Saturday, October 17, 2009
What Kind of Japanese Food Do You Like?
When someone tells me about their love of Japanese food, I probe a little deeper and ask, “What kind of Japanese food do you like?” Often the answer will be “sushi” and upon further discussion the favorite sushi will turn out to be a roll with an exotic name (Dragon, Caterpillar, 49er) and with even more exotic ingredients: fried prawns, sweet potatoes, mozzarella.
Now I love sushi (why else would I call my blog chirashi?) and have nothing against rolls with names like Super Crunchy and Titanic, if that’s what the market will bear. But I guess what I look for when I go out for Japanese food is something that will give me as close of a taste as possible as what I could get in Japan.
I’m fortunate to live in the San Francisco Bay Area where we have a multitude of choices of fine Japanese restaurants. But what is interesting is how the landscape has changed over the years. While you can still get some good Japanese food in San Francisco, I find that the most authentic Japanese restaurants are in the area between San Mateo and San Jose where the bulk of Japanese expatriates and temporary workers live. This makes sense because these people will demand dishes and flavors that remind them of home and restaurants that cater to these will survive. So along with real Japanese food, these places will be loaded with customers who are speaking Japanese and probably staff that speaks the language as well, which lends even more to the authenticity for me.
By now I have the choice of experiencing many types of Japanese cuisine right in my own backyard. Restaurants Kaygetsu (Menlo Park), Wakuriya (San Mateo) and Nami Nami (Mountain View) offer authentic kaiseiki and kappo cuisine that is not easy to find outside of Japan. If I’m in the mood for a bowl of ramen I have several choices: Halu (San Jose), Santouka (Mitsuwa Marketplace in San Jose), Santa (San Mateo) and Himawari (San Mateo). A new addition to the area is Curry House (Cupertino) a Japan-based chain that specializes in Japanese takes on Western foods like curry, gratin and pasta, which are ubiquitous in Japan but have been hard to find here.
So next time you have a hankering for a Caterpillar roll, you may want to try something a little different and take advantage of the wide array of taste experiences Japanese cuisine has to offer.