Monday, August 06, 2007

Oyaji? Oh Yeah!

It’s titles like this that tip you off I might write ad copy. I’m afraid my penchant for puns and my arsenal of alliterative phrases make it impossible to avoid ad-ish speak everywhere I jot thoughts: blogs, emails, bathroom stalls. It’s a blessing and a curse.

In any case, the Oyaji I speak of is an authentic Japanese Izakaya in the avenues, and if you’ve not ventured in, I highly recommend it. I joined a group of foodie friends there, including the doyenne of SF dining, the illustrious and incomparable Tablehopper. Good choice, Miz Marcia. The menu is long and varied and includes enough sizzling meat and steamy noodle dishes that you’d never even miss ordering sushi, though they have plenty of that too. Our tablehopping hostess suggested we go sans sushi so as to fully experience the other authentic options, but we did cave when it came to the Crunchy Wedding Roll. Stuffed with spicy hamachi and avocado, it was the inevitable handrolled edible.

Aside from all the Japanese hits and classic numbers, the menu includes some more daring dishes that may intimidate the Western palate. And by “the Western”, I mean my own. I manned up and tried them all, but feel confident that I won’t need to revisit items like the Horumon Yaki (stewed and skewered beef intestine), Yaki Onigiri (a sort of seaweed risotto cake) and the dreaded Kurage Su (jellyfish in vinegar sauce) any time soon. To be fair, this last dish was the least offensive in taste. It was sort of like a miso chutney. However, the gelatinous consistency was enough to nudge me away indefinitely. I do have a picture of it, but I trust you’ve all seen a jellyfish. Just imagine it on a plate, dolloped with marmalade and you get the picture. Now if you’re feeling brave about eating slimy sea creatures and innards, you’ll be amazed what the chef’s special soju can do in the way of bringing liquid courage.

Which brings us to the chef. An important note about Oyaji is that, in Japanese, the word translates roughly to mean “dad” but it also connotes “dirty old man” or "pervert...and somehow this is meant affectionately. And in this Oyaji, the owner has named the place with true intention, for never a pervier dude will you meet. He’s notorious for hitting the liquor and then hitting on the ladies. He makes the rounds and engages in conversation ranging from mildly to wildly inappropriate. Luckily (I’m told) we escaped the worst of this behavior, mostly owing to one eagle-eyed attendee at our table who alerted us everytime he got “out of the box” i.e., emerged from behind the sushi counter. He did proffer a bottle of soju from his secret stash, which smelled more like Jim Beam than the typically clear, clean-tasting stuff. And being good guests, we drank the whole thing. But we got out before its effects took hold, conceivably rendering us victim to unwanted advances. All in all, it was a delightful, delicious and yes, drunken evening. We’re going to give the overall experience two tentacles up.

In other recent news, we went to see Rufus Wainwright at Mountain Winery on Saturday. Sean Lennon opened (with a Yoko-circa-’68 doppelganger on keys) and sort of blew me away ( I bought his new album, Friendly Fire, as soon as I got home). Then, the two of them sang “Across the Universe” as an encore. And it was sublime. Lastly, Rufus did Judy Garland’s “Get Happy” in quasi drag (black blazer, stockings, fedora, earrings and pumps) while his backing band broke out all the broadway stops: jazz hands, plastered expressions of joyful surprise and even synchronized somersaults. If you all haven’t discovered RW's music yet, do yourself a favor and check out the performer Elton John called “the best songwriter of the century.” You shan't be disappointed.

Addendum: Here's a video of Rufus and Sean singing "Across the Universe". It's not the same show I attended, but it's a comparable performance. And yes, you guessed it, under that terry robe, Rufus is sporting his Garland getup. If you dig it, you can youtube them singing "This Boy" too. Then you could waste a whole afternoon streaming songs and singing along.


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