Thursday, February 11, 2010
Japan, Post Three
Japan, August 19-21, Part 2, Japanese Food
A handful of meals were included in the tour, but for most of them we were on our own. You know all those stories you hear about how hideously expensive restaurant meals are in Japan? We very quickly found out where they come from. We stayed at very nice western-style hotels, where all the staff spoke English. I imagine many tourists are simply afraid to step outside alone, especially after dark, and so are stranded at the hideously overpriced hotel restaurants. Truly, except for a couple of times when we were provided with coupons, we never ate anything in the hotel restaurants other than the breakfasts that came with our rooms.
Linda and I were not afraid to go out--Japan is incredibly safe--and we found that if we wandered down any street we easily found reasonably-priced restaurants. Complete meals--soup, entree with rice and veggies, tea--ran the equivalent of $10-$12. We ate Japanese food most of the time--there was plenty of variety. I never had to eat sushi, although it was available for those who wanted it. I'm a hot food person, so I enjoyed noodle bowls with beef, pork, or chicken, or delicious pork cutlets, various stir-fries--there is no problem at all finding great food at reasonable prices.
Leaving the western-style hotels, though, means venturing out where waiters and waitresses don't speak English. But the Japanese want the tourist trade, so in the fast-food places (oh, yes, Japan has plenty of their own as well as MacDonald's, KFC, et al.) they have photos of the dishes on the menus and on the walls, so we could just point to what we wanted. But we preferred the less plastic places, even though they displayed plastic food!
In the slightly more upscale Japanese restaurants (but certainly not elegant dining places), the windows display extremely realistic plastic models of the meals to be had inside, each one numbered. You decide what you want, go in, and tell the waitress the number.
We had several elegant meals as part of the tour, usually served in a hotel ballroom set up for us. One evening, though, we went out to an upscale restaurant to sample Kobe beef. I'm sure you've heard about the famous Kobe cattle raised with music and massage, supposed to provide the best beef in the world. Gourmets can go right ahead and call me a heretic: I don't like Kobe beef.
The meal we had that night was fun--we were brought a variety of veggies and paper-thin slices of beef, and cooked them ourselves in hot pots built into our tables. I can't have sesame oil, so there was broth in my pot, and that turned out to be a good thing. You see, Kobe beef is the world's tenderest because it is so marbled with fat that it is pale pink instead of red. It's greasy, and doesn't have much beef taste. Cooked in broth, the texture was, well, lardish.
Perhaps it crisps up like bacon when cooked in oil--but then we don't deep-fry bacon, do we?
Okay, I'm not a gourmet. I don't like pate, oysters, or other expensive, exclusive food (though I love a good steak or prime rib). So you can take my apathy toward Kobe beef as just not having an educated palate. I guess I'm a peasant at heart, no matter what country I'm in.
More on food next week.
How to import a car from Japan. Click here.
Click here for Seven Reasons to Visit India.
This series of posts on my trip to Japan begins here.
The journal of my trip to India and Nepal begins here.
The series of posts on my trip to Italy begins here.
Geezer-Chick's guest blog on York, England is here.
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