Monday, October 15, 2007

Eating in shabu shabu style

It's nearly 4 in the morning, I've been up a couple of hours already, and I'm jetlagged. So I thought, what better way to start a Planethalder post on our trip to Japan than to write about some of the food we ate.

When we first arrived in Tokyo, we were a tad trepidacious about ordering out as it was rare for an English menu to be displayed outside the restaurant itself. These plastic replicas of dishes (first two photos below), from tempura to pizza, helped, and quickly we learned that all you have to do is ask for a menu in English or point.

Bowls of char siu ramen, with pork, fish cake, hardboiled egg, seaweed and spinach, at Shun Kan in Shinjuku / Shrimp tempura with soba noodles at Masudaya in Shinjuku / Grilled eel in Minokichi in Shinjuku / Mixed sushi (mackerel, shrimp, tuna, salmon roe, gizzard shad, gourd strip and cucumber) at Koshi Sushi in Aoyama / Okonimyaki - one with pickled radish, red ginger and spring onions; another with squid, pork and shrimp - at Ushio in Roppongi / Tonkatsu - breaded pork - with miso soup, rice and pickled daikon in Ginza.

Two of my favourite dining experiences took place in glitzy Ginza (think 5th Avenue with less grandeur but more neon), towards the end of our holiday. We had a variety of green tea desserts at a basement establishment whose name now escapes me. The place was filled with female office workers and there were long queues to get in. And at Zakuro, we ate shabu shabu where we submerged thinly sliced pieces of beef into a cauldron of bubbling light stock made from kombu or kelp and then dipped the meat into sesame and Japanese vinegar dipping sauces. Our charming waitress also dipped enokitake mushrooms, cabbage, rice noodles, spring onions, spinach and tofu into the stock and served them to us in small bowls. Throughout the meal, she kept skimming the fat off the water's surface, and at the end served us bowls of the stock itself.

We didn't only eat Japanese food of course. We had pizzas and cheese toasties and pasta and salads too. We were staying in the luxurious Park Hyatt Tokyo (of Lost In Translation fame) so we couldn't pass up the chance to dine on exquisite Tochigi beef steaks with sauteed vegetables and pureed potatoes there. And in Kyoto, the refined kaiseki menu we ate in our traditional ryokan became all too much for me and I gave into a craving for McDonald's - but that's for another post.


Broom said...

welcome back!

Little Nutbrown Hare said...

I can't believe you had a craving for McDonald's but I guess they do McD's much better in Japan too. Welcome back!

Anonymous said...

Silent One

Welcome back. What a lovely collage - a feast for the eyes.
Waiting to hear more about your trip.

Bombay Beauty said...

I was impressed by the quality of the non-Japanese food in Japan (in addition of course to their native cuisine). It isn't surprising in such detail oriented society that they pay attention to food as well. To this day, some of the best Indian food I've had was in Kyoto. (Why I ended up eating Indian food in Kyoto might be akin to your McD story, when you tell it).



Olivia said...

woah, you're really on the ball with the post and the pics! I am so lazy!

I'm glad you're back, I plan to enjoy the eye feast you will give us!

Shabu shabu sounds fantastic! I love Japanese food and would love to visit one day, I like the way they do things. But I am also well aware it's so intense with the culture, food, protocol, tradition, technology, lights, colour, that you could easily break down and want McD's, and a bit of the west.