Thursday, November 13, 2008

The return of Nippon Gourmet

And I'm back. Sorry about the silence. It's been a totally crazy busy few months. A lot of travel, a lot of deadlines and it was hard just to keep up with it all. But I'm back, and I'm in staying put in one place - Bangkok - for the next two and a bit months (well, more or less) so I hope things will be somewhat more quiet.

My last post was from Japan, and so it makes sense that my next post is also from Japan, from where I got back last night. Not quite third world gourmet, I know, but, well, it's my blog right?

I have so many things to write about and it's hard to know where to start. There are the numerous izakaya that we went to, the soba, the ramen, the whisky, the sake, the beer - but for now I think I will start with tempura.

Tempura refers to vegetables or seafood, which are deep fried in a light batter. Tempura was introduced to Japan by Portuguese missionaries during the 16th century.

Now, you may think that you know tempura, and perhaps you do, but I certainly did not know real tempura before I went to Japan. What I had previously was a poor step cousin, three times removed.

And of course not all tempura in Japan is great, or even good. It ranges from very ordinary to average tempura which you buy in fast food shops to extravagant outings at a few hundred dollars a head. We have tried the cheap ones and three mid-range restaurants. By mid-range, I mean around a hundred dollars a head with drinks.

And we have found a real gem in Tokyo. One place that is absolutely outstanding, to which we have now been twice. It's a very small family outfit with eight seats at the counter and one table for four.

So what makes this place so amazing? I guess it's a whole range of things - the freshness and quality of the ingredients, the crispy, light batter, the way in which they serve you one piece of tempura at a time to ensure it's as fresh as can be, the regularity with which they change the oil to ensure that each piece of tempura tastes perfect. And the taste. It's exquisite.

Then there is the whole dipping sauce thing. With tempura this crisp, this fresh and this tasty, we don't bother with the dipping sauce, just a little bit of salt and that's it.

Shrimp heads


Green beans



Really delicious fish, but I can't remember what it was



OK, more soon. Next post is on Yata in Kyoto. Only my number one favorite restaurant in the world (so far, anyway).

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