Monday, December 4, 2017

Japan 2017 -- Gorgeous Food Where You Least Expect It

I love Japanese food. The quality of the fish, meat and produce never ceases to amaze, as does the subtle manner of preparation. But perhaps the most impressive aspect of Japanese food is the beauty of the presentation. This has inspired chefs in the West, and notably had very strong and direct impact on the French Nouvelle Cuisine movement of the 1970s and 80s.

Of course one expects to find magnificent food at fancy kaiseki meals, and I have shown pictures of one of these in the previous post. What is more surprising is that beautiful food presentation is everywhere, as will be seen below.

Our tour formally began with a welcome event at Tsuki-no-Katsura, a centuries-old sake brewery in the Southern part of Kyoto, which featured a catered party consisting of numerous delicious and beautifully presented items.

Party food at Tsuki no Katsura
A number of our meals were at ceramic artists' ateliers or showrooms, and they made sure to provide excellent food with presentation to match. This lovely sushi and bento lunch was served by Fukumoto Fuku and her husband Yoshimura Toshiharu, on Yoshimura-san's plates, at their workshop North of Kyoto.

Lunch with Fukumoto Fuku and  Yoshiharu Toshiharu
An elaborate spread was arranged for us by Tanimoto Kei and his wife, which we ate in their large country kitchen.

Lunch at Tanimoto Kei's home
A late afternoon snack was provided by the ceramist Kato Ichiro: elaborate Western style pastries served on the artist's exquisite plates.

Late afternoon pastries at Kato Ichiro's home
Sometimes we traveled at lunch time rather than stopping for lunch. But all was definitely not lost: Japanese bento boxes are justly famous and, at their best, contain dozens of wonderful ingredients, beautifully served. Here's one example, a two-part box that we consumed on the train to Yamaguchi.

Bento box eaten on the train to Yamaguchi
Wherever we went we ate spectacularly well, feasts for all the senses: taste, of course, texture (occasionally weird by Western standards), smell, hearing (think slurping of noodles) and, perhaps most of all, sight.

Bobby Jay

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