Nothing like Labor Day traffic to speed greatly, the trip between Oak Park and Arlington Hts. It had been a while since we had poked around Mitsuwa. As usual, the place is amazing, a real transporter to another part of the world.
The food court seems to be in a constant state of flux. Last time we were there, a couple of the spots were empty, and the whole thing appeared a bit drab. Yesterday, almost all of the spots were taken and the space was jumping. One of the stands got a redo with a faux Japanase style facade and a large display case of plastic food. The offerings between two stands, however, seemed about the same. Lots of noodles--udon and rammen, bento boxes with fried shrimp and a kids dish featuring something craven like a Pokemon card or marischino cherries. I hardly ever visit these two competing stands.
I nearly always get the same thing. I am an absolute sucker for cheesey Japananese curry (and yes, I know it comes from a box). There is a stand that offers this curry with several choices of meat, including a hamburger. I always get the pork cutlet (takkatsu), a very tough cutlet yesterday. I did not finish my cutlet because I wanted to try the okononiyaki as they seemed to be a hot item (and it only cost $3).
What an item. Rather a big pancake style ommlette cooked on a griddle, a few bits of bacon get cooked inside. Once done, it gets doused in a sweetish brown sauce and bammed with a healthy portion of bonito flakes. Then, nearly everyone drenches their pancake with the very squeezeable Japanese mayo. In fact, part of the fun of ordering an okonoyiyaki is the ability to make various squiggles and patterns on your food with the mayo. You end up not recognizing any one flavor, but the inside of your mouth is very happy.
The other newish thing was a stand selling gelato and the whole range of bubble tea style drinks. It is homemade gelato the Massa way, an unsourced base mixed with fresh fruits or other flavorings. Of course, the flavors were a bit different than Massa including corn, sweet potato (Japanese), and calpico. The last, I was told, a very popular soft drink in Japan. The ice cream tasted mostly fresh, but I did not really like a lot of the flavors I sampled. Do not get the first one you see. Ms. VI's red bean freeze, to be honest, was really, really, awful. Tasting of powdered milk and water.
After some shopping at Mitsuwa, we, on Wiv's urging, drove to Tensuke. Since he had us looking for Old World, we drove around for a while. I should have paid more attention to Chisato who has already warned of the difference.
Where Mitsuwa bustles, Tensuke saw barely a client. Still, as foretold, the sushi and chunks of sashimi fish looked great. On the other hand, those slabs of bright red bluefin tuna were well over $20. A real nice touch, you can grab little bags of ice to keep your purchases fresh for the drive home.
There are tons of places nearby Mitsuwa for dinner, and I spent a few hours last night entering them into my new Palm Pilot. We ended up at Cho Dang Tofu, which I will provide a brief report in a seperate post.