March 06, 2006

Allez Cuisine! - a vicarious (for now) food fantasy

John and I haven't had a lot of luck on the Food Network celebrity chef circuit.

Morimoto's in Philadelphia was a complete bust -- way too much money for some of the smallest sushi I've ever seen, most of which was flown in from California. I know I set my expectations high, but even if I'd been reasonable, I would have been disappointed.

Emeril's was pretentious, overpriced, and they didn't even get my order right. Salad? Salad? I ordered the Salmon?!?! Lunch at 11:30 and dinner reservations after 9... I'm going to be gnawing on the hotel room furniture.

Except for an interesting appetizer, Border Grill was uninspired. It was good. It just wasn't great.

So when our friend Chris told us that one of the highlights of his recent visit to Japan was lunch at Chen's, I wasn't sure what to expect from his story...

Chris is a musician, a foodie, and a huge Iron Chef fan. He says he spent the flight to Japan watching old episodes on DVD. As his luck would have it, a friend of a dear friend of his works in Chen's restaurant. And they were able to get lunch reservations on a day Chen was actually there (which may have been our mistake at Morimoto's and Border Grill... I don't think Emeril sets foot in any of his restaurants). Chris's friend had billed him as this wonderful traveling musician from the US (which we think he is) and Chen pulled out all the stops for lunch. I'm hoping Chris stops by and comments on what he actually ate that day, because I spent so much time drooling as he described the soup that I can't remember much after that.

Chris & Chen smile for the camera

In even better news (for John and I, who've always wanted to see Japan), Mr. Excitement (that's Chris' stage name) will be spending the next year working in Tokyo. I immediately came home and started counting vacation days... and I think we can make this work. Fourth time's the charm, right?