Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Restaurant # 3: Okahan Honten

This was my second dinner in Japan, also recommended to us by Paul ( Okahan is a sister restaurant of Kanetanaka (the restaurant numbered #1 on this blog) and is a highly regarded Matsuzaka beef specialist serving Shabu Shabu (Beef Hotpot), Sukiyaki (Beef cooked with sugar and soysauce, served with various vegetables) and grilled beef.
Matsuzaka beef is famous for its fine marbling and is around 80% fat 20% meat if i am not mistaken. Given that statistic, you can imagine what the beef is likely to taste like. :)

Upon arrival we were received by the host himself and he graciously led us to the room in which we were to dine. The private room was very spacious and the service extremely hospitable.
The room was simple, large table, sunken floor and the usual amenities associated with high end restaurants throughout Japan.

Naturally, we wanted to sample the 3 varieties available so we ordered the Shabu Shabu, Sukiyaki, as well as the "Broiled Fillet".

As is the case in every single Japanese restaurant, we received the complementary green tea and cold towel.

I will try my best to remember what these were exactly.
Description of plates clockwise from top left: ive drawn a complete blank on this first plate! i cant recall for the life of me what it was!! Second plate was a simple Tuna Sashimi, Third plate was Boiled Hamo (Pike Conger) Fourth was a type of vegetable that had a texture identical to melon, but did not have any sweetness to it, it was also jellied on one side, this was accompanied with a boiled lotus root. The final little cup on the bottom left was a peculiar kind of "pond seaweed" it is very strange in texture, as the seaweed seems to be covered by a very slippery thick membrane. The pondweed was in a light ponzu flavored sauce (japanese citrus) and i remember it was delicious, by far my favorite among the above plates.

Next came our drinks! After paying a hefty sum the previous night for my Sake i thought it wise to settle for a beer or two tonight!
The dish pictured here is tofu cut into long thin striations that i can best describe as fettucini shaped. From what i recall the sauce was a light dashi/soy flavored sauce (Dashi being japanese fish stock).

Okahan's menu did not offer several different levels of beef, unlike some other places we visited in Japan, they only offered the best Matsuzaka beef available. The above are four slices of Ribeye and four slices of Sirloin. The slices were perfectly marbled as you can see, and the size of the cuts was very large, the cross section of the rib eye was at least twice that of the Australian ribeye that I am accustomed to here in Dubai. These were to be prepared as follows: two ribeye and two sirloin sukiyaki, and two ribeye and two sirloin shabu shabu.

These tenderloin slices were to be grilled on a portable grill that would soon be brought into our room, after being basted whith a special sauce.

The grill was a charcoal grill and did make the room awfully smoky. I did feel sorry for the two old ladies that carried it in as it seemed awfully heavy. One of wich grilled the tenderloin steaks whereas the other prepared the shabu shabu simultaneously.

The resulting steak was extremely tender and had a smoky flavor. Matsuzaka beef had a distinctive flavor, I thought that the fat had a hint of sweetness, unlike that of comparable high quality American beef. Being a huge beef lover I can hardly describe how much i enjoyed this dish. Accompanying it was grated radish, to which you would add a light soy based sauce.

Here you can see both Obasans at work. The plates on the middle of the table are the condiments which were to be added to the ponzu (Japanese citrus based sauce) into which the Shabu Shabu (beef hotpot) meat was to be dipped. They include grated radish, grated radish with red chilli, chives and ginger.

Here the Obasan is preparing the Sukiyaki. First off she started by heating the pan and melting a cube of fat to grease up the pan, then she added a single slice of ribeye and generously sprinkled sugar on it.

She then seasoned the beef with some soy sauce.

...And added some Leeks and sauteed them alongside the beef.

Here is the finished result. The sukiyaki beef is to be dipped in a raw beaten egg. This was my first time having sukiyaki (at least prepared this way) and it was absolutely great. The beef just melted in your mouth and the sugar coupled with the soysauce and egg was absolute heaven.
I am, however, a very health conscious person and I couldn't help but think that this was an extremely calorie dense plate. Luckily, our 10 hours of walking per day exploration routine more than took care of that. :)

Finally some udon noodles to finish things off.

For dessert, we could choose between this custard and a slice of Melon. Naturally, after trying Japanese melon the previous night i went for melon again.

This time it was Shizuoka Melon (Shizuoka being a coastal region southwest of Tokyo), which is white rather than yellow. It was just as good. I now totally understand why fruits are so overpriced in Japan...
The above meal cost around 70,000 JPY (760 USD) for four persons.

The restaurant host had friequented our room several times during the night, always inquiring wether we would like something more to drink. Eventually, having been unimpressed apparently with our meager beers, he said "The madame at Kanetanaka told me that you enjoyed the sake served last night, would you like the same tonight?" he was almost trying to hussle us it seems (the sake that we ordered last night cost 70,000 JPY (760 USD)).
This uncourteous behaviour was the only impolite gesture that we had encountered throughout our stay in Japan. Guess the guy was just a bad host...

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