Monday, November 25, 2013

Foooooooooood! - Japan 11/2013

Whenever I come home from Japan, I really, really miss the food. And I'm not just talking about stereotypical Japanese things like sushi and sashimi and ramen... well, ok, maybe ramen. But other things too. I've written about Kobe beef, tonkatsutaco rice and other Japanese fast food before, but every time I go there I feel like we eat really well, and this time I ended up gaining 5 pounds in 11 days (yikes!).

I confess I'm not always the best food photographer and my phone is not always the best camera, but here's a little pictorial ode to some of the best meals we had on this trip:

Our hotel at Nasu Highland Park had a great shabu shabu restaurant. This is the style of cooking where you boil thinly sliced meat yourself, along with vegetables and other things, then eat them with rice and sauces. We had beef and pork in several different broths.

The one on the right is a pork broth. I think the one on the left was just a chicken broth. Both added a ton of flavor to the meat. No further seasoning needed. We had another pot going that had other stuff in it too.

Usually when you see shabu shabu on American TV, they show the hosts just dipping the meat in for a second before quickly taking it out. That's not quite right - you're going to get sick from eating raw meat. (Look at this Martha Stewart clip - see how she keeps taking the meat out and wants to eat it immediately, whereas the Japanese guy just leaves his piece sitting in the broth? Martha, you're doing it wrong!)

You're not even really supposed to use the same chopsticks - you pick up the raw meat with one set, then pick up the cooked meat with another. (My wife knew this already, but the waitress was careful to point it out just in case.)

These are udon noodles! Everywhere you go has their own noodle style. These noodles were about as thick as a finger! We used these to finish off the broth after eating up all the meat. It was actually really good - it was like gnocchi.

I'm going to write a separate post on Nasu Highland Park itself, but this was from a 50's style American diner inside the park. This burger wasn't very American but I learned long ago to get over that hangup - nothing "American" in Japan really is, it's always a crazy mashup. This had a demi-glace sauce on it - Japan loves its demi-glace, they put it on everything. Those tater tots were the best tater tots I've ever had - incredibly light and crispy. Japanese fried food comes with all the trans fat you can eat, so you know it tastes good!

In New York, this dish would be illegal. Yes, that's raw chicken. (I don't think they called this "chicken sashimi", because it doesn't quite qualify.) It was actually tasty! Ironically the part that I could not eat was the vegetables.

I would not have had the guts to order this myself - this was at a bar/restaurant that a couple of business associates of ours took us to, and this simply appeared in front of us. My wife laughed beforehand because they asked us "can you eat chicken?" Little did we know...

We got about seven different chicken courses there. I wish I knew the name of this place - it had great atmosphere and I was mesmerized watching the bartender's technique for getting the perfect head on a beer every time. But we were just dumped in a taxi and eventually arrived there. It was the kind of place without a sign, hidden in the back of a building on the second floor.

Believe it or not, this was at a highway rest stop in between Ibaraki and Nasu! I didn't have one of these but my wife and everyone in her family did. My in-laws just ate them like popsicles, although my wife ate hers more like an American, picking around all the bones and steering clear of the head and tail.

I mentioned Brise Verte in my post about the Prince Park Tower hotel - this was the sashimi salad that started our price fixe set. All the dishes they served us were really pretty - cell phone pics really don't do them justice. It looked like they had placed every individual element on every plate separately by hand.

Of course there was plenty of ramen. This was at the Ramen Museum in Yokohama - a post's coming about that place too. This was really good. This place also makes their own beer. (All the restaurants inside the museum are independent shops like you'd find on the street, which is kinda the point of the museum.)

This is ramen at Yo! Teko-ya in Odaiba, which is still the best ramen in the world, or at least in my world. I wanted another bowl, but you know just one of these is like 1,500 calories and an entire day's worth of cholesterol. Not that I was watching my weight (again, I packed on an extra 1/2 pound per day, which is 1,750 extra calories above what I normally eat, every single day), but you gotta draw the line somewhere.

I even love coffee in Japan, which is based more on French and Italian style coffee than American coffee. They have a separate thing on the menu called "American Coffee" that's supposed to be weaker. Since I can't get decent decaf anywhere in Japan without waiting for them to make it from scratch (which they are always happy to do, but I am usually not happy to wait), I almost always just order a cappuccino. This one was at Cafe Dotour, a chain like Starbucks - I love Dotour because a) they use real china, and b) they do cappuccino art!

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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