One of the many things I love about Nakahigashi Restaurant is how Mr. Nakahigashi can bring out the sublime natural flavors of ingredients even though he does very little to them. Atsushi expressed this idea in a simple clam soup with just three ingredients: Clams, water and umami-rich konbu. Actually, when he explained what he was about to cook, I suggested he add a little yuzu citrus peel to give the soup another layer of flavor. Atsushi politely demurred -- that's not the Nakahigashi way, he explained. Clams and konbu are all you need. No accents or garnishes necessary.
The technique: Several hours before cooking, place a half dozen clams (for two servings) in a bowl with lightly salted water and let them chill out peacefully (on a counter, not the fridge). As soon as they're calm, the clams will start spitting out dirt and sand. You may have to change the water a couple of times if it becomes muddy.
Pour about a cup of water into a pot and add the clams and a 3-inch piece of konbu. Bring the water to a boil. The clams will have opened up by now. Let the clams cook for another minute or two and taste the broth (always taste). You should sense the savoriness (umami) of the konbu and the beautiful brininess and flavor of the clams in the liquid. Serve in two bowls.
When you try this dish, I'd be grateful if you could let me know in the comments how it turns out. Did it work? Any questions or thoughts?