Would you like to try some salty tea? the waitress asked with a Cheshire cat grin. Thinking she was some kind of magician, I had to do a double-take.
I had associated my breakfast tea with the sweet or creamy variety, so salty was the last thing I had in mind. But what I was drinking was distinctly savory, like salted nori seaweed used for sushi wraps. Indeed, after my first sip, I couldn't stop, so I can see how this type of tea might become addictive.
Yes, it can be hard to imagine your favorite cup of tea without a dash of sugar or milk to tone down the bitterness, but according to the Scientific Symposium on Tea and Human Health, having tea as is, can help your body absorb the benefits of tea flavanols, assisting you to manage your weight by increasing the amount of fat you are burning, as well as helping to regulate blood pressure. The touch of salt reduces the bitterness of tea and acts as an appetizer. So dive in and ask for a cup of savory tea, the umeboshi variety featuring the salted preserved plum, a staple of the Japanese diet.
So why the discourse about salty tea? Well, it is the special ingredient behind Ochazuke.
Ochazuke - Green Tea, Salmon, and Kombu soup stock
The thought of culinary delight induced by savory tea and nori brings me back to another Japanese specialty, ochazuke, the ultimate comfort food made by pouring hot tea on top of a bowl of rice, seasoned with nori and salmon flakes. It is said that in Kyoto, a host would offer ochazuke as a sign that the evening is winding up, while in Osaka, ochazuke is a sign of thrift, a way to eat well without breaking the bank. In Hokkaido, Ochazuke makes the most of Hokkaido's amazing seafood, in particular, its salmon fillets. That is if you can grab some before the bears get it.
Ochazuke is a signature dish at Mikaku. They age the salmon for three days and grill it, skin on, to maximize its flavor. Once it is topped with a special soup stock on a bed of rice and the scent of green tea, it is transformed into the ultimate comfort food for breakfast. While this dish is universally served throughout Japan, there are some similarities with a local Hokkaido dish called sanpeijiru, a salty soup made with cooked pieces of salmon, and flavored with Kombu. While not exactly like Ochazuke, the unami from Kombu, as well as the cooked salmon in the soup, do overlap. It also has some affinity with Ainu cooking, focusing on cooked fish instead of raw fish, and of course, Kombu, which has its origins in Ainu cuisine.
Tamagoyaki - Fluffy Rolled Omelet
Seasoned with dashi, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar, this sweet and savory Japanese staple is another signature dish.
Never have I seen so much passion in cooking egg omelets, but this is no ordinary breakfast, the Japanese equivalent takes years of training, balancing the taste of egg and dashi, and having a soft texture despite the heat of the hot plate. Also known as Dashimaki Tamago (出し巻き卵), the dashi soup stock is key to the soft juicy taste of the omelet.
Despite this being the only breakfast buffet in the Tower at Hoshino Resorts, the chefs take their Tamagoyaki and Ochazuke very seriously. So much so you can watch them cook it in front of you, allowing you to have made to order dishes in a buffet restaurant. Having eaten it all their life, the Japanese are experts in both dishes, so there is nowhere to hide. There is university research on choices that travelers make for breakfast. While a sense of adventure kicks in with trying new dishes for lunch and dinner, our tender stomachs revert to comfort foods for breakfast. For Japanese people, this means Tamagoyaki and Ochazuke. On the other hand, if you want something heavier for breakfast, like grilled lamb, cooked in Genghis Khan style, check out our virtual tour at Tenza Hotel.
Mikaku serves a full array of other dishes as well, making it suitable for families. For me, the lemon slices with dill are so sweet I can eat them whole without squinting. Vegans have a great choice here with fresh fruit and a delicious pumpkin salad. While there are 70 seats here, it can be crowded at 8 am, and there may be a short wait if you are in a large group.