Archive for restaurant

Hot Lips

Posted in Aomori-city with tags , , , on April 20, 2010 by Zack

What is Hot Lips you ask?

Hot Lips is the name of the newest culinary addition to Aomori City. This provocative burger joint is located just a few doors down from the Circle K convenience store next to Aomori City Hall, on the intersection of the National Route 4 and Yanagimachi-dori. Pretty impressive sign, right? Wait to you see the decor…

If it wasn’t for the Japanese katakana syllabary in the back there, you wouldn’t know that it’s Japan. Even the small details, from the salt and pepper shakers down to the pepsi glasses are all Americana. The only thing I can think of that would make it complete would be large fluffy paper napkins in a polished metallic napkin holder. The black and white floor reminds me of Twin Peaks, and on the walls hang Route 66 road signs, a poster version of Warhol’s Marilyn Triptych, and even a Where’s Waldo poster in the bathroom, all making it a very poignantly American experience, even if Where’s Waldo is originally from the UK… But anyway, how is the food?

It’s good! I could tell that the burgers weren’t exactly 100% American and were more close to the Japanese ideal taste of burgers, which is generally a juicy and much softer texture and less beefy taste than American burgers. If you have never seen a Japanese person make a hamburger, then you should know that they get pretty serious about their burgers, tenderizing the patties with lightning fast speed so that the warmth from the hands of the cook won’t affect the taste of the meat. Anyway, the burgers here come in affordable sets including a drink and a salad or fries. There aren’t too many places in Japan besides major fast food burger chains that have burger buns, so I was surprised to learn that the brother of the owner runs a bakery in Aomori, and makes all the buns for the shop. Besides burgers the menu also has pancakes, some pasta, sides, and Loco Moco, a Hawaiian favorite of mine that I have yet to try.

They also have a salmon and shrimp burger, which was really good, so you can also bring vegetarians. The prices are pretty reasonable, drinks are well priced and they have a good mix of beer and different popular cocktails in Japan and of course, whiskey. I haven’t had a chance to go yet for lunch but they have lunch combos too that look great. Oh, and they are open really late, from 11 am to 3 am! I’m hoping that late night pancakes and burgers will catch on here like in the States. Anyway, if you get a chance, try Hot Lips, a gem that offers a taste of Japan in a taste of America in Aomori.

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Nagaimo: The Wonderful Japanese Vegetable

Posted in Aomori-city with tags , , , , on March 1, 2010 by Zack

Do you know what this is?

No, it’s not Bamm-Bamm’s club from the Flintstones… it’s the super vegetable known as the Nagaimo. Nagaimo is a type of yam that is highly nutritious and versatile in its usage. You can’t talk about Nagaimo without mentioning Aomori, as the prefecture is the top producer of Nagaimo in Japan, and Nagaimo can be found just about any produce section of the grocery store here. Peel away the tan skin and small hair-like roots of this vegetable to see its inner milky-white porous beauty that makes it a highly prized ingredient all over Japan. Most commonly grated to make tororo, a type of slimy white goo that is added to buckwheat noodles, soups, or bowls of warm steamed rice, Nagaimo can also be diced into cubes and added to salads to give it an interesting almost water chestnut like texture. Nagaimo can also be fried, roasted, stewed, and just about anything else you can imagine. It has a very fresh and less starchy taste when compared with a potato, so one of my favorite ways to enjoy it is by grinding it up with vanilla ice cream and milk to make a thick healthy milkshake. Nagaimo is rich in vitamin B1, dietary fiber, and many other nutrients. I’ve also heard that Nagaimo has a protein that may be useful in preventing the flu.

Anyway, I had heard about a restaurant in Aomori City that specializes in Nagaimo dishes: Tefūkin, so I was excited when I finally got the opportunity to try this place out. The chef is a master of Nagaimo cuisine and has published an excellent cookbook of just Nagaimo recipes.

Here is the sign, it reads “Tefūkin” – which is a strange name. The three Chinese characters mean hand, wind, and zither-like instrument (koto). What could it possibly mean?

Inside a charming interior welcomes you with old lanterns and antiques, giving a Taisho Romantic (the Japanese equivalent to Victorian) feel to the restaurant.

The owner has many season flowers and plants, as well as birds decorating the restaurant. There was even a recording of birds chirping in the background making for a calming, light, airy atmosphere.

This is Kogin Embroidery, a famous needlework tradition of the Tsugaru area.

A nice kettle keeps warm on a kerosene stove. A very heart and hand warming winter Japanese sight. A hot cup of tea is only a moment’s notice away.

I also noticed an antique accordion and a painting of an accordion. It turns out that the name Tefūkin, (hand-wind-zither), is an archaic word for accordion. You learn something new everyday, and at least the mystery behind the name of the restaurant was solved. Now it was time to eat… there were several dishes to choose from and since I went with a few friends, we choose to try all 3 dishes featuring Nagaimo. Each lunch special was a steal for 1000 yen.

“Cheese Gohan” (Nagaimo and Rice with Melted Cheese) Lunch. Complete with salad, soup, and pickles.

The aroma, color, texture and flavor of this is pure heaven for any cheese junky.

This is the “Korori Ishikoro” (Nagaimo sauteed in butter with croquette). Very savory and flavorful.

Now don’t let your eyes deceive you, this sushi dish “Hatsukoi” is not raw fish but in fact thin slices of Nagaimo painted with a clear, light, sweet sauce. According to the chef, it is the most popular dish and a must-try for the Nagaimo aficionado.

This dish, the “Mushi Buta” or Steamed Pork & Vegetables is made with Garlic Pork, a variety of pork raised in Aomori on a diet including the locally grown speciality, garlic. I thought I could taste the garlic, but I’m not 100% certain, it was amazingly tasty however. It wasn’t made with Nagaimo but is highly recommended anyway.

And what Japanese meal wouldn’t be complete without pickles? Here we have pickled radish and apple from Aomori Prefecture. The sweet and sour tastes were a refreshing match.

And for desert, a warm cup of fresh apple juice from Onizawa, a part of Hirosaki next to Mount Iwaki that produces excellent apples. Served in a square Tsugaru Laquerware coaster. It doesn’t get more Aomori than this…

For more information:

About Aomori Nagaimo (Aomori Prefecture)

Aomori Nagaimo (Aomori Products Export Promotion Council)

Restaurant Name: Tefūkin

Address: 368-8 Sawabe, Sannai, Aomori City

Getting There: Take a taxi from Shin-Aomori Station (5 minutes) or walk on foot (15 minutes)

Lunch Hours: 11 am to 2 pm

Dinner Hours: 5 pm to 9 pm (Reservation made 1 day in advance is required)

Closed on: Mondays

No English menu but you should be able to order any of the above dishes without any problems!