The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

nihon no ryori wo tabetai: Mitsuwa

fake food
looks like plastic, tastes like it too!!!

Pardon my crappy Japanese. I studied Japanese for just one year as a freshman and I gotta say, you forget pretty much everything once memorization isn't necessary to make your transcript not suck. I can still read hiragana and katakana, although it doesn't matter that much considering I can't understand what I'm reading.

Despite that, I know a gabillion percent more Japanese than Mandarin. My Chinese is so bad! Heehee, I'm a disgrace.

Anyhoo, I'm gonna forget even more Japanese. Why? Cos I GOT INTO THAT PARIS STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM, HUZZAAAH, HERE I COME, GONNA EAT PARIS AND BE PAINFULLY AMERICAN AS I DO IT, PARISIANS WILL HATE ME. If you live in France (the entire landmass!), you must show me the good eats. (There wasn't really any question to whether or not I'd be accepted, as all the program seemed to require was that I didn't fail anything, but it took a while for my transcript to get updated.)

But I'm still in America. And as I'm here, I'll be chowing down on...Japanese food. (For a breakdown of the title, "nihon" means "Japan", "no" is kind of like "of", "ryori" means "food", "wo" is...uh, the thing you need to connect nouns and verbs, and "tabetai" is "to want to eat", which is made by taking off the ending of the full verb "tabemasu" and adding "tai". Or something. Um. You get used to it after a while. Or not. That was your crappy Japanese lesson of the day.)

As you may or may know, Japanese establishments tend to have plastic food displays that are surprisingly close to the real thing in appearance (although hopefully not in taste). I don't know the history of this plastic food phenomenom, nor do I have the patience to research it for you, but you'll find it a lot in Japan, or Mitsuwa in my case. Japan is something like 20 years ahead of the rest of the world though, so maybe one day they'll just have holographic menus or find a way to implant food visualization chips in your brain so, that doesn't work.

Mitsuwa is a ginormous Japanese shopping complex in Edgewater, close to the George Washington Bridge and accesible from Manhattan by NJ transit buses, car, or floation device. To me, Mitsuwa is the best thing about NJ. And NJ kinda bores me otherwise. It's pretty damn spiffy and due to the Japanese habit of keeping things new, gets remodeled every now and then. The latest round of "tearing things down and rebuilding them" that started sometime last year (and perhaps the end of a lot of leases) is finally over. TRANSFORMATION: COMPLETE.

crazy pancakes
The belgian pancake, it vibrates?

If that isn't one of the craziest pancakes you've ever seen, then you must show me the crazier one. That's pretty damn crazy, right? Trust me, for the good of the world I shall order the pancake and see how the real thing stands up to this fake stack that more resembles an un-frosted double-layered vanilla butter cake than two hemorrhagic pancakes. (Yes, I finally used the word "hemorrhagic" in a post! And it's not even 5 PM yet.)

UCC Cafessa sarah is ordering tea i want a sundae caaakkkes
UCC Cafessa

UCC Cafessa is one of the new eateries at Mitsuwa that tookover the old pharmacy and florist. If you want flowers or drugs, you'll just have to go somewhere else. Sarah got a milk tea that tasted kind of weak, but the food looks enticing. Go back, I shall!

fake food the noods yam soba
the fake food continues

We went to the Kayaba counter to stare at the plastic noods and rice bowls. Which is what any sane person would do. The soup glistens!

mm, foods
mm, fried oils

I ended up getting a meal set from Katsuhana consisting of fried things, fruity things, soupy things, and the central element of Japanese meal-ness—rice. Without rice, the meal is nothing. The rice was especially good; sticky with just the right amount of moistness. Most rice is perfectly fine, but maybe a smidge too dry. You wouldn't usually think much about how good the rice rice since it's...well, rice, but you'll know good rice when you eat it.

poooork? creamy
damn, it's the same boring angle twice in a row

The "fried things" portion consisted of elongated shrimp, pork cutlet chunks, and what might officially be "crab cream croquette", but I prefer to call "fried ambiguous creamy substance". Deep fried Japanese food have always been my favorite kind of fried food (as opposed to Italian or American) because to me it feels lighter. Deep fried translates into "dunked in a vat of burninating hot oil" no matter what, but the airy crispiness of Japanese fried foods rules over everything else. Admittedly, they won't make crispified fried chicken with the deliciousness of Blue Ribbon Bakery, but I'd prefer to eat good pork katsu over good fried chicken. Maybe. Especially if there's curry sauce involved.

Overall, thumbs up for Katsuhaha. "Thumbs up"? I need a better rating system. Considering that I've eaten from Katsuhana three times by now and I don't go to Mitsuwa that often, you can probably figure out where my taste buds lie. (Vat of oil.)


Sarah got a kakiage (mixed tempura) soba noodle bowl from Kayaba. However, it possessed too much noodly power and Sarah couldn't finish it all.

stare into the beast

Mitsuwa is pretty freakin' huge; there's no place that large in NYC. They carry just about any Japanese thing you could find in a grocery store (as in no videogames or electronics), such as...

pancake mix pancake mix
cakes of pan

SO MUCH PANCAKE MIX! WHYYY?! They really do like their pancakes.

special edition
special edition!

They sell healthy stuff like fruit and vegetables, but you know you just want the cute, limited edition snacks. I tried the banana-cream filled pseudo fish-shaped chocolate cookie Pucca. Conclusion: good, but not so good that I'd buy it again. Part of the satisfaction is just eating something so cute. WHO CARES WHAT IT TASTES LIKE?

obanyaki obanyaki
patties of happpiness

I've been eating obanyaki (or oobanyaki; I'm not sure which one it is), or red bean paste-filled pancake-ish batter cake things (yeah, that was an awful description) every since I was little. We'd by them in packs of five (which I recall would come in a styrofoam container with holes poked into the top so the steam wouldn't condense and result in soggy obanyaki) so my whole family could eat them. Or mainly my mum and I. I dunno, my memory's hazy. Anyhoo, for some reason it's difficult to find a place that makes these babies fresh out of the molded giddle mathinger. A Japanese place. And I'm not talking dorayaki, which while similar to a obanyaki is very much not the same thing.

red bean

This too can be yours for just $1.25. Sarah and I shared a fresh, "ow my skin just died"-hot obanyaki while walking outside and staring at the Hudson River from the Jersey angle. The outside was just a little crispy, while the inside was soft, dense and fluffy all at once. I don't know what else to compare obanyaki to besides itself, which isn't much of a comparison. ("What's a spoon?" "A spoon." "Thanks...thanks a lot.") If you're not familiar with red bean paste, it's just pureed adzuki beans and sugar (and maybe oil). The carb and carb combination (carb squared) is pretty easy to like.

[reaches out]

Ah, close, yet so very far. Well, too far for me to walk it.

Too lazy to use google? FINE!

This is a new feature! Hot damn!

595 River Rd
Edgewater, NJ 07020

random food related stuff

The Fast Food Nation movie trailer is up!

If you haven't read the book, you should.

Nothing rhymes with orange. However, I don't think Montana rhymes with banana.

comments are people too

John lets us know that aspartame isn't full of deathly powers! But ye know...we'll all die anyway. I don't know if aspartame helps with that.

Nick reminds us that fasting is bad, although overeating is bad too. I do both. Not in extreme manners, but still. Double whammy—I'm gonna die.

[eats a bag of aspartame]


roboppy / May 18, 2006 4:43 PM

HOLY CRAP Nick, I wasn't even done editing! YER TOO FAST! And I'm too slow.

Anyhoo, it's all good now. I used the wrong tag for something. Doh.

Cat / May 18, 2006 6:12 PM

I will definitely be blogging about the food fest if Tim and I can make it. (My hubby is not a foodie per say, just a Feed-Me-And-I'm-Peachy, type. So I may be stuck going to see the DaVinci Code with him (urgh, hoping he finds his guy friends to go with so I can go fooding) But about Matsuwa, I have often thought when I am there, that I want to steal the plastic food to hang on my kitchen walls for fun.

Su-Lin / May 18, 2006 6:34 PM

Congrats on getting into the study abroad program! Are you planning on coming over to London while you're there?!

Claudia / May 18, 2006 8:33 PM

the food looks sooooooooo good!! every time i log onto your site i always get up and get myself many slices of bread and heat myself a red bean bun =O) i do both of the things - i fast and over eat, i can't stop lol

Claudia / May 18, 2006 8:38 PM

oh yea, CONGRATULATIONS ON GETTING INTO THE PROGRAM! are there gonna be poofy adventures in Paris??

janet / May 19, 2006 12:08 AM

OMG the BREAD and PASTRIES you will have in paris. i mean, they have different words for kinds of bakeries!!!!!!!! it's like eskimos and snowwwww. I am as green as Ireland. But congrats!

roboppy / May 19, 2006 1:30 AM

Cat: "Feed-Me-And-I'm-Peachy" ain't bad. :)

I may end up going to see the DaVinci Code with my mum! I'm like, "Uh, I have no idea what it's about...but whateverr." There isn't much excitement in NJ.

I'd want to display the plastic food too!

Su-Lin: Thanks! I would definitely wanna check out London while I'm there, it being so ...close and all. :) GIMME A PLACE TO STAY?

Claudia: Oh god, I hope you don't overdose on bread because of me. Or you can fast to make up for it...HAHA...wait, don't do that.

Thanks! I didn't think about having French poofy adventures (I think being American may make me annoying enough...what if I tote around a plush toy AHHH) but um, those should happen.

Janet: I know exactly what you mean! Scary. I'll go on a boulangerie hunt. Jeffrey Steingarten wrote an essay about baguettes in Paris! AIIEEE DOOM!

JokeDiary: That's cos it's AWESOME. Japanese food is one of my favorite cuisines.

yoko / May 19, 2006 9:24 AM

I've been wanting to go back to Mitsuwa for years now. Years! I only live a couple hours away, but somehow, I can't make it over there. I live vicariously through your post. Love your photos, especially of the plastic food. sigh.

Not to get Japanese grammar police on you, but technically, it's "nihon no ryori ga tabetai"--when you change the verb ending to an adjectival, the particle changes too. And you can get away with "nihon-ryori."

I enjoy reading your site!

fearmymoxie / May 19, 2006 9:59 AM

OMG quelle surprise (ok i took 12 units of french but i forgot most of what i learned)!!! congrats on that paris study program! for how long is it? bread, butter and cream heaven. what a lucky girl.

From Our Kitchen / May 19, 2006 10:28 AM

We don't have any huge ethnic food markets out here. Just little tiny places that are the size of my bedroom, well maybe a bit bigger. Still, you can always find some crazy stuff in those places.

serena / May 19, 2006 12:16 PM

congrats on getting into the paris program!

yay! you're coming to paris! & london? yes yes? exciting stuff - let's food *grin*

roboppy / May 19, 2006 1:36 PM

Mini: Thanks! And EVERYONE loves Mitsuwa! IT IS THE COOLEST PLACE IN NJ, YEAH.

yoko: Eek, a couple of hours pretty far! I don't even like going to NYC a lot (well, I like going there, but...the process of going there is meh) and that's only about an hour away.

I need grammar police! Thanks for the info; I'll come to you with any questions about Japanese. :) I wasn't sure if it was go or wo, so I googled it and...that didn't help much. I didn't know I could just say "nihon-ryori". ONE LESS SYLLABLE, WOO!!

fearmymoxie: SURPRIIISE! I guess that's like "sir preeeeze", hehe. Um, anyhoo! It's one semester so I guess that's September to December-ish. I haven't gotten my information packet yet that tells me all this stuff. Doh!

From Our Kitchen: Mitsuwa is unique in it's ginormous-ness. There's also a large Korean supermarket that I go to, but it's not as cool as Mitsuwa. There's also the Chinese grocery...which is definitely not as cool. Japanese places are the nicest!

serena: Thanks! Yes, we shall food. I need advice on where to go!

Mochene / May 19, 2006 2:39 PM

That's so cool. Now I really can't wait to go to Mitsuwa this Monday. Ok, at the latest, Wednesday or Thursday.

Great job going to France! I never got to go in college, but I did go to Greece. I studied music, and the program is pretty much mapped out each semester. But I'm saving to go to China and France next year.

I love red bean ice cream.

mzn / May 19, 2006 3:30 PM

I think Montana does rhyme with banana, at least more than fairy rhymes with cherry. Cute shirt, though, and funny juggling.

DiWriter / May 19, 2006 3:31 PM

Flotation device??

I've got a group of friends who frequently take their kayaks from Chelsea Piers up and across the river to Mitsuwa for lunch. Heck, I did it once myself.

Backyard Chef / May 19, 2006 4:31 PM

Congrats, mon cherie! My arteries of jealous of all the wonderfully buttery treats that await you.

I can't wait to see Fast Food Nation....

chocolatesuze / May 19, 2006 8:12 PM

i love fake plastic jap food! i want to start a collection but cant find anywhere! congrats on the paris program dude im sure youll be able to eat many yummy baked goods there

Heather / May 19, 2006 9:41 PM


Hey umm while your over there, swipe me some of that Elnette hairspray and some french cosmetics that you can't get over here okay? Yeah..........

lori / May 19, 2006 9:57 PM

Manila is pretty Japanese-obsessed too. There are a considerable number of Japanese groceries where they also sell those Japanese pancakes with fillings. I particularly like the cheese ones and the peanut butter.

roboppy / May 19, 2006 11:11 PM

Annie: Not really in my opinion since the dough isn't like a donut and the bean paste isn't like jelly. The dough part is denser and the bean paste is paste, haha. Er. Maybe like ganache, but not.

Mochene: Greece sounds cool. I'm not very familiar with greek food...MAYBE I SHOULD GOOO.

Hehe. That's my reason to go anywhere. Hm.

I'd love to go to China someday, although with someone who knows Chinese. I'd feel kinda weird in China...being Chinese...and not knowing Chinese. They'll sense my stupidity. Doh!

I love ice cream, period!

mzn: Every time I say "Montana" and then "banana", they don't really rhyme. It's CLOSE, but not quite. Asmidgedifferent. Fairy and cherry don't work either. WHAT IS THIS MONSTROSITY?!

DiWriter: Wow, I've never heard of anyone doing that before! Then again, I'm extremely unathletic. The closest I've been to Chelsea Piers, outside it. ;P

Backyard Chef: Thanks! I'm kind of freaked out now after looking over all these forms and stuff I have to fill out. But the butter awaits..

Yahoo, a movie I actually wanna see! There are few of those.

chocolatesuze: I think there's only one thing you can do. RAID JAPANESE RESTAURANTS AND STEAL ALL THE FAKE FOOD! OR SOMETHING! Or work in a Japanese restaurant...and then STEAL ALL THE FAKE FOOD.

I'm gonna be the fattest Asian American in Paris! HUhuh!...crap.

Heather: Yaa I did! Maybe I can help you get makeup, hehe.

Lori: Whoaa sounds like you have a lot more choices than we do here, or maybe I'm not very observant. I haven't seen peanut butter ones at least!

Cathy / May 20, 2006 11:12 AM

Congratulations on your study abroad semester! I wish I did something like that in college, but it just wasn't possible with my major... *sigh*. Oh well, I can live vicariously through you! The plastic food is really smart. You now exactly what you're getting. I was scoping out the asian section of my grocery store the other day I was curious about those cute candies they have. They looked like those Pucca you got except they had koala bears on them. Next time...

Claudia / May 20, 2006 11:26 AM

i looked at my keyboard and it was quite dirty so i was wondering where you bought your cover for the keyboard? sory it's not food related :P

Susie / May 21, 2006 4:45 PM

Love the photos! So beautiful. And I live right near there. Only been once and next time must bring Japanese-speaking person to translate food stuffs.

Kristin / May 21, 2006 9:16 PM

Wow... I didn't know they were going to make a movie out of FFN...that should be interesting. I wonder if it will be as big as "Super Size Me".

COngrats on getting to go to Paris...I wish I could come with!

roboppy / May 21, 2006 9:52 PM

Cathy: I didn't think it'd be possible for me either, but it turns out I dont' have to take many more food related classes. Woo! It's a shame that there's no food department at AUP though. France would be a good place to have one, hehe.

KOALA'S MARCH! Those things are good, try em!

Claudia: Good question! I got mine from I might need another, some stuff still got under the cover through little openings. Sad.

Susie: YESS you need to go! Every daaay.

Kristin: I didn't know much about the movie either. Should be interesting...and I guess big food companies will hate it, ehe.

I wish I could bring other people with me!

David / May 22, 2006 1:11 AM

Hey there, congrats on Paris!

I've been wanting to go, but I'm now going to wait until you have some food reviews posted. I guess next Spring I should take a trip out across the Atlantic.

If it doesn't weird out your mother, maybe I can even meet you out there for some french fries or french toast, or something...

roboppy / May 22, 2006 11:15 PM

David: You're gonna rely on my reviews to visit Paris? ;D I'll probably focus on bakeries; "This place has good bread. And this one. And this one. And these other 10 bakeries." Etc.

Everything weirds out my mum. I guess we just won't tell her about the French toast binge.

Tim / May 27, 2006 12:15 PM

The Japanese food looks fantastic. What's the best way to get to Mitsuwa from NYC?

Ryu / June 11, 2007 10:56 PM

Watashi mo nihongo no seito desu...
I spent a lot of time buying mochi b/c mochi is awesome
but i also bought 5 things of obanyaki! ITS AMAZINGLY GOOD!

terae7 / September 21, 2009 10:44 AM

So... you know a little bit of English, a little bit of Chinesse, and your an english native speaker... And you feel bad... Gosh c'mon!!

I live in México where almost all the people speaks spanish and... and.. welll that's it.

Changing topic...

Your pictures of nihon no ryori are awesome, in fact...

boku ga nihon no ryori wo tabetai!!!

Bye, greetings.

roboppy / September 22, 2009 6:53 PM

terae7: Oh, the amount of Chinese I know is pretty much nothing. And there's the negligible amount of Japanese and French. BUT AT LEAST I KNOW ENGLISH...

Thanks for reading!

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