Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Al fresco wagyu dinner in Sapporo


Tonight, we had a most enjoyable dinner al fresco in a garden of a historical house in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido.

This was basically our "water" for the evening...
The evening was clear, cloudless and cool; and we sat in the garden eating way more than we should have, and drinking lots of very good wine. I don't know how many magnums the sommelier opened and served, but I counted at least five empty bottles on a side table at one point.

He took care of everything liquid and alcoholic


HOST WITH THE MOST

Our host for the evening was Toshiro Higashibara, a big businessman in Sapporo as well as a connossieur of art, music and the fine things in life. The venue was his private guest house -- not his residence, but a historical home that he converted into a venue just for his private dinners and parties.



It's very historical as it was once the official residence of the chairman of the Hokkaido Prefectural Assembly; and tonight someone told me that the government of Hokkaido Prefecture had asked him to buy it so that it could be preserved well.

The welcoming committee, with the sommelier at the door


ENTERTAINING IN STYLE

So Mr. Higashibara bought it for quite a princely sum, and then he put lots of art and fine decor all over; and now, when he wants to entertain in style, he just calls his private chef and catering team, and his teaching sommelier, who takes care of all the wines for his dinners.

The assistant chef brings out the Hokkaido Salad
It was quite an impressive group at dinner that included the former vice mayor of Sapporo City, the concert master of the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra, the secretary general of the Sapporo Tourism Association, the chairman of Hokkaido's biggest TV station, and all the top executives of Mr. Higashibara's main holding company.

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Mr. Higashibara has at least about 10 companies, and he owns his own ski resort and vineyard as well. He's also part owner of one of Tokyo's major auction houses, which is where he gets lots of his art.

ART AROUND THE HOUSE

Pottery by Rosanjin Kitaoji


Before dinner, he showed us around the house, which was "littered" with fine art pieces including objects made by very famous Japanese artists. I saw a lovely piece of pottery made by Japan's version of the ultimate contemporary Renaissance man, Rosanjin Kitaoji; and lots of old Meisen and Daum glass objets d'art.





But perhaps most impressively, he has at least 10 civic projects going on at the same time, including supporting organizations like the Boys' Rubber Baseball Association, the Sapporo Sports Promotion Association for the Handicapped, and the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra.

INFORMAL AND DELICIOUS



Today he certainly entertained us in style.

We had an informal but very good dinner in the garden surrounded by his private chefs and sommelier; and the wine was so good that it wasn't long before we were all in a very good mood and we were toasting to all sorts of things, including to love, passion, and the right timing for everything in life. Don't ask me how we got onto those topics as I don't remember anymore.



The food, too, was excellent -- resulting in my eating way more than I wanted to. For main courses, we had charcoal-broiled Toki-Shake salmon, which is very famous in Hokkaido. Unlike regular salmon, it's a seasonal fish and it's only available right now and only here in Hokkaido.



They also served a special roast chicken that Mr. Higashibara's chefs are famous for, because they marinate the chickens in special sauces for three days before roasting. The chicken was incredibly tender, and his chefs had set up a special roasting station in the garden.

For starters, before I forget, there were huge plates of salad which were called Hokkaido Salad, and the salads contained all the good local ingredients readily available -- thus it's name. There were also plates of assorted cheeses and hams, again because Hokkaido is famous for these kinds of produce.

The chefs called this the Hokkaido Salad


The best of Hokkaido produce...


SAVE THE BEST FOR LAST




However the piece de resistance was very good wagyu steak, which was so tender the steaks fell apart when we put forks through them; and these were served with a light red wine sauce.


Yup, this was dessert...
We also had a very good dessert, which was served chop-chop style on a large tray in the middle of the table, reminding me of a cheesecake dessert I once had with my friend J at an Italian restaurant in Manila. It had that same look and feel.

A private concert by Mayumi Ohira
But the real treat after dinner was probably the music. Mayumi Ohira, a famous local musician transplanted from Sendai to Hokkaido and now concert master of the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra, gave us a very private recital composed of pieces by Elgar and also by an Italian composer, as well as one Philippine song which she learned from her very first roommate in a dorm at school in San Francisco decades ago.

I enjoyed this evening much more than I expected, and I returned to my hotel thinking how lucky I am to be in Hokkaido right now, although I'm leaving this lovely place tomorrow. But it's really just another evening in a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.






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