I am looking out my window here in Azle, Texas watching two bluebirds chasing one another around the yard. Getting my mind back to the first ten days of April when I was in Japan will take some effort. Fortunately, I kept detailed notes of all the places we went along with the meals we had.
Day 1: Yamato Restaurant
We arrived at the Hotel Dai-ichi, Tokyo, after a very long day. We left DFW airport at 11:30 AM on Wednesday, March 31 and arrived at Narita Airport, Tokyo at 2:30 PM on April 1. After a long wait to fill out forms, a long drive into Tokyo and a short stop to say hello to my Aunt Yasuko, we were pretty exhausted. We spotted a restaurant across the street from the hotel (don’t eat in the hotel–very expensive and fussy) but I couldn’t tell what type of restaurant it was by the sign. Later my cousin told me it said, “Yamato”. It was primarily a yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) restaurant, busy, noisy, full of businessmen. We were handed the English menu and ordered salmon sashimi, Japanese fried chicken pieces, white meat yakitori, assorted yakitori, and grilled onigiri (rice balls). We had some wine as well. I should have suspected that the “assorted” yakitori would be weird but I guess I was too tired to remember that all parts of the chicken are used. I wasn’t too fond of the chicken hearts, gizzard, skin, and unknown parts, however the sticks of chicken meat were excellent and their tare (sauce) was excellent.
A surprise was the grilled onigiri–toasty, crisp on the outside with hot rice inside, dipped in soy sauce. Overall, very interesting and we planned to go again and order more of what we liked.
Day 2: Okonomiyaki in Kamakura
After sleeping from 9:00 PM-7:30 AM we woke up ready for a trip to Kamakura by car with my cousin, Minako Kato. Walking through streets full of blooming cherry trees, up to Hase-dera Temple, high on a hill overlooking the ocean, was Steve’s introduction to some other worldly scenery. Kamakura was one of my favorite places on the trip I took with my daughter, Helen, in 2007. We went to an Okonomiyaki restaurant where diners sit at a table with a built in griddle and cook their own food. We ordered the okonomiyaki and yakisoba.
Top photo: Minako, the expert cook getting the okonomiyaki started, lower photo finished pancake As you can see the okonomiyaki looks like a pancake, but it is a savory pancake filled with cabbage, meat, shrimp, bean sprouts and served with a salty, sweet soy based sauce and sprinkled with red ginger (gari) and ao-nori (small bits of toasted seaweed) and mayonnaise. We also order yakisoba, fried noodles with vegetables and meat in a soy, worchestershire sauce, also sprinkled with ginger and seaweed. As you can see from the top photo the condiment tray allows diners to choose their own blend of sauces and seasonings. Although this is humble festival/street food I have fond memories of eating these foods when I lived in Japan from 1975-1980 and my mother always made different versions of yakisoba at home. Since the trip to Japan I have experimented with both okonomiyaki and yakitori and made excellent versions of both which I will share in a later blog. Dinner: We found a neighborhood cafe with a big display case of all the foods served inside. A bit of down home katsudon sounded good. Steve made the mistake of ordering a tempura dinner and was disappointed by the small plate of tempura with only 1 small shrimp. I gave him some of my katsudon (pork cutlet, sauce and egg over rice). The udon soup was delicious, hot, chewy fresh noodles, delicious broth. The total bill was around $25.00.