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Mangia Pesce, Ayatsuki, Pound House, and a Hiroshima wedding

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The primary reason for this trip to Japan was to attend a wedding of a close relative. I did my part in helping out with the little details, but all in all, I was simply able to enjoy the event and the company of the many people who came out to celebrate with the bride and groom.

Pound House (パウンド・ハウス)
One of my tasks was to transport and organize the party favors for all the guests, which included mini bottles of champagne and a small container of cookies from Pound House. Pound House is a local small patisserie/cafe chain, which makes some very decent pastries. I had a chance to visit them and get a few small items and I found them to be quite good. If this were NYC, it might be considered best in the city, but this is Japan, where pastries are treated like any other craft, worthy of spending years upon years perfecting, and molding with one’s own style and personality. The mont blanc (モンブラン) cake was about the equal to the best ones I’ve had in Tokyo (though these are difficult to judge, without doing side-by-side comparisons). And the choux cream was quite nice and delicate. The Madeleine and financier cakes were also very solid specimens. I’m very happy to have found Pound House, especially since it’s a short walk from where I usually stay near Yokogawa station, and it makes for a nice place to sit and have tea/coffee and a pastry.
Pound House website: http://www15.ocn.ne.jp/~pound/

Mangia Pesce (マンジャペッシェ
)The wedding recpetion was at an upscale Italian seafood restaurant called Mangia Pesce. It’s located in a new development called Grand Tower just a little north of the main shopping section of Hiroshima (like Ebisu-dori, and the department stores). Grand Tower is a skyscraper with offices and apartments with a number of shops and restaurants on the first few floors. Mangia Pesce is part of a small empire of restaurants, mostly offshoots (trattorias and enotecas) from the flagship restaurant called Aqua Pazza in Tokyo. Judging from the magazine write-ups and the cookbook put out by the main chef, it seems to be a very well reviewed line of restaurants. I particularly noticed an article in a food magazine about shin-Italian ryori (新イタリア料理), or new Italian cooking, which I take to mean contemporary Italian, the Aqua Pazza/Mangia Pesce restaurants seemed to be at the forefront. For a wedding party of about 40 guests, Mangia Pesce was an ideal spot with a nice private room.
For the wedding dinner, there was nothing to order. Everything was pre-arranged, with only a couple of modifications for those with dietary restrictions/preferences.
Appetizer course: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/126/31...
Everything here really popped with good flavor. Even though they were just bite-sized morsels, there was enough variety and clean flavors that they provided complementary flavors. I’m having a hard time remembering what they all were, since I ate rather quickly, obligated to the task of being the unofficial photographer. Let’s see, there’s a crudo, a fresh mozzarella with prosciutto, a mushroom/liver terrine, a pumpkin soup, a seared tuna thingie, I remember really liking that encrusted pate... I don’t think my description is really helping, so I’ll just let the photo do the talking.
Pasta course: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/134/31...
I think one of the concessions to having an Italian restaurant reception was to have as many fish courses as possible, especially for the older folks, and this pasta course seems like one of those dishes, and something relatively simple to make en masse. It was a simple, straightforward fish pasta, flavored gently with olive oil and sautéed vegetables (roasted tomatoes, scallions).
Fish course: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/132/31...
This was another simple and elegant dish. A snapper of some kind, lightly seared, and placed on top of a round of roasted eggplant accompanied with a light tomato sauce and olive oil, and topped with caviar, and garnished with brussell sprout leaves.
Meat course: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/136/31...
I believe this meat course was seared (nice crust) and maybe lightly roasted in a low temperature oven. I’m not sure how they achieved that nice red color in the meat, since it wasn’t really raw in the middle. Again, the seasoning was light and simple. Another solid course.
Dessert: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/135/31...
In Japan, late November to January are the season for strawberries, since they were mostly grown in hothouses. Despite being grown in hothouses, Japanese strawberries are tremendously sweet. And the strawberries on this cheesecake was no exception. Now, I really enjoy cheesecakes in the US, but nothing surpasses some of the ones I’ve had in Japan, and this is a good representation of a high-quality cheesecake. The sweet wine reduction sauce was a nice touch.
Cake: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/129/31...
While Mangia Pesce is probably not a place I would seek out when I’m in Japan, it certainly is one of the better Italian meals I’ve had in a while (I’m trying to remember the last Italian course dinner I had... perhaps it was at Hearth in NYC).
Mangia Pesce Hiroshima website: http://www.alambic.jp/mangia/index.html
Parent company website: http://www.acquapazza.co.jp/

Ayatsuki (彩月
)In Japan, an event isn’t really an event unless there’s a nijikai, the afterparty (or literally, the second round), and after the wedding, friends of the groom set up a party at an izakaya called Ayatsuki, right in the heart of Hiroshima. Normally these nijikais aren’t about going to a hotspot or somewhere trendy, but finding a place where a big group can get lots of drinks at a good value. Just like a good Chinese banquet, during a celebration, it’s about excess as well. So, at Ayatsuki, we had two hours of an open bar, along with several plates of food for our party of about 16, all for 2500 yen per person. I figured it would be some small appetizers and have a few drinks. But the food kept coming out, in large servings, and when we thought that was it, out came another plate of food. It’s pretty impressive for a measly 2500 yen.

What came out were some standards and also some interesting neo-Japanese items, like kaki-furai (fried oysters), a salad with some ham, a beef tataki with ponzu sauce on top of greens, a square pizza (laced with mayonnaise), a plate of snapper sashimi, but the most noteworthy dish was the baked potato. This might be the most brilliantly cooked potato I’ve encountered in decades, and yet so simple that I wondered why I never thought to cook it this way. Basically, it’s a potato baked in a salt crust (made with salt and egg whites). When baked, the salt hardens and becomes a hermetically sealed vessel for whatever is cooked inside, and since it’s potato, it could use all the salt. Once you break the salt crust with a wooden stick and knife, you get a nicely seasoned hot potato. Some photos: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/132/31...
http://farm1.static.flickr.com/125/31...
Make a good incision and melt some butter in there, and you have one of the most perfect foods imaginable. Since this probably isn’t a very cost effective way of making potatoes at home, I’m comforted to know that I can find this at Ayatsuki next time I’m in Hiroshima. It seems like a great place for a nijikai, for some drinks and bites for a value.
Ayatsuki website: http://www.hotpepper.jp/A_20100/strJ0...

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