Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Tokyo Japan: An Epicurean Adventure

We are a family of avowed foodies, and often gain huge pleasure in a great meal. Even Dylan snubs her nose at a McDonald's chicken nugget in favor of some pork katsu or weinerschnitzel. No where else in the world is food such a delight as it is in Japan. Dinner here is not just a feast for the tummy, it's also a feast for the eyes. So far we've eaten ramen from a tiny shop that serves huge bowls of ramen simmering in a rich broth, topped with bits of daikon radish, that puncuated the other toppings primly set upon the dish. [Note from Andy: Loey's writing sounds a bit like the "Japanese English" signs that we sometimes see here.] We've sought out zaru soba shops that sell what is essentially cold buckwheat noodles. But in Japan, it's not just a plate of cold noodles, but still life with art. In Tokyo, the noodles are universally placed in a square lacquered box, atop a bamboo tray surrounded with tiny bowls that have green onions, sesame seeds and a cold "soba sauce" used to dip the noodles in. When you are done with the noodles, the waiter/waitress comes by with a kettle of hot broth, which was used to cook the noodles, and pours it in the bowl with the remaining soba sauce so that you may sip it as an after-meal soup.


We were lucky enough to be taken out to dinner by Andy's ESI co-workers and friends, Nishio-san, Nabeta-san, and Kamo-san, to a restaurant in the Gotanda neighborhood called Hokkaido. This was a restaurant that we would have never ventured into since there was no English on the menu displayed, no plastic food displays outside, and no indication to us that down the dark stairway would be a wonderful restaurant. They had reserved a private tatami room, and after taking off our shoes and putting them into a quaint locker with a wooden key, we were led to a room with a low table (there was a cut out in the floor for long legged gaijin--foreigners) and our hosts commenced ordering.

A Hokkaido specialty is crab, and we had crab tempura, crab shao mai (small dumplings cooked in a bamboo steamer on the table), crab sushi, and to balance the crab we had potato cakes, yakitori chicken, lamb salad and plenty of drinks to wash it down. Not only was the food wonderful, it was great to sit with local friends and ask them about things we had seen in their country, their thoughts on Portland (all very good-they have travelled there and lived there respectively) and travel advice for Japan!

Even lowly take-out in the train stations is something not to be snubbed. Bento boxes wrapped in paper that I would save for wrapping a gift, usually houses a small bit of rice, fish, pickles, and whatever specialty the store is known for. And the food is fresh. No 7-11 fare shriveled under the glow of a heat lamp here. Somehow, all this food is prepared ahead of time, but remains relatively fresh for consumption. [Note from Andy: actually, there seems to be a 7-11 or AM/PM or Lawson mini mart on every corner here, but they don't have the scary food that we see in the US.]

We can even get Dylan into a McDonalds here. (Ever since we showed her Super Size Me, she's really taken its "message" to heart and refuses to eat at McDonalds. Perhaps this displays a lack of parental judgment in more ways than one: we can no longer rely on McDonalds when we want to) She goes there because of a drink that we've seen sold only in Japan. It's called Qoo and we love it. It's like an aloe juice (better than it sounds, with tastes of grapes and pineapple), that has a mild non-carbonated taste and so the Golden Arches, even in Japan, can save the day.

The only disappointment that Dylan has had with Japanese food is that in the land of sushi she has not found a California roll. Perhaps when she grows up, she will move back here and introduce the locals to the joys of cucumber, fake crab and avacado, but only time will tell.


We should have prefaced this entry with a warning: be sure you have access to some great food after reading this! I used to read Little House on the Prairie books and everytime a meal at Almonzo Wilder's home was described, I found myself raiding the fridge. We will continue our epicurean adventures throughout the trip, and share them on the blog. Next stop: Bulgogi and mandu!

1 Comments:

Blogger Michelle said...

Ok, I have to say I love the Barton Fink reference. After all, it's a great movie :).

It seems like you guys are off to a great start to a great adventure. Keep the posts coming for those of us who, for now, are living vicariously through you guys.

Hugs to you all.

August 24, 2005 4:10 PM  

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