Everyone’s jelly about this job.

It’s time once again to put our writers’ mouths where their money is with another edition of Gourmet Writers’ Rating Check. This is where each of our writers who are skilled in reviewing food must blindly taste two different items and determine which one is the high-class culinary creation.

Since we’re in the grips of a sweltering summer, when appetites are at their lowest, this episode will feature the light snack of mikan (“Japanese  mandarin”) jelly. It’s a cool, sweet treat that always goes down smooth.

However, most people would assume that all jelly is more or less the same. It’s essentially just some gelatin embedded with pieces of fruit. The subtle changes in taste and texture will surely be a challenge for our team to detect, but they’re willing to put their reputations on the line to try.

Our first item is Mikan Jelly from Ginza Sembikiya, a ritzy fruit boutique where single watermelons and mangoes can be bought for upwards of US$100. This single pack of jelly costs 810 yen ($5.60) and is made with satsuma mandarins, which are considered one of the sweetest citrus fruits in the world, suspended in the most expertly crafted gelatin.

In the other corner is a cup of Dossari Mikan made at the Tarami factory in Konagai, Nagasaki. It’s made with an uncertain cultivar of mandarin imported from China and sells for 138 yen ($0.96) a cup or nearly one-sixth the price of Ginza Sembikiya’s Mikan Jelly.

It’s a fairly large price gap, but how different can two jellies really be? Let’s find out by hearing what our writers have to say! Each jelly was assigned a letter “A” and “B” but we won’t know which is which until the big reveal at the end.

P.K. Sanjun: “B”

P.K.: “I don’t think anyone can figure this one out. Honestly, both A and B feel like jellies I’ve always eaten. They both taste like regular mikan jelly… Well, I guess B is a little sweeter.
This time it’s just a hunch, but if there was one hint it’d be that the fruit in A was a little firmer than usual, maybe? I really have no idea this time.”

Go Hatori: “B”

Go: “Yes, yes, yes, I think I know. A is like the mandarins I always eat. They have a wild feeling like a troubled youth growing up on the mean streets, and I like that.
But B is a well-bred mandarin with a proper upbringing to be a sweet little man, isn’t he? The jelly in A also felt cheaper. A seems like the popular jelly but B has a very pompous air. I’m actually surprised how confident I am about this.”

Ahiruneko: “A”

Ahiruneko: “Huh, this is difficult. Ummm, most brands of jelly are good. A and B certainly have different tastes…different but B felt more like canned oranges, right?
Even when it comes from Sembikiya, jelly is a very ordinary food so nothing about it jumps out. When I ate A I didn’t feel anything amazing about it, but after eating B, I thought that A had a better quality.”

Masanuki Sunakoma: “B”

Masanuki: “I used to eat a lot of canned food when I was a student, but I still don’t have a clue. Well, I guess B felt cooler and more delicious and the Sembikiya package seemed easier to chill.
They taste almost the same, but gun to head, I would say B was a little more elegant in how it melted in my mouth. The mikan seemed exactly the same, though. I just don’t want to be in the bottom of the rankings anymore so I hope I get it.”

Yuuichiro Wasai: “B”

Yuuichiro: “I can’t find any point to tell the difference by. Even after eating both, I really can’t tell them apart… Thinking about it more isn’t going to help either, so I’ll just choose B. I think the mandarins were a little firmer.
I mean, it’s Ginza Sembikiya, so there should be a difference in the mandarins, right? I really can’t tell anything from the jelly part so let’s go with B based on the texture of the fruit.”

Mr. Sato: “B”

Mr. Sato: “I cannot lose this one. It’s my one chance to get ahead of Yoshio in the ranking! Ugh, but it’s hard… It’s hard but I think it’s B?
B had a more delicate jelly and the mandarin didn’t feel coarse. Then again, when I ate A, I began to wonder if it was the expensive one. It’s a big question mark, but… I’ll go with B this time.”

Yoshio: “A”

Yoshio: “My kids love jelly, but I don’t eat it. Still, A is really good. I didn’t know jelly could be this good! Like, isn’t this stuff easy to make? Anyway, A was subtly sweet, right? I was a little impressed by it.
On the other hand, B had a kind of random sweetness to it. The sweetness of B just felt strong, like it was simply soaked in syrup.”

And when all the juice had settled, both Ahiruneko and Yoshio voted for A, while the other five writers sided with B. Yoshio and Go were by far the most confident votes, but ended up on opposite sides of the fence. Meanwhile, Yoshio and Mr. Sato were both locked in a nail-bitingly close battle to stay out of last place.

The writers gathered in the office to hear that the most expensive jelly was…

▼ B!!! B is the jelly from Ginza Sembikiya!!!

And with that, Mr. Sato has pulled himself out of last place one more time. Meanwhile, P.K. has further extended his dominance on the competition, but Go’s remarkably astute assessment of the jellies shows that he might be a force in the future after getting some more wins under his belt.

Here are the updated rankings with some final remarks.

P.K.: 29 wins / 7 losses (80.5-percent correct rate): “This one was a total hunch!”

Go: 21 wins / 11 losses (65.6-percent correct rate): “B felt like it grew up in the rich part of town.”

Ahiruneko: 20 wins / 11 losses (64.5-percent correct rate): “When it comes to jelly, there’s no need to feel blown away, even if it’s from Sembikiya.”

Yuuichiro: 18 wins / 10 losses (64.2-percent correct rate): “The texture of the fruit made it B for me.”

Masanuki: 21 wins / 14 losses (60-percent correct rate): “B melted in my mouth a little more elegantly.”

Mr. Sato: 16 wins / 14 losses (53.3-percent correct rate): “B’s jelly was more delicate.”

Yoshio: 15 wins / 15 losses (50-percent correct rate): “I was impressed by A. I didn’t know jelly could be that good…”

It looks like Yoshio made the cardinal error of choosing based on his personal preference. In Gourmet Writers’ Rating Check, however, one must know that taste is subjective and look beyond that to identify true quality. We’ll see if he learned his lesson and can climb back up in the rankings next time!

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