So the restaurant where I wanted to try basashi was closed for the night. Just as well. I took enough crap for eating (and enjoying, natch) whale meat and blubber, so I can't imagine the beating I'd take for digging into a creature people actually own and ride and care for like one of their own.
We walked around the train station area of Nagano a bit, and it's great. All sorts of bars - many with funny themes like pirate bars, Hawaiian bars - you name it. Then we stumbled upon a place that's got an old theme. As in, everything in there is old school. All sorts of toys, ads, and music from just after the war, just as the Japanese economic machine really started cranking.
My mom and Aunt Hiroko immediately felt at home, taking a trip down memory lane. I was taking a trip down the menu, where everything is dirt f'in cheap (albeit tiny) and there are hundreds of items to choose from. It's like a theme izakaya with almost every item imaginable, period music, and period artwork. And the atmosphere is raucous fun.
Being in their element, the Sisters Moriyama started ordering what seemed like half the menu. My mom knew I was bummed about not getting to try raw horse tonight, so she pointed out something on the menu that she found equally cute and loveable. Something she feeds every day, along with the cat and the squirrels in our yard...
Ok, so Hanbey isn't all about off-the-beaten-path foods. We had plenty of normal Japanese pub grub, like yakitori, croquettes, yakisoba with fried egg, musubi rice balls, grilled shiitake mushrooms. All the good stuff that goes so well with beer. When ordering another round, my mom noticed another Nagano specialty on the menu. One less cute and cuddly than horses or little birds...
That's right - the eater of crops became the eaten. Muahahahaha! Take that!
Actually, they were nothing special. Tasty enough, but nothing I'd specifically want to order again. It was just fun.
What was most fun, though, was watching Mom and Aunt Hiroko sing along to really old Japanese songs. They loved the place so much they couldn't stop gushing about it to the waitress, to the maitre d'... so much so that they gave us a bunch of souvenirs to remember the place by. Which made us love it even more.
I know I've said this, like, four times this trip already, but I think this is my new favorite restaurant.