Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Panda party!

Last weekend, we decided to go out for dinner after a day of swimming and gardening. Our plan was to go to a ramen cart that we had seen the other day, set up on the south side of the station. It looked like it had the potential to be a diamond in the rough.

Well, it was not there when we biked over Must have packed it up and rolled away. So, I mentioned a little izakaya (Japanese traditional bar) that I had seen on the way, and off we went.

It was, perhaps, one of the best nights we have had here in Japan.

It is extremely small -maybe three tables that sit four each and a long bar that serves about 10. The bar was interesting in that you sat with your feet in a concrete trench under the bar and with your tuckus on the lip of the trench.

It was also hot and noisy. However, that was made up for by the incredibly friendly staff, cold beer and tasty food. Any visitors will be taken there!

At an izakaya, you will drink. And you will eat. You are served food whether you order it or not, and since you will pay for it, why not eat it?

So, with not much time to get our bearings, the main guy behind the bar, Reiji, started putting
food in front of us. First was a small dish with a cube of "nikogori" - a type of meat-based gelatin with random vegetables ("meat jello with veggies" we called it) - and a fried "wakasagi" (a small fish eaten whole). It came with two sauces: a miso-based salty paste and a creamy sesame flavored dressing.

Next was a battered and fried meatball with chunks of carrot, onions, and peas inside. It had a pleasant curry flavor and came with sliced cabbage on the side.

Last was something we saw another patron eat, and we just had to try it. Turns out it is a ball of pork (a little like Spam but better) wrapped around a quail egg. Then it is rolled in cooked rice
that had been soaked in something savory (miso, soy sauce?). Finally, it is steamed until cooked all the through. They served it with a sauce of spicy red bean paste in sesame oil - heavenly!

Kris, my boss, gardens with Joan and had come with us. She found herself adopted by the tipsy Okinawan woman at her end of the bar. She got the full cultural immersion, including an Okinawan cream cheese with mango sauce and flat bread to spread it on. Derek, a fellow teacher,
who does not eat fish and strange food, watched bemusedly.

A couple mugs of cold beer washed it all down, and at the end of fantastic night of jumping with both feet into Japanese cultural, we tipsily rode our bikes home. We'll be back!

No comments: