Gateau Chocolat from Raku Raku So
Apologies for the long absence. I have been adjusting to a new, full-time job. A job closely related to tourism and thus to food, and maybe because our work is also related to the arts or maybe because we get so many high quality food gifts in the business, we all seem to appreciate the fine points of good food.
Recently when my co-worker Michiko asked me to do a favor proof-reading an English text for a friend of hers, we agreed on a barter of proof-reading for cake, chocolate cake, actually Raku Raku So‘s gateau chocolat. Raku Raku So is in Kameoka, a city on the other side of the western hills of Kyoto, where thick fog fills the valley most mornings and the produce is delicious and abundant because of the high water table.
I recently had a chance to go to Raku Raku So for a dinner with the whole office staff. We trucked out in the company Benz and got a table outside in the beer garden.
Raku Raku So used to be the home of a very wealthy man who laid the railway through Kameoka. The large estate includes a beautiful traditional Japanese garden that is lovingly taken care of by Michiko’s younger brother. The buildings on the estate have been converted into a traditional Japanese ryokan inn and has both a Japanese restaurant, an Italian restaurant, and the beer garden, where we had our barbecue dinner.
The best part was we got to barbecue our own dinner right on the table over little grills filled with hot charcoal that gave the sausages, vegetables, thinly sliced pork, and seafood a delicious smokey flavor. I couldn’t stop eating the sausages that I kept insisting were just as good as German sausages. Sadly, there is little chance I’ll ever be able to test that comparison.
We also had two kinds of spaghetti from the Italian restaurant, Cinghiale, including one with a hamo (pike conger) and cucumber sauce. Hamo is a traditional summer specialty of Kyoto prefecture. The knife skills necessary for finely scoring the fish before poaching it is amazing (I’ve seen it demonstrated a few times on Japanese TV), but exactly that skill seems to determine the final flavor. [And I just learned why! Hamo has too many bones to remove before eating that instead chefs finely score the fish to break all the bones into tiny, edible pieces.] I don’t remember how much of the hamo cucumber spaghetti I had, but at least thirds and maybe fourths. It was so yummy!
We finished the meal after a tour of the whole Raku Raku So complex – including my first time in an actual tea room, which had been built by Michiko’s husband, a traditional tea room carpenter – with coffee and sorbet in the
Michiko gave me the gateau chocolat from the Cinghiale Italian restaurant on Sunday . It was a box of six large, brownie-like pieces. I had one each night after dinner for the last four nights, the last one this evening (the other two my roommate ate).
I am no cake expert. In fact, I don’t allow myself the pleasure of eating cake except for very special occasions or exceptional reasons like there’s a box of cake in my kitchen. But this cake is delicious! Its soft crumb releases a delicate sweetness and strong, almost bitter chocolate explosion. And every evening these last four nights, I ate a slightly smaller dinner than usual to allow myself this treat.
A note to Michiko: I will do proof-reading for any of your friends at any time in exchange for food!