Chocolate Hamburger

Chocolate Hamburger

Pimpin' it Tokyo-style.

"Is Yoshiro gonna have to slap a bitch?"

A line-up outside Quarter Pounder, a McDonald's outlet that sells nothing but, yep, you guessed it, Quarter Pounders.

A line-up outside Quarter Pounder, a McDonald's outlet that sells only, yep, you guessed it, Quarter Pounders.

Yes, I'm looking for a hat that can fit someone with a watermelon-sized head, and also a sweater for someone with three arms.  Oh, perfect!

Yes, I'm looking for a hat that can fit a watermelon-sized head and a sweater for someone with three arms. Oh, perfect!

Feel like victim?  Well now you can dress like one at Victim Tokyo!

Feel like victim? Well now you can dress like one at Victim Tokyo!

Sinsational selections from Peltier

Sinsational selections from Peltier

Not yet...Not yet...

Not yet...Not yet...

The Prada Building in Aoyama

My favorite: The Prada Building in Aoyama

My buddy Nikko

My buddy Nikko

Pierre Hermes seasonal macarons

Pierre Hermes seasonal macarons

My Pierre Marcolini parfait

My Pierre Marcolini parfait

Here’s something interesting I discovered over the course of my first four days here: Tokyoites are notoriously shy and unlikely to engage in spontaneous conversation but, given the opportunity to open up, they can be incredibly friendly and loquacious. Westerners either visiting or living in Tokyo, on the other hand, are, with very few exceptions, fucktards operating under the delusion that being in Japan makes them a class unto themselves, not quite Japanese but certainly no longer natives of their country of origin who, in order to maintain their cherished imaginary status, must shun all eye contact with fellow Westerners at the risk of shattering the illusion. “Oh, yeah,”my fellow diner Yuka informed me the other night, nodding in commiseration. She knows all about it. Many Westerners in Japan, it seems, are essentially the equivalent to the schoolyard loser, fraught with self-doubt yet so fueled by a desperate desire to fit in that they actively discourage any connection that reminds them of their otherness. I’ll let it drop for now but this is a topic I’ll no doubt revisit before the end of my stay here.

My 3-star Michelin tour took me to L’Osier last night, the chic French eatery located in Ginza’s Shiseido building. This one was a feast for the eyes, from its lavish décor to its equally opulent food presentations. Taking advantage of the white truffle seasonal menu, I enjoyed magnificent ravioli stuffed with ricotta, parsley, white truffle, and topped with white truffle shavings and parmesan foam, then a wonderful milk-fed Chiba roast piglet served with creamy truffle polenta. From there, we moved onto a myriad of desserts: first a complimentary selection made up of a half-dozen macarons, sorbet, gelees, and brulee, then the “official dessert”, a “chocolate hamburger“, and finally more complimentary from the rolling dessert cart stocked full of homemade goodies like chocolates, nougats, and lollipops. Service throughout was impeccable.

The bars were letting out as I was making my way back to the hotel, releasing hordes of drunken office workers to catch the last subway home. Hostesses in evening wear dotted the sidewalks outside the various drinking establishments, bidding them a fond farewell. I walked behind two middle-aged salary men who could barely walk a straight line. One kept staggering off and back while his heavy-set body continually wiped his face and forehead with the sweat rag he had conveniently had the foresight to bring with him.

Between the non-stop walking and eating, I tend to be wiped by 10:00 p.m. And, by the time I hit my bed at 11:00 p.m., I’m out. It’s been weird having the entire bed to myself, not having to contort my body around four sleeping dogs. Still, I am sleeping deeper and longer, averaging an unheard of 8-9 hours a night!

Today, I walked the streets of Shibuya-ku, strolling up Omotesando and checking out the neighborhood’s winding side streets and alleyways chock full of bizarre little clothing boutiques and ramen shops. I had first lunch at a burger place called Lotteria, opting for a simple cheeseburger whose quality far surpassed those of its North American counterpart. Then, I enjoyed a double dessert (a delicious meringue ball and rich gianduja) at Peltier. I ordered a tea that came with a little hour glass to let me know when it had steeped enough for me to start pouring, and a shot of some mystery light green liquid. I didn’t know whether to knock it back, pour it into my tea, or use it to polish my silverware once I’d finished eating so, in the end, I just let it sit.

I then headed out, paid a visit to my favorite Omotesando destination, Kiddyland, which is 5 floors of toys and fun. Then, over to Maisen, a tonkatsu restaurant for second lunch. That’s “tonkatsu” and not “tomcats” as my damn spellchecker would have you believe. Really nice, moist deep-fried pork cutlets served with various sides and sauces. On my way in, a helpful security guard helped me sheathe my umbrella. It’s the weirdest thing but every store has an automated umbrella sheather. Stick your umbrella in and it is instantly packaged in plastic for easy non-drip strolling. As you leave, simply whip off the sheathe, trash it, and you’re ready to go. Anyway, as I was leaving, the same security guard asked me how I had enjoyed the restaurant. “Totemo oishikatta desu!” (It was very tasty!) I told him. He seemed genuinely thrilled and we started chatting. He spoke no English and yet we managed a stammered conversation. My Japanese is apparently better than I thought.

I continued on my way, hit the Pierre Hermes boutique where I picked up some seasonal macarons, then caught a taxi back to the hotel. My driver was very friendly and we chatted about food and travel over the course of the ride, managing a pretty exhaustive conversation in halting Japanese, English, and French.

I had a half an hour to decompress before catching another cab to my next Michelin 3-star destination: Mizutani. The cab dropped me off on a street corner and, although the driver pointed to a building, there was no sign (well, no English sign anyway) that indicated where I should go. I consulted my map, then walked into what appeared to me a office building, and took the rattling elevator down to the basement level. I approached a door at the end of a hallway, opened it and peered inside. For an instant, I thought I had walked into somebody’s apartment. “Mizutani?”I asked the woman who poked her head out of the kitchen. “Irrashaimase!”she welcomed me. We stepped through another sliding door and into the restaurant proper – a tiny room with a sushi counter that could seat maybe 12 people comfortably. “Omakase?”asked the chef which roughly translates to “Chef’s choice”. “Omakase,”I nodded back. And so, I watched the sushi master at work as he would carve out a piece of fish, then reach back into a basket and pull out a handful of rice that he would shape with flick of his wrist and a press of his thumb like he was rolling dice, marry the fish to the rice, then set it down in front of me. Every time he set something down, he would make an announcement: “O-toro,”he would say. Or “Mirugai”. “Uni.” Once, he set down an almost translucent fish with a name I’d never heard of, but clearly it was something special because he threw me a knowing look and chuckled when he set it down in front of me. Again, another memorable meal.

On my way back to the hotel, I stopped in at the Pierre Marcolini Café and ordered up a chocolate parfait and ice latte. I ended up striking up a conversation with the gals behind the counter – Moro and Keiko – and held my own in Japanese for the greater part of an hour. Keiko is off to New York this weekend but if Moro is free on Tuesday, sheh as kindly agreed to join me on an excursion to Minato-ku. Ebisu Beer Museum anyone?

Tomorrow, I’m Shinjuku-bound. Pachinko, here I come!

36 thoughts on “November 27, 2008: Tokyo Trip Day #5, Neighborly Natives and Western Wankers, Fancy French, and Shibuya Tour.

  1. Again, I should know better than to come here first thing. I am starving now, & a bagel is just not gonna cut it! WOuld that I learn from your adventure & blindly sample that which I don’t understand. (And thank GOD it wasn’t “tomcats”!)

    Congrats on your conversations & holding your own.

    Continue enjoying your trip so I may continue vicariously traveling!

  2. Very cool stuff! I don’t ordinarily comment on your blog but I read it every morning when I get to work. I’d usually skip past the non-SG related stuff but your descriptions of your holiday are really good! I’ve never heard of someone to eat so much though! WOW!

    Hay, just one SG related statement, Don’t forget your fans who are blind. I generally find it really easy to follow everything and have done right from the very first episode of SG1 but there have been times that things happen and it’s absolutely impossible to determine what’s happened without sighted intervention.

    Keep up the really good work.

  3. I can’t believe all other westerners are so rude lol follow them along the st and poke them until they achknowledge you. muahahahahahaha

  4. A chocolate hamburger?! I have got to visit Tokyo sometime!

    Does the glass on the outside of the Prada building bulge outwards from the metal struts, or is that just an optical illusion?

  5. Hi again Mr M!

    Wow, you are really having a great time (and well deserved!) Just reading about your restaurant adventures makes me want to fly to Tokyo! (I checked the next available flight 1st class from Ireland direct….and I’m about 13000 (approx $19500) Euros shy…mmm!)
    Anyway all the foods look very tempting. I am intrigued with the Hermes Macroons…I am assuming there is tie-in with the Scarf people? Also, that Chocolate dish P ierre Marcolini parfait looked absolutely FABAROO!! Chef Belcham is taking notes I would say!!! So far for you, what has been “THE FUEL” of Tokyo?
    Enjoy the rest of your stay…and it’s great to see you posting at a reasonable time (Irish time that is!)

    Best to you

    Shirt’n’Tie

    PS : Completely agree with your comments re: westerners abroad in the East… unfortunately it isn’t just confined to Japan! In a previous life I worked as National Tour Guide…man the stories!

  6. The thing with the Westerners. It’s not just Westerners. I see this same thing here in the States. Some people who live here remain connected to their culture and to the folks from back home. Right now we have a lot of Mexican, Polish, Russian and other Eastern Europeans living in the area, and most seem to keep fairly connected to their homeland. Still, with many immigrants – especially those staying for a while – I find an eagerness to be ‘American’, to adapt to our culture and shun the things from home. Eastern Europeans not so much, they are very proud of their heritage…but I have seen it with cultures you don’t expect it from, such as people from the Middle East. I had a Palestinian friend like that. He grew up in Saudi Arabia, but he just wanted to be like a ‘normal’ American…buy a house and car and a dog…he really loved huskies. 🙂 He eventually moved away to open a restaurant in another state. I really miss him, just a great guy.

    Everyone’s different. Some cling to their culture (the Chinese, for instance), while others choose to blend in. Mom has a Polish friend who has lived here many years, and she prefers to avoid other Polish people. And my foster sister, from India (who has lived in the States since she was 8) avoids fellow Indians like the plague. As she has gotten older she has eased up on that a bit, but when she was a teenager, into her early 20s, she would tell people that she was from Bali, or any other place besides India. With age she has come to have more appreciation for her culture, but still…she prefers to be around Americans, though she still can’t resist a good Indian restaurant! Hey…neither can I!

    So, I don’t think it’s just a ‘westerner’ thing, but a human thing. We want to feel like we ‘belong’, and so we avoid anything that might remind us that we don’t.

    Joe – once you get home, please…tell us how much weight you gained on this trip. If you LOST weight, I think I’m gonna have to slap you. HARD. 😉

    (And…did I hear you right…you sleep with the dogs, not your wife?? Something’s a tad wrong with that picture…)

    And yeah, I’m just ignoring the fact that – sometimes – when I head off for bed, Mr. Das is already hunkered down with 2 or 3 cats, so I just roll my eyes and sleep in the spare room. 🙄 Funny how our pets get the prime spots, while we are left to sleep on the couch. 😕 (I think we just need a bigger bed…or fewer cats. )

    das

  7. Okay – that guy with the sunglasses was supposed to be the number eight, and a parenthesis. 😕

    das

  8. Pachinko! Oh, do have fun. Just the name brings back fond(and too distant) memories. It sounds like you’re doing well on the food front, and your pictures are great advertisements for the establishments you’ve been visiting. Very glad for you that you seem to be having a great time with the Japanese themselves, and I’m curious to hear the tales of the uncouth Westerners. Hope you continue to enjoy the trip, and the extra sleep.

  9. Happy Thanksgiving Joe, from the past, b/c you are in the future over there! Sounds like an awesome trip, thanks for the updates!

  10. Happy Thanksgiving from Florida! That meringue ball had my mouth watering. I know all about having to contort your body around dogs (three of them in our bed here, one large, one medium, one small) – my husband sleeps on one edge, I on the other, but hey, the quadripeds are happy. That said, I’d kill for 8 hours sleep! Still, nothing beats the tail wags and wet kisses every morning! Looking forward to your adventures tomorrow!

  11. I admire your fearless travel nature. I’m a fearless road trip warrior within the US, but my international excursions have been limited to Spanish-speaking countries, where I am at least able to bumble my way through any conversation that happens to occur in their native language.

  12. Hi Joe!

    Sounds like you are having a great time! I’m certainly enjoying seeing Japan from here. And your culinary adventures are great fun – how was the chocolate hamburger?

    How is it you are finding all these people to have dinner with?

    Anyway – keep having a great time!

    s

  13. Hey Joe!

    That automatic umbrella sheather is an amazing idea! Too bad they don’t have those here in North America, it would save so much hassle on those rainy days when strolling around stores.

    Your trip summaries are a great read, and those food photos have an absolute drool factor to them. The chocolate hamburger looks very delicious indeed!

    Thanks as always, and it’s nice to see that you are making many friends in Tokyo. 🙂

    – Enzo Aquarius

  14. WOW! Your commentary is so descriptive its like being there so vivid a picture you have narrated. Thank you.

    I must admit I’d never thought about westerners living there I until you brought my attention to the fact that the handful of people I know who have made their lives there are all people I wouldn’t normally choose to be in a room with, so yeah, fucktards is an apt terminology.

  15. You should be fitting in quite well then LOL – oh you so asked for that…
    On the other hand you could try the down to earth Brit method of communication with western folk and introduce yourself by shouting the following “Oi nobhead, get a f**king grip of yourself, take you’re head out of your ass and speak to a human”.
    To be fair, this would work better at a football match and might not win the person over as a friend, but it should get you the information you desire – said in the right way, they may even offer you their wallet.

    LOL

    P.S. It’s best not to refer to a mans wife as ‘the one with a face like a slapped ass’. He may wish to stop verbal communication – or on the other hand, might offer you a pint.

  16. Hey Joe,
    How much trouble are you in for saying you miss the dogs and not mentioning your other half.

  17. tonkatsu

    Spell checker yelld ‘tonsure’ at me, not ‘tomcats’

    Aww I wanted to see your meat dishes! You know Joe, when I went to Sydney for my 6 day holiday, I too took pictures of my courses… do you get that feeling of slight embarrassment when you take photos? People looking at you as if you’re nuts. Or do you wonder if the waiters aren’t saying to themselves, ‘shit it’s a food reviewer’. ? hehe

    Yeah I want to know if you’ve gained weight too. (my loss has been 42kg so far, so yeah, your weight is on my mind).

    Oh yeah and are you sure that you didn’t unwittingly have fugu as that transparent fish course? Gotta be careful Joe.

  18. @ susanthetartanturtle – 😆 LOLOL! I’m glad I wasn’t the only one thinking the same thing! (I was just too much of a lady to mention it…first. 😉 )

    das

  19. Ahh, the days of Happy Hour! I often find it hilarious to observe the drunk. Hey, others do it to me when I’m drunk, so, why not.

    Making friends I see, and even scheduling them to join you, very clever.

    Seems you need to do all that walking to make up for all that food.

  20. @dasNdanger: Thanks for the support.

    Hey Joe.

    I wonder if the McDonald’s in Japan tastes any different than MCD’s here in North America???

  21. Did you just say “Beer Museum”?? *testing eyesight and frequently re-reading last paragraph- just to make sure*

  22. Hi Joe:

    Automatic umbrella sheather, electric toilet, strange but available anything. I’m thinking that the Japanese don’t do “green” very well.

    Patricia (AG)

  23. Mmm, 8-9 hours of sleep sounds delicious!!! I’m getting up at an ungodly hour tomorrow for the wonderful American tradition that is “Black Friday” so I should probably be sleeping now 😉
    The Parfait looks heavenly. Absolutely delightful and rich-looking. Mmmm I think I’m drooling now. 😀
    Aren’t you kind of glad you went alone? You wouldn’t have been able to exercise your language skills as much if you had a fellow North American to talk to!!!

    In your honor, I tried my cousin Julia’s “Mystery Cake” today. The “surprises” inside (at least, in my piece) were Milk Duds and Crunch Bars!!! Deliciousness! So it was a risk, but it turned out well for me!

    @Davidd: I don’t know about the McD’s in Japan, but the ones in France served basically the same stuff with small cultural variations which I didn’t note because I was too busy being ecstatic: they had Butterfinger McFlurries, which had been discontinued in the States. And so I got one and happily went on my way!!!

  24. Oh Joe, you are making me so want to go to Japan! I have always loved the *idea* of Japan. I actually collect oriental *things* lol It is too hard to explain without seeing them *mind boggles*

    Anyho, really enjoying your posts. You also make me hungry. In one way all the presentation/packaging of food items is gorgeous but on the other hand, think of the environment!

    Oh well, they do hunt whales. Have you had whale? I can’t recall reading that you had tried it…. I bet you have but are afraid to say for fear of being slammed, well don’t fear, I am a vegetarian and I am already applaud by your diet! heh!

  25. Did no one remember it was Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.? (quivering lip, then big grin) The day we, too, have the license to eat with impunity?

    But the work you have to do for it, yikes! I had to get up at 0-dark-thirty to help get the turkey party started. Then down for another nap. Then up to finish prepping, serving, and, oh yeah!, consuming a very yummy bird. That’s another flavor I don’t want to share with an ice cream presentation! Then there was another couple hours of putting food away, filling doggie bags (containers) so my brother wouldn’t miss out on yummy turkey feast leftovers this weekend, and washing dishes, and nearly jack-hammering off the baked-on food adhering to all those dishes. (Patience and soaking in hot water are my secret weapons.)

    I am Thankful today for: a new family member – my sister-in-law, my wonderful parents who are still with us, being able to work, having beautiful food to dirty all those dishes, my 14-y-o Samoyed puppy grrrl, long distance calls with family, good friends, and even a superb travel diary about Japan to read at the end of a really long day. Plus online friends to enjoy said diary with.

    Cheers, everyone… To good health (or better health for those we know), and another year full of good things and blessings for which we can give thanks.

  26. i just wanted to ask will any of the Atlantis Movies delve into more of Teyla’s Heritage and Past at all?

  27. Hi JM,
    I was wondering, since SGA is coming to a finish if you could post up the original designs of Atlantis i.e. concept pictures that led to the one on the show, possible designs and etc…

    thanks!

    PS: i’m just a curious fan who is wondering how you guys came up with the city of the ancestors 🙂

  28. @ Arctic Goddess – You forgot the whole ‘killing the whales’ thing, too. 😛

    das

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