Delectable, fresh, scrumptious and artistic are words to describe traditional Japanese food in a luxury setting. We all know how impeccable the presentation of traditional Japanese food be it sushi, sashimi, tempura or shabu shabu. Everything looks so alluring that you want to take time to appreciate the art on a plate presented before you. I had this in mind before a luxury dining with my sister in law.
My sister in law whom I call one-san which means sister in Japanese, hosted a family dinner last weekend. It has been awhile since the last time we met her. Family gathering is a must in Obon period or mid of August. It is a time to rekindle the relationship that has gone cold because of the busy life in Tokyo. She could not make it this week so she arranged for an earlier gathering for our family last weekend. When she chose Marunouchi building as a place to meet, I could not be happier. Marunouchi building is only few steps away from Tokyo station which would make it easy for us to go back home. Marunouchi is known as one of luxury areas in Tokyo. Its prime location, in the heart of Tokyo and financial center of Tokyo makes all types of dining in Marunouchi are above regular price in Tokyo.
She chose Inaba Jushiro restaurant for our dinner, a reputable traditional Japanese style luxury dining. Many businessmen take their guests to this this restaurant to give them an authentic Japanese style dining experience starting from the moment you step into the restaurant. This restaurant is also a famous place for engagement ceremony probably because of its private setting other than delicious food.
A waitress in kimono greeted us when we arrived at the front desk. She asked us to take off our shoes and walked us to our room. Needless to worry about the shoes, they are always well taken care off. I have not experienced any shoes lifting in Japan yet, may be I will never experience one.
Our dining room was spacious enough for three people. It was also adorned with Japanese traditional paintings and ornaments. One-san as the host would sit at the side closest to the door so she could easily call the waitress to place additional order. We both sat at the opposite side, facing her. The menu was reserved in advance. We only looked at the drinks list and placed order.
I was so curious how these eight courses dinner would look like and secretly wished each would come in tiny portion. The dinner started after one-san asked the waitress to start serving the first dish. That was about 15 minutes after we sat. Just right before the dinner started, I asked one-san if it was fine to take pictures of the food. If she said no or making a slight gesture of protest, I would had not taken any single picture and there would be no blog post. I was so fortunate that behind all formalities of Japanese family dining she did not bother if her sister in law would to take picture of every single dish. I could not be happier when she asked about the blog. I never thought she would remember it knowing she does not like social media at all. How lucky I am having such a caring and loving sister in law.
Then I promised myself to only take one shot for each dish, starting from the menu that laid on the table. This type of eight courses dinner would only be only served in summer time and most of them were cold dishes.
A starter was a tofu with clear fish broth topped with uni (sea urchin) garnished with ocra, daikon and paprika. That wooden spoon was my saviour. I could never eating silk tofu with chopstick without breaking it to small pieces even though I am no stranger to chopstick. To my surprise this silk tofu tasted different than usual. It had solid and firm texture as if it was made from glutinous rice.
The second dish was sashimi, fresh fishes sliced thinly. It is said good sashimi can be easily judged by the way the fishes are cut. I knew from the moment I saw the sashimi I was about to experience a great taste. I nearly forgot that I was eating raw fishes as no trail of fishy smell. The fishes, except the squids,were so smooth, nearly melt in my mouth. I did not want to dip any of them into the soy sauce. Let the fish taste fish without sodium or wasabi.
Then came my favourite dish unagi, Japanese eel. At this point I was a little bit disappointed with the size of the unagi. I wished the entire plate was filled with unagi because it tasted so good.
The fourth dish was a boiled shrimp in clear broth garnished with green pea, chopped tomato and daikon. I literally bottomed up what was inside the cup after finishing the shrimp and the garnish in a matter of minute. It was so yummy. One-san finished it first.
The fifth dish was a set of tempura: fish, corn and green chili. It was fried to perfection without letting the fish too dry or the corn burnt. The tempura batter was not seasoning that was why the soy sauce was there to enhance the flavour.
The sixth dish: raw oyster or rather giant raw oyster. The size alone surprised us then we checked who got the biggest oyster of all. My husband got the biggest one, mine was second and sadly our host one-san got the smallest one. I initially thought the bigger the oyster the harder it would taste. I was wrong. This oyster tasted so sweet and soft. Firm and slippery at the same time with a noticeable salinity.
Then come the final dish before the dessert: somen, white japanese noodle made from wheat flour and cut very thinly. It looked like soba on a first glance. Somen is usually served cold like this one was served on a lotus leaf on a bowl of ice cube. Eating cold somen is believed will lower down body temperature in a fierce summer heat.
We finally reached the last dish of the night, summer fruits: watermelon, peach and local grape. Japanese rarely eat grape with the skin, they always peel it off. That was the reason the grape skin was cut and opened in such away so we could easily eat it. You may not believe it: grape skin peeler is sold in many supermarket.
All in all, dining in Inaba Jushiro was an experience not to be missed if you plan to explore luxury traditional dining while you are in Tokyo. Price wise it is reasonable considering the place, meals and menu.
Are you interested in trying luxury Japanese traditional dining? What food you prefer to try in a Japanese traditional dining?