The problem is that Izakaya Rin, which is nestled down in the lower village and is a favorite among locals, is usually closed before we've finished work. But, on this particular occasion we've both managed to sneak out early. It's lucky we get Yurie to call as we're leaving and reserve us a table. We make our way down into the village, Rin looks just like any of the houses either side of it, nothing much to let you know of the deliciousness that awaits inside, unless you were out looking for it.
There's an area as you walk in to leave you're shoes, and then we're greeted at the door. They ask if we have a reservation, which luckily we do. We still have to wait a few moments while they get our table ready. As we walk in, yet again through another door, it's apparant just how busy they are. The tables are full, there's clanging of glasses, shouting out of orders and drinks into the tiny kitchen and even a few people perched at the little counter.
We start with some marinated mackerel. 8 beautiful slices of the marinated fish. It has a beautiful silver/blue skin and a soft white flesh that packs a nice vinegar punch. A touch of wasabi the perfect accompaniment.
Gobo chips. This is the first time we've tried them since arriving in Japan. This particular variety are like little batons, in some kind of batter and fried. The crunchy batter revealing the earthy burdock beneath, and a good sprinkle of togarashi from the table giving them a nice little ting.
While we're going deep-fried, sun dried squid tempura. A delicious rather sweet sun dried squid in a feather light tempura batter which is dipped into kewpie mayonnaise.
And now we have our vegetable intake for the evening, even though it's deep-fried, age-dashi nasu. It's fried eggplant is floating in a dashi soy broth and topped with grated daikon, ginger and shredded spring onion. Yum yum! We savor the last of the broth we our spoon, as it's just so good.
The first thing that intrigued us when flicking through the menu was the camembert yaki. They do a good camembert in Hokkaido so we were interested to see what they would do with it here. The whole wheel arrived, sizzling away in a little cast iron pan. The rind is already nicely charred and there's a small spoon to the side. The waiter asks if we would like a demonstration, which as being camembert yaki virgins we accept. He takes the small spoon and just rumbles it up into a big old gooey mess, breaking the bits of rind up throughout the gooey pate. He then suggests a bit of soy sauce before scooping it onto the crispy saltine crackers that accompany.
A little plate of buta kim chii is a deliciously smokey wok fried pork, bean sprout and kim chii concoction that has a nice firery kick.
Butakushi, pork on a stick, were grilled to perfection. They were generously seasoned and so juicy. The only problem was sharing the 3rd stick ;)
We were both impressed with the little tsukone-balls. We have eaten plenty of tsukone in our time (well, in the last 6 months anyway) and the chicken mince has always been pressed around a stick and grilled. These little meatballs are just too cute. They still have the same flavor, and the ume boshi and shiso are divine, such beautiful colors as well.
Then *drum roll* the most controversial dish of the night. Basashi. Sakuraniku. Horse meat, sashimi. Well, there is the whole taboo thing associated with Western culture and the eating of horse meat. I must say I was a little petrified, as I used to ride horses a bit when I was young, my Oma sending me here to Horse Camp for a few years in a row. It was here I would stay for a week with a group of girls, us each getting assigned a horse to look after and ride for the week. I used to get quite attached to my horse, my favorite would have been 'Romeo'. Anyway, as you see, I digress. But it's easy to see how the attachment to these big beautiful animals is like the same one we have for our other pets, like cats, dogs and guinea pigs. But, I had to give it a go.
As soon as the basashi arrived I immediately found it less daunting. I must say I was expecting a rather lean, deep red, gamey type meat. Something like kangaroo or venison. The sort of meat, god forbid, that the Romeo, the big sterling would have been carrying. But these Japanese 'horses' must be more like fat little donkeys that get to eat all day and don't have to move around too much. The meat looked like wagyu beef, it was a nice pink with a heavy fat marbling and it was absolutely delicious! The ginger giving it a nice hit, and just a touch of soy was needed. Wow, it was so good! It was super cold, and the fat just melted with each chew.
Divine, decadent and definitely comforting and easier to deal with when you think of them as little fat wagyu donkeys!