Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kurokawa's Iyashi no Sato Kiyashiki (いやしの里 樹やしき): Part 1 - Breakfast

One of the reasons that we chose to stay at Iyashi no Sato Kiyashiki (いやしの里 樹やしき) above any of the other ryokans in Kurokawa was due to the food. Kiyashiki has a reputation for producing excellent, intricate breakfasts and dinners, and so we decided that on the first night, we would opt for the regular breakfast and dinner, which were both excellent, but on the second day to indulge in the upgraded meal plan. The staff there were happy to oblige.
Now, my major fault on this journey was to forget to photograph the meal on the first night. Sure, you could say, how could she forget? She's so diligent about every stupid thing she stuffs her face with! But, in all honesty, after train rides and bus rides, arriving at the onsen and slipping into the first rotenburo on the first night was a bit like when a train comes to a scheduled stop a little too quickly. The feeling of slowing down makes one feel slightly disoriented, but in this case, in an excellent way. So on the first night, all I can say is that the meal was incredibly relaxing and unforgettably delicious. We were seated in our own large room, and a nice older lady, obviously experienced in the service industry, seated us at a table, bringing us course after course of sashimi, pickles and sukiyaki, all with a gracious smile, and patient conversational Japanese to my utter delight. Every course was amazing, with the real surprise coming at the end. How do you feel about rice? If you're to journey to Japan, you better like and appreciate it. If you come to Kiyashiki, you're in for the best rice of your life... rice so good that I very nearly broke out into song. The matronly waitress brought out the rice with pride, declaring that it had been grown in the village next door, and all of this sparked little memories of the bus ride to the onsen town, which was speckled with roadside rice paddies. Moist and springy, with just the right clean mouth feel, this was the best rice I had ever had. I am so sorry I don't have pictures of this meal for all of you.
The following morning, after a restful sleep, and awaking to the sound of cool raindrops falling outside, we took a refreshing dip into the hot baths (heed the signs, they switch the male and female sides overnight). We then returned to the same room where we had enjoyed dinner for asa gohan (breakfast). And what a breakfast it was.
The breakfast spread, first morning.
I believe that these little fishes are called chirimen (though I'm not completely sure). If you're squeamish, then you may not be able to get them down. But if you're adventurous, and love to try things that still have the ability to surprise you about food, you'll love this little dish. They're slightly briny and a touch salty with the texture of jerky. Delicious on rice, and one of the favorite things that I had tried.
Little salty fishes with slightly spicy, briny cousins
of green peppercorns
The sweet egg omelet was unlike any other that I had ever had. It was cooked just so, as to still retain a juicy texture.
Sweet egg omlet
A little plate of pickles had a variety of daikon, cucumber, some sort of a green vegetable (perhaps a cousin of celery or spinach), and some carrots. Again, these were house made and just lovely, each retaining a bit of crunch. The star, of course, is the super sour umeboshi or pickled plum. This is one of my mother's favorites, and I long for umeboshi when there are none to be found. Pucker up.
Little plate of pickles
Another plate contained one of the more infamous food items of Japan: natto. I, for one, love the stuff. It's slimy and savory, and helps with digestion. The texture and flavor are unique and quite delicious, but I find that many of those foreign to Japan absolutely despise this stuff. They think it smells like feet or something. Our server the night before was careful to ask whether we would like natto the following morning. I am glad that we said yes, despite the bigger half's gagging when presented with the stuff. Kiyashiki's version was wonderful and the ideal texture and flavor, being only subtly salty. The grated mountain yam also may have downplayed the potent smell a bit. I thought this was wonderful.
A little dish of vegetables, I think related to spinach, and sprinkled with sesame seeds coule be snacked on next. It was topped with a touch of vinegared soy sauce dressing. So refreshing.
Vegetables, sprinkled with sesame seeds
And now, there are dried gourd/root-type vegetables. These were salty and chewy, interspersed with bits of fried tofu skin. Another wonderful dish.
Salted, dried vegetables with tofu skin
A crisp salad with soy dressing followed, complete with a juicy tomato.
A little salad, and ripe tomato
Sukyaki with tofu and a bit of what I think was mizuna followed. The earthy, salty sauce was delicious.
Plain sukiyaki of firm tofu and spicy greens
Grilled white fish, sweet with crispy skin, was presented on a little side dish. The white flesh of the fish was sweet and succulent, a fantastic protein accompaniment to our large, but very healthy breakfast.
Perfectly grilled slice of white fish with crispy skin
and a fresh, lightly brined pickle
Amazing, light and refreshing hot ochya served as our beverage.
Best miso soup ever.
Miso soup with wakame
Best rice ever, grown in the neighboring town. It was springy and incredibly fragrent without being too starchy.
One of the highlights of the meal was this single half of a potato, so moist and perfectly cooked on the inside, topped with a half of a sugar snap pea, crunchy and sweet. I'm not sure that there's a person on the planet that couldn't enjoy this, particularly with the delicious soy and bonito-based sauce.

Like I had mentioned, this was a large breakfast. But it was all delicious and surprisingly light, leaving us to desire snack after snack while visiting the different outdoor baths. 
Coming soon... part 2... dinner (upgraded meal)...

No comments:

Post a Comment