The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2017

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Page 29 of 136

august 2017  /  the tasting panel  /  29 What you do want to do is hit the streets. Tokyo and Kyoto are beehived with restaurant streets, which lead to narrow restaurant alleys, which lead to even narrower restaurant alleys. Multi-story buildings are filled with small restau- rants on every level. Of course, when wandering the streets, alleyways and byways, you want to follow the old adage that a busy restaurant is (probably, possibly?) a good restaurant––though it doesn't take much for a yakitori restaurant with six stools along a counter to be busy. But still––feel the vibes, smell the smells, listen to the laughter and banter. A couple of sakés, and you'll feel right at home. That's certainly how I felt in Yakitori Alley (also known as Memory Lane) in the heart of Tokyo's madcap Shibuya section, a warren of shops exhaling clouds of fragrant smoke, with big crowds waiting for seats at counters that stretch along four of the five blocks between train stations. Some counters have English menus; most don't. But they're easy to deal with—just look around and point at what others are eating and perhaps play charades to let the cook know what you want. Buy him a beer. He'll be glad to help. They were happy to help at a place I came upon, in an alley off an alley in the Pontocho section of Kyoto. It was a restaurant without a door—just a big open- ing into a room with a counter and half a dozen tall bar tables. What struck me about the establishment, Isoya, were the bowls of fresh vegetables that lined the counter between the cooks and the diners. They were piled high with lettuces, eggplant, cauliflower, shishito peppers and more. And with lots of pointing and gesturing, I ordered a meal of pretty much all of it. It was superb—so much so that I went back for a second meal. The best ramen I came upon was in the alleyways between Harajuku and Omotesando in Tokyo. More than Mt. Fuji or any of the thousands of temples, Harajuku was my teenage daughter's destination of choice—a post-modernist Carnaby Street filled with Harajuku Girls, dressed in a sort of Heidi-on-steroids look that has to be seen to be believed. While she shopped, I ate ramen so good, it made me wonder what the salty slop I've been consuming on this side of the Pacific might be. Gyoza, too, were a wonder. But no wonder compares with the sushi served at the Tsukiji fish market—the largest and most amazing fish market in the world. You can sit down for your sushi, or you can eat it on the go—sushi on sticks, butter-grilled scallops slathered with sea urchin on sticks, baby octopus dancing on sticks. And if you wander past one of the saké stands, expect to be offered a free tasting of any of a dozen varieties, ranging from unfiltered to ultra-fine junmai daiginjo. Did I buy a few bottles? Of course I did; it's only right. And the saké might even go well with the many flavors of Kit Kat bars sold in Japan. Green tea-flavored? Wasabi- flavored? Why not? In the Land of the Rising Sun, all tastes are possible. Tsukiji in Tokyo is the largest wholesale seafood market in the world. PHOTO: 7MARU VIA THINKSTOCK KMTITCHENER VIA THINKSTOCK PHOTO: BONCHAN VIA THINKSTOCK ©2017 LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards, Acampo, CA Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon WINE ENTHUSIAST BEST BUY 2013 MERLOT 88 PTS 2013 CABERNET SAUVIGNON PTS 88 2014 SAUVIGNON BLANC PTS 90 S A N D P O I N T W I N E . C O M LCF4174_SP_TP_3rdPG_AD_M4.indd 1 3/9/17 12:53 PM

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