Sushi, Pacific lobster… cheeseburgers: Japanese cuisine worthy of a president | Japan


North Korea, China, trade and security. When US presidents visit Japan, the summit agenda practically writes itself. Deciding what to feed them, however, is an entirely different matter.

When the White House is occupied by someone with such an unadventurous palate as Donald Trump, the opportunity to showcase the delicate flavors and aesthetic beauty of his cuisine, or washoku, is limited.

Such was the case during Trump’s first visit to Japan in 2017, when he and then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sat down to cheeseburgers and fries at a golf club — a choice that spurred a run for the burgers at the restaurant in Tokyo that made them. .

Treating presidents and their delegations to some of Tokyo’s best food — in a city with more Michelin stars than Paris — hasn’t always gone to plan.

In 1991, George HW Bush interrupted a Japanese banquet to vomit in the lap of its host, then Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa. The incident, in which Bush passed out, was blamed on a bout of flu, not the food.

The success was greatest in 2014, when Barack Obama and Abe discussed trade at the world’s best sushi restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro.

Despite reports that Obama failed to complete the 20-piece course, the owner’s son, Yoshikazu Ono, said the president finished every piece.

“He seemed to like chu toro [medium fatty tuna] a lot because he winked when he ate it,” Ono said. “He said three times, ‘This is the best sushi I’ve ever eaten in my life.'”

Shinzo Abe pours sake for Barack Obama as they dine at the Sukiyabashi Jiro sushi restaurant in Tokyo in 2014. Photo: Cabinet Public Relations Office/Reuters

In 2002, Japan’s maverick prime minister Junichiro Koizumi avoided an official state dinner and instead presented teetotal George W Bush and first lady Laura Bush to the delights of a izakaya Japanese style pub.

Days before Biden’s arrival in Tokyo on Sunday, the Asahi Shimbun reported that Japanese officials were concerned about how to combine Japanese cuisine with the president’s penchant for “ordinary people’s food.”

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Biden is known to have a strong taste for ice cream and is said to have devoured two – chocolate chips, then vanilla and chocolate – in quick succession while chatting with US troops and their families at Osan Air Base in South Korea. this week-end.

Dinner at a restaurant serving okonomiyakia savory pancake from Hiroshima, where Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has his constituency, was ruled out over “security concerns”, the Asahi said.

Kishida and Biden, who are traveling without first lady Jill Biden, were due to dine at Happo-en, a traditional Japanese restaurant that serves multiple dishes kaiseki banquets.

Seafood menu for the two chefs, simmered Pacific lobster – accompanied by dried sea cucumber ovary – crab, calamari and scallops and, in a nod to the guest of honour, a “special ice cream” for dessert.

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