Unexpected Japan–Jimmy Karnezis

Posted on January 24, 2013

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Started the day off with a sweet potato latte and daifuku mochi. Both indulgences very sweet, but not strange to an outsider in flavor. With the stage set like this, I thought I was going to be in for a rather casual and amble stroll through the streets of Japantown on this culinary escapade.

Now, taste the sea and all things submerged in the planets blue waters. One bite of hijiki and I was transported to the bottom of the ocean off the coast of Japan. The salty chew of the seaweed combined with the dark squid ink color made for a foreign experience like no other. The new tastes and flavors made my mouth involuntarily salivate. Two other small samples completed the trio, my favorite was the korokke that resembled in composition and flavor to the croquettes I had Barcelona. Creamy and artfully crafted all out of the quaint and largely organic Super Mira Market in the small pocket neighborhood in San Francisco.

A completely new experience was put in front of me at one of our last stops on the culinary excursion through Japantown. In the indoor mall, Mifune Don looked like a food hut I would expect to see in Japan. Due to the amiable nature of the restaurant, I was completely put off when the food was presented in front of us. Steam captured the gentle curves and translucent color of the fish flakes on top of the semisweet pancake. The movement of the flakes resembled earthworms emerging from the ground after a late summer storm. I was very apprehensive about tasting the okonomiyaki, but I was not about to chicken out.

Looking at the dish, it was hard to even know what I was indulging in, but it did not matter. I tasted my slice of the pizza and was pleasantly surprised by the flavor. The sweet Japanese mayonnaise combined with the pork and fish made for bites diverse in flavor. One tasting pulled flavors from the fish while others revealed the cabbage and pickled ginger within. Even though the dish did not look like anything I would normally eat, the flavors were all very familiar. The conflicting experience between sight and taste was finally settled when I shut my eyes and fully relied on my taste buds to do all the interpreting. The dish was not so scary anymore and much more enjoyable to eat.

With eyes wide open, I was now ready to remove my Americanized lenses and experience the food with a new perspective. It may have taken me all day to do so, but I really hope to go back and re-experience all the flavors of Japan.

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