Friday, 23 November 2007

Food is for Eating

I'll be going back to Japan in three weeks' time, and let me tell you, my mouth is already watering at the prospect of again being able to eat out at truly great, cheap restaurants every night of the week.

I think people are aware that the Japanese have a distinct cuisine and that they like their fish, but that's mostly where knowledge ends. Well, it's much, much more than that: eating out is the national religion in Japan, and restaurants are its churches. There truly has never been a race of people on planet earth with collectively as much passion, interest and desire for good food. From French haute cuisine to native seasonal delicacies to South-East Asian fusion to Nepali curry to West-African barbeques, Japan has it all and has it consistently better than anywhere else.

It's great to see this finally being acknowledged. I remember reading once that whereas London has around 10,000 restaurants and New York something like 40,000, in Tokyo there are 160,000 - and Tokyo's vast superiority over any comparable city has been confirmed by its first ever Michelin guide, which has found 191 Tokyo eateries to be deserving of a Michelin star. This compares to 97 in Paris, 54 in New York, and 50 in London. I'm surprised it isn't even more.

My favourite restaurant in Tokyo is a little place near Mamiko's old apartment called gayagaya, which has the best clam soup in the whole world, thick with garlic and butter that coats the inside of your mouth. That's where I'll be in a few weeks, sipping my warm sake and eating my clams, hopefully while a smattering of snow falls outside. Then I'll be writing to the Michelin people that they missed a trick when they walked past that place.


Amanda said...

I LOVED eating in Japan. Since I was using Ringgit at the time, I didn't find it cheap and was really thankful that the company paid because I absolutedly enjoyed every second of every place. They were all so specialised and 'cosy'.

zero_zero_one said...

You have obviously not seen the signs for Subway's new Sweet Chilli Chicken sandwich which comes with the slogan, It's to Thai for...

I liked eating out in Japan when I was visiting you, we went to some really good places.

Bilbo said...

I've never been to Japan, but it sounds as if the trip is worth it just for the food. Agnes and I have traveled widely in Europe and found many superb restaurants that Michelin missed, as well. If you have a chance to see the Disney/Pixar film "Ratatouille," do see it - it's a wonderfully hysterical film about restaurants, chefs, fine dining, and ... well ... rats. You'll love it.