Better Together—On Friends and Food

 

It’s curious how food brings us together. Friends of all ages and backgrounds, some old and others new, bound by the power of a meal. It’s almost therapeutic, the way we gather around the same table to share the same drinks and dishes.

Here, we can forget lunches alone at an office desk, or an unfortunate indulgence of fast food that we mildly regret. We nourish both mind and body in the few hours spent together. The dinner table acts a catalyst for conversation, a place where we can sit down and catch up—although the wine certainly helps.

No matter where you go in the world, dinner is a time to share. In Tokyo, it can be a much-needed reprieve from a city so infused with energy and light. Three friends arrive just ahead of the quiche, which is garnished with reminders of the season. Tonight, a crisp evening in March, it is topped with sweet kale raab, a short-lived yellow flower and treat of early spring that heralds the end to winter.

The winter cold and new year’s holidays have kept many in hibernation, and this is the first time for us to gather together. A grilled shrimp and calamari salad arrives as we all tuck into our wine and quiche. Soon after, a simple pasta appears, bathed in a delicate cream sauce. Again, we find garlicky raab, which we learn has been locally sourced from Kojimachi Cafe’s own farm in Kiyosato, a highland region just south of the Yatsugatake Mountains in central Honshu.

Most ingredients here are locally sourced—coming from the Miura Peninsula, where head chef Aki Matsuura now calls home. Every morning she, together with husband and owner Sei Matsuura, brings fish, meats, and produce to the restaurant, fresh for cooking and consumption that day. “Kojimachi Cafe isn’t about serving anything fancy. We simply want to make the most of seasonal ingredients, preserving their flavors and presenting them as beautifully as possible,” she explains. And we understand exactly what she means. The pizza that follows is simple: a whole-wheat crust with tomato sauce, arugula, and prosciutto. Each ingredient is chosen carefully, with a certain respect. But that simplicity is welcomed, and it mirrors conversations we have about some of the most everyday yet most important things in life: families, jobs, and the recent winter holidays.

After a good deal of catching up, Aki brings out the main dish of the night—thinly sliced grilled pork tenderloin encircled by a piquant sauce. A perfect compliment to red wine, it is tender and pink on the inside. Together with a side of colorful bouquet of grilled winter vegetables, it warms us and contents our appetites for food and friendship. We enjoy one last drink and talk about upcoming plans. While we don’t know what the next year will bring, we all look forward—together.