Monday, August 13, 2007

Unexpected Asian

Unexpected Asian

2 out of 5 grains of rice

One of the great things about Asian cooking is that you can find it anywhere (almost). After spending a weekend on Mackinac Island (which as far as we can tell has NO Asian food at all – would-be restaurateurs be advised), my wife and I found ourselves hungry during a short stopover at the Detroit Airport. Given the large number of flights from Detroit to Asia, including Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul, we weren’t entirely surprised to come across more than your average American fast food.

Around Gate A-25, we found one of the now relatively common Japanese airport eateries – this one named Sora. Now let’s be clear, despite the pan-Asian wait staff and the sushi bar found upon entering, we were not expecting authentic Japanese cuisine, and were not greeted by the common Japanese restaurant welcome “ ”. But we did find a very full menu of sushi, sashimi and more complete dishes like Chirashi (assorted sushi over rice) and hot dishes ranging from udon and ramen noodles to tonkastu (deep fried pock cutlet).

Never one to turn down a chance at Japanese noodles, we each had a bowl – I ordered a Katsune Udon (wheat noodles with sweetened and deep fried tofu) and my wife a bowl of Gyoza Ramen (fried noodles with pork dumplings). (I am on a heavy udon kick after seeing the Japanese movie Udon on a flight from Asia recently). There were other soup options, including some with tempura (lightly breaded and deep fried) shrimp and other empting options. But we had only 25 minutes and wanted to keep it simple.

Both were surprisingly good. The udon had a little texture to them, and were topped with both tofu as well as some green onion and fish cake. Kastune means fox in Japanese and the color of the fried tofu is supposed to resemble the color of a wild fox. The fried tofu was right on, slightly sweetened with sugar, but with a silky texture that holds together in the soup. The broth (a key part in any of the Japanese soups) was also pretty good, although I would have preferred a slightly more pronounced bonito or fish flavor. The ramen noodles were a little tougher than I care for, and the broth had a slightly unusual, almost artificial flavor I could not quite place – maybe a flavor enhancer or bouillon additive. But the gyoza were good and the soup over all was pretty satisfying – which after all is what you want in all meals and in soup in particular.

In the end, both were much better than I would ever expect to find in an airport and would be decent in most downtown areas in the US. Now maybe we were just suffering from withdrawals, not having had Asian food for perhaps 4 whole days, but we were both pretty happy with the find. I am not going to book any flights through Detroit just to go back (unlike what I would do to get back to the Sushi bar I found at Narita last year) but won’t object to the next little layover I might find myself scheduled for in Michigan.