Curve balls at the dinner table.
26.12.2012 5 °C
Ana and I met a couple of our neighbors for dinner at a restaurant near our apartment called Toriki. Toriki’s specialty is mainly meats served on stick, i.e. chicken and meatballs etc. When we arrived, a young man greeted us at the front door with a light bow from the hip and a gentle smile. We exchanged a traditional evening greeting, “Kon-bon-wa”, and followed the motion of his head as he pointed us towards the table closest to the kitchen. As I grabbed a hanger from the hook on the wall, another young man darted from around the corner and headed in my direction. With an even lighter bow and gentler smile, he reached for my coat and hung it on the wall, like one might assist an older person reaching for the top isle in a grocery store. He slowly backed away while offering several smaller bows before disappearing into the kitchen.
“I ordered 5 of everything” our neighbor said. She closed the menu and handed it to the server. For a moment I thought “Five of everything? How hungry are we?" Before I could open my mouth to inquire about her ordering strategy, the pre-dinner snack arrived. Two small plates were set on the table. The thin layer of cabbage covering the bottom of the plates was topped with a mountain of fried chicken skin cut into standard chip sized pieces. For anyone who secretly loves the skin of fried chicken, this blows chips and salsa right out of the water.
Shortly afterwards, the first of several plates arrived. A thin rectangle plate was laid across our table with 5 wooden skewers on it, each one covered with just larger than bite sized pieces of chicken. This became the theme for the of the evening. Just as we finished one plate the next one would arrive. This happened throughout the evening approximately 5-6 times, each set of meat was prepared slightly different than the plate before. We ate tender meatballs covered with cheese, grilled chicken with a ‘secret sauce’ and at one point chicken wings which we ate with chop sticks of course.
The conversation was as delicious as the dinner. Each of the 5 members of our dinner party were from a different spot around the globe. It was refreshing to field questions about where we had traveled, the languages we spoke and our likes and dislikes about Japan. Being arbroad makes everything new and intersting, even the details about yourself that once seemed average and monotonous become exciting and avant garde.
There were however, two moments during this dinner that gave me a little anxiety. The first came when the server cracked an egg into a small dish and motioned for me to dip my chicken in it. I’m sure I made the face a man makes just before he's about to knowingly swallow poison. Rather than bolt out the door, I dropped the glazed piece of chicken on to my tongue and sighed with relief while my taste buds relaxed. The egg offered a nice coat around the moist cut of meat, it was a complete success and I hope to experience it again.
The second moment came after they set the last set of skewers on our table. According to the other members of our group this was supposed to be the best part of the meal. “Serious? If that’s the case I’m on my way to finishing the best meal of my life,” I thought. After the dipping the chicken in the egg I was feeling pretty confident about my abilities to try anything, until I threw this last piece into my mouth. The last skewer contained 3 pieces of wonderfully prepared fat. One thing holds true around the globe, no matter how well it’s prepared and no matter what country you’re in all fat chews the same. When it comes to chewing fat at the dinner table there is nothing less comfortable for a picky eater, especially when you look down and see that your glass is empty.
Thanks for taking a moment to check out life in Japan!