My stay at Kasuien Minami, a ryokan (Japanese traditional inn) in Tamatsukuri Onsen in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, was a relaxing one, with a cozy room and a variety of refreshing onsen to choose from.
But, what I enjoyed the most — and made me want to revisit soon — was the food served at the ryokan. Every dish was delicious, and I’d have a tremendously difficult time if I were asked to mention just one dish that most appealed to my heart and tastebuds.
One of the best ryokan dinners I’ve ever had
The dinner was a course menu, exactly what you expect at a traditional ryokan like Kasuien Minami.
Here’s all the food we had that night (because we were there on a press tour, we specially asked all the dishes to be laid out at once so that we could take photos):
Very colorful and carefully crafted… and of course, very appetizing!
We started off with some appetizers. First was “goma dofu,” or sesame tofu. As opposed to what the name suggests, it doesn’t contain any soy beans. It’s usually made from “nerigoma,” or ground sesame paste, kudzu flour and water.
This was followed by a set of cold appetizers.
It was now time to warm up my stomach, after several cold dishes. The pot contained a soup with sea bream, famous Uppurui nori seaweed, various vegetables and shrimp mochi rice cake — the pink round stuff you see on the left in the picture below. Not only was it delicious, it sure was a feast for my eyes!
Next up were some sashimi. I especially enjoyed scallops eaten together with salmon roe. I’ve never tried this combination up until this point; in fact, it never occurred to me that these two ingredients go well together. They really are a perfect match — that was a nice little discovery I made that night.
One side dish I enjoyed was “mozuku” seaweed. It was dressed with vinegar and soy sauce, making it a refreshing food perfect after a long, sweaty day (I was there toward the end of June during “tsuyu,” or Japan’s rainy season).
And, of course, I shouldn’t forget to mention “chawanmushi,” or steamed egg custard served in a cup. Kasuien’s version had “uni,” or sea urchin, cream and was therefore very rich. Many press tour participants said this chawanmushi was one of the best dish served that night.
Now, onto our main dish for the night: Shimane wagyu. With a sheet of paper placed underneath to absorb excess fat, the beef wasn’t at all fatty. It was just the right level of meatiness. Eaten together with sauce made up grated daikon radish, it just tasted wonderful — I can’t find a better way to describe how I felt.
Then came “somen yose,” or somen noodles jelly (most likely using “kanten,” or agar, to form it into a square), along with some “nimono,” or simmered dish. I personally think it’s difficult to put just the right amount of flavoring when preparing nimono, but this one was perfect. I could enjoy the natural taste of individual ingredients.
The rice dish served that night was “tai chazuke,” or rice soup with sea bream, flavored with miso. This was an arranged version of “tai meshi,” which is a specialty of the Minami ryokan group. While “tai meshi” is a rice soup topped with minced sea bream and eggs (egg whites and yolks separated), along with wasabi, grated daikon radish, green onions and nori seaweed, tai chazuke was kept simple with only sea bream and some veggies — a great way to wrap up the gorgeous dinner.
The dessert was summery, with fruit jelly and assorted fruits.