In Europe, we knew better than to ask for take-home boxes or doggie bags if we somehow were not able to finish the food on our plates. And in Japan, we rarely encountered a meal wherein we might have been compelled to take food home. We were really surprised then, that at the end of our first fancy-schmancy meal at Kichisen, the chef presented us with a “take away” (their term, not mine) bag for asa-gohan (breakfast) the next day.
Thankfully we were staying at the Shunkoin Temple and had access to a kitchen and refrigerator. In Kyoto, the weather was just starting to get pleasantly warm.
The next day, we carefully unwrapped the little parcels within.
The Japanese are masters of packaging, and this was evident in the delicate care the staff took with what pretty much amounts to leftovers (though it must be admitted that these were michelin-starred leftovers). One of the boxes above was actually very thin plywood; the other similarly thin styrofoam that looked like plywood. Note the careful and elegant bindings and the classy stamps with the restaurant’s seals on the outer paper cover.
We consumed sea bream, or Tai, in many forms that evening, ending with this rice course, when the staff brought out a gorgeous earthen vessel upon and unveiled the fish steaming on the rice within.
The other box contained 6 marvelous pieces of sakura zushi, lovingly encased in fine-grained linen paper and clear plastic; the zushi had also been on the menu the previous night.
So revered is Tai in Japanese culinary history that it’s given special names depending on when it’s served during the seasons. In March and April, not surprisingly, it’s called Sakura Dai, Cherry Sea Bream.
Peeling back the salted cherry blossom leaves reveal the sakura dai in its pink splendour, a tasty jewel-like morsel also flavoured with kinome.
That was a tasty way to start our day.
See our account of our kaiseki meal at Kichisen.