After three continuous posts about food in the States, I think maybe I should talk about something else… but not today. Today I am going to talk about food, again 😀 . But I’m not going to talk about food in the States anymore. Today I’m going to talk my food adventures in Japan.
Actually, it was not much of an adventure. I went to Japan (specifically Tokyo and Fukushima) early 2014 for a week. I was traveling for work, so I did not really have much time to discover very many interesting Japanese food. Nevertheless, I shall try my best to be as entertaining as possible.
Breakfast is called asagohan 朝ご飯 in Japanese, literally translated as morning’s meal. I spent 2 nights in Tokyo and 2 nights in Fukushima. The hotel that I stayed in when in Tokyo does not provide free asagohan, so for the two mornings that I was there, I had to look for my own breakfast.
The problem was, the hotel that I was staying in was surrounded by shopping malls, and none of the restaurants open for businesses before 10AM. The only places that I could find open were Starbucks. So I went to Starbucks on both mornings. Once at the one outside Shinjuku 新宿 train station, and once at Gotanda 五反田, near the office that I was visiting for work. Gotanda is one of the places in Tokyo where the electronics companies are located in abundance.
Actually, going to Starbucks is a very good experience for guys. You get cute bariste serving you, you get to observe cute OLs coming in for their daily dose of caffeine, and you get to watch even more kawaii OLs and student girls rushing along the streets outside. When I say cute I mean girls that wrap their upper bodies up completely with thick jackets, scarves, gloves and whatnot, but leave their sexy legs exposed by wearing ultra short mini skirts.
Ok sorry, this is supposed to be a post about the food. Let’s move on to beverages. I had the chance to get my hands on a few Japan specialty drinks. Pocari Sweat, I bought because of the anime Slam Dunk. It was alright, although I still prefer 100 Plus. Kirin Cola and Mitsuya Cider, I bought because they are manufactured by Asahi. I realized that over here, Asahi does not only produce beer, they also produce a wide range of non alcoholic beverages and snacks.
I spent the best part of my first evening wandering around and getting lost in Shinjuku, more on that in a later post, so much so that by the time I was ready for dinner, all the restaurants and ramen shops on the streets were fully packed with long queues out on the streets. Then I spotted a familiar yellow signboard. It was the signboard of Denny’s, which is actually an American 24 hours food chain, sort of. And there was no queue, so I went in.
It was great that even though it is Denny’s, but here the menu is Japanese fusion style. What’s not so great was that even though this is an American joint, the menu has no English translations, and the kawaii waitresses are Eigo wa hanasu dekinai.
In fact, I think, even in Tokyo, if you venture beyond the malls, it really is not very English speaking-friendly place. And if you go to other parts of Japan, the chances for you to find an English speaking person is almost non-existent.
I do know bits of Japanese words, mostly thanks to watching anime with subs rather than the dubbed versions. With my limited Japanese speaking capabilities, this was how I placed my orders with the waitress who served me:
Me: (pointed to the pictures) kore, kore, kore.
Waitress: Hai! @#$%^& desu ka?
Me: (stares at the waitress and gives her a confused look)
Waitress: (stares back at me and gives me an embarrassed look)
Waitress: Kore dake desu ka?
Waitress: Wakarimashita, @#$%^& arigato gozaimasu! Sukoshi matte kudasai!
That went well… and 10 minutes later, my food was served: A plate of wagyu strips on top of a pile of beansprouts and onions with chips, vege and some special Japanese sauce.
We then spent 2 days in Fukushima spending nothing on meals as our host paid for all our meals. I’ll talk about my meals in Fukushima in my next post. For now, let’s focus on Tokyo.
So once we made it back to Tokyo, we decided to splurge a little. We went to some sort of a western style seafood restaurant located on the 13th floor of Takashimaya Time Square in Shinjuku. I think the restaurant’s name is Tokyo Ocean Grill, or something like that.
Again, we were useless with the menu. And again, the waiter here speaku no Engurishu desu, so we used the tried and tested method of pointing at the most expensive item that they had in their menu. Moments later, this came.
I reckon the dish is actually called Mixed Seafood Platter, except it is in Japanese. I might be wrong, but it should be close. There’s a lobster, a couple of oysters, a bit of squid, a bit of shrimps, and I remember there’s a piece of fish, chicken and beef each. What I do remember is that the price was ¥ 5 700 (approx RM 190 or US$ 57). It was bloody expensive, but it was bloody delicious, so it was bloody worth it. Actually, I was traveling for work, so the company was paying, making it doubly worth it! 😀
The following evening was our last evening in Japan. We decided to have a proper Japanese meal before we leave, so we went back to the top floor of Takashimaya, this time to a sushi place called 築地玉寿司 Tsukiji Tamazushi. Tsukiji is actually that seaside place where they do all those exciting tuna bidding. I suppose this restaurant is probably headquartered at Tsukiji, or that it gets its fish supply from Tsukiji or something.
I got myself a mixed sushi platter for ¥ 2 000 (RM 60/US$ 20)..
It was an interesting experience. You know in Malaysia, when we go for a sushi meal, the wasabi is always on the side and we get to choose how much/how little we want. Here, we do not get a wasabi side. I was perplexed. I thought wasabi is a Japanese thing so to NOT get served with wasabi in Japan is kind of strange.
The mystery was resolved when I had a bite of my first sushi and got the shock of my life (coupled with lots of tears)! The sushi was loaded with wasabi!
Wary, I began to closely scrutinize each and every piece of my sushi and discovered that each piece had differing blobs of wasabi in it, some bigger than the other. At that time I thought that maybe having sushi in Japan is actually a game between the chef and the customers, or that maybe the chef was playing a prank on us seeing that we looked like tourists. But I later learned that in a proper sushi restaurant in Japan, the sushi chef will decide how much wasabi goes into each piece of sushi. Apparently sushi with different topping warrants different quantity of wasabi, that knowledge is beyond a clueless customer so the chef decides on behalf.
It was also in this sushi place that I had my very first 茶碗蒸し chawanmushi that has gravy on top of the egg. In Malaysia, the chawanmushi that I have always had are just steamed egg in a cup. This came complimentary with each sushi platter ordered.
I thought that would be my last meal in Japan. Apparently not. When we were at Haneda Airport waiting for our flight back to Penang, we had time to squeeze in a very special last minute supper. Two hours before I left, I was finally able to try ordering ramen from a vending machine. Yay!
This 豚骨拉面 Tonkotsu Ramen (¥ 1 000/RM 30/US$ 10) would be my last meal in Japan. The broth is rich and flavorful, perfect ending to my Japan trip..
(Tomorrow: my meals in Fukushima)
- kawaii – cute
- Eigo wa hanasu dekinai – Cannot speak English
- Kore – This, Kore dake desu ka? – Only this (these)? [by the way, you pronounce Kore as Ko-Ray and Dake as Daa-Kay, if you apply American vowels to Japanese spellings, you would embarrass yourself]
- Hai – Yes
- Wakarimashita – I understand
- Arigato gozaimasu – Thank you very much
- Sukoshi matte kudasai – Please wait for a little
I am probably 90% accurate here…