Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tokyo Part One

So much to say I don't know where to begin. I've been gone for several days and while I'm in Thailand now and have Tokyo behind me, I'm going to post about Japan first. I'll do it several entries as there is so much to say. The trip has been amazing. Enjoy!

A Tokyo Food Frenzy

It was 5pm when we caught the orange "Friendly Limousine Bus" at Narita airport in Tokyo. A two hour ride after a day of travel was not that appealing. The bus was hot, but it was there I got my first taste of the true Tokyo vibe. Wow. The people here are incredible polite. This is a city where chivalry is not dead and honestly, I liked it. The bus driver not only bowed when we got on and off the bus but, he would take no tip for loading our busting-at-the-seams oversized luggage. The long ride was totally silent and, we loved it when the recoded English voice announced that cell phones were not allowed because ‘they will annoy your neighbors’. Tell it like it is!

We arrived in Shibuya late at night. Crossing the bridge into Toyko we saw the illuminated Tokyo tower, their version of the Eiffel Tower, and the lights of the expansive city spreading for miles in every direction. Four of us connected at the hotel-all teachers at Tante Marie’s. We were meeting Mika, a fellow student in culinary school with me 11 years ago. She’s been in San Francisco for years and recently returned to Japan to work in Tokyo. There truly is nothing like visiting a new city with a local.

Our first meal was at Akaoni (Red Devil). It is an izakaya restaurant, small plates Japanese style. The tiny restaurant had 8 seats at the bar and another 20, at most, crammed into the shoebox sized spot. There sake collection was unbelievable with the name of each bottle written on gorgeous paper and hanging above the bar (see above-a little blurry but, that's the sake talking). As would be the case for the next 36 hours, Mika took the reigns and ordered plate after plate of food. We started with ice cold beer and followed it up with a sake tasting-five cold sakes in wooden boxes. They ranged from clean and melon tasting to totally opaque and fresh. Apparently these sakes are so fresh they can’t be exported to the United States without spoiling. Some of the highlights of the meal (where to begin, really)….soft yuba (tofu skin) in a crab broth with enoki mushrooms, the most gorgeous plate of sashimi you’ve ever seen (with fresh wasabi, of course), wasabi greens lightly braised and served cold in a light broth, sea cucumber, myoga (a blossom that tastes like a cross between ginger/garlic/onion) with fried tofu and bonito, and a octopus suction cups served cooked and cold with a light soy sauce. It was a night of new tastes and varying textures. The spot was hidden off a tiny alley and full of neighborhood locals. It really was the perfect first meal in Tokyo.

More later….happy reading.

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