Friday, January 7, 2011

Asahiken tonkatsu, Kanda (旭軒)

A couple people have said to me recently, they said, "Jon, how'd you get so funky?" and I had to say "I don't think that's what you mean to ask. I think you're really asking a deeper question about why I go to different restaurants all the damn time, and why I sometimes go to places that I'm pretty sure are going to be bad."

I had to meditate on this. A lot. Naturally I meditated by eating. And by not eating, which, as the inverse of eating, is sort of same same. Only different. And of negative complementarity. Equally mindful, less weightful.

While thinking of where to go for lunch today, the answer came to me. The acts of thinking about where to go, and getting there, and watching, and writing, must have become that important to me - as distinct from the obvious thing, eating. For different types of activity, different aspects of the experience are more and less important. For example, being with your family has nothing to do with the exploratory aspects and everything to do with the doing or experiential. And I guess that the thinking, getting, and writing are all ways that I keep myself conscious about life and living it. They're distinct from the eating; I certainly don't mean they're more important. Or even comparable.

I've never been a believer that you only appreciate good things because there are bad things for comparison. I believe I would love to eat great food for every meal. But like all the other aspects of life, mine and yours, there's no such luxury as something being great all the time, so I've never been able to try getting bored with the sameness of excellence.

All the exploratory and observatory aspects must be like meditation. Judged by that standard, I have in fact invented my own religion and am doing quite well in my daily practice. This must explain why I've been so grounded and peaceful for the last karmic cycle.

Enough, enough. I'm still just wrong about a place sometimes, which really helps keep the senses sharp. One thing people do really ask is how I pick places. Look at this tonkatsu place - a relatively stylish beacon just into Kanda station's west side shopping street. It's very clean and linear and woody, isn't it? A bit different from a tonkatsu place. I expected that meant it was expensive, and good, and I never went. Which is a weird logic now that I think about it.

Well, the interior carries over the cleanliness of design; it's almost austere (ahem). The menu, though, is surprising (it's outside as well, so it could play a part in your decision to enter or not). Despite the modernity and cleanliness, it's an obvious low-end tonkatsu menu. The standard 'tonkatsu' are Y850, and even the high-end ones where they specify what cut is being used are only Y1250 (rosu).

Guess why! Because it's not that good. High volume, middling quality. With tonkatsu, the first bite can be the best (like kushi-age, tenpura, etc. - it's best right out of the fryer). Here, the first bite just showed the middling nature of the meat and the lack of...I'm not sure what, but something was missing from the coating too. I had to think "I could be a few blocks up the road, paying an outlandish Y2100 for a tonkatsu at Yamaichi, but it would be well worth it compared to this." Not that it was bad, just that it was so much less satisfying than thinking about where to go, walking up to Kanda, and seeing what happened.

Should I, like, start a religion or something? I mean, y'know?

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