Seasons of Japan Express
After ordering, I checked into Foursquare and learned that my friend Melissa is “mayor” here. That means she’s been here a lot. It also means it’s probably not going to disappoint: Melissa has no reluctance about sharing a bad experience – and she doesn’t suffer fools lightly. Adjust your expectations. This is not Japanese–style fine dining by any stretch. It’s barely a click above dining in the mall. This is counter service, fast food that’s meant to satisfy hunger, not generate 5–star accolades. I was No. 388. The menu, blessedly, is concise: a mere half dozen sushi rolls or so, another dozen, maybe, hot entrees. I went for one of each. My spicy tuna roll came sealed in a two–part plastic container, accessorized with squeeze packs of wasabi and ginger – and a neat dollop of chili sauce atop each of the eight segments. The roll was tightly built, with nice, sticky sushi rice, a fresh, generous portion of tuna peeked out of the rice and, yes, the chili sauce did guarantee spice with each bite. The steak yakisoba was filling, to say the least. Yakisoba, literally “fried noodle,” might have originated in Chinese cooking but has been fully integrated into Japanese festival cuisine. Heck, in Japan, you can buy yakisoba dishes served in a long roll, like a hot dog. Mine didn’t really need the additional hearty helping of another starch, in the form of fried rice. Bits of steak, julienne veggies and mushrooms dotted the steaming mound of noodles, which were nicely flavored – albeit challengingly rubbery. One snapped back and stuck to my eyeglasses. Trying to eat these noodles with a plastic fork is frustrating. Had I been issued a plastic knife, I might have been tempted to commit seppuku – Japanese ritual suicide. Instead, I fell back on another Japanese cultural practice, noodle slurping. There, that’s better. Even though the dish was flavored and seasoned to my liking, I took a dip or two into a sauce from the self–serve bar, a thin, brown fluid labeled as “New Steak Sauce.” OK, it was savory and seasoned, like a barely refined beef stock. Kinda left me curious about “Old Steak Sauce.”
400 Abercorn St. (In Savannah Centre, a couple of doors away from TJ Maxx)/ 353–9281
Tom Fitzmorris does in New Orleans what I do here – except he’s done it for 38 years and enjoys a following via his blog, his newsletters and a daily radio show. He is the ultimate NOLA restaurant insider. His career, the evolution of New Orleans cuisine and more than a worthy selection of recipes are included in his new book, Hungry Town (Stewart Tabori & Chang). In many ways, the book is an homage to the dedicated culinary professionals who returned to NOLA in the days after Hurricane Katrina. And Fitzmorris does an admirable job saluting the early culinarians, the upstarts who fueled the city’s nouvelle cuisine – and the collection of characters that make the Crescent City’s food scene hum. Consider this a must for any serious foodie’s bookshelf and anyone who appreciates dining in New Orleans.