Tuesday, September 2, 2014

SOONER OR LATER ALL RESTAURANTS REVOLVE


I try to resist “Orientalism” in my enthusiasm for Japanese food and culture.  I try to avoid that “Oh those Japanese, they so crazy!” attitude.  I mean, really, everything looks crazy if you don’t understand it.  It's not always easy (above - it's a butter grater) but I do what I can to understand.


Take those Japanese restaurant where the food circulates on a conveyor bet (sometimes called a revolving restaurant, but that’s a horse of a very different color if you ask me).  Really, there’s nothing odd about it at all, it’s just a high tech, and labor-saving version of a Chinese dim sum cart.


This however is a really great example, having a revolving conveyor belt that resembles a bullet train:


In fact the idea is so good that some people want to recreate the experience at home: (admittedly this set apparently features a boat on railroad tracks, which slightly misses the point):  


Actually I’m not sure the above is going to work out so well.  The thrill of the conveyor belt restaurant is that new things keep appearing, whereas if it’s just circulating around your own table you can see everything that’s on it, and the chances are you’re the one who put it on, which severely reduces the surprise element.


Also, just in case you think there’s anything uniquely Japanese about this, keep in mind that Buster Keaton devised something very similar in in his 1922 movie, The Electric House.


And if you think it’s only the Japanese who have a wacky attitude towards food, I’ve recently been become aware of the all-American “cheese bra.”  This is wacky certainly, but actually much less fun than it sounds, chiefly because the “cheese” is plastic and therefore inedible.  Where’s the sport in that?


The bacon bra (worn here by Nicky Stein-Grohs of bacontits.com - I kid you not) looks like way more fun.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

HELLO YOUNG DRINKERS


Finally – a way to get children to drink their beer!   Add artificial fruit flavors and stick a Hello Kitty image on the can.


In fact Hello Kitty beer has been around for a while.  And I learn that Hello Kitty wine has even been available in the States.  I missed that somehow.


And I very definitely missed this, the Hello Kitty wiener cutter:


Put a smile on your sausage indeed.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A MISSING MARTINI



Even people who’ve never seen Silence of the Lambs know that Hannibal Lecter knocks back human liver with fava beans and chianti.  This always struck me as slightly tame for a super villain but I’ve never claimed to have much grasp of the popular imagination.

I admit I’ve never read a word by Thomas Harris – author of the “source material” - but I did just re-read Martin Amis’s review of Hannibal, the third novel in the series, this one featuring the evil Mason Verger, which somehow looks like an anagram. (Martin Amis is of course an anagram of Sam Martini, a pseudonym I have been known to use once in a while).


Amis writes, “When the child cries, a nurse wipes the tears away and puts 'the wet swatches in Mason’s martini glass, chilling in the playroom’s refrigerator beside the orange juice and cokes.’  What a Terrible guy. What a terrible martini.”


Well yes, I totally agree with Martin here, but I know there are people who like their martinis dirty, with a splash of olive brine.  Personally I’m far you mean to pay good money for the leavings from a jar of olives, but if you’re into that whole dirty thing then maybe salt tears would be just the ticket.

And here’s another martini-related thing:


Now, to be honest I’m not sure what’s going on here, whether the snake is drinking the martini, which seems a little unlikely, or whether the snake is being “milked” so that its venom goes into the drink.  If the latter then OK, that’s a super-villain trick if ever I saw one.

Of course these days some people will put anything in a martini.  Even Dita Von Tease.  


Monday, August 18, 2014

ACID MOTHERS BUFFET


It has come to this: blogging about Facebook. 


There’s a book, by Margaret Mason, titled No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog, essentially a series of “prompts” to make your blog more interesting.  I do think there’s a amount of certain wisdom in that title, however I’ve recently become a Facebook friend of Mitsuru Tabata, who in lives in Nerima, Tokyo, and is currently second guitarist in the psychedelic Japanoise band Acid Mothers Temple (the guys I want to play at my funeral).  He’s also a sometime member of The Boredoms and Zeni Geva.  That’s him at the top of this post, a happy soul as you can see, and yes that is a hamburger shirt.  To be fair he doesn’t always look like that.


And the fact is, Japanophile that I am (with some slightly half-baked plans to go to Japan early next year), I find I’m deeply fascinated by what he has for lunch, and for dinner too.  Fortunately a fairly high percentage of Tabata-san’s Facebook posts feature food, both home-cooked and eaten in restaurants.

Certainly some of the food he has at home looks very much the way you’d expect Japanese home-cooked food to look: simple, elegant, exotic in a way but not at all outlandish, and not at all the kind of thing you'd find in a western Japanese restaurant: 




And here’s what he eats at his mother’s house (not an acid mother necessarily), which looks even better: gorgeously stylish and appealing.  She had me at "stewed smoked herring."



But then, who would think that a Japanese noise guitarist would be eating spaghetti alla pomdoro for lunch?


Much less a BLT?


 Tabata is evidently a great fan of curries, and we know that the Japanese do a good curry, it having been taken there, I gather, by the British who imported it from India.  Wikipedia tells me that the Japanese navy was introduced to curry by the British Royal Navy, and now every Friday is curry day in the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.  This may be true, but my dad was in the Royal Navy and he’d have thrown himself overboard rather than eat curry.

In any case curry is now a thoroughly international dish and so Tabatha eats in various curry houses in Japan. Some apparently have more Indian influence than others.  This one looks like it could be had in any could English curry house.



This one less so:



But of course again it’s the odd unexpected “fusion” food that really catches the eye, like this one:


Yes it’s easy to believe the Japanese eat hamburger steaks with rice, but this one appears to be varnished with some kind of glistening gravy and those two semicircles of carrot really do look out of place.

Tabata is an international touring musician, and one of his latest posts has him in Holland eating or at least posing with, something called a Lucifer. 


And finally he gets to England and gets a curry, in Ramsgate, a place not known for its simplicity, elegance and quiet exotic.


I sure hope that curry tastes better than it looks.  The English, they’re so inscrutable.


Meanwhile, unconnected with Tabata-san, the website rocketnews24 - “Bringing you yesterday’s news from Japan and Asia, today” - reviews a restaurant called Maruhachi Sushi, located in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture.  The most spectacular item on the menu is something called Sexual Harassment Sushi.  Yep, really.  It looks like this:


It’s a single octopus tentacle and blood cockle wrapped in seaweed.  The reviewer, named Kuzo “liked the unique combination of textures in the octopus and shellfish. The seaweed also had a pure taste that was exquisite.”  Hey, it takes more than that to sexually harrass anybody I know in the Psychogourmet set.  But it does look wonderful.