Originally Posted by SField
BBQ is to me, like most mexican and chinese food. Sinful for me to say so as they are far more varied than BBQ, but I've had very little good mexican, and the only Chinese food I ever really enjoyed was actually Taiwanese homestyle. I'm not joking that my first stop in Tokyo is going to be that Chinese place you refer to. So far, most Chinese food I've had was amorphous slop, distinct yet unremarkable. Hoping to change that once I spend more time in LA.
I'm not sure which way you'd go on Chinese food now - I mean there's this New York thing (so it'll eventually spill out everywhere I guess) nowadays that is going hard right into the middle of Chinese food, hand-pulled noodles in everything (even in dishes that aren't supposed to get them) - NYC can do more authentic Chinese foods, and you know, people like that - these $10-20 dishes of really fucking spicy chicken or lamb chunks in something red, and the hand pulled noodles, what have you. Served up in foil, etc. Almost gritty texture from all the cumin, sichuan pepper, etc.
On the other hand, what I recommended to you, was this really clean, slightly removed version of Chinese food - Japanese-Chinese food, made by 2nd+ gen Chinese chefs, Michelin stars, hotel locations with fine dining style service, etc. A bit stuffy if you think of the other iterations of Chinese food out there, but elegant flavors.
I thought initially that you might be into it, because they do the flavors really nicely and try to go above and beyond with the food the way Western chefs do (whereas innovation is hardly a strong suit with traditional Asian food) without being too fusion-y. As with many foods in Japan (I'll even include some Japanese French here), it takes a sensitive palate and a little concentration sometimes to pick up on all the flavors.
I don't really profess to being a Chinese food expert, but from what you said about liking things like ramen, not liking the starch slurry aspect that gets tied to Chinese food (and many Japanese people actually dislike this too, especially women), the monotony and the flavors all in one slop - I guess I'd still say it wouldn't hurt to try it in Japan, get a few plates and just eat a bite or two of each, that's what we do when we go out to eat Chinese in Japan.
That place in the Westin I went to - Ryutenmon; I think it was like $90 for two at lunch, and the plates we got were 1 lunch set (we split) and then two bowls of the tan tan men, plus a couple $12 beers (it's in the Ebisu Sapporo complex so the beer is Sapporo's specialty beers) - could've skipped one of the bowls of the noodles and got more small a la carte plates and had like 5 or 6 things to taste.
soup of the the day - chicken stock based, unremarkable (I do like Chinese soups though, especially the ones based on superior stock) - soup of the day in these places is always unremarkable.
baby bok choy in cream sauce - interesting and almost un-Chinese, worth a couple bites. Nice change-up from the typical garlic stir-fried greens you get. Tasted like blanched bok choy in a thin bechamel, which is probably not far off from what it was.
mapo tofu - again, really the best mapo tofu I've ever had. So elegant and flavorful, with that interesting jasmine-flavored Japanese grown sichuan peppercorn
tan tan men - kinda like a Ramen I guess, pork and soy milk broth with a bit of spice, hand made thin noodles, only garnish was green onion threads. We got cold and hot versions because it's off the menu (but their most popular dish) and that pushed the cost up $30 alone, but just get the hot version for the $15 or so, it's enough for two people as well.
forgot what dessert was, but obviously a pudding or custard of some sort.
I'm actually going back to Tokyo next week and staying at the Conrad, they have a michelin-starred modern Chinese place in there too, gonna try it. Have a feeling the Westin place might be better, but we'll see. Might try some others too and report back. If you do come to Tokyo later, call me out and we can all go. My woman knows a lot more about this stuff and the places to go. I'll probably be in Tokyo permanently in a couple months, slight 10% chance I move to New York.
Originally Posted by SField
I'd say the same of most undeveloped food cultures. Same thing in America. Low end can be great, high end as good as anywhere, but middle sucks. The best food countries have the best middle ground that both peasant and prince can afford. (the former on occasion, of course..
Curious as to which countries these are? I mean, quite obviously France, and Japan (if you say about 50 Euro/5000 yen for a small to medium sized meal for one with some sort of drink qualifies as the mid-range)...