Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Delicious oysters and friendly conversation at Hiroshima's Kanawa

An enticing plate of raw Hiroshima oysters on the half shell! :)

Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki complete with oyster topping!
There's no two ways about it: the food in Japan plays a very big part in my decisions to visit the country; with my sometimes basing my choices of where to go in the Land of the Rising Sun on what local delicacies are to be had in this place and that, and my actually being motivated to return to Hiroshima so soon after my previous visit to the city as a result of my discovering that oysters tend to be eaten raw in the area only in winter!  

So it was rather ironic that I discovered that the oyster restaurant where I finally got to feast on raw oysters on the half shell in Hiroshima apparently serves up those raw oysters all year round -- unlike many other restaurants in the area -- thanks to their having their own dedicated stock of the succulent bivalves!  Put another way: Unless I misheard what the friendly server told me, I apparently could have enjoyed those delicacies in October (even when it was warmer than usual), not just this winter!

Rather than get upset about that though, I decided to just enjoy my meal and the overall experience at Kanawa, a restaurant that's actually located in a barge anchored on the eastern bank of the Motoyasu-gawa (translation note: gawa means "river" in Japanese).  Owned by a family whose ancestors include a man who started farming oysters in 1867 and founders of oyster shops in Tokyo and Osaka in 1946, this venerable dining establishment is one of those whose class is evident from when you approach its entrance all the way through to your exiting the place.

At Kanawa, the attention to detail can be pretty incredible.  For example, I was informed that the complimentary water served is actually the kind of water that's used in sake brewing (i.e., super pure).  Also, while the English menu lists different ways in which the oysters are served, I was verbally informed by my server after telling her that I wanted to have my oysters raw that they serve two different types of oysters in this manner -- distinguished not by geographical origin (all of Kanawa's oysters are farmed around Nomijima, "where the water is saltier and clean for safety") but by age (with the "regular" oysters served being six months old but 12-month-old oysters also being available for a slightly higher price).

After some thought, I went ahead and ordered a "regular" platter of five six-month-old oysters augmented by two that were twice their age.  When they arrived at my table (along with a couple of slices of lemon and a container of whiskey-flavored oil, which I eschewed since whiskey is one of those alcohols whose taste I'm actually not partial to!), it was actually really noticeable how much larger the older oysters were than the younger ones.  And when I tasted them, I was surprised by the increased delicacy of the flavor that the 12-month-old oysters had in contrast to the noticeably saltier younger bivalves!

In any case, I think it must have been pretty obvious that I was enjoying my meal (which also included a carafe of delicious junmai ginjo sake -- and yes, I think nihonshu goes really well with oysters as well as sushi and sashimi!).  At the very least, my good mood looked to have been evident enough for an elderly Japanese woman seated at a nearby table to decide to get to chatting with me!

Among other things, she confessed that she and her husband find it hard to eat more than four oysters at a single seating since the oysters that she's used to -- those from the Hiroshima area, seeing as the two of them are Hiroshima area residents -- tend to be on the large side.  In turn, I told her that I tend to be one of those people for whom six oysters doesn't seem enough but one dozen (which is what many Americans can easily devour) seems too much; so I tend to think that seven to ten tend to be the ideal for me!

Also revealed over the course of our conversation was that her husband would be celebrating his 75th birthday the next day.  A quick calculation got me realizing that the birthday boy was born in 1943, and it felt so very amazing that the three of us were chatting amiably and were alive in 2018 since, some two and a half years after his birth, a deadly atom bomb was dropped over his city (and, as a matter of fact, its hypocenter was just a few minutes' walk away from the restaurant).  But rather than allude to that, I just wished him a hearty happy birthday in advance, causing a big smile to break out on his face.

Something else that got the couple smiling was my telling them how much I also loved Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, and my having had one topped with oysters over at one of the stalls jammed onto three floors over at Okonomi-mura the previous day.  I'm sure they'd have been doubly amused to learn that the last meal I had before I left Hiroshima a couple of days later consisted of Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki once more; this even though I left the city before noon and thus can honestly say that I've had Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki for breakfast, lunch and dinner (though not all in one day -- I'm not that insane, okay?)! :D 


Paul said...

You went to Kanawa for dinner! That's the next restaurant I wanted to try, if only we had one more day in Hiroshima. I'm glad the experience went so well for you ... I imagine Hiroshima oysters have risen to your personal pantheon of the world's best oysters?

By the way, I wouldn't be at all surprised if you admitted that you had Hiroshima Okonomiyaki for three meals in a day. I think I could do that too, if there weren't so many other worthwhile delicacies in Hiroshima.


YTSL said...

Hi Paul --

Actually, I went to Kanawa for lunch! And yes, I have come to really love Hiroshima oysters, especially those offered up in the Hiroshima area! And absolutely re Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki being sooo good but there being so much other great food to eat in Hiroshima. In all honesty, the more Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki I eat, the more I cannot understand why there aren't more purveyors of this dish outside of Hiroshima!

Paul said...

I recently realized the answer ... by making my own Okonomiyaki at home.

It's got to be the extra time and cost of having different stations at the hotplate for the different layers of the Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki. In cities where the locals don't have a huge preference, it's always the Osaka style that dominates. You can guess which one a lazy dude like me makes at home!

YTSL said...

Hi again Paul --

Having tried both Hiroshima-style and Osaka-style okonomiyaki, I reckon that those without regional pride invested in okonomiyaki but don't have a strong preference re okonomiyaki style are those who haven't had (real) Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki!