Currently Browsing: Things to regret

Not being comfortable

Tea practice, a Zen art, has always been a challenge. From the first time I learned how to fold a silk square of fabric into an elegant wiping cloth there has always been something new to wake me up – challenge me in unexpected ways.

The art of the gathering is the appreciation and deep respect for the objects whether they be new or old or ancient or with provenance.

My new tea bowl by Kouichi Osada

Today was a first for me. I was totally unsettled by a guest who is a ‘professional’ potter. With my new precious tea bowl in her hands she put the first and second digits of her fingers into a slingshot and slung her nail hard into the side of the bowl. WHACK.

“Oh, don’t do that!” I said. What was she thinking? Was she testing the validity of the glaze or the way in which it was fired? I don’t know. The bowl could have been shattered.

I’m trusting that my tea bowl will be ok.

But imagine if the bowl had survived hundreds of years and you had the honor to hold it in your hands marveling at the beauty of it and the many generations that had taken care of this fragile pottery and then someone comes along and WHACKS it. Just so they could.

I still can’t get over this. Maybe in time…



We had high hopes

Once in awhile my friend Seiko and I treat ourselves to a Kaiseki meal at a new restaurant. Kaiseki is a seven course meal served during a tea ceremony made up of  small tidbits of seasonal food. Last year we went to Kajitsu which specializes in Shoin cuisine, Zen temple cuisine. We loved everything about it: the food, the atmosphere, the presentation were all sublime.

This past weekend we went to Brushstroke. They describe the restaurant as Kaiseki, a French/Japanese fusion  “concept”. We should have been clued in by the word “concept”.

We sat at the cooks bar and looked into the busy kitchen.  The restaurant was filled mostly with Japanese who are fascinated to try out their cuisine with a French twist. The weather had turned very hot, the air conditioning had broken and the place was stifling. We were encouraged though when the waiter brought us complimentary cold sake and a small bowl of lemon ice with a promise of more wonderful treats to come.

I ordered the eight course vegetarian menu and Seiko had the tasting menu which turned out to be six courses. As the hours ticked by Seiko sat with an empty tray while I was served course after course. It felt rude to be eating while she sat waiting. It wouldn’t have been so obvious and painful if the courses had been served quickly one after the other. After all, they were just tidbit size.

We were there for a sweltering three hours. Something had gone wrong in the kitchen. The cooks looked busy enough, but we waited 20 or so minutes at least in between courses.

Red pepper sushi

Watermelon soup with fennel ice

Some of the food was good, like the watermelon soup with a quenelle of fennel ice. But the dashi broth, which is considered the essence of Kaiseki and used for the soups and broths, was gloopy, viscous and tasteless. Most unpleasant.

On the whole, we couldn’t wait to leave and get out into the fresh air. Thumbs down for Brushstroke.