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Posts from the ‘Restaurant Review’ Category

Day 17: Cocido de Sol

Several weeks ago, my Japanese friend invited me to go grocery shopping with her. Her German friend has a gluten sensitivity and had asked for her help translating labels in hopes of finding some gluten-free foods at the local grocery store. They were going together the following day and she thought I might like to join them. I wasn’t working that day, so I jumped at the chance of finding new things I could cook with or eat. With her help, I found a lot of great stuff. It was a great morning.

After shopping, she suggested we all grab some lunch. Japanese malls have an endless amount of dining options. Between the food court and all of the different restaurants available, my friend assumed we would be able to find a safe place for me to eat. One by one, she approached a staff member from each restaurant and asked to see their allergy menu*. One by one they happily handed it to her. And, one by one she quickly realized everything had gluten in it (with the exception of steamed rice).

After the fourth or fifth restaurant, she finally gave up, apologizing profusely. I assured her there was nothing to apologize for; that’s just what living with celiac disease is like.

A couple of weeks ago, that same friend messaged me – she’d found a restaurant nearby with gluten free options: Cocido de Sol in Machida. It’s not a gluten-free restaurant, so there’s a risk of cross-contamination, but many of the menu items are naturally gluten free and the chef had told assured her I could eat there. We made plans to go last Sunday, and I have to say, the place did not disappoint. In fact, it exceeded my expectations.

The owner (who also happens to be the sole chef) went above and beyond to ensure I had plenty of options to choose from, and the staff was great about asking questions and explaining potential issues with dishes that might contain gluten or dairy.

When it came time to order, we chose a bunch of different appetizers and my husband and friends ordered a couple of paellas to share. I ordered the streak plate because the paella broth had gluten in it. As the food cans out, each dish seemed better then the last. Everything was delicious! We ate so much that by the time the paellas came out, we were all stuffed. My husband and friends weren’t sure they’d be able to eat it.

As the server handed out fresh bowls and silverware for the paella, I was surprised when he handed me one. I reminded him I couldn’t eat it, assuming he’d forgotten, but he assured me I could. It turned out the chef had wanted me to be able to eat the paella with my husband and friends, so he had modified the recipe to make it gluten free.

I was floored. To be honest, at that moment, I was so surprised, I don’t think I reacted as well as I should have. This may sound dumb, but I actually felt sort of embarrassed that he’d gone through so much trouble. The restaurant was packed with people and he was cooking everything by himself. I felt like a burden, and I was so full I wasn’t even sure I could eat another bite. But, what else could I do? I couldn’t be rude. I had to try it, so I did. And man, it was so good! It blew every other dish out of the water. Despite feeling like my stomach was about to burst, I refilled my bowl at least two more times.

By the time we paid our check and left, the initial embarrassment had faded away and the enormity of the chef’s kindness had finally set in. The fact that he had gone to so much trouble just so I could enjoy the paella with everyone else at the table meant so much to me. I said thank you to him the best I could in the little bit of Japanese I know, but I still left feeling like I failed to adequately express just how grateful I was for everything he did for me that night.

I fully intend to return to his restaurant soon and recommend it to everyone I know. Again, it’s not a gluten-free restaurant, so there is a risk of cross-contamination, but I felt like the chef and his staff did everything possible to minimize that. It’s definitely a place to check out if you find yourself in Machida craving some Mediterranean/Spanish food (or even if you’re not).

*Random thought: I had no clue before that day that most larger restaurants have allergy menus. You just have to ask to see them.

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Day 8: Adventures in gluten-free dining

I woke up feeling a lot better this morning. I still have some symptoms lingering about, but the stomach pain is gone. And no stomach pain means I’m a much happier person at the moment.

We started off this warm Sunday morning picking blueberries at a local farm with some friends.

It was a lot of fun. The little man had a great time eating blueberries and filling his bucket (for the first couple of minutes). Then he discovered there were little frogs scattered about the greenhouse, so he and the other kids went searching for them. We grown-up types continued to pick (and eat) blueberries to our heart’s content. I may or may not have eaten my weight in blueberries by the time we were done.

After stuffing our faces with said blueberries, we went to Hamazushi for lunch (somehow we were still hungry) – this is where the adventure began.

I learned from my Japanese friend that most larger restaurants have an allergen menu they can provide upon request. With that in mind, I asked an employee for one when we arrived. I assumed it would in Japanese (which it was), but I figured I could make it work. I have the Google translate app – I was ready for the challenge.

I did not anticipate that it would be 4 pages of very, very small print.

So there I was, fighting with Google translate.

First, I tried translating it by section. I assumed trying to do the entirety page at once wouldn’t work. Unfortunately, it couldn’t seem to figure out where one item ended and the next one began.

Then I tried looking up the Japanese names for the items I wanted to find, so that I could search for them manually – but, that didn’t really work either.

I tried just doing the automatic translation thing, but that was a disaster too.

I really didn’t want to bother the staff and ask for help. I know it may sound dumb, but I wanted to figure it out on my own. I was getting increasingly frustrated though, so I caved and asked someone to please point out the two items I thought (hoped) might be safe. She kindly obliged. Both had gluten.

At that point I considered giving up. I figured I could just sit there and sip on my Coke until everyone was done eating. Fortunately, I had one last idea:

Hamazushi is a conveyer belt sushi chain. Once you get to your table, you place your order using the small computer screen. The sushi is then delivered to your table via the conveyor belt. There’s an option to view the menu and order in English, so it’s super easy. Every item has a picture to go along with it too, just in case your not sure what something is. Instead of trying to Google translate all of the items that did not have gluten or milk in them on the menu, I decided to go through the English menu and chose the different things I wanted to eat. Then I switched to the Japanese menu and searched for the photos that matched those items. I took a picture of each of the names of the items I wanted in Japanese and then proceeded to search the 4-page menu for each. It was a tad time consuming at first, but once I found the first one, it was easy to find the others. They seemed to be grouped together in the same way on both the allergen and computer menus.

Thankfully, it worked, and I was able to order some prosciutto sushi and edamame. It was all really good!

Granted, I am assuming there is a risk of cross-contamination. Unless you eat at a dedicated gluten-free restaurant, there’s always a risk. It’s the unfortunate part of eating out with celiac disease.

I’m sure someone might wonder why bother even taking the risk (especially after my post from last night). Well, that’s not easy to answer. But I’ll try – in a future post.

I hope you all had a great weekend! Happy Sunday!

Day 1: I’m back at it

The little kid and I were on our own this weekend. It’s been raining non-stop for days, so we didn’t do much of anything yesterday – it was a much-needed lazy day after a very busy work week.

That being said, as great as cuddling up on the couch to watch movies on a rainy day can be, doing it for a full weekend can be a bit much. Especially when your cuddle partner is a very energetic toddler. He barely made it through yesterday. Little kid needed to get out of the house today.

I am not a fan of going out in the rain. Gloomy, rainy days put me in a mood, so trying to find a place to go to that little kid would enjoy (and I wouldn’t hate), was a challenge. I really didn’t want to drive into Tokyo, but when push came to shove, I bit the bullet and off we went.

Our first stop: Where is a Dog, a gluten-free restaurant in Shinjuku. I’d read they have gluten-free bagels that are actually good, so it was at the top of my list of places to try. I didn’t have a bagel for lunch, but I did enjoy this delicious green curry with rice.

The little kid had the pizza toast, but mostly he just ate both of our desserts.

We had a great lunch. The food was delicious, and the staff was awesome. They were so nice! The menu is in both Japanese and English, and dairy-free and vegan dishes are clearly labeled, so that was super convenient. They also have a pretty big selection (compared to other places in Japan) of gluten-free adult beverages and gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan desserts. I’m definitely going back to try their gluten-free and dairy-free waffles.

As far as the bagels I’d read so much about, I bought a couple of frozen ones to take home and reheat for breakfast tomorrow. I’m pretty excited about it.

After lunch, we stopped at the Korean grocery store to pick up some bones for broth, then made our way to the aquarium to see fish. There are quite a few aquariums to choose from in Tokyo, but we decided to check out the Maxell Aqua Park.

If you’ve lived in Japan or spent enough time in Tokyo, you may already know that heading to a nice aquarium in a large shopping mall (that houses other entertainment options like an IMAX theater and bowling alley) on a rainy holiday weekend, is a terrible decision. It was so unbelievably crowded. But, it really is a cool place and little kid had a great time. We will definitely be going back in the future with the rest of the family (on a non-holiday weekday).

I’d hoped to get most of the day’s steps knocked out at the aquarium, but that didn’t happen. It felt like I walked a lot, but it seems my Garmin disagrees. So yeah, just in case you were wondering, I had to resort to pacing around my house to get all of my steps in. And me being me, I waited until the last possible hour to do it. It’s like subconsciously I’m purposely setting myself up for an adrenaline-fueled race against the clock to get my steps in. Then I wonder why I can fall asleep afterwards.

Oh, I almost forgot: I decided on those other goals. Most of them are already on my goal tracking spreadsheet that I printed after my last Bod Pod in June, so I’m thinking it would be ok to try and hit all of them. But, I’m only going to prioritize one at a time. This week, it’ll be all about getting these steps in every day – preferably before dinner.

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