by Charles J. Waggon
“Fresh pasta, Charlie, she wants to go to a place with fresh pasta.”
Lloyd was new to Tokyo, but doin’ his dang’dest to show he knew his way around. Trying impress this woman he’d met at the beer festival. She’s the one that said “pasta”.
The Skipper’d also met a woman, and she wanted Chinese.
We’d just left the beer festival, where they had rows and rows of taps pourin’ all kinds of beer from small brewers all over Japan. The glass they gave you was small, but you could go back for more and more, all afternoon long.
Towards the end everyone was getting really friendly, and both Lloyd and the Skipper met ladies who took to them. So now we were five hungry beer-soaked folks, leaving Yebisu Garden Place, lookin’ for some chow.
The beer festival was my assistant Kumiko’s idea, but she weren’t around. Loves wine, don’t drink hardly any beer. When Lloyd and the Skipper from U.S. headquarters got booked on a trip to Tokyo and got put up at The Westin, Kumiko used her noggin’ and got them tickets for this beer festival in Yebisu Garden Place, spittin’ distance from the hotel.
“That’ll take care of them for the whole Sunday?’ she told me, as she gave me the envelope with three tickets.
She’d gotten me a ticket, too. Knows I like beer, but didn’t know the last thing I wanted to do was babysit two guys from HQ on a Sunday. Thing about guys from Stateside, the minute they cross the international dateline, they go right into heat. All googly eyed and tongues a waggin’.
A’ course, that’s what had me worried about Lloyd and the Skipper. All that beer poured at the festival was like pourin’ gasoline on a fire. But they’d managed to stay gentlemen, and the ladies they s with seemed like decent folks.
Now, the only problem we had was where to eat. One vote for fresh pasta, one for Chinese, and two guys who’d go anywhere long as the ladies were going there, too. Me? Don’t matter at all, long as I pick the restaurant.
I got a knack for these things. The obvious choice was Toshomen-so in Daikanyama. It’s a Chinese joint what got guys whittling big balls of noodle dough, shootin’ little noodle strips into the cauldron of boiling water. These noodles are specialty of the Xian part of China, and the Japanese pronounce it to-sho-men which means “knife-cut-noodles.”
It was a beautiful day, and we needed to walk off some of that beer, so Ebisu over the hill to Daikanyama was just about right. Five’s also a good number for Chinese food; don’t ask me why.
Went in, got a table and started out with some Xian-style soup dumplings, six for ¥800. Thicker skin and less soup than the Shanghai version, with a soy sauce-flavored pork meatball inside and a sweet-hot dip sauce.
Then a sizzling iron platter of gyoza landed, six for ¥500. These’re different from your Japanese gyoza, filled with very lean pork, and loaded with Chinese chives. Good chewy wrappers, only half closed, tasted freshly made.
More and more dishes kept landing, with my favorite being the nasu otsumami sansho age (¥1,200) which was a very heavenly Japanese eggplant, lightly battered and deep fried, topped with finely chopped garlic, onions, hot pepper and some kind of aromatic white pepper. Said to be one of their most popular dishes; don’t miss it.
We saved the noodles for last, two kinds. Yawaraka buta genkotsu niku toshomen (¥1,000) was made with this beautifully simmered five-spiced pork soft and savory enough to make a roadhouse BBQ joint jealous. The soup was nothing flashy, just your good, honest pork stock The other noodles were the yasai tappuri shojin-fu toshomen (¥750), simple but full of vegetables.
In both dishes, the noodles were damn fresh; I reckon about three seconds between cutting and hitting the boiling water. The uneven thickness gave them a dumpling-like character, with plenty of chewiness.
Fresh pasta, Chinese, mission accomplished. One lady said them’s the best noodles she ever ate, while the other said she’d never had Chinese this good in Tokyo. Couldn’t remember which lady said what, though.
I left that to the guys to sort out, along with the check Cost less than ¥10,000 for all five of us, so they’ll have no trouble expensing it at headquarters. I wished ’em all the best of luck, and headed home to sleep off all that beer.
La Fuente Daikanyama B1
11-1 Sarugakucho Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., last order (until 3 p.m. on weekends and holidays)
Dinner: 5:30 to 10 p.m., last order (until 9 p.m. on Sundays and holidays)