Solo travel has its rewards -- you can do anything you want without having to worry about anyone. Years of traveling solo for business spoiled me for this luxury of "me time".
On this solo 24 hour layover in Nagoya, I knew what I wanted to do ... cram as much of the city's iconic must-eat foods into my mouth!
A little research on the plane led me to "tebasaki" -- spicy, deep fried chicken wings which the travel writer said was one of the not-to-be-missed dishes.
Now, wings are my favourite part of the bird so I was eager to try Nagoya's version.
Since my hotel was very near Nagoya Station, I wasted no time after checking in -- I immediately headed out to look for a tebasaki place.
There are always many good restaurants around the major train stations as so many passengers come and go everyday.
And true enough, just outside the shinkansen terminal I found Izakaya Tsuruhachi, with a gigantic photo of a tebasaki right on top of the entrance.
What really attracted me to enter was the lighted blue sign by the entrance. It announced that Tsuruhachi was the winner of the Gold Medal at the Tebasaki Summit of 2015!
That clinched it -- I walked right in.
As izakayas normally go, Tsuruhachi is quite compact, just six small booths that stretched out to the back where the kitchen is.
Since I was by myself, I sat at the counter which was almost full at 5 in the afternoon.
My ice cold nama (draft) beer washed away the tiredness of airplane and train travel.
Izakayas will usually charge you a "cover charge" called otoshi and in turn you are served small
plates of hot or cold hor d oeuvres.
The otoshi varies in price from 300 to 1,000 yen depending on the type of establishment you're in.
Some foreigners get quite upset about otoshi since they think it's a hidden cost tacked on to their bill.
But think of it as the equivalent of the table charge that restaurants in Italy also add to the cost of your meal.
Of course I ordered tebasaki, which was what I really came to Tsuruhachi for. One order of
four wings costs 380 yen.
Only the flat portion of the wing is served, the drumette is not included.
The tebasaki was deep fried and well seasoned. A sprinkling of sesame seeds added to the crunch
and flavour. From crisp skin down to the bone, it was as the japanese would enthusiastically say "umai desu yo!" Or as we Pinoys would say it "sarap to the bones!" (with apologies to Max's).
Tebasaki is chili-hot but not palate numbing. They have an umami spicy tang that makes you want
to eat more and more.
You cannot eat tebasaki with chopsticks, definitely not. The only thing to do is to grasp each wing and try to get as much of the skin and meat as you can.
The friendly server who handed my order pantomimed that I should eat it all in one bite!
Looking around I could see my seat mates doing just that -- grab a chicken wing, put in mouth and voila ... only the clean bones came out.
But I think that is a skill that comes only after you have consumed a mountain of chicken wings.
Hardly any english is spoken in the izakaya and there is no english menu. You don't need one as
all you have to do is point at the picture and smile. The language of food needs no translation.
For my next order of beer, I was contemplating on having another round of tebasaki but opted
for the grilled pork slices instead. They tasted (and looked like) Canadian bacon.
Served with mayo and mustard on the side, they were good otsumami or pulutan (snacks to go with beer) but my taste buds and stomach were muttering that I really should have just ordered another plate of tebasaki.
I stayed at the counter for quite some time, enjoying my beer(s), the good food and the convivial atmosphere of Izakaya Tsuruhachi.
I was quite surprised to come out into a darkened street -- good food makes me lose all sense of time.
But the night was still young and chicken wings don't necessarily count as a meal do they?
So onward to dinner and the next iconic Nagoya specialty!