I’ve never seen a sushi chef afraid of the sushi he’s serving, look at the look on his face. Yet another special fish you can only find super fresh in Hokkaido, the sailfin poacher, aka dragonfish.
Perfect starter of Hokkaido crab in its own guts. Mmmm, crab guts, I can bathe in them.
Lovely plating. I will get into the glass and plates in Otaru shortly, but the pairing with this beer was superb. I knew there was something special about this beer once I started researching it. Apparently, Otaru Beer’s draft ales and their bottled equivalents are only available within a 100 km radius of Otaru. There is a German National who lives in Hokkaido that brews this stuff and he only uses organic hops, and a yeast he propagates himself, mixed with the pristine water of Otaru. Here is the article. Apparently, he went to Scotland to master the distilling process.
I was curious about the Star of David on the label and wondered if the German’s realized they were drinking Jewish beer. Apparently, the 6 pointed Brewer’s star’s, identical to the Jewish Star of David, actually has its roots in alchemy. This is why I saw this sign on Bruichladdich’s Black Arts whiskey. Fascinating, In alchemy, the two triangles represent the reconciliation of the opposites of fire and water.
The brininess of the Hokkaido sea urchin with fresh wasabi was an excellent follow up to the crab and combined quite well with the Otaru beer as well. Again, lovely etched crystal, such a nice reminder of being in Japan.
Oh, wow, look at that O-toro bluefin, like A5 Wagyu. Then the prized Botan Ebi shrimp with its blue-green roe, which was the treat of the season which we were lucky to try at various places along our trip. I believe the little bowl had fermented squid and the fish up front was yellowtail belly.
Then the amazingly soft and sweet Hokkaido scallop.
Back to the fatty bluefin, this time Chu Toro, slightly firmer than the O-toro.
Then some Hokkaido mackerel. Not sure if this was Aji or Shima Aji, but it was like the belly cut and oh so not fishy, plus thick and the perfect tenderness. One of the best mackerel I’ve had, and again, all super local versions of all these cuts that don’t usually make it to the US. This is why you make these pilgrimages to these local spots, just not the same variety of fish you get in the US.
Then some local Golden Eye Snapper, I love the chewiness of this fish, and I’ve noticed that they always char the fishnet scales on this fish, and the skin flavor is so distinctive with the light sear.
I think this was the illusive Hagashi Toro. This is a super rare cut of toro that comes from a certain part of the belly near the tail where the tendons are separated and it is almost layered like flakes. I did not realize how specific it gets before researching this. I used to think there were O-toro and Chu-toro, but this is some next level shit. Check out this diagram and comment from Japanese chatroom to hit the tip of the iceberg.
Some more uni intermezzo. I am used to seeing Hokkaido uni having a more reddish color and not as creamy. This almost was like a Santa Barbara, but you can tell from the size it is Hokkaido. I could not get enough, but we were coming at the tail end of uni season so this was the most I was going to see in one sitting.
Talk about plucked from the ocean floor.
Most tender clam, maybe because no freezing and shipping to the US required. Look at that color.
Yum, look at that sea snail, like some baby Demogorgon from Stranger Things.
Here is the sea snail prepared as a sushi, usually they just give you a toothpick and let you go to town, I liked the sushi bite with a piece of its liver cut and hidden between the rice.
Oh my, this mantis shrimp looks like a giant roach. It was really slimy and moist though. Usually, the mantis I get is dried out. Look at the mucosal membrane, live.
Look at the thickness on this in next pic, cross-section.
Ah, the next pictures signals that we are nearing the end. What a palate cleanser of ikura and tofu.
Next up the tomago. So dense, look at the side view.
So sad to say Good Bye… Off to the Otaru hand blown glass stores. Do not miss this when you come to Otaru. Some of the most amazing glassware I’ve ever seen. We bought glasses that looked like crumpled paper. The beautiful thing is that they ship to the US. Also, don’t miss the fish market here, amazing things you likely won’t see back home. Especially the Hokke, aka Okhotsk atka mackerel, which is caught in the Okhotsk sea between Japan and Russia. Also, the sail fin poacher, which was the dragon fish in the spotlight post.