Thursday, August 16, 2007

Japan Trip 3: the sad sound of seafood sucking

I've had a lot of good sea food in Japan. The scallops in XO sauce at the Chinese restaurant at the basement of Roppongi Hills is the kind of Chinese food I'm used to in Vancouver- scallops bursting with their own and the recipe's power and juiciness. I mean that's the base line. Bad scallops are to be avoided. These were not bad scallops. The Asian Mojita I had with it wasn't spice-cancelling enough and the vegies were a bit crisper than I'd have preferred, but this was a fine meal. The Mori Museum website said it had a show on humour in Japanese art which I wanted to see. After the scallops, I went to the Mori but the only show was Le Corbusier, who struck me as Picasso without the talent, and some fish. Maybe they were good to eat too. But these scallops were consumed my 6th day in Japan. Every previous day I'd been assaulted by Bad Shrimp. I don't remember their existence when I lived here, but now every shrimp dish I order is tasteless, as best. Salad after shrimp salad is like eating the menu. Seriously expensive Prawns Mayo from Isetan's teeming basement. It's as if all the prawns in the world had suddenly shed their taste. Or maybe the Japanese fishing fleet fished all the good shirmp out, and now all they can catch is tasteless shrimp.
A refreshing salad at the Hamamatsu Grand Hotel. Thankfully, no shrimp.

This restaurant specialized in crab dishes. I had the crab grautin. You are ushered into your own little room. I had just bought Jared Diamond's Collapse at a local bookstore I could never afford to buy books at when I lived here 36 years ago. Delightfully I opened book, drank a glass of draft, put my aching feet up and awaited the crab. I'm still waiting. Yes I was served a grautin and it appeared to have crab-like particles, but their tastes never penetrated the cheese. Useless. A crab died for naught. Do crab well, or leave it alone!


In Hamamatsu I did have some prawns and scallops as part of the Teppan Yaki feast described in post #1 of this series. They weren't bad, but that was a factor of their sauces. I was told that Nagoya had great prawns, great Ebi Fry so I wanted to try it. Unfortunately, my friend Manny had the shrimp. It was so big it came with a scissors. My miso katsu was also a local delicacy and I was on a winning streak with pork. A few days later I had ebi fry as part of the tonkatsu set in the ship-like new building in Nihonbashi. It was superb. Finally. So good prawns still exist and can be found in Japanese restaurants. I was relieved. But still. 9 out of 10 prawn experiences ranged from insufficiency to matter in their nest of spaghetti at a superior Italian restaurant and an even better Spanish place, to downright tasteless, like eating toy food, as part of salad after salad I soaked up to mitigate summer's assault.




Bubba Gump's shrimp stuffed with crab. Yeah, right.
The overall flavour is monterey jack cheese. I love good cheese and miss it in Japanese food. But where's the crab flavour? Where's the shrimp flavour?
Not so long ago, you could go into any random restaurant and get good shrimp. They may now be so rare you need speciail permission to eat the good shrimp. I was saddened, remembering how much my daughter loved shrimp, and the many great shrimp we'd had in Japan. The flavours we savoured have vanished. Its as if a nation of people with sophisticated tastes, exposed to phenomenal food, was now only exposed to lower quality and less flavourful food. Is this an Orwellian experiment, to convince a formerly shrimp knowing populace that bad shrimp is good shrimp? Help, Bubba. Help.



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