From a letter home in December 2000, remember that the prices I list below are the prices from over 10 years ago now:
After a particularly strenuous week of soot scraping here at home and at the workshop, (why can I do all this filthy physical labour here without complaining when I was nearly suicidal trying to get away from it at home in Canada?? Go figure!!), we splurged on dinner out at a Denny's just around the corner from our apato!! Yes, a Denny's....just like home, right? WRONGO!! Before you get all excited about us having a western food source so close to us in Mitaka I must tell you that the closest things to American food on the menu are hamburger steak and a BLT with fries.......sort of.
Dell ordered the BLT which featured a spicy fried egg instead of the T and there wasn't a smidgen of B on it anywhere!! French fries are a new commodity and still somewhat suspect to the Japanese palate apparently, but for only $4 you can order a full side plate of them....and receive maybe 10 french fries on that plate on a good day. By the time the crusts were cut off Dell's bread (have never seen any sandwiches served here in Tokyo with crusts left on the bread), the very small slices of bread, there wasn't a lot to the sandwich. He sat and looked at his plate in utter disbelief for a long time before he ate it....all 4 bites of it...fries included!
I opted for the hamburger steak, which turned out to be about a quarter pound of ground pork stuffed with minced mushroom and onions and shaped like a teeny meat loaf. This $13 entree was rounded out with a couple of teaspoons of soy gravy, a tablespoon of mashed potatoes with the consistencey of Cream O' Wheat and 2 veggies: a slice of cooked carrot about 2/3 of an inch long and a similar sized piece of broccoli. I paid an extra $4 for an added food package so my meal time extravaganza was rounded out with 2 tablespoons of rice, 2 slices of daikon pickle and a Barbie's Play House sized bowl of mizo broth with 3 bits of sliced leek and 2 itsy bitsy cubes of tofu floating in it. Yum, yum!! Now I know why the Japanese customers were eating their miso soup floaties with chopsticks! There was no room in that bowl for a spoon of any size!
For another $4 (do I see a menu price trend here?) I was able to order a strawberry smoothie by pointing at the picture of it in the menu. (Confession, that is how we ordered everything we ordered from that menu, by pointing at the pictures and smiling hopefully at the waitress.) Then we hoped against hope that the bowing, modest waitress would ask us no questions regarding our choices!! I assumed a smoothie would be difficult to toy with even for the Japanese, right? Wrong again! It arrived with an actual strawberry or 3 in it, but it also had small chunks of yam paste for which a spoon was graciously provided so I could fish them out and eat them without choking on them by accidentally sucking them in through the straw. AND of course no sugar whatsoever in this drink as sugar is not healthy.....well, yes dear bowing modest waitress, even I, ignorant Canadian that I am, know that sugar is not healthy, but I do expect it in a sweet smoothie that was supposed to be my North American treat with this meal. Yam paste in a strawberry smoothie...imagine my delight......yeah....not so much.....
Dell was so hungry, after his itty bitty BLT minus the B and the T and not being served with enough fries to plug a tooth cavity, he decided to order a second entree....much to the dismay of the bowing, modest waitress who seemed overly concerned that to do so would be too much food and not healthy for him. Of course we would end up with the one waitress on staff that not only knew a few words of English but was also a health food nut. Sigh........ He fared somewhat better with his second meal: a wee bowl of Spaghetti Parmesiana accompanied by an "American Bun". The spaghetti, despite the eensy weensy portion size, appeared completely North American when it was delivered to our table. As Dell started to eat it he realized that what appeared to be large chunks of delicately cooked chicken were actually large chunks of delicately steamed squid! (Actually the squid here is totally delicious....which is good as it appears in EVERY pizza and potato dish in the country!!) The American Bun looked to be the right size and texture, but of course, this being Japan there were strips of seaweed baked into the top of it. hahaha Dell found his 4 ounce water glass didn't hold enough liquid to wash down 2 meals so he ordered a 6 ounce glass of iced tea.......yes, of course it was green tea.... no sugar, no lemon....NO ICE! The bowing modest waitress explained that it wouldn't be good for his teeth to get cold. Heavy sigh..........
This Denny's meal is responsible for my discovery of Melon Soda drinks. O there is nothing in Canada to top this amazing soda. THIS was my real treat of the night!
That was our first feast of Denny's fast food........Japanese style. I think we will go there again. The entire meal cost less than $50US and we almost got enough to eat by the time we each had 2 meals. (Yup, I just had to get another hamburger steak meal so I wouldn't starve on the 2 block walk home.) The restaurant was spotlessly clean, the expected hot hand towels for pre-meal washing were bleached white as snow, and there was also a sink and soap in the entrance way to wash our hands before we even entered the dining area. I am so glad we squirreled away a few yen for a date night. Just hadn't planned to spend it all in one place!
(NOTE: the same meal in Tokyo now would cost nearly double what it did when we were there in 2000. Try to imagine spending nearly $80 for a dinner out....at Denny's!!)