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Monday, February 16, 2009

Impressions from Tokio

As you might have guessed from our previous post on il Calandrino we have been to Tokyo. It was a work trip, so apart from il Calandrino, we had no time for any ‘mission’ for the blog. But our hosts took us around to restaurants of all sorts, which left on us an indelible impression: it’s hard for any city in the world to beat Tokyo in terms of quality and variety of cuisine. Even our simple and spartan accommodation featured a breakfast room that was a quiet pleasure to enter... in...

...and look out from

In it, we found a breakfast that was also a pleasure to look at!

And changing every morning (save for the 'scottie')

There is a moving elegance and tidiness in the way the Japanese present their food and organise their living spaces, at all levels. And, while the lady who cooked this did not hold one of the many Michelin stars glowing in the city, the flavours were great, especially the chargrilled vegetables you see in the egg dishes.

We ate many unusual things in Tokyo, from scones with beans or green tea to varieties of sushi we’d never seen. We are pretty open minded. But when, in this elegant traditional place with tatami in separate rooms,

our hosts told us that the speciality was raw chicken, we must confess we had a moment of hesitation…But of course we are both too polite and too curious to say no. In the end, we were ‘saved’ by the announcement from the cuisine that, in view of such important guests (ehm), the speciality grilled chicken normally served only for dinner would be brought to us:

We don’t know about raw, but this grilled version was fantastic.

We checked every morning: Mount Fuji was still there:

Definitely Tokyo is not just for Michelin star lovers. We had much simple but high quality street food in places like this

or this

We had sobas that we won't forget. Both cold

and hot

in this marvellous local little joint

By the way, while in the 'elegant' traditional place above you are not really forced to squat on the tatami, since there is space to fit your legs under the table (a comfort that apparently many Japanese appreciate, too!), in our cosy little joint if you wanted tatami, there was no escape form squatting

(we decadent bastards however grabbed a table with chairs).

One thing we had never tried in Western Japanese venues is shabu-shabu. You start from thinly sliced, deliciously fat, pork

(with plenty of vegetables

The broth is made hot at your table

and in go the pork and veggies

Pure gluttony. But don't think it's over when you are done with the pork and veggies. The broth is now full of all that enticing fat, and any doctor, beside food lover, would surely recommend that you collect all that flavour with you rice. In it goes for the group...

and then everybody has his own bowl

This is fun, communal eating.

Of course we had tons of unbelievable sushi and sashimi, which we won't show, but we were intrigued by the venues where you had the items in a box or tray, each venue offering its own variety of accompaniments, such as colourful cured pork or duck, tofu, miso and more

If one word should sum up our impression that is tidiness: of flavours, of views, of character...and...even of toilets - did you know that Japan is at the forefront of toilet technology? We have seen things that you humans cannot even imagine, toilets that look like computers and do all sorts of more or less desirable things to some precious parts of your body: just press those buttons for some fun:



Frequent Traveler said...

It really is wonderful what an eye they have for beauty in everyhting. From the lovely view from the breakfast room, to the immaculate condition of everywhere you photographed, to the precise arrangements of the various dishes; even to the modern and (dare I say ?) fascinating toilet/bathroom !

Man-Woman said...

Yeah, probably only in Japan can the words 'toilet' and 'fascinating' not look bizarre next to each other!

Unknown said...

Love the look of that Bento box with all the tempura in. I think I will have to have Japanese for lunch!

Anonymous said...

I love Japan. I spent some time there as an exchange student when I was in high school. Your picture of the toilet made me laugh. The Japanese have this strange affinity with umm, toilets. In winter they are the best because the toilet seat is warm!

Man-Woman said...

Welcome, Girlwhohastoeat! Exactly, even our basic accommodation featured a warm toilet seat - we felt really like cave-people going back to our London house!

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