Hubby and I held out on pizza delivery for the longest time, given how rather grotesque pizza can get in Japan. We spent 4 years in New Jersey and had some of the best pizzas around, and so not being able to walk a few blocks for a hot and crispy slice that melts in our mouths really hurts us. Then come my busy work season and after getting sick of Chinese delivery, we finally broke down and started shopping around for the most "American" looking and pizza xD (mind you, I didn't say most "Italian" looking, now did I?).
Here are a few tidbits hubby and I learned from pizza in Japan:
- Pizza chains in Japan are almost all delivery-only. Of course there are tons of Italian restaurants serving pizzas, but if you want a pie from a pizza chain, chances are it's delivery-only and there aren't any dine-in Pizza Hut or Domino's restaurants, at least not that we know or ever heard of.
- Pizza in Japan will often have corn or mayonnaise on it, Japanese mayo mind you, but weird nonetheless.
- If you're looking for a Hawaiian pie, look in the kids' section or at the bottom of the menu. For some reason, the folks here think everything else on the planet qualifies as pizza topping, but not pineapple. Because pineapple is a fruit, and only kids put fruits on their pizza. Some major pizza chains, like Domino's and Pizza Hut, won't even offer the Hawaiian. Go figure.
- And you don't have to tip the pizza delivery guy (or the waiter/waitresses at the restaurant, or the bell boy, the taxi driver etc.) in Japan. Tipping isn't really a part of Japanese culture, though I have read that if you spent a few nights at a traditional higher end Japanese ryokan, it's polite to put a few sens (a few thousand yens, $20-30) in an envelope as a thank you gift for the hostess who was in charge of your room, i.e. bringing your meals and preparing your futons. The few times when it was pouring out and hubby tried to tip our pizza delivery guy a couple of hundred yens for getting all soaked in the rain (beng on scooters!), he was consistently met with a surprised, "Really?!?" and then a deep bow of gratitude. Haa...I really admire Japan. A lot of time, the people here seem to just want to do their job and do a good job without expecting anything in return.
But I digress. So far, we've tried a few different selections from Domino's, Pizza-La (a Japanese chain), and Pizza Hut. We ordered from Domino's first, because they're seemingly the most aggressive when it comes to door to door flyer-ing and we get new menus with promotions from them all the time. Of course, after ordering from all 3 places we realized Domino's was the most expensive and their pizzas were just ho-hum! For the 2 medium and large pizzas below we paid more than 3,500yen (about US$44!!!), including 2 small sides of a handful of fries and 4 chicken wings.
And when they arrived, we were both shocked and not surprised by the sizes of the pizzas. The large here was smaller than a medium at home, and the medium here was nothing more than a personal pizza!
We got a Margherita on crispy crust, but it was completely cold upon arrival and the crust had became chewy. It was blah.
Look at the "medium" (left) and the "large" (right) pizzas!!!
Then we moved onto Pizza Hut, on several different occasions, of course. The one time I managed to hold back from pawing the pies, it was because we weren't that hungry, so I was able control myself long enough to take some pictures of the medium and 2 pieces of fried chicken we ordered for an early evening snack ^.^ Hubby ordered through Pizza Hut's website instead of calling in, and for those several times we've ordered online, we were promised with 45 minutes wait time when the actual order consistently arrived in 15 or 20! In my (and hubby's) experience when it comes to the service and delivery industry in Japan, it's all about under promise and over delivery, and I can't say it's a bad idea! Psst, USA, I see a benchmark opportunity...
We got a Basil, Tomatoes, and Sausage pizza from Pizza Hut and were somewhat impressed that it arrived pipping hot still. The crust underneath was crispy and the cheese on top melty, exactly how we wanted it. The pizza itself was great too. In fact, I would say it was the closest to an American slice that hubby and I have eaten so far. The green sauce drizzled on top was the basil sauce, but Pizza Hut will include a satchel or two of their spicy sauce (think Jalapeno Tabasco) and though I was suspicious at first, it proved to be a great topping with a bit of a kick.
Finally, after kicking Domino's to the curb and ordered from Pizza Hut several times, we thought we'd give Pizza-La, a Japanese chain, a chance. This time, we found an actual Hawaiian pizza in the kid's section of the menu! I love Hawaiian pizzas, so we just had to order it. Also, they had tater tots and chicken nuggets on their side menu, in addition to the usual fried wings. Of course I ordered those too. Tater tots and nuggets can't go wrong with me.
Our Hawaiian pizza arrived hot, but the crust wasn't crispy underneath, which I was willing to let slide since Pizza-La had the balls to put it on their menu. But the pizza sauce was rather appalling. The sauce was a weird darker brick red color instead of the normal tomato red color. And it was sweet! While I will give Pizza-La the benefit of the doubt that the sweetness might have been from the pineapple, their pizza sauce also tasted like someone mixed barbecue sauce and ketchup together and slapped it onto a pizza. Yuck. Why did they have to ruin my Hawaiian pizza like that?!? Bad, Pizza-La, bad!
Side dishes wise, the tater tots were yummy, but their nuggets were a let down too. But of course this may have been because Kua 'Aina totally raised the bar on nuggets to a ridiculous standard, so I let Pizza-La off the hook for this one too.
So the winner in the end? Pizza Hut all the way, at least until hubby and I can get our greasy hands on a *real* brick oven pie from home. And yes, I know we should give the other "different-looking" pizzas a try too because they wouldn't be so popular if they taste as...erh...uniquely as they look, but we're just not ready to go on that culinary adventure...yet -.-'
See my previous Pizza Pizza post.