We sure are experiencing a lot of turbulence, I thought to myself in my sleep-addled state. Suddenly, I stopped brushing. Wait a minute. I’m in my hotel room.
“Did you feel the earthquake?”asked Akemi as I stepped out of the bathroom. The national news was already reporting on the 4.0 quake, a relatively minor that, to me, felt a little more significant. But business as usual here I suppose.
Yesterday, Akemi and I headed over to Roppongi for a little pre-lunch stroll through Roppongi (it of the giant spider art, Das). The plan was to check out Le Chocolat H but, alas, our favorite Japanese chocolatier had packed up and moved to Shibuya. So, instead, we walked back to Mori Hills and checked out a two-day farmer’s market. It was just like back home complete with food trucks and guys dressed up like giant vegetables. I am a sucker for samples and try to avoid them as much as possible, especially here in Japan where everything is delicious. On this occasion, I didn’t – and ended up buying a bag of oranges to take back to the hotel with me.
Oranges in tow, we made the fifteen walk over to Nishi-Azabu where we were meeting Akemi’s family for lunch at Butagumi, my favorite tonkatsu restaurant. Situated in a quaint old building in a back alley, Butagumi specializes in crispy, almost ethereal, fried pork cutlets from all over Japan – and beyond. On this day, we enjoyed three different varieties along with the traditional slaw, pickles, rice – and one of my very favorite dishes: the braised pork appetizer.
The talk of the table was, of course, Akemi sister’s, Hiromi’s, upcoming wedding. The ceremony will be steeped in tradition. Everything will be exact, from the exchanging of the vows to the specific envelope in which the money gift is presented. Unfortunately, Akemi hadn’t a clue which of the dozens of money envelopes on display at the local Ito-ya would work, so she had her sister and mother pick one up for us. Elaborate, no?
After lunch, we sent Akemi’s family off with some oranges, then Akemi and I headed back the way we came, making our way over to Tokyo Midtown…
I was in the mood for a little dessert but, it being the weekend, the place was so crowded I gave up in favor of some chocolate-covered waffles at the little stand-up shop in Ginza. Which also had a line-up, so we returned to the hotel where I ate a couple of oranges.
For dinner last night, I paid a return visit to one of Tokyo’s most dynamic restaurants, headed by one of its most creative chefs: L’Effervesence. It’s a bit of a walk from Omotesando, tucked away in a little alleyway – but if you can find it, it’s well worth the trip!
I met up with my good friend, Tomomi. who introduced me to the place last year. And, like last year, the meal was nothing short of spectacular. Some of the highlights included:
Other standouts included an appetizer mousse made up of Hog’s head cheese and Japanese sweet potato, the restaurant’s signature whole cooked turnip (slow-cooked for four hours before being simmered in butter and served, incredibly flavorful and, amazingly, still firm), roast Hokkaido venison served with a fig and red wine reduction, chanterelle mushrooms, and yarrow leaves and –
Pictured above, the house signature salad that includes 50 different salad, fruit, vegetables, and herbs.
For dessert, a ginger milk mousse with Darjeeling tea ice cream, apple jelly, lemon preserve, and this favorite:
And, to end things:
After dinner, the ever-humble Chef Shinobu Namae stopped by the table for a quick chat before heading back to the kitchen to complete the evening service. It turns out Chef Shinobu will be heading to our North American neighborhood to take part in the Culinary Institute of America’s World’s of Flavor conference alongside the world’s culinary elite: http://www.worldsofflavor.com/schedule/presenters. Now THAT sounds like fun.
Alright, time to get ready. I have a Japanese wedding to attend. Apparently, I’m going to be asked to sign my name name in hiragana today. With a calligraphy brush no less! So, let’s practice…