Oysters being grilled at Miyajima's Kakiya
Puppet Ponyo gawping at the sight of
two of the largest oysters she's ever seen! ;b
In this part of the world, oysters are cultivated by suspending
them in the waters of the Seto Inland Sea from rafts like these :)
October is too early to have raw oysters in Hiroshima (the prefecture that Miyajima as well as the city of Hiroshima is situated). That's what I learnt the hard way on my recent Japan trip, during which I ate breaded and deep fried oysters (kaki furai), cooked oysters stuffed in a Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, oyster gratin and grilled oysters (kaki yaki)-- the last of which is a specialty of Miyajima -- but couldn't find any place that served Hiroshima oysters raw on the half shell.
If not for the fact that all of those cooked oyster offerings were actually pretty delicious, I would have been so upset and frustrated by this discovery that I would have burst into tears at some point. In point of fact, as my mother pointed out, the oysters we ate in Hiroshima and Miyajima were all so juicy and really didn't feel dried at out the way post being cooked the way that it can sadly be the case in way too many other places.
On Miyajima, two specialist oyster eateries are considered to be head and shoulders above the rest in the eyes of many. While the blogger behind Paul's Travel Pics opted to have his oysters at Yakigaki no Hayashi, my mother and I ate at Kakiya: not because we didn't trust Paul's recommendation but because the day we set aside to have our Miyajima oyster lunch was a Wednesday and Yakigaki no Hayashi -- along with a number of other restaurants on Miyajima and, for that matter, also anagomeshi specialists Ueno across the water in Miyajimaguchi -- is closed on Wednesdays whereas Kakiya is open for business every day of the week!
There's definitely a part of me that would have loved to have been able to do a taste test involving oysters from those two famous Miyajima kaki-ya. On name alone though, the place my mother and I ate at surely would win in that its moniker matter-of-factly announces itself to be an oyster restaurant plain and simple. And yes, there really did appear to be oysters in every single dish on its menu!
When approaching Kakiya, the smoky aroma of oysters being grilled at the front of the restaurant is unmistakeable, and hard to resist. Consequently, while it does prepare oysters in other ways, once we discovered that Kakiya only begins serving oysters raw from November, both my mother and I chose to try the restaurant's signature dish, which makes use of a special sauce made of oysters for seasoning along with oysters caught in the waters off Miyajima.
For comparison, we went with two different grades of oyster -- and for those who wonder, yes, you can taste the difference. For while all of the oysters we ate at Kakiya were large and plump, the better grade oysters most definitely were juicier than the others and worth their not that substantially higher price.
As for choice of what to drink when having the oysters: I opted for an Ugonotsuki junmai daiginjo from Hiroshima Prefecture brewers Aiharashuzuo and found it to my liking. And yes, I have to say that sake (or nihonshu, as it's actually known in Japan) is indeed my drink of choice when eating oysters as well as sushi and a variety of other types of food, including -- perhaps most surprisingly -- cheese! ;b