This review originally appeared in the Ramapo News.
We went to Japan this week. Well, no, we really didn’t, but Mitsuwa marketplace in Edgewater, NJ is pretty much the closest available center of all things Japanese—from food to toys to car accessories. As we drove down through Edgewater on our way to Mitsuwa, we heard an exotic chirp emanate from the trees. As it turns out, Edgewater is home to hundreds of green Wild Quaker parrots—an ‘invasive’ species, nobody knows how they got here. They are to Edgewater what pigeons are to New York City.
Getting into Mitsuwa is exactly what I’d imagine leaving a crowded subway in Shinjuku would be like: full of crowds, bumpiness, and busy people. It can be a little difficult to park, and once you’ve entered, a little difficult to find your way around if you are unseasoned. As we entered, the first thing we saw was a beautiful display of fruit. There are fruits you will have never seen before, and they are horribly expensive. After staring at the produce, we strolled down the cooking equipment aisle, home to electronics such as rice cookers and mini ovens, and also bento boxes, a type of lunchbox which often contains elaborate displays of food. These ranged from more “shiriasu” (serious) wood grained boxes to “kawaii” (cute) boxes with animal caricatures on them.
Serious sushi fans will find the meat section of Mitsuwa to be like walking into the Garden of Eden. Every meat you can imagine, thinly sliced and completely ready to be turned into sushi by your own hands. Rounding the corner you’ll find the rice section, an ideal place to go if you’re broke and decide to spend your last ten dollars on twenty pounds of rice to feed you for the rest of the year. Following that is teas, where this week they had a sample of Genmaicha, a green tea mixed with toasted rice which has the alluring smell of popcorn. Moving on, we ended up at the snack section. Every Japanese candy is represented from the old warhorse Pocky to the up and coming Pudding Marshmallows. It’s enough to make an otaku squeal.
Staring at all this food was making us pretty hungry, so we decided to give Mitsuwa’s extremely awesome food court a shot. There’s an udon noodle shop, a ramen shop, a Chinese-style food shop, a tonkatsu shop, and an…Italian shop. We decided on starting with Udon noodles, which are thick wheat noodles served in broth. I got a cold noodle dish with a raw quail egg on top. This was not a good idea. Not because I worry about eating the raw egg, as in a safe, clean food environment such as Mitsuwa I don’t worry about my egg sitting out for an extreme amount of time. It’s because some combination of the textures really got to me and I couldn’t deal with it. The other noodle dish we got, the beef curry dish, was incredible and I was barely stoppable with my chopsticks, eating that. I was still hungry.
To combat this hunger we stopped at the tonkatsu shop. Tonkatsu is a deep fried pork cutlet, but the meals they serve are much more than that, creating tonkatsu out of shrimp, pork, ham and asparagus, and then serving it with a thin miso soup, fruit slices, potato salad, tofu with pork, and a heaping bowl of rice. This I shared with a friend. James also got the tonkatsu, but he got the shrimp—this is a must have at Mitsuwa, if only to stare in shock and awe at the shrimp which are the length of your forearm, and still manage to taste amazing.
But seriously, Italian food? Actually it was perfectly fine, with one strange discrepancy. Despite more than 50% of the Mitsuwa food court consisting of noodle shops, the spaghetti was bland. It was cooked properly, yet flavorless. Really weird. It also came with a huge, shiny roll which was almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.
On our way out we couldn’t help but notice that the soft serve stand had black sesame soft serve. This was probably one of the best ice creams I’ve ever had, even though it looked like a delicate swirl of concrete sitting on my ice cream cone. It had the nutty, deep, rich taste of sesame, which has, in this case, a similar flavor profile to that of peanut butter. I’d eaten too much though, and had to abandon both my ice cream cone and Mitsuwa, and bid it sayonara for the day.
Mitsuwa is an excellent look into another country’s culture, and as such is hard to rate properly. As with any large market your experience will be different each time. With that in mind,