Yesterday, I spent the most idyllic, relaxing, pleasurable day Ive had in three plus years here in Japan.
I joined a group of 18 people down at a friends seaside boat house. The overcast day, the lush mountain surroundings, and the smell of the crisp ocean air instantly transported me back to coastal Northern California. That is, until lunch was served.
Eating outside, we started with a miso and shellfish soup. Simple, warming, and delicious. Also on the table were Japanese pickles, onigiri (rice balls) with various fillings (sour plumb, cod roe, and salmon), vegetable tempura, macaroni salad, potato salad, and a fabulous gyu-jagi (beef and potato) stew, which also had carrots and onions in it. A great lunch to start a great afternoon and evening.
After lunch, our host took many of us out sailing on his 37 foot sailboat. About two miles out, and five miles up the coast, our rudder chain broke, leaving us to drift with the whims of the wind. Fortunately, the emergency rudder handle-device-thingy worked fine, the engine had plenty of fuel, and we never ran out of beer.
Once back at the house, we relaxed as the barbecue was stoked.
I will always remember this dinner! Fresh in-the-shell grilled scallops, grilled squid, thinly sliced grilled beef tongue, yaki-onigiri (grilled rice balls, sans fillings), grilled veggies (pumpkin, peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, eggplant)and micro-brewed wheat ale all hit the spot.
But, the highlight of the dinner, the gustatorial centerpiece, the main event, was maguro-hoho. Maguro-hoho is the fleshy cheeks of the bluefin tuna. Ive never had this unbelievable meat before. Huge, boneless chunks of tuna cheek were marinated for five hours in a mixture of soy sauce, sake, mirin, minced garlic, and minced fresh ginger.
Cooked over the hot coals, this tender, moist, firm-fleshed entree was a kick-me-in-the-head revelation! What with the sheer succulence of this fish, the first bite nearly sent me into a culinary coma. The second, third, and every subsequent bite put me in serious danger of lapsing back into this eyes-rolled-back-in-the-head state of blissful existence. This was absolute decadence.
Even with the long marinating time, the flavor of the marinade played the role of an elusive enhancer, never threatening to overpower the delicate flavor of the tuna.
If any of you ever have the opportunity to try maguro-hoho, please, drop everything you are doing, and take advantage of sampling one of the, IMHO, true delicacies from the ocean.
What a perfect day.