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Drunk of the Week

Restaurant Japon

There's no doubt in my mind that God created beer. How else can you explain many of the world's greatest accomplishments? Without beer, we wouldn't have professional sports, much less overlapping schedules that allow us to watch the World Series and college football on the same day. Without beer, there would be no sports bars, no fantasy leagues, no tailgating, no urge to yell "Beer, here!" with the intonation of a professional stadium vendor.

Nor would we have anything to do those two weeks of the year when the only televised sports are golf and gymnastics. Only guys with a few beers on board could have invented cow-tipping, ice fishing, fireworks, turbo engines, happy hour, Dolby Digital Sound, sour-cream-and-onion chips, Taco Bell and greasy morning-after breakfasts. In short, life would be pretty drab were it not for the wonders of beer.

Divine intervention is clearly responsible for two specific beers: Kirin Ichiban and Sapporo. You wouldn't expect superb beers to come from the Far East -- especially not in such big containers, when the people are generally so small. But not only are these beers great, they spawned another innovation: eating raw fish. Legend has it that 1,500 years ago, some Japanese samurai were celebrating a victory over a twelve-pack of Sapporo king cans when they got hungry. Their only provision was fish; unfortunately, they had no wood for a fire and couldn't go out for more because they were too drunk to find their shoes. So after another twelve-pack, they just ate the fish raw. And so sushi was born.

The other night, several members of the Institute of Drinking Studies went to Restaurant Japon (1028 South Gaylord Street ) to honor these ancient warriors with large plates of sushi and lots of beer. Although I'm a picky eater who can easily tell the difference between Skippy and Jif, even I like sushi. But I learned to like it the hard way, and so I warn novices to go with people they trust, because it's impossible to tell what the hell you're ordering. I may well have been offered fish poop instead of actual fish my first time; fortunately, as a fan of wasabi and Kirin, I couldn't tell -- and didn't care, anyway.

You should also be aware of a reaction inevitably brought on by beer, a good crowd and wasabi: In no time, all inhibitions are burned away, and your fire-breathing voice gets louder and louder. Japon is a rather intimate place, and this night it was filled with couples or groups of couples courting each other, planning their 401(k)s and arranging weekend suburban wife-swapping parties. In an amazing feat of pre-cognition by Japon's staff, our group of ten had been seated in the back corner. Nonetheless, as the wasabi went down easier and easier, I suspected our ruckus was reverberating through the bar. This suspicion was pretty much confirmed by the looks we got as we left; I was waiting for the restaurant to applaud.

Before that, of course, there had been the usual wasabi-based practical jokes. Like Ben-Gay in a jockstrap, wasabi in unplanned amounts and places can be very entertaining. So when the Jewish Representative to the Institute of Drinking Studies made a pit stop, the Head of Drinking Regrets dumped a good tablespoon of the stuff in his beer. I have to hand it to the blood-alcohol content of the Jewish Representative, because only a blind and deaf man wouldn't have known something was going on. But it wasn't until he got to the end of his Kirin that he noticed his mouth was on fire. He put down the glass, muttered something distinctly un-Jewish...and slammed the rest of the beer! Needless to say, this earned him a standing ovation. After that, one of our number who'd never been out with a full contingent from the Institute asked the question that many of us have wondered but never articulated: How do you hang out with these guys? To answer, the Jewish Representative raised his newly filled glass, tipped it to us and replied, "Beer."

Truly, God works in mysterious ways.

 
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