as opposed to the chef putting in fish roe (eggs) after, which is what I had thought.
Next came a fish and daicon (Japanese radish) mixture with mushroom and carrot with a massive load of wasabi, ‘blow your head off’ wasabi.
Following the wasabi mound was a dam amazing mousse topped with prawn and caviar. That’s the first time I tasted caviar, thumbs up to you caviar. This was a very tasty little dish which came with boiled potato in fish roe sauce. Served beautifully.
We had a little break then and the chef showed us his puffer fish. It is very hard to get a license to hold these fish, but this chef is top notch so knows what he is up too. The fish are massive extremely ugly creatures that he buys from just outside Tokyo. It takes huge skill to cut the fillet from this fish without activating the poison. Which would kill you pretty pronto.
Then we slurped some tasty soba noodles. Usually soba noodles are thick and chunky but these were skinny like ramen noodles, very tasty little noodles indeed. The more you slurp the happier the chef is, so slurpy slurpy. Dessert was very tasty too. Macha tea crème brulee kind of thing, with whipped cream and strawberry ontop. No Guinness this evening as it was a week night so we both headed home after a wonderful bon-enkai to sleep off all the crazy grub!