Tofu Triple Threat
All too often in the West, soya bean curd as an ingredient is at best tolerated, and at worst misunderstood or avoided, whereas in the East tofu is nothing less than a staple for omnivores and vegetarians alike with a dizzying number of varieties and recipes. Perhaps nowhere is this better demonstrated than at Tokyo’s celebrated Tofuya Ukai restaurant where the ingredient has been elevated to take pride of place in a series of dishes that ably confirms its versatility and subtlety.
Set around a peaceful garden courtyard, this 200-year old former sake brewery transplanted from Yamagata prefecture has dispensed with a single communal dining area, and instead offers a series of 55 private tatami rooms complete with low tables and foot wells beneath with charming views of the central garden. Utilising their own tofu freshly made each day, the kaiseki lunch and dinner menus (which are ordered in advance) are seasonally adjusted every two months, but look out for signature dishes like crisp, smoky age-dengaku (deep-fried tofu, grilled with umami-rich miso sauce), and tosui-tofu (meltingly soft blocks of tofu in thick white soy milk and dashi soup). Other courses can feature anything from sashimi to fried fish along with pickles, miso and of course rice, but all exquisitely presented and lovingly served. An adventure, an experience, and a delicious repast – a tofu triple threat!