Sunday, August 2, 2009

Good eats, mild let-downs

The past couple of days have been a bit more low-key on the energy-o-meter. Something about walking for 4 hours a day sort of took it out on my ankles, so we've been treading trodden trails and reprioritizing our restaurant "must eats." Yesterday scored a culinary victory for us but a couple of disappointments as well.

Disappointment #1: Harajuku. Sunday is supposed to be the big "all the cosplay, gothic lolita, punk rebels, Jpop, and all other flavors of non-conformity fun come out to play" day. Unfortunately, it was raining all day so all we got to experience was a river of umbrellas in the tightly-packed alleyways. Not so much with the eye candy, alas. We are heading back out there with Rosie and James this morning--it won't be as large-scale as yesterday should have been, but we ought to be able to see SOMEthing.

Disappointment #2: DDR. If any of you reading this are not aware, Tavis and I are big enjoyers of the video game series Dance Dance Revolution. If the name is not a clear enough indication, it came from Japan, so we were looking forward to finding a video arcade in Tokyo and playing it in its country of origin with many of the ridiculously talented otaku (nerds) to be found here.

We searched about 3 arcades in varying regions before we found an employee who knew of a place that had a DDR machine. Seriously. This is like, last year's game or something, and nobody plays it anymore! There was one lonely little DDR board set up in the corner, with no crowd at all. We played a couple of rounds but it felt sort of surreptitious and unrewarding, no hecklers or admirers or even observers amidst the action in the arcade. Sigh. Always sad to find out you just Aren't That Cool.

Anyway, back to happier things: eats! We went to Vin Chou, a french fusion yakitori place recommended in my Lonely Planet. It was by far the easiest place to find out of all the restaurants so far. Hurray! We might actually be getting the hang of this place!

Tavis ordered the prix fixe menu, which included:

  • An appetizer of potato salad (ha!) and a quarter of a cabbage to cleanse the palate in between courses of greasy meat. Sadly, this was just about the most vegetables I've eaten here.
  • Quail. Very good, not charred beyond flavor like most of the quail I've had
  • Skewer of duck. Also very delicious. I do so love duck.
  • Skewer of chicken livers. My first livers! I loved them. Tavis didn't care for the consistency.
  • Skewer of chicken gizzards. Flip the roles; I hated the consistency and found the flavor so-so, but Tavis thought they were great.
  • Dish of pickled vegetables, including red bell pepper, lotus root and cauliflower. Mehh.
  • Bress chicken thigh. Bress is apparently a region in France known for their great chickens. This was a great chicken. Wish there'd been more.
  • Skewer of asparagus rolled in pork rib. Very tasty!
  • Chicken soup. Strangely, this might have been my favorite flavor of the night. They spent a lot of time developing the flavors in the little sake glass of stock. It was fabulous.

To that, I added:

  • Skewer of grilled quail eggs. I actually have never eaten a quail egg before. This was probably not the best way to try them. The flavor was okay. Grilling made the outside a very strange, rubbery texture.
  • Cheese plate. We had a yummy brie, a very nice spicy blue that was thankfully lacking in sourness, and a tasty hard cheese that I suspect was mimolette because it was bright orange. But I'm still definitely no expert in fromagerie.
  • Foie gras in a teriyaki sauce. Again, Tavis didn't care for the texture but I liked it quite well. Not my favorite thing and I probably wouldn't order it again. Much to the relief of the collective outrage assembled. Yes, I eat foie gras. There's a special level of hell (probably like B.1 or something, you have to take a separate elevator to get to it) for people like me. They probably fill a small room with irate noisy geese and push me in. Anyway, I digress.

It was a great meal and I enjoyed the progression. But Tavis and I agreed that if we were just craving a good, tasty meal, we would go back to Akiyoshi, the first yakitori place, and spend 1/4 of the money for as much flavor and probably more enjoyment. And larger portions. Ah well, a good experience all the same.

A culinary side note: the big dessert thing here in Tokyo are crepes. Like, crepes stuffed with a variety of sweet things and rolled up like a waffle cone. The kids here go NUTS for them and these creperies are everywhere with their big beautiful plastic models of every possibly combination of flavors. They tend to have:

  • A layer of fluff, such as whipped cream, custard or ice cream
  • A layer of fruit, such as strawberries, bananas or apples
  • A layer of cake, such as chocolate cake or cheesecake
  • Additional drizzles of chocolate or caramel

Insert the happiest heart attack here. And also, WHY do we not have these things in the States? We clearly are way too fat as a nation to need them....but that sure wouldn't stop us from eating the heck out of them! So I dreamed the other night that I bought a shack with the intentions of turning it into a creperie. Check back in in a few years to see if my dreams become a reality.

Last but not least, our shopping adventures. Minimal, really--we've bought a bunch of souvenirs and our kimonos are lovely and authentic, so we've been toning it down on the expenditures. But we found a place called Tokyu Hands which has several branches and encompasses about 7 floors per branch. Think of it like one part Home Depot, one part World Market. Anyway we found some neat wall art there. And on the 8th floor, they had a cat cafe set up. Pets aren't very common, what with the limited living conditions and all, so there are cafes with tons of cats where people pay to come in and snuggle. This one looked really cool and had lots of interactive walkways and stairs on the walls and hideyholes for the cats to enjoy, but dealing with the crowd of exuberant kids was probably more than most cats would care for. It made me sad and lonesome for my pups. (Also I saw a cat with a white 0 on her sides and it made me miss my Flannel very much.)

Should've put that higher, don't want to end on a sad note! Oh. Rosie and James decided to stay in Hamamatsu another night last night and so are getting into town....right about now, actually. They should be at our hotel in half an hour and then we will venture forth and have more adventures in Harajuku and a nice lunch before they have to get to Narita and fly back home. It's been great visiting with them. Hopefully we have more culinary win to speak of at the end of the day--Tavis and I are hunting down a place that serves Kobe beef. Noms await!