Sunday, April 15, 2007

A serious "Lost in Translation" dining experience in Osaka

We got into Osaka at 7pm, there was a full marching band playing on the dock for our arrival, and we decided, for now, to bypass the Tempozan Shopping Village, the huge ferris wheel right next to the terminal, and the adjoining aquarium (one of the biggest in the world, so they say) and grab the shuttle bus into town.

40 minutes later and we reached a long pedestrian shopping/dining street in Shinshi-Bashi, where we found this sign. Now, I’m sorry, I know I said I’d try to refrain from laughing at the attempts at translation because I for sure could do no better, but this has to be seen to be believed. Look to the third line.

From Shinshi-Bashi shopping street, we wanted to go a little further afield to find a decent, intrepid place to eat, something local. We walked this street, Doton-Bori, and then took a little side street, and just as we were about to succumb to the “well, fancy sushi-train then?” vibe, we saw a great place. It was called “The Don” and as soon as I walked in, I got the “Lost in Translation” feeling. Ever since that movie, I’ve wanted to eat at one of these places (what the actual name for this type of restaurant is, I don’t know), the deal being that you have a bowl of boiling water in front of you, and you throw your food in it to be cooked.

Exactly like in the movie, there was no English in the menu, and the sound of bubbling cauldrons dominated the room. We were given a cool flannel and a small glass of plum wine, which, as soon as we worked out how, we ordered more of. The lady serving us, although she spoke no English, was very helpful in calmly gesturing what to put into what as well as agreeing to take this picture of us. There was an older lady with a watchful eye too, lest we commit a faux pas or breach of etiquette (we needn’t have worried, there was much slurping and cross-contamination of chopsticks on seats all around us.)

We ordered one plate of this raw beef, and one of pork. We each got a tray of veggies and two bowls of different sauce, one sesame, one a dark vinegary mix, which you dumped the cooked food into with the slotted spoon provided, to eat. It was wicked fun, and extremely tasty.
They provided pots of chile powder and fresh garlic paste, which Eric abused happily.
Just when we were trying to work out if we should order more food, the lady brought more flannels and then udon noodles, which she put into our cauldrons and skimmed the top off the liquid in them. So, the cooking of the meat and veggies had actually made a stock for us to eat our noodles in. You spooned it all into the bowls and ate.

The meal even ended with a small scoop of refreshing ice-cream with a cheesecake-like flavour.
We got the last 10.40pm bus back to the terminal area, and went for a walk to digest our substantial meal. We found a 99yen store, which is less than a dollar, the conversion being 120 to $1 US. It was great, we bought noodle bowls, miso mix, stationary, tiny pots of jelly, ice-coffee and exotic biscuits. It was like a playground to me.

The next day, after rehearsal, I let Eric go to the Dali museum (yes, I know, I should’ve gone with culture, but I went with retail therapy!) while I shopped in the Tempozan Shopping Village.
I bought some Hello Kitty stationary (it’s disgusting how much I, a woman 27 years of age, still cannot get over my Hello Kitty addiction. I LOVE writing little letters to my friends, sticking the envelopes down with the stickers they give you etc.) a pen, this Kewpie doll keyring (can you see who they’re dressed as? My favourite characters in that show) and this gorgeous skincare stuff in geisha packaging. The pink pot is cherry-blossom face cream, then there’s rice-paper to blot your skin (no Geisha can EVER have a shiny nose!) and little pots of solid perfume.

I met Eric for lunch, and now we’re into the whole “cook it all yourself” thing, we went to a tempura place in the same mall. This time, you paid on entry, and then went to the food bar to grab all the raw food on kebab-sticks. You helped yourself to bowls of batter and breadcrumbs, and then went back to your table where the deep fat fryer was bubbling and ready for you to begin. A lot less healthy than last night’s fare, but just as fun. We mused on how expensive a it must be to have a fryer on each table, but then reasoned, they save money on not actually needing a kitchen to cook food in!

They even had shaved ice and syrups to make Mr. Frosty sno-cones for afters! Ah well, I SHOULD be able to work off all this eating in tonight's shows.

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