Susan's Shanghai Blog - Week 109 (Minus Kabuki)
Day 2 - this is what we call "the morning after". These are basically the same corners that you saw at the end of our previous blog as seen when we got up and headed out to find breakfast. The hotel did a good job at cleaning off the sidewalks, but not everybody did. As well, it would seem that they don't have that much snow-removal equipment as at one point in time, we saw 4 guys with shovels clearing the roads themselves.
After breakfast, we headed back to the hotel and tried to dry out shoes, which got wet going to breakfast and back. Then we headed to the Kabuki-za Theater, which for the redesigned website, I have split out to have its own page.
We did a bit of just walking around and then headed to dinner. This was walking-distance from our hotel in Ginza, on a side street. We got this one from Andy Hayler's blog (www.andyhayler.com). It is a tempura place with 1 Michelin star ... I had never thought of tempura and Michelin stars going together, but this restaurant fits into that category. It is pretty small with a wooden counter (that we had seats at) along with a couple of the low japanese-style tables. Our friend Hitomi had called and made reservations for us and got us counter seats so that we were right there watching the action. Funny little story here ... we get there and Tom is looking at the menu (3 choices written in English on this little wooden card). He's looking at the prices and turns to me and asks "how much money do we have?" Hmm....not enough is the response! So I ask if they take credit cards and no, cash only. Darn! My next question is "Is there a 7-11 nearby?" It seems that 7-11 has an ATM which works with our US credit union and so we walk around looking for 7-11's. Lucky for us, there was one about 2 blocks away. So I left Tom there to order a first round of sake while I headed over to get money to pay. As you can see, it was just a little door in the middle of the wall!
We tried to get a few pictures of the interior, and you can somewhat see how smalli t was, and how packed it was. Mind you, there was space for like 11 or 12 at the counter and then 2 tables that could probably seat 3 or 4.
Here is the dinner menu (3 options) and drink menu (7 choices). Not sure if this is just the "foreigner" menu and there was a larger menu in Japanese, but we were okay with this. We both went with the No. 3 Dinner.
They brought us a lacquered tray with something on it, we actually have no idea (even after eating it) what exactly it was.
The owner-chef is the gentleman shown here (he was shown in Andy Hayler's blog). He uses a very thin batter, thinner than alot we've had in other tempura restaurants, and cooks with white sesame oil for better taste. He also cooks in two different fryers that are set at different temperatures. A lower temperature for vegetables so that they maintain their freshness and color, and a higher temperature for seafood to get a perfect crispness.
And of course, what would an evening meal in Japan be without Sake! We got the warm sake, served with this little sake cup and a metal jug with the warm sake inside.
We started with a small bowl of sashimi topped with a vegetable. While it looked like a yam or carrot, I don't think it was either one based on the taste, which was really good.
Then we got a spread of small bowls that included salt, lemon, the normal tempura broth, an empty bowl for the seafood tails, and then a large heap of grated daikon.
So how is the tempura cooked? There is a small assembly line here. The first bowl has a flour mixture, then a batter, then the two fryers. It first goes into the flower, then through the batter, then into the fryer. They constantly clean out the fryer from the little pieces of batter that comes off. They also seem to change the oil fairly frequently, which they did while we were eating. It was done pretty quickly and so while I attempted to get enough pictures to give you a good view, you really have to be there to get the full experience.
We started with prawn heads, which we have never ate before. Normally, even if we get the full prawn or shrimp, we take off the heads. For me, this was odd since I was eating little legs! They were crispy and actually tasted good, although I still felt a little weird about eating little legs. The body of the prawn was next. Each piece gets placed on a little wire rack that each person has. We were a little confused when the chef told us to use salt with the shrimp, since we had only ever had the broth with daikon. But of course, we took his advice and used the salt, which was great! The broth tends to make the coating a little less crispy, so just the salt kept the coating perfectly crispy.
The next two were vegetables that we didn't recognize the name of even when they told us what they were in English. The first one was okay but the second one wasn't really our favorite. It had an odd flavor that I had never actually tasted. He mentioned it was some type of blossom which tells me that flowers really were not meant to be eaten!
Then came a white fish, then another absolutely perfectly cooked scallop. Additional fish and vegetables then were added.
At the end, a small bowl of pickled vegetables, a bowl of rice, as well as soup. One of the soups (Susan's) was a dark miso soup, which is WAY better than the miso soups that we get at Japanese restaurants in Raleigh. Tom had a different soup that was a clear broth with tempura in the middle.
To end, a simple dessert of strawberry ice cream sitting on a bed of fresh strawberries.
I have to say, I still don't quite understand what makes a Tempura restaurant a 1-Michelin star restaurant vs a 2-Michelin star restaurant vs a not-quite-a-Michelin star restaurant. The tempura here was really amazing, with the thin batter allowing the full flavor of the food inside to come out. Sometimes you get more batter than shrimp in some of the tempuras and all you can really taste is the batter. This you got the crispness of the fried batter but still got all of the flavor from the ingredient. It wasn't cheap, as you could tell from the menu, but it was a great meal and a great experience. If you go to Tokyo, ALWAYS try to get counter seating!!
I just really liked this view ... one of the buildings and the trees out front all lit up.
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