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

Monday, 7 April 2008

Tofu @ Sasanoyuki, Tokyo

Last Friday, I met up with five girls of egullet for lunch. This is the first time meeting some of the Tokyo-based members, but I hear that this is only the second get-together in Tokyo. We went to Sasanoyuki which is a famous tofu restaurant in Tokyo. I was actually quite excited with our venue choice because I had a great experience with a full tofu course in Kyoto. It was that tofu dinner a couple of years ago introduced me to the wonderful world of Japanese tofu, which is quite a lot more sophisticated with more variety than the Chinese/Malaysian tofu that I grew up with.

Sasanoyuki was established in 1691, and according to this website, they are also tofu suppliers to the Imperial Family. This was certainly looking promising! The interior decor is traditional Japanese, and the staff were also dressed in traditional garments. This restaurant caters also to gaijins (foreigners) as English menus are available. We were seated in a tatami room with a gorgeous window view of a small waterfall garden. The menu offers set course ranging from 2000yen (~AU$20) (only available during lunchtime on weekdays) to 6500yen (~AU$65), as well as a-la-carte tofu dishes with prices ranging from 350yen (~AU$3.50) to 650yen (~AU$6.50). All but one of us ordered the 2000yen course, and Shan ordered the 2600yen course (also another lunch course available any day) which included an additional dish and tofu dessert.

View of the waterfall garden from our table:

The 2000yen set, which is named the Uguisu Set, included:
-two bowls of Ankake Dofu: silky tofu in a thick soy-based sauce and garnished with mustard. We were quite amused when we were given specific instructions by the lovely lady server on the best method to eat this dish: first mix the mustard into the sauce, then divide the tofu piece into four pieces and eat.
-a bowl of Koya Dofu (freeze-dried tofu with a spongy texture that was beautifully flavoured with a sweet soy-based sauce it had absorbed), Koma Dofu (a type of tofu with lots of air bubbles) and Kuro Mame (sweet simmered black beans).
-a little dish of Edamame Dofu: tofu made with the immature green soybeans, garnished with a sliver of takenoko (bamboo shoot) and ikura (salmon roe) and dressed with uni (sea urchin) sauce. I was surprised to find that the uni flavour (which is quite subtle itself) was quite prominent.
-Goma Dofu: sesame tofu, which is not made with soybeans at all. This is my favourite dish of the set (it is, after all, my favourite type of tofu!).
-Hiryuzu: Also known as ganmodoki, this is a deep fried tofu dumpling served in a warm soy-based sauce. Very tasty.
-Nama Dofu: fresh (uncooked?) firm tofu with a soy sauce dip
-The final course, Uzumi Dofu, a type of ochazuke (rice in tea, or in this case, dashi (stock)), with a serving of tsukemono (Japanese pickles). The topping resembled minced meat, but was actually tofu. This was quite delicious, and the tofu topping did a good job of mimicking minced meat.

Clockwise from bottom right - Ankake Dofu; trio dish of Koya Dofu, Koma Dofu and Kuromame; Edamame Dofu; Goma Dofu; Hiryuzu/Ganmodoki; and Nama Dofu:

Close-ups of the trio dish (koya dofu, koma dofu and kuromame) and the Hiryuzu:

Close-up of the Edamame Dofu; and the Uzumi Dofu Ochazuke:

I really enjoyed the meal, and I was surprised at how filling the meal was. I'm glad I ordered the smallest set because I don't think I could have handled any more dishes! Shan's extra dish was a prawn and scallop dumpling and the tofu ice cream - both of which she said were delicious. I will definitely bring Rob here to try the dishes.

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