Monday, September 21, 2009

Kimura, Enoshima (磯料理 きむら)


With the long weekend well underway, Monday seemed like good timing for a day trip. And Enoshima has been on the list for a long time - a standard place to go, hence a somewhat glaring omission from my catalog of touristy experiences. Getting down there around lunch time, we walked on to the island and immediately realized that, despite any faint hopes to the contrary, 300,000 of our closest friends had had the same idea of visiting the island on this day. I thought that the marina side was meant to be a little less crowded, but even that was incorrect. We walked past all the street food places just to the left of the causeway, through the smaller restaurants, and into the little residential area. There are 3 or 4 small restaurants there, and Kimura looks the best of the lot. In this case, that meant that 30 of our closest friends were already waiting. Ah well, holiday weekend, pleasant weather, make the best of it, name on the list, walk around the neighborhood.

The nicest feature was this lovely temple, which used a natural outcropping of rock as its roof. I've never seen grave sites built into a place like this, and the effect of all the monuments with very fresh memorial flowers was beautiful. If you go, it's on the cobbled street behind Kimura - look for a small gate, stairs, and then some red arches going up the hill.



The neighborhood and the nice temple were insufficient to defeat the waiting list, and we ended up back here, hanging out in front of the restaurant. Fortunately there were chairs and stools for plenty of people. Kimura is a family-oriented, homey kind of place.




I don't know about you, but nothing says 'homey' to me like seaweed salad with squid bits and sour miso dressing! No, not really. But this was nice! It's one of the things that comes when you order one of the teishoku sets.




As are these assorted seaweeds - on the left some sort of I-can't-remember-what, but it had 'kiku' in the title, probably because it looks like chrysanthemums while not actually containing the petals, unlike kakinomoto in Niigata (more on that next weekend, woo hoo!). On the right, much easier to remember, a nice rendition of hijiki, a seaweed often simmered with some soybeans and carrots. One of my favorites!



I also enjoy beer. I think more places are getting into the spirit of local brewing, though obviously these guys have been doing it since at least 1996. The date actually refers to the history of just this beer, which is a very nice porter style that advises you to 'Tap Your Potential'. Dark but light, goes well with...well, anything, really. I don't know if it matches seafood, because it was long gone by the time we got into the serious food.







Celebrity visits seem to happen with some regularity - if you aren't familiar with this guy Sakana kun, consider yourself lucky. I'm pretty sure I heard in the past that he's actually a trained marine biologist, and the CV on his web site seems to support this since he's been on all sorts of government panels and worked for the fisheries association and such. In my mind, he'll always be the guy wearing that yellow and blue fish hat and getting unnaturally excited about eating fish. You can see him sometimes on TV going nuts at seafood-oriented restaurants. The time taht really sticks in my mind was the visit to a squid specialty restaurant that had a tank running between the tables almost like a water feature at a Bali-style resort. You could pick your own squid from there, and they'd slice it and serve it to you still lightly moving. Hmmmm...


Well, with the beer almost gone, some other things from the set lunch arrived. Sazae is evidently popular on the island, as it is in pretty much all seaside places. This is like a big-ass ocean snail, and I still don't much like them since I can't shake the feeling that I'm eating a big intestine. These are genuinely popular in Japan, but please handle with care if you're foreign.




Likewise, I thought hamaguri were a bit please-exercise-caution due to their slightly mealy-yet-slimy texture (no, I'm not going to insert a witty aside about how that's a good thing), but these had good texture and nice taste. Perhaps there's a future relationship between me and hamaguri. Or perhaps I'll just keep eating raw scallops instead, since they're great in every way...







The REAL specialty of the island, however, is this - shirasu. There are signs everywhere, and it seems like practically every restaurant offers them. You might expect to get popsicles or something on the street? In Enoshima, you can get little trays of shirasu. Which are baby fish. Whole and uncooked. To maximize the experience (first time for all eaters), we got the half-bowl - one side raw shirasu, the other side cooked (the white ones). This is good stuff, actually. I would liken the texture to raw shrimp in its mild sliminess, but you definitely notice that there are lots of little bodies in there. The contrast between sides is a good thing, as the richness of the raw ones would get to you after a while.


Another local specialty is octopus - specially recommended on the wall! That either means it's really good or they just caught an excessive amount of it. This was more toward the 'good' side, I think. Freeeeesh, tasty, chewy - you have to expect chewiness if you're not going to cook the octopus. It shouldn't be unpleasant, but it should be chewy.




And then some fishes. I'm not totally sure what the front-left one was, but I'm guessing flounder. Very good, and like all the other bits here, very thick. I won't go on about the quality of the fish, but it was high, as was fat content (e.g. the yellowtail in the back). Clockwise, you have the flounder, yellowtail, tuna and squid. Dig in!




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