This post is more personal than what I am used to writing -- it's about a happy evening spent among friends during my recent business trip to Tokyo.
Oh yes, with some food descriptions too.
But in this case, while the food was great (as food anywhere in Japan always is), the company shone brighter than any dish that night.
I have been working in the Makati office of a Japanese ad agency for nearly 14 years -- we opened it in 2001 and without my noticing it -- time has certainly flown by.
Since we opened the agency, I have worked closely with expat directors who stayed for periods ranging from 2 years to four.
Our expat directors are changed every two to three years -- and with the exception of one, all three of the Japanese expats who have stayed in the Philippines have been very supportive -- and have worked side by side with us in growing the business.
More than that, they have become my friends.
So, on this last trip to Tokyo, I made sure to meet up with my ex-expats.
Here we all are, standing in the office lobby in Tokyo, getting ready for our reunion and night out.
From left -- Niikura san, Abe san (our first expat and now retired) and Kondo san.
Niikura san and Kondo san are still working at headquarters.
The head office is near Shimbashi, an area over populated with bars and restaurants. It was a 10 minute walk to this izakaya that they had made reservations for.
Uonoya is smallish, as most izakayas go and inside, we made our way through a warren of tiny booths for 4 to 5 people. A sliding door on each booth gave a sense of privacy although because the walls don't go all the way up, conversations and hearty laughter can be heard by everyone else.
We were a tight squeeze in our little cubicle.
No real meals for tonight just different izakaya fare and lots of beer (for me), shochu and sake for everyone else.
We started off with a plate of sashimi moriawase.
Uonoya seems to be a modern Japanese izakaya with their own inventive take on pub food.
This dish is a mild Japanese soft cheese, topped with shiokara or fermented squid guts -- salty and briny, shiokara reminded me of a smooth and elegant version of our local bagoong.
This was the first time all of us had anything like this.
It may sound weird or gross but the combination of mild creaminess and salty sliminess was spot on.
Kawa is chicken skin which is delicious but definitely loaded with cholesterol -- so I was hesitant to try this dish made with soft pieces of chicken skin cooked in a light ponzu sauce.
But as with all things that are not good for you -- this one was such a tasty but taboo delicacy.
The conversation and memories flowed as much as the beer, the sake, the shochu and yes, the food.
I guess we needed a lot of dishes to keep the alcohol company in our stomachs.
The dish on the left is buta kakuni or pork belly (liempo!) simmered for hours in soy sauce and dashi. It was fork tender and totemo torokeru (very melts in your mouth, in my pidgin Japanese).
The dish on the right is some form of tempura -- by now, my beer addled mind had trouble keeping up with what was being served.
Since the next day was still a working day, at least for Niikura san and Kondo san -- we finally had to break off the drinking and eating to say good night. Plus, they still had trains and subways to catch.
Before we went our separate ways, we had to have one last pose for posterity outside Uonoya.
It was a delightful evening and a happy reunion.
To my ex-expats and good friends ... otsukare-sama deshita!