Friday, November 29, 2013


Lunch out is still usually a source of aggravation for me.  

First, there are the hours.  Many restaurants and cafes are open only for dinner.  You may see activity inside, but they are really just preparing for the dinner hours.  Those that are open for lunch typically have extremely limited hours: 11A - 2P.  A late lunch is pretty much out of the question.  Oftentimes you can only order the two or three items from the fixed "lunch set".  The rest of the multi-paged menu is available only after 2P and should thus be considered merely titillating diversions.

I get frustrated with myself because nine-times-out-of-ten I end up in a Western-style cafe because I know I can navigate the menu.  When you are hungry your primal, not cerebral instincts take over.  I will walk for hours looking for that perfect dining combination: friendly/inviting, cool or interesting design/ambiance, not too touristy, not too fancy, not too Japanese (language, not cuisine).  This usually adds up to Western.

I wish I could read a Japanese menu.  Even if I can sound out the Hiragana, I still don't know what I'm reading.  Think about the subtle, almost poetic, descriptions of food on an English menu.  You never see: beef and noodles.  It will read more like: lightly seared grass-fed Texas sirloin strips over tagliatelle in a crème fraîche sauce.  Nowhere in that description do you see the words beef or noodles.  So translate that into Japanese, throw in some Kanji characters….you see the trouble.

Sometimes I pick a proper Japanese restaurant and sit down knowing full well I won't be able to read the menu, there will be no pictures, and probably no English-speaking waiters.  This is simultaneously an act of defiance and punishment.  Basically I am saying to myself: Robert, you can do this, you f*%#ing idiot.

Maybe I ask the server (in Japanese) what he or she recommends.  Or.  Maybe I select something because it is printed in red, instead of black ink (hmm, must be a special).  Or.  If those methods fail, maybe I order by price.  The Robert Wallace Empirical System for ordering food in a foreign country.

It hasn't happened often, but occasionally I am reprimanded for approaching my meal in the wrong manner.  Sometimes it is a polite upturned hand gesturing how I should be doing things.  Sometimes it is put more strongly, "No, no" (in English).

A large Japanese beer is the recommended beverage when using the RWES.  Alcohol goes a long way to relieving dining stress.

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