Saturday, July 30, 2011

California Chicken

If you've been here for a little while, you've probably already heard about California Chicken.

Boy does this place bring back lots of memories.....of the days when I used to party until 3 or 4 in the morning and head on over to California's for a bag of chicken to take home. Yes, the Marines used to be able to party all night here. And California Chicken used to open at around 9 or 10pm and stay open until 3 or 4am. Now they open around 5pm and I'm not sure what time they close. My guess would be around 1am since the most of his customers have to be out of the bars by midnight. The owner has watched me grow from a party girl into a girl who rarely stays up past 10pm anymore. I do make an exception every now and then and have been known to party until midnight. I know. Pretty impressive huh?

Now that I am done impressing you, I suppose I should tell you a little more about California Chicken. The chicken is amazing. Especially after you've been drinking. You know you gotta have that drunk food. Everyone has a spot they go to after drinking. Right? For some, it's Taco Bell (in the States....and I don't get it) and for a lot of people here in Iwakuni, it's California Chicken.

Here are a couple of shots of the menu -

The hot dogs are pretty good. I haven't tried the spicy one, but I hear that it is very spicy! The fries are really good (I crave fries when I drink) and the fried rice is also pretty amazing!

Oh! I had to take a picture of this because I have never heard of this or seen it anywhere else.
Mountain Dew Grape! I don't like Mountain Dew, but I love the pretty purple can!! This vending machine is in California Chicken.

Okay. Back to the food. I am so easily distracted sometimes.

I used to always get the bag of chicken with the mayo/ketchup sauce. Mmmmm. So good. Now that I am older and trying (I did say "trying") to be a little better about what I eat at midnight, I usually get the chicken sandwich and share it. Not to say that you shouldn't have the chicken because you absolutely should! Just go at 5pm and get it for dinner instead. Andy got a bag of chicken and Kelly and I got a chicken sandwich.
Chicken sandwich.

Big time fail on this picture of the bag of chicken....but you can see what kind of bag it comes in.

Then I got smart and just took a piece out and set it on the bag.

We took our food to our favorite little karaoke place by the base, Niagara. It's not very big, but we love the guys who work there. And we just love to sing. It's 200yen per song. Oh. AND they let us bring our food in and take pictures of it and eat it.

What a great evening. I'm really going to miss my friend Kelly and her goofy husband, Andy.

It's one thing I don't like about being on a military base......saying goodbye. We didn't say goodbye though because we are already making plans of seeing each other again very soon.

To get to California Chicken, go out the main gate and go straight through the intersection after the railroad tracks. Once you go through, you'll keep going straight for just a little bit (maybe not even a minute if you are driving). California Chicken is on your right side. Just look for the American Flag and the California sign -
Great food and the owner is a wonderful, friendly guy!

Uhei (Fish Tank)

Last night I was a total pig. So much so that I have two places to blog about! Seriously.

It was Kelly and Andy's last night in Iwakuni (sad face) so we asked them where they wanted to go and what they wanted to do. They wanted to go to a few of the local bars one last time. Since we were staying close to base, we decided Uhei would be a great place for dinner. I haven't been to Uhei's since last year. It's a nice little izakaya close to base. Izakaya is a type of restaurant. The best way I can describe it is that it's and eat/drink place. The dishes you order are smaller portions so you can order a bunch of different things and kind of munch and drink. They are also meant to be shared. This way you get to have a variety of food. The food at Uhei is good. They even have a party room upstairs to accommodate larger groups.

We sat down and the guys ordered beers while Kelly and I ordered some hot tea and started looking over the menu. Let me preface this by saying, we were supposed to go to dinner about ...umm...two hours before this so we were all starving by the time we arrived at the restaurant. Starving!

We did share a basket of fried pickles at the club a few hours before heading to dinner.
The fried pickles at the club on base are addictive!

Okay. Back to our dinner. We picked out what we wanted and wrote them down on the piece of paper they provide on the table. We then handed our paper over to the really nice lady who works there. Within a few minutes, she came back with one of our items.
Edamame. I think I could eat bowl after bowl of these and be happy.

Then came our next dish -
Fried gyoza. Oh my gosh....isn't everything better fried??

After that, she just kept bringing out dish after dish after dish...
Sashimi platter

Tako and maguro sushi

Yakitori with onions and yakitori without onions

Tempura platter. Andy was ready to dig in! The pumpkin and the shrimp were so good!!!!

We were pretty stuffed and happy at this point. We still had some bars to hit and one more food stop before the night was over though so we decided to move on.

To get to Uhei's, go out main gate and go straight. At the light you want to make a hard right into the small road on the other side of the gas station that's on your right. As soon as you make the hard right, you'll see a small parking lot on your left. That is the parking for Uhei. Uhei is right next to the parking lot.

The light was on when we arrived, but I guess it was pretty late when we left. They are open from 5pm - 11pm (last order is at 10:30pm). Closed on Sundays.

If you're looking for something quick and near the base, Uhei is a great place to try out. You can even walk to it. I should have. I needed to work off all of the fried food I ingested throughout the evening. We did walk to the bar we went to afterwards. Does that count?

I wasn't done eating though. Check out my next blog to read about where we went for more food.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lantern Festival food

I was so excited about the Lantern Festival and all of the "festival food" I was going to partake in. Then I got out there and was disappointed. It wasn't anything like the normal festival food. No grilled squid on a stick. No cotton candy! I know! THAT should not be allowed. No grilled corn on the cob. I think that's why it took me so long to blog about it (4 days!). It takes me a few days to get over food disappointment. I mean....I could almost taste that grilled squid I was going to have.

I shouldn't be so down about it though. I should embrace the food that they did have. It was kind of neat I guess. They had food trucks from different areas set up in a parking lot. There was the Sasebo Burger truck. Sasebo burgers are supposed to be amazing. Unfortunately, it's best to get one in Sasebo so I had to pass. There were a few selling shaved ice.
Okay. That is festival food. I just wasn't in the mood for it. Then we saw a takoyaki (these doughy balls with octopus in the middle) truck. I got a little excited. We're getting somewhere. Unfortunately, Jason is not a big fan of takoyaki so we kept looking. There was a taco truck. Interesting. I have never seen a taco truck in Japan. I might have to do it.
Saw another shaved ice truck, but they also sold fresh strawberry softcream. Mmmmm!! But I need real food. Focus, Linda. That's when we saw it. IT was going to be our dinner. Yakisoba wrapped in an omelet.
Who knew? It smelled good, and it looked good. There was a line (usually a good sign). We stood in line and bought one to share. While standing in line, I noticed a truck that was selling beef wrapped rice balls. Really? How could I pass that up? We got our "omu-soba" and looked for a couple of seats. Luckily, there were some ladies who were just leaving so we grabbed their seats. We sat down and started eating the yakisoba. It was so good. We gobbled it up in no time.
Doesn't that look good?!

After we finished our omu-soba, I got up and went over to the beef wrapped rice ball truck and bought one for us to share. I took a picture, but I can't post it because it looks offensive. Seriously. Offensive. So, I tasted it and it was......not very good. The meat tasted like it was marinated in this really weird sauce. I took one bite and was done with it. Jason didn't like it either. As much as I hate throwing food away, that one went in the trash.

I'm looking forward to the festival at Kintai on 6 August. There will be all kinds of stalls with all of the wonderful festival food I crave. Candied apples, cotton candy, yakitori, grilled corn on the cob, and more! Bring it on! I also have to let you know, there will be an amazing fireworks display at the end of the evening. It is really beautiful! Buy a Yukata (summer kimono) if you don't already have one (Fuji Grand is having a huge sale on them right now) and head to Kintai on Saturday, the 6th.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Shiva Restaurant (Indian style food)

Our plan was to go to G-Labo for lunch today. Unfortunately, they were closed. Apparently, they are closed ever Tuesday. So then we tried to go to Ronin, which is very close to G-Labo. Yeah, they were closed too. And so were the steak place and the Chinese place we tried to go to. So we went to Shiva instead. Because they were open, and we were hungry.

We walked in and it's a nice little place. Not super big, but not really small either. We looked over the lunch menu and we all decided to get the A Lunch Set. It came with curry (you get to choose from four different kinds), nan, salad, and a little bit of rice. I'm not sure if it normally includes a drink (it didn't look like it on the menu), but he gave us drinks at no extra charge. So, it was 780yen for everything. Not bad. Here is what comes with the A Lunch -
Small salad. It was okay.

My chicken curry, nan, and rice. You get a choice of chicken curry, pork curry, kema curry, or vegetable curry.

I thought the curry tasted fine, but I think I like the nan better at Ganesh.

To get to Shiva, go out of the main gate and turn right at four corners (the intersection after the railroad tracks). Follow the road all the way downtown. You'll pass Fuji Grand on your right. Keep going until you come to a rotary (it should be the fourth light after Fuji Grand). You will turn left at the rotary, and at the first light you will make another left. Make the first right turn and park at the pay parking on your left. It's 100yen per hour and close to quite a few restaurants. You should see the covered shopping area and you should see Ganesh. Shiva is across from Ganesh and to the left a little. Here is what it looks like on the outside.

Were any of you here in the 80's or 90's? If so, this front door might look a little familiar to you. There was an arcade a bunch of us would hang out at in the covered shopping area. This was it!!! The arcade shut down some time ago. Not sure what it was before it became Shiva, but every time I see that door I think about the arcade. Brings back memories....oops. I digress.

If you are in the mood for some nan and curry, check out Shiva. I thought it was reasonably priced for lunch and the food was good. Yes, I prefer the nan at Ganesh but I'm not saying the nan at Shiva is bad. Just different.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Kikutei Restaurant (Yakiniku)

Last Saturday night we went out to dinner with some friends. It was a farewell dinner for our friends, Kelly and Andy. It was a great time, but bittersweet also since it was going to be their last Saturday night here in Iwakuni.

We went to Kikutei for dinner and the food was good as always. I have to say I do have mixed feelings about Kikutei. Everyone usually gets the all-you-can-eat-and-drink dinner when they go. There are usually coupons in the Preview for 300yen off. That's what we did last night. For me and Jason, it was 6900yen with the coupons. The spread is pretty amazing. I did take pictures (of course!).
You get a huge platter of beef and chicken and veggies.

Chicken in a wonderful sesame sauce and garlic bread. Both are super yummy!

And it comes with salad too. I don't know what kind of dressing they use, but it is very tasty.

It is a yakiniku (fried meat) restaurant so you will be cooking your own food on a little grill in the middle of your table. For those of you who feel that when you go out to eat it's so you DON'T have to cook, this restaurant is not for you. Some of you may think that is funny, but years ago I made reservations for a bunch of people at a yakiniku restaurant and one of the guys actually complained about having to cook his own food. I thought everyone would like it and think it was a neat experience. He was really upset. I never thought of it that way before because I've always enjoyed it, but I guess he kind of had a point. So, I cooked for him.

The drink menu is pretty decent. They have a good selection of alcoholic drinks and non-alcoholic drinks. I don't think it's on the menu, but I always get the ume (plum) sour. You should try a few of the sours to see which one you like the best. In the winter time I like getting umeshu no oyu wari. It's plum sake mixed with hot water. Mmmm. Perfect when it's cold outside.
This is just part of the drink menu

There are some individual tables downstairs, but if you have a group of people you can reserve the rooms upstairs. As you can see, everything is on the table and ready for you when you arrive. We were upstairs since there were eleven of us.

They won't bring the little grills or take drink orders until everyone in your party has arrived. There is a 2 hour limit for the all-you-can-eat-and-drink, and the time starts as soon as the first drink order is placed.

Once they bring the little grill to your table, you are ready to get started.
We didn't waste any time filling the grill up with food!

There are two sauces on the table for you to dip your food into once it's cooked. One sauce is a little spicy (not really) and the other one is supposed to be a little sweeter. I usually mix the two.

This is where my mixed feelings come into play. If you don't want to do the all-you-can-eat-and-drink plan, they do offer a family platter (3500yen). You can also order other items individually. I've been here a few times and I have done both. When there are children in the group, or if I know we are not going to be drinking I prefer to order the family platter. I feel like we waste food when we get the all you can eat because we always have food left over. We don't have that problem when we order the family platter, and it's less expensive.

To get to Kikutei, head out the main gate. At four corners (intersection after the railroad tracks), make a right. Go straight until you pass Fuji Grand (it will be on your right). At the second light after you pass Fuji Grand, turn left. Go straight through a mini intersection and then at the next little intersection, you should see this building on the left corner -
You have arrived!

The owner speaks English and they have English menus. The service is good and the staff is friendly. Whether you're looking for a place to have a large gathering, or you just want to have a nice family dinner, Kikutei is a definite must try. Reservations are recommended. The number is 0827-30-1234.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Akiyama Sushi (conveyor belt sushi)

There are a few conveyor belt sushi joints in Iwakuni, but my absolute favorite is Akiyama. I think some people call it "The Wave" or "The Big Wave". The first time someone told me about "The Wave", I had no idea what they were talking about and told them they would have to show me where this amazing sushi restaurant was. As we got up to it, I said " mean Akiyama!" We had a good laugh about it.

I guess I can see why people call it "The Wave"
There is a big wave on the side of the building.

Even though you can see the sushi going around on the conveyor belt, they do have menus. If you don't see what you want on the conveyor, you can order what you want. They also have miso soup, udon, and a few other little dishes that you can order. And they do have English menus.

If you've never been to a sushi-go-around before, you should try it. First of all, it's cool to watch the many plates of sushi go by.
See? Pretty cool huh? It's even better in person.

Second of all, it's fast. Short on time? No problem. Just sit down and start picking up what you want. I've had lunch in 15 minutes before. even if you order something, they make it pretty quickly.

Don't like raw fish? No worries. They have cooked items also. One of my favorites is the "salmonfly roll" (I think they meant salmonFRY roll, but that's just me).

They also have boiled shrimp.

I don't have pictures of all the different selections they have, but they do have a few cooked items on the menu.

The prices are based on the color of the plate, and they start from 126yen per plate and go up to 525yen. The 525yen plates are usually the fatty tuna or the crab.

Some of you might be asking why I would prefer Akiyama over the 105 Sushi down the street. Yes, the 105 is very cheap. Each plate is 105yen. I can taste a difference in the fish though. Akiyama tastes like fresh fish and 105 tastes like frozen fish to me. I love sushi. A lot. So I would rather pay a little more in order to get good sushi. I also think the rice tastes different at the 105. I prefer the rice at Akiyama. Don't take my word for it though. Try the 105, and then try Akiyama. See if you notice a difference.

There is one sushi I always get when I go to Akiyama.
I love the salmon with onions and mayo. Mmmmm!

If you don't like wasabi, you can order the sushi you want and just request no wasabi. Or you can look to see if they have these cute things going around -
Most children don't like wasabi so they put the wasabi-less sushi on these cute things and send them around the conveyor. It's okay. I grab the sushi off of them all of the time. I don't like wasabi.

Akiyama will also do take out. You can go and order what you want off the menu and they will prepare it and put it in a take out container for you. You will be charged a container fee, but I think it is only 30yen.

If you go on the weekend, go early. It gets very busy and you may have to wait a while if you go later in the evening. If you go and the parking lot is full, they have additional parking across the street.

Now for the directions. The easiest way to get there is to go out of the Monzen gate. As you are coming out of the gate go to the right. Stay to the left and make the left turn. About a minute or two down the road, you will see a side road on your right. Turn right there. Go over the railroad tracks and you will come to a light (Yellow Hat will be on your left). Turn left at the light. As you drive down the street, you'll see the 105 on your right. Keep going and you'll come to another light. Akiyama is on your right side right after you go through this light.

If you feel more comfortable going out of main gate, then exit main gate and go straight until you get to four corners (the first intersection after you go over the railroad tracks). Turn left and go straight for a little while. You'll go over a bridge. Keep going straight. Eventually, you'll see Yellow Hat on your left and then the 105 on your right. Keep going and you'll come to a light right after you pass the 105. Go through the light and Akiyama is right there on your right.

If you have never had conveyor belt sushi, I encourage you to give it a try. It's a great experience and it's good sushi.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ninnikuya Manao Thai Food Restaurant

I headed up to Hiroshima today with my good friend Kelly and her friend Andrea (hope I spelled her name right). Since Kelly is leaving in a couple of weeks (boooooo!!), she got to pick our lunch spot. She said right away, "Manao!". I have never been to Manao so I was happy to go. I love trying new places! Then she said it was Thai food. GOOD Thai food. Hmmm...even better.

We made our way to the restaurant (after a little pit stop at Zara) and the place was pretty busy. We got one of the last open tables. I have to tell you right off the bat that the menu is in Japanese AND English. I took a picture of part of the menu.
I obviously need to pay attention in photography class more. Sorry, this isn't such a great picture, but it gives you a very small taste of their menu. Kelly says the dinner menu is a LOT bigger than the lunch menu. I will have to come back for dinner!

After looking over the menu, I decided I had to have a fruit shake (highly recommended by Kelly!). The problem was trying to decide what flavor I wanted. Mango sounded yummy! But so did the watermelon, and the pineapple....I could go on and on. I finally decided to go with the watermelon. Kelly chose the mango. Unfortunately, they were out of mango (it's very popular) so Kelly went with coconut. Now we had to decide on what to eat. They offer lunch sets for 900yen. Kelly and Andrea decided to go with a lunch set. Kelly got the chicken green curry, and Andrea got the kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) curry. Ohhhh! I wanted to try to kabocha curry! I LOVE Japanese pumpkin! I asked our server if it was really spicy and she said yes so I had to pass. I decided on this pork/basil/rice with fried egg on top dish. I love anything with basil in it. Kelly also ordered some fresh spring rolls for us to munch on while we waited for our food.

Because Kelly and Andrea ordered lunch sets, they each got a salad.
I got excited when I saw the salads because they had some goya in them. Goya is like a bitter cucumber (kinda??). I love it!!! When I go to Okinawa I eat as much as I can!! According to Kelly and Andrea, the salad was good.

Then they brought out the fresh spring rolls.
Wow! These were so good. There were vegetables and some chicken in the middle. The sauce that came with it was really tasty too. Big hit with us! Just to let you know though, there are only two pieces in one order.

While we were oohing and ahhing over the fresh spring rolls, they brought our fruit shakes over.
Oh my gosh! Mine was so amazing. It was really like eating fresh, sweet watermelon. I tasted Kelly's and if you like coconut, you will love the coconut fruit shake. Even though they call it a "shake", it's pure fruit and ice. I want to go back and try them all!

At this point, I'm pretty happy with this place that Kelly brought me to. Apparently a lot of people feel the same way she does about Manao because I realize there are people waiting for a table now. Quite a few people.

They start to bring our meals over.
First out is Kelly's green curry with chicken.

Then they brought out Andrea's kabocha curry. Oh my goodness. It smelled so good.

Then it was my pork/basil/rice with fried egg on top dish.

Kelly has had the green curry before and she says it's her favorite. She tasted the kabocha curry though and I think she is going to change her favorite (sorry green curry!). Andrea said it was awesome. I wish I could tell you what the spice levels were like, but they both said they didn't think it was too spicy. This is coming from two ladies who usually get level 6 or 7 at Ganesh. I'm a level 1. If you like spicy, you'll be just fine. If you don't like spicy (like me), then there are some options for you. My lunch was really good. Great flavors, and they give you a lot. Maybe I was full from the fresh spring rolls and the yummy watermelon shake, but I couldn't eat all of my food.

The prices are not bad (just don't think about the crappy exchange rate!). My lunch was about 1,500yen. That included my watermelon shake. The atmosphere is nice and the staff is very friendly and helpful. I will definitely be going back to check out their dinner menu!!

Here is my attempt at giving some decent directions. I should have put a disclaimer on my blog because sometimes I am not the best direction giver.

If you know the covered shopping arcade, we're okay. The best directions I can give would be -
If you are at the big Starbucks that is across from Parco's, keep walking down the covered arcade past Starbuck's and away from Parco. You'll pass a Claire's on your right. Keep going. Or you can stop in Claire's and do a little shopping. At the very first side street you come to on you right, turn right. There's a little convenience store there. Walk a little (like a minute) and you'll come to a tiny little intersection. Manao's is on the corner on your right. You have to go upstairs. You should see these pictures and this sign at the bottom of the steps -

There are a couple of places I have to stop at when I go to Hiroshima. One is Starbucks, and the other is a place called Choco Cro. Kelly turned me on to Choco Cro too. They are amazing little croissants with chocolate inside.
I can't go home without buying a box of them. Yes. A box. It's approximately 750yen for a box....or it might have been 780yen. I don't even look at the price. I know I'm buying a box no matter what. Sometimes they have strawberry ones. Oh, those are my favorite. I'm not gonna lie. These are not good for you. But they sure do taste good!

Feel free to post some of your favorite spots in Hiroshima. I would love to get ideas for other restaurants to try. And the next time you're in Hiroshima and you are in the mood for great Thai food, head over to Manao's. I am pretty sure you'll be happy you did.