The art of soba: Muto in Nihonbashi (Tokyo)

Sitting in my room in Tokyo last year, suddenly a desire striked me: I love soba and what could be a better place to taste those lovely noodles than Japan itself ?! So I was looking for a restaurant that served classic soba menus.

So I started to google around a bit and found a wonderful article about Muto Soba in Nihonbashi. Finding the small restaurant in „real life“ was trickier than I thought though. After walking around the block 3 times and not finding it, I googled the Kanji for the restaurant’s name and looked for that…which was more successful.

Muto soba-ya: Outside

Muto soba-ya: Outside

Muto soba-ya: Kanji

Muto soba-ya: Kanji

Muto is a very small place. I was received by a middle aged lady (I think it was the chef’s wife) who told me – a little bit scared that a stranger found his way here – that there is only a 5-course fixed menu. After accepting that she guided me to my table in a small room. Soon she thawed and was very friendly and tried hard to talk to me in english which was really sweet. I started with a beer.

Turnip soup

Turnip soup

The first greeting was a turnip soup, very dense though elegant and full of taste. It was simple, yet beautiful. After some time Mr. Muto came to my table and we talked for a while. He is not only a wonderful cook but a very kind and polite person.

Dumpling of soba dough filled with fatty pig in a clear broth

Dumpling of soba dough filled with fatty pig in a clear broth

The next course was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten: A bit of Mr. Muto’s raw soba dough which literally melted on the tongue and built a mellow ground for the intense, meaty filling. This taste bomb was balanced by some horseraddish and greens, that added complexity to the dish. Just wonderful.

Cured baby fish

Cured baby fish

In the meantime I changed to Sake. It went perfect with the small cured fish – they have the texture of toffee. Kind of chewy and a bit sweet, perfect with the clean taste of sake.

Tempura (fish and wild vegetables)

Tempura (fish and wild vegetables)

Then some tempura was served. There was some fish (I think it were sardines) and wild vegetables, I’ve never seen in my life. The fish was perfectly fresh and tasted clean, the vegetables were wonderfully green and had bitter notes. The highlight in this course was the perfect execution: Only an idea of dough surrounded the pieces, fried to wonderful crunchyness. Not a bit fatty or heavy – you wouldn’t believe that fried food can be this elegant. Together with the dip this was shere perfection.

Soba

Soba

Then the main course came: SOBA. Mister Muto serves soba seiro style, meaning that the cold noodles are presented on a bamboo tray next to the rest of the ingredients. And what should I say – the noodles were the shere idea of soba. Nutty, crunchy, earthy – the beauty of simplicity. Together with the incredibly intense sauce they were a wonderful meal. Again different raddishes gave additional complexity.

In the meantime two gentlemen had started eating opposite of me. I tried to eat the (rather long) noodles „european style“ as I’ve learned from my childhood on…making no noise. At some point the lady came to me, looked somehow pityful at me and said „no no no“. Looking back at her she said: „You have to make noise. Japanese style“ and showed me with gestures how to eat. This was maybe the most beautiful service experience ever 🙂 So I started so sip loudly. But compared to what the two gentlemen next to me did some minutes afterwards I was still…silent.

Dip sauce with soba cooking water

Dip sauce with soba cooking water

After finishing the soba themselves I was served a vessel with cooking water of soba noodles. The dip sauce together with the water were blended into a thick umami-bomb-soup. This soup, containing all the wonderful components of the main course, was everything toghether: A childhood meal, a warm soup on a cold day, the soup your mother gave you when you were sick, the meal you will have when being old. It was all together. Simple, pure beauty. This is the soup I will never ever forget.

Desert (red bean mousse with roasted nuts)

Desert (red bean mousse with roasted nuts)

The desert was very good too, nutty and light.

Visiting Muto soba was a wonderful experience. It was not only an unforgettable meal but also a very good experience of Japanese hospitality. When I left Mr. Muto greeted me, gave me his card (excusing that it is only in Japanese) and even shaked my hand – an act that I appreciated very much (normally Japanese people seem not to be comfortable with it). So thank you, Mr. Muto!

Vortrag auf der ICLA 2016: Grimm 2.0

Ich bin mittlerweile ziemlich süchtig nach Graphic Novels und Fernsehserien. Schön, wenn man das Angenehme mit dem Nützlichen verbinden kann 🙂

Im Rahme der dritten Tagung des Netzwerkes zu Hoher/Niederer Literatur darf ich im Rahmen der ICLA in Wien einen Vortrag beisteuern. Das Thema ist im Rahmen der Group Section 17252 – Hybridisierung literarischer Sprachen und Ausdrucksformen als Innovationsmodus (Chair: Franz Hintereder-Emde) eingebunden. Da ich leider nicht persönlich anwesend sein kann, danke ich Martina Zerovnik für das Vortragen meines Beitrages!

Unter dem Titel „Grimm 2.0 – Die Brüder Grimm in der Postmoderne“ spreche ich über die Transformation klassischer Märchenfiguren und -geschichten in Bill Willinghams Fables sowie Kitsis/Horowitz Once Upon a time.

Neue Veröffentlichung: Aufsatz zu Zentralbegriffen deutscher Identitätsbildung

Im November 2013 durfte ich an einer spannenden, interdisziplinären Konferenz zum Thema „Textuelle Historizität“ teilnehmen. So sah das damals aus:

Konferenz Bremen

Konferenz Bremen

Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten

Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten

Gut Ding braucht Weile und so wurden vor Kurzem die Beiträge der Konferenz in Buchform herausgebracht. Darin ist auch mein Beitrag zu „Volk“ und „Volkspoesie“ als Zentralbegriffe deutscher Identitätsbildung im 18. Jahrhundert enthalten.

Textuelle Historizität

Textuelle Historizität

Das Vollzitat des Beitrages lautet:
„Volkspoesie“ und „Volk“ als Zentralbegriffe deutscher Identitätsbildung im 18. Jahrhundert – Heidrun Kämper/Ingo H. Warnke/Daniel Schmidt-Brücken (Hg.): Textuelle Historizität. Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf das historische Apriori. DeGruyter Verlag: Berlin/Boston, 2016. S. 162-175.

Besten Dank an die Herausgeber für die tolle Unterstützung bei der Erstellung des Beitrages!

Neue Veröffentlichung: Aufsatz zum Thema Selbstreferentialität in Graphic Novels

Im Anschluss an die wunderbare Tagung des Netzwerkes zu „Hoher/Niederer Literatur“ in Yamaguchi (Japan) ist nunmehr auch der Tagungsband erschienen:

Zwischen Kanon und Unterhaltung

Zwischen Kanon und Unterhaltung

In meinem darin enthaltenen Aufsatz untersuche ich das Phänomen, dass sich AutorInnen von Graphic Novels immer wieder selbst zeichnen und damit in ihre Werke einschreiben. Das Vollzitat des Aufsatzes lautet:

Wenn der Zeichner sich selbst zeichnet. Selbstreferentialität in Graphic Novels. – In: Annie Bourguignon/Konrad Harrer/Franz Hintereder-Emde (Hg.): Zwischen Kanon und Unterhaltung. Interkulturelle und intermediale Aspekte von hoher und niederer Literatur. Berlin: Frank & Timme, S. 71-88.

Lieben Dank an die engagierten und großartigen Herausgeber – vor allem an Franz und Konrad und ihre Hilfe bei der Finalisierung des Beitrages!

Vortrag im Rahmen der Veranstaltungsreihe „Geh Denken!“

Am 13. April um 19 Uhr konnte ich im Depot (1070) Wien auf Einladung des Vereins Gedenkdienst im Rahmen der Veranstaltungsreihe „Geh Denken“ einen Vortrag über die Verfolgung der Zeugen Jehovas (Ernsten Bibelforscher) in Österreich 1933-1945 halten.

Die Veranstaltung war gut besucht und im Anschluss ergab sich eine interessante Diskussion – vielen Dank für’s Organisieren an Agnes Meisinger und das Team des Vereins Gedenkdienst!

Abstract:
Der Vortrag behandelt die Geschichte der Zeugen Jehovas in Österreich, beginnend mit Versuchen der Institutionalisierung der Religionsgemeinschaft als Verein in den späten 1920er-Jahren, die zu ersten Konflikten mit den Behörden führten. Unter der Regierung Engelbert Dollfuß‘ verschlechterte sich die Situation für die Gemeinschaft, da das Regime in Durchsetzung des katholischen Religionsmonopols die Glaubenspraktiken und Publikationen der Zeugen verbot. Mit dem ,Anschluss‘ im Jahr 1938 wurde die Verfolgung intensiviert: Die NationalsozialistInnen verfolgten die ZeugInnen Jehovas und internierten sie in Gefängnissen und Konzentrationslagern mit dem Ziel, die Organisation vollständig zu zerstören und den Glauben der einzelnen Mitglieder zu brechen. Zwischen 1938 und 1945 wurden 154 österreichische ZeugInnen Jehovas von den NationalsozialistInnen und ihren HelferInnen ermordet. Durch Fallbeispiele werden einzelne Aspekte der Verfolgung nochmals auf lebensgeschichtlicher Ebene untersucht.

Hier der Folder zum sehr spannenden Bildungsprogramm des Vereins Gedenkdienst im SoSe 2016 (darin auch mein Vortrag)…

Please get in line for Sushi Dai…and wait 3 hours

Last year I had the chance to visit Tokyo for a conference. Having a really hard jet lag it was not much of a thing to get up at 3 in the morning to visit Tsukiji fish market and see the tuna auctions. After the auction I headed for a sushi breakfast at Sushi Dai, a sushi place very famous on the net.

Sushi Dai is listed as one of the places to go for Sushi – beside the Michelin-starred high end sushi-yas. Many visitors claim, that they’ve had something like „Michelin-quality“ (whatever that is) for a much cheaper price. When I read about queuing for 3 to 4 hours I thought it would be an urban myth. But as I went over rigth after the tuna auction had ended, I found this:

Sushi Dai - The queue

Sushi Dai – The queue

And it was like…6:30 in the morning! Since there was nothing to do I lined up and: waited. A long time nothing went on, a lot of folks from China. It took a while until I found somebody for a chat. The thing is: After waiting for 2 hours there’s no way back. Losing 2 hours seems worse than waiting another one 🙂 At least I could take a walk, since a buddy kept my place in the line. A lady from the sushi-ya even brought us some tea since it was quite cold.

Just a few more steps...

Just a few more steps…

The worst part was actually the end: About 3/4 of an hour you see the shop – you are right in front of it and wait. All in all I waited 3.5 hours to get in. The good thing: I had nothing else to do anyway 🙂

Sushi Dai - Inside

Sushi Dai – Inside

It is a tiny place with maybe 8 or 10 seats. I sat down and my sushi chef greeted me. After ordering the omakase (fixed menu, but very unusual for a Japanese menu you can choose one last bit by yourself). The selection was in contrast to Europe excellent – for high quality sushi-ya it was rather conventional though. The overall fish quality was good. But have a look:

Sea bass with salt and chu-toro

Sea bass with salt and chu-toro

Both excellent – I liked their rather lean chu-toro very much. The sea bass with a twist of salt was very fresh and tasty.

Tamagoyaki

Tamagoyaki

I am not a big fan of tamagoyaki anyway. This was quite sweet, but far too cold.

 

Red Snapper

Red Snapper

Nice fleshy texture, clean taste. Very good, also with the chewy twist of the skin that formed a good contrast.

Uni - sea urchin roe

Uni – sea urchin roe

The sea urchin was actually very good, but served too cold. The taste was excellent – like a mustardy sea-ice-cream.

Mackerel

Mackerel

Soft, intense, beautiful. I just love mackerel!

Clam

Clam

The clam was served „alive“ (though I think it was a trick stimulating the nerves). Very firm with a waxy core texture. Nice.

Maguro (tuna loin)

Maguro (tuna loin)

Guilty pleasure: Blue fin tuna loin. Amazing, like liquid wax.

Maki rolls

Maki rolls

The maki were rather conventional. Good but nothing special.

White fish

White fish

Slightly grilled/flamed white fish. Was good, but nothing more.

Stuffed calamari

Stuffed calamari

My greek grandmother would make it similar to this 🙂

Tuna trinity - Magura, chu-toro, o-toro

Tuna trinity – Magura, chu-toro, o-toro

The o-toro was not 100% my thing. It was not very beautifully marbled and had a bit of a sluggish aftertaste.

Shrimp, chu-toro - abalone

Shrimp, chu-toro – abalone

The shrimp had a soft, waxy texture with a clean taste. And the abalone…well, this one was extremely chewy. I think they didn’t cut it perfectly, since usually the cut makes it at least „biteable“.

Baby shrimp - scallop

Baby shrimp – scallop

The baby shrimp were great, very sweet and rich. The scallop was not special, rather neutral.

My personal sushi chef

My personal sushi chef.

My visit at Sushi Dai was surely nice. I had a LOT of sushi in decent quality and payed about 70 Euros with drinks for a satisfying breakfast. Not to mention that I could hardly move out of Tsukiji market afterwards 🙂

Sushi-Dai is not compearable to a Michelin-starred sushi-ya, don’t let the internet fool you about that. Regarding temperature, cut, variation, fish quality and finishing this place is good average. Rest assured – the Sushi is far better than in any standard European sushi-place. But from what I’ve learned in a REALLY good sushi place, it does not reflect the very idea of Japanese sushi. But that is another story…

Neuer Aufsatz: Die Verfolgung der Zeugen Jehovas in Österreich 1933-1945.

Ich freue mich, dass Ende 2015 in der renommierten österreichischen Zeitschrift „Zeitgeschichte“ mein Aufsatz mit dem Thema „Die Verfolgung der Zeugen Jehovas in Österreich 1933-1945“ erschienen ist.

Der Aufsatz wurde in ZEITGESCHICHTE publiziert.

Der Aufsatz wurde in ZEITGESCHICHTE publiziert.

Erstmals wird in dem Aufsatz die frühe Geschichte der Religionsgemeinschaft in den späten 1920er und frühen 1930er Jahren anhand von Archivquellen rekonstruiert. Dabei wurden neue Erkenntnisse über den Institutionalisierungsprozess sowie die frühe Verfolgung der Gemeinschaft gewonnen. Im zweiten Teil wird ein Überblick über die Verfolgung im Nationalsozialismus gegeben und diese kontrastiv mit der Verfolgung im Ständestaat betrachtet.

Vielen Dank an Agnes Meisinger und das Herausgeberteam um Prof. Oliver Rathkolb für die gute Zusammenarbeit im Rahmen der Publikation.

Die genaue Quellenangabe des Aufsatzes lautet:
Die Verfolgung der Zeugen Jehovas in Österreich 1933-1945. – In: Zeitgeschichte 42 (2015) 6, S. 347-367.

25 years in a drop: A visit to Acetaia di Giorgio in Modena

After our lunch at Osteria Francescana in Modena we visited an acetaia – a small local producer of the iconic Aceto Balsamico di Modena. And our visit to Acetaia di Giorgio turned out to be the highlight of our short stay in the city!

First of all, Marcello of Acetaia di Giorgio was very helpful in advance. Since we had our lunch first, we couldn’t make it to a tour he gave to another group so he offered us a private tour of the acetaia one hour later. In perfect english 🙂

As we arrived at the adress, we couldn’t believe that this pittoresque house was actually a production site for vinegar…until we got out of the car and caught the intriguing smell in the air.

Acetaia di Giorgio - Outside

Acetaia di Giorgio – Outside

Acetaia di Giorgio - Sign

Acetaia di Giorgio – Sign

The tour before us was not finished, so we waited 10 minutes in the wonderful garden of the house, in which the Barbieri family lives and produces their wonderful vinegar. Giorgio, Giovanna and Carlotta Barbieri are one of the few, artisanal producers of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena.

This vinegar is produced under very strict conditions, using only grapes from local producers. Moreover, the vinegar can only be sold as ABT di Modena, if its quality is approved be the consortium of producers. Original ABT di Modena then is bottled in special glass bottles designed by Giugiaro (wo also designed the Audi 80 and VW Golf I by the way …).

Marcello explained us the process of making vinegar and showed us the solera rows for the different vinegars they produce.

Acetaia di Giorgio - Barrels

Acetaia di Giorgio – Barrels

Acetaia di Giorgio - Barrels

Acetaia di Giorgio – Barrels

Acetaia di Giorgio - Tasting room

Acetaia di Giorgio – Tasting room

The highlight of the tour was a tasting of the different vinegars. It was amazing to see the big jump of complexity between 12 and 25 years of ageing. They also offer a variety of wood finishes like cherry and oak, that add deepness and complexity to this wonderful product. Every vinegar has its own character and taste profile. The highlight surely was „Carlotta“ – a 25 years old vinegar of a solera that was started with the birth of the family’s daughter and finished in different wooden casks.

Acetaia di Giorgio - Different types of Balsamic Vinegar

Acetaia di Giorgio – Different types of Balsamic Vinegar

Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena is a truly fascinating product. The price is reasonable if you consider that in a 100 ml bottle of 25 years old ABT di Modena the essence of approx. 200 Liters of grape must is concentrated!

I took with me a Capsula ORO D.O.P., their 25-years old all puprose vinegar. On special occasions I enjoy it, I savor the shere endless aftertaste and it takes me back to this beautiful spot in Modena, where I first tasted this beautiful product.

My favorite recipy to enjoy the vinegar is Bruschetta from Emilia 🙂

Happy conferencing: Tagung der GGGS in Athen

Anfang Dezember war ich am ersten Kongress der Griechischen Gesellschaft für germanistische Studien in Athen. Unter dem Titel Turns und kein Ende: Aktuelle Tendenzen in Germanistik und Komparatistik war ein buntes Sammelsurium an Vorträgen versammelt. Darunter auch mein eigener mit dem Thema Keimzellen: „Volk“, „Nationalgeist“ und „Nation“ um 1770.

Happy conferencing in Athen

Happy conferencing in Athen

Abgesehen davon, dass mich mit Athen eine manifeste Hassliebe verbindet, war es schon schön in meiner zweiten Heimat an der Uni einen Vortrag zu halten.

Das ?????????? ?????? in Athen.

Das ?????????? ?????? in Athen.

Tagungsort war das ?????????? ?????? in Athen, direkt in der Nähe der Universität. Ziemlich erschreckend für mich war, dass sich rund um die Uni und das Zentrum die Heroinszene der Stadt angesiedelt hat.

Ein Ausflug in den Spritzenwald....

Ein Ausflug in den Spritzenwald….

Man musste zum Tagungsort also mitunter in Schlangenlinien durch herumsitzende Süchtige gehen, die sich gerade einen Schuss setzen – gern auch mal mit freundlicher Unterstütztung des lokalen Dealers. Erschreckend und ein ernüchterndes Bild für den Zustand dieses schönen Landes… 🙁

In Bourdain’s footsteps: Antica Macelleria Cecchini

Before going to Tuscany we watched the corresponding episode of Anthony Bourdain’s „No Reservations“ (S3E16) which is quite fun. In this episode Bourdain visits a butcher shop/burger joint/meat place of Dario Cecchini – seemingly a quite famous butcher. Being in the area anyways, we paid a visit.

Antica Macelleria Cecchini (the full name of this notorious place) is located in the picturesque village of Panzano in Chianti. As every village in Tuscany it has an antique castle and many, many vineyards. Since the village is located on a hilltop, the view is amazing. Dario’s place is located right in the center:

Antica Macelleria Cecchini - Outside

Antica Macelleria Cecchini – Outside

After seeing „No Reservations“ I was prepared for hundreds of tourists. And in high season that may be so. Since we went in June, there were not that many people around. If you enter through the historic front you come right into the butcher shop…

Antica Macelleria Cecchini - Butcher shop

Antica Macelleria Cecchini – Butcher shop

…in which Dario stands. A very friendly and humongous man, not exactly as theatralic as on TV. The butcher shop itself is rather disappointing as a shop – they basically sell, what they also serve in the restaurant plus some salumi. Through the back of the shop you enter the restaurant:

Antica Macelleria Cecchini - Inside

Antica Macelleria Cecchini – Inside

The restaurant is quite nice, with big shared tables and rather modern interior. They grill burgers and steaks on open fire as you can see. The restaurant opens to a big outside area (for the hundreds of Chinese tourists…). Dario offers during day a rather economic option called Dario DOC where he serves bits and bites made of – correct – meat. In the evening he also has a more sophisticated and intimate dinner option called „Officina della Bistecca“. We went for Dario DOC and started with the smallest (and probably most expansive) beer I’ve ever seen 🙂 Water is for free though.

Antica Macelleria Cecchini - Small beer

Antica Macelleria Cecchini – Small beer

This is an „Accoglienza“ plate (20€):

Sushi del chianti - Tonno del chianti - Arista n porchetta - Cosimino in salsa ardente - Fagioli

Sushi del chianti – Tonno del chianti – Arista in porchetta – Cosimino in salsa ardente – Fagioli

The beef tartare (sushi, left down) was very nice – meaty and juicy and quite pure as I like it. The arista are junks of medium fatty pork, roasted with herbs which were good but a bit too dry. Tonno del chianti (right up) was a fatty piece of pork, cooked and seasoned very well and it actually tasted like tuna – really great. The cosimino (left up) was to sweet to my taste – it was like eating meat loaf with marmalade. In the middle a bowl of the rather tasteless and ubiquitous beans. Together with a plate there were some raw vegetables to dip into salt and olive oil.

Mac Dario

Mac Dario

Mac Dario (10€) was a honest plate: a 250g beef burger, perfectly prepared and very tasty. Together with fresh fried potatoes with sage a great dish for a fair price.

Dario is definitely a fun place to stop by – maybe not worth a detour, but if you’re in the area you can take a look. Overprized for sure but on the other hand also fun (especially if you like Bourdain and have him in mind sitting there). I would love to try the Officina della Bistecca next time I’m in Tuscany…