Mexican in Japan
It is possible to find imitation Mexican food in Japan. I’m not sure if it’s possible to find authentic Mexican food in Japan. I’m not sure if there are any Mexicans in Japan, period. The imitation Mexican food is found in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo, and definitely passes the test when you’re in Japan and craving Mexican. If you were on National Ave. in Milwaukee and craving Mexican, it…would not. It’s staffed by entirely Japanese people from what I could see, including the cooks who were working when I was there. However, my friend and I will be making monthly pilgrimages to Tokyo for this Mexican restaurant, because so far the next best thing is in Ashikaga. And the next best thing…is not good.
So, I called the Ikebukuro restaurant imitation Mexican, because it is. It would be a mediocre Mexican restaurant in Milwaukee. Most likely not worth the money you’re spending there. However, the Mexican restaurant in Ashikaga was Japanese-Mexican. Which, with my ardor for Mexican food, I consider an abomination. We were served approximately ten tortilla chips with a thimble of “nacho cheese” which was like heated Velveeta, but with less flavor. We then ordered a helping of tomato salsa which was about $5 and two thimbles full. It was pico de gallo, and it was fairly accurate. Though really, how one could screw up pico de gallo beyond recognition is…difficult to discern. We perused the menu, which included such Mexican favorites as “Minestrone Soup” and “China Taco”. We both decided to get chicken enchiladas. The enchilada plate came with french fries, and rice and corn (of course, as everything in Japan does). The enchilada, to the naked eye, more closely resembled a burrito. It had melted cheese on top of it…good sign, but this is, of course, more of the painfully mild and near flavorless Japanese cheese. Then there was chicken underneath, which was cooked really well, but not spiced with any kind of flavor that was even vaguely Mexican. Then there was a tortilla, which was wrapped around a filling of onions and mushrooms. This was not particularly tasty to me, sort of just soggy, and not the least bit spicy. There was no signature enchilada sauce, nor was there really a sauce which resembled ANY type of Mexican sauce. There was a sauce, but it was pretty boring. So much so that I only remember thinking of it “Well, it’s not BAD, but it’s certainly not good.”
This was an extremely disappointing experience. Though the food was edible, and I was starving. It just wasn’t Mexican.
Afterward, we drove back into Oizumi and wandered the streets for about 45 minutes, searching tirelessly for the Brazilian market where we once got churros. The best churros. Authentic churros. We had only visited this market once before, at night, with someone else driving. We both had an image in our mind of what the place looked like…but only from it’s parking lot. We wandered down quite a few winding Japanese streets before Mika spotted it. Unfortunately, the churro stand was already closed when we got there. We did wander around the market for a few minutes, and I now know where I can buy cilantro…paste. Which is the closest thing I’ve seen to cilantro so far. All in all I’d call it a success, and now we both now where we can locate authentic churros for the future. I’ve started naming the streets myself, since the Japanese refuse to. And for your reference, the stand is located outside of a market called “Banana Brasil” and is a half block off of Lantern Street. Called so because it has eerie greenish streetlight lanterns (and still has Christmas lights up too…?).