Friday, June 24, 2011
One of the things I have to accept about going to Japan is that I will be parted from much of the delicious cuisine that has made up the majority of joy in my life. Now, I'm not a glutton, but I do appreciate the finer aspects of dining. Let me begin by telling you that Japan is severely lacking when it comes to some of the staples that Americans care to dine upon.
A quick Google will tell you all you need to know about Japanese pizza. Obviously resources overseas are different, as are tastes. This is really just my own palette talking, but when I think of pizza I think of thick cheese, tomato sauce and pepperoni/sausage. I do not think of toppings like mayonnaise, asparagus, squid, seaweed or corn. I won't begrudge the Japanese their choice of toppings, but I will say that I have tasted their pizza in the past and was not impressed. I'm no gourmet, so I urge you to taste the difference yourself and see if you agree with me.
#2: Mexican Food
I love the occasional taco, enchilada, etc. Imagine my surprise when I went to Japan for the first time. I could not find a single Mexican restaurant. Perhaps I wasn't looking hard enough. Literally the only place in Japan that I was able to find Mexican food was the Spanish-themed restaurant at Tokyo Disney Sea. It was tolerable, meaning my gripe isn't with the quality of Mexican food in Japan but rather the scarcity of it. I have heard rumors that the Hard Rock Cafes located in major cities serve "Americanized" Mexican food, but it is expensive ($$$$).
#3: American Food in General
Don't tell me "if you're going to live in a foreign country, get over it and eat their food." I love foreign cuisine as much as the next expatriate, but anybody is going to become a little nostalgic for the dishes of their native land after a long enough absence. I'm expecting to eat plenty of sushi, okonomiyaki, and miso soup just like everyone over there, but nothing cures my homesickness like a reasonable facsimile of authentic American food. The one place I found in Japan that mimics a real American restaurant in terms of taste is The Oatman Diner. The staff is (of course) Japanese but the food tastes just like it does in America--plenty of salt, sugar, etc. If you can afford the price tag, you can get strawberry lemonade and a bacon cheeseburger just like you had back when you visited your favorite American restaurant.
You can barbecue in Japan... if you have a backyard. Space is scarce over there, so don't count on it. I was fortunate enough to have a host family with an ample garden in which to BBQ. Unlike in America, we used a small, lidless BBQ and served up the food as it was finished cooking, not all at the same time. One thing you may notice about Japanese dining etiquette in general is that people don't get served altogether. Japanese restaurants will bring your food as it is finished, meaning your friend may be waiting for his steak while you are halfway through your salad. I can't say if this is typical for Japan, but my host family's BBQ pit didn't have a lid, meaning we used paper fans to blow the smoke away. It seems to require much more effort and concentration on the part of the cook, but luckily it tasted just as delicious as back-home BBQ.