Besides the cute little Indian restaurant in our neighborhood that I absolutely adore, I also love restaurants serving yakiniku, also known as Korean barbecue. So that's where we headed to celebrate my 28th birthday last Friday, July 11.
At yakiniku restaurants, you order a platter of raw meat and vegetables and cook them right there at your table in a grill inset into the middle of the table. It is without a doubt the kind of thing that would short circuit the brains of food health and safety inspectors back home. I know already that this is one of the things I will miss most fervently about Japan when we leave.
Unfortunately I can't imagine a place like this ever flying in the U.S. I can see the lawsuits now the first time some macho moron eats a piece of raw meat and gets food poisoning, or when some kid manhandles the raw meat and then lays his bacteria laden little mitts all over everything in sight and sickens everyone.
I've gotta hand it to the Japanese — there are some things here that are just a lot more fun because they don't get super uptight and regulate everything based on the lowest common denominator in society. This is one of those things. People here understand that if they decide to do something and they get hurt somehow, well, they took the risk and it's their own fault. If you eat a raw egg and get sick, well that's your own fault. If you fall off a five-story human pyramid on sports day and break your leg, your fault. Participate in a fire festival and engulf yourself in flames — your fault. Go to yakiniku restaurant and improperly cook the meat — Your Fault!
This particular platter ran us around 4500 yen ($45) and had asparagus, carrots, pumpkin, and bite-sized morsels of beef, chicken and some other unidentified meat (I prefer it that way). You just let it grill and then you dip it in a very tasty barbecue-like sauce. A little ventilation system built into the side of the grill immediately wicks up all the smoke and redirects it outside.
I liked this restaurant, though I think I prefer the places that offer tabehodai (all you can eat) yakiniku for a set price and time limit. The last one we went to, in Kyoto, had a 90-minute limit. We can eat a lot of meat in 90 minutes. A lot. And it was all you can eat dessert, too. Let me say that again: All you can eat dessert. No wonder this isn't in America. Double the lawsuits! Picture the headlines now: "900-pound lady sues yakiniku chain, claims it didn't warn her all-you-can-eat dessert would cause her to swell up like a manatee."
Speaking of swelling up like a manatee...
Joe, my lovely, perfect, amazing husband, came home from work today carrying this:
Real honest-to-God chocolate cake. Not impostor Japanese sponge cake. Real Betty Crocker cake from a box and sinful chocolate icing. My parents sent it from home, and he baked it in the Home Ec room at his school today on his lunch break. At first I thought it was a mirage. But it wasn't. It was really real. I stuffed myself with chocolate cake tonight after dinner, and it was wonderful. I am a lucky, lucky girl.