I need to hit up the market today if I’m gonna have anything to make for dinner tonight.

Such was the case last night too. What started as just a quick swing up to Sushi Avenue to fill our growling tummies turned into a rather eye-opening experience. We had been meaning to go there and order hot dishes rather than sushi for a while now. Last night was the night.

Started off innocently enough with the standard miso soup and gingery salad.

Miso soup and ginger salad

Next, takoyaki time! I love the takoyaki at Sushi Avenue. The pieces are huge and cooked through a bit more than other places, so it doesn’t turn into goo as soon as you pick it up. They use really cheap bonito flake though, it’s pretty flavorless and looks more like that stuff you find in the bottom of an Easter basket than shaved dried fish flakes. No prob, just swirl it around in the delicious sauce and squiggles of Kewpie mayo, all that floss will melt right in.

Takoyaki at Sushi Avenue

This is supposedly just a wintertime special though, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to have it again any time I’m craving it. :( Jeff thinks it might be time for us to buy a takoyaki griddle for the house. I don’t know about that. Takoyaki is an unhealthy treat food, I don’t know if I want instant access to it and all it’s delicious sauces.

It might be fun to experiment with using the takoyaki griddle to make something different though. Maybe I could make some kind of little vegetable puffs or even a sweet donut-hole type thing.

Ok, moving beyond takoyaki. Jeff ordered the katsudon, which is a bowl of rice topped with a breaded and fried pork cutlet with caramelized onions and egg.

Jeff's katsudon

You think Japanese food is all sushi and clean healthy veggie fare? No way man, dishes like the one above are pretty standard, however, the portion of the one above is somewhat larger than average.

I used to make katsu at home pretty often, maybe it’s time to bring it back.

I got another Japanese staple dish that many people aren’t aware of. Curry. Yep, the Japanese eat curry too. Theirs is a very rich, stew-like curry with subtle but not overpowering Indian spice flavors. It’s pretty common to crack a raw room-temperature egg over this and mix it in to make a super-creamy sauce.

Japanese beef curry at Sushi Avenue

The curry roux for this is often sold in solid bars perforated into little squares, much like a chocolate bar. You just mix the roux with liquid, add steamed vegetables and the thinly sliced meat of your choice and serve over rice. It’s a pretty common meal to have at home because it’s so easy to prepare and so comforting.

This one was served with an assortment of pickles. Pickles are another very common Japanese staple. They are so much more than just salty brined cucumbers though. These pickles are an art form.

Japanese pickles

The yellow ones in the front are sweet pickled daikon slices, it’s pretty common to add sugar or mirin to pickling liquids to make a very sweet flavor. The purple, I’m pretty sure they were cucumbers and that they were pickled in ume plum juice and/or ume vinegar. The little green ones are very much like cornichons, they are small, crunchy, and very salty.

I miss all the colorful and various-flavored pickles we had on top of rice in Japan. I think I’m going to start learning how to make some myself at home.

I’m so glad we opted out of ordering sushi last night. With the girly J-pop music playing over the speakers, lemony smell of raw fish in the air, and two hot bowls of Japanese classics in front of us, it really felt for a moment like we were back on Dotonbori street in Osaka cramming our faces full of one amazing dish after another.