After having several thoughts about returning to Japan, I’m glad a restaurant like this popped up around the Bay Area. There are two locations open today, one in Palo Alto, and one in Cupertino. During this trip, we visited the Palo Alto location. It’s really neat to see that the restaurant culture and the technology behind this place really reminds me of Japan. Behold, travels to Japan in the blink of a second!
The whole atmosphere of the restaurant is super simple and minimalistic – very similar to the “muji” look, y’know what I’m saying? It can get pretty busy though, so if you wanna sit down ASAP, I recommend giving them a call before heading there. What’s really cool about the menu is that all the prices that you see in the menu (and in this post) are all tip inclusive, meaning you don’t have to worry about how much tip to give them and just pay the taxes on top of the prices. I’m SO glad something like this finally exists in America! This really follows how the restaurant etiquette in Asia is like, and I’m so sick of trying to math how much tip I should give TT. So grateful for this!!
The ‘technology’ side of Japan is demonstrated by the way you order the food. Each table is accompanied with a tablet, an electronic menu. Customers will then go through the menu and choose the items that they want, add them to the cart, and order when ready. The ordering style is much like AYCE sushi tablet ordering (at least back in Toronto)…except not AYCE..haha.
The process is all very seamless. Ordering is quite self explanatory, with detailed descriptions and nice pictures. Everything looked very appetizing and it was hard to decide what to eat. Food didn’t take long to be served.
For starters, N and I got a salmon carpaccio to share. The kick of flavour in the ponzu and thinly sliced red onions, along with the texture of the pea sprouts, went very well with the thick slices of raw salmon. I think the amount served in the appetizer was really a balanced amount to begin the meal.
For mains, I ordered myself the Hatsumabushi, which is a meal with eel served Nagoya style. Although ingredients very similar to the Eel rice which was a couple dollars less, I chose to go for this dish because it was a little more creative and it almost seemed like it was three individual dishes. The meal comes with an instruction card, showing you how to eat it in different ways.
- You can eat it plain eel with rice as it is already served in the bowl.
- You can add the condiments (green onion, wasabi, pickled vegetable, soft tofu) to the eel rice. What I thought was interesting was the tofu on the bottom right, the dish was a cold dish and the tofu was very fragile and soft.
- You can eat the eel rice along with dashi stock on the top right. Eating it this way reminded me of a very yummy congee.
My favourite way to eat it was to eat it in the 2nd way. Dry and with the condiments. All the condiments added a new depth to the dish, and I thought it was very fun in general. Don’t forget to add the mountain pepper, it’s an awesome addition to the dish!
N got a Yakiniku Ju, a simple grilled slice beef rice dish. It is served with a miso soup on the side, which is super flavourful (and in my opinion, almost too salty ><). You can replace the miso soup for asari miso soup for a couple of dollars, which is a clam miso soup. This dish was a bit of a disappointment to me. The mushrooms were very tasty, but I found that since the beef slices were so thin, it would easily overcook (which I thought it was), which in turn resulted to be a bit too dry for my liking.
We ended our meal off with some matcha warabi mochi, which is what I like to call a “water mochi”, powdered in matcha. The texture of warabi mochi is very interesting. It’s not dense and chewy, but it feels like gummy water that isn’t very wet..if that makes sense at all..haha. For extra flavour, it comes with brown sugar syrup which you drizzle on top of the warabi mochi. Such a light touch to end the meal – I really enjoyed it.
All in all, I really enjoyed my visit. It really felt like I was reliving in Japan for a moment. Although a bit disappointed in the Yakiniku Ju, I really enjoyed the Hatsumabushi and will definitely be back to try out other items on the menu. And let me take a moment again to express how grateful I am that a restaurant that includes the tip into the price exists in North America! Amen, sista!