Monday, May 10, 2010

day trip!

For us, Golden Week 2010 was all about eating out. On the Monday, May 3, we went for lunch at the very famous Ukai Toriyama in Hachioji, west of Tokyo and next to Mt. Takao, because friends said it was one of those things we just had to do at least once before we left Japan. And they were right! What a beautiful place. We sat in a private tatami room inside a thatched roof hut overlooking a Japanese garden, complete with koi-filled pond, stone lanterns and red Japanese maples, and indulged in a very satisfying multi-course meal.

This lady showed us to our room

And what a room it was..

View from our room, of another room across the pond
View from our room looking the other way, shot from the little balcony we could access through the sliding doors

First course: a tangle of dried smoked fish bits (bonito, better than it sounds) over a pickled green vegetable that's kind of a cross between celery and asparagus

Second course: sesame tofu (very good, if you like that sorta thing, which I do)

Next: grilled eggplant with red miso (I think this was my favorite of all -- forgot to get a closeup)

This guy brought the hot coals for the robatayaki (grilling meat over an open hearth)

The sand is raked just so

Before the bbq got underway, we were served a light soup of chicken meatball, leeks and leafy greens

Then came the carp sashimi (not, as you might think, slices of the same fancy koi swimming in the pond outside). Tasted a bit like snapper I guess. Chewier than I would've liked, but fresh, and the sesame and ponzu dipping sauces helped.
David was not convinced.

Time to grill! Our server brings baskets of small green peppers, leeks and chicken on sticks

The grill tops had gutters to catch the drippings. Brilliant!

Best condiment: chili-yuzu sauce, gently spicy and citrusy-sweet

But wait, there's more: grilled whole fish

The final course was also the least popular (I think I was the only one who had a few bites): a cold porridge of grated nagaimo, or mountain yam, over rice

Two gelatinous azuki (red bean) sweets arrived (part of the larger carp set menu, which we had ordered for the guys) but there were no takers. (Except for me.) It had been rolled in some powdery green stuff that I assumed was matcha, but the waitress shook her head no, though had difficulty explaining what it actually was. (Anybody?)

Terry with Clare
Emma, Clare's friend visiting from England, standing on the balcony outside our room

Our room from the other side of the pond (we went for a little stroll around the grounds after lunch)

So gorgeous we didn't want to leave...

Ukai Toriyama runs a free shuttle bus from Takaosanguchi station, the last stop on the Keio line (less than an hour from Shinjuku) and next door to where the Mt. Takao hiking trails begin and the cable car and chair lift launch. My advice: Take the train! Our friends decided to drive all of us, and what should've been a 30-40 min. drive turned into 3 hours (the risk of bank holiday traffic: one minor accident on the expressway and you're screwed) -- though remarkably, we made it to the restaurant on time for our midday reservation, and the delay meant that by the time we made it to the mountain it was no longer quite so mobbed. I'll post about our trail walk next...

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