Japan returns Lagoon-side across from the rest of the Pavilion.
The Garlic Shrimp and Grilled Spicy Edamame are brand new while the Spicy Sushi Roll is similar to what was served last year as a “Hand Roll.”
Spicy Sushi Roll: Tuna and Salmon with Kazan Volcano Sauce – $5.75
Those unfamiliar with sushi may elect to give Japan’s a try – it’s a slightly higher quality roll than what you’d ordinarily find at Katsura Grill and the portion is a lot larger than those offered at nearby Kabuki Cafe for similar money. The sauce provides a bit of spice and the rice does a good job of trapping the fresh fish inside as you pick the roll up to tear a bite off. Because you can find similar or better quality sushi in most grocery stores, I’m not sure this demands a purchase, but it succeeds in offering an introduction for those that aren’t as familiar.
Garlic Shrimp: Marinated Shrimp sautéed with Garlic and Butter and served over Rice – $6.95
We sampled something like 75 different items over the first two days of the Festival and this was easily the worst on taste and value. Japan had dozens of these trays sitting out with gummy, flavorless shrimp on top of under-cooked rice with a couple shriveled edamame beans sprinkled on top. At seven bucks, I’m not sure there’s a tremendous amount of value here even if the shrimp were prepared better. You’d be far better off buying a half pound at the store.
Grilled Spicy Edamame tossed with Sesame Oil, Soy Sauce and Chili Powder – $4.75
The Edamame was our favorite dish in Japan this year.
It’s a nice, very shareable portion of edamame pods that are grilled instead of boiled or steamed. The pods are then tossed in sesame oil and soy sauce and rubbed with chili powder, making for a legitimately spicy bite. The chili powder does have a tendency to rub off on your hands as each is eaten – you want to hold the pod to your mouth and then squeeze the beans out. Don’t be me five years ago trying to eat the whole thing – they are much less appetizing that way. Anyway, this was a unique take on edamame and you’ll receive quite a few for your money. Recommended.
Kirin Pale Lager – $4
Store price: 10 cents/ounce.
Festival price: 67 cents/ounce.
Probably the worst value we’ll see outside of Moretti in Italy, Total Wine will sell you a 25-ounce bottle for $2.49 or a 6-pack for $6.99. This is otherwise the Budweiser of Japan at Coedo prices with a grainy, malty, corn-y flavor. Most people will want to wait for Hops & Barley or pick up a larger Kirin draft elsewhere in the Pavilion for around $8.
Sapporo Black Lager – $4.25
There is a bit more value here with the 22-ounce can at Total Wine coming in at $3.49. The Dogfish Head Chicory Stout at Hops & Barley is a better beer at a lower price, but this is the most interesting beer Japan has offered outside of the $10 bottle of Ginga Kogen Hefeweizen available inside at the Mitsukoshi Department Store sake bar.
Pineapple Breeze Sake Cocktail – $8
I’ve been trying to figure out why this drink is blue ever since ordering it on the first day. I’m still not sure. At eight bucks, it’s basically pineapple juice mixed with sake, which does temper the intense alcohol flavor of the sake, but doesn’t offer much value at eight dollars for a cocktail so small. I’d skip it unless you “have” to order a drink here and don’t like beer or sake.
Echigo “Northern Bloom” Junmai Sake – $7.50
This is widely considered to be one of the better affordable junmai sakes available in stores with the bottle price coming in at $19. There’s some citrus and spice to each sip that makes this one of the more pleasant sakes I’ve tried over the years. And since they fill the cup up with alcohol, it’s a much better value than whatever that blue thing was. I wouldn’t stand in line specifically to pick a cup up, but it pairs nicely with the recommended edamame.