LIFE & CULTURE

Rice is a star!

Hachidaime Gihei (Gihei, The Eighth Generation)

"Hachidaime Gihei" is a reputable restaurant featured on TV. I visited the restaurant on crisp autumn day. It was delicious and unique experience. I felt a passion toward rice from the explanation by a shop owner and the restaurant staff.

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Mr. Takashi Hashimoto was the owner of a time-honored rice shop in Kyoto that dates back to 1787. Rice is truly central to Japanese culinary culture, but due to the Westernization of the Japanese diet, rice consumption is decreasing year on year.

People, particularly the younger generation, are losing interest in eating rice. Mr. Hashimoto was unconvinced and sensed the danger of the situation. He realized that he wanted to promote a Japanese food culture based on rice and its wonderful taste. Therefore, he and his brother started rice restaurants in Kyoto and Tokyo with a passion for serving truly delicious and sweet rice to as many people as possible.

Committed to quality rice

First, good quality rice is sweet, sticky, and glossy. When you eat it, it contains the perfect amount of moisture and a melt-in-your-mouth texture that is sticky but slides smoothly on being swallowed.

Second, rice milling is a very important aspect. Gihei preserves polished rice at a temperature 10°C lower than normal (room temperature = 17°C and humidity = 65%) to maintain its freshness. This aspect avoids cracking the rice and preserves the water retaining film on its surface.

Third, the taste of rice is different every year. Gihei does not select the best quality rice based on its production place or brand name. He carefully blends rice selected from 200 varieties across Japan to guarantee quality all around the year.

Pleasing the “palate” of the eyes

We taste dishes with our tongues, but we enjoy them with our eyes. Food that can be “eaten with the eyes” has always been a hallmark of fine Japanese cuisine. Therefore, Gihei tries to serve fun-filled cuisine, something seasonal, or freshly cooked rice served from a “bamboo rice cooker” on the table. The goal is to entertain customers with visual spectacle and taste.

(Source: Hachidaime Gihei website)

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Let’s start the courses! “Yasaka”! (JPY8,000 including tax)

Rice wine: First, a small glass of rice wine is served, which tastes more like wine than sake; it is refreshing, with a naturally sweet and fruity taste of rice.

Rice porridge: In all, eight kinds of multigrain rice are served in a very cute bowl on a carriage. Notably, the rice culture started with multigrain rice.

Vegetables with rice sauce and bread: Kyoto vegetables (matsutake mushroom, tomato, pumpkin, eggplant, and radish) are served with a rice sauce. The rice bread is soft and tastes a little of rice.

Sushi: A sushi is made with a suitable variety of rice. It is placed on a wooden plate decorated with maple leaves to give an autumn feel.

Three delicacies arranged in a basket: The three delicacies arranged in a basket are covered with magnolia leaves and include Takenoko-mushroom soup, sticky rice cake, and rice topped with salmon roe and grilled salmon flakes.

Freshly cooked glossy rice: Rich-textured rice is procured in the final minute of the 30-minute cooking process. It is served to appreciate the change in the taste of rice, i.e., raw to boiled rice. The core of the rice is firm, but its overall texture is sticky. We can pick up our favorite rice cup while waiting for the rice to cook.

The main rice dish: At Gihei, a bamboo rice cooker (JPY 30,000) is specially used to cook the highest quality “Kouka” rice, yielding a puffy and soft result through induction cooking. The owner came to our table to describe the rice in detail before serving it to us. When we tasted the rice, it was sweet and soft but not very soft; it was gentle on the inside but tough on the outside.

Accompaniments: Sliced fish, simmered fish, small dried sardines with sansho pepper, rice and miso soup, and nori seaweed.

Okoge: Burned rice from the bottom of the bamboo rice cooker with hot dashi soup poured over, accompanied by tea.

Desserts: Rice sweets and matcha tea.

It was a very unique and enjoyable experience relishing rice-based cuisine.

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Hachidaime Gihei

4-15 Ginza 5 chome, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Open: 11:00–15:00 and 18:00–22:00

Closed on Wednesdays

How to reach: 1 min walk from the Tokyo Metro Ginza Station B7 Exit and 5 min walk from the JR Yurakucho Station

Telephone: 03-6280-6383

Posted on November 1, 2020