Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Nara, Japan: Breakfast at the Nara Hotel

Our yearly MPSoC Forum is back to Japan. We are lucky enough to hold the meeting at the Nara Hotel, a century-old historic hotel. The hotel is located at the edge of Nara Park, ancient capital of Japan and home to a 1200-year old Buddha. The hotel itself has welcomed Japanese emperors, royalty from Europe, and movie stars. The entire building is beautiful and refined. Breakfast is held in a particularly grand room with a view of a wonderful garden.

My friend Steve Lin joined me for breakfast. He ordered the Japanese breakfast. I was in the mood for a hearty breakfast---I had arrived from Atlanta the night before and woke up early to take a run through the sauna that is Japanese summer. On the one hand, an American breakfast sounded appealing. On the other hand, the American breakfasts served in Asian hotels can be disappointing. But I was very pleased with the Nara Hotel's version.

My breakfast was a complex affair with many small courses. They arrived over several minutes and were too plentiful to fit into a single photo. This shot shows my oatmeal, a small salad, plus several condiments: ketchup and Swiss fruit preserves.

The next courses provided the heart of the meal. That's a parsley omelet; it was cooked with a delicate skin and soft, creamy insides. The sausages reminded me of British sausages. The pancakes were excellent, thick and soft, and served with syrup.

The beautiful setting, gracious service, and excellent food gave Steve and I a wonderful chance to catch up. Quite a way to wake up on the other side of the world.

On day two, I sat down to this view and ordered the Japanese porridge breakfast. I have had Asian items for breakfast on many trips. But this is the first time that someone has set out the entire tableau for me, giving me insight into the experience of Japanese breakfast. Americans love a big dose of sweetness in their breakfast. Not so for my porridge breakfast, a festival of umami, salt, and savoriness. A bowl of red berries, which I assumed were sweet things to add to my porridge, turned out to be very salty. It was interesting and satisfying but definitely a cross-cultural experience.

My breakfast on day 3. What a view...

On day 4, Jiang and Wei joined me for another wonderful breakfast. I went back to the American breakfast and sampled their bacon. It was perfectly crisp. Crispy bacon is a rare commodity in Asia. Most bacon comes out so limp and pink that you can hear it squeal. The chef's mastery of bacon is another sign of the quality of the breakfast.

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