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Japan is replete with restaurants that offer top-notch food of many kinds and varied prices as many visitors to Japan may have noticed. In fact, in Tokyo alone about 550 starred restaurants are marked for their excellent food by Michelin Guide. (Since invoking the Michelin guide may turn off some people who consider it snobbish I also refer to the very average people without money: many of them found cheap sandwiches at ubiquitous convenience stores, for instance, delicious.) It is true that in Japan restaurants generally serve delicious food (to be sure, there is always such a thing as outliers). So, whenever we visit Japan we want to visit Michelin starred restaurants – particularly French ones. Since it is often difficult to get a table at a restaurant with more than one Michelin star on a short notice, I made dinner reservations about 2 weeks prior at two French restaurants with two Michelin stars. I chose these two restaurants for their proximity to our hotel. Generally speaking it is more difficult to get a table at renowned Japanese restaurants probably because they have limited number of tables and also because they are more favored by political or economic big shots (this latter point is purely my guess).

Both of the French restaurants we visited offered great service and delicious food. And we enjoyed meeting the chief chefs at the end of the dinners. However, the most discussion-worthy thing that happened at these two restaurants was that each restaurant served unusual dish with unusual ingredient. At one restaurant they served shirako/milt, which had strange tubular and chewy texture and taste, which was followed by ezoshika/ Hokkaido deer, which was delicious. At the other restaurant they served the Iberian pork cooked rare, which tasted good but made us worried about the danger of eating uncooked pork, however pristinely the source pig might have been raised. We did eat them all but at one corner of my mind I felt a little awkward for having consumed milt and rare pork. I did some online research about shirako (amazingly it was not exactly an uncommon cooking ingredient) and insufficiently cooked pork (it seems the chefs and the Health Department are currently in conflict in this particular issue). When I learned that Iberian pork was differently raised from other ordinary pigs, I felt slightly better. However, when I felt sick one morning both my husband and I began to worry about the possibility of having contracted trichinosis. Thus both of us had blood tests done to check the presence of eosinophils. Both of the blood tests came out negative. However, this experience taught me two things about restaurants, particularly expensive ones. First, we should read the menus very carefully, asking many questions if the ingredients are mysterious, and secondly we should tell the waiters/ waitresses that we want the food to be cooked thoroughly. We are not gourmands. We simply like ordinary food that is delicious. Perhaps, as my husband says, we should always choose French restaurants with just one Michelin star.

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