Though I often choose to enjoy my large meal at lunch (because a large meal mid-day is about half the price for the same standard of food and service), every day, no matter where I am, I face the question of finding dinner.
When making food choices I mix up high and low. I’m no food snob. I’ve cooked chicken organs with cabbage hotpot style in a subterranean Tokyo room for a few hundred yen, and occasionally when others have arranged it enjoyed Michelin stars.
Of course, I frequently return to favourite places where I am most warmly welcomed. To my surprise, Two Rooms kept my name tag for my coat from last year. How sweet is that?
However, repeatedly I face the daunting prospect of navigating a Japanese menu with Google Translate and a great deal of uncertainty as to what exactly will arrive at the table. While I have rarely been disappointed, sometimes I have been surprised–squid guts as an appetizer comes to mind.
Whenever possible I like sampling local specialties. Therefore, the other weekend when I landed in Yonezawa I definitely wanted to enjoy their call to fame: Yonezawa beef. During a stroll back from the river park where I’d gone to stretch my legs after long ride from Tokyo, quite near my hotel I found Bekoya. The restaurant offers a number of dining options and I chose to have steak grilled for me over yakiniku, shabu shabu or sukiyaki which are better enjoyed in groups.
I was led into a restfully dark room, brought a warm hand towel and given a menu. Between the picture-menu, a little English and a little Japanese I requested the dinner set: 100 grams of Yonezawa beef done rare.
The set included appetizers: salad, a slice of ham, slices of beef, and a special local tofu. In addition to the beef, the meal featured the newly harvested, regional Tsuyahime rice, a choice of vegetables, two desserts and tea.
When I indicated that I’d like to sample Nihonshu for which the area is also renowned, the waiter suggested a regional sake only available in the autumn.
While I enjoyed the appetizers and the wine, Chef Ito prepared the vegetables and meat which he finished in a flambé.
The double-header dessert included a crème brulee along with apple granita. Yonezawa apples are famous throughout Japan, and that simple confection I’d most definitely like to have twice.
There’s nothing that quite matches being led to the table to be fed. Bite for bite, food–especially fresh, seasonal, local food–not only nourishes but also delights and consoles.
The tea was hot and slightly bitter. I leaned back most pleasantly stuffed. Sweet.