02. A Tofu Feast at ToToTo ととと (Sapporo)--Ken
One night in Sapporo, Kathryn and I had the pleasure of a great tofu dinner with friends Takeuchi-san and Shimizu-san. It was their first time in Sapporo too, so in a pinch, they turned to some friendly women at a Bakery stall in the Sapporo Station mall for dinner suggestions. (What can we do with these two vegetarians?)
We walked a few blocks and found "ToToTo" (say 'Toe Toe Toe') ととと, a restaurant specializing in Tofu and ('to' in Japanese) Chicken ('tori' in Japanese). They make their own tofu (but probably don't raise their own chickens). It's an elegant place inside, with semi-private booths, and a nice staff.
The meal was a diverse and delicious tribute to the soy bean. We started with edamame, and moved on to a series of different, and complex dishes that we really liked. Takeuchi-san explained that many of these dishes are served as side dishes, with beer, and so they were very familiar. Only one was salad-like. The others were different forms of tofu: boiled, fried, or the skin, yuba. Some dishes required complex instructions. One in particular that I really liked was tofu with different toppings. A bowl of soft tofu came with a small square plate divided into four sections. Each section contained one topping we were supposed to try on the tofu, in series; yet the first section was empty representing the unseasoned first taste. If memory serves, there was ginger, green onion, and one more, maybe salt. The tofu was eaten from a smaller bowl with soy sauce.
Near the end of the meal, we couldn't resist, and tried some special flavored sake. Kathryn had the plum, and I tried an apricot sake. It's easy to forget that it can be potent stuff.
The meals I've been fortunate enough to share with Japanese friends have always turned out the best--amazing things seem to come out of the kitchen that I would never know to order. Beyond that, we really enjoyed spending time with Takeuchi-san and Shimizu-san. Takeuchi-san grew up half in Japan and half in the USA and has unique insight into both. And Shimizu-san is from Kyoto! With his mother's kind help, they stopped by our hotel in the middle of the night, and left us a detailed list of recommendations for what to do, see, and eat (vegetarian-wise) in Kyoto! Domo arigato gozaimasu! Thank you both for a great day, and all the great recommendations!