UNLIKE THE JAPANESE food it describes, this book does not allow you to 'eat with your eyes'. Despite the uninspired photography and design, however, At The Japanese Table (Oxford University Press $85) by Richard Hosking is a helpful primer for those already interested in Japanese victuals. Included is information on everything from the familiar sushi and sashimi to the not-so-common konyaku (jelly made from the devil's tongue plant) and konowata (fermented intestines of sea slugs). Readers will also discover the history behind some comestibles - that the earliest sushi, for instance, was a means of preserving fish (they were stuffed with rice and packed in salt). Perhaps most interesting is the section on the feel of foods: while the Japanese favour 'slippery' and 'chewy', the author points out, these textures have the least appeal to Western palates. Fittingly, dinner at the exclusive Kitcho near Kyoto ends the book. If beyond the reach of most people, the experience serves as a reminder of how exquisite Japanese cuisine can be.