You have to be living under a rock, to not know about Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave, the major exhibition at the British Museum.
Katsushika Hokusai (1970-1849) is highly regarded as one of Japan’s greatest influential woodblock print artists. This exhibition invites you to explore the journey of the Hokusai’s masterpieces created in the last 30 years of his life. It features a selection of prints, paintings and illustrated books of landscapes scenes, the natural world, supernatural creatures and deep spiritual art. In support of the exhibition, the Great Court Restaurant located inside the British Museum has devised a Japanese inspired menu.
As you look at the menu, you realise that each dish highlighted in a familiar blue is reminiscent of key woodblock prints displayed in the exhibition. For example, the sharing option of wasabi peas reminded me of the vibrant green flora in Amida Waterfall print. I decided to skip this options and go straight for the starter of chilli & ginger king prawns.
For me, this dish was symbolic of Hokusai’s most memorable and iconic print, the Great Wave (also known as Under the Wave, off Kanagawa). The composition of the three boats whipped up by a storm on the sea with Mt. Fuji in the background, is replaced by three prawns laying on a mount of snaps peas and yellowish wasabi mayonnaise. The pinkish colour of the shrimp also resembles the head of the Ghost of Kohada Koheji appearing menacingly past a thin veil. In addition, the spiral shape of the shrimp depicts the clockwise motion of the waves on the ceiling panels of a festival cart from Kanmachi, on loan from Japan. This was a tasty little appetiser for what was to come.
The key element of the main dishes was fish. I ordered the sea bass fillet with bok choy, shiitake mushroom and seaweed miso and I was not disappointed. This scales of the sea bass fillet perfectly coincide with the colour woodblock print of two carp leaping up a waterfall, as it laid over two halves of a streamed bok choy soaked in miso. The flavours of the dish were unique, as each bite of sauteed mushroom and cooked seaweed remind me of the sea. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend this dish.
The other main of choice from the Hokusai inspired menu was the teriyaki swordfish with red chilli, mango & avocado salsa and sesame tenderstem broccoli. While I didn’t try this for myself, I appreciated the thought of Hokusai’s mesmerising paintings in red such as the red Shōki, the Demon Queller from the Metropolitan Museum of Art being represented through the red chilli in the dish. I would have liked to see other meat options on the menu such chicken. This would have been a subtle reminder for visitors to the exhibition of Hokusai’s exquisite skill in depicting fauna imagery such as the Gamecock and Hen scroll from the Hokusai Museum, Obuse. Nonetheless, I was satisfied with the selection on offer and withdrew the idea of dessert. Although, the matcha green tea mousse with poppy seeds and grapefruit still sounds good.
The second half of the Hokusai exhibition is well underway with four weeks left until the end of the exhibition on August 13th. While many of the prints in the exhibition have been changed, there is still much focus on the series, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. The tickets are now sold out but for the lucky few who have a ticket, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Hokusai’s works all together.
Until next time, book in advance to try out the Great Court Restaurant’s Hokusai inspired menu and let me know if you liked it as much as me.
Great Court Restaurant
Great Russell Street
London, WC1B 3DG
Wasabi peas (£3)
Chilli & ginger king prawns, snap peas, wasabi mayonnaise (£6.50)
Sea bass fillet, bok choy, shiitake mushroom, seaweed miso (£17.50)
Teriyaki swordfish, red chilli, mango & avocado salsa, sesame tenderstem broccoli (£16)
Matcha green tea mousse, poppy seeds, grapefruit (£5.50)