This weekend I beat the heat and visited Huntington Library and Gardens. I wandered past the Japanese House and flopped down in the shade by the koi pond. A duck, perched on a rock, stared at the moon bridge. We enjoyed our patches of shade and thought deep thoughts.
The Huntington Japanese garden was completed in 1912, after Henry Huntington was inspired to have one after various gardeners and architects did exhibits at the world's fair. The Japanese House, which the public can now peer into, is said to be one of the finest examples of twentieth-century Japanese architecture in the United States. The house was actually built in Japan, then re-assembled in Huntington's garden.
I wanted to crawl inside and stare at the koi pond. Not such a bad way to spend an afternoon.
Speaking of fish, that evening I had dinner at a sushi restaurant Downtown. Kazunori specializes in sushi handrolls called temaki-sushi. Guests sit at a circular counter, order from a set menu, and chefs on the inside of the counter assemble each roll in order and place it in front of each customer. Kazunori sits about twenty-five.
Chefs serve the rolls while the rice is warm and the fish is cold. I ordered a beer and a set meal: toro, salmon, scallops, blue crab, and lobster. I also ordered a yamaimo, mountain potato roll. It was surprisingly slimy — and more of a stunt order — and crunchy. My friend ordered a shrimp roll. (Smart girl).
But the seasoned warm rice went beautifully with the toasted seaweed. Sweet and salty bay scallops. Salmon sprinkled with snappy sesame seeds. Most of the flavors were so neat and clean, there was no need need for soy sauce.
I washed the handrolls down with beer and soaked up the no-frills atmosphere: paper plates, aluminum dishes for peppery gingery, wasabi, and soy sauce.
When I think of temaki-sushi, I think of a party at someone's house. It's not a fussy food. Like having tacos in America where you buy the shells and toppings and make your own. Kazunori has done a gourmet spin on that party meal your mom put together.
Since we're on sushi, feast your eyes on this Hiroshige woodblock print: "Bowl of Sushi" (c. 1845).
Still life pictures like this are relatively rare in Japanese prints, and in the mid-nineteenth century Hiroshige's Bowl of Sushi has a Western influence. We can make out various sushi: the swirl of the omelette roll, the seaweed roll tucked beneath... A shrimp nigiri sushi sits on top. What are the others? Snapper and mackerel? Only the experts know...
That's a mystery for another unseasonably warm day.