Today’s school lunch: hayashi rice, grilled chicken with asparagus, pickled cabbage and corn, and a couple of grapes.
I don’t like hayashi rice but this wasn’t too bad. It was relatively more flavorful than the one I had at one of my elementary schools.
Today’s Chinese-themed school lunch: rice, pork belly and cabbage stir-fry, pickled daikon, and vegetable and shrimp soup.
Today was one of the few times I wanted more rice. I wanted to eat it with the sauce.
Today’s school lunch: bread, fried gyoza, chicken chowder, and boiled green beans with a vinegar dressing.
The gyoza was nicely deep-fried and crunchy. I usually don’t like (Japanese) chowders, but this was mellow and I got a lot of meat. Didn’t like the beans too much. How can you make overcooked beans worse? Add some vinegar!
Today’s school lunch: rice, deep-fried battered sardine, chicken stew with bamboo shoots, boiled spinach with sesame oil, a slice of orange, and a clear vegetable soup.
The sardine was oily and the orange was sour. Who cuts an orange in half like that and serves it that way? Anyway, lunch was decent/good.
Today’s school lunch: hiyashi rice, pickled cabbage and corn, and pickled cherries.
I didn’t like today’s lunch that much.
Today’s school lunch: rice, chicken piccata with boiled broccoli, eggplant with meat sauce, edamame and cabbage, boiled carrots, and a clear vegetable soup.
I went to Izushi yesterday to have some famous Izushi soba. Izushi soba are served in small bite-sized servings, eaten with various toppings. It’s been on my list for the last three years, but I never had the chance to go until now.
We first headed to the tourist information building. We all got a tasting menu package for ¥1680. They handed each of us a small cloth pouch with three coins inside and a map. We can use the coins at any of the restaurants on the map to have a sample menu — three dishes each. There were over 30 restaurants to chose from. I think they rotate the shops; how often, I don’t know. Also, we get a 5% discount at the main omiyage shop if we show them the pouch.
The first restaurant we tried was 左京, across from the parking lot.
As soon as we sat down, the brought us some hot green tea and asked for a coin from each of us. They also gave us a stamp to stamp our pouches. The tea was good quality green tea. They soon brought out the soba and the trays with the toppings.
The chef explained to us how to eat the soba. We would fill up our cups 1/3 with tsuyu and then add the negi, wasabi, and grated daikon. The first dish would be eaten with the tsuyu. The second, yamaimo (Japanese mountain yam) is added to the tsuyu. The third and last dish, a raw egg is added to the tsuyu.
For the first dish, I added the typical toppings into the tsuyu. The soba noodles were firm (al dente) and the tsuyu was mellow and light.
For the second dish, it was my first time eating yamaimo. I’ve avoided it until now. I would never order that on my own, since it looks like and has the consistency of phlegm. But since it came with the menu, I decided to try it. Actually, despite its appearance, it’s not that bad. It’s kinda tasted like mellow grated daikon. It added a “freshness” to the tsuyu.
For the third dish, I was also reluctant to try the raw egg. But it’s only recently that I finally tried eating sukiyaki the traditional way, with a raw egg. The yolk added a nice creamy richness to the tsuyu.
Last, the waiter brought in a kettle with soba yu, the hot water used to boil the soba. She told us to pour the soba yu into our tsuyu to make a soup. I did so, and took a sip. The others enjoyed it, but I thought it was meh.
Each? restaurant seemed to have some kind of eating challenge. This restaurant had a 50 plates in 10 minutes challenge. If we’re able to accomplish that, we’d be able to eat there free for a year after we pay for the 50 dishes we ate. It seemed doable. My male friends and I would debate over it throughout the day since it seemed really doable. If we fail, it would be because we get to 40 plates and get sick of eating it, or run out of time. Three of us wanted to do it, to try it since it seemed attainable. However, even if we get to eat for free for a year, it’s too far away to make it worth it.
After fnishing, we walked down the street and browse through the souvenir shops and local grocers on the street. What I was surprised to see was that many of the shops were selling dried chilies. A very rare sight in Japan. Does that mean that they sold fresh chilies at one point in time?
The second restaurant we tried was 田中屋.
They served us some good mugi (barley) tea instead of green tea. Also offered us some deep fried soba noodles as a snack.
We gave them our coins and they handed us their stamp for us to stamp our pouches. They brought out the soba and our topping trays. The same as the previous restaurant — negi, yamaimo, and egg. I thought they would have different toppings. I was hoping they’d have different toppings. The waitress didn’t explain to us how to eat the noodles. Maybe it’s because they know it’s our second restaurant or maybe only the first restaurant was nice enough to tell us. This restaurant’s soba was relatively more firm than the last. The tsuyu was also stronger in flavor. There’s more katsuobushi flavor. I ate my third plate with the egg again.
The last restaurant we tried was 本陣鶴屋, located back near the main parking lot. It was prime real estate. It was next to the famous clock tower landmark with a koi pond. The restaurant was also very big. We got seated at a table next with the view of the pond and clock tower. However, it was sunny and hot as heck sitting near the window.
The waitress took our last coin and stamped the pouches for us. They quickly brought out our noodles and toppings. The same three toppings. By this time, I was sick of eating the same toppings. I skipped on the raw egg for the last dish; I had enough raw egg for the day. The others actually commented on how quickly they brought out the noodles. As in, they didn’t even have time to cook them. The noodles were relatively soft. Especially noticeable since the last two places had firm noodles. It felt like if I made the noodles myself at home and overcooked them. The green tea they gave us was also crap. My friend also commented on how it’s like school lunch tea or hospital tea. Us three guys were planning on ordering more noodles to fill us up at the last restaurant. However, since this place sucked, we didn’t want to order more food. I assume the store owner spends all his money on the rent, and not on the actual food.
When we left, the old man in front of the store offered to take our group picture for us. He called me お父さん. The fuck?! How old does he think I am?! Does he think I’m older than him?!
Overall, we liked the first restaurant the most. The tsuyu was mellow and the noodles were firm enough. Not too firm and definitely not too soft. The tea was good, and the chef was friendly and came to chat with us. However, as for Izushi soba as a whole, I think it’s decent. It didn’t blow me out of the water. It didn’t seem that different or special from any other soba restaurant. Only noticeable difference is the serving sizes. For the others, their Japanese palettes were sensitive enough to distinguish the subtleties. However, my American friend and I could barely tell the difference.
After, we walked around some more. Checking out the souvenir shops. We stopped for some soba soft serve ice cream. It was topped with crunchy fried soba kernels. It was good but I couldn’t really taste the soba. By that time, there were noticeably more tourists than in the morning when we came.
However, we were in a weird hunger limbo, for lack of a better term. We sat down and ate the three small plates of soba. That would whet our appetites. Our stomachs were expecting more food, but that was it and we then had to move on to the next restaurant, and tease our stomachs all over again.
Today’s school lunch: rice, hamburg patty with grated daikon, boiled sweetened pumpkin and azuki beans, and miso soup.
The hamburg patty was moist and juicy with a hint of citrus. Ponzu sauce?
Today’s yummy school lunch: rice, bulgogi, squid and vegetable stir-fry, caramelized sweet potatoes, bokchoy namul, and bean sprout soup.