Amazing how people living in the new millennium can still believe heaven still exists in the sky somewhere. I could be dead wrong, but I'm pretty certain that heaven exists here on earth too, even on a plantation in a gigantic tea field.
In my previous post I wrote a little bit about my tea picking experience in the tea capital of Japan. This post will be a continuation of that. After tea picking on the plantation we headed over to a restaurant called Maruobara, which is located directly on the premises. Here we were able to enjoy dishes that were made using the same tea we were picking. The restaurant only opens for lunch, which is from 11 to 2:30. There is no breakfast or dinner menu.
After being seated we were immediately served a complimentary appetizer of tempura tea leaves, some cold tea, and a small bottle of nihonshu - I ordered the nihonshu. The sake is called "Kihei" and it's a Nama-Chozo-Shu, which basically means that it was stored after brewing like a Nama without pasteurization and then only pasteurized once before being shipped out. Shu just means sake.
Basically, this is just a more refined "nama" type sake and since it's from Okayama Prefecture it gets high marks in my book, mainly because of that prefecture's delicious water and rice. Need I also note Okayama has gorgeous women.
Sake and green tea leaf tempura. After dipping the tea leaf tempura in green tea salt and eating it, I almost cried tears of joy, j/k. It was just so delicious. The soft and elegant refinement of the Kihei coupled with the greenish(ness) of the aromatic bitterness of the tea's natural flavors crunching in my mouth was just beyond my comprehension! It was just simply the finest tempura I have ever eaten in my life.
Tea Tempura Recipe:
1) Picked green tea (cut into halves)
2) Dried shrimp(sakura ebi): As much as you like.
3) Onion 1/2
4) Flour ( Tenpura-Ko): 1 cup.
5) Cold water 1 cup
6) Cooking oil: a lot( 1/2 a pan)
How to cook:
1) Thinly slice the onion
2) Make batter: mix cold water and flour.
3) Mix batter, tea shrimp and onion.
4) Ladle out 3, and dip into cooking oil slowly(pre-heated to 170 degrees C / 340 degrees F
5) When it floats, poke it with long chopsticks several times to sink it(*don't flip it over!).
Cooking Hint--To produce a crispy finish
1) Check the oil temperature
2) Don't over-beat the batter mix
3) Fry only enough at one time to cover about half the surface of oil in order to allow the ingredients to move freely.
4) It is important to keep the oil temperature constant while frying.
5) Use all purpose flour( not flour for bread). In Japan, they sell special flour for tempura ( tempura-ko), it is easy to deep-fry.
This was my spread. I was surprised to see three peanuts in the middle in the gold tray. Now I know that the most famous brand of peanuts are grown in Yachimata in Chiba Prefecture, way up near Tokyo-to, in the Greater Tokyo Area near the Boso Peninsula, but in Shizuoka...? Well, come to find out, the Shizuokans enjoy a variety of dishes with peanuts, too.
The unique flavor of standard peanuts, or groundnuts, served here were of a wet consistency, not like in America where they're dry. The outer shell on these nuts just fell right off with hardly any finger effort as if they were marinated in some kind of sake or fruit marinade. On the table there were wild vegetables with green tea leaves mixed in together, green tea noodles, green tea gelatin, green tea topped rice. It was a really nice green tea experience.
My partner had something similar also but was a hodge-podge of different things jumbled together. This bowl measured about 11 by 12 inches, so it was pretty big for just one person.
Everything was just delicious and tasty. We finished off with some homemade green tea ice cream and a dried fig.
I almost forgot to mention the anmitsu. A type of fruit and bean dessert with green tea gelatin. Nice!
All-an-all, the trip was really nice. The staff even drove us back to the station where we continued our journey, but this time back to Shizuoka city for an unagi ( eel )dinner. I will blog about in the next post.
The price was reasonable and the service was timely and excellent. One other really nice thing was that the waitress explained everything about the food to us. She just didn't put the food down and leave. It was a really nice experience.