Momotaro Japanese Restaurant; Chicago, IL

Some friends and I went to dinner at the Momotaro Japanese restaurant, which is considered by the Chicago Tribune’s food critic as the 5th best restaurant in Chicago (with 50 eateries in the list). And overall I was seriously impressed. It was GREAT Japanese food at really reasonable prices.

Over the last 5 years I’ve either been S. Korea, or dealing with family stuff, or traveling. Apparently, during that time Chicago — my home town — had undergone a food revolution that I took no part in. Recently I’ve been reading these lists talking about how Chicago was one of the best restaurants towns in the US, only I’d not only never eaten at any of the ones on the list, I hadn’t even heard of them.

So when some married friends and I decided to have dinner, I really wanted to try one of the restaurants on the list… as it was a Sunday (and most of the best places are closed Sunday nights) that immediately limited our options, and then there had to be things on the menu that I could eat. Finally we thought about how hard or difficult it might be to find parking. Ultimately we narrowed the list to Momotaro, Longman and Eagle, GT fish & Oyster, & lula cafe…. but ultimately picked Momotaro because they had Mentaiko Spaghetti on their menu.

For those who have never spent any real time in Japan, this is the Japanese version of Spaghetti, the CHEAP kind, the kind you find in train stations and school cafeterias. Instead of tomato sauce the fish is covered in the cheapest fish eggs out there. I did a summer internship once for a Japanese company in Tokyo, and we’d have this every Wednesday for lunch… I thought it was the most disgusting thing ever… so seeing it on the menu of a restaurant that was supposed to be among the top 5 in Chicago, amused me no end.

MENTAIKO SPAGHETTI….. tokyo specialty, organic egg, chili spiked cod roe

So Momotaro’s it was going to be … because you know, Japanese cafeteria food at $18 a serving….

But ultimately, it turned out to be a Mea culpa moment for me … let’s just say that IF the spaghetti with fish eggs at the company cafeteria had tasted ANYTHING like what we had, I’d have been chomping down on it with relish… when I took my first mouthful I actually yelled out, “OH MY GOD!!!” it was an orgasm of the mouth… unfortunately we forgot to take any photos of it before we ate it… but I STRONGLY suggest ordering it if you go there… it was amazing!

There was also an equally amazing seaweed salad called “Ogo” made with all sorts of seaweeds and edible kelp I’d never tasted before, apparently flown in specially from Hawaii … “Hawaiian seaweed, nopales, konbu” … again no photos, but probably the best seaweed salad I’d ever had. It was so good we were tempted to order seconds.
I also had a very tasty, but not mind blowing, CHAWAN MUSHI; while it’s normally one of my very favorite Japanese dishes, a sort of steamed egg custard dish often served at breakfast ….. and while this one was made with with alaskan king crab, black truffle
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I have to admit it didn’t rock my boat. They had made it more complicated but not better
Then we had the “WILD ALASKAN SALMON DON BURI” ….. yuan yaki salmon, smoked roe, simmered spring vegetables … which was also very tasty.
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This was also very good, but again didn’t amaze me anywhere near as much as the seaweed salad had.
This was followed by:
CEDAR ROASTED KURODAI…..whole sea bream, yakumi, shiso dressing
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And we also had this… only I don’t think it was on the regular menu…
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All in all it was some of the best Japanese food I’d ever had. Dishes were “elevated” without being westernized, which is is a pretty impressive feat to pull off. I would HAPPILY eat here again.

Lady Camellia’s for High Tea; Washington, D.C.

Lady Camellia’s is a cute little, as in tiny, Tea shop in Washington D.C.’s GeorgeTown area that is popular with the ladies. Because of the size (all of four, or maybe five tables?) of the place, I strongly suggest making reservations.

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As some of you may have noticed, my friend (best friend from first grade) Gina and I have developed a tradition of doing High tea. Along my travels she, from time to time, will come and visit me for a few days and I’ll tour her around the area. The First time she came I was in Orlando, and I had REALLY wanted to try the high-tea at Disney World’s Grand Floridian (high tea being something you really shouldn’t do alone), so I planned to do it with her when she visited. The 2nd time she came for a visit I was staying on Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada, and there one of the “THINGS TO DO” in Victoria (according to all the web sites) was to have high tea at Butchart Gardens … and since Gina loves gardens (me not so much) we did that… at which point we agreed to make a tradition of it … namely, that I should find us a high-tea at every stop (if available).

Now one of the things that drives me a bit bonkers about Gina…

I love her, I do… in first grade I wanted to be her (in some ways) … and to this day I STILL wish I had a bit more of her in my personality (she’s a much more genteel sort of a person than I am… so I often envy her social skills, not to mention that I think she’s WAY better looking than I am, she would disagree, even though we’re from time to time mistaken as sisters. I also trust her implicitly… which is something that I’m almost incapable of with most people; as in I would, and essentially have, trusted her with my life. But, that said….

Gina does regularly get on my nerves in some respects …. and for the purposes of travel her refusal to ever plan ahead by more than a week or two makes me want to tear my hair out.

From a tourism perspective, the BEST high tea in D.C. according to another childhood friend, Cheryl (who I’ve known since 2nd grade) and who now lives in the D.C. area, (as well as more than few on-line sites) is the Tea and Tour package offered by the All Hallows Guild on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons at the observational level of the National Cathedral.  HOWEVER, tickets for that are limited that, you NEED to book this well in advance…. like WELL in advance. So by the time Gina had finally made up her mind about when she wanted to visit, they were already all sold out. As such, even though this is what I had wanted to do — and hope still to do at some later date, I had to find an alternative.

Happily, there are more than a few high teas in the D.C. area, and I ultimately settled on the highest ranked on on Yelp, Lady Camellia’s.

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All in all we were happy with our Tea… we found the tea itself (as in our chosen brews) to be more flavorful than at the previous locations… but offerings of scones, cakes, and sandwiches — while tasty — didn’t quite hold a candle to awesome offerings at Disney’s Grand Floridian… that said, and to be fair… the Floridian’s tea Cheshire Tea had cost almost double for a not that dissimilar menu

Grand Floridian’s Cheshire Tea: $48.00/per person
Selection of exotic fruits and imported cheeses
Medley of Finger Sandwiches accompanied with Berries, Cheese and Lavosh
Buttery Scone and Jam Tart
Choice of delicate House-Made Pastries, Strawberries and Creme, or English Trifle
Choice of tea

while Lady Camilla’s Full Tea option cost us $29.00/per person
1 pot of tea
2 scones or 2 croissants or a mix
4 pastries of choice (selection varies daily)
2 tea sandwiches of choice:
Cucumber, Egg salad, Brie & Apple, Smoked Salmon & creme fraiche

(we decided we didn’t want their $36 High Tea with an entree menu option, thinking, rightly as it turned out, that it would be way too much food)

This time however, Gina and I were not alone… I decided to invite along (with her permission) my Airbnb host, who was a very nice recently divorced guy who didn’t seem to get out of the house near half enough… who kindly drove us to the teashop.

IMG_0725 And on that topic, Be Warned!!!! Georgetown has NO rapid transit, none… Thise, to paraphrase the guy who first told me about this (an Airbnb host I had had while down in Miami), “was designed intentionally in order to keep the riff-raff out;” as such, you have to either get to this tea shop by some sort of private conveyance (like a kindly Airbnb host), or by foot from the closest metro stop (about a quarter mile away).

After the Tea, my Airbnb host headed home to welcome a new guest that was arriving that day (he has set up FIVE bedrooms in his home, in addition to his own) while Gina and I set ourselves on a 8 mile (21,235 steps — thank you apple watch) hike around the tourist center of D.C.