Published: January 25th 2008January 24th 2008
Best Beef in the World!
Those were the words of Sanae in an email to me. Guess he was trying to tell me he was really looking forward to seeing me! How sweet!
We've been friends for about 13 years. He was my neighbour in Melbourne, always turning up in the middle of the nite offering us Katsudon or Udon. (How could we say no?) 13 years on we've kept in touch, he is one of the top ultimate fighters in Japan with a heart of gold. I was really looking forward to seeing him too!
After a 12 hour flight from San Fran, I arrive a day after in freezing cold Tokyo. The airport was spotless, service was impeccable, the Japs are impossibly polite & efficient! Ahhhh.....it was good to be back in Asia.
After an hour & a half bus ride to the hotel, I was picked up by Sanae & it became clear to me that I had no use for the guide book I had with me cause' he had already planned my entire itinerary...... I was in for a culinary adventure! Who was I to argue with a guy 3X my size? haha!
So we started the
Beautifully presented in bento boxes. How to eat!!
"tour" at one of the best BBQ beef restaurants in Tokyo. Small place, only charcoal grill, and AMAZING melt in your mouth marbled beef. WOW! Only problem was Sanae's English was kind of rusty which meant that conversation was kept to a minimum & a real 'catch up' was impossible. We decided to leave that challenge to the next day where a friend of his who could speak fairly good Eng would help translate. So the only challenge I had was to make approving - 'this is so yummy' orgasmic sounds with every bite. It wasn't tough & I think I aced the challenge :)
JETLAG! BIG TIME SUFFERING with me waking up @ 5 am every morning for the next week!
Note of caution- this blog (including pics) is going to be mostly about food. If u think u're gonna turn green with envy. Stop reading now.
Next day, Sanae decides that I am to try 1 of the best chinese restaurants in Japan. According to him, restaurants in Tokyo's Chinatown are RUBBISH so I'm taken to this really cosy, boutique style Chinese place (in the Suburbs) that serves up an amazing set meal with food
Don't mess with the guy. Mr Nazi Sushi Chef!
so beautifully presented in bento boxes, u'd think its almost a shame to eat! He was already asking me what time I think I could possibly eat dinner so that he could make a reservation @ a top sushi restaurant. I thought I was going to faint! Only Asians can do this, plan for the next meal while eating the current one!
Fortunately I was given a break from eating & taken shopping at this old traditional bit of Tokyo called Asakusa. Tons of shops selling souveneirs & Jap snacks (*gasp! can u believe Sanae is still snacking!) + a beautiful temple that was super packed. Next we stopped by at a friend of Sanae's, a lovely couple who had the task of translating for the both of us. It was strange telling complete strangers about my life & ending up in tears. They must have wondered what was this strange weeping chinese girl doing in their home! But they were so nice though & I'm glad I had the chance to meet them & introduce them to facebook!
A few years ago I didn't eat ANY raw fish. In the past 2 years, I've been pretty proud
Dinner in our room
Us chilling out in our kimonos & enjoying an amazing meal!
of myself for trying a variety of sashimi & sushi- my fav being salmon & swordfish. So imagine my surprise & fear @ being brought to a place where Sanae warned me that the chef was 'scary' & that I would NOT be given a choice as to what I wanted to eat. I had to eat whatever the Nazi Master Sushi Chef decided to serve up. This place had only about 10 seats round a sushi counter, the chef served up the most amazing variety of sushi I had ever seen or tasted. I did not recognise half the things I was putting in my mouth & most of it tasted out of this world. To further illustrate my pt, this place DOES NOT SERVE salmon sushi cause' it was deemed too cheap & unworthy! I enjoyed the most part of this amazing experience & ate some things I never would have done if I wasn't so afraid @ being shouted @ by the MASTER sushi chef, but I also found myself secretly pining for sushi tei! Shhh....don't tell Sanae that!
I woke up rather ill from the lack of sleep, but Sanae & ex-gf (the very cute
The majestic Fuji viewed from the hot spring in our room!
& bubbly Marina) had planned this fantastic trip up near Mt Fuji so we set off on a road trip. Stopped for ramen along the way & checked out a factory outlet that resembled NY's Woodberry Common. Then we got to the hotel & OMG! It was breathtaking! It was traditional Jap. Meaning sliding panels, futon beds, kimonos, & get this.... our very own private hot spring in our room! WAH! The hotelwas huge & we wandered round the perfectly manicured Jap gardens complete with cute little tea houses, waterfalls & a killer view of Mt Fuji. This was my first taste of a Jap hot spring & it was a nice surprise to see how liberated the old Jap women were about being in the nude! If u've never tried it, the procedure is to get naked, take a shower & jump into one of the many hot spring pools (choice of indoor or outdoor). There's something about running naked out into the cold & then jumping into a boiling hot hot spring thats suppose to be really good for your health & apparently it helps u sleep better. I needed all the help I could get since I was still battling jet lag!
Dinner was another elaborate affair, the menu was so LONG (I wondered how I was going to be able to eat it all!) and it was served in our room! It was like being at a 10 course chinese wedding dinner, except that it was all individual portions. Grilled lobster, miso cod fish, sashimi, crab soup, grilled beef with mushrooms, & special hot pot rice (that Sanae & Marina got pretty excited about so it must be damn special!). I was starting to like this kimono wearing business. Its comfortable, cool & you could wear it for everything. Dinner, to sleep, wear it to breakfast etc.!
Next day we drove to this amusement park with giant roller coasters but it was SHUT!!!!! So we made it back to Tokyo in time for the BEST ramen I've ever tasted! The soup was so rich - a thick chicken & pork stock! The place was small & trad Jap with small wooden benches & quirky little touches. And I was warned by Sanae that I should NOT finish my ramen as it was about 3pm & we had to think about eating dinner in a few hours!!!!!! Food Torture! HAHA.... I loved it!
Sanae kindly offered to let me stay the nite at his since he had an extra room. Think bachelor pad in all its messy glory! Lets just say it was definetely an experience. Freezing cold, no hot water for shower & being handed a bath towel that was "almost clean" (in Sanae's words). That nite we went to a "chicken" restaurant. Meaning that u get everything chicken related there. Fried chicken, yakitori, deep fried chicken skin, chicken shabu shabu, jap chicken rice, oyakudon!!!! Anybody who knows of my love of poultry would know how happy being in a chicken restaurant makes me!
So there- my jap culinary adventure. The pics say it all. Next stop out of the cold & finally to paradise - BALI!