Last Wednesday, the Japanese Ambassador, H.E. Ryozo Koto and his wife, threw a black-tie bash at their residence for a hundred or so supporters of the arts. Cherry blossoms were in full bloom outside, the interior was magnificent, and two 20-year old Japanese musicians, a violinist and a marimbist (!) performed prior to the dinner. I began to understand the opulence of the event when I saw that the violinist was sawing away on a Stradivarius, on loan from The Nippon Music Society.
But we're here to talk about grub, right?
The meal, while elegant and extravagant, was to my mind hilarious. It was an American's quirky idea of a Japanese tasting menu. The person who calls himself (or herself) "butterfly" (mariposa?) on this board would have been shocked by the lack of authenticity. I have never had anything like it -- all at once, anyway -- in Japan. And of course nothing tasted, as butterfly fancies it, like driftwood.
We started with "Japanese hors d'oeuvres" (I have the kanji if James G wants to see it), which was sashimi. The only unusual thing was a ping-pong ball of ground radish with a red seed on top. That was followed by "Nigiri Sushi and Roll Sushi," a kind of tour d'horizon of the style. The person next to me said she wouldn't eat eel, so I had two. Then, Tempura (Prawn, Fish, Vegetables). And, are you ready for this? The next course was "Pan-fried Beef Fillet with Provençal Style." If it had been Kobe beef, I might have understood.
Then a nice small salad and finally a French dessert, "Gâteau Opéra," which was a napoleon with a scoop of vanilla.
The white was Robert Mondavi Chardonnay Private Selection 2001, and the red was Jordan Cabernet Sauvingon 1997.
Everything was very elegant. We sat on chairs with our shoes (black pumps) on. Water was served with the meal. The Shoguns of Makoto would have been mortified.