March 13, 2007
Oftentimes in Japan, I find that the presentation of the food is far better than the quality and taste of the food. Tableware is selected for its quality and appropriateness to the season and food is lovingly served with incredibly flair and style. The presentation of a dish can leave you breathless but the taste of the food is often lacking. Al Ain is different.Al Ain, a middle-eastern restaurant, has the best-tasting food I've ever had in Japan. It's also the most expensive place I've ever eaten but it was worth every single yen. There are only three choices for the meals; two meat courses and a vegetarian option. Each set meal includes an appetizer, fresh bread, salad, large main course, dessert, and tea. I had the vegetarian option, also the cheapest at 3,200 yen, and it was incredible. It started with hummus and fresh-made bread. From there a Mediterranean salad, with feta, onions, tomatoes, and olives was brought out. For the main course, falafel and a spicy Egyptian soup were presented. Dessert was a tasty pudding. Everything had incredibly flavour, fresh from the kitchen.For those visiting on a Friday or Saturday, there is a free belly dancing show at 8.30pm. I was hoping that the show wouldn't feature corny acts with little talent and big boobs; fortunately, my wish came true. There were two different dancers; one was Japanese and although she didn't have much a belly, she was incredibly skilled. It was truly a dance and not a mockery of old traditions. There's a large list of alcoholic drinks available. You can also smoke a hookah (waterpipe) for 1,000 yen. The range of diners included Japanese locals, non-Japanese tourists, and people of middle-eastern descent. The service staff are polite and as speedy as possible (the restaurant does get crowded and it seems to slow down quite a bit at this point). If you don't speak any Japanese then the owner, who is very friendly, will be summoned to help you in English. Fortunately, ordering shouldn't be difficult because English menus are available.Al Ain is a refreshing break from standard Japanese fare. Although the presentation is average, the taste is amazing!
From journal Yokohama and Kamakura: Twin Draws from Tokyo