Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sukiyaki Thanksgiving

Thursday was Thanksgiving. It did not feel like a real Thanksgiving though. There was no turkey, no mashed potatoes, no big family gathering, and worst of all, no pumpkin pie. Equipped with the knowledge that anything we did would not make for a true holiday feast we decided on patronizing a new restaurant. There were several restaurants on our list. We were not sure which one would fit the bill. Whatever choice we made it had to fit three criteria: first, it must be someplace we had never been. Second it needed to be close to our home. Last and most important it must not be named McDonalds. We had to cross most off the list at the last minute due to rain and our own lack of willingness to walk great distances with water falling from the clouds.

The list was narrowed down to three choices. We could visit a local Italian restaurant called Prema Prema, a Japanese restaurant near Logan’s school or we could stay home and scrape together a meager supper. Staying home was the wild card. About midday dark clouds began rolling across the sky, and soon after that a cold rain started to fall. The thought of trudging across town in a cold and dreary rain made staying at home seem more and more like a viable option.

However, eating spaghetti made with bland sauce from a bag, and garlic bread fashioned from slices of white bread spread with butter and sprinkled with what remains of our dwindling garlic supplies would never be an acceptable holiday meal. Our minds were made up. We would trek to the restaurant closest to home. That restaurant happens to be Prema Prema.

We geared up for a walk in the rain. Logan put on his raincoat. We grabbed our umbrellas, and set off. But we would not eat at Prema Prema that night.

They were closed. We stood in front of the door. The rain beat a soft pitter-patter on our umbrellas. I looked at the dark restaurant. Then I looked over at Jenny and said, “I think they are closed.”

She glared back at me with a wry grin and said, “What makes you think that Mr. Wizard? Is it the fact that it is pitch dark in there? Or is it the fact that there aren’t any people inside.”

“Nope.” I replied tugging on the door handle, “The door won’t open.”

It was about a two block walk to the Japanese restaurant near Logan’s school so the trip did not take long. We did not exactly know what type of food they served or if we would be able to order anything on the menu. Japanese restaurants are generally very helpful to people who can not read the words on the menu. In the front window of the shop there are plastic models of the food served in the establishment. Before we decided to go we had never bothered to look at the window to see what kind of food they served. It turns out that they were an upscale udon restaurant. Udon is a type of noodle served in a thin broth. The udon noodle is very thick and the broth is sweet. It is a very popular dish here in Japan, but it is not my favorite. I think that the udon noodle is mushy and the broth is too sweet, but that is my personal opinion. Even though we do not particularly care for udon we decided to go ahead and eat dinner at the restaurant. We saw in the foyer that there was a stone grinding wheel to make the flower for the noodles, and farther in the restaurant we could see where the noodles were made fresh everyday.

The hostess ushered us back to our own private room where we sat on the floor around a low table. We had taken plenty of time to stare at the offerings in the window and had made some preliminary choices for our dinner. I wanted to try the sukiyaki udon, and Jenny was leaning toward something that looked a lot like nabe. I ordered the sukiyaki udon and Jenny ended up choosing the tempura and sushi set that came with a big bowl of udon soup. Logan wanted the Thomas kid’s meal. A few minutes after ordering we were brought our food on giant serving trays. Jenny’s came first. The tray contained a large bowl of udon, a plate with six pieces of sushi on it, and a dish of tempura. Tempura is a type of deep frying. Tempura refers more to the batter used to coat the food than anything else. Tempura batter is delicate, sweet, bread like, and delicious. Next, out came Logan’s food. He had a hamburger patty, a piece of fried chicken, two fried shrimp, some french-fries, rice, and a cup of chocolate mousse. My dinner came last. On my tray there were three bowls.

In the first bowl there was rice. In the second bowl there was a raw egg. In the last bowl there was the sukiyaki udon. Sukiyaki is similar to nabe. Beef and vegetables are cooked in a pot with a sauce. The sauce for sukiyaki is made up of soy sauce, sake, and sugar. It is very delicious. The beef, vegetables, and tofu are placed into the sauce and cooked, and in my case there were udon noodles too. This is when the raw egg comes into play. I used my chopsticks to beat the egg until it was thoroughly mixed. Then I pulled out a slice of cooked beef and dipped it into the raw egg. After going into the raw egg the beef made a short trip into my mouth. This process was done with all the contents of the sukiyaki.

Jenny and I swapped food halfway through. We both agreed that the sukiyaki was the better of the two meals. Logan ate his slowly. Not because he was enjoying every bite more because we were eating in a new location and he was overwhelmed. I must admit that the udon at the restaurant was the best that we have ever eaten and probably will ever eat. We ate until we were stuffed in the spirit of the holiday that it was. After all that is what Thanksgiving is all about. Sitting back and shoveling massive amounts of food into your belly while being surrounded by turkeys. Now if only we could have found a decent pumpkin pie in this country Thanksgiving would have been complete. I guess some things will have to wait until next year.

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