Friday, November 3, 2006

Perhaps I'm not a Foodie

People have often laughed at my love of a good dish. My family will usually ask "Where are the food photos," as I update them on pictures from recent trips. Friends will laugh when I tell them one of the reasons I'm moving to California is the food that Google provides. Its true. I love my food.

I'm no foodie though. I just spent a long time in Asia but I come back and I have to say that the amazing dishes there were comparible to the amazing dishes here. I'm confident in this assessment and realize its folly to think otherwise. Just because you leave a big mass of land and go to another big mass of land doesn't mean your culinary skills go away. The challenge I'd have to say is finding the right ingredients and keeping up with the freshness of some parts that make a meal so exciting.

I ate at the Tsjuki (sp?) Fish Market in Tokyo recently and we has Tuna Sashimi. It was stellar. The temura prawns were great too. Hands down, the tuna was the best sashimi I had ever had but it wasn't that far off from a couple of pices I've had in the past. The prawns were excellent, but you can't do much with fried food to make it stand above the rest.

Probably the coolest meal I ate while in Tokyo was at Nakamura Gen and it was cooler then I expected. The place is on the second floor of a residential apartment building. On the first floor is a clothing cleaner and when you miss the entry and end up on the third floor you stare down a standard apartment hallway. We did that. So going back down the stairs we notice an unmarked door, the only door on this thing I wouldn't even call a floor. Matt and I are a bit scared when I start to pull the handle. Are we in the right building? We weren't positive we were. Would we cause a scene? Possibly, it was Simoneau and I . . . we like to cause a ruckus. Anyways, we open the door and there is what looks like a standard restaurant kitchen. Small though seated behind a perhaps 10 person red countertopped bar. To the right of the entry way were three five-person capacity tables also vibrant red. The hostess who was also the waitress and part time cook showed us two steps foward to the bar and handed us a menu. It was entirely in Japanese. Hard to pick what to order when you don't know what you can get. With a good bit of hand motions, broken english and a couple drawings we had come to the agreement that she would bring us Asahi beer to drink and some dishes for us to eat.

This is dangerous you might say . . . the terror, the horror! Who knows what would end up on our plate! It could be a cat so the joke goes. . . the joke by the way kind of offends me in a why-should-you-be-offended-sort-of-way. The first dish was a small plate of veggies and what looked to be a ginger-fermented-soy bean concoction. It was tasty! Another dish was medium rare chicken, well it was supposed to be. We figured out a way to say "Cook it a bit more," and when it came to us it was incredible. The meat fell off the bone and into my mouth. Another dish was simple. Just some cooked Eggs. I left that plate to Simoneau while I consumed another pint of Asahi. (I blame all the beer for my belly.)

Sheesh, its only been a week and I've forgetten the other dish we had. It too was delicous but I can't remember what it was. Perhaps its better that way. I can't feel nausiated about something if I can't remember.

In any case, we headed down to Shibuya for the night and walked around. We stopped in a bar for a drink and debated hitting the club scene. Neither Matt or I felt so inclinded so at 10 to midnight we hopped a subway train back to our hotel. This is where food escapade two comes careening back. We got up to the room and Matt was out in moments. I couldn't sleep so I grabbed a book ("On the Road") and my iPod and was off. I walked around for a while trying to find an interesting street we had found the night prior. I eventually made my way there and stepped inside the first of the bars for the night. 8 USD gone and a terrible GandT latter I exited that bar and found another.

This one was lively as close to to the type of bar we know in America as possible only asian and not an "american bar." This place was Japanese through and through - 60 different kinds of Sake on the wall and a menu full of unedibles but some very tasty looking dishes as well. I tarted off with a Sake. Much like the previous endevor; a variety of hand movements and broken English brought a cup of saki to me. It was pretty neat. It comes in a glass cup a bit smaller than a can of soda with a foil top. Pop the top, drink away. Remember, don't try and sit down. This place had no seats.

I started drinking, reading and simply listening and enjoying the atmosphere (there was a guy with a "The Clash," pin on). Soon the smells from the grill in front of me got to my nostrils and it was time for me to order. Luckily they had an English food menu and I told them I wanted a skewer of chicken. I twas tasty. By this point the saltyness of the barfood had me order another Sake. Surely I was getting a second because of the salt. Getting smashed was a bonus.I recieved my second Sake cup and placed an order for a second chicken skewer. Tasty but still not filling. After more pages of Sal's somewhat annoying admirationnn of Dean's adventuring debacles I ordered a pork/asparigus skewer and a grilled rice ball. Wow. Grilled to perfection with some spices I've not tasted before. Combined with a sweeter than before Sake I was totally revelling in the fact that I was there. Drinking, reading and eating. Not much more in the world I enjoy more.

Its odd. You travel to a country and your first thought is to try all the things you've had in the states that were just amazing. Well, my opinion is that you should skip that. The really good food in the states . . . is really good. If you've had an amazing spring roll at random restaurant Q in the states, getting one in asia isn't going to be much better.

After these experiences I've found that you really need to try the local cuisine when you travel. While you can get some duds at least you've tried something new. I suggest waving your arms wildly and trying to convince your waitress that indeed you are not crazy and that it *is* in the best intrest of both parties for her to go ahead and order for you.