A simple apéritif of shochu, garnished with tiny morsels of pear cut in leaf and star shapes, tastes the way you imagine dew might. Monkfish liver is presented in a vase of pebbles, abalone on a cushion of salt; you get to sear small rectangles of beef on a terrifyingly hot shiny stone. Dried mullet roe (which you grill over an open flame) looks like carrot, has the consistency of bean curd, and tastes like anchovy, only more so. Coupled with a rectangular tablet of daikon radish, it looks uncannily like a mah-jongg tile. Aigamo duck comes with a cake of mochi—a kind of rice polenta with a texture between dough and string cheese but stickier than either. (In Japan, people occasionally suffocate while eating it.) The kaiseki meal culminates in a dish that might seem plain: steamed rice. But the silvery Koshihikari rice from Uonuma is highly prized, and here it is served with condiments including twice-grilled salmon as light and brittle as a cracker and as salty and desiccated as jerky.
I just love how the writer throws into a parenthetical aside the fact that a rice dish served here has actually, you know, killed people. But, mangia!