Sky Full of Bacon

Mio Culpa

I’ve never quite believed those claims that even wine experts, when blindfolded, can’t tell red wine from white. I’m a long ways from being an expert and yet I’m pretty sure that I could distinguish the tomatoeyness of red from the herbalness of white without any visual clues.

However, that the power of suggestion is a powerful factor in taste is undeniable.  We taste what we expect to taste, much of the time.

I went to a new Japanese restaurant in my neighborhood, Mio Bento, a few weeks back.  I liked it okay for what it seemed to be, basically mall Japanese in a new condo building, but the setting and the emphasis on takeout led me to put it in a certain class.  And so one assumption I made was that the udon started with a commercial stock or base product— it had the one-dimensionally meaty taste of beef bouillon.  Using a shortcut product like that seems like the kind of thing a place doing mainly takeout business in a condo building would do.  So I said so on this blog.

Except that udon isn’t made with beef.  It’s a seaweed-based stock, and the owners of Mio Bento replied here:

Thanks for stopping into Mio Bento & posting about us on your blog. There’s a bunch of other dishes that will be rolling out as we continue to grow. If you want to sample the goods earlier on (and maybe give us your input)let us know.

By the way, the udon broth is made from scratch daily :-)

So I went back to Mio Bento a couple of days ago, and had the udon again. Now that I was expecting to taste more than Insta-Beef, I did— the udon seemed richer, more complex, I picked out notes of star anise and cinnamon (whether they’re actually in it or not).

So which judgement is right? Who knows. But I appreciate the good humor that Julie, co-owner, showed when I identified myself after eating there. She explained that the udon is made every day by her mother, who has owned a string of Japanese restaurants in other cities; she and her husband opened this one in part to lure Mom to come live with them. They’re Korean (not uncommon in Japanese restaurants here), and the menu has a few Korean items, and will continue to grow as the restaurant evolves— better signage is on the way, for instance, which their almost-invisible restaurant needs.

We talked about other things, what Asian foods our kids will eat or not eat and so on, and then she pointed out a little glass container of Asian truffles— I mean the chocolate kind— which a friend is trying to start as a business. They had chocolate on the outside, like you’d expect, but the inside was a wheat paste soaked in cognac, and there was a walnut on top. Okay, not what you’d expect from a Belgian chocolate shop, say, but they were kind of good all the same, in a not so decadent kind of way.

It was a pleasant visit, and it’s a nice addition to the neighborhood. Give it a chance. Or in my case, two chances, and see what you missed the first time.

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