The bf came to visit for my 30th birthday and we spent four delicious days eating, eating and eating some more excellent Japanese food (which I will blog about in the days to come): izakaya, tofu kaiseki, Japanese molecular gastronomy, elaborate traditional kaiseki, bentos, soba, sushi. And after all that Japanese food, I was SO DONE with Japanese cuisine. After awhile, Japanese food all tastes the same: variations of soy sauce, sugar and dashi broth. Pretty much all Japanese food is cooked, flavored, marinated, stewed, fried, reduced, basted or garnished with some variation of soy sauce, sugar and dashi broth. The thought of eating one more meal flavored with sweet-soy-dashi actually made me feel nauseated.
So despite the original plan to eat as much Japanese food (and only Japanese food) as possible during the bf's visit, I declared that I needed a reprieve. I was daydreaming of cheese. Fresh cheese, melted cheese, but loads and loads of cheese. And vegetables. Fresh or roasted. And so help me God, if any of it contained even a hint of sweet-soy-dashi, I was going to pack my bags and leave Tokyo for good.
I recalled a mozzarella bar I used to live by, another of the many places in Tokyo I've been meaning to try but never got around to. We headed to Obika fairly early for dinner, around 6:30 pm on a Monday night and the place was almost completely empty except for a couple sitting in a dark corner (the guy was short, had a bad hair piece and was at least 60 years old, the girl was at least 6 inches taller than him, all leg in a teeny tiny minidress, with long bleached blond hair and could not have been older than 25 but it was clear they were together - these odd couples used to perplex me when I first moved here but it's so not abnormal here (I wouldn't go so far as to say it's normal, but it's not abnormal) that I didn't even notice until the bf noted the age difference; however this is a blog about food so I won't go into this any further) and a middle-aged guy sitting by himself. However, I insisted we stay and try the place when I saw the happy hour sign: 1200 yen (~$13) for unlimited antipasti bar and a drink of your choice. OMG, for Tokyo, during dinner time, they might as well give the food away for free, that's how cheap it is.
The antipasti bar consisted of a chopped salad with various cured Italian meats and mozzarella cubes, another salad with capers, roasted bell peppers and avocado, fried bread, roasted charred butternut squash, roasted vegetables in olive oil, fried potato wedges smothered in tomato sauce and parmesan, cauliflower and broccoli stewed in tomato sauce. The happy hour drink menu includes your choice of house red or white wine, beer or a generous variety of cocktails, although the drink itself is only about a half-serving. In any case, it's still an excellent deal and after all that Japanese food, it was exactly what my body needed. And not a single bite had any hint of sweet-soy-dashi. Obika is a great choice for a true Italian antipasti fix: various types of mozzarella imported from Italy, cured meats, hot antipasti plates to share, a limited choice of entrees and desserts.
Delicious smoky risotto oozing with melted mozzarella, covered with roasted eggplant and served with pesto (not part of happy hour menu)
Plate piled high with true Italian salads and antipasti (no soy, dashi or sugar, thank God)
Martini and glass of rosso
Some of the happy hour antipasti offerings
Food rating: *** and a half
Bang for buck rating: 4 (if you do the happy hour!)
Location: Keyakizaka Street, Roppongi Hills, Tokyo
Average price of meal for two (during happy hours): 4000 yen (~$45)