Another wonderful Kaiseki meal in Japan, but one that cannot be repeated. Neither can I recommend my friends to go to this one as it is a private club.
The Shinjuku Summit Club is located on the top floor of Shinjuku Park Tower, a corner of the skyscrapers of Shinjuku. With Japanese kaiseki cuisine as the main menu, it serves only important business partners, as well as Sumitomo Corporation executives and employees. It was opened in 1994 with the aim of being used as a place to socialise with friends and family.
minazuki no asagao suzushi asa no tsuki
month of june
and the morning glories look so cool –
moon in the morning
Chora 樗良 (1729 – 1780)
水無月の献立 Minazuki’s Menu
水無月 Minazuki refers to June of the Lunar Calendar (which is somewhere in May for the Gregorian calendar). Even though literally translated to “month without water”, the actual is quite the opposite. It actually means the month of water and they used the kanji, 無 for の (of). This is the time the farmers fill the rice field with water. Also it’s the rainy season for Japan. This is the period where it’s traditional wet and humid, just before the heat of summer settles in.
So cuisine during this time celebrates the late spring harvest, and serves slightly sweeter than usual food.
We started the Kaiseki with a toast for good health. It is rude to toast for prosperity in Japan, unlike in China, we always wish each other “eat well and be prosperous”. The sake used is a special unfiltered junmaiginjo from Sumidai Distillery from Akita prefecture. It is very smooth, a bit sweet and has to be served cold. It has been prepared into a bamboo flask for serving.
And then the sake party continues with an assortment of sakes from all over Japan. I was off alcohol for a long time so I could not really describe what they tasted like.
箸附 Chopsticks Appetisers
蒸し鮑 白瓜 パプリカ 大徳寺麩 ゆかリ餡 Steamed abalone, shirouri (oriental pickling melon, bell pepper, Daitokuji fu, Yukari (shiso) glaze
(top-left) 白アスパラ冷制 White asparagus cold soup
(top-right) ミニトマト 蓮芋 Cherry tomato, hasuimo (Indian taro)
(bottom-right) 鮎親子あえ 蓼の素 Ayu (sweet fish) oyaku, Japanese knotweed
(bottom-left) つららいか 胡麻酢 Icicles squid, sesame vinegar
(centre) 海月 胡瓜 梅あえ Kurage (jellyfish), cucumber, ume (plum blossom)
Aptly named “chopsticks appetisers”, everything has been cut into strips to be eaten like noodles, except for the white asparagus gazpacho which was served in a martini glass.
It was an interesting mix of seafood, both cooked and raw. Therefore there’s a lot of contrasting texture, taste and umami for the different appetisers. There is not right or wrong sequence to partake these appetisers. The connoisseur among us paired it with the sakes, so they took his lead. I just go through them in the sequence presented in the menu.
So you start with a really light steamed abalone with bell pepper served with Daitokuji fu and a shiso glaze. The abalone has been cooked to soft, tender texture yet retained the flavours. The Yukari shiso glaze removes any fishiness of shellfish if there’s any. Then, you washed it down with a sweet white asparagus cold soup that is creamy but yet very light.
After which you are presented with a different type of crunch, of vegetables and fruits. Pickled cherry tomatoes with Indian taro, which is like a celery without the celery taste, were perfect for each other, the sour taste of the pickle with the almost tasteless stalk of Indian taro. This was followed by the raw ayu served with its own eggs and topped with a local herb that’s a bit peppery.
Then it was raw squid dressed with sesame vinegar paired with a tempura shiso leaf, very savoury and filled with umami of seafood. And finally the overpowering jellyfish cold dish that reminded me of a Chinese dinner banquet.
Because of the banter brought upon by free-flowing sake, the appetiser course took a good half hour to finish.
吸物 Soup Course
はも 冬瓜 順才 権茸 酢橘 Hamo (pike conger), winter melon, water shield, gontake mushroom, pickled orange
The next course is a clear soup featuring the pike conger, which is a delicacy at this time of the year. It is a very delicately balanced soup that had the conger with gontake mushroom and winter melon, and an interesting addition called juncai.
順才 Juncai , also known as「純菜 」,「蓴菜」 (ジュンサイ) and water shield in English, is an aquatic plant that is used in common in Jiangsu cuisine. Once cooked, it has this slimy, gelatinous coating that’s quite unique. In Japanese, juncai is the translated as “genius”.
お造り Sashimi Course
鯒 本鮪 小茄子 妻色々 Flathead, hon maguro (top quality bluefin tuna), small eggplant, assortment
Wonderful, very fresh sashimi of the highest quality of course. The interesting addition of raw eggplant demonstrates the appreciate of the natural tastes of ingredients that the Japanese has developed over time. Also referred to as mizunasu 水茄子, they are crunchy and sweet, much like a fruit.
Another serve seldom seen at sushi restaurant is the kochi (flathead) 鯒. Kochi is a lean whitefish with very firm meat. This fish is both farmed and caught wild around the Kyushu region. Because of its flat body and large fins, it can be found dwelling in the shallow waters near the coast. It is best during March and April but can also be found throughout the spring and summer seasons.
焼肴 Grilled Course
鯛ヤングコーン巻き 丸茄子 蚕豆 長いもせんべい 山桃ゼリー Sea bream, baby corn, round eggplant, broad bean, Long senbei (rice cracker), yamamomo jelly
The ingredients of June on parade in this grilled course to demonstrate the repertoire of the chef. Sea bream reaches its peak around sakura season, and then adult sea bream are served mainly grilled.
The natural sweetness of the Japanese sea bream came across beautifully with the sweet baby corn. I am not a fan of senbei 煎餅 (called 仙貝 in Chinese) but this version is handmade and tasted like 锅巴 the burnt rice that’s stuck on the bottom of a claypot. Deliciously crisped using just soy sauce.
Yamamomo is also known as Chinese bayberry or 杨梅, and its fruits are available only in May or June. Most of the time, it is very sour but come May/June you can find sweet ones. Don’t be fooled, it is still sour with a bit of sweetness. Great as a appetite inducer.
蓋物 Simmered Course
蓮根饅頭 うなぎ えび なす 水菜 生姜餡 Lotus root manju, eel, shrimp, eggplant, mizuna (water lettuce), ginger glaze
There are two parts to this simmered course. The first is a unagi course that presented the unagi in two formats – grilled with sweet sauce and a tempura. It is very unusual to have both formats served together in one dish.
The second is the actual simmered course in my opinion. A manju has been made with two slices of lotus roots and filled with minced shrimp and fish. Poached mizuna lettuce, shrimp and a slice of eggplant cooked in white miso are added and a ginger glaze complete the dish. Very laborious dish, not lacking in tastes, but in my opinion, does not do justice to what the chef has presented so far.
止肴 Final Course
水無月豆腐 生雲丹 浜防風 磯辺餡 Minazuki tofu, raw sea urchin, glehnia, Isobe mochi, glaze
浜防風 ハマボウフウ hamabofu or Glehnia is called 珊瑚菜 in Chinese. It is used by Chinese as a TCM cure for cough. Here it is used as the main ingredient for the glaze for Isobe mochi and sea urchin with June tofu. It is like eating a simmered dish with parsley as its main ingredient. Strangely it worked with the very bland tofu and mochi. The curveball is the sea urchin, and that in my opinion, saved the dish.
食事 Main Course
稲庭うどん 茗荷子 浅葱 卸生姜 Inaniwa Udon, Myoga (Japanese torch ginger), chives, grated ginger
We have come to the end of the Kaiseki, when you are served with the main course. As opposite to the Western Main Course (when this is the piece de resistance for the meal), the Japanese main course signifies that the meal has concluded and is used as the filler, much like the potato or bread for a Western meal.
As we approach summer, Inaniwa udon 稲庭うどん is served zaru-style. The town of Inaniwacho, where the clear sparkling underground waters of Kurikomayama in Akita prefecture bubble to the surface, is known for its quality wheat, and also has a long history of trade in salt brought by ship. Thus Inaniwa has since time immemorial had direct access to the three key components of the udon noodle: wheat, water and salt.
Since the noodle is painstakingly prepared by hand, each batch takes artisanal udon makers up to four days to create. Soft wheat flour, salt and water is first kneaded into a dough, flattened by two rods, stretched slightly like a thick rope, coiled and left to air-dry for a day. The next day, the dough is rolled flat, hand-stretched yet again into thinner noodles and left to rest across two steel bars, with udon masters ensuring that each strand does not touch another. This repeated process of stretching by hand, letting it age and rest on metal rods is repeated until the noodle reaches its desired length. Air bubbles formed during this process of hand-kneading and ageing is incorporated into the udon, and is the secret to the inaniwa udon’s chewiness.
枇杷 ゴールデンキウイ 佐藤錦 ゼリー Loquat, golden kiwi, Sato Nishiki, jelly
Everything is so exquisitely prepared, presenting the best produce that summer can offer. Every course is a balance of visual, taste and texture. Unfortunately the restaurant is not open to public and can only be booked by staff of the companies. Oh, how much I miss Japan!
Shinjuku Summit Club 新宿サミットクラブ
Date Visited : Jun 2016