Strangely, enough, it was a carrot that did it. A carrot, it should be said, that was surrounded by much flashier things: shoyu snails, fried chicken, shrimp tempura, battered pumpkin, that weird fish cake that's surrounded by a soaking wet edible sponge.
I'd never tasted a carrotier carrot. I could taste the dirt that carrot was grown in, the vinegar it'd been lightly pickled in. I could even taste its relatives. Shades of parsnip, snippets of sweet potato.
|Can you spot the magical carrot? It's behind the okra and next to the pink fish cakes!|
I sat down at a yakitori bar and munched my way through reddish, charred, tender chicken livers and folded, sharp-edged, fatty chitterlings dipped in light soy sauce. The tongue, deep burgundy slabs, I slathered in Chinese mustard so spicy I got a head rush every time I took a bite. Green pepper and lotus root kushikatsu, ordered to erase my memory of the night kushikatsu was wasted on me, came out crisp and split cleanly and hotly at the faintest tooth touch, searing the roof of my mouth. I didn't care. I wanted every sensation it had to offer.
Then, the next day, there was yakisoba, a heaping plate of noodles fried with slices of pork, cabbage, ginger, and the omnipresent sauce that goes on everything 'yaki' around here: takoyaki, okonomiyaki, anything that could be called teppanyaki, and this, the yakisoba. I tore through it like a madwoman, leaving Eugene with none of my leftovers, a first on this trip.
And the same night, as if those oiled- and sauced-up pork slices weren't enough, we stopped in at a ramen joint that advertised shortribs in their ramen: these ribs were better even than their 3 foot high backlit representation on the restaurant's outside wall. Their texture was exactly like the best kind of toro, or a pat of mostly-cooled butter from the refrigerator. I would poke a rib on my way to twirling some noodles and my chopstick would just fall through it as though it were made of clouds. The broth was broth concentrate: more stew than broth. I was positive they'd made a mistake and forgot to add water, but I didn't mind. I was drowning in fat and loving it.
This was the first time I really felt like I was doing Osaka like it was meant to be done, living up to that famous term 'kuidaore'. Eating until I dropped. Flitting from restaurant to restaurant like a hummingbird to hibiscus.