Saturday, October 3, 2009

Takanosukan, Sakamachi (2/2: Food; 鷹の巣館、新潟県坂町)

If you weren't impressed by the pictures of the room, bath and scenery, then this whole onsen thing might not be for you. Consider not reading about the food either.

But if you're still here, I think you'll like these big, pretty bowls filled with various items. The reason there are so many glasses is that we ordered two kinds of sake, they brought us a bottle of sweet sparkling wine when they learned it was my birthday, the bottom-right umeshu is an aperitif, and you have to drink some water with all this alcohol.

Left, the light blue bowl has konnyaku with sour miso dressing. The black lump is a funny little whole, deep-fried fish. It was disturbing to look at since it seemed almost mummified, but was pretty tasty. You can just see in under the leaf where they had cooked a satoimo, skinned the top, and covered it with some kind of hard, yellow shell. Looked like candy but wasn't.

In the back of the bowl, some typical local things. It's famous in Niigata to eat chrysanthemum petals; based on the three times I ate them over the course of 24 hours, the common thing is to pick the petals and mix them with some lightly fishy, lightly vinegary sauce. In this case they were topped with good ikura, always a bonus!

Clear soup with a bit of very fluffy omelette and also a very white fish cake mixed interestingly with black beans. Oh, and the thin brown thing is a slice of matsutake, a luxury mushroom that I don't understand at all.

These are persimmons, hollowed out, stuffed with the flesh mixed with sesame paste, and baked. They were so good that I'm trying to make them for dinner tonight...we'll see how they come out!

Cooked fish was something like an ayu (although it's late for that), grilled mostly-whole with its eggs. The tan bits in front are an interesting type of ginger, while the mushrooms make a thematic connection with earlier courses by including sesame in the sauce.

This is a pumpkin cream croquette with additional cubes of steamed pumpkin inside for texture. On top, the thing that looks like kangaroo paw is actually susuki, which is the roadside grass that looks a bit like wheat of rice. Nice to eat a weed; it tastes a lot like a thin, fried gobo. This croquette was excellent in taste, texture and fry. The edamame sauce around it was a little extraneous, but was cooling and fresh.

Oops, I told Koala that there wasn't any sashimi in this dinner. Well, the Nanban Ebi were excellent, as was the light pink Awa. The snapper, I don't remember.

Completing the local-products theme, this is Murakami beef, raised just up the road, and it's been pressure cooked to falling-apart softness. Whole onions are similarly soft and delicious (puns about bull's bits notwithstanding), while cresson and cream sauce were nice contrast and complement, respectively.

This was one of my favorite things - it's a huge white fig, gently stewed in a lightly-sweet broth, then topped with sesame sauce. I guess it's sort of a 'rest period', something when you can put your chopsticks down between courses and use a spoon briefly.

This is just here so I remember it - the rice was extraordinary. Incredible flavor that just wasn't the same at breakfast the next day. I was sorry to be so full at this point that I couldn't eat more than one bowl. The whole pickled radishes are pretty too.

And we thought we were done, but they improvised a little birthday service here! You can see some fruit, some mushroom-shaped cookies, some tea-dusted mochi, and some yogurty pudding with berries. And a candle! I made a joke before about how they would probably bring out some unsweetened rice cake with a candle in it, and was only a little wrong. Great stuff!
There you go! If you don't think this is pretty, you should get out less so you can lose the jaded streak. What a great onsen...and now on to the next one!

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