Thanks to my brother Bill’s girlfriend Tae (pronounced “tie”), we were recently treated to a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner at her place in Bryn Mawr, PA. Russ was really looking forward to it because he embraces all Japanese cuisine including sashimi, which is raw fish. That is where I typically start to get a bit apprehensive.
We had barely arrived when we were shown to our seats at the dining room table and out came the first course. According to Tae who gave me the menu descriptions, she called the white component Shiraae: consisting of tofu, snow peas, dried shiitake mushroom, fried tofu, corn, konnyaku (konnyaku yum jelo) in white miso sauce.
On the rest of that first plate was Kinpira gobo: brown shreds of gobo, a root vegetable, and carrot with chili pepper and sesame oil. Finally completing plate one was Hijiki: the black hijiki seaweed and carrot, konnyaku, fried tofu, edamame in sakke, dashi, and soy sauce. And that was all just the first course!
Now I have to admit, I cannot use chop sticks. Over the years I tried and failed on umpteen occasions, only to end in frustration, so I just gave up. Therefore, I had to ask Tae for a fork. (She also noted later that I was also struggling without a knife and one quickly found its way to my seating.) We all had a chuckle when Tae indicated that brother Bill, an avowed meat eater, quickly learned the art of manipulating chop sticks and that it actually slows him down—he’s a rather fast consumer of food, to put it politely.
No sooner had Tae whisked away our plates when she supplied course number two, Mackerel Ceviche in rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and konbu dashi with shiso leaves and myoga (Japanese ginger flower). This is where I thought I’d have to forego the offering, although after one taste, I realized it was really good (but I drew the line at consuming the skin).
What came next was a cleverly plated Cucumber and Wakame (seaweed) Salad with shredded ginger, a couple of plump shrimp and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Delish!
Round number three was Boiled Daikon Radish in konbu and rice with ginko nuts, a white miso sauce and topped with salmon eggs. Very different than anything I’ve ever had before, but very good!
By now I am noticing Tae often retreated from the tiny kitchen to a bedroom (she calls her craft room) retrieving various dishware. I had to marvel at all of the intricate plates and bowls, especially for the next course Ahi Poke. It was ahi tuna marinated with nori and chives on mixed rice topped with dried squid and Takuan, pickled daikon, probably my favorite course of the night, and arguably the most beautiful.
By this time, I couldn’t eat another bite, in fact, I asked for a doggie bag for the remainder of my ahi poke. But there was still one last course to be had. Along with the Red Bean Sweet (although Russ claimed it wasn’t sweet at all) on a gold side dish, we were treated to Macha green tea, which I truly enjoyed.
After a few hours of chit chat it was time to bid Sayōnara. But before we left, Tae gifted Russ a set of chop sticks as a parting souvenir. How sweet.