The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

This Entry is Unintentionally Japan-Centric

these bottles have alcohol in them

If you go to Sakagura, it's probably because you want something out of one of these bottles. Or all of them. You appreciate the fine taste of rice left to ferment in a pool of moldy water. And why wouldn't you? Fermenty rice squeezings! All natural! Like God intended.

I'm afraid I don't like alcohol. Yes, this puts me in the minority of people who don't like bitter things and aren't curious to know the effects of alcohol poisoning/drunkenness and aren't stressed enough to need alcohol as an escape mechanism and are too cheap to find drinking worthwhile and don't see drinking as a social necessity when we're perfectly happy sitting at home in front of our computers at night, all alone without any risk of feeling the warm caress of another human being, only to be consoled by the burning heat emanated from our overworked computers...wait a minute, this sucks.


Well, back to whatever it was that I was talking about. Per Amy's suggestion, we went to Sakagura, a popular Japanese sake haven located in the basement of a nondescript office building. An earlier attempt to eat there resulted in failure since we didn't have reservations. But this time we DID! OH YEAH, TAKE THAT! Not that I know what "that" is.

Amy's drink
Amy's drink

Amy started with a little glass of plum flavored sake. I sniffed it; it unsurprisingly smelled like alcohol. After taking a wine class, that is indeed about the only thing my underdeveloped nose is able to get out of the variegated scents of alcoholic beverages. Anyhoo, if Amy is reading this she might have more to say about it.

satoimo iridashi
it's fried!

I started with satoimo iridashi, a bowl of fried tempura-ed taro, eggplant and other stuffs served with bonito-fied broth. Have I ever met a piece of tempura that I didn't like? Probably not. The batter was light and crisp and the stuff underneath the batter, burning hot. You know, because of the "being cooked in hot oil" thing. Of course, it was exceptionally yummy because things left to bathe in hot oil tend to turn out that way. It was nice to get vegetable tempura that went beyond the standard broccoli, potato and carrot combination—I think those vegetables are damn tasty, but taro and eggplant are also very welcome in my digestive tract.

eggplant trio
eggplant trio

Amy went with nasu dengaku, eggplant grilled to the point of having pudding-like texture topped with three different kinds of miso paste.


After seeing bobby stokes' photo of squiggly impaled ayus I knew I had to try it. Because there ain't nothing I like better than eating a whole fish whose inner cavity has been awkwardly displaced by a thin death-stick. I thought a $14 order of ayu would come with more than one fish,, it's just one fish. A small fish at that. Crap. Never having eaten ayu before or seen it on a menu, I didn't know what its going rate was.

ayu innards
ayu innards

The waitress had warned me that the fish was full of small bones. No problem, I said. And the bones really aren't a big problem; just keep in mind that you'll be spitting out a bunch of small bones. They're almost so small that you could swallow them. Almost. I uncouthly spat out a couple of bone-wads over the duration of the ayu feast. I'm not sure if there's a dignified way to do so. Not that I do anything in a dignified manner.

Oh, what did this lil dude taste like? Uber tender. Fine grained. Kind of sweet. For a fish. The tastiness was unfortunately punctuated by the aformentioned wads of nanometer-thick bone matter (like nylon beading string) and the soul-stinging bitterness of the dark organ matter located in the lower park of the head. It took me a while to realize, "No, Robyn, stop eating this part of the fish—despite that you paid so much for it—because it tastes like poison and the human body has defense mechanisms against that kind of thing, like regurgitation, besides this inner message telling you to stop eating it." I just kept dipping back into that patch of hell, thinking that that must be what Satan feeds on to keep his evil-meter replenished.

Anyway, it's not the restaurant's fault that the ayu's viscera taste like oppression.

I ated it

The fish de-muscling was a success. I loved the thin, crispy skin, which carried no risk of containing bones. Fish skin is definitely tastier than human skin. Not that I've...eaten human skin.

miso onigiri
miso onigiri

Amy's miso onigiri were quite adorable. So delicately miso-ed! So perfectly formed! Not a grain of rice out of place! Couldn't you just eat them up?!...yeah, so she did.

black sesame creme brulee with black sesame ice cream
black sesame up the wazoo

Since our meal was not all that belly-busting, we went for desserts. My black sesame creme brulee with black sesame ice cream and some sort of black sesame-sprinkled tuile was easily my favorite part of the meal for a few important factors: high sugar content, high black sesame content, and at $7 being the cheapest part of my meal. Woohoo! Light and creamy pudding-esque black sesame creme brulee paired with the melting floes of smooth black sesame ice cream equal creamy black sesame explosion full of happiness.

chocolate souffle
chocolate souffle

Amy had her eye on the chocolate souffle with raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream since she saw a waitress whisk it by our table earlier in the night. She said it was like a brownie, but better (I assume).

The damage for the night was about $40 per person. If you've been reading my blog closely, you know I don't usually spend that much money on a dinner. I like to keep things around $20. Or $10. It's not like I can't afford a $40 meal, I'd just know, not spend that much on a meal unless I think it'll be worth it. I was left with the feeling that my meal at Sakagura, while very good, wasn't really worth $40. Or maybe it is, but I'm unfairly comparing it to the $35 dessert tasting menu at wd-50, which is so heavenly and awesome, dear lord I want it.

If you have wads of cash and sake o nomitai desu (that was my really lame attempt at level I Japanese, which you may ignore) then Sakagura is a cool place to hang out. Their menu is loaded with tasty sounding dishes—you'll probably want to order more than Amy and I did. And they gain some cool points for having restrooms that look like giant sake barrels. Right on.

Wasabi...the restaurant, not the food

If I had to pick one cuisine as my favorite, I think I'd go with...Japanese. Maybe. That's been my answer for the past few years, at least. And it's not like I love all Japanese food, just that I embrace a few items without question. I'm not talking sushi here.

veggie tempura
vegetable tempura

Vegetable tempura is one of those "always love" things. Just had it at Sakagura (or some version of it), but had another craving for it when I went to Wasabi in Ridgewood with my mum on Sunday night. Deep fried broccoli, carrot, and sweet potato are the standards. It wasn't as delicately battered as Sakagura's, but it was still delicious. If you mess up vegetable tempura, you suck.

katsu don
katsu don

Katsu don is a deep fried pork cutlet coated in pillow-soft, lightly scrambled eggs served over rice and seasoned with a thin dashi-soy sauce-mirin-sugar sauce. Even though I didn't grow up eating this dish, it just exudes comfort. Pork. Egg. Rice. A simple combination of tasty stuff. I can pretend I grew up eating it and that eat mouthful of porkeggrice brings up some sweet, lost memory of my youth, just makes my mouth happy. My thoughts are of utmost pointlessness anyhoo: "HEY ROBYN, THIS DISH IS GOOOOD, MM PORK MMM, HEY WHY DON'T YOU COOK THIS, ROBYNNN, ARE YOU TOO LAZY? AFRAID OF BREADING MEAT? THE MEAT DON'T JUDGE. WHAT-WHAT?" The voice in my head sounds like the non-Charlie unicorns from Charlie the Unicorn. (You must click that link, by the way cos if you don't, I'll know...I'll know because if you watch it I'll feel the collective weight lifted off your brains from the decrease in IQ, and yes, watching the animation is totally worth the stupidifying consequences.)

Actually, making katsu don doesn't seem so hard. Maybe I'll try it. Maybeeee.



My katsu don came with pickles (and miso soup, as done in many Japanese restaurants). I like the green nubbly pickles the most. They're nubbly. They must know pain. That is what nubbly-ness entails.

sushi of some sort

My mum ordered the Passion Roll, filled with mango and raw tuna and topped with lobster tail, tobiko and spicy mayo. That's intense. A little too intensely seafoody for me. I'm alright with how fish eggs, taste but crunching though their thin membranes gives me this odd feeling of killing off buckets of fish babies and all their nonexistent spawn and their subsequently nonexistent spawn and then being responsible for the killings of an infinite number of fish that never existed and...well, I guess I do that on a regular basis anyway with the other stuff I eat.

We weren't hungry enough for dessert. Despite that, I went on a little baking adventure that night.

I made cookies
I made cookies.

Actually, chocolate chip cookies aren't adventurous, but that I baked at all equates to some kind of adventurousness and perhaps a high five. Only owning a hand mixer makes me really appreciate the stand mixers we had in my cooking class. Le sigh.

Chocolate chip cookies are my favorite kind of cookie for eating and for making because they're hard to eff up. I know because I've successfully baked many of them. And eaten many of them. This chocolate chip cookie recipe came from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours (which you can possibly win courtesy of Serious Eats and as I always pick the winners and HAVE TO LUG ALL THE DAMN BOOKS TO THE POST OFFICE, I can tell ya that we do give away a lot of books). Despite forgetting to add the vanilla that I had just bought a few hours earlier at Whole Foods, the cookies tasted pretty damn good. I added chopped-up chocolate bar bits as opposed to chocolate chips and also put in chopped walnuts per the recipe's instructions. Result? SHITTONS OF COOKIES THAT I COULD NOT POSSIBLY EAT ALL ON MY OWN.

But I did eat a lot of em. Oh yeah. Funny thing is that on Sunday night, I didn't think the cookies were very good. The sentiment carried onto Monday, the crushing feeling of cookie-based disappointment. But on Tuesday and Wednesday, they tasted really good. I don't know what happened—the cookies improved with age? My taste buds stopped giving a shit? Oh, if you're not a seasoned baker (points to self), just know that when you take cookies out of the oven, they should be soft. Like, "Damn, this cookie is all smooshed on itself," when you spatula it off the baking sheet—it will harden as it cools. I figured this out after the last time I made cookies, during which I kept poking at the cookies, not thinking they were done until the batter wasn't all mooshed up anymore, and ended up with very crispy (but flavorful!) cookies. I prefer cookies that are slightly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, which is how this latest batch of cookies came out.

I'm too lazy to actually type up the recipe, but while it made great cookies, there are probably a gajillion great chocolate chip cookie recipes already floating around the interwubs. I've been told ones made with oatmeal taste the best, something I have yet to try. UPDATE (7/20): I found the recipe! Go to sweet sarah j.


onigiri wrapped in soy sheet...things

I wanted to quickly mention that on Saturday I attended a screening of Kamome Diner at Japan Society, after which was an onigiri party catered by Oms/b. Damn, those were some tasty onigiri, especially the ones wrapped in some kind of soy paper instead of the traditional nori. Why do balls of rice (or triangles of rice) taste so good? I mean, why so much better than rice in its more natural un-balled state? Is there magic in the compression of the rice grains? Sure, the wrapping has something to do with it too. And the filling. I suppose it's like looking at the individual components of a great simply made sandwich; perhaps they just taste okay on their own, but together create A THING OF PURE MAGIC AND BEAUTY that requires no utensils.

I want to throw an onigiri party, but I doubt anyone would come to my home in NJ for the change to eat a bunch of rice balls. Anyone else want to throw one in a more traffic-heavy location? And invite me? Yes, do get on that.

Oh yeah, if you have no idea what onigiri is (meaning that you'd be kinda confused by now), read Yongfook's definition. It goes a lil' something like this:

A regular, vanilla onigiri is a simple triangle of compressed rice. It doesn’t have to contain anything, and it doesn’t have to be wrapped in dried seaweed - it can simply be just rice. And Japanese people. Go. Fucking. Nuts. Over these. If you put an onigiri in a child’s lunchbox, they shit themselves with glee. If you have a picnic and break out some onigiri, everyone shits themselves with glee. Onigiri are compact little glee-shit causing machines and yet they are merely the most fundamental and boring part of a Japanese person’s everyday diet fashioned into a triangle.

Indeed, they do fill me with glee.

Oh, I forgot to mention that I loved Kamome Diner. I read a bunch of less-than-stellar reviews that criticized the slowness and lack of backstory in the movie, but that's kind of why I...liked it. You didn't know the pasts of these three Japanese women who ended up in Finland, but it didn't matter. The movie focused on whatever they were doing in the present. Which involved making onigiri, among other tasty things.

I'm tired. Is this entry over yet? Almoooost.

Park your carts, plz


This is a random photo of cart parking gone horrible wrong at my local Whole Foods. The orphaned carts are confused because they don't feel like they belong. And they don't feel like they belong because THOSE SPOTS ARE FOR CARS, NOT CARTS, I AM TYPING IN CAPS TO MAKE SURE THAT PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THIS MINOR DETAIL BECAUSE YOU CANNOT REALLY PARK A CAR IN A SPOT WITH A CART IN IT OK?

And one of those carts is double parked.


211 E 43rd St, New York, NY

848 E Ridgewood Ave
Ridgewood, NJ

156 E 45th St


encoeci / July 19, 2007 9:47 AM

Arrgghh, how could you make me watch that freaky cartoon? It turned my brain into mush. I'm surprised I could still type. Chaaarliiie, Chaaarliiiee, Chaaarliiiee...

Anjali / July 19, 2007 10:28 AM

Nice job with the clean ayu bones! I always leave a horrific ayu-murder scene on my plate. And yeah, those little guys are expensive. My prefecture (Gifu) is famous for them and I hear they sell for around $10 each in Tokyo. Not even cooked or anything! Just packed with bitter, gutty goodness....

Kathryn / July 19, 2007 10:39 AM

Hi Robyn - I've been reading your site for a while now (linked over from the Amateur Gourmet), and I have to say I like your style. I also really enjoy reading about such a variety of Asian cuisine, since it's not something I eat very often.

What prompted me to finally comment, though (and here's where I hang my head in shame), is your linking Charlie. I LOVE CHARLIE. I've been linking people to Charlie for AGES. I can pretty much recite the whole thing. I knew I liked you. =)

"It has spoken!" "It has shown us the way!"
"It didn't say ANYTHING!!"

Su-Lin / July 19, 2007 10:57 AM

Wow - that Passion Roll just exudes passion. Passion is very red, you know, like Valentine's Day. That's red too.

I'm sad to say that I've never had onigiri before. But I have seen Japanese kids go mental over them. I must have one so that I may shit myself with glee.

Marvin / July 19, 2007 11:27 AM

So what was the dark part of the fish with which Satan replenishes his stores of evil? Was it fish brains? Despite it's small size, the Ayu still looked good.

Tina / July 19, 2007 2:58 PM

I'm sorry that your ayu was $14. Maybe they should've put in the menu that it's tasting size or an app or something remotely similar to the aforementioned? But it looks yummy.

Oh, I like Oms/b's onigiri. They look like works of art and it's damn tasty rice rice balls.

Annemarie / July 19, 2007 5:48 PM

I hope you used the toiled in Sakagura because in those sake barrels are real, Japanese-style toilets, with heated seats and jet streams of water and music playing. It makes the food tastier to sit on those toilets.
I hope you're tried katsu with curry sauce, because Japanese curry is absolutely the best thing ever and once you have it on katsu, you'll never eat anything else.
And now that I'm on my Japanese rant, if you've never tried Sapporo on w49th you ought to - real Japanese greasy spoon, fantastic miso ramen, and pretty cheap. I always have to go whenever I return to New York...

susannah / July 19, 2007 6:25 PM

poor carts!!

that black sesame creme brulee sounds pretty interesting, but now you've got me wanting to bake.

mmmmm cookies

Kathy / July 19, 2007 6:43 PM

oooh robyn, you would die with glee if you grew up in hawaii, esp cause japanese might be your favorite type of cuisine...seriously, this island is like japan...only we speak english, hehe...and we have palm trees!

i just had agedashi tofu and curry udon for dinner last night...and now you make me crave tempura!!!...oooh sweet potato tempura!

p.s. - wd-50 remains my favorite dessert outing to date! =)

B / July 19, 2007 7:22 PM

Oh, there was just TOO much on that post for me to even know where to begin. Let me try to organise myself:
1) o-nigiri is by far the greatest food invention on Earth. Everyday in Korea I had a tuna/chicken o-nigiri, an unsweetened green tea and a mini pack of kimchi for lunch - delicious and healthy! Occasionally I see them in London and a little bit of me weeps.
2) Japanese food is one of my faves and that bowl of katsu sent me into deep-fried withdrawl and I may have to eat raw tempura batter or something just to hold off until tomorrow when I can actually eat something.
3) I loved the post! Thanks Robyn,

Hand to Mouth
Making Stock of the Situation
(A blog for the penniless gourmet)

roboppy / July 20, 2007 12:37 AM

Eunice: But it's a land of sweets and joy and joyness WHY DO YOU DENY YOURSELF OF SUCH PLEASURE?!

Anjali: I did a good job? WOO, thanks! It is still a kind of horrific murder scene though. Viscera...everywhere. $10 for a raw ayu sounds sucky. Gutty goodness. NOOOO.

Kathryn: Thanks for reading! Sometimes I like my style! But most of the times I don't. SO I'M REALLY GLAD PEOPLE LIKE YOU EXIST! People who like my style.

Dude, Charlie is the master. I wish there were a series of Charlie cartoons (oh how happy I'd be), but alas...we just have this one gem. It's gotten to the point where I just listen to it and laugh my ass off (well, on the inside, not so much in real life).


Su-Lin: Ooh, I didn't even associate the red color with passion.

Yes, you DO wanna shit yourself with glee! Go do it! Onigiri will show you the waaay.

Marvin: I don't think it was brains since it was like...uh, the bottom part of the head. Then again, I'm not a biologist; MAYBE IT WUZ BRAINS.

Or liver. Or something.

Tina: They should also put a warning on the menu: FISH ORGANS RESULT IN UNHAPPINESS.

They are unnaturally pretty onigiri.

Annemarie: Oh god, I didn't use the toilet! Cos I didn't have to pee and I wasn't curious enough. If only I had known...oh cruel fate.

As for Japanese style toilets, when I was in Japan I remember using the bathroom at a restaurant and pressing a random button (DUMB IDEA BY THE WAY) and it started playing a loud flushing sound and I was like, "ARHAG MAKE IT STOP I AM NOT DOING ANYTHING LOUD WITH MY BUTT" and it just kept going and going and...the restaurant was not very large. Anyway. Good memories!

Katsu with curry sauce is the MASTER! That's one of my most favorite foods ever, although I don't eat it a crapload. I have a tendency to eat katsu by itself and curry by itself. Every now and then the two combine into mass deliciousnesssness.

I've heard of Sapporo, but have yet to go there. NEXT TIME, OH YEAH.

Susannah: Creme brulee is awesome but I like cookies more. Bounteous cookies.

Kathy: Dude I KNOW I would die with glee, which is why it's so unfair that I haven't been to Hawaii! :( All the food is favorite! Like Japanese soul food or something. And yeah, you speak english so that's even better.

We're going to wd-50 when ye get here, yeah? Cos I haven't been there since you left!

B: Onigiri's pretty damn awesome, but I also love sandwiches!...yeah those aren't the same. I like non-starchy things wrapped in starch. :D

Glad you liked the post!

Inne / July 20, 2007 5:08 AM

Robyn, I've been in such a 'Japanese' mood lately and after reading your entry I'll just have to get myself something Japanese for lunch again.

Your cookies look great! I really must get me Dorie's book. Had the same experience when I made choc chip cookies; after a few days they tasted much better and the flavours seemed to intensify.

Cathy / July 20, 2007 7:29 AM

My favorite choco chip cookie recipe came from the back of a Silk Soy milk container. They're called Akasha's Chocolate Chip Cookies or something like that. It's on the Silk Soy Milk website if you're interested (sorry, too lazy to find the link). You can make them with regular milk, too. If you make them with soy milk and magarine (no eggs in the recipe) I'm pretty sure they're vegan.

Just felt I needed to share that :)

Yunie / July 20, 2007 10:03 AM

my mom makes tonkatsu ... she is pretty much an expert at deep-frying things. it looks pretty easy when she does it but .. then she makes all cooking look easy (so i've found out when trying to duplicate her recipes)
but yah tonkatsu has always been a childhood fave food! fried bready meat!

i want to try my hand at making gyudon or oyakodon (chicken) since it doesn't seem that hard......... now i'm getting hungry :[

Yuizaki / July 20, 2007 10:53 AM

All that good Japanese food makes me totally want to go eat Japanese for lunch but all the places close to work suck so...I guess not. :(

If I wasn't so lazy, I'd go to Cafe Zaiya...get some spicy tuna onigiri and CREAM PUFFS and come back to work in a coma from the goodness of both spicy tuna onigiri and cream puffs from Beard Papa's.

Mila / July 22, 2007 8:04 AM

You managed to include toilets, sake, fish eggs, fish, pork, carts, shopping, and chocolate chip cookies all in one post.

Those onigiri looked like siomai (wrapped chinese dumplings), i'm more used to seeing them wrapped in nori and triangular (I like them stuffed with plum and fish).

roboppy / July 22, 2007 12:36 PM

Cathy: From a soy milk container?! ...That is surprising, I shall check it out. But I like butter and eggggs!

Yunie: Aw man, I wish my mum made tonkatsu! Or any homey Japanese food. I figure they can't be that hard to make, but I haven't tried. :(

Yuizaki: I used to get onigiri from Cafe Zaiya all the time! Loooove spicy tuna! Omg.

Mila: Well when you put it that way...that makes this entry quite weird. Although most of them are like that, eh? I SHOULD TALK ABOUT TOILETS MORE OFTEN!

They do look dumpling-esque. Prettier than most dumplings I've seen!

dana / July 22, 2007 2:34 PM

hi robyn! You make me want to eat japanese food now and not gag at all things cute.

Merav / July 22, 2007 5:33 PM

Robin, I'm totally on the same page as you regarding the alcohol issue. Icky, expensive, and full of unnecessary calories that could be consumed much more happily in COOKIES or CAKE or MACARRONS! Or all of those combined! Ok...maybe that would be a few more calories than an alcoholic drink, but the point is that I...don' Alcohol is ICKY.

Lovely post as usual! :)

Marvo / July 23, 2007 1:12 AM

Katsu don seems like a simple dish to make, but my attempts at it have sucked hard, leaving me with a bowl of blech. Maybe it's the sauce. Maybe I can't panko the chicken properly. Maybe I didn't wash the rice enough.

Someday I will climb the mountain of katsu don perfection. Until then I'll just eat it at any of the several Japanese restaurants near my place.

roboppy / July 23, 2007 6:37 PM

Dana: That's my goal! I think.

Merav: Mm, cookiecakaron...

I tasted some more alcohol this weekend. Like a teaspoon. Still blech!

Marvo: At least you attempted! I haven't even gotten that far. :( Although hearing that your attempt didn't go so well doesn't make me feel very cooking-adventuresome right now.

Climb the mountain. CLIMB IT!!! I am cheering you on.

Borat Sagdiyev / July 24, 2007 1:05 PM

Maybe the Robin, she post about the Asian food becuase she also Asian heritage. Me, I glob about the glorious food of Kazakstan because I hail from glorius nation of Kazakstan. It is no brains!~

gilda / July 25, 2007 5:24 AM

well i had to click on the link because i've lived in japan for years and i just love anything japanese. the food looks great, albeit extremely overpriced. take my word that ayus do NOT cost 14 bucks!!! hell no.

but now i'm dying to have a japanese meal myself... i should probably go cook dinner tonight. heh heh!

Christina / July 25, 2007 5:57 PM

Robyn, I want cookies! Your picture is lovely, three tallish stacks of what I'm assuming are perfectly round cookies (if I'm wrong, don't tell me -- ignorance is bliss). I always feel like I'm not right when I'm out of butter, like I am now.

roboppy / July 26, 2007 12:20 AM

For anyone wondering about the Borat thing, it's in response to a comment I took down. But the Borat comment is funny, so I think I'll leave it. :)

Gilda: I must go to Japan where I can find non-overpriced ayu! Or non-overpriced Japanese food. Mmm...I shall do it...

Christina: You want cookies? Oh, don't we all...don't we all. I have another bar of chocolate left so I may make a half-batch. The full batch makes a buttload, half is probably better.

Get some butter!

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