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Food

Dishes from Japan’s biggest lake

Omi Takashima station lies on the west coast of Lake Biwa in Shiga only one hour away from Kyoto by local JR train. With that kind of proximity to the ancient capital, I was expecting another commuter suburb with an AEON or equivalent generic shopping center and a Tsutaya. When we arrived at the station and saw a giant statue of Gulliver, I thought we slipped back into the Showa period. It felt so different from any other cities. Kombini, Japanese for convenience stores, were nowhere to be found, even vending machines at the station had totally different drinks from what I see everyday. Everything was so old, quiet, and foreign there, in a very nice way.

People from all over the country and in some cases from overseas travel to this town by the lake for the special dining experience at Kitashina. Kitashina has been making funazushi here since 1619 and the first generation chef started by serving the local lord. Their funazushi, the signature dish at the restaurant, has a very deep but mild flavor from their long aging process of around three years or more. Stinky fish isn’t the only thing they are specialized in. The course dinner we had was a showcase of the lake region’s dishes.

Fu and cucumber sumiso

Chojifu is specific kind of fu, or gluten. Here it is served with sliced vinegared cucumber, Kansai-type white miso, and goma dressing.

Aka konnyaku

Aka konnyakuCooked aka konnyaku or cooked red devil’s tongue jelly. Konnyaku is usually grey or clear; red is unusual but nicely fits the name when translated into English. Some historians believe that this was Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s favorite dish.

Gomadofu

Gomadofu or sesame tofu. Te-chan loves gomadofu.

Shimaebi Nimono

Shimaebi to mame nimono- tiny shrimp from Lake Biwa and soy beans simmered in a sweet broth: A local version of a standard dish.

Tsukudani

Ayu-no-tsukudani baby sweetfish cooked in sweet soy sauce. This was just soooo good and everyone helped themselves to lots them, reducing a big heap to nothing. Great with sake!

Funazushi kanrozuke

Funazushi stored in sake kasu or the lees left over from Hagi no Tsuyu sake brewing. This cousin of funazushi was more of an interest than a pleasure. We’re glad we tried it, but didn’t need extra servings.

Yuba, satoimo and unagi wan

This bowl of tofu curd, taro, and eel was served in a thick sweet soy sauce broth. This was a hearty dish.

Koi and koi-no-ko

This carp sashimi was smothered with carp eggs and served with a miso vinegrette. This presentation is unusual in Tokyo, but was very nice.

Grilled moroko

Grilled moroko from the lake served on table-top hibachi grills by the chef himself.

Tenagaebi

These deep-fried tenagaebi sprinkled with salt were so crunchy and just good. We popped them in our mouths one after another between sips of sake.

Funazushi chazuke

Funazushi chazuke or funazushi and rice served with tororo kombu in hot soup.

Hagi-no-Tsuyu

To pair with these dishes, they serve their local sake, Hagi-no-Tsuyu. All five bottles went so well with each course. Yamahai tokubetsu junmai muroka nama, nurukan about body temperature went especially well with sweet tiny ayu tsukudani or funazushi!

On the day we dined at the restaurant, the owner was able to buy some nigorobuna. So, Okami was going to stay up till late to clean the fish after we left, because no one else, even her son-in-law who is a trained chef, can do the routine as well as she does. Being such a good host, she put on a special show for us with her magic of preparing the fish. So, next week, I am going to describe how she did it.

Kitashina is really special. Their food is great, but the Shiga hospitality we experienced at the family run restaurant, including from 9 year old grand son, Maa-kun, was really something special that can be only found here.

Restaurant Information: Kitashina
Kitashina Web Site in Japanese

Address: 1287 Katsuno Takashima, Shiga 520-1121
TEL:0740-36-0031
Hours: Call to make a reservation

Dinner course at Kitashina starts from 5,250 yen. Reservations necessary.

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  2. [...] consists of salted seafood caught in Lake Biwa, and allowed to ferment for up to three years. Kitashina is the best restaurant to taste this dish (featured on the Travel Channel) but it can be pricey. If [...]

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