It’s been about a decade since I visited Mitsuwa, the sprawling Japanese supermarket located just across the river in New Jersey. I remember being intrigued but not terribly impressed by the megamart’s food court. So when my friend Kaori—who is my go-to gal when it comes to Japanese food—told me about Mitusuwa’s Hokkaido Gourmet Food Fair, being held this weekend I decided to check it out. Yesterday was the festival’s first day. So after pregaming with an early Filipino breakfast, I was soon on my way to Port Authority’s Gate 51 to the board the complimentary shuttle to the mystical land of Edgewater, N.J.
The first thing I noticed when I entered was the line for Ramen Ezo Fukuro. It stretched to the exit door beneath a banner proclaiming, “We are open this weekend only! Miso ramen from Sapporo, Japan. The chefs flew in from Japan just for this weekend! That’s how special this is!”
I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to try the ramen or not so I went in search of the seafood delicacies that Kaori had told me about. Soon I was standing in front of a gent working a king crab assembly line. Dozens of bentos lay before him each filled with incredibly fresh looking king crab with uni or king crab with salmon roe. The mere sight of him assembling the jewel like boxes invoked a Pavlovian response.
A seemingly endless array of seafood permutations—just crab; crab and salmon roe; crab and sea urchin, crab, sea urchin, and roe—lined the cold case. All were also available as bento boxes. The couple ahead of me in line couldn’t decide and ordered what looked to be one of each. Their bill came to around $100. Suddenly I didn’t feel so bad about plunking down $23 for my bento of king crab, sea urchin, and crab flakes. The cool chunks of crab leg, creamy uni, and bits of crab meat were worth every penny. It’s certainly cheaper than air flight to Hokkaido. I also got a pair of tiny squid that had been stuffed to the bursting point with a hard-boiled egg. I ate one, and saved the other.
As I was getting up I asked a guy who was enjoying the festival with his elderly parents each decked out as if they were attending a garden party if there was one thing I absolutely had to try. “Get the ramen,” he said. So I headed over to join the soup line. There were two types of soup on offer, a traditional Sapporo miso ramen and a spicy red miso ramen. (Ezo will also have black garlic version today and Sunday.) Even though I was starting to feel rather full it was one of the best spicy ramens I have ever had.
After wandering around in a ramen coma for a while I found Yamcho-Hasegawa Seafood Delicacies. Two ladies were doling out samples of scallops with wasabi, seasoned squid, and my favorite, cool seasoned herring roe with kelp. I am tempted to go back tomorrow and purchase some of that herring roe.
There were also a lot of snacks and beverages from Hokkaido on sale, including some crazy looking boxes of chocolate made from melon and corn. Even though there only available during the festival I decided not to purchase the milk chocolate maize, and instead took home some lovely mochi.
On the way out I grabbed a cone of melon soft serve ice cream. I ate it while on line for the shuttle back to New York City. I overheard a foursome of fellow gaijin talking about food in Queens. As I heard them talk about Tibetan food in Jackson Heights and the wonders of Flushing I thought to myself Queens with its Burmese and Thai food festivals is an ethnic foodie lover’s nirvana, but for several weekends a year Mitsuwa has it beat when it comes to Japanese food.