Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Where's the Beef?
So instead of ramen for the last two days, I am going to focus on the food we had at the hotel where we stayed in Nikko. The Hotel Fuga in Nikko was probably the nicest hotel I've ever stayed in. The food and hotel was, thanks to careful internet bargain shopping by my sister-in-law about $150 per night per person. An absolute steal when you consider the amount and quality of the food, both dinner and breakfast.
The dinner, several small dishes ranging from a pear flavored sake to shabu-shabu, to a delicious but odd desert were served in a traditional tatami room on a low table by an attentive and very friendly staff.
The meal started with a stuffed radish which must have been baked I would guess. The stuffing was actually creamy in texture, almost like a custard with bits of crab, shrimp and vegetable. Both the texture and the taste were exceptional and this was not something I would order. I made up my mind here that I would eat everything that was served, no matter how odd it looked. The raddish was served opposite a pear flavored sake about which my only criticism is that it was a small glass (it was the proper size for sake, I just wanted more). There was also a small side dish of a corn-tofu, which was similar though softer and smoother than pollenta (not pictured here).
Second was the sashimi course. Maguro, tai, and botan ebi. Tuna, red snapper and a special shrimp served raw. The sashimi was fresh and tender. The highlight was the shrimp which was served raw as well with the head on. I wish someone at the table hadn't wanted theirs, I would have traded all the tofu of the night to get another shrimp.
Next was a soup with a large tofu dumpling, for lack of a better description in the center. Though it kind of looked like the chilled monkey brains from the Indiana Jones movies, it wasn't that bad. I'm so so on tofu to be frank, especially when people try to serve tofu ten different ways in the same meal. This was ok though. The broth was not too salty and very light in flavor.
Finally the main course arrived. Shabu-shabu. I've had shabu-shabu before, but take a close look at the marbling on this beef. The vegetables as well were all fresh and the shittake in particular were large and flavorful. The mochi, rice cakes, had been toasted before being added to the soup. Napa cabbage, bean sprouts, jumbo scallions and enoki mushrooms. Nobody seemed to know what the yellow cakes were, but it seems to be the pollenta like substance from earlier. The beef was wonderful. The kind of thing a fool would grind up and make into a kobe burger in Manhattan. When the meat is already mixed with the fat, it doesn't need to be ground. Bastards.
Next the meal took a dramatic turn. These were steamed vegetables served in an umeboshi (pickled plum) vinaigrette. I hate umeboshi, this wasn't terrible, but I could have done without it. Those who liked umeboshi at the table liked it very much though and my sister-in-law gladly finished off the portions of other diners.
Next came simple Japanese fare, pickles, rice and miso soup. The pickles were cucumbers two ways and daikon radish. These could have had a stronger salt, but were pleasant. The rice was cooked with Japanese sweet potato and topped with black sesame. This was different and I was enjoying it, but I was so full already I couldn't possibly finish a bowl of rice. The miso soup, red, was different and I vowed to buy red miso in addition to white next time I go shopping.
All of this brings me to the dessert. Silver-grey. I joked that it looked like something I could use to patch a scratch on my car. It was sesame pudding. Yeah I know, but trust me this was delicious. It took a second to get used to, but I ate it all. My twelve year old nephew didn't agree however. The only criticism I have here is that it was topped with a slice of honey dew and a slice of pink grapefruit which didn't work. The grapefruit should have been subbed out by watermelon. And thus ended dinner. Remember, this was only $150. You'd pay that much for this meal in NYC, but add in breakfast and room, pictures below, and this was a steal.
Breakfast is pictured below. The room was huge and included a seperate bathroom and toilet, a very large main room, small sitting room and tea room. Click on the link above where I mentioned the name of the hotel. Oh yeah, there was also a full onsen, all included in the price.
Posted by Sean at 6:42 PM