For a non-Japanese speaking Westerner, dining out in Japan is an interesting experience. Many restaurants do not have English menus, and when they do, the English can be very unclear. It is common to have plastic models of food on display, but if you don’t know what something is in the first place, the helpfulness of the models can be underwhelming. I’ve taken to just guessing and / or pointing.
The other night, I chose a restaurant that looked like it might be user friendly — there were a ton of plastic models in the window. When I went inside, I realized I was wrong. The staff spoke no English and the English menu was limited. I chose something I was familiar with, which was accompanied by a few things that were unfamiliar (in Japan, meals out are often a set of dishes rather than a choice of dishes a la carte (though that happens too)). Eel donburi was something I knew I had to try while in Japan. It came with Japanese pickles (check), steamed egg soup (no idea, but it did have some prawn and maybe a mussel?), and “soup” (I guessed miso, but anything was up for grabs…in the end it had strange edible floating but pieces in it).
I am in Japan! Today I arrived in Kyoto after a weekend of skiing at Shiga Kogen ski resort, which is about four and half hours outside of Tokyo. I will be back in Tokyo next week.
Because I rode my first bullet train today, I though it appropriate to follow up with a sushi train for dinner. I arrived at the restaurant to find a long queue of Japanese people waiting for a seat along the “tracks.”
Rather than allow me to sit in the one single seat available, in expected Japanese fashion, I had to wait until all the people in front of me — who all made up parties of two or three — were seated before I could sit. The lone seat remained empty as I waited.
The wait was worth it. The sushi was good. Periodically, all of the chefs, who were situated in the middle of the train track, yelled something out simultaneously. Although I had no idea what they were saying, their chorus gave the place a fun vibe.
Along the bar there were hot water taps and green tea bags that you could use to make complimentary green tea. If you’re in Kyoto and feel like sushi, I recommend this place — it is at the bottom of the Kyoto main train station, on the west side, across from McDonalds. I had eight serves (most plates had two pieces, a couple only had one) for only $13.
(that’s crab paste of some sort)