Monday, July 5, 2010

"Oh my god Blake, its still moving!"

Canada day celebrations were a hit. We headed to Hon-atsugi, the stomping grounds of the Atsugi-NTT-Canadians, a place much more metropolitan than I had expected, considering how dreary and po-dunk the next stop over on the Odakyu (Aikoishida) is. Anyway the place was shabu shabu tabehodai nomihodai, and we took advantage of the former with lots of meat eating (I didn’t have a single vegetable, so there, Arianna. I didn’t even eat the ones you put on my plate, unless they happened to become attached to my meat. An unfortunate reality, when sauce is involved.) and the latter with lots of rather gay drinks following the first few rounds of beers. There was a two hour limit, and I was so busy gorging/talking/not listening that I didn’t catch it when the waiter came by and told us it was the last order. So though I could have done another platter of meat, I was forced not to.

Afterwards, due to a series of unfortunate events, I didn’t end up getting to sleep until after 6am, a scant hour or so before I usually rise for work.

Friday was a semisomia-filled workday, punctuated by Red Bulls.

Saturday evening was blowfish (fugu, ふぐ) night, and we went to one of the cheaper fugu specializing places because we weren’t in the mood for a 10000円 meal. We didn’t even have to head into Tokyo, as there is a fugu chain restaurant right in Aobadai (my neighbourhood). The place was reasonably classy, and I was happy I chose to wear a collared shirt instead of the block-breaker Jesus one I had been sporting earlier in the day. (Side note here: You know the stereotypical Jesus head/face that everyone in the western world recognizes, and I have formed in block breaker blocks on a T-shirt? No one in Japan recognizes Jesus. Oh god, they’re all going to hell for gross ignorance.) There were a bunch of Fugu course sets ranging from about 4000円 to 8000円 ($40-80). What a bargain! They even included desert. So I got the cheapest one which had a few courses including fugu skin, fugu sashimi, fugu nabe (cook in boiling water/soup like fondue) and some fugu egg rice dish, along with desert (no fugu flavoured ice cream here).

My overall impression after the meal, agreed upon with Arianna-san, was “nonplussed”. Fugu just isn’t that good. Sure, theres the appeal that “1 in 20 bites means death! OMG”, but once you get past that its kinda just sub-par fish. The sashimi had the consistency of really, really old gummy bears, and even tasted like gummy bears, you know that background flavour that they all share whether they’re cherry or blue or green or whatever. The skin was nasty, I never really like eating raw fish skin, and this just sealed the deal for me. It has the consistency of rubber bands and tastes like a fish market smells at 5pm after it closes. The fugu nabe was an interesting idea, the table had one of those magnetic induction heaters in the middle which uses rapidly oscillating magnetic fields to induce eddy currents (and heat) in anything iron or steel put on top of it. So they had a basket with water proof paper lining, and a piece of steel in it. When the induction heater is turned on, only the steel heats, and the water boils. The waiter puts all the fugu pieces, vegetables and such in it, and it becomes fondue.

Heres the fun part, the pieces of fugu that they brought out to us for the fugu nabe were STILL MOVING. Yah, it blew my mind too. I managed to get a video of the floundering fin attempting to get away from the induction heater that meant certain death. The fugu nabe is not meant to be eaten raw, so unfortunately I didn’t have the pleasure of eating the still moving fish, but it was nice to know how fresh this fish was. They have them swimming around in an aquarium in the front of the place, so I guess I should have expected no less.

[I wanted to put a video of the moving fugu fin here, but my SD card is unreadable on my Macbook and my work laptop, but works fine on my camera. WTF? Ideas?]

As entertaining as the fugu nabe was, the pieces were 90% cartilage and so very difficult to eat. I always like egg rice bowls, so fugu flavour didn’t detract too much from that, and the matcha ice cream was great, as per usual in Japan.

All in all, considering how much delicious salmon/tuna/unagi sushi/sashimi I could have eaten for 4000円 (unlimited, effectively), it was not a good deal. Of course, now I have the story, and the wherewithal to refuse fugu as haughtily as possible when its next offered (likely never).

Sunday I headed out with Caoch, a guy from the English happy hour at work, he brought with him some of what I must call the most enlightened and (how racist is this going to sound? fuck it) gaijin-like Nipponese people I've yet encountered. Seriously good time, Caoch. We headed to the best Spanish restaurant in Tokyo (a tiny hole in the wall near Jiyugaoka station in Meguro), which is apparently a common destination for Miss Japan, the most beautiful girl in Japan. I didn't see her. But the tapas were great, and wine was great, and due to some pecuniary support from my man Caoch, it wasn't even too expensive.

An Irish pub nearby was the apres diner destination, which was nice and rustic feeling, with an American barkeep. I also made a point to check out some of the surrounding shopping and stuff, which is supposed to be world class for affordable little gifty/Japanese/student-budget stuff. I wasn't disappointed. Don't know if I mentioned this previously, but Jiyugaoka is consistently voted the best place to live in Tokyo, and based on my limited exploring, travels, and interactions there, I have to say I'd agree. I just typed "Not that I'd ever want to live in Tokyo, ever again" by Japan-hating default, but now I find myself saying that I could see myself in Tokyo, at least on a part time basis if the situation demanded it, as long as I had someone there with me. Thats right, Tokyo on a part time basis. My plan is to be absolutely loaded. Where to live the rest of the time, you ask? Well, Arash and I have already agreed that we're going to do a timeshare on a pad in Amsterdam when we're rich, so thats two places. I should start a list.

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