Day 1. Tokyo.
Having never done a blog based around my travels and gastro-adventuring, my friends and family have always encouraged me to start something like this up. All of these photos are iPhone photos in (obviously) some of the most un-photogenic lighting situations; so you’ll see the food pretty much as i did… in a semi-blurred haze (not unlike mine, which was induced by copious amounts of delicious japanese alcohol and jetlag).
As of right now, we are sitting in the ticketing area of the Narita airport in Tokyo – our flight is about 3 hours delayed, but the free wifi and ability to finally post some good food makes the weight a piece of… sushi.
I woke up at 4:00am on the first day (whichever day that was) to leave Orlando and my family to fly to NYC and connect into Narita. I DO NOT eat airplane food, or airplane restaurant food (with a few exceptions in certain places), so i always pack nuts, granola, granola bars, triscuits, and other uber-healthy-lame-food. The flying was long, tiresome… actually! funny story (for you, not me):
We were supposed to have extended legroom seats booked from our label due to a current knee injury i have; as all travel goes, ofcourse this didn’t happen- but i had two empty seats next to me.
Next thing i know, a mom and her daughter rush in; mom on the phone, frantic (i think they were late for something for some reason…) flight finally takes off. I take some sleep aid (you pretty much have to on these long flights when you have to get in and get working right away.) I pass out for about three hours and wake up to something odd. the daughter, sitting next to me, is half puking on the plane blanket that is on me. Hooray.
I look over in shock; see that her mother is still sleeping, i continue to quickly get all my stuff out of the way, rush to help find her an airsick bag (good job delta (who does not have any sort of entertainment or room on international flights (thanks cheap airlines)), i continue to help clean her up with wet-ones, sanitizer; push the bathroom line out of the way, and it’s pretty much done. The girl was embarrassed, but the mother never really seemed to come out of her glassy-eyed gaze (she was probably taking the same sleep aid as me.) Not so much as a thank you from mom.
Fast-forward to Tokyo.
This was my sixth visit to Japan (excluding birth), and i requested to stay at the Tokyu Excel in Shibuya. I am very familiar with this area… it’s sort of what you’d picture of someone mentioned Tokyo to you: constant J-pop videos playing on massive video screens, incredibly well dressed men and women (who, on the very first visit to Shibuya, made me feel like a bum with how nice they were all dressed). The sheer volume of walking people, crossing the streets in impossibly orderly fashion is disorienting every time i come here.
I am not a city boy, but i could certainly live in Shibuya. I love it there. It’s a mix of old and new (like Japan is), traditional restaurants serving all sorts of regional specialities from all across the country that people from other countries would never have the chance to eat at their non-Japanese-run-pseudosushi-bars. There’s still a plethora of styles of Japanese i have yet to try (and my mother is Japanese – and one of the best damn cooks on the planet).
Koji from Roadrunner Japan has become a great friend of ours; we know (and he knows) when it’s time for us to hang out – it means an offensive amount of good food and lude amounts of flowing booze.
Jetlagged, sleepy, and starving (from my last 24 hour diet of nuts and granola) – we knew just the cure. Warazi-Ya is a spot we’ve hit first on many of our Japan tours. It’s an Izakaya restaurant (a style now budding in foodier hotspots like LA, NYC, Melbourne, and others). Izakaya is a sort of less formal sit-down restaurant where you share tons of small bites of different things (not unlike tapas in spain).
The private booths are lined with wallpaper of ancient Japanese porn-art. Apparently a very popular old art fashion (heck- look at how popular it is nowadays… just more artfully done by the Japanese masters of old), it definitely sets an informal tone when you sit in the traditional booths.
The first dish that showed up was Daikon pickles; something i’ve had a lot in my life, but these have a strong wasabi flavor. The giant beans (not sure on the name) were a cross between edamame flavor and a green bean; the mystery mix of “chicken innards” was a fun experience. Even Koji wasn’t entirely sure what each non-descript little bite was… but i tasted some liver, heart, and most likely some intestine. The sauce that was on it was fantastic. The yellow orbs? No idea what those were; they had the texture of a hard-boiled egg and a potato. Oh delicious innards (i love offal/getemono (the japanese offal… translates to “ugly food”.)
The fried squid was fantastic. I love the way japan does fried foods; very very different even than the way fried Japanese food is done in the USA. The pork and vegetable dish reminded me of an almost Chinese flavor (not in the szechuan sense), but it had that sesame oil/vegetable liquid translucent goodness that enveloped the meat and veg.
(part II to follow)