Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Japanese-Italian Cuisine vs. Food Authenticity

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a food snob. Okay, I’m a snob about many things, but I have especially high standards for food because it plays such a key role in my life. But recently, I’ve had a bit of a paradigm shift.

You see, I have a thing against fAsian food because of the issue with authenticity. FAsian food is “fake Asian” (Americanized Asian) food, like the stuff you get at Mandarin and Manchu Wok – you know, sweet and sour stuff, chicken balls, chop suey and so on. It’s not yummy to me, and a big part of it, flavour aside, is because it’s not authentic.

But here on my trip, I’ve stumbled across this spectacular phenomenon that is Japanese-ified Italian food, which is SO GOOD, particularly in the form of spaghetti. Italian food that is adapted to the tastes of Japanese people is incredibly delicious. Tomato sauces are sweeter and less sour than their Italian counterparts, cream sauces are more savoury, flavours are more intense...I don’t even know exactly how to describe it, because it’s nothing like the kind of Italian food I’m used to of. You can say it’s not authentic Italian food, but I think that it’s a side to Japanese food that is little known. Japanese cuisine isn’t just about sushi, tempura and teppanyaki, you know? And herein lies my point – what is authenticity, anyway? If someone takes a type of food that was invented by someone else and completely re-works it to create something completely new with its own character and is very popular with local people, who am I to criticize it? I love to use the brilliant Jennifer 8. Lee’s example to illustrate this point: If our benchmark for Americanness is apple pie, how often do you eat Chinese food? How often do you eat apple pie?

My favourite Japanese-Italian joint is Capricciosa, which is located in the North Tower basement in Roppongi Hills. They have a variety of Italian fare, but I am obsessed with their spaghettis (as well as their strawberry shortcake, but that’s a whole other post). Their pastas are cooked perfectly al dente, and their sauces are to die for – especially their tomato sauces. But I’ve also tried their crème, olive oil and squid ink sauces, and they are all fantastic. The pricing is also very reasonable, considering the fact that it’s smack dab in the middle of a very trendy part of downtown Tokyo – at the very least, it’s definitely way cheaper than eating in Nice, and the food is also way tastier, in my opinion. And the service, just like almost anywhere else in Tokyo, is stellar.

So if and when anyone makes a trip here to Tokyo, please be sure to check out Japanese-Italian pastas! Don’t make the mistake of only having sushi, sashimi, ramen, etc.!

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