From that moment on. everything was as it should he. l le and his wife Yumi. after whom the place is named. were extremely warm and talkative. volunteering all kinds of information ahout themselves and the dishes that they set hefore me and my companions. In fact. service was so prompt that it was as much as I could do to keep tip as yet another platter could he seen hovering in the kitchen doorway.

As we pored over the menu we were presented with a china flask of hot saki and two thimhle-si/ed gohlets. It is worth drinking it quite quickly hecause it is not so good cold. Apparently three or four flasks are enough to render most people inehriate. 'l‘hc menu anticipates an inexperienced clientele in that it offers a dish representative of" each ofthe principal methods of Japanese cuisine. rather than specialising in one as is often the ease in lapan. 'l‘he meals also concede to the western format in that the various ‘main courses' are preceded hy appetisers and soup (the same regardless of which set meal you choose).

first to arrive was the salad I had seen in the kitchen earlier. llasegawa had looked faintly apologetic as l admired the uniform rows of howls they were very attractive hut hardly challenging to a \‘v estern restaurant-goer. consisting as they did ofhroccoli spears and tomato pieces on a hed ofshredded white cahhage. iceherg. celery and carrot. lf there was any disappointment. it disappeared on tasting the dressing of ginger. sesame seed oil. grated onion. Japanese vinegar and soy sauce which was as more-ish as the most toothsome vinegarctte. hut really refreshing and not at all oily. 'l‘hc following selection of appetisers w as much more ofan adventure. .‘vlouth—si/ed ohlongs of sweet Japanese ornelette and hot deep—fried tofu and a howl of minced tofu with tiny pieces of vegetahle. heautiful in their simplicity on a lacquer tray.

Next came miso soup. a mild consomme thickened with fermented soy'a hean paste. containing tiny tofu squares and sliced spring onion.

Our main courses were spectacular as they glided over to us and landed with a flourish. We had ordered sushi. special vinegared rice moulded into exquisite mouthfuls with a selection ofslivers of raw fish. Japanese ornelette. and pieces of vegetable. the majority secured hy strips of nori seaweed. or rolled up in it. Our other choice was tempura. the very light crispy deep-fried food which the Japanese apparently developed from the techniques of Portuguese traders in the loth century. In this case the dish consisted ofquite large strips of 'vegetahles (avocado. peppers. eourgettes) and king prawns. fanning out heneath a spray of fine noodles hound at its hase. Also fried in fluffy hatter. this last looked like

some lacy frond of seaweed.

()ur sushi w as siihiected to the indignity of sharing: we w ere .leterrnined to try cy erything. so each portion had to he divided. Consequently \‘iirni saw me ineptly chasing my piece of salmon all over the dish w ith my chopsticks (still life hecomes action movie) She told me it ist-‘nstomar_\ to eat sushi with the fingers l-y en though there was a moist towel on the tahle to prove it. I couldn‘t help feeling that her extreme politeness was making her hend the rules.

l don't know whether lengthy pursuit heightens entoy ment. hut the sushi w ere delicious. Raw fish has a wonderful text ire and the flavour is suhtle hut marked. Both are complemented hy the tasty rice. the salty. che ivy se iw :ed. and the dashes of w :isahi. or .lapanese horseradish. hut individual flavours always remain distinct. We were surprised to find a processed crah stick amongst the delicacies. as hland here as anyw he re. and we did not expect green plastic garnish. Perhaps these touches w etc in t._lefer‘ence to .lap tnese l.ll\‘cil. You certainly couldn't take the hackground music Yiinii claimed it was traditional Japanese. mayhe it was. hut it w as also finest elevator with intermittcti: hirdst‘tng. waves. and even a clocking chicken.

llte teziipura w :is extremely light and crispy . the texture heing the most remarkahlc thing ahout it. You dip it into a howl of soy sauce into


which 'tlllill instructs you tocrumhle a little mound of w asahi. In fact. this is iust one "Xltlllplt' of the way in which the eating t it Japanese food is as much a performance as the preparation. lempura is quite rich. and I let mine get rather cold —~ it really llltt‘l he eaten piping hot.

\\'e w etc .‘i'aning our necks when our ( ‘liinese neighhonrs~ main course arriy ed. lt w assukiyakr. incredil‘ly lean. finely sliced raw heef arranged so that it looked like a sumptuoust extended peony ltlr tom. 'liltcl'e w as also a plate of attractiy cly sliced raw vegetahles that were cooked with the meat in the shallow pan hy Yumi at the tahle. She offered them some ofthe meat raw; they turned it down. hut I saw my friend salivating at the thought of it.

.»\nticipating that noiivelle cuisine feeling. I w as really surprised to he more than satisfied hy the quantity of food we w ere offered. I was quite happy just to have a teaspoon of ice cream with powdered green tea topping. 'l‘he green tea which we had heen en ioying throughout the meal had a gentle. refreshing aroma. hut it was rather lost on the ice cream. In fact ice cream is a recent addition to Japanese menus. traditionally a meal would end with fruit. often sculpted. ot‘ a form ofsw eet aduki heart paste. Dairy products have no place in classic Japanese cuisine. which partly accounts for it heing such healthy food.

The Japanese seem to have done more to distance the husiness of eating from its hasic reality than any other race. In fact it is considered vulgar to express hunger. Foodstuffs are so disguised that they would not look out of place in a hedroorn. There is something experientially different ahout a superth presented bow/en croiiie and a troupe of sushi performing on their lacquered dish. The first is mouthwatering you can hardly wait to pick up your fork ~ the latter hardly looks edihlc. It is so captivatingly heautiful that it stops you in your tracks and makes the whole process ofconsumption a far more deliherate. reflective one 7 a space is imposed hetween the need to eat and the eating. 'l‘he palate hecornes more receptive hut also perhaps more tolerant. willing to savour what could he taken for granted.

(‘ooking your own is quite a challenge. Whilst you can prohahly ohtain adequate ingredients from (‘hinese supermarkets. the appeal of Japanese food depends upon meticulous preparation and sensitivity to quite alien principle Personally. I would follow recipes to the 'l‘. I think that you could discover if you took too many lihertics that the charming edifice would crumhle around you: it would not only look wrong if you cut corners in

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assemhling dishes. or overdid quantities. it could he hland and indigestihle.


There are a number of readily available Japanese cookery books:

IThe Fine Art ofJapanese Cooking l lltlL'ti l)ekura ( Bay Books £45“). l'he author comes frorn a family of Tokyo restaurateurs. and is himself chef ofthe Japanese (iarden at ( ‘hatsworth. Australia. Not surprisingly . then. the hook has an authoritativ e arid authentic feel to it. as well as having many large colour photos. which are as helpl iil as they are attractive.

I Japanese Cooking Peter and Joan Martin ( Penguin LVNl. 'l'he .‘yfartins hecame devotees whilst living as cx—patriots in Kyoto. The hook is interesting foritscmphasison cookingat home and in small eating-houses. Almost every recipe includes monosodium glutamate.

lJapanese Cookery fill/altcllt l.amhert ()rti/ ( l-ontana £3.95) ’l'his isan extensiy e and informative hook w itii a tiseftil ‘suppliers' section. \astiuks in (iillespie Place. ladinhurgh. is recommended.

I Sfep-by-Step Japanese Cooking l .cslcy l)ow ner ck .‘yfinoru \ oncda ( Apple l’iess 1.7.95 l. .-\ large format w ith colour photos. hut surprisingly different fioiii the l)ekura in recipes and sty lesof presentation.

I Japanese Vegetarian Cookery l eslc‘y Downer (.lonathon ( 'apc {395 l. A

my riad of recipes to excite vegetarians jaded w ith variations on a themeof ratatouille Downerlists('hungting Supermarket. o3 (‘amhridge Street. (ilasgow'. and lidinhurgh(‘limese ('ompany . In Dublin Street. lzdinhurgh as stockistsofhasicJapancse ingredients.



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