We were instructed to use our chopsticks to pick up all three main elements of the next course altogether. Although this may seem very reasonable, you try picking up a slippery bamboo shoot wrapped in seaweed and topped with greens. The shoot was about 4 inches across and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get my chopsticks around it and had to keep myself from resorting to stabbing.
I struggled in vain for about five minutes before Chef threw up his hands in exasperation and left. Literally left the room. In shame, I managed to balance all three elements on my chopsticks and quickly convey them to my mouth.
We seemed to be forgiven by the next course. Tiny grilled fish were brought out on a plate, along with two additional fish on a smoker. The fish were crispy and delicious and the ones who came off the smoker had a distinctively different flavor. To me, the front halves were distressingly bitter, but the rest of the fish delicious.
Following this course was a rice and pickled vegetable dish. I’d read that this dish was often served to help “top off” hungry diners. We were pretty full, and didn’t finish the rice, which they elegantly packaged for us to take back to our hotel.
The first dessert was served: yuzu gelatin served in the fruit.
After a few bites of the gelatin, Chef motioned for us to stop. He poured a bit of simple syrup into the hollow of the fruit and squeezed the juice from the lid in. The dessert was cool, tart, refreshing, and just sweet enough.
With the gelatin, we were served a bowl of the most delicious strawberries I had ever had, kept cold in a bowl of ice. Come to think of it, they strawberries could have been filled with simple syrup, as the tops had been carefully cut off and replaced, but I like to think they were simply perfectly ripe.
I think this is botamochi, a confection of sweet rice and azuki paste served specifically in the spring. Along with this came another lesson. Matt was instructed to spear his botamochi and convey it to a slip of paper. Grasping the paper, he was to eat the entire thing in one bite, then wipe his fingers on the paper. When I tried to imitate this, Chef corrected me. As a woman, I was to use the spear to “slice” the botamochi, then spear each side separately and eat.
We were served tea to finish the meal, both green and black. I didn’t get a picture of the green as it seemed no matter what we did, we were destined to never get to actually drink it between the combinations of turning the cup, bowing, repeating Japanese phrases, all in the proper order.
But the other tea was quite beautiful and a fitting end to the meal.