Miki Nakamura goes by the title chief ambassador. Apt, really, when you’re running a boutique sponsored by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Oishii Nippon, the store in question, is a unique concept. It carries no more than 10 seasonal Japanese fruits at a time. Customers can order fruit individually, or have a selection gift wrapped in beautiful, intricately designed squares of cotton called furoshiki – a Japanese custom that, according to Nakamura, shows respect.
The fruits are chemical-free, nearly all organic and as ripe as can be (Nakamura has a special tester that calculates the sugar level of each fruit. She tests the products three times daily to ensure they taste just right). Here Nakamura takes me through her current selection.
These juicy, fibrous fruits may look somewhat like an orange, oblong tomato, but that’s where the similarity ends. Persimmons are sweet and musty. And unlike the tomato, they’re best consumed when they’re a little bit hard. ‘If it’s soft or really orange, it’s already too ripe,’ advises Nakamura.
Rosario blanco grapes
You wouldn’t think a single grape could be so powerful, yet these seedless versions pack in a lot of flavour. With these, you want to eat them as soon as possible. ‘Really, the fresher the better,’ says Nakamura.
Each grape is shaped like a little pellet. This variety is so juicy it drools. ‘Eating them is very addictive,’ states Nakamura, and I can’t help but agree, after polishing off a bunch in under a minute.
Cost: Dhs85 for three bunches
These are nicknamed the ‘king of grapes’, partly because of their girth. Like concord grapes, the pulp squirts out of the skin, and many choose not to eat the skin – even though Nakamura maintains it holds all the vitamins. ‘You see this white frost?’ she asks, pointing to a batch that are nearly white with mist. ‘The whiter, the better. It means it’s fresh.’
Of the three types of pear that Oishii Nippon carries, the red nashi is the softest, and its flavour is sleeker and less sweet than the other varieties. Green nashi, by comparison, are a bit tarter, but still plenty sweet. ‘In Japan, we just eat these as a dessert by themselves. We like them so much, we don’t bother to pair them with anything,’ says Nakamura.
Big nashi pear
This large pear isn’t anything like what you’d find in the West. For starters, it’s round and quite dense. It’s meant to be hard on consumption. The juice, however, is so much sweeter than anything you’d likely find back home.
Nakamura has an interesting story about this Japanese melon. Farmers constantly cut smaller melons from the tree, she explains, so that the fruits at the top – the ones meant for consumption – can get all the nutrients. When they’re done, they’re big, fat and extra juicy. ‘This is why they’re so expensive,’ she explains. ‘There are big melons in the West, but they’re given hormones to get like that, and when you eat them, they’re tasteless. These are big naturally, and so much more flavourful.’
Oishii Nippon, Jumeirah Centre (04 349 4718). Open Sat-Thu 9am-9pm, Fri 5pm-9pm. Gift wrapped fruit packages start at Dhs240