it is sunday night in tokyo. i'm back in my hotel room getting ready to start another work week here in japan and i'm starting to notice that i smell. but it's a good smell. (big deep breath here) ahhh . . . i smell like a charcoal grill, the lasting traces of my dinner: grilled seafood and meats prepared over small clay charcoal grills situated in front of you.
yes, i am back in japan for work, but this is a longer trip than the last: ten whole days instead of the much-too-short three and a half i had last time. so i have found myself gorging (definitely not just eating) my way through tokyo. every night, deciding where to go, what to eat has been like opening up christmas presents on christmas morning, never knowing what to expect, but knowing it's going to be good. and every night it has been good, and not just good in the, "that chicken was pretty good" degree. good in the, "that was some of the very best (fill in the blank) i've ever had in my life" good. i always knew tokyo to be a shopping mecca but these past two trips have made me realize that tokyo is also a food mecca, a destination for all those of who love to eat.
so tonight, confronted with the very welcomed dilemma of where to eat, my colleague sang-won and i decided to explore a new area. we navigated through the tokyo masses and found ourselves in roppongi hills tokyo's ex-pat neighborhood featuring high-end shopping and equally high-end restaurtants to boot. arising from the tokyo metro underground, we discovered the typical bustling tokyo scene overlayed onto a serene christmas backdrop of blinking lights and christmas garnish. we had food on the mind and found ourselves with dozens of options all within the roppongi hills complex. my only rule for tonight was no raw fish. i love sushi and sashimi but i was craving the warmth feel of something cooked. we quickly settled on a restaurant featuring charcoal grilled food, something we had not tried yet.
the entrance to this restaurant commanded your attention with how stark and plain it was. the culinary surprise beneath the wrapping of these windowless walls intrigued me. unwrapping this present, i found a small cozy space with just a few patrons sitting around two communal tables, each with several small clay charcoal grills lining the center of the table. the menu featured a variety of seafood, meat and vegetable options all for grilling. we chose several of each: clams, octopus, dried cartilage of squid (a new one for me), japanese sirloin, duck, pork, leeks and mushrooms. the clam was the some of the best i've ever tasted. i watched as the juices of the clam bubbled over the charcoal grill, marinating itself in its own natural sweet flavor. the octopus and the sirloin was also exquisite (a word i hate to use for describing food but it just seems appropriate for this meal). our neighbors ordered leeks, and i was curious as to how they were going to prepare them. i watched as they were grilled to the point that they were charred. the server then peeled the leeks apart, serving up the soft cooked inside that held the charcoal grilled flavor with just a sprinkle of salt. so simple, yet so good.