The local shrine had a festival this past weekend, and in the spirit of procrastination, I walked down to eat street food and scoop up goldfish with a paper scoop. Hey, I was even pretty good at it, too.
I hit the gym early last week for the first time in 18 months. It felt awful.
It wasn’t the inability to lift any significant weight, the fact that I couldn’t sit without screaming for two days, or the sudden, crushing need to go to bed at 8pm. It wasn’t even the blow to my ego.
For reasons that still elude, I’ve always loved lifting at the gym. The strategic lighting that does the impossible – making invisible muscles suddenly pop and evening out sleepy skin tone without concealer, foundation, whatever – and the music of clanging plates had been a kind of sanctuary. Humming with adrenaline in the power rack, I couldn’t believe I’d left this place for so long, how fearful I’d been to crawl back.
Happy in a way I haven’t been here in Tokyo, I hit legs twice last week. “Noob move,” Josh said after I told him I did squats and deadlifts on my first day back, “I wish you were here so I could punch you in the quads.” He was right. I spent half of yesterday – my second heavy leg day in the same week – sprawled motionless on my bed, sweating and feeling clammy at the same time, tired but restless and nauseous. The stress of a few pathetic deadlifts had also touched an emotional nerve that felt intensely raw. I cried for no reason, then promptly passed out.
Through it all – the overloaded CNS manifested in utter exhaustion and a mini meltdown – I remembered a particular berry crumble cake. I remembered the chewy oats, the soft crumb of a sweet, cinnamon-scented cake contrasted against the tartness of berries, the shortbread-like bottom crust. I couldn’t move, but I would have walked to Sunday Bake Shop again if it had been open.
Open on Sunday and somewhat inexplicably on Wednesday, I’d trekked over there with my sister-in-law last week. An adorable space tucked away in Hatsudai, a long table greets customers, laden with brownies, pound cakes, carrot cupcakes, perfect cheesecakes, and small mountains of scones. The open kitchen in the back lends a view to the entire process, where trays of pastries come out of ovens and on that day, a focaccia was being prepared. Seating is limited, but the espresso machine entices lingering over baked goods with friends.
We headed home with two boxes of deliciousness. The carrot cupcakes disappeared before I got a taste, but I inhaled half of the berry crumble cake later that day. I’m still thinking about it.
I was lucky enough to get a good friend to visit me in Tokyo a few days after arriving home. He put up with my jet lag while we checked out Omotesando Koffee...
Let me drag him to an owl cafe...
Went to an amazingly cool whisky bar, Zoetrope...
Had more coffee at my favorite coffee place, Cafe de l'ambre...
And did other cool, designer stuff because Kyle is cool and designer-y.
Thanks for visiting - we'll do it again soon!
As gluttonous as I am, fine dining often sends me into a panic. Mention Michelin stars and I start to sweat a little. “A restaurant like…like the kind that involves forks?” I’m always tempted to ask while I mentally try to assemble an outfit in which I can drop a knife and wait for a waiter to pick it up without looking like an enormous asshole. Dim lighting and multiple knives might get some girls off, but if I have to eat with a fork, give me diner food with free coffee refills over The French Laundry, any day. Take me somewhere that provides chopsticks, and odds are you’ll make me very, very happy.
This can be somewhat awkward and difficult to explain to most friends, unless it’s a boyfriend on a budget. People think my discomfort can be chalked up to nervousness or politeness, and to an extent, they are right. Suppressing my characteristically crude personality while simultaneously trying to politely finagle a piece of blue fin tuna tartar topped with foie gras foam into my mouth tends to set off my anxiety. It’s not that I’m incapable of appreciating haute cuisine, I just don’t like how fine dining involves an obstacle course of inquiring waiters, cutlery of various sizes, and a tablecloth that seems to accentuate any crumb that falls on its surface. Navigating this while requiring me to be interesting, engaging, and possessing razor sharp table manners is like asking me to wheelie up a mountain side while chugging a handle of vodka. The idea is, you know, kind of stressful.
Sometimes, however, the stars will happily align. There will be no forks, no knives, and no annoying waiters. Great company, chopsticks, and a Michelin star will be provided. In late January I went to dinner with Adam at Sushi Ko, and had the best meal of my life.
A one hundred and thirty year old establishment nestled in Ginza, Sushi Ko – which literally, and appropriately, means “happiness” – is meticulously managed but surprisingly comfortable. Seating only a handful of customers, the setting is intimate yet respectful; there is as much opportunity to converse with the sushi chef as to have your own private conversations. There is no menu and ordering is almost done for you. “The omakase course?” I was asked, and I nodded, before turning to Adam. “I just…I kind of just ordered for us…”
Despite that initial facepalm moment [okay, there was another one where I asked “do you have sake?” and then had my “I’m not an idiot” card full revoked], our serendipitous luck continued as we were seated in front of possibly the only sushi chef in Tokyo who had been a serious amateur road cyclist back in the 1980s. On learning that Adam is pro cyclist, we talked about LeMond, racing in Japan, and mountainside crashes. All between bites of perfectly crafted sushi.
It is customary for most sushi chefs to ask if you have certain fish you can’t eat. Usually, I would definitively refuse to eat uni, or sea urchin. The orange, textured flesh, with its creamy texture and distinctive aroma, is an expensive treat that I habitually decline. “Ugh, uni,” I am known to say. “You don’t like it because you’ve never had good uni,” my father likes to tell me. I give him the response that all daughters are required to give their fathers: I roll my eyes.
Unfortunately, Sushi Ko proved him really, really right.
When presented with uni, which Adam wasn’t a fan of either, we hesitated. But determined to prove my father wrong, and figuring I could just hold my breath and swallow most of it if it was as unappetizing as I expected, I popped it in my mouth.
It couldn’t have been choreographed better. Adam and I both turned to look at each other in mutual shock and awe. It was completely, unbelievably delicious.
It wasn’t even the best part. We almost passed out in bliss later, when we were presented with sushi made from the broiled skin of Striped Jack. It sounds questionable, I know, and looked suspicious, but was possibly the most amazing thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. “I’m so happy,” I told Adam, “I’m just going to go lie down and die now.”
I still feel that I wouldn’t have missed out on too much if I had [okay those post-dinner waffles were good, but still]. Then again, I wouldn’t be alive to tell you all about it. And to insist that if you want sushi to change your life – and I mean that, because, as a Japanese person who loves sushi, it certainly changed mine – that you make reservations at Sushi Ko.
Sushi Ko Honten
6-3-8 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061
Tel: +81 (03) 3571-1968
I’m bloated. There is eyeliner residue still stuck all over my eyelids [yes, I did shower]. My legs don’t want to support my weight today [not only because I’m a few kgs heavier].
I’ve ridden a grand total of two hours in the past four days and am currently fully committed to flaking out on today’s power intervals [sorry, coach!].
But since the day before started with eating apple pie, in an alley, with Adam Hansen, and ended with the best meal I’ve had in my life so far, I am also committed to not caring about the consequences.
Let’s do it again, soon, Adam.
[Picture above taken by Adam. See his tweet for some extra food porn.]
Headed to Narita airport yesterday to do brunch, lots of coffee and a 8-hour-ish layover hang out sesh with one of my favorites.
Adam even posed for a message to Josh:
And, as if that wasn't cool enough, he gave me a super exclusive 2014 team issue Lotto-Belisol cap. These are fucking amazing.
Thanks so much Adam, and see you soon!