Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Yes, another Japan trip....and some outrageous prices in Yokohama Chinatown.

In September, I found myself flying over the Pacific again, bringing a couple of friends with me. No upgrades this time, and the economy class food wasn't worth taking a picture of. The most notable food from this trip has to be this. It's kind of a crappy picture, and it tasted way better than it looks. Mentaiko-pan, or spicy pollock roe on a toasted bun. Maybe I was just hungry, but it was the best thing I had on this trip. I found it in a small bakery in Shinjuku station and to this day, I have not had it this good. I've made feeble attempts to find this bakery whenever I go back, but it's a pretty big station and I've had no luck so far. I hope it's still in business. Yokohama Chinatown, reputed to be the cleanest China town in the world. Yeah, I'll give it that, but if you're expecting the world's best Chinese food, you'll be disappointed. The food is pretty average, at best on par with Chinese food in Vancouver. What will kill you is the outrageous prices! It was hilarious to see all those tourists, myself included, shelling out their hard earned Yen for a nikumon (just a standard steamed pork bun).

I don't know if you can see from the picture below, but these guys (and other shops in the area) were charging 500 Yen for one steamed pork bun!!!!! At the time, the exchange rate would put that at about $7.50 CAD each. Highway robbery would be an understatement. You can get eight for that price at T & T Supermarket.
Yes, I was one of those stupid tourists. I thought that for 500 Yen, it probably tastes like heaven, but in complete honesty, my mother makes them better. In fact, when I came back and told her my story of the 500 Yen steamed pork bun, she made it a point to spend $7.50 CAD to make about 20. I mean, these things were alright, but you're out of your mind if you think they're worth 500 Yen each.
BBQ pork buns, of the variety you see at dim sum. Do you see the price???? 2,400 Yen for a box of five. WTF? Chinese people are making a killing over in Yokohama. 2,400 Yen???? That was over $30 CAD at the time....actually, with today's exchange rate, it would be about that as well. $30 could easily cover 3 people at dim sum.
Bubble tea. Yes, they tried to market bubble tea in Yokohama. And believe it or not, I was stupid enough to try it. They only had plain, regular bubble tea, which came in a cup less than half the size of a standard size cup here. They were all pre-made and must have been sitting in the fridge all day, because the tapioca pearls were all bloated and soggy. It was an aweful mess and again, way overpriced for what you get. If Bubbleworld opened up shop there, they would clean house. Any of you thinking about going to Japan to be an English teacher, forget it. Bubble Tea will make you rich there if you can make it the same way we do here. I remember when bubble tea first came to Vancouver, it swept through like a firestorm. How many bubbletea shops are there now? More than Starbucks?
Back to dim sum items. Here we have the steamed shrimp dumplings (hagow, shiajiao, or ebi siumai, depending on your background). 650 Yen for 4. I did not go into this restaraunt.

More overpriced madness. Shaolongbao, 3 for 650 yen. There's a place on Granville in Vancouver called Shanghai Palace, you can get a whole tray of them for about the same price.

I actually had dinner in one of these places, against my will of course. Sure, it looked fancier than Hon's Wun-Tun House back in Richmond, but in the end, it was just another Chinese restaraunt, albiet overpriced. When I first went to Japan, I experienced a bit of culture shock in that service on every level was delivered with a smile and some friendly phrases that I didn't quite understand. There's a lot of bowing and nodding in Japan to make the customer feel welcome and comfortable. When I walked into this restaraunt, I was back home. The grumpy looking waitress greeted us with a grimace and tossed our menus on the table and walked away. Don't get me wrong, I go to Hon's, Alleluia, Glocester's Cafe, or even Kent's Kitchen in Chinatown Vancouver quite often, not for the pleasant converstaion with the staff, but fot the cheap, tasty food. I don't have a problem with the lack of smiles, or the curt attitude from some of the staff, but then again, I'm not paying $8.50 for 3 shaolongbao.
My verdict on Chinatown Yokohama is two thumbs down, don't go there. Unless of course, (A)you want to see the cleanest Chinatown in the world (it really is clean, not a single cigarette butt on the ground), (B) you want to have a good drinking story for the future, (C) you don't know what else to do with your money, (D) you're in Japan and you want a quick getaway from the overwhelming politeness, smiles, nods and bowing, or (E) you want to write a blog about it someday.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Total Pageviews