Tuesday, April 26, 2011
My birthday was last week but because I took off work a couple of my co-workers decided to take me out today to a restaurant of my choice. My first thought was sushi because I hadn't had it in a while but after thinking about it, I decided to go with Japanese in general. There is a lot more to Japanese food than simply sushi and because some of the friends I was going with were a little leery of raw fish, I decided to do some exploring and go to Mitsuwa. Mitsuwa is actually a chain grocery and specialty store based in Southern California but with stores also in Chicago and New Jersey with a several "restaurant" food court focusing on different parts of Japanese cuisine. THe different Mitsuwas actually have different restaurants. The one that we went to had sushi (of course), bubble tea, ramen, a sweet shop, a Korean shop and a Japanese hamburger place. I looked at the different offerings in the different shops and decided that I can get sushi at any number of places and the ramen at the Japanese specialty shop had to be much better than the bags of dried ramen that most college students live on. While ramen at its most basic is a noodle soup, there are different bases: soy, miso, salt and different toppings. There were also different combo meals with different sides, one of which was a dish that was used in The Reader's Key Ingredient Series, Natto. The meal also included a soy egg which was simply a hard boiled egg soaked in soy sauce. My meal consisted of a miso ramen with pork, mushrooms, pickled bamboo shoots, and a piece of fish that I am unsure how it was prepared, natto on rice, and a soy egg. The soy egg was pretty good. As one might expect, it is pretty salty but most people salt their hard boiled eggs anyway. The ramen was a LOT better than the stuff that you find in a grocery store. It would be like comparing a can of spaggettios to the spaghetti you might get in an Italian restaurant. The noodles and broth were good but the pork, mushrooms, and fish just added to it. The natto will take some explanation. Natto is fermented soybeans and it is a traditional Japanese dish. It is often served as a breakfast food but it is also served with rice and green onions. From the reading I had done, I have read that natto smells rather strong but that really wasn't the issue with me. While I had never seen it in real life when I did see it, I recognized it immediately because it looked as if it was coated in slime. I like to challenge myself so I had to try this. It looked pretty strange and working the beans into the rice made it look even stranger because the slime was getting worse. In talking about the taste, I will first say that it is an acquired taste. The first bite it had a strong nutty flavor in the fore and main taste but I have to say that I really didn't care for the aftertaste. The after taste was slimy and slightly spoiled tasting. There was some horseradish mustard that was offered on the side so I added that (and increased the slime by stirring it in). It did help though not enough. I enjoyed my meal and will return sometime. I was glad I tried the natto but I don't think I will ever try it again especially when there are so many other things on the menu that are actually appetizing.