Friday, February 27, 2009

Ohmiya, Marunouchi (新丸5階)

My friends, we are indeed on a tear with Shin Maru. I'm finding the walk down there from the office sorta pleasant, and the shot of mid-day glamor is most welcome when the rest of the day is a monotony of worn carpet, uncomfortable chair, and interminable passage of time. Ohmiya delivered a strange and altogether mixed experience, but this is why we dine out frequently - we never know when we'll be pleasantly surprised, and I at least prefer the surprise of the unknown to a meeting-high-expectations performance from a known standout.

Wow, did I just write that? I'm not sure I believe it.

I've had my eye on Ohmiya for a couple weeks now, strictly in a post-modern, uber-hip "I bet I won't like it but I have to try it anyway" sort of way. Every time I go to Shinmaru I dither and ultimately decide against it. Today with Lin-ji, we made a beeline for Igrek, found it packed out and expected to remain so for the forseeable future, and walked around to the other side of the floor to check out Ohmiya. Lin-ji wasn't so picky (yes, folks, there's someone in the party who's picky about what restaurant to go to, and it's me), and I was dithering again, but the charming French waiter coerced us with halting and somewhat desperate English to come in.

There are about 5 lunch specials - chicken with brown sauce, chicken with white sauce, beef curry, etc. All of them come with bread and a drink. All of them are Y2000 (unless they're not, in which case they're more). This strikes me as excessive. On the flip side of the menu are the a la carte dishes, which are mainly around Y2000 without the drink and bread (bread is Y350). This too seems a little egregious for yoshoku, even if it's deluxe yoshoku, even if there IS such a thing.

I haven't explained yoshoku, sorry. This is not something that's going to feature on the menus of aspiring Japan food travelers (unless they, like me, want to eat a curry omrice as an ironic post-punk deconstructionist statement). Yoshoku can be described as "foreign food made by Japanese people who have never left the country" (obviously the chefs these days have left the country, but their illustrious predecessors probably didn't). Imagine those terrific woodblock prints showing foreigners, but they have ears the size of sunflowers, or an ancient map that says 'Here be dragons!'. I think the men who invented yoshoku were trying their damndest, but going hard astern at some point in their quest for True North. (Phew, the metaphors are thick today, aren't they?) I still haven't explained yoshoku (although I realize that I've talked about it at least once, a few weeks ago). The basic elements are omelettes, curry, hamburger patties, cheese and rice, but in combinations you don't expect. Omelette goes on top of rice (perhaps napped with a delicate yet robust curry). Curry goes with rice (duh). Cheese goes on top of rice and is thereupon baked ('doria'). Hamburger patties go with...nothing (Salisbury Steak, a favorite from the Hungry Man years). Vegetables wait in the hall while all of this happens.

Look, I'll stop digressing. Lin-ji had the grilled chicken breast, which was atop ketchup rice (make rice, fry it in a pan and mix in lots of ketchup. Yum!) and subsequently drenched with a white sauce of terrifying thickness, then dribble upon with green peas. Funny to look at, really not all that bad to eat. Jon (I've been working with a guy who refers to himself in the third person a LOT; please keep it from rubbing off on me) had the...foie gras don. Yes, it's a big bowl of rice topped with two massive slices of poached (I think) foie. The foie was adequate but not overly flavorful (like the foie burger at Yoshi's, if you're going to give out that much liver, you've gotta find a pretty cheap supplier). It was topped with cresson (which was excellent!) and bottomed with slices of pickled yamaimo (disturbing look like raw chicken skin, but lovely taste, gingery to me. I should try to make this since I'm getting bored of the homemade yamaimo shoyuzuke inspired by Onodera. I should go back to Onodera too. Any takers?). But the worst thing was the red wine reduction poured over the whole thing - strong and tannic, it really knocked over any remaining flavor that the foie had. Come to think of it, the cresson and pickles weren't that friendly either.

Phew, that was excessive (like eating a foie don for lunch). As I've been saying pretty much every day, I cannot in good faith recommend Ohmiya, except to make a shout-it-out-loud, two-middle-fingers-to-the-sky statement to the world - "I eat yoshoku."

What's a 0038?

Foie-don pictures here

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