Dec 30, 2007

minako

minako is on mission street, between 17th and 18th. i've passed by it for months and not had occasion to go inside but, on friday night, tory, mary, and i went there for dinner. it was a lot like going to a great neighbourhood restaurant in osaka -- the staples but irreproachably done. we ordered a vast array of small dishes, and they were served up at perfect eating pace.

  1. renkon soup (dashi broth, grated ginger, scallions, shoyu, and a little cake made of lotus root and lotus root starch)
  2. age nasu dengaku (aubergines grilled with miso and mirin, then cut into chunks and tempura-fried)
  3. ingen goma ae (french-cut green beans, steamed and then dressed with miso and sesame)
  4. tuna tataki (cubes of raw tuna dressed in yuzu and shoyu, then garnished with thin-sliced naganegi)
  5. minted hamachi (thick slices of hamachi in a green sauce of pounded mint and yuzu juice to cut the fat)
  6. broiled black cod in miso paste
  7. udon with umeboshi (the preserved plums that came with the udon soup were house-made, sweeter than usual, and quite deeply-flavoured)
old-school culinary types in japan still make their own plum wines and preserves -- it's the definition of patience, since the wines especially only really hit their stride decades on. i got a large jar of 42-year home-made umeshu when i went to talk to a lady in the outer suburbs of tokyo back in the days before carrying liquids in hand luggage became verboten. it was made from shochu that she'd distilled from sweet potatoes grown on her family's farm in hokkaido and plums from the century-old japanese plum tree in her back yard. it was almost ninety degrees in tokyo the day i visited her and the smell of plums filled the room as soon as the warm jar was opened. it was unctuous, refreshing, bitter, sour, and sweet all at the same time; we ran through it all almost immediately, but i gave minz's parents a bottle of it several years ago that has only recently come back to the surface and they're now drinking it with every sign of enjoyment.
coming back from the bathroom in minako, i saw, stacked in the back, large dated jars of umeboshi and umeshu sitting and waiting; there are only a couple of glasses of the 1984 umeshu left and at least one of them has my name on it.

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