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(Guide:) Restaurant Basics
Type: How To: Guides  (Qjmp: 5003)


Things you need to know before you go out to eat in Fukuoka.
The Basics:

Fukuoka has an enormous range of restaurants and food places from the swishest French restaurants to tiny grungy holes in the wall.

The local specialties are:

1) Nagahama-ramen - a thick noodle in a pork base soup - the best stuff is in the Nagahama area near the docks, though it is served across the city.

2) Mentai-ko fish eggs in spicy mustard base. You will see it advertised in the form of what looks like thick pink fingers on a plate

3) Tempura - deep fried and battered "almost anything". When it's good, it's very very good and when it's bad you feel ill for two days....

3) Yatai - not a dish, a kind of open street stall that serves food and drink untilt he wee small hours. They are slightly pricy, expect to pay around 3500 yen/person

Those are the headline specialties and part of the city "brand".

It is of course possible to get whale meat at many of the more interesting little shops. Be aware though that 1) it may not be whale - there is a lot of meat packaged as one thing that is really another (you may even find yourself eating dolphin) and 2) there are a LOT of heavy metals in the Sea of Japan (it was until fairly recently used as a dumping ground by the USSR for elderly nuclear reactors) and they do have a habit of accumulating in large sea mammals. Given the Japanese governments unwillingness to pry into the details of the trade in whale meat, we caution you against eating it on health grounds.


Etiquette
In a restaurant, wait to be seated.

If the place looks "more bar than restaurant" check there is no table charge.

Most smaller places do NOT take credit cards. Take plenty of cash.

If you are asked a question it will generally be "how many people" ("Nan may sama") or "smoking or non-smoking". Smaller eating places do not have non-smoking sections and people will NOT refrain from smoking just because you are still eating. Expect to be kippered occasionally.

Many places will give you a plastic wrapped flannel (steaming hot in winter, chilled in summer). Women and polite men do NOT use this for that full scale face/neck rubdown that they neglected that morning. However, needs must...

Very few smaller restaurants have menus in English, so you may have to look discreetly around at what others are eating and point. The more interesting places tend to have the ingredients on show (or even "putting on a show" if you go too esoteric) so pointing is trivial.

Before eating, it is polite to say "itadakimasu". Noodle dishes can be slurped, but don't overdo it. During a conversation you may find your Japanese companion waiting patiently for you to finish talking before they put a portion food in their mouth. Be aware that local sensibilities in this respect differ from anglo-saxon sensibilities and allow your Japanese companion time to eat. The average Englishman's ability to lecture at length on Wittgenstein's Private Lanugae arguement betwen mouthfuls is a skill alas unknown in Japan. It is strictly eat OR talk. If they are talking to you, you should not eat.


The bill will be left on your table at the larger places, kept behind the counter at the smaller places. You go to the counter to pay at the larger places. Usually one person will pay and you settle up later. You are highly unlikely to be cheated, but bills can be high.

Most places serve beer and sake, some will also serve wine. The largest markup, and where the smaller places make their profits, is often on the beer. This can be served in a range of glass sizes at almost any price. 500yen a glass is about average, but glasses range from glorified thimbles through to smallish buckets, so beware.

If someone else pays for you, you should say "Got so sama deshta" to them. If you pay for them they will say it to you, in which case you should say "doh itashimashta". You both say "Got so sama deshta" as you leave the shop.

If you REALLY can't use chopsticks, take your own fork.

Don't blow your nose at the table. (Instead, sniffle annoyingly at 20 second intervals for that authentic "Chinese water torture" effect.)

(see "But mummy, I'm scared" for more info on going it alone.)






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First published Thu Jun 14, 2001
    Updated Sun Jun 20, 2004


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