I promised myself (I swore black and blue) that for this month’s ejo, I wouldn’t be writing about our travels (or the food we shove in our faces during our travels). I am quite obviously, a good-for-nothing liar, because as you can see I am very much writing about the food that we ate during our recent trip to Japan. But c’mon, have you read the title of this month’s post??? How do you eat the best meal of your entire life and not write about it? How do you enjoy the most incredible food you’ve ever consumed in 41 years of, pretty well non-stop, eating and not shout it from the rooftop? When you experience a meal like David and I had on the 13th April 2013 you simply MUST write about it. It feels like a moral obligation to do so.
So, I did a quick calculation. By my conservative estimate I’ve had in excess of 45,000 meals in my lifetime. I’ve had breast milk, mashed bananas, sandwiches, fruit, two minute noodles, lasagne, stir fries, pizza, hamburgers, veal schnitzel, cheese platters, soufflés, Wagyu steaks and Moulard duck foie gras en terrine with Rose gelée, Pink Lady apple, Génoise, nasturtium, red walnuts and Périgourd truffle.
That last one there was one of the dishes we ate at The French Laundry a couple of years ago. That was our first three Michelin star experience. We’ve had a couple since and to be completely honest I haven’t been so impressed by the three star brouhaha. Three stars apparently translates as fussy food, even fussier service and bloody ridiculous prices. I decided a little while ago that I preferred food that was somewhere in the middle. Yes, I still love a good tasting menu. But no, I don’t need each dish to be constructed from two dozen processes and made of ingredients varying from baby seal eye gunk to spherified Siberian tundra. And to be blunt, I have never had a degustation experience where every single course was of the same high quality. Never. There’s always a weak link in the food chain, which of course, ultimately let’s the whole meal down.
So, when I made the booking at Sushi Yoshitake (based on a ludicrous amount of online research), the fact that it owned three Michelin stars not only WASN’T a deciding factor, it almost put me off.
I needn’t have worried. Sushi Yoshitake turned out to be the restaurant I have been dreaming of my whole life. It is simple, friendly, unfussy and turns out the most incredible food I’ve ever tasted. For many years, I’ve played the game, “If you were stranded on a desert island, what one food would you choose to eat for the rest of your life?” with friends, and my answer has always been Japanese food. My answer, now, is Masterchef Masahiro Yoshitake’s food.
Every single thing that passed my lips, was the best I had ever had. Every piece I ate, literally made me gasp: with pleasure, with joy, with shock! The best octopus, the best snapper, the best sea urchin. And the abalone! When I was younger, my family owned property down at Cape Schanck on the Mornington Peninsula. We would often go fishing and foraging on the beach for crabs, mussels and very occasionally (when we were lucky) abalone, so I am familiar with the taste of this mollusc. I’ve since had abalone a number of times at other Michelin worthy restaurants and always been disappointed. The abalone at Sushi Yoshitake was sheer perfection. I cannot imagine a preparation that could taste better than what was offered. I don’t know what Chef Yoshitake did to it, but I imagine it wasn’t very much. And that’s what sets this 3 star restaurant apart. He simply slices (with great skill) the very finest ingredients available. He doesn’t need a staff of sixty to prepare, boil, reduce, foam, freeze, aerate, spread or dice the food. He allows the food to speak for itself.
Before eating at this restaurant, if you’d asked me which meal had been the best meal of my life, I couldn’t have told you. The closest I could come would be to offer you a top five. Nothing before has ever stood out as the most remarkable, the most memorable, the most amazing meal of my life. Since the 13th April 2013, I have no qualms in saying that my meal at Sushi Yoshitake is the best I have ever had. It completely blew my mind. I am no longer in search of the holy grail of cuisine. I have found it. I have experienced it. I am fulfilled.