Monday, June 7, 2010

Hokkaido Foodist

Chicken curry with shimeji mushrooms.
Hokkaido Foodist is actually the name of a regional specialty restaurant, but I think it may also be my new political affiliation. The cafeteria-like shop is near the Yaesu entrance of Tokyo Station. It's one of many regional eateries attached to a shop--you have lunch over on one side and shop for food and souvenirs on the other. There are shop/restaurants that sell and serve goodies from Okinawa, Akita, you name it. It's like slow food meets museum gift shop. Genius!

Hokkaido is kind of Japan's Alaska--snowy weather, wide-open spaces, and plenty of salmon and crab. And you can see Russia from there! The food is a major tourist draw, along with the scenery. Observe the big plate of Japanese comfort food above. Oddly, curry is the go-to choice for cold weather as well as a summertime staple. There is just no wrong time for the mild, slightly sweet stewiness of Japanese curry. The famous style of ramen up there is a hearty miso broth, sometimes with corn and a pat of butter. A pat of butter. Just melting there casually, like, "Hey, pork soup? Sure. Throw some butter on that." This time, however, I went with a plain pork broth, which was plenty rich on its own. The noodles had some whole wheat mixed in there, giving them little spots and a nutty flavor.

They also have sweet milk soft serve ice cream, which would be pictured here if not for the impatience of my children. Soft serve gets its proper due here in Japan. Think about it: it's the perfect ice cream texture, cold enough to hold its shape, but warm enough for the milk fat to really spread on your tongue (think of how much better cheese or chocolate is when it's room temperature), and yet it's never made with top shelf ingredients. Sorry, Mr. Softee, but the truth hurts. Years ago, I read an article about someone who was driven to rent a machine and crank out their own homemade cones at home, and I admired the obsessive drive. The sweet milk cones here are made with Hokkaido milk, for which the region is famous. It's pure, creamy bliss, and it can bring you entire minutes of silence from your children.

Stewed squid stuffed with rice. If you can hang with the Italian pasta with black ink sauce, this may just be for you.
Fres Hokkaido ramen you can whip up at home! Say it with me: "I deserve better than Top Ramen."
All kinds of lamb--even offal!

Hokkaido is also famous for its lamb. Last time I was here, the Professor ordered the Ghengis Khan bowl, which is rice covered in a layer of grilled, thinly sliced lamb. There is a theory that Ghengis was actually Japanese. I know. Why would anyone want to claim him? Two words: Mongolian barbecue. Seriously, it's kind of worth all the pillaging.

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