A unique experience at the MIBU Restaurant in Tokyo, Japan
From left to right: Hiroyoshi Ishida, Pedro and Fernando De León and Tomiko Ishida
Our adventure in the world of Japanese cuisine began somewhat more than two decades ago, with our friend Hidetada Mima, who invited us to discover it for the first time at a Japanese restaurant in New York City.
Since then, Japanese cuisine has become our favourite, to the extent that we are now the owners of three Japanese restaurants that are considered a reference for Japanese cuisine in our country.
Over the last two decades, we have been able to visit many restaurants all over the world but, undoubtedly, our visit to MIBU last 20th August, represented a milestone in our perception of the sublime simplicity Japanese gastronomy may attain in the hands of such a master as Hiroyoshi Ishida.
We consider ourselves to be truly privileged, thanks to the opportunity Hiroyoshi Ishida and his wife Tomiko provided us with their welcome to their Restaurant. There, we were able to enjoy their cooking in a simple dining room of barely 20m2, along with seven diners, members of the exclusive MIBU GASTRONOMY CLUB, located on the first floor of an apartment block in the Ginza neighbourhood.
On arrival, we were welcomed by Tomiko Ishida. From that moment on, we set off on an experience that the five senses began to perceive, remembering, for example, the description Mrs Ishida gave us of the flower arrangement decorating one of the dining room walls, explaining why she had chosen each of the blooms forming the ikebana.
Once all the diners arrived, Mrs Ishida then provided a detailed explanation of the menu that two of those present were kind enough to translate for us. As the main feature, we may state that the menu Hiroyoshi prepares every month (a different one each month) uses seasonal products, both from the land as well as the sea.
We are not able to confirm this, but we are convinced that the most careful selection of each and every one of the elements on the table, from the crockery the creations by Hiroyoshi is served upon, to the glassware used and the type of chopsticks or cutlery, are a task performed by Mrs Ishida.
The menu consisted of 8 dishes, which were served in this order:
It would take us a very long time to describe each and every one of the experiences obtained with each dish, although if we had to remember just two or three really special moments, these would be when Mrs Ishida produced the first of the dishes, served in a 200 year- old crystal cup. She asked us to pick up a lotus stalk accompanying the rice and to strike its wet leaf against the palms of our hands so as to shake off its drops of water to purify our face before proceeding to begin dinner. The specific dish consisted of boiled rice, with tiny potatoes that have a most special taste, called "kinukatsugi", from Northern Japan.
"Really magic", would be the expression to describe the dish of squid, sea bass and Kochi sashimi. The squid and sea bass were presented inside a pouch of fine silk submerged in ice water, along with bamboo leaves floating on the dish. We recall that Mrs Ishida asked us to open the pouch, withdrawing the silk fabric, and to pour the squid and sea bass into the water on the dish, and that each time we took a piece of the sashimi with our chopsticks, we should dip it in that water before lifting it to the bowl containing the soy sauce. However, the most curious thing is that, before all that ritual, Mrs Ishida asked us to take a magnifying glass she brought us to look through, to see how tiny drops of dew had formed on the bamboo leaves.
After tasting the squid and sea bass, she served us the Kochi fish, submerged in the same dish, which we ate following the same procedure as before.
Without detracting from the Obanazawa watermelon, which is highly valued in Japan, we would emphasise the Mochi bathed in Chiran tea, from the Prefecture of Kagoshima. The presentation of that desert consisted of two mochis halfway submerged in Chiran tea, from Kagoshima, that had to be tasted with two different types of chopstick, one of them the classic one we all know, and the other manufactured in the ancient way, so you could use it as a knife. After eating the mochis, the tea was drunk directly from the dish.
And we could continue so, on and on, because there was not a single dish that did not surprise us and that did not have its peculiarly special nature.
On these lines, we wish to convey our most sincere thanks to Mr and Mrs Hiroyoshi & Tomiko Ishida, who not only gave us a lesson in how the simplicity of each one of their creations may convey so many sensations to our senses, but who also made us feel we were indeed at home.
Fernando and Pedro De León