Friday, March 5, 2010

Monday Tokyo- Ginzan Onsen

on the first day

Monday morning, We both got up pretty early, and then went out to find breakfast.  We found a french cafe type place with croissants and cappuccino.  Then off for more walking and people watching. We found a store with some awesome Japanese candy, my favorite of which was a "waffles" flavored cookie type thing.  My love of things that are maple flavored has not abated at all, and I find it a little odd, but awesome that you can find maple flavored things in Japan.

We stopped at Starbucks for some drinks, and sat for a little while, watching people go by.  Then back to the hotel, and onto another shuttle, and then to Haneda Airport that took us to Yamagata.  The flight was short, our driver met us at the exit, and then we arrived in Ginzan Onsen.  

In Tokyo, most of the signs had English names with signs and maps. In Ginzan Onsen, it is not so, at least so far. When we got to the hotel, the Concierge muddled through (very nicely) getting us checked in, advising us that there was "no internet at my hotel" which became a catchphrase that Tim and I used when we wanted to look something up online (or check facebook, or email, or watch a youtube video. We got settled, then went out to explore the tiny town. It was a little bit foggy, and snowing, but it was postcard perfect cuteness.  After bumbling around to some shops, We came back to the hotel, and then got ready to have dinner.

When we got our information from the travel agency, I had immediately hopped on to the website of our ryokan (which had some hilarious engrish in it) and took a look at the food. It looked amazing, but the pictures on the website in no way represent the epic awesomeness that was the food at the ryokan. the sheer volume, and flavor, and textures that they wove through every meal was mastery, and I will try (and fail) to do it justice.

Every night We started off with a shot of sake, that had some kind of sweet juice with it.  And the first night we both got hot sake to drink with dinner.
We thought it was Sake...

On the table was a salad with greens and a seasame/Peanutty dressing- the dressing was rich and the greens cut it nicely, it was savory and awesome.

Salad with a sesame dressing

Beef, Asparagus, Carrot and Potato, that you cook on your own cooking dish, and then dip into a sauce. I really liked this, because you could control how much you cooked the meat, and it was so tender and tasty, and of such obvious good quality that it really only needed to cook a minute.
Beef, Asparagus, potato, Carrot

A plate of six things:
Clockwise, starting at the top in the bowl. Greens with a mustard sauce.  Pickled bamboo? (I think. it tasted like heart of palm, too, so maybe it was that) blanched vegetables with mustard,  a little bundle of mushroom,  a tempura-ed something- seaweed? , and dried fish with some kind of paste on top. I think of these the bundle of mushroom was my favorite- it was completely unexpected- from the way it looked I was expecting something hard- maybe dried- and it wasn't, it was soft, and meaty, almost. Surprising and delicious. The mustard on the vegetables was awesome too- not to hot, just enough for a pleasurable sting before I was able to taste the vegetable

Dried fish, Salad type thing, mushrooms with mustard

Sushi:  there were two pieces of salmon, two of what I think was red snapper, two of the butteriest pieces of tuna I've ever tasted, and a shrimp.  It was heavenly, the entire bowl.  This came with fresh grated wasabi, and in comparison to the wasabi that you get stateside- there is no comparison. Infinitely more complex, with a quick heat that hits you, and then disappears. Amazing.
Sushi MMMM

The next one was a bed of mashed potatoes with miso, a piece of cooked fish on top, and a vegetables with two different kinds of sauces.  The mashed potatoes were rich- the roasted vegetables were sweet and cooked perfectly, the fish (some kind of mild white fish) infused the potatoes, and the sauces on either side were different, and really brought the dish together.  I definitely want to start experimenting with miso in my mashed potatoes.
roasted vegetables, some kind of fish, mashed potatoes with miso

Then there was soup. OH WAS THERE SOUP

First was a broth with greens, a fish ball, and a vegetable which I cannot quite identify. it was really good. The fish ball was pink on the outside and grey on the inside, and was light, and tasty.

broth with a fish ball

Next was a broth with soba noodles, greens, mushrooms, and insanely thin sliced pork on it.  The soba noodles were like a cloud, they were so soft. The broth was rich and complex, and that one they lit the fire under the soup, and opened the lid for us when it was ready.
Pork, soba noodles, veggies

After that was plain rice, and Miso soup. The tofu in the miso soup was soft, and light, and had miso on the outside, and there was a folded piece of fish inside that was amazing.  The broth was flavorful and light, and amazing. with this came a dish of pickles, which were not too sour.
Miso of my dreams

And last but not least dessert.   Two mochi balls with a sesame dust on them, custard with strawberries on top, and a yogurt drink.  The custard was light, and creamy, the strawberries sweet and a little tart. The mochi was great- I like the not quite a gummy texture of them. The yogurt drink was cool and refreshing.

The whole dinner was crazy. Tim and I kept looking at each other, in amazement, at how good things were, and saying things like "Shut up. This is so good."   There isn't much that makes me want to stop talking, but for the first time, I realized why some fancy resturaunts are hushed and quiet. It's because the food is so amazing that it takes away your words, and you are dumbfounded into just taking the next bite, and the next bite, until you look up, and it's an hour later, and it only felt like ten minutes.

We went back to the room, and tried to figure out the bed situation (there were a bunch of mats in a closet, stacked up, and we didn't quite know what we were doing. A knock came on the door, and I went to go answer it, and there was a hotel employee, who started to speak to me in Japanese, and when I gestured that I had no idea what he was saying, he started saying "stone! Stone!" a femail sgtaffer came over and started to speak as well, and she gestured inside to where Tim was messing with the mats, and I sighed with relief, and let them in, so that they could set up the beds.  After laughing at us a little, at the strange way that Tim had set them, they fixed them, put sheets on , and bid us farewell.

the height of our sleeping mats

This, by the way, was the first of many instances at the ryokan where a Japanese person would start to talk to me, I would say and mime that I could not speak Japanese, and then they would continue to talk to me. I could not figure out why this kept happening to me, and not Tim.  He thinks it's because I'm friendly. I think it's because funny things tend to keep happening to me.

Ok, that's it for now- will update more tomorrow!

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