Hamakatsu, Nagasaki

For dinner we wanted to try shippoku, which is a banquet particular to Nagasaki and takes cues from Japanese, Chinese and Western cuisine. One of the famous shippoku restaurants in Nagasaki is Hamakatsu. All the waitresses were dressed traditionally and there was a choice of Japanese or Western seating. We thought of sitting on the tatami mats, but because of A2’s knee we settled on Western furniture. I didn’t see anyone in the Japanese section.

All of us ordered the third cheapest option, which was called Bura-bura shippoku (¥3750). The cheapest one (¥1575) was a child’s serve. More expensive options were for groups of 5 or more and included extra items such as a whole, stone-fried tilefish. For another ¥1575 we sampled some whale: tongue, flippers and belly. The whale was nothing of note: it was quite chewy and didn’t really taste like much. Maybe it was because we didn’t eat the actual meat. The whale was eaten with ponzu, spring onion and some sort of orange-coloured thing. Among the a la carte items were whole fried fish and also a whole bream served as sashimi. Boiled pork could also be ordered as take away. Our dinner started off with a clear soup with glutinous dumplings, fishcake and some vegetables.

The main meal consisted of many small dishes: sweet beans, pickled vegetables (tsukemono), three pieces of sashimi, whale flipper (with a yellow sauce, possibly mustard based), a scallop, a piece of tofu, a brown, jelly-like substance, smoked fish, a prawn, taro, a cube of egg (mashed whites and mashed yolks pressed together in a rectangular prism shape), a slice of duck, prawn toast (prawn mix in half a slice of bread, then deep-fried), a slice of broiled pork and bowl of Japanese rice. There was a small bowl of mustard that was to be eaten with the pork, but I didn’t think they went that well together. I found the pickles too salty and the scallop was quite firm. I’m not sure it the scallop was intentionally cooked that way. My favourite component of the whole meal was the smoked fish.

Dessert was a square of plum jelly and red bean soup with two small glutinous dumplings and salted plum blossom and also a cup of light, green tea. I could taste agar agar in the jelly and it was slightly grainy, as if it were pulpy bits of the plum. The red bean soup was much smoother than the Chinese version.

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