Kaiseki Dinner (Below Par) @ Taisyoike Ryokan at Kamikochi on 14 &15Oct2013

1st kaiseki dinner at taisyoike   ryokan 14.10.2013

1st kaiseki dinner at taisyoike ryokan 14.10.2013

we made a last minute change to our itinerary, dropping unazuki (would have required a rushed scenic rail journey through the kuroge gorge) & realising that we didn’t need too many days at the alpine route, picked kamikochi (上高地) which was an excellent choice. 🙂

we wanted to catch the 1020am direct bus from matsumoto to kaimikochi to arrive at our taisyoike (大正池) ryokan bus stop (which was right outside the ryokan) at 12pmon 14.10.2013. hence we planned the journey to arrive at matsumoto in the late afternoon of 13.10.2013.

with that we managed to cover the entire easy 14km 4hr+ walk all the way to myojin-ike (明神池) pond & back to hotel in time for a nice bath & kaiseki dinner.

the ryokan service was EXCELLENT. first we booked directly with the ryokan at 14000yen pax for 2nights. but then my wife saw there was a 10% discount if we had made the booking via http://www.kamikochi.org/special-offers & quoting the website. i called the ryokan & they gave us the 10% discount anyway so it was 12600yen pax & 25200yen for 1 night.  will talk about the service again later. 🙂

we had the western room with attached bath & toilet so back to the usual ryokan routine. the yu 湯 (japanese for hot water ie onsen baths) was small c/w green-tateyama & most ryokans we had been previously (at hokkaido, tohoku, arashiyama, tateyama, hakone etc) but it was ok.

the kaiseki dinner though was a huge let-down, way below par!

kaiseki menu for 14.10.2013

kaiseki menu for 14.10.2013

though we could not read japanese, the menu had looked decent enough like most kaisekis we had. but ingredients & quality were just not there.

sashimi moriawase

sashimi moriawase

prawn,tofu, yam & roll

prawn,tofu, yam & roll

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iwana shioyaki

iwana shioyaki

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ham wrapped in leaves over hotpate

ham wrapped in leaves over hotpate

pan-fried hida beef

pan-fried beef

japanese grapes

japanese grapes

the sashimi were just average (those from supermarket were fresher & sweeter). the zensai was ok.the yam & sausage items were ok. the iwana shioyaki (岩鱼盐烧) was quite good i guess but not much our kind of food. the meatball with soup was ok. the duck again non-descript.  the ham on hot plate (they seemed to like to wrap meat in leaf over a heated plate) was much ado about nothing. the beef was quite poor really, not tasty & probably cooked at wrong temperature w/o proper browning & maillard reaction ring. at least the grapes were nice japanese grapes – sweet with a bit of wine flavour – & squeezed right out of the skin. 🙂

in all, a rather poor dinner, despite so many items. c/w many jap dining places in Singapore! nothing like the kaiseki we had come to know.

we were wondering what we might get the next day – & it was actually worse.

kaiseki dinner on 15.10.2013

kaiseki dinner on 15.10.2013

kaiseki menu for 15.10.2013

kaiseki menu for 15.10.2013

cured salmon & sayori

cured salmon & sayori

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vege nabe

vege & tofu nabe

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there was nothing to be said about the second night kaiseki dinner on 15.10.2013. only the cured salmon & sayori (flying fish) was good. the iwana 岩鱼was back this time in a miso paste grill. the beef was back this time a greater disaster –  never had beef with batter like pork, fish or lamb cutlet (of course there is beef wellington but that’s quite different a pastry & not a batter).

taisyoike ryokan @ kamikochi

taisyoike ryokan @ kamikochi

well, kamikochi is such a lovely place, walking aorund the lake enjoying the reflections at taisyoike pond, looking at the mist on the still active yakedate & hiking round the lake to kappa bridge & myojin-ike. the ryokan room & bath were ok & the service was excellent. they came to inform us during 15.10.2013 dinner about typhoon approaching tokyo on the day of our departure 16.10.2013 & likelihood that morning shinkansen originating from tokyo would be cancelled.  on the morning when we had to wait opposite the hotel to catch the bus coming from kamikochi terminal about 10 minutes away, they brought us 2 umbrellas and told us we could leave them on the bus stand when we boarded the bus. 🙂

so some gain some loss. however we still felt mostly loss as japan’s service is legendary & so is the ryokan room, bath & food, and for this trip, the good food we had were all from kyoto & matsumoto restaurants & not from the ryokans, except perhaps (ironically) the (non-ryokan) mingshuku senjusou. 🙂

c.h.e.f andy

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