Whenever I visit Asia, friends always pull out all the stops. It fucking eclipses whatever I do for people here in America. It seems like friends always visit me at the wrong time: I’m too busy, out of town, on the other side of town, grumpy, whatever.
But no matter my horrible host skills, it’s like a marching parade for me as a visitor. It’s like they put everything else on hold.
Anyways, over the summer I was in Fukuoka, Japan researching food, and a bunch of people I knew from the past made a whole itinerary of places they would make sure we checked out.
One of those places was the trippiest restaurant I had ever seen.
The whole place was a ship surrounded by water. At the front and back of the canals were holding gates filled with fish, squid, lobster, crabs, eels, and who knows what else.
I imagined them like Gladiator, and there was a Russell Crowe in the bunch. All nervous and discombobulated, aggressive without knowing what was about to happen.
Then as people started entering, they opened the bamboo gates and, like gladiators in the colosseum, they slowly started swimming out, then started really enjoying their new canals of amazingly clean, salty water.
Drums started banging, gongs started gonging (don’t know if that’s a word), and I bet these sea creatures felt like it was a parade. Humans staring down and admiring their existence.
Then they started handing out bamboo fishing poles to everyone with salted shrimp bait and there was a huge ceremony of clanging sounds then….cast, zip, wire, zing…
People started fishing.
They started to fucking fish in the middle of the restaurant.
That’s when I realized there was no food on the table and everyone was hanging over the rails and not over a bowl of soup.
Uhm…we were ‘catching’ our dinner.
Then wiggle, wiggle, whomp!
Fish started flying into the sky.
Squid on a wire.
Lobsters flung and crawling on the floor.
Before you could even take a picture, these creatures were whisked away and then they were brought back in sashimi, stews, braises, and soups.
Then no one was fishing and everyone was eating.
I looked down and saw the fish swimming again bumping into each other trying to figure out what just happened.
It was a crazy experience. One I wondered if it could ever make it to the States. Can you imagine?
I think I ate salad with miso dressing that night with tofu and pounded away sake, pouring some on the concrete for my Russell Crowes.
New meaning to fish tank at the Chinese restaurant…