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lunch at a.e.l and the return home

October 21, 2010

I’ve been having a problem with energy since returning home from the race last weekend and have opted to focus on resting and recovering from the Katsunuma 10k race this week. My lack of energy has clearly extended to blogging, so for now you’ll just have to be content with hearing what we did after the race on Sunday.

Jun was out doing some shopping when we arrived back in Yamanashi-shi after the race, so Eric and I stopped by the square directly in front of the station to take some pictures while we waited for her to finish up. Eric has a compulsion that drives him to take pictures of himself posing with statues, and there was a nice big one there that had been calling out to him since our arrival the day before. He held up some of my post-race grapes for added authenticity, of course.

We also got some shots of me, though I chose to pass on the grapes for my photos. And yes, before you ask, I left my race bib on for almost a full 3 hours after crossing the finish line, including the train ride back, posing for pictures in Yamanashi-shi, and my triumphant return to Jun’s apartment as a seasoned 10k racer. I think I earned the right to show off for a bit.

We didn’t have to wait long, as Jun and Amanda arrived at our location while we were still in the middle of taking pictures. Apparently they had tried to get our attention by waving and yelling from across the street before the light changed, but we had been too busy posing with the grapes to notice.

I told them about the race, my time, and how I did while we walked back to their apartment; and showed off the grapes and my finisher’s certificate. This lead to a discussion about the running and race requirements for junior high school students in their prefecture, which was very interesting to me, as I have no experience teaching in the Japanese school system and have never had the opportunity to observe these things first hand.

Back at their apartment I finally detached my bib, showered, and changed into some non-running clothes before Jun, Eric, & I headed off to have a late lunch at a cute café called A.E.L Market.

Jun took me to A.E.L the last time I visited her 2 years ago after I had heard her raving about for quite some time. It’s a small, french-influenced cafe that serves seasonal dishes and handmade cakes in a really casual, almost homey environment. I absolutely loved it the last time I went, and was looking forward to going back there with Eric on this trip.

Upon arriving we took a look at the day’s menu and made our choices. Eric was instantly drawn to the chicken & coconut curry dish, while I was most interested in the pasta of the day, a mushroom and spinach cream arrabiata with scallops. Jun has always ordered the plate of the day (an assortment of small offerings that changes daily) but opted for the pasta this time as well, and we both chose to order the optional side salad. I also got an organic Americano, which was phenomenally good. I had been waffling on whether or not to order it, as I usually try not to have coffee in the afternoon and wasn’t sure how it would pair with the pasta, but I’m so glad that I did in the end! As usual, I had it with as much milk as was provided to me, and no sugar.

Eric’s curry came out before my pasta, and made me briefly reconsider my choice. The Japanese love curry over rice, but not many places deviate too far from the standard sweetish roux. To make it even more tempting, it was served in my favorite style, with the veggies and chicken cooked separately and arranged over the rice and sauce, rather than cooked directly into the sauce itself. I stole a few bites while I waited for my own meal to arrive.
Once my pasta and salad arrived, I forgot all thoughts of the curry, and enjoyed every bite of lunch.

The pasta at A.E.L is hand-made and very flavorful, which really makes it stand out from a lot of other places I’ve tried. I got my pasta without the scallops (since I don’t eat them) and they were kind enough to add extra mushrooms to make up for that, which scores bonus points in my book.

The salad was also noteworthy, as side salads in Japan can be disappointing. They are often the same mix of iceberg lettuce, shredded cabbage, and corn topped with a cherry tomato and maybe cucumber slices, and dressed with either a sesame or soy sauce based dressing. Some places give the option of a Caesar salad, but there’s not a whole lot of variation other than that. The side salad at A.E.L was a baby leaf and tomato salad with a nice vinaigrette, and went very well with the pasta.

Dessert was a bit more difficult for me to decide on. Absolutely everything in the case looked phenomenal, and I was particularly drawn to two choices: the Banana Caramel Chiffon Cake, and the Fig and Almond baked tart.

It took me a while to choose between them, but I finally ended up going with the Caramel Banana Chiffon Cake, reasoning that the tart would be more similar to the scones on the counter I was eyeing for the train ride home. It was like a super airy and light banana bread. Yum!

Jun chose to get the seasonal fruit shortcake, while Eric, chocolate dessert fiend that he is, picked out the Strawberry Chocolate Cake before we’d even ordered lunch and stuck to it. I tried a few bites and it was amazingly good, but too rich for me to have been able to finish on my own. Eric had no problems finishing it himself, and made all sorts of noises of satisfaction while eating.

We stayed at A.E.L until around 4pm talking and enjoying the atmosphere before heading back to Jun’s apartment.

Eric and I had decided over lunch to take the Kaiji back to Tokyo, rather than the regular trains as we’d originally planned. We were both tired (though I think Eric was the more tired of the two of us!) and Eric wanted to get some rest without having to worry about changing trains again. Since the Kaiji only runs once an hour we had to scramble a bit to get our stuff together in time to catch the next one at 4:20, but we managed to get onto the platform with a whole 5 minutes to spare.

The trip back home was uneventful. I had planned to start writing up my race recap, but was pretty beat and spent most of the ride staring out the window and catching up on the weekend’s news and blogs instead. Eric, of course, slept through the entire 2 hour ride back to Tokyo.

We stopped in Shinjuku just long enough to grab chicken doner kebabs from our favorite kebab stand so we wouldn’t have to worry about dinner, and then continued the rest of the way home, where we settled onto the couch and relaxed for most of the rest of the evening with kefir smoothies, scones, and some downloaded american dramas.

Do you have problems deciding on what to eat at a restaurant? Would you have picked the Banana Chiffon Cake or the Almond Fig Tart?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 24, 2010 4:47 am

    I do have problems deciding on what to eat. Due to this, I tend to eat the same thing whenever I have been to a restaurant before. If I am having a really hard time deciding, I ask others what they are having. If it’s a place that is serving breakfast and lunch, for instance, knowing which type of food others are having often helps me make up my mind.

    If everyone else is ready to order, I just blurt out the first choice that comes to my mind when the server asks what I’ll have. Sometimes this results in wonderful dining experiences, sometimes…well..not.

    Sorry, but I would’ve totally had the Strawberry Chocolate Cake. Like, Eric, I am a rich chocolate dessert lover. Between your two choices, however, I would’ve definitely gone for the Banana Chiffon Cake.

    • October 24, 2010 3:49 pm

      I’m always the last to decide when we go to a new restaurant, and base my decision heavily on what others are ordering. I usually try not to duplicate, or get something that compliments what others are getting. I am also guilty of blurting out, as well. When I really have a hard time deciding I will have our party call the server over and just see I say when it’s my turn to order.

      One of the good things about living in Japan is that about 75% of the time there is a seasonal offering, and it’s really easy for me to convince myself I should go with that since it’s not alway available. I also sometimes ask the staff for their recommendations to save me from deciding myself. You might remember me using that method to decide on my tea selection when we went to Crown & Crumpet in June. :D

      I love chocolate a lot. But I almost NEVER chose chocolate for dessert when I’m out. It’s just not my thing. I don’t know why, but I tend to go more with fruity or non-chocolate flavors. It works out though, because Eric (and my friend Keiko!) are the opposite and I always get to taste or split their desserts.

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