If Roti n Rice was likened to a Japanese inn, then Ro-Ri San would be the “caretaker” providing quiet support and keeping things moving smoothly along. Occasionally you may even see him greeting the guests but more often than not, he will be ambling along the corridors busy with the chores. Today, is one of those days he has decided to greet the guests.
Please welcome Ro-Ri San…..
Konnichiwa! I am very happy that my dear “oku-san”, Biren has agreed to let me share about my recent trip to Kanazawa, a beautiful city in Ishikawa prefecture facing the Sea of Japan. Among the Japanese, Kanazawa is a favorite vacation spot with a combination of culture, scenery and wonderful cuisine. Situated in the rich rice-producing coastal plains of Kaga, the city enjoys a fresh supply of seafood from the coast and superior sake like Kubota and Hakaisan brewed from the local rice.
Kanazawa was the hereditary seat of the powerful Maeda clan. The Maedas brought artisans to the city during the Edo period. As a result, Kanazawa became famous for Kutani pottery, yuzen silk for kimono, fine lacquer ware and gold leaf artwork.
The city itself escaped damage during the war, thus preserving most of the traditional neighborhoods. Any visitor to Kanazawa should start with one of the most famous gardens in the world, the Kenrokuen. This amazing garden sits on a hill overlooking the city with several tea cottages, ponds, streams and the oldest fountain built in Japan. Exploring the individual neighborhoods in Kanazawa is another way to get to see the place. The area around Kanazawa castle is filled with museums and gardens. Omicho is a market area with lots of seafood restaurants. There are two geisha districts called Higashi Chayagai and Nishi Chayagai. Both districts have preserved some of their original geisha establishments as restaurants and museums. The samurai families of Kanazawa still maintain their unique walled homes in the Nagamachi district. Even as you walk along the wall lined streets, you will encounter quaint shops selling ceramics, and silk items.
And then there is the local Kanazawa cuisine……
The locals like to frequent restaurants tucked away in back streets or in upper floors of shoplots. In Kanazawa, many of these joints have an air of classy informality that invites the diner to partake the unhurried pace of the place that differentiates it from the exciting frenzy of Tokyo. The Danma-ya is such a place with a blend of the izakaya (Japanese tavern) and family restaurant thrown together.
The specialty of this place is the grilled squid and kushiyaki (grilled meat on skewers). The iwashi-age (fried sardines) is a simple but wonderful izakaya dish.
When I am in Japan, I always reserve a bit of space for dessert. Here dessert is a delightful concoction of chocolate ice cream rolled in green tea flavored ice-cream! To wash all this food down, I ordered a kiwi fruit cocktail that was such a thirst quencher.
Some neighborhood restaurants are simple counters arranged around the kitchen. In the Oseki restaurant, patrons sit up close to where you can see the chefs working on your seafood order with the rectangular oden containers line the front of the counter. Here the seafood is fresh from the market and prepared in a deceptively simple manner that brings out the full flavor of the ingredients.
The oden that I ordered had a local shellfish called baigai together with fish cakes, tofu and shirataki noodles. This is followed by sashimi comprising buri (mature yellowfin), hirame (flounder), ika (squid), ama ebi (sweet shrimp) and suzuki (black sea bass). The test of a good seafood restaurant is in its preparation of “tai no kabuto” (braised red snapper head). This is done “tsukudani-style” with the fish-head being simmered in soy sauce, mirin, sugar and flavored with go-bo (burdock). Very casual atmosphere as you get to chat with the chefs while they work. The mama-san treats her customers like they were her children around the dinner table.
A visit to Kanazawa will not be complete without crabs. In a corner restaurant named Kikuyoshi at the old samurai district, I ordered a set lunch with crab legs, sushi, Kaga seafood condiments and pork stew. The latter is a thick stew that complemented the crab and sashimi very well and has a very home-cooked flavor to it. Japanese comfort food. In larger groups, such stews are often cooked in a nabe (claypot), and then dished out to everyone seated around the table.
Now it is time for some Japanese desserts. Some of the best desserts in town can be found in the unlikeliest places. Urushi no Mi is a little dessert café on the 4th floor above a swanky lacquerware gallery. In fact the desserts are served using the same lacquer dishes sold downstairs. The café itself is part of the gallery! This place is well-known for sweet mochi. I ordered the mochi moriawase. These came in 3 flavors, green tea, azuki bean, and peanut.
Hankering for more, I ordered a bowl of green tea ice cream with azuki beans and mini mochi hidden like treasures underneath. All accompanied by freshly prepared frothy matcha.
Ro-Ri san always bring home gifts from Japan. These are the gorgeous Kutani tea cups that he bought from Hokusando, a very nice ceramic shop in downtown Kanazawa.
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day!