On my second trip to Japan in two years, I’m convinced that it’s impossible to have a bad meal in this country.
My second time in this remarkable country is an idyll, a marked contrast to the frenzy that was my first trip here. My Bin, Boo, and I will stay put in Tokyo to experience seven days of chosen pleasures, mostly of the gustatory kind. I can’t think of a better way to recover from my bout with dengue.
My sister in law, Yappi, has lived in Tokyo for almost 15 years, so much so that I practically consider her to be Japanese. An avid cook, she’s prepared for us her riff on Nobu’s new-style sashimi, a popular innovation of star chef Nobu Matsuhisa. It’s a departure from traditional sashimi: a mixture of warmed sesame and olive oil is poured over raw seafood before serving, a la ceviche, if you will.
Tonight, glistening slices of salmon and tuna bought earlier in the day from Tsukiji Market peer up at me from their fragrant bath of ponzu (Japanese citrus) sauce, light soy sauce, toasted white sesame seeds, ginger, and green onions. It’s a dish that exemplifies the interplay of carefully chosen ingredients enhanced by restrained amounts of seasoning. Visually, it inspires silence; in my mouth, it’s an inspiration of sea and salt and subtlety.
Kama meshi delivery (yes, really!)
Known to Filipinos as kamameshi (one word), kama meshi as it really is, is so called because this rice dish is cooked in individual kama, a deep pot with a flange around its perimeter in order to cook it on top of a kamado, a type of enclosed fireplace used for cooking. Kama meshi is typically rice cooked with other ingredients, the variations of which are endless.
My Bin and I are bowled over when Yappi mentions that we can have “kama meshi delivered to the apartment.” Sure enough, one call and one hour later, an efficient but visibly heaving man buckling under the weight of three kama meshi rice orders appears at the door. My eyes widen when I see that each order ”“ characteristic of the Japanese yen (pun unintended) for presentation and propriety, includes (all in lacquer): a tray, a bowl of pickled ginger (meant to refresh the palate), a partitioned receptacle for garnishes (nori strips, grated fresh wasabi, chopped green onions), a bowl for the dashi broth thoughtfully provided in a metal pitcher. This is all in addition to the actual kama (bowl) sitting in its traditional wooden support. Your regular food delivery this isn’t.
The accoutrements invite imaginative ways to eat our particular kama meshis. Yappi laces her rice with some of the dashi broth in order to moisten it; my Bin chases chopsticks-full of rice with the garnishes, while I dump all the said accompaniments into my kama. I’ve ordered an unagi (eel) kamameshi along with the recommended side of ikura (salmon roe). Aside from being a visual treat ”“ vivid orange and laidback black-brown, the unagi-roe duo plays a gentle “tug of war” ”“ or is it tag? ”“ between two distinct flavors of salty (roe), and sweet (fish). Adding to the textural mix is the pop of the roe as it’s crushed by teeth, followed with the soft flesh of fish heightened by the echo of wasabi, the wet rice the background for all.
Afterward, as we sit in our contented spheres of burps and tummy-rubbing, my Bin surveys our mess of dishes. “What happens to all these?” He asks. Apparently, all we have to do is return the (unwashed) dishes and pitcher to the bags they were brought in and call the takeout service to have them picked up. Incredible! Only in Japan, I tell you.
Kamatora has locations all over Japan. For more info, check this website (Japanese only): www.kamatora.jp
LaLaport Toyosu is an urban development built around a former shipyard. A shopping complex that houses over 200 shops and restaurants fronts an absolutely beautiful waterfront area guarded by towering buildings. Nearby is a sprawling garden designed by Belgian flower artist Daniel Ost. I spend a good hour on two separate days sitting in the garden alternating with gazing down into the waters of the Sumida river.
Mikazukian is inside Toyosu’s shopping complex. It’s a traditional soba (buckwheat noodle) restaurant where there’s a line to get in and once we do, we see patrons are bent over deep, steaming bowls of various types of noodles in soup or dipped in sauce. Served on a bamboo mat with slatted bottoms, one can choose between soba or a tangle of thick and slippery udon. So simple yes, but the noodles themselves are exemplary – soft yet pliant, they possess irresistible bite. Drowned in a restorative broth or dipped in a piquant, salty sauce kicked up with fresh wasabi, daikon (white radish), and green onions, it’s one of those meals I wish will never end.