Tuesday, 29 March 2016

More sakura and I'm not sorry

This week, KM-san suggested we go out for tempura. It's been eighteen months since we last went, so I was glad to go with her (via a quick trip to a certain otaku shop to buy a nerdy present for a delightfully nerdy friend).

We went to Hirao tempura near Tenjin. The way this works is that there's a vending machine-style order system. You insert money, choose a meal option and buy a voucher. You then go inside and work your way through the (seated) queue. When you get a seat at the bar (and they're bar seats, so I tend to find them a bit less reassuring than something firmly on ground level) you hand over your voucher. The staff are in the middle of the restaurant, with people seated all around them.

Based on the voucher, the staff put coloured tokens by your seat on their side of the bar. They then come around distributing tempura-battered food to people with the appropriate tokens - for example, someone might do a round with a tray of battered green pepper slices, then another round with battered prawns. Eventually your order is completely fulfilled.

In the meantime, you have a huge amount of food for a quite small amount of money. My order was Y720, which works out at about £4, I think. For this I got:

  • A substantial bowl of rice (cheap, yes, but filling)
  • An unlimited supply of small flavouring items - picked daikon, octopus (or possibly squid) morsels, seaweed in sesame seeds, and something else I didn't try.
  • A bowl of miso soup with negi (a kind of thin leek) and tofu cubes - this alone could easily set you back £4 in the UK.
  • One large battered prawn
  • One battered chicken piece
  • One battered squid slice
  • Two battered small fish
  • One battered aubergine slice
  • One battered pumpkin slice
  • One battered green pepper slice
  • Unlimited green tea

I don't know about you, but I call that pretty good value.

A politician illegally advertising with loudspeaker vans outside the season. There are quite a few around at the moment. As far as I can tell there is zero interest in enforcing the laws against this, even though it would be extremely easy to do so what with the way they're blatantly driving around in vans with big signs on. I have no idea why.

From bottom left: octopus pieces, seaweed, water, green tea, array of flavoured salts (matcha tea, sesame and curry powder flavours) for dipping. Central bowl of I'm not actually sure what, but you dip stuff in it before eating. To right, bowl of miso soup and rice.

One fish and one prawn. I'm not hugely keen on prawns because the texture is odd, but then I've only been eating them for a couple of years - in fact I started last time I was here.

I'm not hugely good with tempura to be honest. The batter tends to come off the food as I eat it, particularly with the large flat squid and pepper pieces. Also, I don't really understand how you're supposed to daintily eat these enormous pieces of food - it's quite hard for me to hold them with chopsticks while biting off pieces.

After eating we decidede to return to Maizuru Park to see the evening displays. They light up the cherry blossoms to accommodate evening viewing. One of the notable things for me is that weatherwise, Fukuoka and the UK are about the same temperature right now; however, in Fukuoka the temperature seems to basically stay the same in the evening, whereas in the UK temperatures plummet rapidly overnight and nobody would be hanging around for an evening picnic in March.

Yakitori (grilled chicken)

Left, karaoge (not karaoke) - a kind of battered food, mostly chicken in this case. It's more like KFC than tempura.

Self-explanatory, surely.

Sakura by night

Unflattering picture of me. Yes, I am always this stylish.

Sadly, when I got home, I ended up feeling rather poorly late in the evening, and was up into the small hours thinking I might be sick and unable to lie down due to nausea. I wasn't, but I didn't get to sleep until past 1am, and ended up skipping school the following day. I suspect this is down to the cold-type virus I've got at the moment, rather than the food (I saw nothing wrong with it) but it did cast a bit of a shadow over my meal out.

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