Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rai Rai Ken: Re-acquainting with Gyudon

I love rice toppings. I love the convenience of having the rice and viand in one bowl. And though, I know rice is part of the dreaded and “sinful” carbs, I still love it. And one carb-rich rice topping I particularly enjoy is the Gyudon. I love the memory associated with it because it reminded me of a time in college, when I was still struggling with my chopsticks.

I used to envy my friends then, they who ate from their rice bowl effortlessly or haughtily picked a piece of California Maki while I clumsily struggled with mine.  I wanted to spear those damn sushi so I can eat with ease. Then one day, I saw a bowl of steaming Gyudon carried by one of the students, those thinly sliced beef in a bowl topped with raw egg. Yum. I desperately wanted to eat it from a bowl using my chopsticks like a real Japanese. So I persisted practicing my chopsticks and finally got the hang of it, finally getting rid of my fork and spoon and enjoyed those thin strips of beef submerged in sweet, dark sauce. I was so proud of myself when I finally got hold a piece of beef firmly, yey. So really, Gyudon had been my motivation in learning how to use chopsticks.

But there are Gyudons and there are more Gyudons. Nothing really compared to the one I enjoyed in college until Rai Rai Ken. Though it is bigger in size than the one I had then, the flavor is almost the same. And  it has raw egg too. Some Gyudons don’t have that.

And this one had more rice and beef strips and had shitake mushrooms too. Its sauce is languid and tasty with its raw egg adding a comfortable, gustatory appeal especially when you break it and it spreads thinly on your warm rice. Imagine a dark sauce steeped in creamy yolk. Moreover, its velvety mushrooms not only provides smooth and luscious texture but laps well with the sauce, infusing its flavor enough while retaining its own subtle quality.

I also sampled their Super California Maki with Salmon Salad toppings. It’s the usual California Maki but  with a salmon topping immersed in Japanese mayo and some garnishes. I think the salmon maybe parts of a sashimi because the salmon felt icy on my tongue. Okay, I don’t eat sashimi, I just don’t enjoy it. So, eating this and thinking sashimi that may have topped this sushi made me feel odd. I just convinced myself that it was okay, the mayo had masked its taste and the sushi was fine, I don’t have to worry about tasting raw fish. And really, the sushi was fine and was freshly made.

But despite my brush with an imagined(?) sashimi topping, I still enjoyed my Gyudon experience. And I think Rai Rai Ken still serves one of the more authentic Japanese food around, a little pricey than other Japanese fastfood chains but it doesn’t compromise on quality or authenticity. I’m also glad that if I ever find myself craving for the gyudon of my college years, I know this Japanese restaurant is the one place I can go to. Even if they  have a  little sashimi on their sushi :)

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