Monday, January 25, 2010

Japan: Kyoto Part 2

Let's go back to Kyoto Japan. I would like to talk about this restaurant called Matsusakagyu or What's the Beef and it's second store What's the Kitchen. Like all other restaurants, we just happened to walk by it. The restaurant exterior was classic and unassuming. The waitress led us through down a narrow wood hall way passing the small, no, tiny kitchen and a (small) gorgeous court yard. We arrived at a private room with comfortable sofa seats, lanterns, and jazz music. We started with sparkling rice wine. It was mouthful, creamy, high in acid, but yet slightly sweet, delicious! We ordered another bottle. After that, we ordered every rice wine on the list. The waitress left us along to have a romantic evening and only comes when you buzz them. The night was magical and Dennis and I never felt more comfortable in a restaurant.

The restaurant is famous for its quality beef. Their beef is sourced from Matsusaka, a prefecture between Kobe and Kyoto. Like Kobe beef, Matsusaka cows probably lived a better life than a lot of people, and their meat surpasses the AAA premium we have in Canada. They are rated between A5 to A12. Each parts of the beef is priced differently. Striploin was the cheapest while the tenderloin was the most expensive @ $25 CND per order of 4 small pieces for the grill. Each order was marked with a small piece of wax paper with its name handwritten in calligraphy. The beef sashimi melted in our mouths and left us wanting more. We could taste the differences in quality between different pieces, but the most expensive did not necessarily taste the best. We found some expensive pieces rather fatty. Anyway, the beef did make us question: what is beef? Because the crap we called beef in Canada could not possibly from the same species. The differences are almost criminal. Food is supposed to be nutritious, hygienic, and delicious, and Canada is definitely doing it wrong.

On top of that, it was this restaurant that made me realize that soy sauce, like wine, could be appreciated and had a long history as an artisan craft. We started with two different soy sauces. The one was smooth and slightly citrus (not ponzu sauce) with a hint of lavender; this was to go with the sashimi. The other one was concentrated, smoky, peppery, and slightly grainy for the grill. The most expensive orders of beef came with a separate soy sauce dish, which was very light bodied with fig and chrysanthemum flavour. The wasabi was served fresh, in it's unprocessed form (top right side above the soy sauce). Not sure if there was something special about the salt, but it was really really delicious and slightly smoky.

We also ordered beef ramen, sauté ground beef on rice, homemade sakura icecream, and a third of the menu. At the end of the night, the bill was $64 CND, no tax, no tip, making this the best restaurant I had ever been to in the world. Oh I miss Japan.

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