Monday, June 20, 2005

Father's Day in Kobe

After lifting weights, mowing the lawn, meeting some freinds and wandering around the windows of Vancouver scouting locations for photomasterpieces to come, I wandered into Kobe steakhouse. I'd seen it hundreds of times in my decades in this city, and had never thought of going in. Theatrical meat preparation? What's with that? Fumiyo warned me to have low expectations. I'd turned down a portion of a friend's delicious-looking Panini earlier so my stomache would be empty enough, and a couple of miles hiking in search of the best mirrored image made me hungry enough. Squeezed in between two other families, a situation I was not used to, but obviously the only way for this sort of thing to work. The soup was amazing. Those around me purred, oohed and awed at its excellence. A sliver of mushroom, some other things, but the combination was unexpected and the bowl had great difficulty leaving my lips. No, screamed my brain. OK,it's ridiciously good, but stomache has limited capacity as is; and the famous Kobe steak (no, not the trade marked one) is coming eventually. I reluctantly let the waitress remove my bowl with several spoonfulls left. I hope the goddess of delicious soup forgives me.

My first Japanese meal in Japan was lunch at my hotel in Hamamatsu, a central Japanese city I'd come to work in. The hotel was planning to open a branch in the states and wanted my opinion of their menu. It was teppan-yaki. I had never imagined food could taste that good. That was in August, 1971. On the most recent trip, November 03, Fumiyo's friend took us to the roof the Imperial hotel. The 2nd Teppanyaki. It cost as much as round trip airfair from Vancouver. Thankfully I wasn't paying.

The third teppanyaki was tonight. I never had it in all the years I lived in Japan, figuring no meal could be as good as that first one. The Imperial recent meal was superb, but after 32 years, I couldn't remember what the Hamamatsu meal tasted like. Recent trip to Zen made me aware of the high quality of beef that is now available in this city. Enough local people have had good beef in Japan and elsewhere not to put up with anything less here. I never imagined coming here before, figuring our poor beef, by Japanese standards could not meet the test of teppanyaki in Vancouver. Now I would find out

First, our shrimp appetiser appeared, in theatre. Dancing knives and implied danger, as not his fingers but only the tails of shrimp are removed, swished away in flashes of strobe light to delight the young girl around the table from me. I shared her glee. When the deity-invoking, suculent flesh searing fire went up, my initial thought that this was too much theatre per taste ratio was instantly drowned in the delight of the young girl and all others. Ok, now how could the food top that?

The vegetables were so good my brain was again at war with my tongue. Ok, I know the mushroom just exploded in your possibilities but you must save room for the Kobe beef. The zuchini was novel and intoxicating. My first bite was green pepper, a perfect pallette cleanser and my tongue told me leave the last chunk of pepper for last.

I'd ordered steak and lobster, and the lobster appeared first, happily diced and seasoned, flourished into your plate like the gift of a tectonic god. Mmm. One tends to turn into Homer Simpson at such moments. Melting into the taste. Bits of onion and zuchini tag along to share the enchantment.

And then the little cubes of steak arrive. Earthquake time? Kobe wins another ring he doesn't have to give to his wife? The word Kobe is so pregnant with meaning before a morsel of steak hits my tongue from way downtown.

The secret of good teppanyaki is the sauce. We were given a ginger saunce and another, equally good. Told to pour it upon the rice, but I saved it to dip the vegies, lobster and steak in. By themselves, they were ok. Dipped in sauce, the took over your mouth. It was no longer your mouth. It was a temple to the possiblitiy of taste. Maybe rice lovers equally savoured it upon their starch, but I saved mine as booster rockets are finite, to send my little squares of beef into science fiction.

Ok, it's not real Kobe beef. It isn't as good as you'd get from any department store or grocery store in Japan. It wasn't the air-fare price compared teppan yaki of the Imperial Hotel, nor the hallucinatory Hamamatsu introduction to taste as possibility. Nor was it near as good as the beef sashimi I had 3 weeks ago at Zen. Kobe advertises that it has served all the famous/rich people that have visited Vancouver over the decades, and perhaps it has. But folks used to the best beef as they undoubtedly are, they must have left feeling confused. Is this the best Vancouver has to offer? This is like ordering a limo and getting a Prius. Thank you Eco-god of Irony, now where's my luxury?

The theatrics were inspiring. Globe-like The sauces seem to have been imported form off world. The vegies glistened with nutritional fantasies, nanotechian molecules cued into your pleasure centres, eager to cling to whatever came their way and make it lighter; look Ma, I just invented helium- lighter and you're ascending and then the beef lands on your plate and ....

My first beverage was described as something the Emperor and the Crown Prince like. OK, fruit have died well, but it assists the already sublime shrimp appetiser slightly, the lobster somewhat, the vegies and beef not at all. The guava liquidity actually helps the beef,, which really needs more citrus to cancel out the blood taste- and this is medium, and contrasted to the raw beef at Zen. Is this a matter of preparation, or access to quality? This beef combined with their sauces and oddly medicinal-tasting fruit concoctions actually made for a merry meal.

Seabus skims the image-filled waves back to North Van in enchanted evening light.
Home in time for Homer Simpson.
A perfect father's day gift from Bit.



At 7:37 PM, Blogger hachii said...

Cat, that is an awesome story about Kobe Steak House. That is my most favorite restaurant. I totally agree with you on the suaces, they are so so so yummi. Bit and i used to go there with Dino and Mike. It was there that i tried prawns (ebi) for the first time in my life... They asked Bit to work there and she considered it for a minute. They wanted her because of her extreme beauty and maybe because she was 1/2 japanese. Good story... maybe we should all go there together sometime.

ps... i LOVED the zuccini there too.


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