Tokyo Lesson #335: Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. Sometimes the Japanese really mean what they say.
So anyone who has been to Japan will tell you that everyone here is not so good at translating things into English, especially on signs and menus. I’ve seen English idioms and phrases get butchered on store fronts, signs in stores spelling things totally wrong and menu pages use words that don’t really describe anything at all.
So when we saw a restaurant called Bowels we laughed and thought it was another case of botched translation. Surely these silly Japanese people meant to call the restaurant Bowls and just put the “e” in there by mistake. Maybe they were just phonetically sounding out bowls since there’s no real “wl” sound here it’d make sense to say “bo-we-ls”, or so we thought. So Thursday night we set out to visit Bowels just to see what they actually served in those bowls and to say we ate at bowels. Too funny to resist.
The spot was nice. We got there and were led upstairs where about 3 other parties were dining. Despite all of the outside signage being in English, the menus only came in Japanese. Luckily, we had a friend with us who can speak a lil and a waiter who dabbled in English. We asked the waiter, what they served there and he straight up said BOWELS. We must have looked shocked because he rubbed his lower abdomen and said it again. BOWELS. Oh my God! The entire menu was centered around cow innards. We kind of looked at each other like oh well, there was always the slight chance this place would serve bowels, right?
No one is really a fan of bowels. One of my roommates hadn’t had any since she did Peace Corps in Cameroon and the other two of us hadn’t had anything since we learned what Chit’lins really were. But here we were at this restaurant in Tokyo about to eat some cow intestine. Great. So we had the waiter explain a couple of appetizers on the menu and we leaned towards safe things, ordering mussels and octopus.
We got one bowel dish that homeboy said was oishii (delicious). Hey, when in Rome…
I want to take this moment to point out that we were a party of 4 but only 2 of us actually ate the bowels. This is important because we’re not punks and we need the world to know that. Okay. So we put these squishy things in our mouth and start to chew. The flavor wasn’t bad. They certainly didn’t stink like chit’lins or anything. But the texture. Dear God the texture was so terrible. We were chewing and chewing for damn near 3 minutes! It would not dissolve. It would not break down at all. The texture became so disgusting finally we had to swallow it hole. I don’t remember how much we paid for that dish, but we only ate two pieces and that was that. At least we ain’t no punks!
The octopus wasn’t that good, in my opinion. Bad texture as well. I usually don’t mind octopus if it’s takoyaki, kind of a fried octopus ball which is truly oishii. The mussels were fucking out of this world tho and I’d consider visiting Bowels again just to order them. Matter of fact, we liked them so much that we asked the waiter to bring us some bread to sop up the garlicky buttery oil the mussels were cooked in.
It was the best meal I’d had all week.
Of course we took a lot of pictures. It was funny when the waiter told us in the beginning that a lot of foreigners take pictures of the restaurant’s window but he couldn’t figure out why. I laughed because we had already taken a picture of the sign and then some but I turned to him and said, “Why would anyone do that?!” Clearly, we can’t imagine why anyone would name a restaurant the most unappetizing word for intestines. I told a friend of mine this story and he said that even if they serve bowels, it’s crazy for them to actually name the place BOWELS… it’s not like McDonald’s is called “Burgers N Shit”. LMAO!