Back down to Kyoto, back to Sojiki Nakahigashi again, this time in early June. The produce and wild herbs of late spring/early summer are quite different to those in winter. But the depth of pleasure of arriving once again at this special restaurant, so unprepossessing — yet so welcoming, fascinating and satisfying — remains unchanged.
Here are three standout moments from that remarkable evening:
• Funa-zushi from Lake Biwa. Fermented over one year. Gentle acidity and creamy, almost cheese-like texture/flavour to the rice. Extraordinary levels of umami and flavor. Served at Sojiki Nakahigashi, along with water snails from local rice paddies. Wow.
• Shinjo (soft white-fish dumpling) made with garden peas, topped with fresh peas and iwa-nashi (Epigaea asiatica, a wild seed with a taste faintly reminiscent of pears), plus a strip of bachiko (the preserved ovary of namako [sea cucumber]). Served along with tender, gelatinous junsai, with a whole yuzu flower added as an accent.
Beautiful, fascinating, delicious.
• Dinner draws to a close, as it always does, with coffee. Cold-brewed, using beans from Papua New Guinea, it is poured with a flourish (and plenty of bubbles) by Chef Nakahigashi's son.