This is getting posted up a bit delayed, because I just couldn’t figure out what to do about my photos. No doubt this is due to the presence of an actual photographer. I think my camera got intimidated.
My friend Brad contacted me to say that his friend, who was the pickiest person he knew when it came to Japanese food, had said good things about Miyako in the New Otani Hotel. He said that shabu shabu was served. What else could I say in response to that but, “When?”
My experience began before we even reached the entrance of the restaurant.
As we walked up the hallway, we were beset with wondrous smells. I don’t know how to explain what the “Japanese food” smell is. Once (millions of years ago) I came home & there was this incredible smell in the apartment. It was so compelling that before even putting my parcels down I had followed it into the kitchen & discovered a container of oden my husband’s aunt had cooked.
He wasn’t home.
The only reason any oden was left when he came home was because, in a momentous effort of discipline, I put the oden away into the fridge & opened the front door to let the smell dissipate. No matter how I tried to ignore it, over & over again I had to keep getting up to pad to the kitchen to pilfer one piece of oden & then go guiltily back to my computer. The smell; it was the smell.
It was horrible. I was not even in control of myself.
Pictured far left: Miyako’s Homemade Tofu. Please do click on that thumbnail because as blurry as it came out, it’s worth looking at. The tofu had a beautiful fluffy texture & clean, gentle flavor. I’m a freak about grated ginger & most things like somen & tofu are really only excuses to eat large quantities of ginger, but I really enjoyed the flavor of the tofu. It was definitely very special. An excellent choice of appetizer!
The shabu shabu at Miyako comes with a choice of sashimi or tempura appetizer. Garrett (of Maguro-ya & Tokkuri Tei fame) pointed out that the shredded daikon behind the chiso leaf was hand cut, as revealed by the uneven sides. Hand cut! Wow, sugoi! I recall a sushi chef at good old Eda-Ya, Chokatsu, who once sliced a cucumber into a pine tree for me. It was exquisite & he did it in seconds. I put it into a container to take home but unfortunately autumn came before we even left the restaurant. Wait a minute… pine trees are evergreens… well, cucumbers aren’t, I guess.
Garrett & Brad also discerned the flavor of unni (sea urchin) in the little egg squares of which you see one in the sashimi picture. No, that’s not a small block of tofu; it’s egg. It was served in a light sauce & although I would never have been able to identify the unni flavor without my dinnermates’ direction, I do know it had a wonderful subtle flavor, although that one tiny block was sufficient.
The servings of beef were quite generous, although, in my opinion, not quite as generous as Hakone (but that’s another blog). The thin wafers of mochi were charming, & you had to be vigilant or they could melt away into the soup. Imanas Tei in Puck’s Alley also serves mochi with their shabu shabu (& with their decadent chanko nabe)… I know, I know; that’s another blog.
Unlike primarily English-speaking fine dining joints, Miyako’s servers were all female. It was with a certain amount of wonder that I regarded beautiful obis & marvelled at their ability to wait efficiently on their tables in kimonos. I don’t think I could even walk in one. Our pretty (& English speaking!) waittress, Michelle, not only remembered Garrett from his last visit, but also how much beer he drank. She wouldn’t let me photograph her. =(