Posts tagged ‘Japan’
I’ll spare you the suspense, the last meal in Japan was great. Stumbling past On Yasai we descended the stairs and decided to eat there. We were shown to a booth (western style seating) on the side of the room, while larger groups were sitting Japanese crosslegged style on the floor. Picking each a spicy and a clear broth from the selection of four, these are brought to your table and filled into a type of hotpot. This is similar to Shabu Shabu, but the selection of items is more eclectic and and there is more than one broth in the divided dish on the table. The quality of the vegetable, fish and meat was very high. This meal was a great showcase to experience the difference between Japanese and Western meat. The Japanese beef especially is always marbled much stronger and has less bite to it than the Western counterpart. It is also less heartier and subtler in taste. Since the meat is then dunked in variants of soy sauce, garlic, sesame, radish and other condiments to suit your taste it becomes a rather complex bite and balances the flavours well. The more you wait and as the soup reduces and picks up flavors of the stuff you’ve braised in it, the better it gets. This is certainly a meal which anyone having doubts about Japanes cuisine can try and like without any weirdness attached to it. The only weird, yet funny thing was the group of business people dining on the floor next to us, one elder lady was so drunk she almost fell on our table, when she tried to walk out.
The Tsukijij Fishmarket is a must see in Tokyo and what do you get for breakfast afterwards ? A bagel and a Starbucks Lappucino, if you’re a real tourist. Less adventurous people will have some Sushi at 06:00 in the morning. It is difficult to get fresher fish than here. Theres a whole lot of fish I’ve never even hear about, which the chef is happy to roll and cut for you. The most interesting thing was trying different types of tuna with different fat contents. A sublime experience in weighing and tasting the different subtle flavors. Prices are cheap for this type of quality:
Okonomiyaki is a type of Omelette which (among others) is a staple of Hiroshima local cuisine. There’s actually a building dedicated to this dish, with every restaurant serving it. We sat down at a teppan (table / cooking plate) where an elegant, elder lady was cooking Okonomiyaki. A bit of dough is poured on the grill to make a thin “tortilla”. Cabbage is piled on top and depending on your taste, bacon, octopus and other toppings are added. Later eggs and sauce are thrown on top and the whole stack is cooked until it changes into a golden color and looses height. Some scallions and sauce give it taste and color. The whole stack is served on the grill and you eat it directly off the teppan using a spatula like device. This requires some power in your biceps and so it was no surprise to see that the old lady actually had quiet powerful arms and she gladly showed it off to any customer who’d ask. The Okonomiyaki is a great dish, the mix leads to a rich and complex meal, which makes it difficult to identify unique flavors. Even tough it looks like a snack it is a complete meal. Prices are cheap and it’s a great place to meet people. If they speak English…
Finding smaller restaurants in side alleys is a bit tricky in Japan. Even the iPhone and Google Maps doesn’t help. Finally we found Morita-Ya after walking through a butcher store. Morita Ya specialises in Sukiyaki. Meat, noodles and vegetables are cooked in a bowl, then you dunk it in a raw egg. The nice touch here is that an amouse bouche was served beforehand. I enjoyed the terrine with some crunchy beans and the interpretation of beef, even though it was sort of a crumbly, dry texture. For the Sukiyaki you get a choice of different type of meats. The Japanese are keen on finely marbled beef and you have a choice of different types. Since Japanese like different aromas and more subtler flavors, for Westerners it normally doesn’t pay to shell out for the top notch quality. I didn’t like the Tofu, it’s bland (on the verge of weird) in taste. The meat, especially when dunked in the raw egg gains a velvetness and as in a Tatare depth of flavor. Nicely accompanied by sake served on ice. Definetly a must try.
Some things I just need to try out even though I know they’re wrong. This also applies to food. In the middle of Matsushima there’s an American hot dog stand. Since it’s already been 30 minutes since breakfast and my scheduled mid-morning snack was still an hour away, I treated myself to the japanese interpretation of an american hot dog. It was horrible. The Japanese make worse bread than the Americans, I’ve no idea what that Ketchup and Mustard was made of and the sausage was just plain mystery meat. My best guess was half cardboard, half tofu. The only really nice touch was the fresh cucumbers added to the hot dog.
Japanese railway stations are a great place to grab some food. I’m assuming that eating on the go has a longer tradition. In every (small and big) railstation you can buy a bento box. Even though it looks like wood it’s just cardboard. Every piece of food is in its own separate compartment, chopsticks as well as miniature bottles of soy sauce and other condiments are given to you. It seems that the boxes are made fresh every day, since depending on the stations some will always be sold out at the stands. If you don’t speak Japanese getting a Bento is like giving yourself a present. You never quiet know what’s inside it. If you’re in a rush, every train has a food cart where you can buy Bento boxes, beer and other snacks. I always thought Switzerland had a decent railway system. Look at Japan and think again. Elvetino Railbar ? Overpriced, tasteless, and loveless sandwiches prepared by a machine. Elvetino Bistro / Restaurant ? Crappy food mangled by reheating it. The food in the smaller Japanese railway stations is often prepared freshly onsite, a long shot from food to go in other places. Of course it is Japanese and you might be in for some strange tastes, but if you find a Bento you like, you’re in heaven.