Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Familiar and New



I must recant some of my earlier comments regarding the lack of variety of food in Japan; it is true, I don't quite see as much of an international cuisine that I used to, but there are so many different types and specialties in Japanese food that they more than made up for it. However, if you are seeking some of the comforts of home, be aware:

1. Subway sandwich shops exist. You can find them in Tokyo, Hiroshima, Osaka, Shizuoka, Kyoto, and a few other places in the Tokyo and Kanzai area (but nowhere in Kyushu, Shikoku, or Hokkaido). The menu seems to be exactly the same with a few exceptions: no freshly baked cookies, and no meatball subs. On the plus side, they do stock turkey meat, which is somewhat of a rarity in Japan.



2. There are Wendy's restaurants in Japan, although I tended to stay away from them back home in the first place. Canal City shopping area in Fukuoka, and in the Ginza area of Tokyo; I'm sure there are others.

3. McDonald's. No explanation needed. But if you are hooked on the Big Macs, I suggest you watch a little movie.

4. KFC has nearly as large a presence as McDonald's in Japan. Again, I say: fast food is disgusting, and you'd be better off buying a bento from 7-11 at the same price.

5. Outback Steakhouse has a few locations in the Osaka and Tokyo areas. Japan is a big importer of Aussie beef, and sometimes you get a craving for something juicier and fatter than some Japanese restaurants can provide. I must admit I indulged during a recent trip to Osaka, just to see if they had the same menu.

6. Lawry's: The Prime Rib has a prominent location not far from the American embassy at the Akasaka Twin Tower.

7. Surprising even me, there is a Chili's Restaurant in Japan. Unfortunately, it is only accessible to members of the United States Air Force living at the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa.

I, for one, am now content with the Japanese diet and the occasional foreign meal. However, as a native Texan, I am dying for some decent Mexican food or TexMex in Japan. So far, the closest restaurants to offer anything remotely in that range are:

- The Shack, an American-themed bar in the Hondori area of Hiroshima

- Otis, a small Mexican cafe not far from Peace Park

- Mike's, a hole-in-the-wall in the middle of Kure city

- Rumors of a half-decent restaurant in Iwakuni

- There is a Mexican restaurant in Sapporo Station


Regardless, I didn't come to Japan to complain about the food and seek only familiarity. Hardly. I enjoy broadening my food horizons with the unique delicacies in each city.

There is an excellent Hokkaido-style restaurant in the Saijo area of Higashi-Hiroshima called Otaru Shokudou (小樽食堂). Next to Saijo Plaza, this restaurant offers all the fine foods of Hokkaido with just two small differences (as far as I could see): no Hokkaido ramen, and no crab sashimi.



However, they did offer Hokkaido's most famous and expensive dish: kegani, hairy crab, 毛蟹. Best eaten boiled, this crab is served to you whole (as in the picture), the waiters entrusting you to be able to slice it up just right. You are provided with a pair of scissors, some small prying forks, and a set of instructions.

Cut all the legs off. Slowly dissect the main body - eyes, tail, etc - until you are left with two halves of visible innards. Enjoy! I enjoyed the leg meat best.

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