Friday, March 30, 2012

Food outings - Mexican and Ramen

It was Friday night, I just had finished working out at the gym and I was hankerin' for some mexican food.  There's one mexican food place near base that I hear people talking about all the time.  I've heard that the mexican food is pretty decent and that their margaritas are good.  

So here it is, Mike's Mexican Restaurant.  This one's easy to find, you cross the street at the main gate, and walk about 100meters to the right.  It's on the second floor.  The easiest way to spot it is to look upwards, you'll see their window decorated with the Mike's Tacos branding.

Mike's offers up mostly combo plates, you'll find that most average Mexican dishes are offered: burritos, tacos, tostadas, enchiladas, nachos, etc.  Unfortunately no pina, horchata, or orange bang.  Shit, wannabe Mexican place, get it right.  

Anyways, knowing that I'm overly critical when it comes to Mexican food, I decided to not go for a large meal like a taco and burrito.  Instead I opted for a "beef taco" and a "beef enchilada," seen below.

I was expecting carne, but it was shredded beef.  The shredded beef was acceptable, I prefer marinated carne, but that's ok.  

Score Card:

Presentation : 7/10 - It's in line with most other sit-down Mexican restaurants

Cost : 7/10 - This meal was ~950ish yen, not much meat though

Emulation of Los Angeles Mexican Food : 4/10, the food kinda looks like what you'd expect from a super white-washed "Mexican" restaurant, but the details are just not there.  The tortilla wasn't grilled.  There's lettuce in the taco.  There's no special salsa (I'd argue that the best mexican places don't even use a salsa in the traditional sense, they use a very special thick sauce that does not use tomatoes as the main ingredient).  

Taste not based on emulation, but on its own merit : 6/10.  The food was fresh, but it was just lacking in flavor.  Imagine trying to emulate traditional Italian cooking by using Ragu poured over spaghetti noodles.  It's kinda like that.

The next day I decided to go back to the Ramen place right next to base, to try out a different soup.  Here I got spicy miso ramen with chicken karage.  

The spicy miso broth definitely had much more depth and richness to it compared to the shio ramen that I had tried prior.  But, compared to the ramen restaurants at the Ramen Museum, the broth was lacking all the little fixins.  In cantonese, the word I'd use is "lieu," basically all the constituents of the soup.  Plain chicken stock is free from "lieu," it's more or less kinda like flavored water.  You get the plain chicken stock, boil it with a whole chicken, some pork bones, and the congealed broth will contain the "lieu" that I'm talking about.  It adds depth to the soup, depth you can literally taste AND see.

Stingy bastards also only gave me ONE piece of pork.  Last time I thought I had accidentally ordered the small size bowl because I got one piece as well.  This time when I saw that one piece I knew they were cheap sonsofbitches.

Chicken karage was good!  I found the pickled ginger, which paired perfectly with it.

This restaurant specializes in shio, shoyu, and miso ramen, but not tokotsu.  That being the case, I be done sampling their ramen!  Onward!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

HAMAZUSHi, 94yen per plate sushi!

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And here we are again, Wednesday afternoon, where I get the second half of the day off.  I fully worked up seven full patients in the first half of the day, so I was glad to have a little break.  Wanting Needing my weekly sushi fix, I read up about a local (and when I say local, I mean it) sushi place that offered a flat rae per plate.  Hamazushi was it.  94 yen per plate on the weekdays.  NINETY FOUR YEN!  

As for local, it was retardedly local.  Not walk 45 minutes like an idiot local, or spend 5 dollars in train fees type of local, but literally a 5 minute walk from my room local.  

Just walk down blue street (coming from the base), and on the 3rd intersection, look left.  You'll see this huge yellow building, Hamazushi is at the foot of the building.  If you look right at that intersection you'll see Pepper Lunch and Mister Donut.  

Aforementioned foot of yellowbuilding:

Ok, so when you get there, there's this one machine that gives you a number.  There was no english translation, so I had to ask a lady how to work the machine.  First, you choose how many are to be seated.  FYI, ou have to press kinda hard, it's a weak capacitive LCD screen.  Then, if you're by yourself, hit the middle of the three options, that one's for a bar seat.  I think the first one was a table, but I didn't concern myself with that because I was eating alone.  The machine will issue you a number.  Considering the hostesses announced the 3 digit number at the speed of light, my number was useless.  I just responded to their calls after the person before me was last called, haha.

Here the LCD system is newer, so it's much easier to see what you're ordering.

And they offered me an english menu, too.  This one is full sized so you could check out the details when you click.

I always start out with 2 quick orders because these places don't give you separate plates for soy sauce and wasabi.  

The musical little note they play here is much less obnoxious than the one at point 100 sushi.

How you're expected to prepare your own tea:

Fresh wasabi kicked my ass.  Apparently there IS a wrong way to eat sushi laced with super powered wasabi.  Just make sure you don't have a habit of separating the fish from the rice in your mouth, pressing the little ball of wasabi up against the soft palate of your throat.

Still one of my favorites, although I shamefully feel a little too american for liking this plate =p  Must be the fact that it's got cheese and it's toasted.

Marinated tuna AKA the oldest tuna we've got.  I knew what I was getting myself into, but I knew the marinade would be tasty. And it was!

Again, this toro's got nothing on Kats at Wasabi.  But reminder, it's 94 yen.  And that's AFTER taxes, yo.

All in all, made out like a bandit.  11 plates for ~1034yen, which is like 12-13 US dollars.

I'm sorry Point 100 sushi, you're just too damn far and this place is just as good AND cheaper.  

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Japan County Fair and Shibuya

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On Sunday I woke up to this:

As I later found out, the base opens its doors to the public 2-3 times a year.  Japanese people LOVE visiting the base.  

...and now I know why.  That fat slab there cost me 10 bucks!  This place was like the LA fair.  There were ribs, steaks, those big turkey legs, cotton candy, beer, etc.  It was funny because quite a few people were there for "american" pizza.  Japanese folks have their own pizza, which looks kinda too healthy for its own good =p  

This place was like Disneyland.  It's odd because the base is usually so quiet.

Much like how the Japanese variety of items offered at Mcdonalds intrigues me, these folks were also interested enough to snap a couple photos.

Street performers don't their diablo-thing.  Reminds me of Jason back in elementary school.  

And now I've arrived at my intended location, Shibuya in Tokyo, which is one of the local places to go for youth fashion.  Here you'll find all the super high end stores all juxtaposed next to the ghetto-looking hip hop stores =p.  

This is the famous Shibuya crossing that's at the outlet of the train station.  It reminds me of Time's Square, but the difference is that this thing is PACKED ALL_DAY_LONG.  Traffic is stopped in all directions and the street is fully opened to ped crossing.

Whatcha got on that, 3 story Montebello mall Forever 21?!

You'll never be left wanting of a good steak, haha.  Outback's got you covered.

"Ok, so for this next shot, give me your best I-just-shit-my-pants look"

It's Hermeeeees!

The batter had hints of ginger in it, very unique!  Fried chicken doesn't taste like this back at home.

And my turn to reciprocate, the stupid American taking pictures of a Japanese Mcdonalds.

The "Beverly Hills" burger as it's called.  Looks pretty good.  I think it'd be like a 6-7 dollar burger after the exchange rate though =p

Dayna would have shit her pants if she saw this.

Much prettier at nighttime!


A downward look at the Shibuya crossing at nighttime:

And for dinner, Coco Ichiban, or just "coco's" as it's called by most on base.  There are two Coco's near base, apparently this one tastes better so I gave it a try.

You specify the type of curry you want (pork or beef), the type of meat, the spiciness level (1-10, 5 gives an itty-bitty bite), and how many grams of rice you want (100+ grams).

Topped with egg!  The curry here is wonderful, very rich and flavorful.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Wandering about Yokohama/Machida area

I didn't have any plans for Saturday, so I decided to head back to Yokohama to round out my ramen trials at the Ramen Museum.  I found out that the ramen I'm most fond of, tonkotsu, is specific to one area of Japan, specifically the SOUTHERMOST part!  Damn, because Yokosuka is wayyy far from the southern region of Japan.  Oh well, didn't keep me from trying the last two tonkotsu vendors...  

Ok, so here's the floor map of this place:

The first tonkotsu place I tried on my first visit the museum was #6 (it had great bbq pork).  On this visit I went to #3 and #4.  

Instead of providing pickled, puree'd garlic, this place gave you a garlic press and fresh garlic!  Interesting twist on keeping this super fresh, huh?  

Soup was good, relatively flavorful, I'd peg it at a 6.5/10.  Noodles were again the same type of lo mein, still not much of a fan.  As for the meat, it's average now that I had my mind blown by the #6 place up there)

This is a menu of #4.  Since I don't read any Japanese, I have to cross reference pictures with the Japanese terms.  Most places have one picture per button, but these america-hating noodlers thought it'd be funny to have one bigass picture sitting atop four ordering buttons.  I end up choosing the most expensive of the "mini" versions, haha.  I figured it's the priciest for a reason, right?  Anyways, the red buttons on the right side are the for the "mini" sizes.  No sight of the chinese word "xiao" on there to represent "small."  Weird, I thought.  

Ok, this next place had pretty crappy ramen, not gonna lie.  My 680ish yen went towards a pretty cool show though.  I was relegated to the bar, where the rest of the other single noodlees (receiving end of noodler?) sat.  There I was able to see the cook pull off his ramen preparation.  I didn't get a chance to make a video, as by the time I realized it would have been a cool video it was practically over.  

Anyways, he would line up about 5-6 washed/cleaned ramen bowls.  He'd then individually wipe them all down to ensure they were dry.  He'd scoop in 1 scoop of this special sauce, then follow it up with another scoop of a different special sauce.  Next came the broth.  But the broth wasn't introduced to the bowl via a huge ladle.  He had this big mesh scooper (imagine what you'd use to cook a bunch of vermicelli) sitting in his tonkotsu pork broth.  With one sweep of the hand, he'd pull the big mesh scooper out of the pot, with all of the gooey/tasty-looking sinew, and "splash" the bowl with it.  That imparted a good amount of the tasty bits of the broth in addition to the watery-parts.  

Next would come the ramen.  A separate chef would prepare it in a separate area, and when it was ready, he'd lay it in the bowl.  But, he wasn't done.  He'd make sure that the noodles were all oriented due north before..ahh just kidding, haha.  Anyways, he'd make sure that all the noodles were sitting neatly.  When he parted the noodles to clean them up, it reminded me of those stupid emo kids fondling their stupid fucking parted haircuts.  

After the noodles looked neat, he sprinkled on chopped green onions, and set down a nicely folded piece of seaweed.  Unfortunately, he also threw in too many pieces of dried, cubed garlic.  That made the whole broth super bitter.  It ruined the whole thing.  Ahh well.  As I said, I paid for a show.  

Ok, that was it for ramen.  I top out at two mini sized bowls.

Next up was the Machida shopping area, which is a few exits down from the Shin Yokohama station.  The reason I headed down here was to find the 4-5 story 100yen store!  Unfortunately, I think the store closed down and was replaced by crap like quicksilver and other stupid clothing pac-sun wannabe stores.  

Luckily, I found these while wandering the streets:  Fried xiao long bao's!  

The little kitchen probably took up about 6-7 square meters.  It was amazing to see five people working this efficiently in such a cramped area, churning out these dragon dumplings like mad. 

 This next store was a food preparation class.  I took these pictures because I had some super sexist comment that had to do with baking me a pie, but I can't remember what it was =p  All I know is that I was giggling to myself for a good five minutes after having thought of it, haha.  

All the Japanese wimmenz doing their cooking thang.  Don't mind the giggling creeper taking your pictures >=]

And here's the Japanese equivalent of Dave and Buster's.  For those that haven't been to one, it's called Round 1.  Incorporates all the things below into one place..

...into seven floor's worth of entertainment!

In the US we've got stuffed animals and superhero action figures and the claw machines.  Here they've got non-pose-able action figures with tigole bitties.  

Razor scooter game!

These merry-go-round looking things are actually coin dozer machines.  They're huge, aren't they?  Very elaborate compared to the coin dozers we have at home.  

Round 1 is different in that there aren't as many shooting games as compared to the US.  There are a lot more music-oriented games that require crazy stupid-fast reflexes.  Kinda like guitar hero on crack.

That's it for Yokohama.  It was time for dinner, and a patient recommended this place called Pepper Lunch. This place specializes in sizzling beef and chicken plates.

I had Denny to thank for this meal.  He was nice enough to treat me out to dinner for my birthday!

...and here it is fully sizzled out.  You have the option of cooking it with a spicy or a sweet sauce.  I combo it up, super tasty!  

If you're heading from base, head down Blue St, I think it's the 3rd intersection on your left.  It's to the left of Mister Donut.