Monday, December 21, 2009

Satou - Tokyo

Worth the Wait?
Whenever I'm traveling and see a long line of people, queued up waiting for food, I can take two different actions. If they're all tourists, I keep it moving. If they're locals, I get in line. Such was the case in Kichijoji, a neighborhood in western Tokyo. There was an epic line to navigate for the honor of buying these deep-fried meatballs with sweet onions.

There must have been 40 people ahead of us. I drew an arrow to show you the shop, way in the distance. These damned meatballs better be good! Pingles was ready to forget it but I convinced her to stay.

Thirty minutes later, we were within sniffing distance and the smell was good. Each meatball was 140 Yen, which is around $1.60. We weren't sure how big they were so we ordered five. When they handed the bag over to us we knew we'd made a mistake. They were snowball-sized! Taste-wise it was a big "so what" for me. Just a big, juicy, meatball with onions, nothing special. Definitely not worth waiting for. So why the long line?

In Japan, my queue equation needs to be calibrated. See, in Tokyo, people wait for everything. Not because it is good but because there are 20 million people crammed together. This nearby restaurant in Kichijoji is nice enough to give you a place to sit and a blanket to keep warm - they know you'll be out there in the cold for a while.

Queueing for a cab at midnight in Shinjuku after riding the metro. How about a nice 30 minute cab wait after your 30 minute subway ride?

These people are waiting to park their bikes in the municipal bike parking lot. They'll eventually deposit their bikes then board a train.

Perhaps with this in mind, the metro planners offer a variety of express trains. There is semi-express, express and rapid express. Sadly, none of these is faster than the other - there is no middle track that I've seen. These simply vary in the number of stops, not in elapsed time to your destination.


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  1. I am not sure what a usual beef ball taste like but this sure tastes great. Other than smelling wonderful, there's chestnut bits and chunks of onion added to the juicy minced beef to give it flavor and crunch. I have no complains..

    Street is wonderful for eating.. red bean pancake close by is wonderful too!!

  2. Yes, the red bean pancake was better than the meatballs. Should photoed that instead.

  3. When I first had it, it was also somewhat mediocre for me. But after having spent a year studying abroad in Japan (and thus having learned what normal menchi cuts are supposed to taste like) and then trying the menchi cuts from Steakhouse Satou, OH MY FRICKIN GOD THE MENCHI CUTS FROM STEAKHOUSE SATOU ARE FRICKIN AMAZING.

    So basically, you may not appreciate it unless you are familiar with what they taste like normally.