Monday, June 29, 2015

Gusto

Location: Gusto

Rating: Not great
Meal:  Lunch
Price:  700 yen
Payment:  Credit cards accepted
Dishes: Pork rice bowl
English Menu:No
Smoking:Yes (smoking section available, it seeps into the main area)


Gusto is one of several "family restaurant" chains that are quite common in Japan.  If Denny's is near the top of this type, Gusto is near the bottom.  However, they are ubiquitous, and usually equipped with parking, which makes them useful if you are in a car and can't find anywhere else to eat.

This Gusto is across the street from Daie Mall and a bit of a walk for not great food, so let's just say the only reason I went there today was to review it.  I'm running out of lunch places that I haven't reviewed, so I'm having to try further afield.






The food is pretty cheap, and since I prefer rice to bread (and had pasta for the past two meals) I went for the pork rice bowl.  It arrived fairly quickly and had an egg and some mayonnaise to stir up and make everything nice and creamy.  It was good, but a little sweet overall.  Nothing amazing.  Nice and cheap too.

Overall, there's nothing to get excited about here.  I don't look forward to returning and we tend to avoid the place in general.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

HB Grill

Location: HB Grill


Rating: Not great
Meal:  Lunch for 3
Price:  2100 yen
Payment:  Credit cards accepted
Dishes: Jerk Chicken and California burger
English Menu:Yes
Smoking:No


HB Grill is an American, Hawaiian themed restaurant on the ground floor of the Lalaport Toyosu mall where we go to church.  We were sucked in by the prominently displayed lunch menu which included a grilled chicken bento that we figured our son wouldn't mind eating.  But we were seated in the restaurant proper and only given the main menus.  I asked about the lunch specials and was told they were only for seats at the bar.  I asked if we could make an exception and was told it was not possible.  Not a great start.




Jerk Chicken
So we perused the menu and our son was unable to find anything he would eat.  Translation:  there were no rice dishes.  Oh well, he had left overs from dinner last night in the fridge at home.  The prices were quite high, so we didn't mind not paying for a mediocre dish for him.









California burger
My wife and I had the jerk chicken and the california burger.  I've not had a ton of jerk chicken, but I'm not sure if it was supposed to be a paste of some tangy stuff on top of a roasted chicken thigh.  Maybe.  But I didn't really like it much.  My wife's burger was ok, it had avocado on it, which is always a plus.  But the bun was some kind of sweet roll which was ick.

Overall, neither of us felt like we'd like to go back, so that's pretty much an automatic "Not Great."

Choutei Mikasa

Location: Choutei Mikasa


Rating: OK
Meal:  Lunch for 2
Price:  1500 yen
Payment:  Cash only
Dishes: Pork fried rice and kimchi fried rice
English Menu:Yes (mostly)
Smoking:No

Lunch Specials all in katakana
Another average Chinese restaurant close to us is Choutei (a guess at the name based on the website, they don't have an English translation up that I could see).  It's located about midway up the covered Mikasa covered area right on Blue Street.  We've eaten there several times over the years and haven't ever been blown away.

My son and I had lunch there and he was satisfied with his pork fried rice.  I had the kimchi fried rice lunch special (which was all in katakana at the front of the restaurant, there was no english translation for it) which was quite good actually.  The kimchi cabbage pieces were prominent and sour and there were some slices of pork in there so it felt like a full meal.  Both rice sets came with some plain tasting but yummy clear soup.




The actual English menu
According to the website translated by Google, they are supposed to be a Hong Kong style restaurant and have dimsum, but I don't ever remember them having anything beyond the usual suspects, so I don't know that they're really a hard core dimsum place.  We'll have to go back and see if they have a special menu or something.








Pork Fried Rice

Kimchi Fried Rice

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Machu Picchu

Location: Machu Picchu


Rating: OK
Meal:  Dinner for 2
Price:  4500 yen
Payment:  Credit cards accepted (but they didn't like ours...a first)
Dishes: Chicken Tacos, Tamales, Tacu Tacu Con Lomo
English Menu:Yes
Smoking:No (but smokers stand right outside the door and smoke comes in sometimes)

I know...2 Peruvian restaurants in Yokosuka?  Kinda crazy, but yes, we have them.  And they are not owned by the same people at all.  The other one (Geodana) I've reviewed before.  Machu Picchu is relatively newer, though I think they had (or have) another restaurant nearer to Horinouchi area just down the train tracks.  My first visit all I remember is that the food was waaaay too salty.  So much so I looked up how to say that in Japanese (since the staff do not speak English very well, but I don't speak Spanish) to express my dissatisfaction.  The second time I didn't care for my dish much either.

Tacos
But I hadn't reviewed it yet, so my wife and I decided to have dinner there last night and try some different dishes.  Overall, it's still very salty, but it wasn't as bad this time as the first.  And some of the dishes were very good, the tacos especially, which were more like what I think of as chicken fajitas with sauteed red peppers and onions, making them very juicy.  The tamales was good, but nothing awesome (still, incredible you can get good tamales in Yokosuka at all...just not sure it's worth 1000 yen).  The Tacu Tacu con Lomo  was pretty good too, though the most salty.  It worked better though with the large amount of fries and rice/beans.  The beef was tender and very nicely flavored.  Overall we were quite pleased with the meal.

Tamales
However, there were enough detractors to make the overall experience "OK" including:  missing fried eggs on our Tacu Tacu (noticed when I took a picture of the menu after forgetting to take a picture of the dish itself), smoking right outside the door which entered the small dining area and made us retch, quite expensive prices, loud music (thankfully in Spanish), and the final indignity of having my credit card refused (which has happened nowhere else).  If even half of these issues were addressed, I might be inclined to give it a "Very Good."  I have to say the main reason we don't eat at either of the Peruvian places is the expense.


Ours did not have the eggs
On a positive note, we discovered an amazing drink!  I don't include drinks in the review or price normally, but this deserves special mention.  They have a Lucuma milkshake that is amazing!  I had never heard of lucuma fruit before, but it's from Peru and has in amazing pumpkin/sweet potato taste that blends really nicely with milk.  I think they use frozen lucuma and blend it there because there was a little ball of the original frozen fruit at the bottom and it was incredible!  I love that we are almost 40 years old and still discovering new and interesting foods.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cha Ra

Location: Cha Ra


Rating: Very good
Meal:  Lunch
Price:  880 yen
Payment:  Cash only
Dishes:  Chicken katsu curry
English Menu:Yes
Smoking:Yes


Cha Ra is an izakaya very close to our apartment and just within walking distance for lunch.  However, they are usually closed, but I was pleased to see recently a sign out front indicating they would be open for lunch from Wed - Friday (and weekends).  So I stopped in today to check it out.

It's a nice bar, with a huge wide natural wood counter top.  The vibe is Okinawan, but not oppressively so.  It is a bar, so smoking might happen.









The menu is limited to curry dishes, ranging from plain curry, to spam curry, chicken/pork katsu curry and finally steak curry!  The curry is the same of course (Japanese Navy Curry), but the toppings are the difference.  I went with the chicken katsu curry and was very pleasantly surprised.  The curry itself was excellent, flavorful and full of meat and veggies, no potatoes (a good thing in my opnion).  The chicken katsu was great too, fresh and hand made.  You can tell after a while if a katsu has been pulled from the freezer and dropped into the fryer or if it was hand made, and this was the good stuff.  At first I thought it would be way too much food, but it was artfully piled to give that impression and I was done before I realized it.  They price was excellent too...usually something like this on Dobuita Street would cost over 1000 yen.

So, a nice surprise for lunch!  I might meet my wife for lunch there now and then.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Laurier

Location: Lorie

Rating: OK
Meal:  Lunch
Price:  800 yen
Payment:  Cash only
Dishes: Ginger Pork Teishoku
English Menu:No
Smoking:Yes (extremely likely)

Or go outside and point at the fake food...

Laurier ("bay leaf" from the French word for it) is a Japanese Chinese restaurant right outside Womble Gate on 16.  It has a distinctive neon sign with a bay leaf and is directly below a giant Zero Tattoo sign, easy to find.  For all that, it's not a particularly gaijin friendly place, with no English menus to speak of.  They are happy to serve you though, and I was ushered outside to point at my dish with no attempt to see if I could navigate my way through the Japanese menu.



 No worries, I usually like to get the ginger port teishoku, so I pointed at that.  The restaurant itself is of that old school variety, somewhat grimy, stale cigarette smoke in the air, and soon not so stale smoke as a couple of patrons lit up.  The food here tends more towards the Japanese in the "Japanese-Chinese" spectrum.  Not to say it's terrible, just not very Chinesey.  They have lots of posters for their Nagasaki Champon ramen, including the hard noodles.  My wife likes it.



The ginger pork teishoku was quite good actually, ignoring the little pile of ketchup spaghetti and the pickles were not my favorite.  The pork is a bit thicker and fatty (which I like), and the sauce was thick and strong.  It really hit the spot today.  It's a bit far, so I don't usually go there for lunch, but sometimes my son and I eat there on Thursdays, when no one is smoking (he can't take even a little smoke in the air).

Monday, June 22, 2015

Chili's

Location: Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan


Rating: Not great
Meal:  Lunch
Price:  $15 (including tip, yuck)
Payment:  Credit cards accepted (sometimes...occasionally they won't...), $$s only
Dishes: Boneless Buffalo Chicken Salad
English Menu:Yes
Smoking:No

 Yes, we have a Chili's on base.  It's location is the best thing going for it, being right at the top (northernmost) part of the base looking out over Tokyo Bay.  Otherwise, it's pretty yuck, so I don't eat there often.  It's also too far to walk, so it's usually a place I'll end up at like today, when I had to pick up my car from an oil change which happens to be right next to the restaurant.  I'll stop in to remind myself why I generally hate american chain restaurants.




Nothing I've had there has been good.  It's been...meh.  Actually, the first restaurant we ate at in Japan was this Chili's I'm sad to say.  We had just arrived at the Navy Lodge (next door) and were so tired we couldn't bring ourselves to walk all the way off base to find something to eat.  The bus system is extremely slow and it was late.  It's about a 30 minute walk from the base entrance to the Lodge, so Chili's it was.

 Today I decided to try something a bit lighter and went for the Boneless Buffalo Chicken Salad.  It was quite tangy, as was I guess appropriate, though the bacon was kind of like "bacon bits."  The salad was that pre-chopped romaine that restaurants can buy (stays fresh a reaaaaaly long time...) and was lacking in much taste.  Still, it was mountainous and filling.  Best thing you can say really...





Oh, one thing I hate is that this place really tries to be "all american" when it comes to service, which includes overly friendly waitresses who want to tell you their name, loooong waits for food I can prepare faster in my own kitchen, and the horrible plague that is the tip system.  Japan doesn't do tips (thank goodness) and to have to re-calibrate my brain for tipping is just plain annoying.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Koh Ran

Location: Koh Ran


Rating: Not great
Meal:  Dinner
Price:  2160 yen
Payment:  Credit cards accepted
Dishes: Sweet and sour pork meal set
English Menu:Yes (but tricky)
Smoking:No

Koh Ran...I was hopeful the first time I saw it because it had large round tables with lazy susans, reminding me of the restaurants in Portland's Chinatown.  This is not something you see at typical Japanese-Chinese restaurants.  However, when we ate there as a family once, we found the food to be about the same or worse than typical and the prices astronomical.


I went back this evening to review it officially, and wasn't disappointed.  It was, however, an interesting experience.  As I approached the restaurant up the escalator, the din of tolerable karaoke echoed.  When I arrived, I found no karaoke, but instead an actual performance ongoing in the main area of the restaurant.  I asked if I might be served and was led into the back area to my own private room, complete with enormous table all to myself.  It was not a problem apparently.





As I perused the large menu, I found myself overwhelmed with the choice and small print, so I went to the back to one of the "courses" and asked if it was ok for 1 person.  Yes it was, but I had to choose a main dish (all in kanji).  I pointed to the first one and found myself the proud winner of a sweet and sour pork dish.  Not my favorite.  However, it wasn't even decent for that type of dish, quite bland and uninteresting.  The salad was tiny.  The soup was the best part, but not that great either. The dessert the typical, from a can, white almond jelly with fruit bits.  For the price (2160 yen), it was terrible.



If this place was dirt cheap, I might give it an "ok" but because it is so expensive, it drops down a notch to "not that great."  Save yourself some money and try one of the dozens of other sub-par Japanese-Chinese restaurants in the area.


















Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Update to Gorkha Palace

FYI, I've revised my rating of Gorkha Palace.  If you're interested in the new rating check it out:

http://jcfoodreviews.blogspot.jp/2015/05/gorkha-palace.html

Monday, June 15, 2015

Kami Buta

Location: Kami Buta

Rating: Very good
Meal:  Lunch
Price:  900 yes
Payment:  Cash only (ticket machine)
Dishes:  Small tonkotsu ramen with an extra egg and spice
English Menu: No
Smoking:No

 Kami Buta is intense ramen, not for the faint of heart.  It's kind of like northwest style dry-hopped Imperial IPA...only with ramen, pork bone broth, and garlic.  Its name translates roughly to "Pork God", maybe..."Spirit of Pork."  I don't really know, but it's appropriate.

Kami Buta was the first ramen to truly blow my mind.  2 years in to my stay here in Yokosuka, I would have sworn, hands down, that this was the best ramen in town and probably given it an Excellent.  Since then, I've had a couple of times where the quality dipped and the staff seemed to change rapidly.  I still think it's probably the best in its style available locally, but I now have room for more ramen on my top-shelf.  I am sure that there is truly excellent ramen out there to be found and I look forward to it.

Still, it's quite the experience, and you owe it to yourself to give it a shot if you are here.  It's a bit far for a lunch spot, but I had my car today which made it much easier.  It's best to drive up blue street and turn left just before Chuo station.  The restaurant is in the middle of the block on the left, but parking is at the end of the block across the street diagonally.  It's 250 yen for enough time to grab a quick meal.  Kami Buta is recessed a little bit, just look for the bright yellow signs indicating "ninniku" in katakana (ニンニク) which means garlic.  There is a Thai restaurant above (I'll get to it...) with a fancy looking elephant below in front of the elevator.

It's a small place, so I always try to aim for arriving before the lunch rush, and if you go with someone there might not be enough spaces to sit together.  Don't worry, you can wait til the spots open up on the bench inside.


The menu machine is a bit confusing at first, but luckily they have a newly redesigned English menu just to the left.  You will have to translate to the appropriate button, but that shouldn't be too hard.  Also, the prices are only on the actual buttons, so that can make things fun.  The first time is a bit confusing, but after that it's pretty easy.  There are 5 sizes:  S (small), L (Lady size), M (Man size), M Super Big (bigger), and LL (incredispluge - if you completely eat this, they'll give you your money back, because they will feel bad about your death).


In addition, there are 2 styles available, regular (soup with noodles in a bowl) and dipping (tsukemen, bowl of concentrated broth and noodles for dipping).  I've never tried the tsukemen, I really should some day.

I find the broth so strong here that I can only do the S size and still feel normal afterward.  Today I got the S with two pork pieces and an extra egg, not having seen the note that the S size comes with an egg.  That's ok, I love the delicious soft yolk boiled eggs.








Now, there are a number of additions you can purchase for smaller fees, but some you will have to specify when you hand the ticket over as some prices can count for a couple of choices.  I noticed something new this time:  spicy, so I paid the 50 yen for an extra ticket and told the guy I wanted "spicy" and not "powder of fish" (which looked quite good...bonito flakes).  You can also get chives (for a dash of green, otherwise it's all very whitish brown), green onion with pork and spiciness (this is excellent but can be too much pork with the other slices), or pork with mayonnaise (for some creaminess).  There's also an extra egg, "no soup noodles" (I think this is just a portion of noodles with no soup) and cheese (this is gross, I don't recommend it).

Hand your tickets over and specify your noodle hardness ("katame de" for al dente) and they will get cooking.  Before they give it to you, you will be asked if you want garlic or not.  Just nod or say "Hai" and they'll pile it on.  If you don't want garlic you should say "ninniku nashi de" which means without garlic.  Tack on "onegaishimasu" for politeness (please).  They will also pile on lots of moyashi (bean sprouts) and wilted cabbage, making this ramen, oddly, one of the winners when it comes to veggies.

I don't really know how to describe the broth beyond "rich".  So rich it's almost sickening.  Like a decadent chocolate cake...but ramen instead.  I'm sure it's salty, but the saltiness doesn't overwhelm, as it is toned down by the fatty goodness in the soup itself.  The noodles are a darker brown, thick and very chewy, some of my favorite anywhere.  The pork is amazing...thick sliced, super fatty and soooo soft.  There will be no chewing going on here...it sublimates on the tongue directly into the bloodstream.

I always thought this scene from the movie Tampopo was hype until I ate my first ramen at Kami Buta.  Now I always carefully tuck my slices of pork away to the side, pushing them gently down under the broth, and eye them affectionately as I slurp my soup.  Now...I know just what he means.



Sunday, June 14, 2015

Bubba Gump Shrimp

Location: Bubba Gump Shrimp


Rating: Nasty
Meal:  Lunch for 3
Price:  6000 yen
Payment:  Credit cards accepted
Dishes: Kid's pizza, artichoke dip, shrimp mac'n'cheese, shrimp soup with rice and dipping bread
English Menu:Yes
Smoking: No



Check out those prices!
We are not chain restaurant types, but we'd never eaten at Bubba Gump Shrimp and there was one at the Lalaport Toyosu mall.  After church this morning we went to the other side of the mall to check out a store there and since Bubba Gump Shrimp was on that side, we decided why not?  For science!









Artichoke dip, airplane special
The theme restaurant was very well done from an artistic perspective.  I had no idea it was directly inspired by the movie Forrest Gump, but it's a one for one rendition, complete with pithy Gumpisms all over the place and plenty of southern kitsch on display.  The artificially aged corrugated tin roofs were very nice done.









Pizza with extras
Ok, that's enough nice things to say, let's get on with it.  This place is horrible.  Disgusting.  Don't go there please.  (Actively discouraging people from going there is pretty much an automatic "nasty" qualification)  First, the food was awful.  We had hopes it would be a guilty pleasure, but no.  Even our son didn't like his kids pepperoni pizza, which is impressive.  The artichoke dip came with plenty of tortilla chips, but was itself like microwaved airplane food.  So much so that it has stuck with us all day in a most unpleasant fashion, the reason I refuse to eat airplane food anymore.  The mac'n'cheese was a dull mush, the shrimp within extremely chewy for some reason.  The same held true for the shrimp in the dipping soup, though the soup itself didn't taste terrible, just a bit too salty and, like everything else, like it was poured out of a can that was shipped over from some central warehouse in the US.  My wife even commented that it seemed that other customers were chewing on their shrimp with a rather puzzled expression (shrimp shouldn't be chewy...).  The tortilla chips weren't bad, same for the bread and rice, but neither were they great.  Overall, a complete bust.


Shrimp mac'n'cheese
The best part was the price...it was insane!  No good lunch sets, everything was at least 1200 or more, and best of all it excluded tax and a 10% service charge?  What on earth for?  The staff was useless and we waited quite some time trying to get someone's attention to take our order.  Automatic service charge for large groups?  Sure, I get it, but for 3 people?  So our bill was 5000 yen (too high already for what we ate) before that and jumped to 6000 yen by the time those extras got tacked on.  Really, that puts it in the category of awful...bad, expensive food.  Do not recommend.


Soup, rice and bread