Hey everyone! Turns out, my husband loves the glory and pretend fame he gets from guest posting (you may have read his posts about beef jerky and how to grill pizzas). Since I’m traveling a bit this month, and busy with some other things as well, I figured I would take him up on his offer to share all of the foodie fun he had on a recent trip to Japan in a two-part series (read part 1 here). Here’s Jeff:
While I enjoyed my first couple of meals in Utsunomiya, a dinner with my coworkers was by far the best. As a closure to my three days in Utsunomiya, my Japanese coworkers decided to take me to a fancy dinner in the financial district of the city. We showed up at a rather unassuming doorway – think the opposite of a Bahama Breeze, which boldly and tackily announces its intentions. This place barely looked like a restaurant from the outside, but I was assured that delicacies lied within.
We ascended nearly 7 separate little flights of stairs. Each landing was attached to a room with a bamboo door, that served as an isolated table for guests to enjoy a quiet, conversation-filled meal in privacy. There was a little bell to notify the servers that you were ready to order. And there were no sounds of other guests’ obnoxious conversations. It was really all about the food, the drink, and the company. I really appreciated this simple fact about the Japanese culture – everything is done with courtesy in mind.
The meal we ate here was one of the best of my life. For the first round, we had a salad of mixed greens, lemon vinaigrette, and sashimi-grade fish that was amazing. This came with sushi-style scrambled eggs that had a side of ground ginger, ground radish, and soy sauce. This combo was, at the same time, sweet and bitter. We also had edamame – those little cooked pods you suck the beans out of. We also had this odd pairing of raw squid and cream cheese – this was oddly yummy as it was a strange combination of salty and funky.
In all honesty, there were many rounds of food. So many, I don’t have space to describe them all. I’ll just hit the highlights of what you can consider the main course. We had a giant, beautiful presentation of sashimi fish and salmon roe. Also served was a basket of tempura fried wheels of vegetables with lemon pepper for dipping.
I fell asleep, as you can imagine, exhausted from both the quantity of food and the jet lag. The next day it was off to meetings and then a quick train ride to Tokyo. Fun fact #1 about Tokyo – it has the world’s largest antenna, called Sky Tree, which was actually celebrating its one-year anniversary of its erecting. Fun fact #2 – there is an exact, albeit slightly shorter, replica of the Eiffel Tower because Japanese culture believes that imitation is the ultimate form of flattery.
But the real draw of Tokyo, again, was the food. We had dinner directly across from the world-renown fish market. You have probably seen it while watching a special on Food Network about sushi or the documentary that Lori and I watched a few months back, Jiro Dreams Of Sushi. And, surprise, the meal we had centered around sushi (which is actually different from sashimi in that it is placed on rice with a little application of wasabi paste and soy sauce).
We started with a very simple but well-executed platter of cooked clams. These came in a delightful and delicate lemony, salty, chive-filled broth. You could tell that the clams were fresh – probably having been procured earlier in the day from the famous fish market across the street. We finished with a plate of sashimi fit for a king – fatty tuna, lean tuna, whitefish, salmon, and saltwater eel. I was told that saltwater eel is very difficult to prepare for a serving like this because it needs to be flash-cooked in order to release some of the natural poison without being overcooked to the point of falling apart. Having never eaten it, it certainly didn’t disappoint. Especially when paired with an ice-cold sake.
Sorry, folks, but that is the end of the road for delicious meals on my Japan trip. I awoke at the end of week, headed for the Tokyo airport, and flew back to Detroit on another massive 747. It was, all in all, a good trip – we had productive meetings with the customer, I enjoyed meeting my Japanese coworkers, and, of course, the food was phenomenal. Stay tuned as I am sure to visit Mexico again sometime soon and can now blog about all of the wonderful things I get to eat south of the border.