Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Japan Part V: The Best of the Rest- Fluffy Meat, Iranian Food, Punk Rock Apartment & Scenes from Tokyo

This post concludes my five part series covering my recent trip to Japan (much to the relief of most of you, no doubt! Yes, this is a food blog, not a travel blog.....). I just wanted to use this chance to talk about the little adventures we had in between all of the big ones.

Fluffy Meat:

Menchi katsu

We did a very food-centric thing while strolling around in Kichijoi one day- we waited 45 minutes in line just to buy menchikatsu (fried meat ball) and korokke. Yup- as we were walking through the shotengai (shopping street) we saw a long line leading to a very small and worn butcher shop. I asked my friend Kazu what the fuss was all about and she told me that this particular butcher shop's menchikatsu was considered to be the best and quite famous by word-of-mouth. You can guess what happened next. We waited, and waited, and I tried to get a peep at these world-renowned (ok, more like Tokyo-renowned) menchi. The air was filled with the meaty scent of frying beef and I could not wait to get my hands on one. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally got to the front of the line and I ordered three menchi and two korokkes (since meat shops are widely considered to make some of the best korokke as well). In my excitement, I forgot to ask for tonkastu sauce which was a serious bummer. Anyway, we sat down on the curb and dug out one of the baseball-sized menchi. I bit into it carefully (it was hot) and discovered a world of juicy and fluffy goodness. I've heard people describe meatballs as being "fluffy" in the past and never really got it until that moment. The meat WAS fluffy- it wasn't dense and packed together like other menchi I'd had. This had glistening pieces of sweet onion and mounds of meat- just packed just well enough to form an airy ball. It was truly the best menchi I'd ever had. The korokke was good but really needed some tonkatsu sauce.

Fluffy menchi meat!

Iranian Food: Bol Bol Restaurant in Koenji

My friends Mayu and Chiba met at a Iranian restaurant called Bol Bol. He lived upstairs and was helping out when she walked in. Six months later, they were married. I had to go to this magical place where love blossomed for one of my best friends. Well, actually my friends just wanted me to go there and I was indeed curious about an Iranian restaurant in Tokyo.

Bol Bol lamb

When J and I walked into the small, second story space, we felt instantly transported back to Iran. Well, not really since we've never been there but it did feel like another world. It was decorated from top to bottom with various Iranian artifacts and we were greeted by Bol Bol-san, the owner/chef. He showed us to a large table and started cooking right away. We started with a light salad, followed by intensely flavorful lamb kebobs which he slipped off of a long, narrow sword, crispy-skinned chicken breast in a tomatoey broth, saffron rice, flatbread and a chicken curry-like dish. Everything was amazing and Bol Bol-san told me the story of how he arrived in Japan ten years prior. We mostly communicated in Japanese and just had a really great time. Bol Bol san was quite the host and showed us photos of parties that he'd throw at the restaurant. He even has belly dancers on weekends for entertainment. If you ever find yourself in Koenji, you should go. And bring a big appetite.

Bol Bol chicken

Punk Rock Apartment

Even though this has nothing to do with food, I just had to showcase my friend and "little brother" Ugo's Higashi-Nakano apartment. I met him 13 years ago when we were both working at Tower Records in Japan- I didn't speak a word of Japanese and he basically helped me learn the language during slow days at the register. He's remained faithful to his punk and goth roots since then and has quite the record and toy collection to prove it.

Think he needs more stuff in there?

The Rest of the Best of the Rest:

The rest of the photos are just various scenes from Japan- things I ate, random people I saw, etc. I hope you enjoyed my Japan series and take a trip yourself sometime. I wouldn't call Tokyo the most relaxing place to visit, but if you want an adventure-filled, fast-paced vacation, it may be the place for you.

Wanna go get some coffee at White Lover?

Little school girls

Negi Toro Don in Asakusa

Omu Rice in Asakusa

Boy at a festival

My old workplace....

Busy Shibuya intersection

Scenes from a crowded train

Kyoto trees

Shinjuku at dusk

Ladies waiting for a train

Doria, food of the Gods, in Nogata at The Apple Pot



Anonymous said...

i think we all wish there were most posts about japan; they were wonderful. thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I came across your blog while browsing through Technorati. I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your pictures. I lived in Japan for many years, and these images certainly brought back fond memories. Thanks!

Whoosh said...

Ohh! I just love your Japanese series (do more! *hint hint*)

The picture of the Kyoto trees is so beautiful! Was it taken at Kiyomizudera? I remember the trees looking like that there....

Thanks so much for commenting on my blog too! I made my day! :)

Anonymous said...

...the beautiful photos brought back many memories. ..and an Iranian restaurant in Koenji? I used to live in Koenji when I was a child. I only remember the old buildings and open sewers (in the day) ha ha...
I have enjoyed the "tour". Thank you.

Anne said...

Allison: Thank you! I do have a great love for the country and personally never tire of it but who knows with everyone else;)

RisingSun: thank you as well- I am glad to see a new reader and you have such an interesting blog.

Sera: Yes- the trees were at Kiyomizudera! We went on a warm day and walked up the hill with hundreds of school kids there for a field trip. It was so gorgeous.

Carlyn: That's so cool that you lived in Koenji. It's one of my favorite places and very funky now- lots of cool shops and restaurants.