The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Nihon Kai Club, Matsunami

Nihon Kai Club is a unique diner with an onsite brewery in Matsunami (about 20 minutes drive north from our apartment). Nihon Kai Club have somewhat random features - there is a Czech guy who brews beer (he doesn't speak much Japanese or English), a playground adjacent to the seaside with a long slide, and an emu farm. There are even wallabies on display! (How do they get them into Japan from Australia?) I googled the term "Nihon Kai" and apparently it means Sea of Japan, which is fitting because the Noto is surrounded by the Sea of Japan. We've heard about this place ever since we got to the Noto as it is a favourite amongst the Noto JETs, but only had the opportunity last weekend to try the food. Fellow JET Kim and her hubby Richie took us out for dinner there as a farewell thing for Rob. I loved the slide! It was dark after dinner when we went to look at the emus and wallabies, so we didn't see any. But we ate some emu meat for dinner! Here at Nihon Kai Club, you can pat the animal before you eat them - how's that for a 'hands-on' experience?

The slide down to the beach level; playground by the seaside:

Nihon Kai Club is a yoshoku-ya - a diner that serves yoshoku ryori (western dishes that are often Japanised). The location is very pleasant, and the site is very family-friendly (playground, mini-'wildlife' park - which kid would want more than that?). The building that the restaurant was in looks a lot like a large oldern western countryhouse - you know, something that you see on period movies that only the wealthy could afford? Nice exterior, and the interior was more classy than we'd expected of a brewery/farm. Service was polite and professional.

Walking into the restaurant after having fun in the playground; the cutlery set was pretty amusing - the knife, fork and spoon had a tail and fin!

The menu included emu (of course) and various western-style dishes like pizza, pasta and paella. In fact, I don't recall seeing any Japanese dishes at all on the menu. There's the Italian cosu (course) for 1500 yen, which Rob, Kim and Richie selected, and I went with the seafood paella which cost 1300 yen. The Italian course was very filling and definitely value for money.

(The lighting inside the restaurant wasn't very good for photography so I apologise for the bad photos. I avoid using flash whenever I can, and have spent some time editing the photos, so hopefully they're decent enough).


Although the Italian course included entree, we ordered a plate of smoked meat and karaage-style emu meat to share as starters, mostly for Kim and Richie to try emu meat. The plate of smoked meat included ika (squid), sake (salmon) and emu. I have not had smoked ika before, so it was an interesting experience - it tasted just like smokey squid (surprise, surprise :P). The karaage emu looked and tasted just like karaage chicken, except for the tougher texture and the stronger red-meat-taste of emu meat. It was pretty greasy (as expected of a deep-fried food) and the prawn crackers served with the dish had a thick layer of oil on them. I'm not a big fan of deep-fried greasy food, so needless to say I wasn't that keen on this dish.

Entree: smoked meats and the karaage emu

My Seafood Paella was served in its paellera (paella pan) with prawns, shellfish (clam?) and squid. The saffron rice was Japanese short-grain rice, instead of the medium grains used traditionally for paella. Not an authentic dish, but still quite good in its own right. Serving size was not huge, as you can see in the photo. For dessert, I had Kuro Goma Aisu (black sesame ice-cream) which was indeed quite yummy in all its sesame goodness.

The paella and ice cream:

Italian course

The entree of the Italian course was liver (perhaps emu's?) served with pancetta and simply dressed with olive oil. The liver was darker and grayer than chicken's liver, but tasted similar to chicken's. After the entree, diners choose between pizza or pasta. The pizza had an unusual oblong shape, and the topping was a simple combination of cheese, tomato and pesto. It was pretty substantial, and quite good too. Pasta was spaghetti stirred with seafood and tomato sauce.

Italian course: entree and pizza

Red Wine Beef Risotto was served after the pizza/pasta course. This risotto was (of course) cooked with the Japanese short-grained rice instead of the traditional grains used for risotto like arborio, and it worked quite well since the Japanese short-grain rice are quite starchy and sticky. The beef was stewed in a red wine sauce, and was quite lovely and tender. Nice dish, but I thought the risotto was rather plain and quite bland. The dessert was Creme Brulee, which must have been yummy because Rob finished it all off while I was in the bathroom. I had a taste of Kim's brulee, and it was done quite well. The Japanese know how to do custard very well.

Italian course (continued): Red Wine Beef Risotto and dessert

It was a lovely dinner, and a beautiful night. The sky was clear and we could see brilliant Venus right next to the moon high in the sky. Finally, I'm in the right hemisphere to see Venus in all her glory! (In Perth, Venus rises with the sun and sets with the sun so that you either get to see Venus for a short moment, or not at all).

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