Saturday, May 10, 2014

Happy 2014! Friday Foto Buffet

Hello there! And Happy 2014!

An extremely belated one to say the least. It's hard for me to believe that we're already in the month of May, and even weirder to think that my last 'real' post was back in August of last year. My attempt here at a catch up, all from the 4-week break I had in Japan last Winter (2-weeks in Tokyo and another 2 in Okinawa).

As for the reason for lack of posting, in a nutshell other projects had been taking up all my time (in a good way) but wanted to also mention here that I have no intention of stopping the ol' blog anytime soon. Expect fewer posts with the style perhaps evolving, but nothing drastic other than it.

Jumping towards the end of the break but shown below is a plate of cooked pork liver and tripe alongside a mound of moist Okinawan sea salt. There's always been a tradition of eating this (nibbling for me?) at my Grandparents on New Years Day.

I never had bothered to ask the reason behind, but was finally explained to me by an aunt. The word Chi phonetically can mean both "blood" or "soil." The consumption of pork liver along with the salt which both represents spirits from the earth is said to cleans and uplift one's soul in preparation of the coming year. Gotta get me some of that action, so I have a piece.

Memories rush back that it's unapologetically bitter, dry and bland, but obviously this isn't about having any gourmet epiphanies. As I swallow the last piece, it gave me a sense of comfort and even pride for being a part of this culture, then a final lingering sense of nostalgia. Visiting grandparents' on New Years Day used to be an annual ritual right up around Junior High but I couldn't remember when I had the last.

So as I mentioned earlier, the first two weeks of my break started in Tokyo and now that I look back the theme of energizing through these more personal food encounters seem to have been an unconscious thread. Seeking out the latest and greatest was less of a priority over using meals to connect back and strengthen ties with friends and family.

I had to also balance this with a fair amount of "me time" which always seem to be a challenge with these vacations. So I had also spent a good deal getting off random train stations and walking the backstreets towards a loosely determined destination. I would spend a day purposely trying to get lost and enjoying all the serendipitous discoveries. There always seems to be something interesting to see just around another corner.

This day getting close to noon and in unfamiliar territory again, I decided to follow a trail of foodie salarymen. These brisk striding guys were intensely engaged in a conversation about past and future lunch spots the entire way. I felt I wouldn't be disappointed where they'd lead me to so I kept pace at distance and followed.

Restaurant Izumi. Looked like a classic popular-to-locals' Yoshoku spot. Seeming a bit worn from the exterior but I would never have any apprehensions with these and so I'm totally game. :)

Inside what I immediately noticed was that I had inadvertently stumbled on a Kitanachelin spot.(!) Now referred to as Kitanataurant but a segment on a Japanese television show that highlights (in a comedic tone but with honest good intentions) humble and rather rundown food establishment that serves a surprising good meal.

So anyway, inside was a wonderful seventies patina with an older wife and husband duo, a literal mom-n-pop team. The older husband chef would greet customers and call out orders in a crackling almost grandfatherly voice which for me was very heartfelt. You can tell they both enjoyed what they did.
The dish the show covered (aired back in March of 2010) was an original pork and cheese grill. However I went for the B-Lunch Set (800-Yen, ~$8) which was also popular the day. Two of them ready to be served below and the charming older chef behind.

A little bit of everything. Resting on a double pillow of fresh leafy salad and finely shredded cabbage are various fish fries and croquettes, a mini hamburg is underneath the sunny-side egg as well as the ubiquitous small twirl of spaghetti Naporitan tucked in the corner. Also comes with a small bowl of miso soup and my side of rice had a free ladle of Japanese curry that was a special the day. A great value, the individual components of the meal nothing out of the ordinary but the experience as whole with all the intangibles for me something pretty special. These places are pure magical to me.  Looking forward in eventually sharing the detail pics.

Also in Tokyo I was able to connect with a few food bloggers, some I've met and some new. It was an amazing experience and I don't think I felt more at ease with them. Felt they were my long lost kin, haha. The night out was with old friend Ginger-san of, his partner in crime EatNapo-san of the fame Naporitan X Naporitan blog who've I've been looking forward in meeting for a while, an equal super Tokyo blogger Kimimatsu-san who was also a total joy to finally meet and also Okayo-san of another great dining out blog. We met at Kamata Station and drove to our first destination. Kimimatsu-san's recollection post of the evening here (pt.2 here) and Okayo-san's here.

We ended up at a place called Katagiri which was part meat shop by day and a super locals drinking hole by night.

The local/neighborhood atmosphere was awesome. Starter was Renkon lotus root simmered kinpira style which I thought was seasoned perfectly.

The Gyu-motsunikomi (beef tripe simmer) was outstanding, grilled meats and Yakitori also quite tops. The grilled beef was from a portion called the 'Sankaku' (triangle), a desirable portion of rib meat. My mouth is watering...

Below is Napo-san pouring me my first Oolong-Hai (iced oolong tea with shochu). Wow, what a cool night!

And so as usual he had asked for a Naporitan despite it off the menu. (Link to the post on his blog here.) This "winged" version thanks to the kind peeps at Katagiri we all shared. For one being made with at-hand ingredients was pretty good!!

Thank you Ginger-san, EatNapo-san, Kimimatsu-san and Okayo-san, I had an amazing time. Happy 2014. To reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, Kanpai/Cheers! I'll be back with you all to help finish that bottle, haha. :)

Will be a part-two of the Deep Kamata series coming as there were more spots we visited the night and I would enjoy sharing.

On this same theme of connecting with old food blogger friends I was also finally able to meet with Kat of the blog Our Adventures in Japan in Osaka! You can read Kat's more timely recollection of our foodie crawl here.

It was a quick one-day trip but it helped me make use of my Japan Rail Pass. A cloudy day with sporadic rain but it didn't phase us any. We trooped along to our first stop (per my selfish love of B-Kyu Gurume request) was to the friend-of-working-class Nanba Jiyuken who's been in business since 1910 to try their famous "Meibutsu" Curry.

It's an odd style (Japanese) Curry that isn't found much elsewhere. Each plate is made to order where the roue is stirred into the rice and tossed in a heated pan. Plated, a divot is formed in the center where a raw egg is dropped on top. As Kat mentions in her post, Usutaa Sauce (Japanese Worcestershire) is recommended halfway through the meal to change up flavors while the egg mixed in mellows it. The curry had some unique spices and was on the spicy side. I can honestly say I did enjoy it (though not sure how much Kat liked it, haha). Anyway, another one off my ever growing checklist and I thank Kat for that.

We also shared an Ebi Cream Korokke (shrimp cream croquette) and this was quite wonderful, angry crispy on the outside, a bechamel based molten creamy in with a lot of shrimp flavor. Came dressed with a nice light tomato sauce.

A few more casual quick meals elsewhere but before ending we decided to check out the Doguyasuji which is like an indoor Kappabashi of Osaka. Since I didn't have time during the break to visit Kappabashi, I went ahead and did all my kitchen gadget shopping there.

Bought a classic Noda Horo enamel coffee pot, as well as a Misono chef/meat knife ($$), Tampopo style thin frying pan (I'm loving it) and few other random things. I thought the wrapping paper of this particular shop was so neat. A lot of additional photos coming up soon for this series as well.

The day in Osaka was just too quick but again thanks to Kat was an afternoon with a lot of visits. Thanks again for making time and the super fun day!!

And before I forget, below is one of the two retort pack curries I received as a gift from Kat since she knew I enjoyed trying them so much. Below is the Hanshin Tigers Beef Curry, so cool and thoughtful! I've already tried and was really great but again, saving details for later.
In the background by the way is my stash of curries I had brought back. There is like 30+ (what the heck was I thinking!! Haha). There are a few instant ramen as well, so I can't say I won't be short on content this year.

Finishing off the post with a few more pics. Not surprising I had some really good ramen as well. Since I'm a fan of general B-kyu Gurume it's a bummer that I can't focus on them like some ramen specific blogs since the meal is definitely up there as one of my favorites.

Have you noticed that none are Tonkotsu? All Shoyu except for one tsukemen I had (not pictured) at Rokurinsha.

Some quick teasers from Okinawa as well... Couple Okinawa Sobas (one with Yushi Tofu), a Taco Rice from the original shop in Kin City (Parlor Senri), Goya Champuru, a Nuuyaru Burger from local chain JEF, and a local fruity yogurt drink Morinaga Yo-go.

Can't wait in getting to share them all. The Foto Buffet style seems to be an efficient format for me but I've been intrigued at the concept of posting more of shorter posts, almost Tumblr style. I'll just have to see what works. Anyway, thanks again for visiting!


K and S said...

glad to see you posting again! had fun on our foodie adventure! take care.

caninecologne said...

Welcome back to the blogosphere Dennis! Great roundup of photos, especially of the noodles and Japane scenes! I saw the Glico man ad!

Kirbie said...

Welcome back! Funny, I had lunch with CC the other day and I was asking her if she knew what you were up to since it'd been so long since you posted. Happy to see you posting again! Glad you have good other projects keeping you busy.

Dennis K. said...

Thanks Kat, same here!

Thanks CC and Kirbie! The post took me about a week. I'm so rusty, haha.

Jinxi said...

Welcome back!! Hope things are going well with your other projects, too, and looking forward to future posts! :)

Cathy Doe said...

This is such a great post, showing *you* and your family traditions and the real Japanese places, foods and (thank you) explanations. Welcome back to the plain old world.

Dennis K. said...

Thanks Jinxi! We have to go have lunch again. :)

Thanks Cathy! I love San Diego. I just wish I can visit home more often. :)

Mary said...

Welcome back, Dennis! I want to eat alllll the croquettes. Love all your photos and your talk of getting lost and just letting the path take you where it wants you to go. Lovely!

KirkK said...

Welcome back....and with such an epic post as well.

Dennis K. said...

Thanks Mary, hope you're doing well too! Lots to catch up.. :)

Thanks Kirk, looks you're having a great trip as well! Looking very forward in reading your future updates.

jɔt a said...

Good to have you back at last, Dennis! (´∀`)b

Dennis K. said...

Thanks jct a!

kaszeta said...

Welcome back. And you are making me hungry for noodles again.

Dennis K. said...

Hey Kaszeta, super great to hear from you buddy! One day our schedules will synch and we'll have a meal together! :)