Monday, June 3, 2013

Japanese restaurants: sushi is just the beginning

Dining experience 
When you walk into Japanese restaurant, people WILL shout at you in Japanese. Mostly, they are saying hello hello and an idiomatic traditional welcome. They may ask you if you want smoking or nonsmoking (assuming they have different sections) but most likely they will just give you a seat at a table or booth. I've yet to sit on the ground. 
If you asked for an English menu, and they have or, they'll bring it. Otherwise, you'll either be able to order by picture or you're out of luck. 
They probably won't bring you water. You can ask, and they'll most likely bring you a small Dixie cup with water. 
You'll place your order, they'll bring it and the check. Then you won't see them again. No refills, no "How is everything?" And no dessert upsells. You probably will bring the check up to the cashier. Most places take credit cards. 
Almost all restaurants will give you either a hot napkin or a wet nap before you eat. Etiquette is for you to use it your hands and then set it aside. Your table will most likely have chopsticks and maybe toothpicks. Many restaurants don't have napkins at all - they assume you'll be using chopsticks and won't be dirty. Sometimes there will be hot sauce or hot spices, soy sauce, hot mayo or a plum sauce. 

Cuisine
There was a time when eating sushi was adventurous. Well, to my dad it still is. But for most of the people I know it's passé. But over here, sushi is just one of many types of food. Sometimes each restaurant serves only one type. Other times they'll have a ton of different foods - and often fries and pizza and other western stuff thrown in as well.
Some styles I've seen:
  • Yaktori - skewers of chicken, pork, veggies, prawns, etc. 
  • Noodles - soba, udon and many other types, sometimes with meat or sometimes just plain (ugh). Yakisoba, one of our favorites my be here if you are lucky
  • Sushi - using sashimi (no rolls) but they may have a few
  • Fried everything - fried prawns, fried pork, fried beef, and fried acne on your face when you're done
  • Hot plate - different types of noodles or meats served on a hot plate, like those Chinese restaurants when you were younger
  • BBQ - as the price of meat decreased, so has beef made its way to the center stage. Huge pieces of meat, or thinly sliced cuts, and everything in between. 

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