Did you know there is Japanese restaurant located next to Sycamore Brewery in Charlotte's South End? Yamazaru at 2173 Hawkins Street opened in early 2017 with minimal advertising and press. The menu is large and offers appetizers, soups, sushi rolls, sashimi bowls, ramen, and even more options. The quality level of their food is high along with a great selection of saki and other alcoholic beverages. You can view pictures of the menu and additional information in this Charlotte Agenda article. I have had the opportunity to go three times in 2018 and enjoyed each visit. Yamazaru offers some of the most authentic Japanese cuisine in Charlotte, NC.
The long list of appetizers can seem overwhelming at first glance. Edamame and pork gyoza are always crown pleasing, but my personal favorite is their seasonal quail egg and tuna tartar dish. I would highly recommend it for those interested high quality, raw ingredients. I am also a sucker for anything that comes with chips. I have not had an opportunity to try their soups and salads, but I have eaten the tonkotsu ramen bowl. It was quite tasty and not overbearingly salty. The ramen dish fulfilled my expectations and satisfied a craving since visiting Japan. The portion size is fairly large and pairing it with a smaller specialty roll will suffice your hunger.
The main attraction at Yamazaru is their sushi offerings. They have a large list of specialty and maki rolls. Prices are very affordable with the highest priced specialty roll at $11.00. I would recommend ordering three to share with another person and maybe add in a small appetizer. The Rainbow Roll offered is not the usual California Roll with salmon and tuna on top. Their version comes with with assortment of fish including squid and masago. Another great option is the Ichiban roll with shrimp tempura, crab salad, and eel. For those interested in sashimi or a truly authentic dish, look no further than the Chirashi rice bowl. For $15.00, this dish comes with 10 pieces of assorted sashimi over a bed of rice. What makes this rice bowl an amazing meal, beyond the price point, is the quality of rice served. One of the key indicators of a great sushi restaurant is the quality and texture of the rice. This dish truly took me back to Tokyo, Japan and was on par with many sushi samplings I enjoyed overseas. If you are a fan of sushi or any kind of Asian cuisine, definitely visit Yamazaru for a wonderful meal and experience. They are open for dinner starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Last weekend, I had a couple of friends over for a Japan themed evening of presentations, movies, food, and fun. We kicked off the evening with beverage and snack sampling from my trip to the Super G Mart. The seaweed snacks were a huge hit along with the sweet potato curls. I introduced the group to the Ramune drink and showed them how to pop the marble down. The Ramune flavored gummy candy were also very good and a nice addition to trying the carbonated drink. Some of my friends enjoyed the gummy over the actual drink due to the sweetness levels. We also tried some alcoholic beverages including Asahi, Sapporo, and a cucumber flavored sake.
After trying many different foods and drinks, I offered a sneak preview of my travel and culture tips for visiting Japan. It was also the first time I was able to wear my full kimono attire. While it was a little too hot to be in a full kimono, it was fun to wear for my friends. I am presenting again during a panel at the Queen City Anime Convention on August 26th at 2 p.m.
We capped the evening by watching the 2001 remastered version of Akira. Originally released in 1988, Akira is known as a groundbreaking movie that pushed anime into a new frontier. I refer to it as the starting point of modern day anime. It is an intensive psychological thriller and an anime masterpiece. The movie is not for the faint of heart, but certainly one to add to your watch list.
Last weekend I visited the Super G Mart on Independence Blvd. in Charlotte, NC. It was my first time going to the international food store after a friend told me about all of the great products they carried. According to their website, Super G Mart is the largest international grocery store in North Carolina. They also have another location in Greensboro, NC.
Walking into Super G Mart, I was amazed by the great looking produce section. All of the staple items you would find at a regular grocery store were present along with additional special produce that caters to their customer base. A nearby aisle carries the only alcoholic beverages in the store along with carbonated beverages. There was a selection of assorted Ramune flavors that I quickly threw into my cart along with a bottle of sake. Along the back of the store is an impressive assortment of fresh meats and seafood. They carry the normal cuts of beef, chicken, and pork you would expect. However, they carry additional items that not commonly found such as pork hearts. The seafood area had frozen items along with fresh whole fish, filleted fish, and shellfish. It looked like a popular section of the store as the fish counter was always busy during my visit. In front of the seafood area are a few rows of freezers carrying common frozen items and some specifically tailored for certain customers. My favorite aisle in the store was a short distance away from the freezer section.
The main snack aisle was incredibly overwhelming with an amazing assortment of interesting and delicious products. They have plenty of options including those with a sweet tooth. I grabbed a couple flavored crackers and chips as I made my way to the Pocky and Kit-Kat section. I was not disappointed by the selection of Pocky and related items. They carry a few varieties of the popular flavored Kit-Kat bars as well. I went a little overboard on the snacks, but they all looked delicious.
One of the unique products sold at Super G Mart is the Japanese style toilet with all of the bells and whistles. The price of them was extremely high compared to a standard toilet, but who does not want a heated toilet seat? I will have to save some pennies for a future toilet upgrade.
Near the toilet section was a whole aisle full of ramen! It was quite overwhelming looking at the many noodle bowl options. There was ramen as far as the eye could see. As you walk to the right of the ramen aisle, you will also find multiple restaurants inside the store. I did not have time to try any of the food options, but plenty of customers were waiting to order lunch. My first experience at Super G Mart was very enjoyable and I plan to visit again soon.
I am excited to announce my attendance and confirmation for hosting a panel at the Queen City Anime Convention this year. The convention runs from August 23-26, 2018 at the Hilton University Place. My panel will take place on Sunday, August 26th at 2 p.m. You can pre-register for the convention on their website before August 1. This event is a great opportunity to experience an anime convention for the first time. I am excited for the cosplay contest, video game room, and other panel presentations. Send me an email if you would like to meetup over the weekend or plan to stop by the panel.
Each summer, collegiate baseball teams from multiple nations travel around and play each other at minor league ballparks. Around July 4th, one of these special games is played at the BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, NC. In 2017, Cuba and USA collegiate teams played each other. This year, a Japan and USA team played on July 3, 2018.
The minor league baseball ballpark in Charlotte, NC attracts many visitors around July 4th because of the fireworks display after certain games. I went to the Japan vs. USA game with a few friends including my buddy Dan, an avid fan of Japanese baseball. He enjoys following the Seibu Lions. After nine innings of play, Japan won with a final score of 1-0. It was a very defensive game with teams struggling to get players in scoring positions. According to Dan, a few players from last year's Japan collegiate team were recruited to Japanese major league teams. Last October, Dan went on the Japanball baseball tour in Japan. Baseball in Japan is a different experience than what you see in the United States. I highly recommend attending a baseball game in Japan if you ever go during the regular season.
We thoroughly enjoyed attending the game and were lucky to sit in a shaded area. The fireworks display was enjoyable as well. Each teamed showed good sportsmanship and enthusiasm on the field. The USA team gave the Japan team long sleeve shirts to commemorate the occasion. The Japan team's roster and game results can be found here.