A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of photographing and dining at the exclusive, private member only dining club of ‘Mibu’, run by Hiroshi Ishida and his wife Tomiko, here in Ginza, Tokyo.
Now over the years I’ve photographed in many restaurants, and a few years ago felt it was too many and I came to hate ‘restaurant jobs’, I even turned some down, but this one wasn’t so bad. It’s not every day you get to shoot for a magazine- “only on the condition that he (me, the photographer) dines” the owners said- in a restaurant claimed as one of the best by Ferran Adria and Heston Blumenthal, themselves men who know their way round a kitchen.
I’d be warned by the writer, and the picture desk, that the decor was plain, and it sounded bad, but a writer’s plain is not always a photographer’s plain, and I found it an enjoyable place to shoot. And to eat. And yes, it’s possible to shoot and eat at the same time, sometimes like this occasion it’d be rude not to. A classic eat and shoot, and leave.
As it was the month of May (the month in which seasons change, and colds/flu are rife) the menu consisted of vegetables and herbs which were good for fighting infection, for detoxifying the body. All course were served with a purpose, on plates specifically chosen. The decor of the room all had meaning fitting to that month’s menu. And only eight diners present. At the end we were all given bags of food, the left over raw ingredients from the kitchens to take home, they like to waste nothing , nor keep it over for the next day.
You can only dine in Mibu if you’re one of the 250 or so members, or if you’re invited by one of the members. It’s a small place, up some decrepit stairs, in a decrepit, non distinct building. All in all an interesting place- even when Mrs Ishida comes and pokes around in your dish with her fingers, to better arrange it for you, to let you fully appreciate the beauty of what you are about to eat. And here’s what I ate, all 8 courses of it, as kindly noted and emailed to me by Emi, my assistant:
Sake served at the beginning of the meal.
1) decorated with mugwort wreath, steamed rice with broad beans, which is slightly vinegared, served in the jade plate. Jade plate is told to deliver good chi.
2) dashi soup with soft daikon radish, arrowroot, udo edible plant, Japanese pepper (kinome) and azalea.
3) sashimi: bonito, flounder, tough shell fish called Aoyagi with radish garnish on ice.
4) Tempura with slightly salt: a sillaginoid fish (kisu), buds of Japanese angelica tree (tara no me).
5) Nimono (simmered foods): a flowering fern, stem of sweet potato, fried tofu in dashi soup.
6) Yakimono (Grilled foods): a greenling with a bud of Japanese prickly ash (or Japanese pepper). We slapped those leaves with hands three times to release the aroma, so that we can smell it better. Then sprinkled them on grilled greenling fish, then eat together. Roasted tea was served with it.
7) dessert: natural strawberry. The inside seperated from the outside then mixed separately like a terrine, together with meringue. Served in 150 years old baccarat glasses.
8) drink: hot water with flag iris leaves with arrowroot mochi- which is kind of edible medicine. Flag Iris is renowned for its effect for dementia and stomachache.
Not quite a pot noodle I’m sure you’ll agree.