November 30, 2003

Great $4.50 Lunch

After looking at more apartments this morning, I had a slightly confused subway ride to Tendon Imoya (天丼いもや) near the Jimbocho station. This tempura restaurant is a quick 3 minute walk from the A5 exit of the station.

The restaurant consists of a beautiful counter, apparently cut from a single board, with about 15 seats. A single chef prepares tempura, while two waitstaff dole out rice, tea and soup.

500 yen ($4.50) gets you rice, hot tea, miso soup with clams and, most importantly of all, 5 pieces of tempura (squid, shrimp, kisu ("sillago" in English -- I've never heard of it), pumpkin and shiso leaf). The tempura was light and tasty, albeit a little greasy.

As an aside, we tend to think of tempura as a snack or appetizer in the US. In Japan, however, it is "real" food. You can go to a high-end tempura restaurant like yama-no-ue and blow $200 a person on amazing batter-fried morsels. Imoya captured much of the appeal of perfect tempura at a much, much lower price.

Posted by pmk at 11:58 PM | Comments (1)

November 29, 2003

Dollar Store Sushi

After driving around Tokyo for a few hours yesterday looking at apartments, my wife and I were starving. We were in Hiroo and on the advice of the real estate agent we were with, we went to Sushi Misakimaru (すし三崎丸).

We walked in and sat at the busy counter. Three sushi chefs were preparing sushi, although most of the fish was already precut. Signs reading 100円 (100 Yen) covered the walls. We'd walked into the sushi-equivalent of a dollar store.

I'll interject here that the concept of discount sushi terrifies me. Eating raw food safely requires starting with quality product, then taking good care of it while it is transported, stored and served. All of this costs money, which means that if your discount sushi shop decides to start cutting costs, it may have a direct impact on your health (or at least your appetite!).

We started ordering, despite my misgivings, and I was amazed. While the sushi was roughly prepared, the quality of the fish was very good. Ordering hirame and uni was pretty funny, though. While cuts of cheaper fish, such as aji, were quite generous, my hirame barely covered the bed of rice it sat on. The uni was bolstered by an extra helping of cucumber to help mask the fact that there just wasn't much sea urchin there.

Anyway, Kyubei it wasn't, but the quality of the product was easily better than any sushi I've ever had in the US, regardless of price point.

The store is part of a chain that includes a store in Shinjuku, so if you are ever surfing for cheap, good sushi, Misakimaru is an easy option.

Posted by pmk at 6:30 PM | Comments (0)

November 18, 2003

Customer Service Rant #838102

Great customer service experience today with Etymotic Research.

I have a pair of Etymotic ER-4S's. These are incredible headphones that are designed to be inserted deeply into the ear canal, giving you 20-25 dB of noise isolation. Unlike noise cancelling headphones, the isolation is accomplished physically, not by injecting a phase-reversed signal, so you get noise reduction across the frequency spectrum, not just at the high-end, and you don't mess with your music to get it.

Anyway, I have custom-made plugs for my ER-4S's, which make the 'phones extremely comfortable and provides better isolation to boot. A few weeks ago, the stem of one of the ER-4S's broke off inside the custom plug, due to some pretty rough handling on my part.

I put off sending the headphones in, mostly because I was so busy. When I finally got around to sending them in, I had less than a week before I left for Tokyo. I threw them in a box and sent them off with a quick note.

Two days later, I got a call from the Etymotic tech, letting me know that he'd received my 'phones and had already repaired the stem. He also noticed that the custom plugs had been drilled out wrong, which was putting pressure on the earphones and had probably caused the stem to break in the first place. Despite the fact that Etymotic hadn't manufactured the custom plugs, he offered to make a mold from my plugs and make a new set that were drilled out correctly.

To make a long story short, I had my earphones back in time for the 14-hour plane trip to Tokyo with standard plugs and Etymotic says I will have my new custom plugs in a week or two.

Total cost to me: $0. Etymotic Research rocks!

Posted by pmk at 9:04 PM | Comments (0)

November 7, 2003

Broken Things

Had a bad product design experience lately? Report it.

Posted by pmk at 9:30 AM | Comments (4)