Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Birthday Dinner(s)

Every year we go somewhere to eat for our birthdays. We pick a place we don't normally visit because it's too far, too expensive, or not our usual style of food. It's usually the highlight of our birthdays.

This year we didn't do a dinner for Ritsukos birthday. There were various reasons, including that the restaurant we'd picked had burned to the ground. Things have been really busy all spring and summer, so we figured we'd do a single dinner for both birthdays instead, once we had time.

This weekend is Obon, with three days off work1, a good time for a relaxed restaurant visit. Ritsuko got to decide, and being Japanese she decided we go to Kani Dōraku, a crab restaurant in Namba in Osaka2. We'd been there once before, a long time ago, and it was a good experience.

Kani Douraku
The signature sign is a huge mechanical crab over the entrance. As I write this it is not actually moving though; they had trouble with it a while ago and have yet to repair the mechanism.

It didn't disappoint this time either. It's not really high-class — dōraku (道楽) means debauchery or indulgence — but it is good quality food, and true to its name you will not lack for crab during your visit. In fact, pretty much every dish except the desserts contain crab in some form. We had the crab hotpot menu, with crab croquets and a crab gratin on the side.

The appetizer was cooked crab with a vinegar dipping sauce.

Kani Sashimi
Crab sashimi. The raw crab was, I think, briefly soaked in a light broth to give it a slight salty tinge. Delicious.

Kani Nabe
The ingredients for the hotpot: Crab, cabbage, mushrooms, bean sprouts, tofu and herbs. Good, tasty, solid food, and cooking it yourself at the table adds to the fun.

Kani Nabe
Starting the pot. There's no actual crab in it yet; once we got down to eating I forgot about taking pictures. The finish is great: once you're done the waitress will bring cooked rice and egg and cook up a savoury porridge with the remaining broth. It's full of delicious flavour and really fills you up. You will not leave hungry.

Blue Beer
I had a bottle of Abashiri beer. This was a special edition, meant to "evoke the blue of the Okhotsk Sea". The colour is neat, and the beer is fine though nothing extraordinary.

As a final note, I took these pictures with Ritsukos Panasonic GF2. I'm mostly happy with the results; a 4/3 format camera really is good enough for any normal use today. Even these kind of low light scenes come out fairly well, with only moderate noise.

The lens was the 14mm/2.5. It's wide (28mm on 35 format) and very small and light. It gives you contrasty and sharp images, but it does have noticeable barrel distortion — see how the left side of the bottle and the row of lit up signs curve inwards in the beer picture. You wouldn't want to use this for architecture without correcting for this either in camera (the GF2 does it automatically for jpeg images) or in post-processing.

There's any number of light and compact bodies and lenses for this system. If I didn't already own other cameras and lenses, I'd probably pick a 4/3 body as my main digital camera.

#1 Well, except for editing a paper, reviewing another one, and trying to write some visualization code. Mostly no work, though.

#2 Really, what is it with Japanese and crab? It is good, and I like it, but I don't understand the near hysteria a lot of people here show for it. There's even bus tours where you spend a day or two just going from place to place to eat crab or buy crab-related foods and souvenirs.


  1. Congratulations to the both of you!

  2. Happy birthday to you both, though Im rather surprised that you remembered yours. I call recall when you didnt ;-)

  3. Thank you!

    I remember Ritsuko's birthday and she remembers mine; it all works out in the end :)


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