Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kyoto - Nishiki Food Market & Kaiseki Dinner

It should surprise no one who knows us that the Nishiki Food Market was one of our first stops in Kyoto. This narrow covered arcade is the number-one source for all kinds of Kyoto treats.

These are basically molded sugar.

A black sesame rice cracker. These things are heavenly.

A kind of sweet brown mochi.

You know, I spent a lot of time there making this face.
 But not everything was quite so appetizing.

Whale tongues in wet clay.

A Polynesian sacrificial altar.

The work of an adolescent dolphin sociopath.
Either an anorexic squid or an eel with hyperthyroidism.
Candied octopus lollipops.
 (Actually, from the top: eggplant in miso; red snapper, dried and fried; ???; ?!?!; candied octopus lollipops.)

Obviously, Nana and I were neither hungry nor adventurous enough to try everything we saw at Nishiki, though a couple days later we did eat some pretty wild and wonderful stuff at a kaiseki (Japanese haute cuisine) restaurant near our B&B.

Just a few items on the nine-course tasting menu:

  • Smoked oysters in a kind of mustard sauce
  • Crab dumpling soup (basically, they use every part of the crab but the shell)
  • Sashimi (slices of raw fish), including yellowtail, scallops
  • Some smoked mackerel with a touch of mustard (which currently ranks among the most delicious things I've ever eaten in my life)
  • A chunk of chicken liver
  • A hunk of some kind of fish, vaguely mackerel-ish, marinated in that same brown miso paste you saw above
  • Japanese winter stew
  • Rice with poached salmon and ikura (salmon eggs)
It wasn't cheap, but it was definitely worth it. Even better, we were seated at a counter right in front of the chef, who spoke some English and was able to describe a bit of what he was up to. A lesson, a show, and a fine meal, all rolled into one! 

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