Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Japan 2017 -- Kyoto's Tempura Endo

Ayu tempura at Tempura Endo
For some reason, we had never been to Tempura Endo before. Conveniently located in the southeastern part of Kyoto, not far from the Gion area, Endo boasts three popular locations, and I hope to try all of them in time.

Even in Japan, there is tempura and there is tempura. Ordinary tempura, which can be quite delicious, is made in large batches, and your order generally arrives all at once (or twice). High-end tempura is a different kettle of oil. A chef stands in front of a huge vat of very hot oil and puts one or two small items in at a time. This prevents the oil from losing heat, resulting in super crispy food that is nearly totally devoid of oil. You can eat lots without that feeling of being stuffed on fried food.

So here are some of the wonderful fish and vegetable items to which we were treated.

First, the simple but lovely setup.
Table setting at Tempura Endo
We started, as is customary, with a small plate of sashimi, not fried but delicious.
Sashimi at Tempura Endo
We continued with some almond tofu, just to whet our appetites for the fried feast to come. This dish was unusual because this is typically made with sesame seeds(it's not really tofu at all despite the similar silky texture).
Almond tofu at Tempura Endo
Next, corn fritters in broth. Heavenly.
Corn fritters in broth at Tempura Endo
Then, of course, a cavalcade of delicate perfectly fried items, including these three.
Shrimp and mushroom tempura at Tempura Endo
Some of the items are intended to be eaten with sauce, some with just salt, and some with spicy shichimi (seven-spice) powder. While one is free to do as he or she pleases, I recommend taking the chef's recommendation the first time you eat at his establishment; later you can intelligently make your own choices.

Bobby Jay

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Japan 2017 - Kyoto's Nishiki Market

My wife, Joan Mirviss, is unquestionably the leading dealer in contemporary Japanese ceramics outside of Japan. Her gallery, Joan B. Mirviss, Ltd., has about five one-artist or multiple-artist shows each year, featuring works by the best Japanese ceramic artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Last month, Joan led a small group of serious collectors on a ceramics tour, where the clients were able to meet some of Japan's leading ceramists in their studios and showrooms, and had the opportunity to buy the artists' best recent works or, in some cases, noteworthy pieces from their  personal storage. I got to come along as an assistant tour leader, and to share in the adventure.

Apart from the ceramics, there were, as always in Japan, wonderful things to share. This being a food blog, that is what will be shared here.

The tour started in Kyoto this year, and Joan and I arrived there a few days early. I took a number of long walks in this gorgeous and eminently strollable city (despite nearly constant rain this year), including a couple of excursions to my favorite food market in the world, the Nishiki Street Market. Treasures abound there, including fish, meat, spices, vegetables, pickles (a local specialty/obsession), sembei (rice crackers), tea, coffee, tofu, foods for steamed oden, tempura, yakitori, rice and more. Here are some of the more interesting things I saw this year, like these red snapper heads.

Red snapper heads at Nishiki Market
Sembei at Nishiki Market
Vegetables at Nishiki Market
Dashi, a stock made with kombu (seaweed) and katsuoboshi (shavings of bonito), is the base of much of Japanese cuisine. Usually you buy the bonito flakes in a plastic bag, but at the Nishiki Market you can buy the dried bonito to shave at home or buy it freshly shaved by this cool machine.

Dried bonito and dried bonito shavings made at Nishiki Market
Another treasure at the market is this "season boiled beef gristle" [soup], which I passed on because it was well before lunch time.

Season boiled beef gristle: Yum!
The most giant giant clam ever!

Giant giant clam at Nishiki Market
And some more pedestrian, but interesting items.

Hand cut noodles at Nishiki Market
Perfect figs at Nishiki Market
Cooked shrimp at Nishiki Market
Chicken leg yakitori at NIshiki Market
And so much more! I have been told by Kyoto residents that better quality can be found elsewhere, in small specialty shops. But not all in one place. This is a truly amazing market street.

Bobby Jay