We've had a lot of questions from friends and family about the food here in Japan. Well, we're happy to say that we really haven't had a bad meal yet. And when you can't read the menu, there's a lot of serendipity involved in procuring a meal.
Last night, for example, Nana and I went downtown for dinner with some friends. We chose the restaurant by the time-honored method of walking until we were too hungry not to stop at the first cool-looking place we saw. Then, as a group, we ordered one each of the five items on the "best" menu. (We couldn't tell if these were the specials or the most popular dishes. Or, of course, those with the highest profit margin.)
Here's what we got (with apologies in advance for the poor picture quality, and for the fact that I was a little slow with the camera at times):
-Breaded & fried chicken with a mild mustard, ginger, & garlic sauce.
-Fried tamago (mildly sweet egg) stuffed with fish eggs. Gone too quickly for me to get a good photo!
-Simple fried gyoza (pork dumplings with a soy dipping sauce).
-Beef belly (think bacon, but with beef) stewed with potato & onion.
When we finished with these, we asked the waiter (in halting Japanese) to recommend something else. We ended up with motsunabe, a dish that originated right here in Fukuoka.
Motsunabe is a type of nabemono, which basically means it's a simple soy broth with a bunch of meat and veggies piled in it, and it cooks right in front of you at your table. The meat in Motsunabe is usually either pork or beef offal. Ours was cow stomach!
Which brings me to another early lesson we've learned about Japanese food: so far, it seems like they can take just about anything and make it tasty. That's not to say there isn't simple food here--one of the best meals we've had so far was basically a bowl of chicken noodle soup, sumo-style. But not knowing what we've been ordering has also led us to some great meals I don't think we would have found on our own.