After a fun filled day watching the Yabusame (samurai horseback archery) on the bank of the Sumida river, we spent the afternoon wandering around the ‘food and kitchen supplies’ area of Tokyo called Kappa-bashi, 5 mins from Asakusa. There you will find thousands of plastic food models in various sizes which are sometimes bought as souvenirs but their proper job is to be located outside a restaurant to indicate what type of food/dishes they serve inside. It is helpful as most of the time foreigners cannot read the menu, or it makes it more eye catching for those who can read the menu but are spoiled for choice of where to eat. After being entertained for a few hours by plastic food and the biggest selection of chef knives you will find anywhere, we needed some real food and we went wandering around the roads close to the main shrine as there are hundreds of restaurants in the area it was a little hard to choose.
Here is a little ‘taster’ into the world of Japanese plastic food:
I was in the mood for beef so we went into a small place with a picture of a cow on the outside. We could peek in from the street that customers were cooking their own meat on a hot place in front of them and I thought it sounded fun. As we walked in I tired to recognise the bits of raw meat I saw on other people’s tables waiting to be cooked and had thought the chicken and beef looked good. We were given our seats and the waitress brought us a menu translated into English! I read the menu with some confusion as I couldn’t find beef, or steak, or chicken and then I went to see what words had been translated and was quite horrified to read, tongue, intestines, tripe, heart, liver etc. etc. I looked around again and realised that the meat I thought was chicken and steak was actually some type of offal and more importantly something I definitely did not want to eat, I suddenly had the music from the shower scene of psycho playing very loudly in my head! J and I had a heated discussion earlier in the week where he told me that at skewer restaurants they put any parts of the animal on the skewer and I fought hard that they didn’t! Well it turns out I was wrong and I wanted to leave! Looking around at all the innards sizzling on the hot plates was making me feel ill and much to the confusion of the waitress J paid the bill for the drinks we had already ordered and left! I looked at the picture of the cow a little closer when leaving the restaurant and realised that the drawing of what I thought were cuts of meat was actually a diagram of innards of the cow from the head to the tail!
Far away from the offal we needed a new food plan and we turned to the safety of the guide book and made our choice. The style of dish we were seeking out is called “okonomiyaki”, which is a mix of meat/seafood/vegetables in cabbage and vegetable batter creating an end product which is half pancake half crazy omelette. You receive your mix of choice together in a single bowl and you have to mix it all together with an egg. Then you apply a little cooking fat to the hot griddle in front and pour out the mixture and flatten it out like a pancake/omelette. You then wait a few minutes until it’s ready to flip, and then cook it on the other side. Once it is cooked you baste it with a sweet BBQ sauce and it’s ready to eat. The restaurant is called Sometaro and it is easy to spot as it has a rustic and overgrown exterior. It is a traditional japanese restaurant and you take off your shoes upon entering and sit on mats on the floor to eat. It had a really wonderful atmosphere and I enjoyed every minute i spent in there. The waiters spoke a little english but we tried to use as much Japanese as possible.
We opted to try their tepenyaki to start and had some prawns and a selection of mushrooms. After that we went for two different types of okonomiyaki and shared them. We had one with beef strips and mince and another with pork, spring onion and pieces of tempura batter. The one with beef strips was better, but they were both yummy and I loved cooking them myself, not to mention enjoying the warmth of the griddle on a cold night! I thought they would be quite heavy but because there is not that much batter compared to the amount of cabbage it keeps it less dense than an omelette.
During our meal we got chatting to a French guy currently living in Germany who was here on a business trip and had just arrived on the plane a few hours ago. He would be here for a few weeks and wanted to know if we had any recommendation so we had a nice time chatting with him throughout our meal. All in all it was the most fun dining experience I have had so far in tokyo and I would definitely have okonomiyaki again!
To walk off dinner we went to the shrine (Asakusa Jinja) to see it lit up at night, a wonderful place to digest!