Thursday, April 30, 2015

Cruise Inn

Location: Cruise Inn

Rating: Nasty
Meal:  Breakfast
Price:  350 yen
Payment:  Cash Only (accepts dollars primarily)
Dishes: Spam Musubi
English Menu:Yes
Smoking: No

 The Cruise Inn is the first of my on-base restaurant reviews.  This is a small little spot specializing in breakfast and lunch fast food.  Like most of what's available on base, the ingredients are quite sub-par, so no matter how good it may look on the menu, the food always leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  The best thing about the Cruise Inn is that they offer breakfast and it's on the walk in.  However, not much on the menus is actually very appetizing, so I rarely ever eat here.  For lunch it would have to be a special set of circumstances to convince me to eat their burgers ever again.









The most interesting thing they have in morning is the spam musubi.  I believe this is a Hawaiian/Japanese fusion of onigiri (japanese rice ball) and spam.  The Cruise Inn improves on this by adding some scrambled egg to layers.  I went one better today and ordered a side of cheese!  The theory is excellent, but unfortunately due to poor quality ingredients, the actual result is barely tolerable.  Spam is spam, so nothing to be done there, but the rice is (like all rice on base) of inferior quality and it comes through in taste and texture.  Also, it's not quite sticky enough to hold together properly so it crumbles as you eat it.  The egg is another problem...I don't know what they use, but I would suspect it's the egg powder or liquid, which is nasty stuff.  Even if they are using real eggs, they do use some kind of PAM or synthetic lubricant for oil and everything they cook on the griddle has an off taste as a result.  And then there's the cheese.  Even though the commisary is one of the only places you can get real cheese in Japan (Costco sells it), none of the restaurants on base seem to use it.  The only thing you can get is heavily processed cheese substances, and it is no different here.  I laughed out loud when I was asked "what kind of cheese" I wanted, since it's all just s lightly different color of the same extruded goop.  Oh well...I hauled it back to my desk and ate it for science.




Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Katsuhiro

Location: Katsuhiro
Rating: Excellent
Meal:  Lunch for 2
Price:  2,000 yen
Payment:  Cash only
Dishes:Tonkatsu Teishoku
English Menu: No
Smoking: Yes

No English, but you'll like whatever you point at
 Katsuhiro is a tonkatsu restaurant located between the Main and Womble gates of the base on road 16.  My first memory of this place was soon after arriving, we were walking back from our first dinner off base (Ringer Hut) and we walked by this little hole in the wall with a wooden sign above it.  There were 3 or 4 people standing outside taking pictures of it after having finished their dinner.  One of them exclaimed:  "Oh?  Was that your first time?"

There are lots of tonkatsu places around town which are pretty good, some not so good.  But for the pure manifestation of tonkatsu (pounded, breaded, deep fried pork), nothing beats Katsuhiro.  There is only the one chef, and he's obviously been doing this a long time.  He has it down to a very precise, but slow, science.  


Slowness and slight discomfort are the only two downsides to this place.  You had better plan for at least an hour and possibly more if you get behind the queue.  The most number of parallel dishes I've seen prepared is 4.  We arrived today behind two others and were worried we'd be there longer than usual, but luckily we got in as he was getting the others ready, so there were four dishes done at the same time.  Any more than that would probably have to wait until he was done before getting to order.  I thought he opened at 12pm prompt, but apparently he let these other two in early.  He didn't even have his pole with green noren out yet.  The other issue is comfort...there is only bar seating, with a narrow strip of tatami for your bum, and nothing to lean against.  I have to squirm about periodically to keep comfortable, but at least there's a place for your feet to go under.  One other thing is that smoking is permitted, and it's so small that if even one person decides to smoke, you'll be subjected to it as well.  In the 5 or 6 times I've eaten there, I've only had it happen twice.


There is no english menu, which is fine, because the cook pretty much assumes you'll be wanting the same thing every other gaijin wants:  the Tonkatsu Teishoku.  If you want anything different, be very clear (and possibly speak up...he might be a little deaf).  But really, the tonkatsu is amazing.  The lunch special is a rosukatsu (fatty pork) tonkatsu for 1000 yen.  Very hard to beat, and it's amazing.  In addition to the usual slab of fried pork, you get deliciously battered bites of apple, carrot, and whatever else he has prepared that day.   There is a small cabbage salad with different greens on top, a little bit of pickled cabbage (very salty) and some other small slices of vegetables.  The miso soup is unique and quite delicious, using what I'm pretty sure is a pork broth base instead of dashi.  If you are obviously foreign (read:  white or black), you will probably get a smaller than normal serving of rice.  I chose to forgive this micro-racism the first time I invited someone who ended up not eating their entire bowl of rice.  I was mortified, but couldn't say anything.  Just ask for more if you eat it all and he'll serve it up.

When he serves you, don't do anything until he tells you to start.  He will grind up some sesame seeds, pour in some sauce, and pour salad dressing and sauce over the salad.  Then he'll motion that you can start eating.  A polite "itadakimasu" is in order ("I gratefully receive this food").   The sauce used looks like a typical tonkatsu sauce, which I don't usually like as it is very vinegary.  But there is something special about his sauce.  I don't know if he makes it himself or not, but it wouldn't surprise me.  It's tart without being sour somehow..

If you want to try something else, there's menchi katsu (minced meat deep fried), chicken katsu, steak don, oyster (kaki), and ebi (shrimp) fry.  All are typically accompanied by the same stuff I think, so whatever you get will be incredible I am sure.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sushiro

Location: Sushiro


Rating: OK
Meal:  Lunch
Price:  1200 yen
Payment:  Credit Cards accepted
Dish:  See below
English Menu: Yes
Smoking: No

Sushiro is the last Daie Mall restaurant!  Yay!  I can move on to other stuff within walking distance of the base.  Sushiro is a famous cheap kaitenzushi (sushi-go-round) restaurant.  There are 4 of these in the nearby Yokosuka area and Sushiro is the closest to base.  The other nearby one is Hamazushi located closer to my apartment.  The last two are a bit down the road, very close to each other, Kappa Sushi and Kura Sushi.  Of these, I am partial to Kappa, but Sushiro is probably second on the list.  Remember, all of these are cheap 100 yen (108 yen now with sales tax) per plate restaurants, so the quality and in some cases quantity cannot be compared with really good places.  You have to go in with that mindset in order to enjoy yourself.




The other fun part is the unique dining experience that they afford.  Each one is a little different.  Sushiro operates with a single track and a touch based ordering system.  So you can just take plates from the track or custom order from the menu.  The menu has an English option by the way, taking the difficulty out of ordering (reducing the mystery, but oh well).  The trick with the single track systems is that in order to be sure you get your order they put the plate on a special round dish that elevates it slightly, and then alert you through the menu when it's getting close.  This means you must not take any plates from those elevated round dishes if they are not intended for you!  There are numerous stories of foreigner's first time visits to this style of kaitenzushi taking the wrong plate and only realizing later that they deprived someone of their custom order.  To try and prevent this, Sushiro provides a clear instruction guide in English...though it is a bit wordy so it might seem intimidating.  Really it's all quite simple.  Other restaurants (i.e. Kappa) have 2 tracks, the regular one, and a little train that zooms out with your order and then zooms back.  At other places, there is a special slot for you to slide your dirty plates down that automatically counts up your total.  Still others have a little contest after you are done where you can win prizes based on how many plates you ate.  It's kind of fun to try them all.

Because they are cheap, you will see families with small children sitting at the tables.  This makes for a loose atmosphere that puts us foreigners at ease I think.  Also foreigner friendly, there are lots of plates without raw fish!  You want bacon or prosciutto ham on your nigiri?  Got it.  Fried chicken?  It's there.  Chocolate cake?  You betcha.  French fries?  2 kinds:  regular and sweet potato with glaze.  So even the "sushi hater" can eat and have a good time.  Personally, I prefer to save my money and go to Chuo Sushi, but hey, sometimes the fam just wants to eat a ton of sushi and the cheap places are perfect for that sort of thing.

Aside from not taking someone else's order, the one thing you should look out for are the two main plate colors.  These are different for different restaurants, but they denote the same thing:  with or without wasabi.  Whichever color you see the tamago (egg) or inari (rice in tofu pocket) on is probably without wasabi (those are popular kids dishes).  When you order from the menu, you usually have an option to select with or without.  Personally I like wasabi, so pile it on.

Also, be sure to check the menu at least once for specials.  Often the specials are not put out on the main track and you have to order them.  They are sometimes slightly more expensive than usual.  Today for example, Sushiro seemed to be having a Hokkaido specials theme.  There was corn and miso ramen, Hokkaido sourced hotate (scallop) and shake (salmon).  Mmmmmm boy!

Here are pictures of the dishes I had.  I tried to get some non-sushi ones too to show what they sometimes have available:
Yellow plates have wasabi
Special Hokkaido hotate (I added the spice)
Asari miso


















Cold chicken
Stewed beef and egg I think?


















Marinated thin sliced beef


Big Boss

Location: Big Boss

Rating: OK
Meal:  Dinner
Price:  1500 yen
Payment:  Credit Cards accepted
Dish:  Bibimbap and jijim
English Menu: Yes
Smoking:  Yes

Update:   7/3/2016 - The other day we were driving by and I noticed that it appears that Big Boss is now closed...though I'm not sure how long ago.

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Big Boss wins the award for most interesting logo, that's for sure!  In the sign that looks like a cow above, if you squint you can discern hiragana that spell out the Japanese version of the name "bigubasu".  Most impressive.









This is a narrow establishment in an area devoid of better options.  It's a kind of "big box" store area consisting of a Homes (Home Depot clone) and Livin (grocery and department store).  I had to drop my car off for some work that would take an hour and a half so I needed to find something to eat.  Saizeriya and KFC were not an option, and neither was McDonalds.  I had seen this inventive sign from afar many times so it was time to give it a try.



Yakiniku remains one of my least favorite experiences, but fortunately since it hails from Korea originally, there are usually at least a few Korean dishes on the menu.  I spied a bibimbap (aka stuff on rice in a stone bowl) and a savory vegetable pancake (jijim) and ordered those.  They did have a decent English menu, which is handy at a Yakinku joint.  It appears they are used to having lots of foreigners, and as I was eating, two foreign families came in to start their dinners.  They have  several Set Courses for larger groups (starting at 3 persons and going up), but as usual they do not appear to include the veggies which need to be ordered separately.

The bibimpap was not particularly good.  It was oddly dry, despite adding as many sauces as I could find to it.  The jijim was ok.  I can't say I was impressed by anything here.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Saizeriya

Location: Saizeriya


Rating: Not great
Meal:  Lunch
Price:  500 yen
Payment:  Cash Only
Dishes: Spinach and Bacon Spaghetti
English Menu:Yes
Smoking: No


Saizeriya is a ubiquitous chain of inexpensive Japanese Italian restaurants.  You can find them absolutely everywhere.  It was one of the first places we ate when we arrived in Japan and I was so turned off I vowed never to set foot in one again if I could avoid it.  A pity really, since sometimes you just want a cheap bowl of pasta, and it's hard to find one cheaper.  They also have the usual array of hamburg and steak that you would find in any "Western" style restaurant, but they emphasize the Italian, and that's what I usually think of.

Finally I went back a year or two ago and realized it was pretty good value for the money, and I needn't be so hung up on it.  I'll certainly never crave it, but it has its place, especially the parking lots that are available on the ones by the road.  The one in Daie is nice in that it is outside mall proper a bit and has a nice view of the harbor.  Otherwise, it's just like all the others.


 Today I opted for a lunch special at the astounding low price of 500 yen ($4.20 currently), with which you get a small salad and "soup" that basically broth you pour for yourself out of a coffee style dispenser.  The soup is truly something to behold, being indistinguishable from some forms of tea that one is often served in Japanese restaurants.  Sometimes you just have to shake your head.  The salad was fairly limp and smothered in thousand island dressing.










The pasta itself was fine, if under spiced.  "Bacon" here is never what you expect if you're from the US.  It's chunks of the same meat used to make real bacon, but there is none of the curing involved so the flavor is not there.  I hear real bacon is one of those things it's next to impossible to find in Japan, but we are lucky to have access to the real thing on base if we ever get the hankering.  I smothered my dish in the available parmesan, salt, pepper and spicy stuff (not very) to make it taste like something other than blandy bland bland.

J.S. Foodies

Location: J.S. Foodies

Rating: OK
Meal:  Lunch for 2
Price:  2000 yen
Payment:  Credit cards accepted
Dishes: Avocado Cheese Burger, Vegetable Chicken Burger
English Menu: Yes
Smoking: No

The second review from Lalaport Toyosu Mall, J.S. Foodies called our names...especially after the previous days fiasco trying to find burgers for lunch and failing miserably.  It was just my wife and I, as our son was home sick with a cough and we didn't bring him along to church.  After scoping out the mall for the options we settled on this place.  It's lovely, bright restaurant with vaulted ceilings and funky decor.  The kitchen is visible behind glass windows and their menu is prominently displayed on a tv screen out front.











First you order and pay, then you go in, find a table and wait for them to bring it to you.  The burgers were ok, a bit disappointing after the delicious looking pictures though.  I wouldn't say they were worth the price, honestly.  The vegetable chicken burger came with sweet potato fries, but they were really awful, hard and brittle.  The regular fries were ok, but not great.  I quite liked the Vegetable Chicken burger as it came with red and yellow peppers and red onions, in addition to the avocado and spiced ground chicken patty.  But again, it wasn't incredible.

Kurobatei

Location: Kurobatei


Rating: Excellent
Meal:  Dinner for 6 adults and 2 children
Price:  26,000 yen
Payment:  Cash only
Dishes: Tuna Head, 2 Sashimi platters, 2 roasted meat platters, drinks
English Menu: Uncertain (probably not)
Smoking: Didn't notice any

Kurobatei is legendary.  I ate here once before when a friend took me.  It was truly amazing.  They specialize in tuna dishes, specifically the stuff most people don't cook.  The entire town of Misakiguchi, located at the southern tip of Miura Peninsula where we all live, is tuna crazy.  They have one of the biggest tuna ports and markets in Japan, probably only surpassed by Tsukiji in Tokyo.  So there is much delicious tuna to be had here.



 But what makes Kurobatei extra special is that they will cook  the entire tuna head for you if you pre-order it a couple of days ahead of time.  This is a truly massive head and can feed several people.  There are many types of meat available, from the white, dry meat on top of the head, to the dark, steak-like meat of the jaw, to the soft, fatty tissue of eyes and brain.  It is an incredible feast, and incredibly expensive (14,000 yen).  But definitely worth doing at least once.  Unfortunately, you will need to have someone who speaks and reads Japanese to arrange the reservation for you, and possibly to order additional dishes once there.  It's not the most friendly to foreigners place, but they do seem to be willing to work with you.  Luckily we had some friends from work who wanted to go and their significant others were Japanese and could handle the reservations.


In addition to the head, we had sashimi and kalbi (roasted meat) which was also excellent.  I left stuffed, but I wish I had had a spoon to go digging in the big bowl and slurp up the juices in the bottom after we had decimated the head.  It is good to have done the head, but now I want to go back and try all the other dishes we saw other people eating!

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As I told more people about the experience I realized I should probably put some of those details up for others interested in going.  One thing was the bizarre ritual that the head cook did before cutting up the tuna head.  It was some weird shouting thing involving a huge necklace of wooden beads, mumbling, and possibly imparting the spirit of the tuna to us.  I did not expect this so was caught rather off guard.  I'm not sure if you can ask for this to be left out or not, but if you have issues with that sort of thing, you might want to mention it.

Also, it's not a large restaurant.  There are maybe 15 bar seats and then a tatami area with 4 or so tables.  We had 2 put together for our group.  There's no space for your feet to go under, so you will have to be able to sit on the ground for a long time.  I am not good at this, so it was a bit of a challenge to get through the entire meal without shifting every few seconds.  If we go back, we'll be sitting at the bar for sure.

Kourakuen

Location: Kourakuen
Rating: Not great
Meal:  Lunch for 3
Price:  2500 yen
Payment:  Cash Only
Dishes: Ramen, Gyoza and Chahan
English Menu: No
Smoking: No

Kourakuen doesn't have any romanized lettering, but it's hard to miss.  It has a giant parking lot and huge yellow signs with red kanji.  I had to look up how to pronounce it's name online.  As far as pluses go, it's fairly common, it's cheap, and it has a parking lot, so it's handy if you are in a car looking for lunch by the side of the road.  Otherwise, there's not much to report.  We ended up at this place after desperately searching for 3 other, probably better, restaurants, but as the sun kept beating down on us, everyone was getting tired of hiking around the area and we saw the big yellow sign beckoning.


Asari Shio Ramen
No english menus here, but you can figure it out by the pictures.  The options are pretty simple, with a few seasonal specials.  The prices are pretty rock bottom for ramen, and the tables are fairly large, so you'll see lots of families with kids here often.  Gourmet ramen this ain't, but the kiddies like it.  Actually, my son was happy with the chahan (fried rice) and gyoza.






Kurogoma Miso Ramen
 My wife had the asari (clam) salt ramen as that was a bit unusual, one of the seasonal specials.  I was taken in by the black sesame miso ramen.  None of it was particularly good.  The flavors were bland and unimpressive, mostly just salt.  The gyoza was alright, but again, nothing special.

Snug Stay Door Cafe

Location: Snug Stay Door Cafe


Rating: Very good
Meal:  Lunch for 2
Price:  2150 yen
Payment:  Cash only
Dishes:  Spinach, Bacon Ham and Mushroom burger, Gorgonzola burger
English Menu: Yes
Smoking:Yes

We've heard rave reviews about the burgers at Snug Stay Door Cafe and tried to go last Saturday.  Unfortunately, it was closed.  But you can't see the store easily from the road so we didn't know and searched forever for parking.  After finally finding it, and walking about 10 minutes to the restaurant, we discovered it was temporarily closed that day.  It is *normally* closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays, at least that's what we read on the door.  The website says Tuesdays are the regularly closed day.  We will have to try again some day.



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Spinach bacon mushroom burger
We finally got back today, my wife and I, and here is the report.  Snug Stay Door Cafe is really cute and nice inside, but parking in the area is atrocious.  If you are going to come here, I strongly suggest taking the train or riding a bike.  That being said, the burgers were pretty good.  Not outstanding, but definitely decent.  We got two different burgers and split them.  The gorgonzola burger was a bit disappointing in its very light gorgonzola flavor.  The beef patties for both were nothing to write home about.  But the spinach, thick smoked bacon ham and mushroom burger was quite good.  Again, not because of the patty, but the other ingredients were fresh and flavorful.  I wish we had tried an avocado burger, but there will always be a next time.

Gorgonzola burger

Friday, April 24, 2015

Ken

Location: Ken


Rating: OK
Meal:  Lunch
Price:  950 yen
Payment:  Cash Only
Dishes: Grilled Chicken with Salad Bar
English Menu: No
Smoking: No

Ken is another western style restaurant in the same vein as Big Boy, also specializing in steak, chicken and hamburg dishes.  It's located within Daie Mall's property, but just outside the mall itself.  I've eaten there once or twice before, but it's not high up on the rotation.  I do believe their salad bar to be superior to the others available at the  mall (Ducky Duck and Big Boy).





Today I felt like chicken, so I went with the straightforward Grilled Chicken with garlic sauce.  You have to pick a sauce...there is onion, garlic, miso, and something else I'm forgetting.  The menu is not in Japanese, but there are lots of pictures.  Oh, and they don't take credit cards, so cash only.

It's nothing special, but not terrible.  Probably the best of the "western" style options available there.  The price isn't bad too for the lunch specials.



Only 2 more Daie restaurants to go!