Restaurateur Palisa Anderson from Chat Thai recalls a perfect meal in Japan.
“The experience of eating in ryokans, the country inns of Japan, is all about poise and a moment out of time – only heightened by the fact that everyone has changed from their day clothes into the inn’s robes after bathing in hot springs. In some ways it’s like an upmarket pyjama party.
In the case of my visit to Zaborin, a very Zen ryokan on the island of Hokkaido, with my husband, Matt, and our kids, Soraya and Arthur (my all-time favourite dining companions), we were swaddled in the softest imaginable linen PJs. We arrived primed for something special and the kitchen more than held up its end of the bargain.
It was February 2019 and the first spring mountain vegetables were coming into season. We ate purple carrots that had been stored in a cellar covered in snow. There was a wealth of cold-water seafood, whether it was raw red shrimp, the famed Hokkaido sea urchin, kinki – the red rockfish – cooked in shiro miso, or miso soup loaded with poached lobster. The chefs cooked dry-aged duck over pine and we finished with locally grown rice and burdock pickles.
Dessert was no less dazzling: ice-cream served with a beetroot syrup followed by sweet potato that had been slowly roasted in coffee grounds and a single, perfect armagnac soaked prune. As if that wasn’t enough, when we came down for breakfast the next morning, we were served a meal almost every bit as detailed, right down to a glass of orange juice that, remarkably, was as clear as a glass of water. All of this against a backdrop of sublime architecture and the natural beauty of the snowy landscape, wrapped in quietly generous hospitality (and linen – lots of linen).
It was somehow decadent and monastic all at once. When I think back to it, I’m filled with a yearning to find another moment in time just like it.”
Image credit: Flore Vallery Radot