Thursday, December 16

Nice Try, Ajito

I'll admit it; my tongue discriminates against race. Does it want sushi prepared by an ethnicity other than Japanese? Nooo. The widely anglicized Panda Express? Never.

When I stumbled upon a relatively new yakitori establishment アジト (Ajito) in my hometown of Cerritos earlier this week, I was hesitant to try it. The largest ethnic group in the surrounding area is NOT Japanese, hence, my palate wavered.

In less than 24-hours of discovering the place, I was back to sample items from what looked like a fairly authentic menu. I peppered the server with a battery of questions about preparation to seasoning methods before finally making my choices on the convenient tally sheet provided to patrons.

Before dissecting the food, I'd like to note the service is friendly & top-notch. My questions were deftly fielded w/out a slight sign of annoyance. When I inquired about beer specials, the server said that $1 draft of Sapporo was available. He backpedaled after realizing that Happy Hour was finished, but gave us the beer at this originally quoted price, anyway.

Regarding the yakitori items we ordered, well…not horrible, but not the best yakitori I've ever had. To know good yakitori is to know manna. Once you've had the best, it's hard to settle for less (Still my favorite: いせや@井の頭公園口 / Iseya, Inokashira Koen Entrance in Kichijoji, Tokyo).

The dangerous part about this place: the spicy levels. Authentic yakitori has two seasonings: salt or soy sauce. I was quite confused about this spicy option and settled on #2 on a scale of 1-5 which rendered my lovely original yakitori inedible. If #2 left my mouth on fire…#5 is rightly labeled on the menu as "Lethal Ingestion." Note to yakitori purists: just request salt, as soy sauce is available on each table.

  • Chicken Meatball: First up, and the best of the lot. No sauce made the flavor of the chicken pop.
  • Original Yakitori w/Green Onion: A disappointment because the onions were just regular green onions (read: skimpy, thin, flaccid), not 長ネギ which are more rotund and hold up well to charcoal grilling.
  • Fried Tofu: Delicious and sweet glaze.
  • Kurobuta Pork Sausage: Meh. Just seemed like the regular wieners that they serve in Japan.
  • Shishito: A lovely little green pepper that was grilled to perfection w/just a hint of salt.
Finally...Gyoza. More like won-tons, they were deep-fried and drizzled with a ginger/soy sauce that diverged from the usual vinegar/soy offering for dipping. My quest for perfect gyoza in So Cal continues.

With the great service, kitschy (and clean!) bathroom, as well as sleek and modern décor, I'll be back to sample more of アジト's menu now that I know WHAT to ask for regarding preparation of items.

Next up on my visit: Kyushu Ramen…my favorite style with a pork-based broth. That will be the deal breaker whether I make a third trek or not.

Thursday, October 14

A Sad Clash of Values

This morning, I was modeling a certain language use:
"I can't stand ______." I was trying to elicit for a gerund (that's a verb w/-ing that acts like a noun in case you've forgotten!)...but this was the first, unsolicited answer: "I cant' stand gays." And this was uttered with much prosodic vitriol.

After a huge mental sputter and assessing the situation, I decided to move on, sans comment or cultural values discussion. I told this student, "Well, that's just a noun, and we're looking for a gerund..."

Other students didn't catch the exchange, because as students are wont to do, they were paying attention to their own work...distracted by their electronic dictionaries...etc.

My assessment was this: 1) no other students heard and 2) this is NOT a culture class. IF this was widely heard by the rest of the class...

...I would have stopped right then and there to try to preach a little tolerance (which, ironically, was a word that came up not 10 minutes before this exchange), even though I know some of the cultures I interact with may never eschew the hard-line, anti-homosexual stance for a variety of reasons.

Still, when issues like this have come up in the past, I have always tried to illuminate the other side of the coin to discourage continued discrimination in any form, against any population. Not trying today, in retrospect, makes me feel like the biggest asshole ever.

Thursday, August 12

Wig Out

Being a pseudo-connoisseur of all things makeup (most new products I try are freebies...), I have been on the search for the perfect mascara for years it seems.

For a while there, it was Clinique's Naturally Glossy Mascara: jet black or jet brown. Well, move over bacon, there's a new lash sheriff in town.

When I visited Japan during this year's spring break, this all-important topic of makeup surfaced with one of my best buds while chillin' at First Kitchen for some of the legendary seasoned fries there. The conversation went something like this:

ME: I've been totally obsessed with mascara these days. I work so much, I need anti-raccoon stuff, like so it can last 12 hours of happy happy English teacher.

BUDDY: Oh, you gotta try this one...I can't remember the name right now. I'll get you some.

We parted ways for a couple of hours, and when we met up again for our dinner date, this best bud became an even better bud as she handed over the goods as promised.

Fiberwig is quite a strange sounding name, but I don't care because this is a product sent from the gods who smile upon the lash-impaired.

It takes some practice to avoid glopping on the stuff, but once you've got the hang of application, lashes become lusciously long, and color lasts all day without the dreaded raccoon rings. Jeez, sounds like I'm writing ad copy.

I currently support my mascara habit by asking my friends who periodically visit from Japan to bring a couple of Fiberwigs (black & brown, of course!) as omiyage. My next shipment, er friend, will arrive with the goods in September. I, and my lashes, can't wait!

Wednesday, July 7

I am an anachronism.

While using PowerPoint to teach count/non-count nouns to my grammar students, I always like to use their names in the examples to increase interest.

One bullet example:
"Student X and Student Y listen to some CDs."
The exchange went something like follows...
Me: "Student X, how many CDs do you have, a lot?"
SX: "Um, I don't have any."
Me: "Oh, how about you Student Y?"
SY: "I don't own any either."
Me: "So, just MP3 files...?"
SX & Y: (with 'of course, silly' look on faces) "Yeah."
Jeez, first I thought I was a total geezer for still owning vinyl.
Now this?

Friday, June 25

Confusion at the ATM

Been loving my new credit union since I signed up at the beginning of the year. The face-to-face service is great, there's an actual branch on one of the campuses where I teach, and the ATMs are lightning quick.

However, whenever I make a deposit, after entering the amount, I'm always confronted by this choice which sometimes catches me off guard if I'm particularly preoccupied: "Correct" [or] "Re-enter".

The first time I saw this, I thought, "Did I make a mistake? Aren't these the same thing?" Then, duh. "Correct" in this case does not mean to fix the error. Definitely over-thinking with my English teacher brain.