Bad Food in Japan? @ Tateyama Murodou Sansou on 12Oct2013

dinner @ tateyama murodou sansou

dinner @ tateyama murodou sansou

recently a friend was relating his experience to izu several years back when it was hit by earthquake (i think it was 2009). they were rushing for the train & had bad food then. a few of us were surprised that one could have bad food in japan as even the cheap train station bentos & supermarket food were all pretty good.

well now i had my own experience of singularly bad food at tateyama murodou sansou (立山室堂山庄) – or google translate to mountain hut. the food was downright sucky. i guess it was to be expected as it was more like a “mountain hut”, and in fact a rather cosy place for serious trekkers c/w camping in the mountains, except that we paid 22000yen for 1 night with 2 meals for a room with no attached toilet & they gave you 1 face towel (no bath towel) for the onsen bath.

tempura

tempura

pickles

pickles

grilled salmon

grilled salmon

looking at the dinner items, i would not pay 1000yen for it & many 1000yen bentos would be better. in fact the same kitchen was open till 3pm & we had a very passable curry rice for 700yen (& the same with soba & gyudon ie beef on rice etc) which would be as good as the tempura, salmon & rice with pickles for dinner. compare this with the kaiseki dinner @ greenview-tateyama which cost 25000yen for 2pax with attached toilet & bath & 2 meals, and with a good size yu 湯 (japanese for hot water ie onsen baths). or with senjusou which costs 15800yen, equally basic but far better dinner & breakfast meals.

breakfast @ tateyama murodou sansou

breakfast @ tateyama murodou sansou

another grilled salmon

another grilled salmon

breakfast was an equally bad affair.

the place was ran by a team of youngsters like students, with only 1 older man in the kitchen & 1 at the front desk. it was efficiently run though and service was polite & competent. everything is relative, so i guess a hut is a luxury c/w camping in the mountains but it is also relative to price. to me the 2 meals should be charged at no more than 2000yen pax & the room maybe 8000yen so it should be more like 12000yen than 22000yen.  still this was 2450m, and not so many options available (we could not get the tateyama hotel at murodou station & raichoso would really be a bad choice some distance up the mountain route).

in the end it is all about matching needs. for those doing serious trekking and rather not camp out, there would be reason to take this option. in our case for the current trip, we needed no more than 2hrs to walk around the ponds route & overlooking the hell’s valley(& likewise 2hrs max for the boardwalks at midagahara), so we would be better off just passing through midagahara & murodou on a day trip. rather than staying at tateyama or midagahara or murodou, we would be better off staying at toyama & omachi onsen ryokans. if we should decide to do more serious trekking, we could then plan differently & perhaps we could still stay here but LESS the meals. i would much rather have a 700yen gyudon from their kitchen & a soba from murodou station. 🙂

c.h.e.f andy

Nice Dinner @ Senjusou (千寿庄) Minshuku (民宿) on 11Oct2013

dinner @ senjusou (千寿庄)

dinner @ senjusou (千寿庄)

despite planning our trip several months ahead, i could not get the dates we wanted at midagahara hotel & tateyama hotel (at murodou), so decided to stay at tateyama cablecar station location. i also could not get a second night at greenview-tateyama but managed to book senjusou (千寿庄) which was just few steps (like 20m) from the cablecar station. 🙂

sashimi moriawase

sashimi moriawase

nice tofu, yuba & rolled fish

nice tofu & rolled eel

grilled fish

grilled fish

ham hobayaki (cooked on hoba leaves with miso)

ham hobayaki (cooked on hoba leaves with miso)

ham hobayaki (cooked on hoba leaves with miso)

ham hobayaki (cooked on hoba leaves with miso)

edamame (枝豆), beans, bamboo shoots, yuzu

edamame (枝豆), beans, bamboo shoots, orange

senjusou charged 9500yen/night for 2pax w/0 meals & 15800yen with 2 meals, so it was 3150yen pax for dinner+breakfast (all w/o attached toilets). so i guess there was no expectation of any sorts of kaiseki dinner.

anyhow the homecooked meal actually turned out pretty well. the sashimi moriawase though basic with maguro, salmon & ika, actually tasted a lot sweeter than what we had the night before at greenview-tateyama. 🙂

i like fish a lot more than my wife so the dishes agreed with me more.  the rolled eel was tasty (japanese food tended to be a bit salty) & the tofu & japanese taupok were nice. the grilled fish was usual fare average but which i liked anyway. the ebi furai (fry) was crispy & fresh & good with the salad. seemed like they also like oyster gratin here.  just ok. the ham hobayaki not something i really appreciate.  hobayaki is like grilling over a hoba leaf (朴叶 magnolia leaf)  over clay pan under fire, usually with salty miso paste. for me only hobayaki  i like is hida beef (飞弹牛), anything else is just elaborate effort & average result.

there were some edamame (枝豆), beans, bamboo shoots, plus a small orange for dessert fruit & the usual gohan set (rice set with pickles). here we scooped our own rice from a rice cooker. japanese breakfast we had was basic, nothing much to write about.

as for the mingshuku, we got a front japanese tatami room on level 2 which was small but larger than several we saw at the back. we were also offered & took a look at a level 3 western room with 3 beds which looked more like a dorm.  looked like all rooms were w/o attached. the room had a powerful aircon which was important as it was still hot (about 29degC) at 3.30pm when we checked in.

we had both men & women common toilets at level 2, and it was very closeby as the mingshuku was tiny really. there were men & women yu 湯 (japanese for hot water ie onsen baths) which were tiny rooms more like a large bath tub. the changing room was like an ante-room before the bath where the access door slided open, so there was like zero privacy. service was basic but competent. we asked them in email if they could forward our luggage but they referred us to tateyama train station to do that so that was why we forwarded from greenview-tateyama. anyway all these to be expected for this tiny family-run place. 🙂

c.h.e.f andy

Average Kaiseki Dinner @ Greenview-Tateyama Ryokan on 10Oct2013

kaiseki dinner @ greenview-tateyama ryokan

kaiseki dinner @ greenview-tateyama ryokan

we stayed at almont hotel (hokke group) in kyoto to break journey, and arrived at greenview tateyama ryokan just few minutes walk from the tateyama train station (& cable car station).

was looking forward to kaiseki dinner having booked a menu with 2 wagyu items. as it turned out though this was still among the better dinners we had over the alpine route lodges, it was just very average & a far cry from the very good kaiseki we were accustomed to in japan.

wagyu beef & scallop

wagyu beef & scallop

sashimi moriawase

sashimi moriawase

chefquak7 chefquak3

we had grilled wagyu & scallops. i thought they were both quite ok (though we had far better in every ryokan we been to previously, especially in all the ryokans in tohoku, and also in hokkaido, takayama, arashiyama, hakone, kawaguchiko). the cold beef came with jelly – seemed like a fusion western treatment. just ok.

the sashimi moriawase included maguro, tai & a seaweed wrapped fish, which seemed to be a common dish in this region, as was the local apples. the sashimi though was not great & was in fact inferior to the far cheaper ryokan (or maybe mingshuku senjusou) which we stayed the following night.

ikura with radish strips & crabstick

ikura with radish strips & crabstick

prawn on mountain yam

prawn on mountain yam

chefquak8 chefquak9

soba & fish with miso

soba & fish with miso

fish with miso

fish with miso

gohan (rice) set with pickles

gohan (rice) set with pickles

nice fruits

nice fruits

the ikura was ok, non descript.  so was the prawn with mountain yam.  the oyster gratin with some yam was ok, quite good.  the soba again carbo we could do without. the fish with miso was ok. the rice & pickles which often included a miso paste in this region was ok. the dessert was quite nice – the persimon, and japan grapes (which flesh come out easily from the skin & are sweet & with kind of alcohol feel) were great & refreshing.

& here there was a decent good yu 湯 (japanese for hot water ie onsen baths), which was the other important ingredient for staying in a ryokan.

the service was very good. we had missed the birthday special as we booked late (past the promotion date) so they took a photo for us during dinner & gave us a print next day. good gesture & memory i supposed & the effort well appreciated of course. these days though all our phone cameras & photos & e-copies were quite fine. 🙂 also we had to forward our big luggage to matsumoto (japan’s efficient luggage forwarding was legendary & we were bringing only a backpack each up the mountains). the lady was very helpful & photocopied our matsumoto hotel booking & filled up the forwarding address form for us & let us checked before dispatching the luggage when we checked out the next day. so service-wise it was good, not better than those at many japanese ryokans we came to be accustomed to, but good nevertheless. 🙂

over the next few nights, we came to the conclusion that for good stay & kaiseki it would be better to break journey at unazuki, toyama & at omachi onsen, though the good ryokans would be more expensive (but 25000yen here for a room with attached bath & 2 mealsfor 2pax was not exactly cheap for the food we had relative to many other ryokans we had been to. the kaiseki here was really much below expectation).  the alpine route could be traversed in 1 day & unless one was doing serious trekking & mountain climbing there was no need to stay at tateyam, midagahara or morodou.

c.h.e.f andy