It’s funny how people end up pairing things that don’t do well together. Like wearing a lime green naugahyde blazer with baby blue corduroy slacks. Or eating lots of beans before hopping onto a crowded bus. Or drinking lots of diet cola and then popping a few Mentos. Or buying a Costco slab of Salmon and making sashimi with it. What were these people thinking? They take one bad thing, combine it with another bad thing, and expect the combo to come out smelling like roses? Hmm…
And so it was when I and Christina attended the launch event of the new Mini Cooper S Countryman. The event was really great, but there were a few things that made us go “Hmm….”
The new Minis sparkled like jewels under the powerful spotlights of the gargantuan, spotlessly clean hangar that housed the event. The cars were accompanied by a display of private jets, which were supposed to complement the champagne taste and caviar dreams of the…errr… Mini crowd. Hmm… maybe the Mini owners invited to the event all have Roll-Royces as second cars.
At the far end of the hangar, event sponsor Jackson Triggs was offering attendees free glasses of wine. Plus a bunch of beer companies were giving away generous cupfuls of their products. Hors d’oeuvres were being served by racequeens walking the hangar floor. Brand new cars, drinks that stain, and food that leave greasy fingers. Hmm… the car cleaning crew is going to be really busy that night.
The Mini Countryman itself is great. It has 4 doors, seats 4 adults comfortably, and offers a huge (for a Mini) trunk. It comes in cool colours and some of the nicest looking wheels this side of a Ferrari. Great car then, but can it still be called a Mini? Hmm… Mid-i much better describes it.
But in spite of everything, this car works. Despite it having attributes that goes against the spirit of the very name of the car, this is the most practical MINI yet. For guys, the good news is that the car manages to ditch its cutesy looks for something more masculine:
It’s not a bad effort. The size of the car doesn’t go with the name, but aside from that, all is well.
And as luck should have it, during our trip, Christina and I came across two things in Osaka that shouldn’t have worked, but did. 1. Fine dining 2. Food cooked on a big teppan less than three feet away from your clothes. Usually, 1 + 2 does not equal 3. In fact, given our subpar experience at the old Teppanyaki place on West Broadway, the name of which escapes me at this moment, we thought Teppanyaki was a pretty silly way to eat a meal. Our Teppanyai experience in Vancouver included “Chefs” who cared more about performing stunts than cooking, fume hoods that blew rather than sucked, and clothes that wanted to jump off our bodies to escape the place halfway through dinner. Yep, based on our experience, 1 + 2 = –10!
Yet luckily for us, at Chibo President, fine dining and cooking on the teppan went together just fine.
We came to Chibo President – located in the Daimaru Osaka buiding – to try their famous Wagyu set meals. And what a meal it was. Here’s a play by play:
We eyed the young chefs with some suspicion. Did they have the skill and experience to cook our Wagyu properly?
A lovely starter of superbly tender beef brisket. Flavourful too. Hmm, this was cooked in the kitchen, and not on the teppan. While eating our brisket, we were eyeing the chefs’ moves. We wondered if we could choose our chef, since the young lady seemed to have much better skills than her young male colleague…
Some vegetarian plate. Blech, not a fan.
We couldn’t decide if the main ingredient here was the nicely crusted pan-fried salmon or the ragu it was sitting on top of. The salmon’s crispy outer crust was a perfect foil for the tender flaky meat right under.
Wahahaha. So, the young lady chef, the one with the best moves, cooked the first of our Wagyu. She sliced up the beef into cubes on the teppan, browned all sides, gave it a few flips with spatulas that looked liked paint scrapers, and served it.
If you leave the Wagyu sitting on your tongue long enough, 1/2 of it will probably melt away. It wasn’t as beefy as Prime beef, but the flavours from the fat was wonderfully sweet. The smooth sweet unctuous texture more than made up for the slight loss of beefiness over prime North American beef.
Given what we were paying for the meal, we were getting disappointed at the miserly amount of beef that we were served. I know Japanese portions are well controlled, but we were starting to get steamed about the seeming lack of value… until we saw our lady chef frying up another piece of Wagyu, plating it, and walking it our way…
More Wagyu goodness. So good, so delicately flavourful that the dipping sauces weren’t needed.
After the beef came this pungent fried rice made with beef fat. Thumbs up. Way up.
Miso and palette cleansers to end the savory portion of the meal.
And then some really good Matcha.
Finally, a nice raspberry sorbet to round off the whole meal.
Chibo President. In this case, 1 + 2 = 3.