I couldn't finish the week in one post, but even two is a only a really short summary. While I worked for two days, he explored around Tokyo and found his way around to get to Nikko. I went once over ten years ago and mainly remember the see/hear/speak no evil monkeys being much smaller than expected for how famous they are. He said that it was freezing (much more snow than Tokyo!) but beautiful, and a nice change from the busy city.
He met me after work and we went first for appetizers, to the best rated Taiyaki (traditional fish-shaped sweet red bean pastry) shop. The crust was super thin and crispy, with their homemade anko (sweet red bean paste) inside that was divine. They bake (or however you call making something on an iron like that) them for 30 minutes to get that perfect crust. That's the only thing they sell, no variations, nothing else. According to my brother, if they specialize in one thing and stay open for that long, they must be pretty good at it. So far his logic has proved true when trying out new places in Tokyo. Then we went to eat Yuzu (Japanese citron) Ramen and Chashu pork bowl, another really well known place. The yuzu made the normally heavy tasting ramen much more refreshing! We shared those because without me telling him, somehow he knew that there was still round 3 coming for "dinner." I wanted to take him to a traditional "yakitori" pub. It's like grilled chicken skewers, except not necessarily chicken...more like parts of chicken. We got a few unusual parts, and he was pleasantly surprised at how good they were.
And a real cow tongue...taste buds and all. "Gnarly" is how Page described it.
I grew up going to this street bazaar that is held 3 times a month, and pretty well known for old ladies (as you may see in the background). It's always bustling, and the average age is at least 70. Among the food and relatively wide customer range merchandise available to purchase, there are also funny things like bright red underwear, thick high rise light pink fuzzy long underwear, every imaginable type of seaweed and dried squid. I was excited that one of the days he was here was one of the street bazaar days. Oh, and maybe I should mention it was Valentine's Day. That could be taken as either, I have not even one ounce of romance in me to go smell fish and see grandma underwear OR these old people are sweet, let's grow old together. I prefer the latter interpretation.
We had some Japanese festival-type food. I LOVE takoyaki (octopus balls...? the English translation always sounds awful) but he wasn't a huge fan. Was it the large dried fish flakes? Seaweed flakes? Tentacles? The smell? Beats me, I have no idea. He had 1, I had the other 5. That's a pretty balanced ratio, right?
He was a huge fan of the caramel custard Obanyaki.
There are so many types of "yaki" in Japanese street food, many that I have already written about. Maybe it's comparable to a waffle, making it on a shaped iron plate, and can be savory or sweet.
For Valentine's Day we decided to take a short break from soy sauce and mochi-related food and try out Japanese Italian food in Shinjuku.
Even at an Italian restaurant we couldn't get away from fish eggs. It was in the sauce for the fried calamari.
Or from Japanese mushrooms, in the hand-made spinach pasta dish.
The food was really good, but I think we were both most impressed by this bathroom. It felt like the room was moving!
Page isn't a morning person, and he was on vacation, but this sushi will probably get him up at any hour any day. We went to Tsukiji early in the morning, waited in line for 2.5 hours at one of the two most popular sushi restaurants right outside of the fish market. (Tsukiji is the largest fish market in the world.) I included photos of maguro (fatty tuna) and uni (sea urchin) because those were incredible too. This doesn't show all of the sushi. We did "omakase" (leaving it up to the chef, so he has a menu for the day depending on what the best catches were for the day). The chef was right in front of us and would make each one at a time for us to eat. The top three in terms of impact were:
The Buri was absolutely delicious, generous cut of fresh fish with the perfect amount of rice and wasabi. I can't explain how perfect it was.
Shirako was a first for me, and maybe last but no promises. It's cod sperm. The taste was surprisingly pleasant and the texture was smooth. I had a very awkward conversation with the sushi chef and even made him blush because of a comment I made about it that sounded very inappropriate...I'm still embarrassed and won't go into detail!
The third was Hokkigai, a type of shellfish from Hokkaido. I forgot to translate after the chef explained it in Japanese and after all these slapping sounds (preparing the sushi for a few people) Page was a bit confused and asked me why he was smacking the food on the counter. It stimulates the muscles of the shellfish, which is still alive when the chef prepares it, and then stiffens to the perfect consistency to eat. Its muscles were still contracting when we got it. It started out flat on the rice, and curled up, falling off the rice sideways a few seconds later.
Then I really wanted Page to try these oysters at a place also in Tsukiji because it changed my opinion about oysters. This is their seasonal dish, but they're famous for tonkatsu (pork cutlet) and omuraisu (omelet-rice dish) so we got both. Another example of our unusual eating ratio, Page had about 3-4 bites and I finished the rest...after the egg omelet, eel riceball, red bean croissant, and sushi.
Another day he went with me to do lots of grandma-related errands, and the district ward is right by the Tokyo baseball stadium so we walked by it. Then we visited my grandma and took her out to dinner. She was delighted to meet him, and spoke as much English as she could remember. I hope I can speak random foreign languages that I normally never use when I'm 91!
In that one week we had so much mochi and fish, both cooked and raw. We also went to one of the best rated mame daifuku (bean mochi with sweet red bean filling) places.
I'm still excited beyond words thinking about getting married to this guy, and it makes me do silly, cheesy things like pose with "fiancee" hand lotion.
But I'd say this photo reflects that his excitement is pretty close to mine. If we had an excitement ratio, I'd argue that it's kind of like my appetite, maybe hard to believe there's so much there because I'm not that outwardly expressive, but it's pretty intense.