A year ago, I visited Usukifugu Yamadaya. You can read about my first visit here.
Once again, I fell in love with fugu and this restaurant. Just one fish, the ultimate simplicity, the ultimate pleasure. At many kaiseki restaurants, some of the excitement can come from new or exotic ingredients. At Yamadaya, I felt truly comfortable. In a way, eating fugu for all dishes is a very simple meal. But it was one of the most "enjoyable" and one of the most "delicious" meal of my life. This would be the perfect place to celebrate your birthday, if it is in the winter.
I was looking at the chef Yoshio Kusakabe, cutting the glamorous sashimi, but also spraying water on a metal tray so that the aluminum paper would stick to it, putting plastic on the plates for the guests in the private dining room, spraying water on the dishes to make them look fresh, and at least twice I heard the chef sigh.
These two sighs I heard made me appreciate the meal even more. Maybe when you have fugu for the first time or once a year, fugu is special to you. But if you have been cooking only one fish all of your life, how can you remain excited about one single fish? It cannot be easy to do the same thing every day, 6 days a week, all of your life. It has to require incredible dedication, perseverance and sacrifice. All of these efforts were not in vain.
I think it is the first time in my life where I felt that every dish was better than the last. At first you have the fugu sashimi which everyone loves, then the shirako which is the most expensive, then grilled, fried (so delicious), then simmered, and finally the rice porridge, which is just incredible. What is it in the fugu broth that makes this zosui so good? So simple, so delicious. It is very rare that you hear chefs sigh and perhaps I was projecting my own feelings, but it cannot be easy to dedicate your life only to one fish, especially a fish so misunderstood. Instead of being known as a master, you are known as a chef cooking the poisonous fish.
Reservations: Taken two months in advance. You might find some cancellations on Pocket Concierge.
The only true voyage of discovery would be not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes.
Kyoaji, Hakone, shodo, home cooking.
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