Inaba is noted for its handmade Soba which is difficult to make. Buckwheat has very little gluten so that it doesn’t “stick” together easily. Therefore, in order to facilate the making of Soba, about 20% is wheat flour to create a decent noodle that does not break apart at the slightest handling.
Soba may be the most “Japanese” according to purist Japanese food addicts. The term “Shisso” connotes simplicity, modesty, frugality, and Soba has those characteristics. It is earthy, unadorned, satisfying in a downhome manner. The perfect accompaniment is usually a light, ethereal, crunchy Tempura tasting of fresh sweet oil based Umami.
Kaki no Sappari Sho-yu Yaki: Refreshing Soy Sauce Baked Oysters seemed to be given a bit of a flour dusting then baked with an addition of a lightly sweetened soy sauce and possibly a touch of lemon. The three extra large oysters under this treatment were meaty in texture, firm yet softly yielding with a slight pastiness from the flour coating. However, I felt that the sweetened soy sauce may not have been the best match to pair with the more sea minerality infused oyster which usually does better with sauces that are more tart, slightly acidic.
Kaki no Negi Miso Yaki: Oysters baked with Miso (fermented soybean paste) and chopped green onions: A dollop of salted preserved Miso with a soupcon of chopped green onion was placed on the oyster after it was baked. The salty, Umami filled Miso played well with the meaty minerality of the 3 Oysters. This combination created a rich but not cloying aftertaste to be savored & then paired with the Kikumasamune (kee-koo-mah-sah-moo-neh) Taru Sake.
It is in the Junmai (pure rice) level of premium Sake. This Sake is mellow, mild, neutral in flavor except for the scent & light woody taste of Sugi (soo-ghee) or Japanese Red Cedar. In some ways, the Greek white wine Retsina is a harsher analog to the Taru Sake since Retsina is barreled in pine wood for a stronger taste of pine sap. Taru Sake is a far more delicate and nuanced libation.
Kaki Furai: The three Fried Oysters are classically breaded with Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) which make for a superior crispy light, fragile deep fried coating. The oysters themselves, this time were not so much meaty, but slightly creamy, almost mousse-like in a cloud-like airiness with a subtle ocean based Umami.
The sauce was a very faint yellowish/white that reminded me of Sauce Gribiche, which is basically a light mayonnaise with chopped boiled egg melded in. This sauce is simple in flavor just to add a touch of simple richness in order not to overpower the delicate flavor of the fried oyster and the equally delicate Panko coating. Exceptionally well done execution of something that can be totally god awful under an inexperienced, incompetent hand.
Palate cleansers were necessary to clear the palate for more of the oysters in the 3 different guises:
Seaweed Salad: Iceberg lettuce was the basic ingredient with Wakame (wah-kah-meh) seaweed, touches of red seaweed, Kaiware Daikon (kah ee wah reh dah ee cone) or Daikon radish sprouts & a wedge of tomato for color. There was a topping of Surimi (soo ree mee) crab for some protein Umami.
The dressing was light Ponzu (pone zoo) which was probably Japanese rice vinegar, Sho-yu, touch of lemon. This salad was refreshing with a nice salty, lightly acidic tang.
Neba Toro Sutamina Sarada: Sticky, Slimey Stamina Inducing Salad is Iceberg lettuce, touch of Mizuna (mee-zoo-nah)/Japanese Brassica (mustard family), Kaiware Daikon sprouts, soft boiled egg, tomato slice, Okra, Natto, (nah’ toh)/fermented slimey soy bean. The dressing was Ume (pickled salty plum) & a slimey puree of Yama Imo, a type of yam. The Okra, Natto, Yama Imo were the source of this very slimey, yet delicious & refreshing salad.
Unlike American cuisine, the Japanese feel there is a medicinal health aspect in eating mucilaginous ingredients. To me this was a rather unorthodox combination, but it worked in providing a flavourful salad that at the same time had palate cleansing properties appropriate for the eating of oysters.
It’s sad that this Oyster fest is only going to last til the end of September, but being seasonal & only taking the best that the season has to offer is quintessentially Japanese. In Japan, almost no one will eat a watermelon in January since it would be too expensive, and probably not as good as when eaten in August at the height of summer. I believe the French & the Italians feel the same way. Good culinary experience involving Oysters where the different preparations made it so one did not tire of the same thing.