I Suck At Chopsticks – Mitsuba

I have had an amazing week!

Although I was coached at work, I did have a 92 percent score on a “harshly graded” audit of one of the calls I made. After that, I tweaked the rhythm and tone that I use when I recite the introduction script, and I went from having one or two completed surveys a day to having five completes on Friday and six completes today!

Not only that, but I called someone who greeted me by saying, “Moshi moshi!” After my introduction, the woman said a few things, and it wasn’t until I heard her say “nihongo” that it dawned on me that she was speaking Japanese! I apologized, explaining that I don’t know much Nihongo, and I ended the call by saying “gomen nasai” and “sayounara.” I was so hyped about that call! I think my supervisor was about as interested in hearing that I’m learning Japanese and that I got that call, that I could have told him what I ate for breakfast and he would be just as interested. I asked if I could get a copy of the recording, even if someone had to censor out the introduction or something, but I was told that it wouldn’t be allowed. I feel like no one would believe that I had such luck, which is why I wanted a copy of the recording.

I made a trip to New Jersey this week, and one of the errands I made while down there was to return the internet equipment to my former service provider. Two days later, I received a call from the debt collection agency that was handling that account, and I scheduled the payment for the remaining balance. So, that takes care of one of my many debts!

When I got home from work tonight, the house was empty. My friend’s daughter was at her prom, and I assume the rest of the family was off taking pictures and talking to other parents. There was nothing made for dinner and left behind, and I didn’t have enough ingredients to make anything worthwhile. The idea of conveyer belt sushi danced in my mind, but the one conveyer belt sushi restaurant in the area that I’m aware of has mediocre Yelp reviews. I couldn’t get the thought of Japanese food out of my mind, despite having the ability to get free American food from TGI Friday’s, so I decided to go to someplace close by for whatever they offered.

If you’ve been here a while or have perused the archives, then you know I’m not a fan of the abundance of hibachi-style Japanese restaurants in the area. Seriously, the only way a restaurant seems to qualify as a Japanese restaurant is if it has hibachi, which is western-style Asian food, and rolled sushi, which is also western-style (california rolls are not Japanese in any way). That being said, you would think that I would be avoiding all Japanese restaurants, turning my nose up at the mere mention of hibachi. If I did that, I’d have to make my own Japanese food all the time, which takes away from being able to just relax and enjoy myself.

While I was working on moving to New Jersey, there was a vacant lot of land that was in the process of being renovated. At the time, there was barely anything built. I did visit the new Costco one time before I had finished moving out of the area. When I returned to the area, that location was filled with new restaurants, a movie theater, a bank, and a few other little shops. Among the restaurants was a place called Mitsuba, which was yet another hibachi/sushi place. I never vowed I wouldn’t go there, and tonight, that’s where I went.

Now, this isn’t a food blog. I’m not here to analyze the presentation, and I don’t consider myself to be a foodie so I won’t be judging the way things tasted. I’m just a girl who is celebrating life, who isn’t about to be held back by bad times. So then, let’s have some fun!

I walked in and was seated quickly, which was pretty good for a Saturday night around 7 at night. I also didn’t have a seating preference, so I didn’t mind when I was given a regular table instead of being escorted to the hibachi tables.

Before I had a chance to look through the menu, a waitress came to the table and asked if I wanted a hot towel, which I accepted. After she walked away, my mind was reeling – what do I do with this? All I could think was to not use it on the face, the hot towel is not meant to wash the face and that’s frowned upon in Japan. Okay, so what… do… I… do? I actually pulled out my phone and looked it up on Google, just to confirm that it’s for washing the hands before eating. The downside was, there was nothing saying if I should leave it wadded up when I was done using it, or if I should neatly fold it, or if that much even mattered.

I flipped through the menu to find something to drink, and while I was going to ask for the free rice tea, I reminded myself that I was treating myself. I decided on ordering a Thai tea, which interested an older woman dining at the table next to mine later on in the evening. After she asked what I was drinking, I told her what it was, that it’s black tea with other spices added which gives the tea its unique orange color, and then milk and ice are added to the steeped tea. She thought I might have had something fruit-flavored, which is understandable considering the coloration of the drink.

After placing my entire order, one of the waiters placed a small square plate in front of me. The plate had what looked like rice rolled up inside of nori, then topped with a drizzle of sriracha mayonnaise. I was told that the dish was on the house, which made me feel special. They probably give that dish to everyone, but please just let me have my moment.

I opened up my chopsticks so I could use them to eat my free food. I thought about what I had learned from Joe Inoue, because I had otherwise built up a “this kinda works for me” mentality when trying to eat with chopsticks. The funny thing is, when I put Joe’s lesson into practice, I realized I had to do one more thing to make it work… I had to press the stationary chopstick into the padding between my thumb and index finger, and press it deeply until I felt it. I also had to press the tip of my ring finger against the chopstick to keep it stationary. But, I made it work, and I ate my rice rolls with ease!

Not long after finishing those rice rolls, my shumai appetizer came out of the kitchen. Awesome, right? That’s good timing. So once again, I put my chopstick skills to use, lifting the shrimp dumplings and dipping them into the horseradish-based sauce. I cleared out my sinuses, but it was delicious!

After that, I had a bit of a wait for my main dish. When I was looking over the menu, I went back and forth between pages, debating whether I wanted sushi or tempura or katsudon. I finally decided on the house nabe, which was a soup-style dish with thinly-sliced steak and seafood with noodles and vegetables in a soy broth. I couldn’t help but think of Great Teacher Onizuka, with the title character Onizuka’s voice in my head, shouting “NABE!” There is a part in the series where he demands that his students make nabe, and if I’m wrong, then I’m confusing it with The Wallflower. However, if I remember correctly, The Wallflower has a scene where one of the guys demands shabu-shabu in the winter, not nabe. I’ve digressed to the point where I know I’m going to watch anime tomorrow to prove to myself that I was right.

Anyway, NABE! And the waiter or manager came over to me, not long after I placed my order, to tell me they were out of the noodles that normally go into the nabe. He asked if I would mind if they substituted udon instead, and I said that was all right. Unfortunately, that reminded me of my ex-fiance, but it made me appreciate the fact that he and I don’t have a relationship anymore. His family is “cursed,” in that they can’t go to a restaurant without something going wrong. If the kitchen runs out of an ingredient, “OH NO, THE CURSE HAS STRUCK AGAIN!” Me? They substituted something, that’s fine. I’d rather have a kitchen run out of ingredients from time to time, because it means they have to replace them, and if they’re replacing ingredients, they’re not letting anything spoil or rot. Besides, it also means I’m probably eating something that other people enjoy or would recommend, so I must have chosen well for my dinner.

That nabe was delicious! The steak was tender, the seafood was done well, and the broth wasn’t too salty. I was halfway done when two things happened.

First, I was starting to think I had eaten enough. I could tell by the counter in front of me, which held various supplies for dining and such, that this establishment would allow you to take food home. However, that’s not something that’s done in Japan. “But Luna, you’re not in Japan!” Yeah, I know that. In fact, I wondered if I was eating an American portion of nabe, if I was actually trying to eat more than I would be given if I were in Japan. I decided to press on, going so far as to finish all of my noodles and all of the meat. I left quite a bit of broth and some of the vegetables in the dish.

Second, the waiter came over while I was adjusting my chopsticks and trying to grasp a noodle. He asked if I wanted a fork. I smiled, even laughed a bit, as I explained to him that I could use chopsticks just fine, but that my hand would sometimes move the stationary chopstick out of place. I was willing to struggle with chopsticks for the sake of trying to improve my skill, possibly even my dexterity. I would say I succeeded! I mean, I did struggle, but I also ate well without using my bare hands.

Dessert was half of an orange, which was cut into quarters and impaled with a toothpick. The bill was handed to me as I ate my orange, and because I downloaded Mitsuba’s app onto my phone, I got $5 off my total. I wanted to leave a note on the restaurant’s copy of the receipt, but I thought I probably shouldn’t. I wanted to say something along the lines of, “In Japan, they don’t leave a tip. When I finally go to Japan, I hope the restaurant service is as good as it was here.” I thought of adding more words to that, or maybe not, because it might not be understood in the same way as what I was trying to say. However, I did leave a 20% tip because the service was worth it. The staff was attentive, checking on me to see that I was ready to order or if my order was already placed, making sure everything was enjoyed by me, even offering me a fork so that I didn’t have too many issues.

I left the restaurant and walked back to my car, which was parked about a hundred feet away from the establishment. Maybe it was closer than that, possibly only eighty feet away, but it had been the best parking spot I could find. The movie theater was nearby, so I assumed that most of the spots were taken by movie-goers. Past the movie theater was a frozen yogurt shop, but my stomach didn’t feel like I had any room left for dessert.

When I got to my car, I got in and drove to the grocery store. I still needed to get a few things so I could make actual meals for the week, most of which would be my lunch at work. With a full stomach, I was sure to buy only what I absolutely needed.

I might have purchased Akira as well, which I absolutely didn’t need, but it was $5. I basically took myself out for dinner and a movie. I’m dating myself. I think I’m going to make it a long-term relationship, because I see some potential. Should I wait until three days have passed before calling myself? I don’t want to seem too eager.

All joking aside, it was the perfect ending to an already amazing week! I don’t know if the next week could get any better, but I’ll take whatever comes my way.

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One thought on “I Suck At Chopsticks – Mitsuba

  1. Pingback: Sake Bomb! | Ascension of Luna

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