With five days under my belt in Japan, a couple of things are clear. Most obviously, the folks in town eat very small portions. My first two restaurant visits were disappointing not by the quality of the great food, but due to the portion size. I’ve learned to go back to the menu and just roger up more grub. I’ve had a few eyebrows raised, but there is nothing quite as disappointing as going to a restaurant and leaving hungrier than when you trotted in. I’ve returned to the Navy Lodge and eaten nutrition bars just to flesh out the tiny meals I’ve ordered over here.
I was poking around the local mall and spied a restaurant by the name of Ducky Duck. And inside sat a salad bar, waving me over. Hey American, fresh veggies! Come on down! If there is one thing that California’s got on Japan, it is the raw greenery. The veggie scene is very different in the Land of the Rising Sun. The folks here tend to either cook or pickle ’em rather than serve them raw. (Before you get excited over the prospect of pickling, I earlier bought a strange pickled plum and seaweed concoction that braced my tongue and nearly forced me to retch. Now I’m very wary around the whole pickling process. I can eat anything, but that, whatever it was called.)
A very official-looking waiter sizes me up when I tell him the salad bar. He then waves me over to it. And, I say, this too. Then I point to what looks like the largest thing on the menu. A mound of beef, rice, curry, and egg. I feel like a conquering Roman, like an American overusing his resources. Sorry world, I am hungry. Both? he asks. Hai! I reply happily. Both! Dumbfounded, he shushes me off to go conquer. One trip only, he adds, sensing my viking-like tendencies to pillage and plunder.
I trot over to the salad bar and look around. No one appears to be watching me. As a bona fide Soup Plantation expert, I plan my attack. First, I put lettuce in the tiny soup bowl and pack it down with the tongs. The, on go the cucumber and tomatoes and the heavier stuff on top. I drizzle on ladles of various dressings. And then I go back to the veggies and really push them down into the bowl. I sprinkle the top with sesame seeds. It is a work of art. A pound of veggies in a three by three bowl. Is the waiter nearby? I look around carefully. Nope. But there is a shy waitress watching me from the edge of the kitchen. Busted. I give her a big, dumb smile. Walking back to my table, I wonder where the sumos eat. Surely those boys could put it back. . .