Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Save Our Faves 2007! Meme

Hayashi Raisu served at Hanashi

Chubbypanda, a foodblogger based in Irvine, California, tagged me for his Save Our Faves 2007! meme. My mission seems to be posting about my favorite mom & pop eatery (or grocery or food supplier) in town to turn a spotlight on it. Looks like he is mourning about the recent closure of several good eateries in Orange County.

Well, the same thing here. In this small town in a rural city, “Shop For Rent” signs are nothing rare. In my neighborhood, there used to be a place that served nice mini-kaiseki course for a very reasonable price. It was more like Western-hybrid kaiseki mainly geared to female customers who love to taste little amount of many different dishes. I was planning to post about it someday, but they closed before I had a chance. How sad! :(

Anyway, the moment I read about this interesting meme on chubbybanda’s site, I thought about one small restaurant run by an elderly couple. Not because they seem to be in danger of closing, but because I love this cozy place and one particular dish called Hayashi raisu very, very much.

What the heck is hayashi raisu? It is often translated “hashed beef (stew) on rice,” if that helps. This site has a brief description of what it is (scroll down to “hayashi-raisu and ton-katsu”) with a photo, if that helps. It is one of those Japanized western dishes that we call “Yoshoku” here in Japan.

Hayashi raisu is not necessarily my favorite dish, to tell you the truth. Usually I find it a little too heavy for me, and it often gives me minor heartburn afterwards. But the hayashi raisu they serve at this small restaurant(?), "Hanashi 花偲" is different; this is the only hayashi raisu that I can call “my true favorite.”

Before I praise this wonderful dish that stole my heart, let me tell you a little about this place. It is listed as a “coffee shop” in the online inventory of our local eating establishments, but they seem to serve more meals and set menus than sweets and coffee. It is a typical mom & pop eatery, or more precisely, grandma & grandpa eatery?

I usually eat at this place in early evening, so I don’t know how it is there at busy lunch time. (Maybe a young waitress works there in those busy hours only.) But when I’m there, I see the elderly couple only, and the atmosphere is always so laid-back and cozy. As soon as I take a seat, the old lady in long skirt brings me a glass of water, oshibori (wet hand towel) and menu, and takes my order. IIRC, their menus are hand-made with photos of their food pasted on each page, not printed. Very homey.

The old lady never hurries -- I have never seen her doing something in a hurry. After she tells the order to her husband, she sits at one of the tables and reads newspaper or something. When the food is ready, she brings it to my table, and goes back to her reading. It is not rare to see her and her husband sitting at one of the tables, chatting with their neighbor who came in for an afternoon coffee.

The hayashi raisu they serve at Hanashi is rather light. Maybe they use thinly sliced pork instead of beef??? And the sauce is somewhat fruity but not too sweet, and it has a slight hint of garlic, which, in my opinion, perfectly matches the flavor of the meat. Always a small salad comes first, and hayashi raisu follows after a little while. I enjoy every mouthful of it as I read the comic books they have on the shelf for customers. Mmmmm… it’s a blissful moment. Really.
(Sorry, I can't report about other dishes, because I always order this dish.)

BTW, I often wonder why they use these Chinese characters, “花偲” for the name of this eatery, “Hanashi.” The word “hanashi” usually means “talk” or “story” in Japanese, but these Chinese characters mean “flower” and “remembrance,” and their textbook pronunciation is actually “hanashinobu,” not hanashi. Maybe there is a special reason why they wanted to relate those romantic Chinese characters to “hanashi.”

Well, according to the sitemeter on this site, very few local people read my blog. Honestly, I can't imagine this post increasing the clientele of this eatery at all. But it felt good to write about my favorite spot to share it with the whole world, so I thank you, chubbypanda, for tagging me. :)

1-10-1 Atago machi, Kochi city
Kochi, Japan
* In Atago Shopping Street,
Kitty-corner from Atago hospital

Hayashi raisu: 650 Yen (apx. US$ 5.37)

Now, I’m supposed to tag 5 bloggers, right? Well…. I’m never good at this… So forgive me for doing this again.
Dear readers,
please let me know if you want to be tagged for this meme and share your secret spots with us! ;)
1. Charlotte at My Bento Diet Thanks Charlotte! Your bentos look fantastic! :D
2. Kelvin at Walk of Coffee Your roasted chicken looks fabulous!

To play this game, visit Chubbypanda -The Epicurious Wanderer- and read this post.

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Anonymous said...

ooh, if ever we go to visit my husband's friend in Kochi, I'll check this place out!

obachan said...

Oh, please do so! I'd love to know what other people would think about this hayashi raisu.

Anonymous said...

Oooh... I love hayashi rice.

Fun fact, the character for my last name is also "Hayashi", although it's obviously pronounced differently in Chinese.

obachan said...

Hi! It was so much fun posting about this place (especially taking several pix when no one was watching me). This meme is a great idea.

BTW, is your last name pronounced Lin? Oh, and is chubbypanda 胖了熊猫 in Chinese?

Anonymous said...

Hi, Just wanted to let you know I finished my write-up for Save Our Faves 2007 if you want to check it out.

obachan said...

Hi! Yeah, I was about to email you about it, because somehow I couldn't leave a comment to your post. (My browser doesn't seem to be able to handle the comment system there.)
Nice post -- the food photos made me drool. ;)

Anonymous said...

I enjoy visiting your blog very much, Obachan, so keep writing! It is wonderful to see Japan through the eyes of a native :)

obachan said...

Thank you, an9ie. Yep, I'll keep writing!