When I came back from my trip to Tokyo and Kyoto I brought back perfumed pink disposable masks as a souvenir. We laughed about it when I explained that people wore them in the underground. The irony of that is thick enough to slather on toast.
My trip to Japan was a long time wish, shot out of the sky constantly by a combination of lack of funds and lack of time. But in the summer of 2019 I went. Summer because the humidity and heat make it low season.
It was expensive but not nearly expensive as I had imagined. I picked business hotels because they were cheaper to stay in. When we were headed out of the business district, locals were piling in.
As a person that tips towards salty on the taste spectrum. I found myself amongst friends. Even the hard-boiled egg on sale in its shell at the local Seven-Eleven came salted. Just shy of too salty. Rice came with pickles. Not sour, salty and shrivelled. I came away from 10 days in Japan with a thirst for fruit. To cleanse my salt loaded palette. And when I had the fruit, I was ready to go back to Japan for more.
Last week I went to La Coco. It’s kind of a Japanese tavern. A woman from Tokyo in the front and a cook from Kyoto in the kitchen. The front room is like a small box made for something special. It has a narrow base and high walls. White. There was a lot of white in Japan with blond wood. Often when I bought something in Japan it was difficult to discard the box.
The two women are delicate and small. I am 1 meter 65 and wear a size 36 shoe but in Japan, I felt big and clumsy. I perspired like a construction worker in the midday sun within moments of exiting the shower. I was conscious of my gesticulating and my voice carrying while everyone else appeared contained in space, in volume, in gesture.
And so with the food. I had the menu del dia with karaage. Karaage is fried chicken. Americans came up with the idea to serve fried chicken in a bucket. At La Coco, the fried chicken is 4 pieces, maybe 5. On one side of a rectangular plate. On the other, hair-thin shaved cabbage. Undressed. Like I saw in Japan when I had fried battered pork in Kyoto. If not exactly a palette cleanser, the cabbage seems to interrupt the story of the fried meat. There is a miso soup. Salty. The pause from the saltiness comes from the cubes of tofu, that haven’t yet soaked in the broth.
And there is rice. No trace of salt. Glistening. Clinging obligingly to my chopsticks though I still hold the bowl close to my mouth. I have some finesse but overall I am still a clumsy European.
Shortly after I walk into the empty restaurant at one o’clock. A tall, young and strikingly beautiful Japanese girl comes in. She has the blackest hair, cascading past her shoulders and a straight black fringe that interlaces the top of her eyelashes when she isn’t looking down at her food. She sits at the bar and the owner brings her food. She brings her hands together in thanks and tucks in.
Her name is Shiori I find out. She is a friend of the owner. La Cocolo opened in March 2020 right when Corona became the European pandemic. It’s been navigating the perilous governmental decrees since then. Since the commarcal closures and municipal closures, Shiori hasn’t been able to come into town. But whenever she has a modelling job, she comes here.
It must feel like home. It feels like what I experienced in Japan but even softer. I think because the food comes from women. The whole thing has the lightness of flower petals twirling delicately in water. Which as I write I find funny because I had fried battered chicken.
The menu del dia is 14€. I can have dessert or coffee. Dessert. A slice of Matcha Chiffon cake, a dollop of just whipped cream, a diagonal spatter of Matcha powder.
La Coco Japanese
C/ d/Aulèstia i Pijoan, 6