Friday, October 2, 2009

Sushi Ryubi, Niigata (柳美)

As I learned when I went to Maebashi and Morioka, there's not a lot going on in country towns outside of the Entertainment industry. That probably means that your best bet for finding dinner, should you not have been aggressive enough to book something, is to hit those areas, ignore the clubs, and look for something not-overly commercialized. In this case, we also wanted sushi, which is a Niigata staple (oceanfront cities, Japan, all that). Ryubi was easily the best-looking place on the main Furumachi strip near where we were staying.

Very tolerable place - the counter was normal but these tables looked especially good (except the fact that you ahve to sit on the floor). Sitting at the counter is preferred anyway, so you can chat with the master. In this case he was a Tokyo transplant who married a Niigata woman. As seems to be true for most non-Tokyo people, he maintained that his new home was boring. But he was a good hand with the knife, and had good fish on hand, and was bored enough to give us some extra items, all of which made for a fun time.

Enormous scallops that I thought were tailagai since they were so big, and some nice kinmedai.

Plump. Juicy. Somehow I've forgotten to include the picture of the cooked scallops the chef gave us - the offcuts of the ones served raw here including their skirts. Very cute, he put a pile of salt on a plate, doused it with something flamable, and put the bubbling-hot scallop shell with meat, mitsuba and ginko nuts on top of the flaming salt. It's not often that you get flaming dishes at a sushi restaurant.

Kohada. Now is actually the season for baby kohada, or shinko, which I mentioned a few days ago. These were quite strong but had a bit of yuzu grated on top to cut the fattiness.

Aji. Fatty, good. So fatty, in fact, that the light bounces off it and makes it look blurry in this picture. (I forgot my camera and wasn't used to this backup model!)

Niigata has its own type of shrimp (Nanban, or Southern Barbarian, which usually refers to the 'batter-fried, cooled, pickled' style of cooking but in this case is just a more crazy shrimp). They're excellent based on the ones I had - more flavor, more plumpitude, more squishy goodness. Should have tried some cooked ones, now that I think about it.
Again, blurry.

 And again, he served us the heads of the shrimp we had just eaten because he was bored. These weren't fried quite hot enough, so they were a little oily and not that crisp. Let that be a lesson to you.

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