There is much more to Japanese food than packaged sushi washed down with Sapporo – we know this… of course we do – but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded! And my-oh-my was I reminded. And no, not in a restaurant – it was at an official residence in Rockcliffe Park. I was the delighted guest at a dinner party hosted by Ambassador and Mrs Monji on the occasion of Tokyo chef and cultural envoy, Naoyuki Yanagihara’s visit to the capital.
Chef Yanagihara teamed up with the Ambassador’s chef Ichiro Fujii, first on a shopping trip through Chinatown, and then in the kitchen to produce a magnificent six-course dinner, complemented with sake. And though it seems mighty mean to tell you about it I do so in the hope that we might yet see in this town a restaurant that offers the sort of simple, clean, ultra fresh and very beautiful food served in the dining room of the ambassador’s residence. With a sake list that goes beyond ‘hot’ or ‘cold’?
The man who chose the sake for the evening was none other than His Excellency Mr Monji. He is a Sake Samurai, a member of an organization that seeks to share a love of sake with the rest of the world and to nurture the culture of sake in Japan. Mr Monji introduced to the table of chefs, restaurateurs, food educators and writers, each of the different styles of sake he had chosen to pair with each dish.
Over the course of dinner, the highlights of which included vinegared surf clam in a mandarin cup; a matsutake mushroom broth filled in the poached lobster and chicken, greens and ginkgo nuts; sushi of black bream and yuba rolls (soy milk skin) with tuna; grilled miso-marinated butter fish with Quebec maitake mushrooms, candied chestnut and dashi poached beets; Alberta filet mignon in a watercress and wasabi sauce; and a green tea Mont Blanc – we drank seven sake. Light, fruity sake; floral sake; cloudy sake, and for the richly flavoured wagyu beef, aged sake.
It was a merry evening, a thrill to have been invited, and it has moved up a considerable notch, the ‘spend time in Japan’ bullet on the bucket list.
Many thanks to Ambassador and Mrs Monji, to chefs Yanagihara and Fujii, and to the team who served us so beautifully well.
Thanks as well to the Embassy of Japan for the photographs.
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