【Idle Talk】An Unexpected Visitor (Part 1)
It had been a long time since he had dreamt of his former restaurant.
The ryotei Yukitsuna.
For Nobuyuki, it was the workplace where he had worked ever since he had graduated high school.
It had a somewhat well-known reputation as a well-established ryotei, but the situation had been bad.
The previous generation’s manager passed away, and his eldest son could not cope with the changing circumstances.
The number of new customers did not increase, and the regulars left one after another.
When a cog in the machine was out of place, everything else gradually went wrong as well.
That was the store that Nobuyuki had worked at.
The octopus that Reinhold had handed over was patted with daikon.
Doing it this way made it much more tender than rubbing it with salt.
He had learned this from his master in the kitchens of Yukitsuna.
Today, he planned to serve a gentle stew.
The cold was harsh in the Old Capital. A snack that paired well with hot sake would be appreciated.
Although it was normal for Shinobu to arrive at this time, today, there had been no sign of her yet.
He might have teased her a little too much about the pudding last night.
That matter was finally settled with Nobuyuki agreeing to buy a slightly better pudding from the cake shop in the shopping district.
He was embarrassed for having quarrelled the whole night, which was silly in itself.
This had not changed from when Shinobu was still the ryotei manager’s daughter.
After he had finished adequately patting the octopus, he pulled up the dashi to confirm its taste.
Recently, he had changed the taste of the dashi, little by little everyday, while watching the customers’ reaction.
He wanted to make Izakaya Nobu blend in with the Old Capital.
Even though the store was bustling with regulars now, sooner or later, they might grow tired of it and stop.
Nobuyuki constantly worried about this.
He didn’t want to make the same mistake as ryotei Yukitsuna.
Therefore, he wished for a bridge that could support itself.
The things he had learned from Yukitsuna, and the preferences of the residents of the Old Capital.
Nobuyuki continued looking for a bridge that connected those two together.
While he was taking notes on the state of the dashi in his college notebook, he heard a sound coming from the backdoor.
It was probably Shinobu being fashionably late.
He thought about cracking a joke, but yesterday was yesterday and today was today.
He checked again to make sure that Shinobu’s pudding was in the refrigerator.
However, the sound at the backdoor strangely continued.
Surely there was no way that Shinobu had forgotten her keys. Shinobu had been trained to become the ryotei’s manager, and was unparalleled when it came to managing the store.
Then, could it be that it wasn’t Shinobu at the backdoor?
Nobuyuki recalled the guest who had visited the store last night.
Even though her disciple said that her being a witch was just rumor, her words were strangely on his mind.
‘Only necessary people can pass through.’
Now that he thought about it, there had never been any solicitations from sake dealers, and no postal or newspaper deliveries. Somehow, they had never stepped foot into the store before.
If someone tried to forcibly enter, they would stumble forward a step or two, or fall down with terrible timing.
Anyways, he needed to go check the identity of the person at the backdoor.
For the time being, he clapped his hands together in front of the Shinto altar and decided to collect yesterday’s amulet before heading to the back.
Even though he had no recollection of receiving it, he somehow concluded that it had been offered before the shinto altar this morning. It was a mystery.
He stuffed the amulet into his pocket and opened the door slightly.
「Hey, it’s been a long time.」
Nobuyuki went speechless for a while.
How was this possible?
Standing in front of him, was Tonoharu, the head chef of Yukitsuna, and the master whom Nobuyuki idolized.
After Nobuyuki invited him in, Tonoharu smiled and looked around inside the store.
「It’s quite a nice store, isn’t it,」he murmured.
Tonoharu, who was wearing a jumper and sporting a crew cut, didn’t seem to have changed much, one and a half years after Nobuyuki had rushed out of that restaurant.
It might have just been his imagination, but Tonoharu looked slightly shorter than before.
「Head chef, what happened to the restaurant?」
「Hey, hey, calling me Tonoharu is fine. You are a proud, independent person now. The restaurant has been left to Oyamada today.」
「Will Oyamada-san be alright…?」
When Nobuyuki was still working for the restaurant, the head chef was in there almost every day. He still remembered that even when the head chef was on holiday, he would peep into the restaurant and take care of various tasks.
Oyamada, who was in a position right below the head chef, had the skills too, but he had the habit of skimping on the fine details as much as possible. Had something changed, with him leaving the restaurant to Oyamada and coming out?
「No, well, that’s because we have an issue of unreserved seats today.」
「That’s right. It’s a point of pride that we have never had a day without reservations, since the times of our predecessors.」
The situation at Yukitsuna seemed to be much worse than Nobuyuki had thought.
They had even come up with a revival plan to rebuild the failing restaurant; they had discussed receiving the son of a bank’s vice-president as Shinobu’s husband.
It was reasonable that this would happen after Shinobu had left.
「Well, let’s stop with the serious talk. Even if you’ve not started business, can I have a glass of beer?」
「Yes, right away.」
Nobuyuki took a bottle of beer from the refrigerator and uncapped it.
Other customers were usually served beer from a barrel, but Tonoharu only drank from bottles.
The beer made a ‘Glug, glug’ sound as it was poured into a glass, which put a smile on Tonoharu’s stern face.
「I never thought that I would be able to drink beer poured by Yazawa again. It was worth it to come all the way here.」
「How did you find this place?」
「Both the young president and the senior proprietress know about this place, you know. They hired a private detective agency and found it. Well, it seems that they could never bring themselves to take a quick look, even if it’s nearby.」
Nobuyuki smiled vaguely and didn’t respond as he served a small bowl of otoshi.
It was octopus and wakame sunomono.
It was meant to be served tonight, but it was certainly ready to be sampled.
(TL note: octopus and edible seaweed pickled in rice vinegar)
~Octopus and wakame sunomono~
「Hoh, this is delicious. Is it fine to give me octopus for free?」
「Yeah, I found a new supplier.」
「I see. It’s a big deal to be able to serve octopus in a pub during an inflation period.」
「Thank you for the compliment.」
Even though he had left of the store selfishly, he was delighted by the praise.
Tonohara splendidly drained the glass of beer and, with foam still hanging on his moustache, finished up the rest of the sunomono.
「Now then, what would you like to order today, Tonohara-san?」
「Then, how about you decide? Today, let’s have Yazawa Nobuyuki provide the dish he most wants to feed me.」