Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Ikea (Minami Funabashi)WHILE I HAVE BEEN YEARNING TO RETURN TO EUROPE FOR YEARS NOW, CONDITIONS IN MY LIFE HAVE KEPT ME CONFINED FAIRLY FIRMLY TO ASIA. Hopefully I won't be locked into this pattern forever, but for the meantime I have been forced to make the most of it, and enjoy having my miles clipped. In the process I have discovered that even if you can't make it to Europe, there are certain places in Asia which have a pseudo-European scene, which can make you feel like you are almost there. If you like Drum&Bass music you don't have to go all the way to London to hear it, since many of its best DJ's have migrated to Khao San Road in Bangkok, Thailand. On the more sedate side, Japan is full of tiny European theme parks, like that resort in Nagasaki which pretends to be a Dutch town, which can simulate the feeling of being in a foreign land. The Ikea showroom in Minami Funabashi, not so far from my house, is the latest European portal to open in Tokyo. Well, it is not quite Tokyo, but it is close enough (in the adjoining Chiba Prefecture). It is also not quite a portal, more a celebration in consumerism. But it is close to my house, and there are actually real Swedes working here (and shopping, too.) At times like this when I can't afford to go to Sweden, I can always go to Ikea at Minami Funabashi, and have a little taste of Swedish minimalism. Of course the setting, amidst the concrete wastelands of Chiba Prefecture, is about as un-Swedish as you could imagine. (For the complete Ikea review, click here.)
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Gaboh (Asakusa)FINALLY, THIS WAS IT. After months of false starts, broken promises, and misguided hopes, now I had the chance to eat in a quality Japanese restaurant, and blog about it. With plenty of nice photographs. After eight years of living in Japan, my parents had decided to deign me a visit, a Royal visit no less. So it was up to me to entertain them for the duration of their stay. I turned to my Asakua contact Mrs Sasaki for help. She aspires to be a guide for tourists in Asakusa, so this was a golden opportunity for her. Deciding things to do and places to go in Asakusa was a no brainer; determining where to eat proved a little more tedious. Like many of her people, Mrs Sasaki is of the opinion that foreigners cannot eat real Japanese food. By real Japanese food I mean raw fish, tsukuemono pickled vegetables, and seaweed. All of these are present in abundance at Gabou, a restaurant on Kokusai Dori ("International Street"), right next to the drum museum near Tawaramachi Station. Which is why I was surprised that in the end this was the place that Mrs Sasaki made a booking at. I was expecting her to book my folks into some yaki niku joint instead, something more gaijin friendly. Something with steaks and spaghetti on the menu. The Gaboh homepage doesn't even have an English language section, let alone an English menu. The restaurant's name roughly translates as "Our Room" -- that is a very rough translation, but gives you an indication where they are coming from! This is old school Japanese ryouri! (For the complete Gaboh review, click here.)
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Heijouen (Asakusa)I HAVE ACTUALLY DINED AT THIS PLACE A COUPLE OF TIMES OVER THE YEARS. Once with Jeremy and my mate Kenichi, around the time I helped Jeremy score his job at World Family. A few years later when I myself scored a job at World Family, I lunched with Kenichi to celebrate my new work regime. About two and a half years after that, entertaining my parents during their first trip to Japan, I found myself near Kaminarimon ("Thunder Gate") in Asakusa, almost as if by chance, looking for a place for lunch. My Mum had been wanting to meet Kenichi for a long time, ever since he helped me out when I was locked up by the Tokyo police for 16 days, back in 2007. When I am in Shibuya and I want to meet someone, Hachiko (the "faithful dog" statue) is the obvious place to meet. In Shinjuku, out the front of the Alta department store is the popular meet and greet location. In Asakusa, Kaminarimon is one logical landmark, but in the spur of the moment, as I talked to Kenichi on the cellphone, an idea sprung into my mind: why not meet up together next to those golden bulls just down the street? And if my folks were accommodating, why not eat lunch inside the restaurant those streetside livestock represented? Old Japanese folk in tour buses waved to us as we passed. We must have looked a sight, standing amidst those golden bulls. I suppose not many foreign families come to this kind of place for lunch. That said, this is precisely the kind of Japanese food experience that many foreigners would feel most comfortable with. For starters, it is DIY, and barbeque centred, with meat being the most important dish. As Wikipedia records: "Yakiniku (焼き肉 or 焼肉), meaning "grilled meat", is a Japanese term which, in its broadest sense, refers to grilled meat dishes. Today, it commonly refers to a Japanese style of cooking bite-sized meat (usually beef and offal) and vegetables on gridirons or griddles over flame of wood charcoals carbonized by dry distillation (sumibi, 炭火) or gas/electric grill. In North America, China and Taiwan, Yakiniku is also referred to as either "Japanese barbecue" or "Korean barbecue"  due to its Korean origins." It is thought to have originated from horumonyaki, a dish of grilled offal, invented by Korean immigrants in the Kansai area after the Second World War." Testifying to the Korean origins of the genre, there was plenty of kim'chi on the table. However, there was plenty of Japanese miso soup too... (For the complete Heijouen review, click here.)
Friday, June 20, 2008
Mugitoro (Asakusa)FOR THE PAST FEW WEEKS THE WAY I LOOK AT JAPAN HAS BEEN MYSTERIOUSLY TURNED ON ITS HEAD, TWISTED AROUND, AND PUNCTURED THROUGH, THANKS TO THE INFLUENCE OF A LITTLE BOOK, WHICH I BOUGHT WITH A GIFT VOUCHER WHICH MY TELEPHONE COMPANY GAVE ME WHEN I WON EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH (AGAIN). The book is The Empire of Signs by Roland Barthes, the French semiologist, who made a trip to Tokyo in the late 1960s. After visiting Japan, Barthes concluded that emptiness was the essence of Japanese culture. In his 1970 book Barthes realized Japan as an immense reservoir of empty signs. Packages, bows of respect, the lack of a logical, ordered system for addresses of domiciles in towns and cities. The complete lack of street names. Framed by void and framing nothing (or framing a nothing), the Japanese thing shows itself as essentially form and emptiness, spotlighted on a matte black background. The funny thing is, I had already noticed that matte black background effect in Japan, but I just didn't have the words to think it, and express it, until I read Barthes. Countless times walking around Tokyo, starting with one grey afternoon on the crunching gravel of Yoyogi Park, I have had glimpses of the void -- each person walking in their own void, flung out to the corners of the cosmos, by a universe which is inflating even as we speak. Starting with one bustling hot afternoon near Kanda Station, I have experienced this repeating episode: it is like I am not even there, and all that exists is the world around me. Like a movie that nobody is watching, or a TV playing in an empty room. Alternatively, sometimes it is the outer world which drops away, and I feel a kind of spotlight swing on to me. Finally I understand: this is my show, it is showtime, and I am an actor on the stage (and there is nobody in the audience to watch it.) What a revelation -- it (life) was all just a game for me, a manifestation of my soul! A TV playing in an empty room -- an actor on the stage and there is nobody in the audience to watch him or her perform. These are both original Zen koans of mine and if you concentrate on them hard enough, you will reach satori! At least I have, on the odd occasion, thanks to concentration and the aid of herbal highs. Books can be a form of natural high and the ultimate smart drug. Reading Barthes' book has taken me to a deeper level of understanding, and totally rejuvenated my relationship with Japan. Curiously enough, it has also ignited my interest in Japanese food.
Today I finally had a chance to encounter tororo, and devour it en masse. If Japan is indeed the land of emptiness and empty signs, then you couldn't get an emptier cuisine, than tororo cuisine. It is certainly almost zero calorywise, and approaches the void when it comes to a discernible taste, too. But nonetheless, is filling, and it is hearty, and it is healthy. This is a traditional Japanese, as one Japanese language blooger posted. Mugitoro is Tororo and Mugi-gohan (rice boiled with barley). It is said that these are very healthy foods. This photograph is a restaurant of "Mugitoro" in Asakusa. I went there with my Friday noontime student Mrs Sasaki, still reeling from my loss of deep Friday morning lie ins. It was a gray day in the heart of the rainy season. "Tororo" is Yam. (For the complete Mugitoro review, click here.)
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Shuns Rolls (Roppongi)Here is a story I had published in the Tokyo Notice Board magazine last year, a review of a fusion sushi restaurant called Shuns Rolls, in Roppongi.
Put up your hands everyone who had wrong ideas about Japan before you came here? Japan is one of those countries which invites endless misconceptions and fanciful stereotypes. It's only natural, given that most people learn all they know about Japan from watching anime and movies like "Lost in Translation". In the food department, if your introduction to Japanese cuisine took place in a strobe-lit New York City cellar packed with models and movie stars, you might be surprised when you finally come to Japan. For starters, you won't find California roll on the menu at many old-school style Japanese sushi restaurants. You probably won't find other foreign inventions like the spider rolls or rainbows either. That is, unless you go to one of the new Japanese/Fusion restaurants, such as Shuns Rolls at Roppongi.If you can imagine what would happen if you gave a Spanish tapas taverna bar the Japanese treatment, you might end up with something like Shuns Rolls. Alternatively, Shuns Rolls is a recreation of a New York style Japanese restaurant, which in turn is a recreation of the restaurants here. This is a standing bar, with bite-sized dishes to accompany the copious selection of beers, sho-chu's, cocktails, and other beverages. Sushi features prominently on the menu, but it is not the kind of sushi you find in the typical suburban kaiten. According to manager Shuntaro Sato, this is Japanese food reflected through a contemporary European/American prism. Spanish and French ingredients, like Iberico and pate respectively, feature prominently. For those whose throats gag instinctively at the sight of raw fish, you will be pleasantly surprized by the menu at Shun Rolls. There is indeed a lot of raw fish, but the rolls also come wrapped in blow-torched Iberico ham, or infused with spicy Korean kochijan sauce. On the counter, there are other alcohol-friendly nibblies like beef jerky. Shuntaro the manager has the Japanese knack for punning and ramming multiple meanings into the one name: "Shun" alternatively means "the hot spot", "fresh" and is also the guy's first name. He said the biggest drawcard of his standing bar is the friendly staff, who at the moment are all dressed in Japanese national soccer team uniforms, in preparation for the coming World Cup. "The staff who work here are so good looking, a lot of Japanese girls come here just to check them out," he said. "We also get a lot of foreign people coming here, European people, Spanish people, they are looking for food which is both Japanese and international at the same time."
c o u n t r y & w e s t e r n + c u i s i n e
THAT'S RIGHT THEY HAVE COUNTRY AND WESTERN MUSIC IN JAPAN -- and what's more, they have plenty of bars and cafes and restaurants where country music lovers can gather and play a little guitar or harmonica, yodel a bit if that makes them feel at home, and basically chill out. I should know, because one of my best friends in Japan is a country music freak, and he has taken me to plenty of country&western bars. The first time we went out, sometime in 2004 if I remember correctly, to a place called Two Beat in the futuristic depths of Shimbashi, I was so surprised and culture shocked by what I saw. Outside it might have been a blur of blacksuited salarymen and OL's (office ladies) beneath gleaming concrete towers and Oriental skies, but down a single flight of stairs, a little piece of the American midWest had been created, with the perfect attention to detail that only the Japanese can pull off. Blacksuited salarymen (tie loosened) were drinking American beers and grazing from baskets of peanuts and occasionally having a go at the mike to sing some country karaoke classics. From time to time, ardent and spotlessly perfect sessions of yodelling would break out. As the only gaijin (foreigner) in the place I was automatically assumed to be a country&western expert (even though I am not) and I was always been badgered to sing something in front of the group. I ended up singing Country Roads by John Denver and Guns and Roses' Patience -- this latter song not really country I know, but it is as country as I get...Here is a list of other places in Tokyo where you might be able to get that midWestern feeling, enjoy real American style steaks and meet members of the Japanese country&western subculture. In some of these places, you might be asked to sing: Harvester Chicken: Harajuku. Phone: 03/3843 2861.
After paying some money off my credit card this afternoon, I walked up the road to the Telephone English job in Shinjuku. On the way I passed a restaurant called Harvester Chicken which I have often noted, but never dined at. Since I was feeling pretty hungry, I decided to have lunch here. I was surprised to find they serve chicken and chips just like the takeaways in Australia -- this is the first time I have found this kind of food in Japan. And to be honest, it tasted much better than the chicken and chips you get in the greasespoon takeaways in Australia -- since it is Japan, the emphasis was on quality rather than quantity. You can see by the photo that the serving was small (one reason why Japanese people are so slim!) But every chip was a delight to eat and the chicken tasted wonderful. Since it is on the way to my work, I am sure I will be stopping there for lunch again regularly in the future! As Rotten Tomatoes hath reported: "This time, unlike previous times, I brought along my computer since the hotel has free high-speed cable (nifty, eh?). "Today I went to Shinjuku and Harajuku. I put the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door so I could sleep in (if you'd call 9am, "sleeping in") as they make up the rooms at 9am. Gargh! "But that's the one (slightly annoying) thing about the hotel. Other than the free high-speed cable, it's also close to the subway station, post office, Starbucks, and the Tokyo City Air Terminal (for buses to and from Narita), which I'll no doubt be using in a month's time when it's time to go home. "So! I arrived in Shinjuku around 11am, and started off looking in Odakyu and Keio department stores. Then I had lunch at Excelsior Cafe, down the road from the station, which has kick arse food (I had a roast chicken and tomato pita-thing). Then to Takashimaya Times Square, which is huge, with 12 levels, and then to the crepe shop near My Lord for a Strawberry Milk Ice crepe . . . just like last time! To the booth stores again (just like last time, too . . . what can I say, I'm nostalgic) where I discovered there's a new Chibigyarari line, so I bought some folders, pencils, stickers and paper. Yay! "After this, it was off to nearby Harajuku, for a 3pm visit to Meiji Jingu. I visited Meiji Jingu back in April 2004 on my first trip to Tokyo, but I was still getting the hang of my digital camera at the time so my photos were rather ordinary (or, specifically, they were horribly over-exposed). I love the park (Yoyogi) surrounding Meiji Jingu. It's huge, with wide paths with crunchy gravel (yes, mentioning the crunchy gravel is important), and old, old trees. It's amazing that it's in the middle of Tokyo, but you can really just walk through there and forget you're in Tokyo. It wasn't too crowded today, which was great, so I took my time strolling around and taking photos. "After this, I went down Ometosando in Harajuku (one of the main streets) and went to Kiddy Land (ehehehe . . . which I always enjoy . . . ) and then back up the street to have afternoon tea slash dinner. I saw this rather appealing-looking chicken and salad sandwich in a photo on a menu outside a restuarant, and then I saw the price - 1300 yen (ahem, $13 USD for a sandwich). Screw that! "So I kept walking, and noticed a sign above The Harvester proclaiming that there was roast chicken to be had inside. Roast chicken?! Yay! So I had a roast chicken pita thingy (different than the one at Excelsior) and potato wedges. They played country music in there, I was waiting for a Garth-Brooks-wannabe to turn up and start boot-scooting any second, but it didn't happen (funny, that). Instead, I sat there imagining I was in some bar in the Southern US (where the real boot-scooting happens . . . I think . . . ). The illusion was working until the Japanese waitress came over asking if I wanted a drink refill..."
e a t i n g + e e l s
EEL IS ONE OF THE WONDER FOODS EATEN IN JAPAN. I am sure it is a superfood. Some of the places you can eat it in Tokyo are:
Eel Restaurant Koyanagi: 1-29-11 Asakusa, Taito Ward. Phone: 03/3843 2861.
(1-7-12 Komakata, Taito Ward.)
Phone: 03/3842-4001. Website: website here. Streetview: Virtual Tokyo view here!
This is how a historic establishment should look, sombre and secluded. Dark and earthy, Dozeu sits at the opposite end of the spectrum from Mugitoro, on the other side of the street. Whereas Mugitoro is ethereal and light, Dozeu is corporeal, and challenging.. For more than 200 years they have been dishing up bowls of pond loach (鰌), a slimy eel-like fish, doused in liberal amounts of spring onion. Not for the faint-hearted! But it is old school, that is for sure.
g u r u m e + g o u r m e t
FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE THAT FINE DINING SHOULD COST YOU AN ARM AND A LEG -- a selection of Tokyo's more expensive restaurants.
Ichimatsu: 1-15-1 Kaminarimon, Taito Ward. Phone: 03/3841 0333.
Sant Pau: Nihonbashi 1-6-1 Coredo Nihonbashi
Annex 1/2F. Phone: 03/3517-5700.
がってん: 台東区西浅草（都営浅草駅前にも別店あり. TEL: 03-3847-1004.
i z a k a y a + c u i s i n e -- 居酒屋
NOW I WANT TO INTRODUCE YOU TO A UNIQUE AND MODERATELY PRICED JAPANESE DINING EXPERIENCE -- the izakaya (居酒屋). As the Greggman points out on his comprehensive site: "An Izakaya is a Japanese style bar. When you hear that Japanese businessmen go out drinking every night an Izakaya is were they go. I don't have much experience with bars in the U.S. but so far I really like Izakayas. They have all kinds of food and they serve it in small usually pretty cheap portions so you can try lots of different things. Izakayas are usually very loud places and you can often hear people playing drinking games with their co-workers. I think most Izakayas are similar but they all have different menus and specialize in different things."
The really crucial thing to consider is this -- the izakaya is to Japanese what the pub is to the English and Australians, and what the tapas bar is to the Spaniards. Many foreign tourists coming to Japan make the mistake of thinking that izakayas are restaurants, and thus ignore them when they want to hit the town. Foreign tourists coming to Tokyo often end up spending their nights in foriegn style bars in Roppongi and similar places, because these bars seem the closest to the traditional nightlife of the West. But this is Japan, and the concept of nightlife is a little different here. I am not knocking the foreign style bars, they do provide an environment which izakaya cannot -- for example the opportunity to meet members of the opposite sex. But you have to realize that the western style bars, by virtue of their novelty and rareness, are much more expensive than izakayas. Go to a Roppongi bar and you will pay through the nose -- drinks cost a lot more in a western style bar than an izakaya. In short, if you want to see the real Japan, go to an izakaya. Another good definition for what the izakaya is comes from the Insider View wesbite: "A bar -- a place to which you go only to drink -- is a concept that entered Japan rather late. The Japanese like to drink and eat at the same time, and izakaya is the most common establishment for that sort of entertainment. The menu in an izakaya is usually very large, containing all kinds of foods that the Japanese consider appropriate as accompaniment for drinking. There will be a few types of sashimi (raw fish), grilled and fried fish, tempura, fried items, vegetables, salads etc. One thing the Japanese do not eat when they drink is plain white rice, and therefore the kinds of rice dishes you'll find in izakaya are grilled onigiri (rice balls) or chazuke (rice with certain toppings in a bowl of green tea). Everything is served in small portions, so people usually order many dishes and share them. The local izakaya is a popular place for going out among the Japanese, and in Kansai they tend to be very lively and sometimes extremely loud. There are several izakaya chains where photos of the items appear in the menu, making it easy to order even if you cannot read Japanese. Available drinks will include beer, sake, shochu (clear liquer distilled from grains), and chuhai (a cocktail of shochu, fruit essence and soda)."
Here is a list of izakaya restaurants I have dined at during my time in Japan, ranging from small one-off places, to the major chains:
k e b a b + k u i s i n e
IN A LOT OF BIG WESTERN CITIES LIKE SYDNEY, LONDON AND COPENHAGEN DENMARK, ONE OF THE BIG FEATURES OF STREETLIFE IS THE CORNERSHOP KEBAB JOINT. Suitably greasy and surrounded by threatening gangs of homeboys, these are the places where you fill up after a night on the town, and nothing compares to the taste of a piping hot kebab or fellafel when you are drunk or off your face. For budget travellers and backpackers, kebab shops are a lifesaver. Unfortunately for the budget traveller visiting Japan, the kebab fad hasn't caught on mainstream, although it is growing. There are a couple of doner kebab stands in Tokyo, all of them found in popular youth centers like Ueno and Akihabara and Shibuya. There are also a couple of vans that do the rounds in these youth areas, almost always manned by black or Middle Eastern guys who greet you with a friendly "Hey man" or "Hello, my friend". The range might seem disappointed to the average Australian or European -- usually there are just simple kebabs available, just chicken or beef, no vegetarian options, for a flat 500 Yen. Whatever you do, steer clear of the van at Yoyogi Park which serves banana fillings inside his kebabs. What kind of messed up sh!t is that -- putting mushed up banana gunk in a kebab! Then again, it would probably appeal to the warped tastebuds of the modern Japanese... For a more in depth look at the range of kebabs in Tokyo, click here.
m e x i c a n + c u i s i n e
IT MIGHT COME SERVED IN AN AMERICANIZED AND JAPANOFIED RANGE OF FLAVORS -- but nonetheless, there is plenty of Mexican food to be found in Tokyo. It doesn't quite match the Mexican food that is available in Mumbai or Kuala Lumpur, however. But it sure beats the Mexican selection in Sydney or Reykjavik. Some suggestions:
El Torita: Odakyu Southern Tower
1st Floor, Shibuya. Phone: 03/5351 7074.
p a n - a s i a n + c u i s i n e
TOKYO HAS PLENTY OF PLACES WHICH PRESENT A MIXED ASIAN SPREAD FROM A VARIETY OF ASIAN COUNTRIES -- I guess you could call this Pan Asian Cuisine. Pan as in representing the whole of Asia, not in that it is cooked in a pan -- he! he! he! Jokes aside, Tokyo is teeming with Asian themed restaurants and eateries, and while purists might scoff, these places are actually great spaces to chill out and take a culinary journey across the largest continent on Earth.
Dong Khoi: Eitaidori, Shinkawa 1-chome.
r a m e n -- ラーメン
NOT FOR THE WEIGHT CONSCIOUS, BUT DELICIOUS AND ESPECIALLY SATISFYING ON A COLD DRY DAY IN THE MIDDLE OF WINTER -- ramen noodles are on sale all over Tokyo. For a more in depth look at the range of ramen in Tokyo, click here.
s o b a + c u i s i n e
SOBA IS ONE OF THE ORIGINAL CUISINES OF JAPAN, AND SHOULD BE EATEN BY EVERY FOREIGN VISITOR AT LEAST ONCE IN HIS OR HER SOJOURN THROUGH JAPAN. In short, soba noodles are native Japanese noodles made of buckwheat flour (soba ko) and wheat flour (komugi ko). They are roughly as thick as spaghetti, and prepared in various hot and cold dishes. The most basic soba dish is zaru soba in which boiled, cold soba noodles are eaten with a soya based dipping sauce (tsuyu). This is great for a hot summer's day in Tokyo, and you can buy this basic zaru soba dish from any convenience store for like 200 or 300 Yen, if you are short of cash. The standard form of soba is called kake soba, basically "soba in broth". Kake soba consists of cooked soba noodles in a bowl of hot broth made of dashi (stock), mirin, and shoyu (Japanese soy sauce) and topped with sliced negi (Welsh onions). These are two of the most basic kinds of soba, but there is much more to soba than this. In this evolving Tokyo City Dining Guide, I want to introduce you to the wonder of soba, and detail some of the many soba restaurants which adorn this vast metropolis. Unlike a lot of other great foods, you will never get fat from eating soba... in fact, it kind of makes you sort of lose weight, if that is possible? You will also never run out of great soba restaurants in which to eat, no matter how long you stay here. Here is a small selection of some of the places I have chanced upon so far, or at least chanced by:
s u s h i + c u i s i n e
OF COURSE SUSHI IS THE THING THAT MANY FOREIGNERS COMING TO JAPAN WANT TO TRY, AND EVERY CITY IN THE NATION IS DOTTED WITH ESTABLISHMENTS SELLING THIS MARVELLOUS FUSION OF RAW FISH AND VINEGARED RICE. Here is a slice of just some of the hundreds, thousands of sushi restaurants in Tokyo:
日向丸 / Nikoumaru: (本店)東京都台東区浅草１−２０−１０ / 1-20-10 Asakusa, Taito Ward, Tokyo. TEL：０３−５８０６−４２２２．
t e a r o o m + c u i s i n e
SOME TOKYO TEAROOMS:
t e m p u r a + c u i s i n e
SOME TEMPURA RESTAURANTS IN TOKYO:
Aoimarushin: 1-4-4, Asakusa, Taito-ku. Phone: 03/3841 0110.
t o n k a t s u + c u i s i n e
INVENTED IN THE 1930s, TONKATSU CONSISTS OF A BREADED, DEEP-FRIED PORK CUTLET (KATSU) SERVED WITH SHREDDED CABBAGE AND RICE. I took me a long while to warm up to tonkatsu -- in the beginning it reminded me of the overcooked, over fat saturated food my Mum used to cook back home in Australia. Then I realised the secret to enjoying tonkatsu (and getting through that mountain of shredded cabbage it comes with) -- you have to got to apply the sauces! And plenty of them too -- smother them with the sh!t! Tonkatsu can be eaten with a brown sauce uncreatively called Tonkatsu Sauce (トンカツソース), the ingredients of which vary from place to place but which usually has a taste similar to Worcestershire sauce or Kansas City-style barbeque sauce. In Nagoya, tonkatsu is eaten with a miso-based sauce. Some people also like to eat their tonkatsu with a spicy yellow mustard or soy sauce. Today I doused my cutlets with garlic sauce and found the results to my liking. In Japan they sell tonkatsu sandwiches in convenience stores and train stations, to varying degrees of culinary success.
At least one would be tonkatsu connoisseur (とんかつの玄人) has complained: "I'm sure some tonkatsu connaisseur (sic) will tell me different but the problem with finding a good tonkatsu place is tonkatsu is pretty much universally similar. Sure there are places that taste better or have a higher quality of meat but at a basic level it's just battered deep fried pork. I'm not putting it down, I like tonkatsu but my point is with ramen, every store has their own soup, their own toppings, etc so it's easier to see some differences.
"Put another way, look through a book of ramen stores and nearly every ramen will look different. Look through a book of tonkatsu stores and i (sic) think most differences would be pretty subtle.
"Other than getting a grissly piece of pork or it being too greasy so far one tonkatsu place has been about the same as every other. (or maybe I just haven't learned to appriciate the differences)
v e g e t a r i a n + c u i s i n e
Jingumae 4-24-12. Phone: 03/3796 6575.
w h a l e + c u i s i n e
鯨専門店 / Kujira Sen Mon Ten: 東京都台東区浅草1-27-10 / 1-27-10 Asakusa, Taito Ward. Phone: 03/3841 0952.
鯨屋 / Kujira-Ya: near corner of 109 Building and diagonally opposite the Book One bookstore, Shibuya.
i n t e r r a c i a l + f e s t i v a l s
Tuesday 08 April 2003
The raw and the cooked (Cetacean)
Tokyo Oktoberfest in Hibiya: .
Held inside Hibiya Park and surrounded by Government ministry offices and some of the highest courts of the land, the Oktoberfest does manage to pull off a joyful and suitably boisterous mood, especially once enough amber fluid has been consumed. There is something ridiculous, however, about being forced to wait more than an hour in line to be served a plate of bland sausages and boiled pork, and then charged 1000 yen. The lines for German beer, on popular days, can also stretch past the one-hour mark, which puts a dent in any ambition to get qickly pished. Nonetheless, that is Japan -- overpriced, overcrowded, and overbland. If you are in Tokyo at the end of September and near Hibiya Park, you might as well check out Oktoberfest.