Does this dish look Japanese to you?
What about this one?
Probably the most stereotypically Japanese dish
of all the ones I had at my favorite chain izakaya in Japan :)
At the end of a full day of sightseeing, I often find izakaya calling to me. One big reason is that I know for sure that they are where I can get generous mugs of cold -- and in Japan, frequently ultra smooth and pleasantly frothy -- draft beer served up really quickly. Indeed, it's pretty normal practice -- for izakaya customers in general, rather than just me! -- to ask for a glass of nama biiru, kudasai (draft beer, please) before they even glance at a menu, and get and drink that glass of beer while perusng the often pretty extensive food (as well as drink) menus at these establishments that have been described as the Japanese version of pubs but really do tend to offer a wider range -- and, often, higher quality -- of dishes!
As it so happens, I ended up opting to have dinner at izakaya on the first three nights of my recent Japan trip. And whereas I opted to try an izakaya specializing in seafood on my first evening in Nagano, the next two nights saw me going to a chain izakaya which I first got to know 10 years ago in Kokura: an industrial city on the island of Kyushu which some might consider charmless but which will forever have a place in my heart, if nothing else than because it introduced me to the wonders of izakaya in general and Shirokiya in particular.
Over the years, I've eaten at my fair share of izakaya in Japan and also Hong Kong. In the Land of the Rising Sun, among the reasons why I particularly love Shirokiya is that it seems to have a more extensive menu than most (complete with regional and seasonal specials) as well as happens to be one of the dining establishments I know which has a completely bilingual (i.e., English as well as Japanese) menu. In addition, I really do think it does serve up some of the tastiest izakaya food around!
More than a year after sampling the Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki stuffed with oysters at the Kurashiki branch of Shirokiya, I still remember that dish with great fondness and really do wish that I could have it again! Sadly, that regional menu item wasn't available at the Nagano branch. But I was able to console myself with finding other seriously yummy items to dine on.
For the record: my favorite dish the first night was the yakisoba (Japanese stir-fried egg noodles) wrapped in an omelette topped with the kind of sweet and savory sauces and toppings that one usually finds on okonomiyaki (variously described as Japanese versions of pancakes or pizzas but having cabbage as one of its core ingredients!) or takoyaki (octopus balls). And the highlights of my second dinner there including another sweet-savory offering -- karaage (Japanese style fried chicken) served with generous portions of negi and lettuce.
I may have had dinner at the same restaurant two nights in a row but I was determined to not order the same dish twice. But after totally loving the giblets with ponzu that I had ordered my first night at the Nagano Shirokiya, I couldn't resist ordering a variation of the dish: octopus with ponzu; only to find that the octopus I was served was actually both more slimier and chewier in texture than ideal!
Happily, the seasonal dish I tried this time around -- consisting of tiny sakura shrimp, a raw egg, bonito flakes, bits of a green vegetable I couldn't identify and tons of amazingly sweet raw onions -- proved to be a far more successful "experiment". Granted that it's not something that one would order if one were on a date but since I wasn't, I could mix all those ingredients together and eat as much of it as I wanted -- which, actually, was all of it! ;b