Yan Xiang 作者
You wouldn’t expect to find one of best tasting events in Tokyo to highlight the exotic and memorable flavors of Kagoshima. But every fourth friday of the month at the Tokyo Prince Hotel you can find exactly that.
The monthly gathering came highly recommended from a friend with Metropolis Magazine, so when I found myself with no plans on a Friday night I decided to give it a shot. I took a photographer friend of mine, Takeshi Matsukawa, with me to catch some of the highlights. A few hours before the event I was speaking with Takeshi and realized it was not a typical dinner but a shochu (Japanese alcohol) tasting event with food complementing each course. I quickly adjusted my mindset for a night of drinking and set out.
The event was held at the Tokyo Prince Hotel located in Minato-ku near Kamiyacho station. If you have trouble finding the restaurant feel free to ask the receptionists at the front desk for the restaurant 中国料理マロニエ (chugoku ryouri maronie).
Walking towards the restaurant we were greeted by a few displays of Kagoshima foods and shochu. Once they checked our names off the list we were guided to our table. The restaurant is spacious and open so you can view everything that is going on wherever you happen to be seated. Tokyo Tower is located next door and the night views are visible from the windows. Towards the front of the restaurant is a small podium and nearby is a table setup with varieties of shochu.
The meal is approximately two hours from 6:30 to 8:30 (though we ended up leaving around 9:00) which gives you just enough time to comfortably take everything in. Each course has one plate of food and one selected shochu to complement. Each food selection is a specialty of Kagoshima prefecture and most were new to me. The food consists of a mixture of meat and seafood choices and some of the courses include a variety of small appetizers while others are a small dish. There were seven courses during our meal and we both left comfortably full in both spirit and appetite.
Each of the courses comes with a selection of shochu. The standard shochu was a satsuma type of shochu, but there are quite a few varieties including sparkling, warm, chilled and even a sweet dessert shochu with a taste of coconut. My personal favorite was the warm shochu, but each variety has its own merits and went down smooth. Each course is served while a speaker at the podium gives a brief explanation of the shochu and the food selection. If you require more spirits than most don’t worry as the staff is moving around often to check your glasses.
Once we were comfortably into our fourth or fifth course they brought up a musician and local Kagoshima instruments up to the front podium. She performed a few songs and even let a few customers join her on the drums which added a lot to the atmosphere and experience during the later courses. The music and ceremony will typically only be on the yearly event which is priced around 10,000 yen/person. The standard monthly event will still have the explanations and courses, but will likely not have a musical performance. In March, for example, there is a sakura theme instead and the pricing for standard events is 7,000 yen/person.
Towards the end of the evening everyone was relaxed, smiling and satisfied from a wonderful experience. It was as if myself and the other diners had each been given a brief tour of a new land, so it was only natural that we would come together and form a bond over the experience. It was far closer to Kagoshima than I have ever been and well worth the journey.