Sunday, October 01, 2006

eyeballs floating in my miso

When posting restaurant reviews on this blog, I tend focus on my favorites and give rave reviews. This time, though, I have to warn Lafayette readers of an awful new restaurant, one that Mr. Tart and I had high hopes for: Japone, a new Japanese order-at-the-counter fast food joint. We were thoroughly disappointed by the service, atmosphere, and food.

The first time we went, for lunch on a Sunday, they weren't open, although their recent ad proclaimed hours from 11 am to 10 pm. When we came back later that week, there was only one other couple in the restaurant, but it still took about 15 minutes for us to both get our entire meals. First Ed ordered a beef bowl--his gold standard for Japanese restaurants--and the guy behind the counter immediately went into the back room, emerging a minute or two later with a beef bowl, which he handed to Ed. Ed clarified that he wanted the optional green tea and miso soup with it. Then, as there were no menus and I was craning my neck to read the list of foods on posters on the back wall, I had to ask what about half-a-dozen different dishes consisted of. He explained, and I ordered the medium sushi plate, thinking how cool it was to be able to order one or two pieces of exactly which kinds of nigiri sushi I wanted for only a dollar apiece. (Too bad he didn't write them down, though, and brought me more shrimp and fewer fish than I had ordered.) "Only a dollar apiece for nigiri sushi?" you might be thinking. "That's amazing!" Or perhaps, "Only a dollar apiece? They must really be cutting corners at this joint!" You'd be right about the latter.

As he was making the sushi, I added that I too wanted the miso and tea. His colleague took our money, he finally handed me a pretty plate of six pieces of sushi (but with far too little wasabi and ginger), and Ed reminded him that we both wanted soup and tea. After another few minutes, they finally got it together and brought us the rest of the meal. By now the beef bowl has cooled to room temperature.

Meanwhile, we've been sitting in the now-empty restaurant, which felt even emptier given that no music was playing. We talked in whispers because we felt so self-conscious. I had to roam around the restaurant looking for utensils--turns out the chopsticks are in a different place than the spoons which are in a different place from the shallow dishes to pour the soy sauce into.

But the atmosphere and service were pretty good compared to the food. Ed reports that the beef was shredded the way he likes it but gristly and not sufficiently sauced. He had to douse the rice with soy sauce, which apparently you shouldn't have to do with a beef bowl. As for me, I quickly figured out why the sushi was so cheap: it wasn't fresh and didn't taste good. Mostly it was the texture: the fish was extremely cold, watery, and not rich and dense and meaty, rather a bit fibrous. I suspect that they keep the fish frozen and then defrost it. But that destroys the texture if you're planning to eat it raw!

The miso soup, on the other hand, started off very promisingly. The flavor was hearty and they didn't stint on the seaweed. And I loved the tofu chunks--they had been deep-fried and thus had a little bite to them instead of being tasteless and crumbling. But then I encountered a little creature with big round black eyes on the side of his head. He didn't have any legs--at least, not any more--so I don't believe that it was an unfortunate local insect that went for an unplanned swim. He was about a centimeter long with a tail that came to a point. He probably came in with the seaweed--perhaps he was actually supposed to be in there, an integral part of the recipe, just a wee sea squirmy to add some brinyness to the flavor of the miso--but I don't like eyeballs staring at me from a supposedly vegetarian soup. Somehow I doubt that Mr. Tart and I will return to this restaurant!


Blogger lis said...

eyeballs! somehow I don't think that bug was supposed to be there.

2:42 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

I know exactly what you are talking about! A Vietnamese co-worker of mine was eating something the other day that had what looked to be bean sprouts. When I asked what it was, she said she didn't know what it was called in English, but it was a little wormy-fishy thing, white with two black eyes on either side. She was eating a bowl full of them (and other stuff too) and was seeming to love them. Sort of like a baby squid, I guess. Whatever she was eating smelled pretty disgusting too, even though I normally like Vietnamese food.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Judy--I don't know if I'm more reassured to know what it might have been or just grossed out to think about smelly little wormy-fishy things!

7:52 PM  
Blogger ringloss said...

My first thought was that you are taking this way too calmly. I never, ever want to be eating a dish and find that SOMETHING WITH A FACE has bobbed to the surface. Unless I ordered something with a face, then I'll be disappointed if it's eyes aren't dewey and plaintive.

Then I read Judy's comment, and was somewhat mollified. I guess it was supposed to be there. Although, your description of this little creature sounds alarmingly like some sort of parasitic worm that would try to burrow into my ear and make me want to climb ladders all the time.

Here is what would have happened had this been my miso:
creature: [blurb]
ringloss: Gah!
creature: [stares]
ringloss: (to proprietor) Excuse me sir, why does my miso HAVE A FACE!?!?!?!?!?!
proprietor: Sir, that is a _____ [translates as "tasty squid creature"]. It is very good for you, lots of vitamin A.
ringloss: [bashful silence] [contemplates saying "Vitamin A? More like Vitamin I!", but is too cowed by smothering sense of own cross-cultural ignorance] [stares blankly thinking about that one X-Files episode with the giant flukeworm/human hybrid] [hides creature in wadded napkin]

9:49 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Vitamin I--tee hee.

I remember that giant flukeworm episode! Creepy. Just like my miso.

8:36 PM  
Blogger tara said...

I am going to be haunted by this the next time I order miso.

9:15 PM  
Anonymous elizabeth said...

Oh dear. The takeout we've had from there hasn't been outstanding, but neither has it been the horrible experience you describe! The beef bowl I had was plenty tender, though it definitely could have used more sauce.

4:14 PM  

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