P.K. broadens his palate while filling his stomach.

“So, ‘American food’ is basically hamburgers and pizza, right?”

That’s the image our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun had of the United States’ culinary cultural contributions, with the “pizza” part presumably pointed at the topping-and-cheese-heavy versions popularized by American pizzerias. And to clarify, he’s not complaining. On his trips to the U.S., P.K. has been more than happy to eat a hamburger every single day for an entire week.

▼ A lot of P.K.’s vacation photos look like this

But last month, while visiting New York for the first time, P.K. wondered if there was a way to broaden his appreciation for American food, so he asked his friend who lives in the city for a recommendation. “What should I eat if I want something that screams ‘You’re in America!’?”, he asked, and his friend quickly replied “Barbeque.”

And with that, they were off to Virgil’s, a barbeque restaurant not far from Times Square. As they stepped into the place and down into the dining area, though, P.K. felt like he’d been transported from the Empire State to deep in the heart of Texas, or somewhere else in the American south, thanks to the woody interior and at-home atmosphere.

▼ Note: P.K. has never been to Texas or the South, but Virgil’s interior is what he imagines they’re like.

Since this was P.K.’s first experience with American barbeque, he left the ordering up to his friend. After about a 10-minute wait, the server brought his food, and P.K. was shocked, in the best way possible, by the massive platter of meat placed before him.

▼ All this, just for P.K.!

Pork spareribs, grilled beef, pulled pork…it was a feast for the eyes, and it was going to be a feast for his stomach too. This was also, by the way, P.K.’s first time to see cornbread muffins, but of course he started with the meat.

P.K. dug in, and his first impression was…

“This reminds me of the flavor of the barbeque sauce they give you with Chicken McNuggets.”

We should clarify that P.K. means this in the best possible way, and that he also quickly realized that the flavor and texture of the meat itself was clearly a cut above fast-food quality. In terms of the sauce’s flavor, though, the mix of sweet and smoky notes reminded him of McDonald’s McNugget sauce…and he loved it, especially chasing bites of saucy meat with sips of a nice cold beer.

Barbeque aficionados may scoff at the notion of likening a proper sauce to the stuff you’ll find in McDonald’s packets, but it’s worth noting that barbecue sauce itself isn’t very common in Japan. McDonald’s is one of the few places in Japan where you’ll consistently find barbeque sauce, and so it’s not surprising that P.K.’s first taste of American barbecue had him thinking of the Golden Arches, since that’s its closest relative in his personal taste-testing resume.

And again, P.K. was overwhelmed by how tasty it was. This hearty, heavily flavored meal was exactly the sort of “AMERICAN!” chow he’d been hoping for.

The sides all hit their marks too. Collard greens were another first for P.K., and with coleslaw, mashed potatoes, and baked beans too, P.K. was left very happy and very full.

At US$45, this wasn’t a cheap meal, but this was New York, where P.K. has heard you can spend 40 bucks even on a bowl of ramen if you load up the toppings, so he felt like it was a fair price. Compared to Japanese barbecue parties, where the main fare is thin strips of flat-grilled meat, this was a decadent, dynamic-looking dinner, and something that P.K. recommends every Japanese traveler try at least once if they get a chance in the U.S., as it’s a very enjoyable bit of culture shock.

Photos ©SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
[ Read in Japanese ]