I like talking with chefs behind the sushi bar when there’s a lull. Recently, on a visit to Teppo, the conversation was about pottery. The sushi chef had paused in his slivering of konbu-cured flounder to say something to the effect that I must like the cup I’d been cradling while smoke rose from the binchotan grill.
True. Particularly rough-hewn, with rugged asperities, it was one from among the assortment of vessels that makes a visit to Teppo engage all your senses.
These vessels began with the tea ceremony and are meant for contemplation. Take in the oatmeal-flecked surfaces, the depth of glazes. The cup I was cradling echoed the shape of my fingers with its series of ridges, its surface pleasantly rough. There is also the tiny shoyu pitcher, and the plates that are already set when you arrive, their shapes and glazes fluid. We have 13th century Zen monks to thank for this sensory evocation in muted tones and simple structures.
“I used to do pottery,” my interlocutor said. He took classes from a local potter and then at Brookhaven College. But pottery takes time—the making, the drying, the firing, the glazing, the firing and maybe re-glazing. And so he hasn’t made vessels in a while.
But if you find yourself at the far end of the sushi bar, know that the jug-like piece in tones of amber and grey is made by his teacher. The jug next to it, a composite of leaf-shaped pieces of clay, is a striking piece from Japan. The bulk of the restaurant-ware is more mass-produced (still from Japan). But it’s beautiful.