It’s catch up time. For those of you who were busy talking up the back, we had to skip Asakusa as it was inexplicably closed on Anzac Day. So Strop and I are back-tracking in the interest of no-rivet-unpainted. It’s been a busy week, starting with slapstick and farce on Monday at One Man Two Guvnors, then pizza with the gals on Tuesday (more on that down the road at 126), sleeping on the couch through Shaun Micallef on Wednesday (fast becoming an unattractive habit), and a late-night-feminist-comedy-fundraiser show on Thursday. So I’m really looking forward to nothing much happening on the weekend, but first we need to clear up the untidiness that is the absence of Asakusa. It is also the first time for just the two of us since the infamous visit to Newtown Thai 2 back in March and I am quite looking forward to a quiet and intimate Japanese tête-à-tête. So after my newly established ritual of a quick ale and a glimpse of televised sports at the Marly (Dogbolter and ice hockey tonight), I arrive at Asakusa to find Strop ensconced in a window seat busily Facebooking away.
Asakusa is a large double-fronted restaurant and has been around for as long as I have been paying attention, so presumably they are doing something right. We have been here before, a long time ago, but I can’t remember anything about the experience although we obviously did not feel the need to rush back. It is sparsely populated when I arrive – things don’t start early in Newtown. Strop and I have a quick discussion about what Asakusa actually means – I think it has something to do with cherry blossoms or maybe crayons, having mixed it up with sakura – but we get immediately sidetracked by an argument about the relative merits of “asking someone” (Strop’s inclination) and googling it (mine, of course). We are interrupted by the waitress before anything is resolved. She is wearing an attractively calligraphed label that says Trainee. Hmmm.
By this stage we haven’t made any decisions other than, as winter is still coming, we won’t be have sushi, but we will be having sake. We stall Trainee (telling the waitress to come back later is never a good move in my experience, I think they start to make assumptions about what kind of table you are) while we quickly read the menu, decide to have a bunch of entrees, make selections, then wait for Trainee to come back again. It takes a little while as we are in the far corner and the place is starting to fill up with noisy young people, but eventually we place the order and get on with nattering. The sashimi arrives first quickly followed by the sake. The good thing about sake is that you can feel it doing you good right up to the point when you fall over. Strop always likens it to tripping but this is an analogy too far for me. The sashimi is only salmon but it is good and turns out to be the highlight in a relatively lacklustre collection of flavours. We are partly to blame for this, in deciding to go for a kind of japanese / tapas fusion we have ordered an awful lot of deep fried things. The tempura veges are crispy and not bad but the fish cakes are bland, the octopus is chewy and the soft-shell crab is two halves of one very large beast – it is hard to handle with chopsticks and lacking anything much in the way of flavour. Strop reckons Asakusa isn’t a patch on the Fuji Tempura Bar, which was the first Japanese restaurant we went to, back in the seventies (that’s right, young people, the seventies) where the flavours were new and bright and generally amazing (Hello Don).
By this time I was wishing I had ordered something soupy and noodley instead of entrees. That was when the yakitori confusion started. A previously un-sighted waiter appears at the table saying something about grilled chicken on skewers. I nodded and agreed with him, yes that’s what yakitori is, and yes we are waiting for some. He goes away seemingly happy with my clarification of the matter. We wait a bit longer, drink more sake, and feel better and better. Then another previously unsighted staff member turns up and starts talking about chicken on skewers. Yes, I say, we ordered some. She goes away muttering. I am confused so we have some more sake. Strop goes “Where the fuck is our yakitori?” at the same time as there is a lull in the general hubbub, and everyone looks at her. Well, everyone except the staff. After more sake Strop manages to collar Trainee and put the question to her directly (with the expletive deleted). Looks of surprise abound, luke warm chicken skewers appear. Apparently my answer to the repeated approaches by staff should have been “No, we have not yet received out skewered chicken”. The only lesson I can glean from this fiasco is that I should never be allowed to talk to waiters without an adult present (in my defence I will just say that none of the waiters actually brought the yakitori to the table to ask if it was ours).
I had been going to have dessert – something called Golden Banana – which I assume is code for banana fritter but I will never know now – it was not available. As we finished off the rest of the sake I convinced Strop that cocktails-in-lieu-of-dessert was called for to cheer us up. We decanted ourselves next door to Jester Seeds where we sat right at the front, and spent the remainder of the evening sipping exotically flavoured alcohol while disparaging the passing parade and generally amusing each other. We also managed to scare off quite a few of the younger clientele.
Next up is Basil, which we actually did last Tuesday, but it’s been a confusing week.