When on the road for Vinesse, I’m often frustrated by restaurant names.
Specifically, some of the names I encounter in the local Yellow Pages when trying to find a place to eat dinner.
For instance: Victor’s. (Or any other name.) Unless Victor’s runs an ad telling me what kind of restaurant it is, I have no idea whether its specialty is French, Italian, Russian or pancakes.
But here in Tokyo, where I’m wrapping up my annual September sojourn, it’s much less of a problem – even with the obvious and sometimes daunting language barrier.
In many cases, when I ask the concierge at my hotel to translate a restaurant’s name, the answer will be along the lines of Yummy Bakery or Finest Fish or Best Teriyaki.
But my favorite has to be a restaurant called, quite succinctly and directly, Porterhouse Steaks. It was recommended to me last year by some Japanese friends, and it is fabulous. Some even say it serves the best steaks in all of Tokyo – quite an assertion in a city that’s just as well known for its beef as for its fresh seafood.
On my visit, I asked the waiter to select the courses, and I’d then match them with a glass of wine from the restaurant’s extensive list – including many French bottlings we never see in the U.S.
I was surprised when my first course turned out to be a bowl of “New England” clam chowder – surprised, but not disappointed.
Next came a watercress and black olive salad with an onion-flavored dressing. More fun for my tastebuds.
Because I wanted to savor every bite of my steak, I asked for my vegetables to be served first, rather than with the meat. The waiter gladly complied, and brought me a plate of steamed-to-perfection broccoli. Then came the main event. I could have opted for a New York strip or filet mignon or ribeye, but when at Porterhouse Steaks, one eats the 21-oz. Porterhouse.
It was cooked with obvious care to precisely medium-rare, and it may have been the best steak I’ve ever had. And each succulent bite was washed down with a delicious French red wine that I’d never heard of.
The moral of the story: When traveling, don’t depend on the phone book to find a good place to eat.
Ask a local.
And, if necessary, ask them to translate.