Tonight was a very special evening. My grandpa David's close friend (and I believe roommate?) from Amherst college was from Japan. My grandpa loved his dear friend Sugaroo (excuse the spelling) very much. I had the privilege of having dinner with Sugaroo's daughter, Misa, and her husband, Dai, tonight! It was a night I will never forget.
I met Misa at 5:30 at Daimaru, a huge department store at Tokyo Station. Misa emailed me to tell me that I should meet her at the information desk and that she would be holding up an Amherst magazine. I was a bit nervous I would not see her. I got lucky! I got to the department store early and decided to browse the designer cosmetics (surprise, surprise) and was sampling blush and lip gloss... I turned around and there was Misa! She already knew what I looked like because she had read my blog before. She caught me getting freshened up with the designer cosmetics (I didn't bring any makeup in my small travel backpack, so I'm glad I had time to try some free samples before dinner hehe).
Misa and I had some time before we met Dai for dinner at 6:30, so we went to town with the free chocolate samples in Daimaru! Yum yum! We even sampled "5th Avenue NYC champagne chocolate". Chocolate was the perfect appetizer! In addition to chocolate sampling, Misa showed me around Daimaru and helped me pick out some special and very sophisticated handmade traditional Japanese gifts for both sets of grandparents. Grandma and Grandpa Hesse and Kirsch, keep your eyes peeled for a package from Japan! Misa and I picked out some surprises for you! We hope you enjoy!
We then met Dai at the most amazing Tempura restaurant, located on the 12th floor of Tokyo Station. I never knew there was a correct method and steps to eating tempura. The menu below shows the steps. First I added some spoonfuls of horseradish to my soy sauce. There were different flavored salts (wasabi salt, seaweed salt, herb salt and original salt) which I added to an empty plate. Before chowing down on the tempura, I would dip it in my soy sauce and then sprinkle it with flavored salt.
I was extremely lucky to get to try a very very rare and expensive type of tempura, quite a special treat! I got to try a special kind of mushroom only found in Japan. This mushroom is called "Maitake". "Mai" means "dance" and "take" means "mushroom". It is called this because when people find this mushroom they tend to dance because it is so rare! Well, I got to eat Maitake tempura tonight thanks to Misa and Dai! It was amazing. By far the best type of mushroom I have ever eaten.
I am no longer a novice tempura eater. Misa told me I was in the "advanced tempura eating class." I learned from Dai that at the end of the meal, I am served small shrimp tempura, rice and green tea. It is custom to pour the green tea over the shrimp and rice... I did it and it was fantastic! I also leaned that in traditional Japanese restaurants, the miso soup is served last, as opposed to the States, where it is served as an appetizer.
I learned a lot about tempura and Japan in general from Misa and Dai tonight. I am so grateful I was able to meet them both and share a wonderful dinner with them in Tokyo.
We are hoping to meet again soon! Hopefully my family can come along.
The basket of tempura below shows tempura lotus and next to the lotus is the rare Maitake mushroom.
Tomorrow is my last day in Japan!!!! I am going to embrace every minute.