It became quickly apparent upon sitting at the counter of Takotsubo
that our meal there would be far from average...
We're talking, after all, of a place whose tsukemono moriawase
(assorted pickles) side dish looks like a work of art!
More than enough in front of me
to make me very happy :)
All too soon, it was time to say farewell to Hiroshima, a city whose fantastic food makes it so that I definitely want to go back there before too long. Before heading east on the shinkansen though, my mother and I made time and room for lunch at Takotsubo, a one Michelin star restaurant which I got to know about thanks to Paul's Travel Pics.
All the information I had read about Takotsubo had led me to believe that it only opened for lunch at 12noon. But on the day that my mother and I went there, the restaurant looked open for business at around 11.30am and already had a few clients installed at its counter when I finally perked up the courage to go in there at 11.45am.
Probably we had arrived so early, there was room in the 13-seat restaurant for my mother and myself. Having set my heart on the koiwashi (sardines) sashimi set lunch that Paul had raved about, I was disappointed to find that -- like with the oysters -- I had arrived too early in the year for them. (It didn't help that the early part of this October had been unseasonably hot; something that also may have accounted for a surprising number of area residents looking quite a bit more tanned or darker skinned than I expect of Japanese folks who are neither natives of Okinawa nor Kyushu!)
Happily though, my second choice option of uni meshi (cooked sea urchin rice) was available -- and, from what I gathered when glancing at what other diners were eating, a very popular option along with anago meshi (which I will forever associate with Ueno!). More than incidentally, one reason why I was happy about this was because Takotsubo doesn't have an English menu and its staff don't seem to know any English (which is why it also was a good thing that I know enough Japanese to at least order specific dishes and such as glasses of draft beer!).
Thanks to Paul's blog post, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect in terms of the food I'd be having at this restaurant which has been in operation since 1927. Suffice to state here that everything was stellar, from the flavorful yasai-no-nimono (slow-simmered vegetables and tofu) we were served first all the way to the colorful and wonderfully crunchy tsukemono moriawase (assorted pickles) side dish, the umami-rich miso soup (with clams) and the piece de resistance that was the seaweed topped uni-meshi.
Adding to the overall experience were the restaurant customers we found ourselves seated in between. To my left was a middle-aged man who had a bunch of toys (including miniature rubber duckies and Fuchico Puttito) that he posed next to his food and then took photos of (and yes, I couldn't resist showing him Puppet Ponyo though I did not take any photos of her at Takotsubo)! Meanwhile, to my mother's right sat two matronly women who, after overhearing our conversation and realizing that we were not Japanese, started chatting to us in English, telling us, among other things that they reckoned this was the "number one" restaurant in Hiroshima!
Incidentally, my mother remarked later that she noticed that those two women -- and the young man seated to their right -- had been drinking tea rather than beer with their meal. After a few days in Japan, she was realizing how unusual this actually is since women as well as men really do seem to love their tipple in the land of sake -- and especially beer, it seems (rather than nihonshu, actually)! ;b