The Right Place at the Right Time: Shinsengumi

Thanks to Amazon Instant Video and its free unlimited streaming, I’ve been catching up on movies that I’ve wanted to watch for years but have neglected to place in the Netflix queue. One of those movies was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind … and it was surreal and beautiful, in a very Charlie Kaufman kind of way.  I’m so glad I finally watched it.

I sometime wonder what my life would be if my memories were completely erased like Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) in the movie, or even better, if I can go back in time and do everything all over again, knowing what I know now. One part of me hopes that I’ll be a better version of myself – perhaps a skinnier, prettier, and more confident self – and make better choices in life. Maybe read more and study harder to get into a better school.

But the reality is that nothing will change. I’m convinced that I’ll make the same (right and wrong) decisions in life, make same excuses, hang out with same (wonderful) friends, and do everything the same way. And that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s an incredibly wonderful thing. I love that I’ve completely eliminated the nagging “what ifs” from my life.

My culinary choices are no different. Even if I have all the choices in the world for a place to eat, I always end up choosing the same few places. When I’m at Shinsengumi enjoying my favorite Japanese comfort food (again), there is no wondering of what I might be missing. I’m 100% content with my decision, and I’m convinced that I’m at the right place, at the right time. Just like my life now.

And how could I not, when I’ve got Stir-Fried Pork with Kimchi, Fried Oysters, Fresh Tuna Grated Mountain Yam Bowl, Wasabi Flavored Octopus, and Homemade Tofu in front of me! 🙂

Shinsengumi
111 N. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park, CA 91754

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A Bite-Size Romance: Shinsengumi

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I was a sophomore in high school when I went on my first “real” date. A very nice boy invited me to a Homecoming dance and I happily obliged.  Before the dance, a group of us went to a fancy steakhouse for dinner, and I was so nervous, I could not eat. A sizzling plate of filet mignon was starring right at me and I could not bring myself to eat in front of my date!

Thinking back, perhaps what intimidated me the most about that dining experience was having to cut the steak with a knife and fork, and even though I knew how to use my utensils properly, the idea that I might cut the piece too big and having to chew it for 10 minutes before I get to swallow (and what if I had to cough while chewing?) scared the life out of me.  Silly, I know!

If I could relive my first date experience, I will definitely find myself in a yakotiri joint, like Shinsengumi in Monterey Park, where appetizers like fried oysters and tofu salad, as well as meats and vegetables on the skewers come in small, edible bite size. Seriously, how cute and romantic is it to share a plate of toriniku (white chicken meat), negima (chicken and green onion), tsukune (ground chicken meatballs), and perhaps some jalapeno skewers with your date? And there would be no embarrassment of  food cut too large, or pieces flying all over the place.  Sure, izakaya and yakitori restaurants may not be the first choice for your first date, and you might also risk stinking up your fancy wardrobe from the charcoal smoke from the grill but who cares when you’re having fun by actually being able to eat on the date!

In addition to the traditional yakitori selection, this location of Shinsengumi offers shabu shabu and other colorful array of delicious one-plate dishes. One of my favorite dishes here is ochazuke, flavorful dashi broth poured on top of white rice, which provides a great finish to a wonderful izakaya-style dinner.

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It’s funny to think how nervous and embarrassed I was to eat in front of a guy back then, but after I left the restaurant leaving my food virtually untouched, I promised myself that I would never let my nerve get in the way of a perfectly fine piece of steak (or any food) ever again! Even after 15 years, I still think about that filet mignon and weep!  And so far, I’ve been good with the promise (except for that one time with my beau … but that’s for another time).

Shinsengumi
111 N. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park, CA 91754
★★★★☆