Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Nippon eats blog.

February isn’t the beginning of the end of winter around here, but it’s close to—almost close to—somewhat near, though not next door or even in the same zip code—the end of the pit of winter. According to weather theory, March is the first month of spring, but even a month from today, the Northern spring will still be a notion in search of realization. Even two months from today, spring will be half-realized, a sluggard pressing snooze yet again.

Still, the least-favorite month of the year got off to a reasonable start, just at the threshold of freezing, with a little meltage here and there. A lot of the big snow of about 10 days ago is still covering the ground, but not completely. Considering the shortness of the month, I think I ought to get a discount on monthly things, like my commuter rail pass (and rent, back when I paid rent), but according to cold commercial calculations, a month’s a month.

Did an article about Benihana today. It’s the kind of place we visit only with gift card in hand, in California the last time we were there (about three years ago), and just before Christmas this year, in Schaumburg. The food’s always good, and the theatrics at the table are fun, but somehow I’ve never thought the place felt quite right. Like a Japanese restaurant created to satisfy the idea of a Japanese restaurant held by the generation of Americans that occupied Japan, or at least saw pictures of Occupied Japan.

It may also be that temppanyaki isn’t my favorite sort of Japanese restaurant, even in Japan. Yet it and sushi are the sorts of food that have traveled the furthest from that country. Just once I’d like to see outside Japan a Japanese curry shop, or a stand that sells takoyaki (squid in batter balls), or a katsudon joint (pork cultlets), or a soba/udon stall, or an okonomiyaki restaurant – elaborate pancakes, a specialty of Osaka and Hiroshima – or a shokudo at which I could get a football-sized rice omelet, or an O-Sho brand eatery that served the Japanese take on assorted Chinese food, such as (gyoza) potstickers. I’d even settle for a visit to Horai 551 to pick up two butaman (steamed pork buns) or the convenience store Lawson, for onigiri (rice balls, or more correctly I always thought, rice triangles). When it came to food, I was fully capable of going native in Japan.


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