Saturday, November 15, 2008

Adventures with Culinary Stones

I never knew the little, classy Japanese restaurant Saito's at 2nd avenue would be one of the strangest dining experiences of my life. It looked benign on the outside; David and I love Japanese food, especially Miso soup and teriyaki. What could be so STRANGE about that? We scanned the menu, and I ordered salmon terikayi and David ordered the surf and turf. It said "table-side cooking" in the description, which we both thought to mean a chef would come out with gigantic chopsticks and whip something up with blue fire a la Beni Hana. Boy were we mistaken.

We stared as the waitress brought out David's meal, which consisted of thin slices of raw meat, and raw shrimp and scallops. Next to that plate she put a very hot, VERY SMALL, rock surrounded by salt. She grasped the chopsticks with dexterous fingers, and "showed" David how to cook his own food. I'm sorry, but go to a restaurant and COOK YOUR OWN FOOD? What the heck is that all about? If we wanted to cook our own food we would have hit up the Town and Country and brought home steak and shrimp for about 1/4 the price.

Cooking on this tiny rock was NOT easy. First of all, David (obviously) isn't Japanese, and can't twirl chopsticks like the best of them. He painstakingly put a shrimp and a piece of steak on the rock, which kept falling off into the salt. Each item got so heavily coated with salt it was almost unedible. David was also VERY hungry, and had to just sit there and salivate as he WATCHED his food cooking in front of him....very slowly. It wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't for the salt. It's like punishment for not being able to use chopsticks.

"It's like if they brought you a whole pig and a spit, and put a bunch of poop in the hole beneath it," I told him, "This is completely ridiculous".

Eventually, they brought David another rock without the salt, and we sat there for another 15 minutes as he cooked the rest of his food. It didn't help that this was a fairly expensive restaurant. My salmon was "okay", but I could have cooked it better at home. Cooking on a rock was too caveman-like to make it a fine dining experience.

Maybe David and I aren't Japanese enough to enjoy a meal like this, and don't plan on EVER! going back. We got home last night after this "going out" experience, and whipped up some homemade bean burritos with jalapenos and cheese. Ahhh, now that's more like it.


Dan-Eric Slocum said...

I JUST LOVE this post. I've been in a similar situation, which I won't bore you with here.

But I know exactly how you felt.

They brought the stuff to the table and I was like, "What? I don't even like to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich-- much less cook the EXPENSIVE FOOD I just ordered."

Lisa said...

That is so awful, and so hysterical! I can't believe you had to go through this!

At least you'll have a story to share with your friends and family for the rest of your lives.

Travis said...

hehe, I love this kind of interactive food experience (when I'm not starving) .... we'll have to try this place!

Sorry it wasn't so much fun for y'all :(

McJumpguez said...

This sounds like quite the experience, but not when one is starving or when it's an expensive restaurant. Pretty hilarious though.

Paula said...

I've been to a fair number of Japanese restaurants, and have never encountered the "cooking stone" thing. In my favorite restaurant in Hillsboro, the food is brought expertly cooked and seasoned, in a way that I could not do at home - that's the point, right? I've heard of Korean bbqs where they bring you full on grills that are actually hot enough to cook the thin strips quickly. Was ALL the food at the place like that? SO weird. The joke's definitely on the customer, there. Sounds like an odd, created gimmick, that isn't working Wonder if the place was crowded?