I lived in Japan for five years. I like to think I know the country, but an article this week in the Seattle Times titled “Inspired by the Tastes of Tokyo” has me inspired to go back for more. After reading the exquisite descriptions of food, I’m craving Japanese fare like never before.
Follow Lee Hefter, executive chef at LA’s Spago and Cut, as he eats his way through the city, looking for inspiration. Along the way you get a bird’s-eye view of the formidable culinary temptations of Tokyo:
There are sushi bars, soba stands, yakitori bars, French pastry shops, tofu specialists and shabu-shabu joints. There are tonkatsu-ya, the restaurants specializing in deep-fried pork cutlets; tamago shops for sweetened omelets, and unagi-ya, freshwater eel restaurants.
Vending machines offer 10 kinds of tea, hot and cold.
Hefter also lusciously describes artisan tempura, and Japanese beef:
There are 41 prefectures that raise Wagyu cattle and produce their own tender, marbled, meticulously graded beef that winds up in restaurants such as Aragawa, where one steak can cost $1,400.
And, of course, there is the requisite trip to the Tsukiji Market. “If it swims, it’s here — turtles, eels, clams, spiny lobsters, shrimp, silvery needlefish, crabs, abalone, firefly squid with googly eyes, octopus and stalls filled with uni, sea urchin roe that looks like slices of ripe apricot. And, of course, tuna.”
You’d think five years would be enough, but after reading this article, I might just have to go back to Japan and eat more.