Monday, April 21, 2014

Japan Trip XIV: A Family Restaurant

I'm not sure exactly what "family restaurant" means in Japan, but as far as I can tell it means a place that can seat more than 4 people at a time.

Regardless, the place we went to after this long day of walking was primarily chosen for its closeness to home, the fact that it was open late, and because it could seat all nine of us no problem.

Along the route from our house to the nearest train station, Tama Plaza, was a restaurant called Saizeria, a "family-style Italian restaurant." It was located above a large grocery store. We passed it many times, with little intention of eating there since we were in Japan, not Italy.

That said, sometimes you take what you can get. Rather than risk missing the last trains from Shibuya trying to find a restaurant in the city, we worked our way home and stopped for some cheap Italian on the way home.

The place actually wasn't too bad. The decor made the place feel like a Denny's, which is not what I usually associate with Italian food, but it was charming in a "yeah, this feels like a place I'd find myself at midnight" sort of way.

I think the big draw here was the "drink bar," which as far as I could tell simply meant access to the fountain drinks and various teas. The soft drinks had a bit more variety than most places, and I"m sure they were fine. I'm still working my way off of soft drinks, though, so I stuck to water myself.

Funny enough, I actually don't remember what I ordered there. Whatever it was, it wasn't very memorable. That's usually a pretty bad sign from me, but I didn't expect much more from a cheap Italian restaurant in Japan.

From what I understand, foreign-style restaurants are actually not very common in other countries. They exist, sure, but it's usually limited by the number of immigrants from the source country with aspirations of opening a restaurant. The United States is technically completely populated with immigrants and the descendents of immigrants, so there are Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, Indian, Thai, and countless other restaurants all over the place, depending on the types of people who decided to settle in an area.

Japan, though, is not known for its open immigration policy. The island is pretty small, so they have every reason to heavily regulate who gets allowed to stay in the country. As a result, though, you're not likely to find many Mexican restaurants in the suburbs of Tokyo.

However, it's definitely possible that the Japanese people themselves might appropriate a different culture's cuisine for themselves. For instance, that bakery I often went to in the morning was clearly designed after French Cafes, right down to playing French music in their store and on their patio.

Saizeriya is kind of similar: it's a restaurant chain started by a Japanese guy who learned to cook Italian food, and it just kind of took off. Whether it was for the Italian food or the cheapness, it's unclear, but regardless, Saizeriya is an example of Japanese appropriation of foreign culture. Which is kind of cool in its own right, I guess.

The only part I really remember is the fact that I ordered tiramisu for dessert. It was alright, but I'd forgotten that it was coffee flavored.

Oh, we ordered things using the classic point-and-nod method, even though Lindsay was around.

Oh! And I almost forgot to mention a cool thing about Japanese restaurants (you know, besides the whole "not tipping" thing): instead of coming to check on you regularly, hovering around while you look over your menu and waiting an hour before coming to refill your drinks or bring your check, the Japanese bypass all of that mess by giving each table a button you push when you want service.

It's so convenient! Ready to order? Push the button! Need a refill? Push the button! Ready for your check? Well, they probably already left it for you, in a thing on top of the button!

An enterprising restaurant owner really needs to visit Japan and take notes. I would actually eat at Denny's regularly if they got rid of tips and installed these service buttons.

No comments:

Post a Comment