duck-shaped pain


9 February 2001
Torei Wa Doko Desu Ka?

I went out for Japanese food tonight. It had been awhile. I've never quite sure why I go so long between visits to Japanese restaurants, for every time I eat at one, I remember that Japanese food is probably my favorite cuisine in the world. It's the one that I could theoretically eat every day of my life. A good Japanese meal hits every spot possible and leaves me feeling much more satisfied than any other food can.

Even the food at the Japanese restaurant here.

Tonight was the first time I'd been in since they remodeled. It really doesn't look any different than it has for the past ten years, except that they removed one of their "Japanese-style" seating areas and put in a bigger sushi bar.

Seriously, I had to put quotes around "Japanese-style" because what the original owners came up with when they first designed the restaurant was an interesting accommodation to both traditional Japanese dining customs and big Western feet and legs. They built these enormous elevated platforms. On the top of each platform was a traditional, low-slung Japanese table. Underneath each table was a pit which enabled patrons to sit in the style in which they were accustomed, instead of having to kneel or sit cross-legged. However, having this pit available in which to store one's legs made getting out at the end of the meal fairly awkward. You couldn't just lift your legs out, as the table was too low. One had to scoot back as far as possible (which was not far, let me tell you), pull one's leg's out slowly, as to not whack them on the underside of the table, and then swing the leg up and to the side of the table. Then repeat, with the other leg. Then, since the elevated platform had only one exit, and since it had a big railing around it, patrons had to scoot off of it, slowly. With a big party, the act of disembarking the elevated platform could take nearly as long as the meal. It was a very amusing thing to see.

So, now there's only one or two of these tables left, for those diners seeking an "authentic" dining experience. Then again, if it was actually authentic, there would be no leg-storage pit. And, you would have to take your shoes off. It just seems silly.

I'm glad for the addition of the larger sushi bar. The previous one had only four seats, which were usually taken up by dishrags and boxes of chopsticks. No one ever sat there, so they used the area for storage, which caused even less desire to sit there. The new one, though, is more spacious and attractive and they started storing supplies in the bar that's never been used.

I like sitting at the sushi bar. Besides the fact that you get to keep an eye on your food, it provides a nice home for the solo diner, much as a lunch counter does. You can just go in and sit down, bypassing the host or hostess. This means you can avoid comments such as "Just one?" or "Is there only going to be you tonight?" and that you get some sort of control over where you sit, instead of being assigned to the tiny table in the corner by the rack of magazines. You can talk to the sushi chefs if you like, but you can also not. If you're like me, you'll talk to them for a bit, but then use the rest of the time to write in the paper journal.

I had a terrific meal. I had an order of hamachi (yellowtail), sake (salmon), a roll made up of crab, tempura shrimp, maguro, cucumber, avocado [1], and scallion, miso soup, salad, two mugs of extremely strong green tea, and a tiny cup of sake (not salmon). It was a pricey meal for me, but it was worth it. All pistons were firing after that.

I was pleased – they seemed to have upgraded their employees at the same time they redid the restaurant. They all seemed pleasant, quick, and not obviously homicidal. I went to this in further detail in this entry, but the story here is that this restaurant was well-known for some time for hiring people who were six beers short of a six-pack. You would get waiters who would tremble when you talked to them and then they would hide in the bathroom. Orders were always wrong. One of their employees tried to blow up the convention center. You were guaranteed an interesting time when you came in – not that you wanted one, though.

Sitting next to me at the sushi bar were a small group of guys who all attended the local college. Their goal for the night was to see who could outdo the others in wasabi ingestion. It got to the point where they were just eating big gobs of it whole. I bet it stinks out of their pores tomorrow, like cream of garlic soup would.

Mmmm. Wasabi burps. Or, better….wasabi farts.

The final touch to the remodeling was the addition of new curtains. They were hanging from the ceiling, from the beams and from the lamps. The one next to me had a painting of an enormous blowfish on it, surrounded by scallions. Because everyone knows that in nature, the blowfish and the scallion are the best of friends.

[1] Officially, though, I hate avocadoes.

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