Impeccable service, inedible food

houseofpacific Today a long-held dream came true:  I was taken to dinner at one of Kobe’s premier hillside restaurants, a venerable institution that originally opened in 1932 to cater to spoiled gaijin traders, and that still holds quite an exclusive image to most Kobe-ites.  (I used to walk by it when I was a young ‘un, and sigh to myself at the knowledge that I’d never be rich and/or well-connected enough to dine there.)  Now I wish that this particular dream had never come true.   In fact, if I could wave a magic wand, I would wish it all away. 

Okay, it wasn’t all bad, and a couple of things impressed me: for example, the structure of the building itself, undamaged by the quake, and the service, provided by savvy young things in smart white aprons, were both superb.  But the food … was absolutely hideous.  In parts it was almost inedible.  I don’t know how they did it, but it’s like they took a boarding school cook from 1932 Great Britain and transported her to 2009 Kobe.  Yes, it was that bad.  I won’t go into detail, except to say that my lamb chops had obviously been killed twice: the first time while being slaughtered, and the second time while being cooked.  

And you don’t want to know what they did to my shredded cabbage.  Let’s just say that it was a slow and lingering death, possibly at the hands of sauerkraut manufacturers. 

The dessert was adequate, but you tend to get jaded in Kobe, where people are fussy about their sweets.  The coffee I’ll admit was excellent, but perhaps by then I was feeling bitter enough for it to taste sweet in comparison. 

Oh, how I wish I’d stuck to walking past the place and dreaming about it, as I did so often in my youth.  Is this going the be the story of my life?  Disappointment after disappointment?

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10 comments on “Impeccable service, inedible food

  1. Petra says:

    The production of Sauerkraut – good Sauerkraut – is quite an art. So don’t sniff at it, please. 🙂

    But I get what you are saying and I am so sad for you. A dream must have gone up in smoke.

    Might it be that this place is by now completely running on the reputation of the past? To me it seems to be the case.

  2. Karen says:

    It’s just so sad when a dream dies a hideous death.

    Apparently, the place is just living on past glory.

  3. Miko says:

    Yes, I did a bit of poking around and discovered that the place was bought by some ghastly Tokyo chain a few years ago. I guessed I missed its glory days, I should’ve gone earlier. Story of my life, really.

    Do people make sauerkraut at home, or has it gone the way of kimchi and tsukemono, which are now largely bought from supermarkets? My granny used to make homemade tsukemono by pickling cucumber and eggplant in a tub of rice bran. I complained about it a lot, because I thought it was crazy to go to all that trouble when you could simply go out and buy the stuff, but I’m very sorry now that I never bothered to learn how to do it myself. One day I’ll give it a try.

  4. Petra says:

    Making Sauerkraut at home has become fashionable again. 🙂 If you are a real foodie, you don’t buy the stuff in a can.

    My mother used to make her own when I was young. She also pickled her own cucumbers. Later she switched to buying the stuff, but I still remember being fascinated by the process.

    Basically it is very easy. You have your big earthenware crook, which has to be prepared by washing out with boiling water, then left to dry. Then you shred your cabbage and the fun begins. You take a portion of the cabbage, mix it with salt and layer it into the pot. Then this layer is pounded with a wooden pounder until brine forms, which covers the cabbage. Then the next layer is added and pounded; one continues in this way until all the cabbage has been used up. For added flavor one can throw some peppercorns, shredded carrots, wine leaves or apple slices in between the layers.

    Once all the cabbage has been pounded, a wooden board is put on top with a stone to weight it down; this is important, as the brine has to cover the Sauerkraut all the time. Then you leave the pot for about 2 – 3 weeks in a moderately warm place – a corner of the kitchen will do. The stuff starts fermenting; and yes, one can hear it, there are some gurgling noises in the pot.

    Then the pot goes into the basement, because now it needs to be kept moderately cool. You just wander down with a bowl and a pair of thongs and grab whatever you need for dinner. Very important is: the Sauerkraut has to be covered with the brine at all times and always use a very clean instrument to get anything out of the pot, while replacing the wooden board and the stone on top every time.

    That’s all. Homemade Sauerkraut is a thing for the Gods.

  5. Miko says:

    Thanks, that sounds good. I think it would go very well with potatoes. According to my research, it’s very healthy stuff too, along with other fermented foods.

    Tsukemono made from rice bran is traditionally stirred by hand every day, and this is how the beautifying effects of rice bran was first discovered – the women who were in charge of stirring the pickles were reknowed for their beautiful, smooth hands.

  6. Petra says:

    So rice bran seems to be superior to Sauerkraut brine – stick your finger in, and the whole batch most probably will go bad.

    Sauerkraut goes very well with mashed potatoes. If you want to, you can cook some meat with it, even Wikipedia has something to say about this pairing:

    http://74.125.155.132/search?q=cache:jq_Tl14aOlsJ:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kassler+kassler&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

    And then there is the Choucroute. Yes, imagine, the French love Sauerkraut:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choucroute

    Now you are set – go for it and enjoy.

  7. Karen says:

    I love homemade sauerkraut. Every year here their is a Wurstbratten fest put on by a large Lutheran church. They make the best sausage ever – all homemade. They serve a dinner. There is homemade sauerkraut, too. I could eat my weight in it. It is completely different & better than the canned crap. All this comes under the heading of why I love living in communities with large German-ancestry populations. Except for the aberration of 10 years in East Texas (where they can’t even find Germany on a map), I have always lived in areas with high German descendant populations. Life is good.

  8. Karen says:

    Ah, the other joy of living where lots of Germanic folks live – homemade beer. Yum. It can also become a comic turn, though. My dad’s business partner, whose last name was Benz – quite German, had a whole garage full of homemade brew he was letting age. Apparently, the recipe was a bit off, and the tops blew off and brew spewed everywhere. It all happened within a few minutes. Quite a mess.

  9. Karen says:

    BTW, country folks still do a lot of canning and pickling. Most of my nieces make pickles, can jams and jellies, and sometimes can vegetables. I used to can quite a lot too, but not any more.

  10. Miko says:

    If you like Germanic towns, then you need to pay a visit to Brazil! I’m not kidding, they have certain towns there founded by immigrants, with buildings that could’ve been plucked out of Germany. I don’t know about the sauerkraut, but I do know that some towns have Oktoberfest. (Oh and surprise, surprise, why do you think so many supermodels hail from Brazil?)

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