A spot of Calm – Numazu

6 11 2007

Nobody knows what’s going on. One minute I’m riding and the next I’m being picked up. Timings from two different sources are conflicting. And I’m hungry. But somehow everything always works out perfectly. There is a lot to be said of the ways seemingly chaotic fractals form complex well maintained structures. Perhaps our little groups organizational skills have adapted in the same fashion. In any result, the stresses of the preparation were immediately soothed by Calm (pats himself on the back for excellent corny segue).

Situated about 15 minutes drive south east from the heart of Numazu city, Calm proved to be a side of Numazu’s dining experience I hadn’t seen before. Calm rests right by the waters of Enoura Bay, a child of the greater Suruga Bay. While Calm’s frontage features little more than a car park and a modest sign, the interior of the restaurant and the open air seating by the rocky shore depicted a sleek combination of Japanese and Mediterranean seaside style.

My friends and I move around the back to the out door dining area to enjoy the fresh sea air and, it seems, to allow the ladies of our little group a good view of the diving class next door as their healthy members peeled their wet suits on and off.

Calm from the back -Numazu

Tearing my gaze away from the postcard bay, I perused the menu. Although in Japanese, the majority of the Menu was is Katakana and Hiragana making it easy enough to read and the little extra help from my Japanese friend who introduced us to this place, took the dreariness out of the translating.

Calm on the water - Numazu Calm again - Numazu

The wine menu featured a reasonable array of whites and reds with a standard of beers and spirits. The food menu began with a range of Italian style starters followed by a choice of cream, tomato or cream tomato pastas with various choices of meats. Next were the mouth watering gratin’s and finally the curries with rice. While the menu didn’t feature anything that seemed cutting edge, it seemed the smell coming from the kitchen and our neighboring diners plates were a testament of simple food done well. Something I later found to be true in the taste.

Calm deck - Numazu Shizuoka

Drifting off into conversation with my friends and gazing at the sea I was surprised to find the hull of a pearly white ocean liner approaching me from the hands of a struggling waiter. The ships hull was filled with steaming rice and chocolate brown curry. If this was an indication of what was to come, I was in for a very filling treat.

Curry and Rice, Numazu

Although I didn’t get to have a taste of the curry, even after claiming it was my job as an amateur food and leisure blogger, the groans of delight coming from the two who ordered it were enough to give it a thumbs up. My wife would not get away so easily. Quickly calling “halvesies” I dug into my plate of baby clams in tomato and cream sauce with spaghetti.

One of the problems I have found in my own cooking is getting just the right amount of flavor from the sauce without hiding the taste of the meat. This is particularly important with most seafood. In the case of my meal this was done perfectly. Though, I would have like the sauce to be a little thicker.

creamy tomato pasta Calm Numazu

After finishing my half of the clam pasta, I waited impatiently for my wife’s creamy salmon pasta with parmesan. It is no wonder I was getting some reluctant glances from my wife as she was handing this one over. The salmons flaky rich saltiness melted into the delicate cream sauce with each bite. The added texture of the pasta and richness of the parmesan was the final cap to an excellent dish. When I think of Calm, the memories of the taste of this meal are the first thing that comes to mind. Simple, delicious pasta, done well.

Creamy Pasta Calm - Numazu

The combination of the beautiful bay, tasty meals and wonderful company made the day well worth the disorganization.

Location: Follow the south eastern coastal road towards Heda. Its about a 15 minute drive from Numazu Station and 25 minutes easy riding. Check out the map for further details.MyMaps at MapBuilder.net

Style: Pasta, Gratin and Curry in big portion by the bay. Perfect for a weekend lunch.

English menu: No, but if most of it is in Katakana and some Hiragana.

Picture menu: No sorry.

Gaijin Friendly: Sure is.

Phone:055 933 4481

Hours: Weekdays; 11:30 am-3:00pm and 5:30pm – 10:00pm. Weekends 11:30am-4:00pm and 5:00pm-10:00pm

Cost: From about 800yen to 1000yen for mains.

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Itchibaten – Numazu Fishmarket

8 07 2007

Note: Itchibaten has since closed its restaurant doors.

I have been neglecting the wonderful local produce synonymous with Numazu and in particular its popular fish market area. While this time I did not indulge in Numazu’s calling card, Himono (nope not a fish dressed in silk), I was hungry for sashimi. Not inclined to getting up in the dark of the morning to indulge in the fresh catch being unloaded from the boats onto the open air market shed, I settled for the comforts of a restaurant that overlooked the fish market floor. Perhaps in this way an early rising alter ego could be sated with visual props and a sound imagination.

Itchibaten - Numazu Fishmarket

This time I was off to the Itchibaten. The Itcibaten is a restaurant that had caught my attention in the past, but I never really got around to visiting. From the outside it is easy to see why it would catch my attention. With is pastel blue wall and cheerful seafood art, it would look at home in Shibuya (perhaps with something mechanized like a giant crab, a fishmonger chopping a fish, a trawler taking in a net. Alas the joys of gaudy animatronics could go on and on.). However, in Numazu this place stood out like…well…me in Numazu. This looked like a fun place.

As I entered I was ushered to a table and give some large picture menus. The menu offered a range of sashimi, sushi, soups and other seafood dishes starting from about 1300yen and finishing at around 3000yen. Taking note of what the other patrons had ordered I chose a midrange sushi set and settled back and enjoyed my surroundings.

Although I think I would much rather have liked to have dined upstairs where there were better views of the fish market port and the enormous croquet hoop, View-O, their downstairs dinning area displayed the chef’s at their work and the clean light wood decor offered a hint to the freshness of the meal to come.

Itchibaten - Sushi Set

The sushi set and accompanying soup that arrived at my table was decked out on a a large wooden board with large pieces of sushi splayed across it. There was no pretense of delicate mouth sized portions arranged in dizzying designs. This was plain, simple fair and ideal for the feel of the restaurant. You could almost imagine standing next to a fish monger as he carves the morning take and offers you a slice of fresh mouthwatering fish.

The fresh flavors of the set were fantastic. From the bottom left; The sweet egg sushi was a solid palate cleanser between fish , the juicy bursts of oily saltiness of salmon roe (ikura) were amazing, the prawn was tender, the white fish, aji was clean and un-presuming, the mackerel a rich smoky flavor, the buttery tuna was a delight, the crisscrossed calamari brilliantly white, the red salmon a treat and contrary to appearances (note the across grain cut along joining tissue) soft and free of any stringiness. Finally the the six small sushi rolls half of which stuffed with fatty minced salmon and the other cucumber, were an unnecessary filler but a treat all the same.

Fishmarket through the door of Itchibaten

The only real thing of note was the bone in the pink salmon. By some, thought of as a cardinal sin for the sashimi/sushi chefs but by others, shit happens. Note: for more information on Shizuoka sushi and sashimi please visit the Shizuoka Sushi and Sashimi blog, one of the homes to the big daddy of Shizuoka Gourmet writing Robert-Gilles Martineau. Oh and RG, I am pretty sure I have all the fish right but if you could give it a once over that would be great mate.

One of the Chef's at Itchibaten

For a warm and pretense free experience in Numazu’s seafood you can’t really go wrong with Itchibaten.

Location: In the fish market district. From Numazu Station follow the main road south about 1000m to the end and turn right. You are in the fish markets. For better details check out MyMaps at MapBuilder.net

Style: Seafood featuring sashimi and sushi fresh from the fish market across the road.

Picture menu: Yes for the mains but the side dishes are in Japanese.

English menu: no but you can work out most of it with the pictures.

Gaijin Friendly: Yep, but a little nervous about the potential of having to try and speak English. Poor buggers they do try.

Prices: Sushi and Sashimi sets start from around 1300yen and finish around 3000. Remember these meals have big portions.





aiai – Numazu Central

23 06 2007

Being a foodie is great but sometimes you go through a spell when everything is starting to taste the same. For me this is a little depressing. I begin to wonder; ‘Is this it for food? Will I not be surprised again?’ Sure it is great to get a originally presented meal but sometimes, the combinations of flavor, texture, temperature and aroma all blend in to being much of the ‘same old same old’.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do love re-experiencing some new flavors (aka the Chocolate cake at B-House) but I am always on the lookout for something new and heartfelt in my dining.

Just as my wife and I were sharing these thoughts our appetizers arrived and everything changed…

On a whim, we had decided to dine at aiai.

The restaurant aiai, in the heart of Numazu city is so very rare place where the chef is not afraid to experiment with new combinations of flavors and food. You can really taste the love here.

aiai Numazu Shizuoka interior aiai Numazu Shizuoka

Our smoked bacon, pickled vegetable and salad proved to be a great combination of colours and flavours. In one direction the appetizer evolved from salad softness to crunchy pickled vegetables to crackly bacon. While at another direction the progressive salty flavors sort to create another degree of unity.

aiai starter

For our mains I chose the ‘Herb Chicken with Tomato Sauce”. This meal was a treat. The skin on the chicken was cooked crisp while the subtle herbs cause surprisingly enhanced the flavor of the chicken rather that hiding it. However my wife’s choice was the best, Sea Bass with Japanese Caramel Sauce. This was the bomb diggity. The mild creamy sauce with what tasted to be a hint of anchovey pasted was the perfect mix for this fresh tasting fish. The little surprise what the half dozen or so baby beach muscles (we call em pippies in Queensland Australia) and button mushrooms resting in the sauce. Scrumptious.

aiai Sea Bass
aiai Chicken

Having chosen the appetizer, main and dessert set. I was then greeted with a dessert platter of Blanc Mange, fruit, cream and two selections of cake.

aiai dessert

Their selection of shandy mixes caught my wife’s eye and she chose a cassis and beer mix that tasted quite nice.

We certainly swallowed out words that night.

Location: aiai This is has bee updated on 16 April 2011 to correspond with their move.

Style: Fusion restaurant

aiai water colours

English Menu: Yes they have an English Set menu but the menu does not have its full selection nor does it provide an English Wine list.

Picture Menu: No

Gaijin Friendly: Yes

Prices: For an appertiser and main set 1500yen and for an appertiser, main, dessert and coffee 2000yen

Hours: 11:00-14:30, 17:00-22:00

Contact: 055-962-1549





B-House Cake and Cafe

19 06 2007

The food in Japan is amazing. Actually the food in Japan was amazing enough for me to feel the urge to start writing about it. But there are still times when you really need something that reminds you of home. In this case it’s adultery and on the odd occasion a hearty ménage à trois.

B-House Cake and Cafe Numazu
Yes yes, I know what some of you are think; Scott you haven’t looked hard enough in Numazu, mate. But I don’t like to share myself or my wife with just anyone special. I am very particular and B- House is the only place that I have found that has been able to arrange my needs; rich, brown, moist and delicious…

B-House Numazu

…chocolate mud cake. I’m getting all worked up just thinking about it.

B-House chocolate mud cake

Ladies and gentlemen, good chocolate mud cake should be a sexual experience. A peak of hedonist delights and something you should only indulge in with your most intimate partner. You should saver every mouthful, memorizing every flavor. Reveling in the way it succumbs to your mouth and unfolds under your tongue. Its cocoa aroma drawing out previous memories of such sins and allows those memories to mingle with the present enhancing every bite. Sexual.

B-house cake

Or you could just enjoy it for what it is, bloody good cake.

B-House is the only place I have found that does ‘real’ chocolate mud cake. This cake has a heart and a soul, unlike the dry flaky imitation chocolate mud cake that I have tried in every other cake shop, cafe and restaurant in Japan.

Numazu’s B-House Cafe’s chocolate mud cake is an ideal indulgence.

My rather sad culinary fetish aside, B-House is a quality place. The combination of the young staff and mumbling acid jazz, adds to its smooth vibe. Their large range of cakes, salads, quiche and other foods are of themselves a reason to visit. Their coffee, tea and wine are well chosen and certainly provide a solid compliment for their dishes.

If you see me languidly reclining on a chair, eyes closed and the odd muffled groan reaching your ears over the smooth beats emanating from the speakers,you know what I’m doing. Do Not Disturb. 😉

Cheers
Scott Garbie

Location:North side of Numazu station. Heading towards Bivi there Should be a street to your left running North South. Head north up this street and it will be on your right just before Espot. MyMaps at MapBuilder.net

Style: Cafe

English menu: some

Picture menu: no

Gaijin Friendly: yes

Prices: cake and drink set 850yen, Lunch set 950. as of this date prices may change in the future.

Hours: 11:00 to 0:00hrs less on Monday’s

Phone: 055 921 9428





Hummingbird

17 06 2007

Humming Bird Cafe Katahama

The meat pie in Australia is a national icon. Scrappy minced bits of, what only could loosely be described as, meat in gravy and all nicely wrapped in a pasty. Don’t forget the tomato sauce. We love em. So when we can find a place that even comes close to making a typical Aussie meat pie we are on it.

Hummingbird’s signature is their pies. Unlike their Aussie cousin these pies are a cooked in a ceramic dish, brown curry is poured in the contents and a puff pastry is put over the top. Although different than the ones we get at home these pies were nevertheless delicious.

Hummingbird pies

My wife and I ordered the lunch set for 1250yen which consisted of orange juice (or a drink of your choice), salad, bread or rice, our pie and a cake of our choice from their dessert bar (quite a large selection of cakes). We both selected the seafood pie. After getting through our salads it was time for the pie.

Cracking the crusty golden top off the pie, I explored its contents swimming in the rich steaming curry. The most interesting was the two muscles half shelled in side. Hunks of melted cheese, calamari, fish, spinach, baby carrot and one whole mini potato completed the contents of the dish. It was like a standard meat and veg in a pie, not only unique but tasty.

While not the pies of home, Hummingbird’s pies were an experience worth trying one I will remember.

Cheers

Scott

Directions: Hummingbird is about 2km to the west of Numazu station in the suburb of Katahama. You can also catch a bus there of take the Todai line to Katahama and head east. For more clear directions check out my map page. MyMaps at MapBuilder.net

Hummingbird Katahama

Style: Pies

English Menu: No but fairly straight forward and little Kanji.

Picture Menu: A few pictures to help you out.

Gaijin Friendly: Yes

Hours: 11:30 – 22:00

Cost: lunch set 900-1250yen; dinner set 1500-1900yen





Coeur

14 06 2007

Sometimes you find a place that you want to jealously hide from the rest of the world because you know that if you let the word out you will never get a seat there again. After an internal struggle matching my selfishness against the combined underdogs of sharing, honor and the desire to get more good information on this blog so some of you buggers will read it, I decided to let the cat out of the bag. Coeur is fantastic.
cooking class 10 july 001cooking class 10 july 002

My 6th occasion to Coeur was on invitation from a friend to join a cooking class. I was wrapped. We were to prepare 5 dishes, eat said dishes and wash it down with a couple of glasses of good white. This was my kind of lazy Sunday afternoon.

After arriving and catching up with friends, we all moved over to the cafe side of Coeur. The staff had set the tables up and removed the chairs. In typical Japanese fashion we were allocated our tables, making groups of 3 or 4.
cooking class 10 july 022

The first meal to be prepared was to be the Carpaccio of fish with chopped tomato sause (in the above picture center bottom). In less typical Japanese style we were quick to decide who would set us off in our cooking journey (no not me, I managed restraint this time) and we were head first into the fore taking turns preparing our dishes.

Second on our list to prepare, was the Roast Chicken with Lemon (first picture below). This dish was a demonstration item, requiring an oven. Out host described the dish and prepared it in front of us before taking it away to be baked while we finished the rest of the dishes. This was prepared with olive oil, chicken stock, black olives, butter, sliced lemons, black pepper and salt. Personally, I wouldn’t have minded a little riesling in the mix, but a very good combination none the less.
cooking class 10 july 025

Next was the Picked oil sardine and dry tomato horsedouvres (below). We all dug into a chance to make these little blighter’s. My desire for some playful competition and good preparation was starting to take hold here.

cooking class 10 july 011

Fourth of the list was the Smoked salmon and cream cheese appetizer (top food picture right side. ). These were simple but good fun to make. While most of us seemed to have a flair for food preparation, there was one or two of us who were…erh…doing their very best to amuse us by perform great feats of bad preparation. This gave us all something to have fun with as we encouraged these guys to new heights of culinary design.

Last on the list was the green salad with parmesan cheese (below). This simple dish was a combination of lettuce varieties, olive oil, salt and pepper, 9 year old balsamic vinegar and topped with parmesan cheese. It must be noted that out poor food artist excelled himself while fascinated with running the olive oil around of the bowl.

cooking class 10 july 016

While none of these dishes were exceptionally challenging nor did we cook or prepare them a great deal, the whole experience was a blast. The light atmosphere, friendly hosts and the knowledge that we were about to eat our creations over some wine were enough reward.

Coeur is a wine cellar and cafe that also feature a small deli selection of prosciutto and other smoked meats, a small variety of quality cheese and other assortments of deli foods. The wine cellar features the best selection of wines that I have found in Numazu. Quality French wines mingle with Australian, New Zealand, German, Spanish, Italian and American wines. Prices for wine start at around 1200yen and finish at around one 1/4 of my monthly pay cheques. The cafe has much of the foods mentioned above with the addition of some anti pesto’s, deli platters and some hot dishes.

Coeur’s friendly staff and excellent variety make it a place I don’t want to share with many people. Let’s keep it a secret so I can still have a seat there 😉 .

Cheers

Scott

Location: North side of Numazu station. Heading towards Bivi there Should be a street to your left running North South. Head north up this street past E-Spot Shops and just past Curves gym. On your right hand side you should find Coeur. It is about five to six hundred meters up the road. For a map of Numazu with Coeur’s location click this –MyMaps at MapBuilder.net
Style: Wine shop, cafe and some time cooking class host.

English Menu: Yes, because my wife said so 😉

Picture Menu: No

Gaijin Friendly: Yes

Ph: 055 929 6810 website: www.a-coeur.com





Steak House Chiro

9 06 2007

Steak House Chiro
Location: south side of Numazu station. Basically head west from the station and head down the 4th street on your left (4th street including the one the leads into the station. Well according to the map on the back of the business card.). It is on a street on the left about 40m down. More accuate details when I get this Numazu map thingy set up. http://www.mapbuilder.net/users/burpwind/42289
Style: Kobe beef teppanyaki (bar top grill)
English menu: yes
Picture menu: no
Gaijin friendly: Yes 10/10
Rating: 7/10
Ph: (055) 951-666
Opening Hrs: 11:30am-2pm/5pm-10:00pm

It was our seventh anniversary and high time to make another perfect excuse to have a decent feed. My wife and I have vowed to dine at all the places that we had spent the previous year saying we should try out but never actually going there. We had earlier done this in Thailand and by the time we were ready to leave after our three-month stay we had a wonderful list of dining opportunities with very little dining experiences.

Steak House Chiro was one of those places on our list. Situated on the south side of Numazu station Steak House Chiro first caught out attention one afternoon when we were returning from another meeting at the Numazu Kyo-iku Kaikan. From the street the first thing that caught my eye was the slogan for Kobe Beef above the door. Kobe Beef has a reverence in Japan that is on par with the Hindu reverence for their beefErh cattle, sorry. Great poems and writings have been made about this epic beef of Japan, describing its sensuous flavor and aroma that fill your whole being with joy as the meat melts before your tongue sending you into a state of Nirvana (well a beef eating nirvana anyway).

It was time to try this mythical beef. The parameters of the excuse were met, so my wife and I ventured forth to celebrate seven years of eating together.

Entering most Japanese restaurants is a bit of fearful thrill-seeking for me. No I don’t get out much, but I must say I have evolved from the old school day knock and run to entering and wondering if this is going to be another time where I Russian RouletteEthe Kanji menu. The worst or best thing about dining in Japan is that you are generally greeted, seated and hot towelEd before you have a chance to see if the menu either has pictures or is in English. Fortunately the obaasan (grandmother) was having none of this and shepherded us to our seats with some friendly greetings and a strong guiding hands.

The interior of the Steakhouse Chiro was an interesting attempt at replicating a German Pub with high and what might have once been cream or white ceilings featuring dark brown support struts. The dark lighting and antique knickknacks also added a certain flavour to the restaurant. While still trying to overcome my earlier hesitation I was currently looking around for some tables when I found my self being guided to some stainless steel bar top hotplates. It was to be Teppsnyaki then.

My eyes were then immediately attracted to the fuzzy grey woolen cushions on our seats. We made a few wasted comments on these delights before sitting down allowing our buttocks to be swallowed by the wool.

From about the waist down the restaurant had a well designed, though a little aged decor. However, as I sat down I noticed the back wall of the open kitchen and found all the signs of a real estate agent who might like to use the word ‘quaint’. The back wall is the main thing we will be staring at for the night so it does merit some comment (yes, yes staring into the eyes of my love one on our anniversary should be all I should worry about but hey, it’s not our first year anniversary is it?) Old stained tiles ventured all the way up the wall to meet the mumbling of the ventilation fan and a slightly off white, in the wrong places, air conditioner. But hey, everything else looked fine and we were soon to be taking the shamanic route to bliss using our drug of choice, Kobe Beef.

While I was marveling at the back wall, my wife was trying to catch a glimpse of the couples menu near us. From first reconnaissance reports there appeared to be no English and no pictures. While this is a little off putting I am still fond of what I find using the old close your eyes and point method of ordering. However it was not long until the same obaasan wearing a different dress arrived with menu in hand. To our delight there was an English menu below the larger Japanese scrawl.

The menu featured both tenderloin and sirloin Kobe beef with three combinations of garlic, soy or garlic and bacon. There were also ‘lesser’ cuts and some appetizers. The wine list featured a variety of decent German wines and of course the typical Japanese fair of spirits, beer and 101 types of sake.

For appetizers the smoked salmon with caper salad caught our eye. And of course for the main we were going to have the beef. While it may seem to be a ‘sell out’ to some, we both decided on the tenderloin with bacon and garlic instead of tasting the beef as it was. I lost little sleep on the decision. Those die hards of keep it plain will just have to stop reading.

Many Japanese diners appreciate the subtle art of suffering a little for their meal. Whether it be for the potentially life threatening gentle numbing sensation of eating blowfish or over dosing on wasabi, the dining experience of suffering is not lost in this country. Coming to Steak House Chiro, I believe that I would be saved this culinary experience until I saw the bibs being brought out and tied around our necks. It was to be in the form of humiliation this time. Fortunately, we were not alone and even my wife’s bag had to suffer this indignation. Further, I must say that they were very nice linen bibs; no pastel coloured teddy bears in sight.

Perhaps the bibs were a cunning means to induce some heavy drinking, because it was not long before we were through our first glass of wine when our appetizer arrived. Thoughts of bibs washed from our mind as we set our sights on this starter. The smoked salmon was delicately folded onto the plate forming a wave meeting a shoreline of caper salad. The salads simple lemon dressing was a good choice with the tang of the capers and the sweetness of the smoked salmon. Though, being critical I must say that the salmon lacked a certain amount of smoky richness, but not a bad start to the evening meal.

After our starters we had an opportunity to survey our surroundings a little more. From what we gathered the restaurant was run by a family of what seemed to be (twin?) sisters who waited and their husbands who cooked. Though it was possibly as equally unlikely this was the case, but it is my narrative and it makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

It was now time for my wife and I to recall all the events in my wife’s memory that we had experienced. The cold sweat of the first round of ‘Do you remember…’ was setting in. It is the all too common curse of men to forget every important event and associated detail that our loving partners have painstakingly catalogued by height, weight, colour, texture and cost. Men, it is enough to just remain standing at then end of this gauntlet of failed memories and the odd submissive, “But honey that’s why I need you to remember all the good things for me.E

The teppanyaki chef must have been aware of my distress and came to my rescue by starting the meal. After inquiring into our preference for the meat Emy wife medium (she must had enough blood in the last interrogation) and me rare (feeling pale and in need of a transfusion)* – he was ready to get started. First he grilled slithers of garlic on the hot plate with a touch of grape seed oil, the rich aroma reaching us was amazing. He cooked these for some time until they were golden and placed them to the side of the heat.

There are very few aromas that I like more than that of garlic. Its unique scent is only second in my book to a quality smoked bacon. Lucky for me this was our chefs next treat to prepare. I really like the idea of teppanyaki, you are virtually having two meals. First the one you taste with your olfactory senses and then later with your gustatory. Perhaps this is why I like cooking so much. It’s twice the meal with only half the calories.

Bacon well cooked, put to the side and mixed with the garlic, it was time for the blessed beef. As our chef brought over the steak I noticed its dark texture suggesting it had been aged and softened for some time (both the chef and the beef). On closer inspection of the tenderloin I could see that there was just the right amount of marbling to even make the pickiest roman engineer happy. Briefly searing my wife’s steak and then mine in a mixture of grapeseed oil and what appeared to be a very mild brown vinegar, our steaks were sliced in to chopstick friendly pieces and mixed with the garlic and bacon.

After a quick frying of a mountain of sprouts everything was ready to go on the plate. Before us was also a tray of sauces and pepper. The sauces included a mild misso sauce and another with what tasted to be misso, garlic and soy. I am sure that all were meant for the steak but ended up being for the sprouts. After having added garlic and bacon to the steak I couldn’t justify further flavours to the mix when tasting such a famed product.

Well the wait was over and I was ready to taste this glorious beef from Kobe. Chopstick at the ready I picked up a piece and raised it to my mouth taking in its aroma on the way. I was not disappointed. This was quality beef only second to cuts from cattle raised on rich green pastures; my personal favourite. Tasting the steak confirmed by guess about the aging of the beef. The uric acid had done its work in conjunction with the marbling to leave a sweet tenderness to the meat that suggested that it could almost be rendered apart with the tongue. This was a treat and it was difficult to slow myself down to get the full enjoyment out of the meal.

I also took the opportunity to take the garlic and bacon separately before enjoying it as a whole ensemble. First the garlic, having been grilled on the hotplate began to caramelize but its natural strength of flavour and sweetness suggested that it may have been the aromatic, purple stripe garlic; a rarity in Japan. The bacon was also another treat. This was the good stuff. Slightly thicker than a standard cut and yellowed in the smoking process, the bacon was a delight.

Now for the combination. Precariously balancing garlic, bacon and steak between chopsticks I carefully raised it to my mouthElosed my eyesEnd tastedEnd took a chewEnd moaned in delight. This was amazing and the automatic groan appeased the chef’s eager anticipation of approval. The firmer consistancy of the bacon and garlic blended with the smooth melting nature of the beef was spiritual, had I not been insulting 3 religions in one bite of course. The sweetness and acidity of the garlic brought out the flavours of the tenderloin while the bacon rich aroma and flavour added a new level to the complexity of the taste. The groans of delight we were making were a perfect reminder of our first months of courtship. Well to my mind anyway, and something that I ‘do’ remember.

We took our time enjoying our meal and savoring each bite. However, the couple to our right was causing us some distress. From what we could see an older man had taken his much younger partner out for a meal. From the mans one-sided conversation and the woman’s disinterested grunts indicating that she was either listening or breathing and her distinctive dress sense reminiscent of the local ladies of the reed life, we concluded that the man had taken out his ‘snack’ for a meal. But this was by no means the cause of our distress. Indeed our experiences in seedy Pattaya, Thailand have numbed us to any ill feelings we could have had about this situation. Nevertheless the truly distressing part of this couple was that the woman had taken one piece of her steak and left the rest to go cold. Left the rest!!! I had half a mind to sidle over next to her and start picking at her plate. But, what deepened the insult was that the man had asked for a doggy bag for her to take the remainder of her meal home for breakfast and that they need not pack the meat. We were stricken, but thoroughly amused.

By the time we had exhausted our jests and hypotheses about the couple it was time to leave. Steakhouse Chiro was definitely a great launch into the world of teppanyaki for us. While the above waist level, decor, and the obaasans sometimes, over helpfulness proved a little distracting we thoroughly enjoyed our experience here. About 18,000 yen lighter we left the restaurant feeling sated and happy in the knowledge that we enjoyed a great meal and celebrated our seven years together in style. What better way to finish the evening than with a quick trip to McDonalds and a McFlurry. Yes, disgraceful indeed.

Cheers Scott Garbie

*Really my wife is not that bad and I even managed to remember something she didn’t this time, “check and mate, baby cakes” She knows she is the brain of the outfit.