Wednesday, May 04, 2005

A Little Disappointment ... Is It Me? Or...

This used to be my favorite. Or I should say, it was more than just “favorite.” This was a special bento (lunchbox-style to-go menu) I used to buy when I felt like giving myself a reward for working hard or going through extra B.S. etc. because this was expensive but definitely worth the price. It is one of the “to-go” menu of a small unagi (eel) restaurant in my neighborhood where they serve nothing but unagi dishes.

The place is run by a middle-aged couple. The husband, the cook, looks pretty unfriendly to me but he does a very thorough job when it comes to cooking. Looks like he doesn’t store pre-filleted or pre-cooked eels in the fridge. He seems to start filleting eel after an order is made and grills it over charcoal heat in a good old-fashioned way. (I didn't see the whole procedure so I'm not 100% sure, but considering how long it takes for cooking, I guess that's what he's doing.) I always thought it was the secret of their eel dishes that are not greasy or fishy at all but just wonderfully tasty.

With no special reason, I haven’t been to this unagi restaurant for more than a year. I don't know why.... I just didn’t go. Then today I suddenly felt like it, and bought this special bento. Well, it wouldn't hurt to have something special for this holiday week.

This bento is a little different from their regular unagi bento. The almost scary looking black thing on top is thin strips of dried seaweed. The seaweed, minced scallion and wasabi cancel out the fishiness and bring out the good taste of the eel, and that's why I liked this more than their regular unagi bento.

I was soooo excited to taste my favorite bento again.
And …. after taking one bite, I noticed that something has changed.

It didn’t taste the way I expected. The eel didn’t taste the same as before, the skin of the eel was harder, and rather unpleasant aftertaste of the seaweed and the scallion remained in my mouth for quite a while. At the restaurant, the cooking took as long as it used to take, so I don't think he changed the way he cooks. … Then, why the difference? Or is it just me? Did my taste buds somewhat deteriorate in the past year or something? I don’t know…

It was a kind of sad experience, to be honest.
I guess I’m not going to buy this bento for a while.


Anonymous said...

perhaps the eel was not fresh? Maybe frozen? that could make the skin funny.....Maybe a new cook?
Your taste buds are fine......ha ha. 

Posted by carlyn

Anonymous said...

Maybe the owner started using farm raise unagi instead of unagi from the ocean? Or maybe from a different farm than before? The way you cook all those delicious looking things, it couldn't be you. 

Posted by lance

Anonymous said...

> carlyn --- The cook was the same guy, at least, but I couldn’t see how he was cooking so maybe that’s possible.

> lance --- Well, if he used wild eels in the past, the bento must have been twice as expensive. My taste buds can be messed up at times because I often burn my tongue with hot tea or something. 

Posted by obachan

Anonymous said...

Oh.. that's way too bad..! so disappointing.. to the appetite..!  

Posted by MrsT

Anonymous said...

Obachan, as a big fan of Unagi (I love Japanese food more than others, and for the time being unagi is my favourite Japanese food) I am dreamy of the thought of an unagi restaurant. Here in Oslo I defrost fozen unagi and I still love it.
As for your disappointment in your unagi this time, I think perhaps the seaweed gets in the way of the unagi taste because it looks like the seafood is meshed up with the unagi. That's the only thing I can think of. 

Posted by OsloFoodie

Anonymous said...

> MrsT --- Yeah, it was...

> OsloFoodie --- Mmmm...but the bento had the seaweed from before, about the same amount, and I liked it with the seaweed when I ate one about 1 year ago. But it might be possible that they use different unagi AND seaweed now from before... 

Posted by obachan