A few months ago, Silicon Valley was abuzz with the news that chef, bestselling author, and Emmy Award-winning television personality Anthony Bourdain was visiting San Jose to do research for his Emmy Award-winning culinary travel show, Parts Unknown.
San Jose is a bit lesser known than some of Bourdain's glitzy global destinations, but those of us who know the city understand he picked a gem in choosing to highlight San Jose's Japantown--one of the last three remaining Japantown neighborhoods in California and arguably the most authentic.
It was a quick trip--Bourdain himself only stopped into one local restaurant for an interview and members of his team visited one more foodie spot, but I know he would have appreciated spending more time in this unique Silicon Valley neighborhood.
Here are the places Anthony Bourdain went (and a few he should have visited!) in San Jose's Japantown.
Bourdain met up with local Japanese-American historian, Curt Fukuda at Minato Restaurant (617 N. 6th Street). They enjoyed a lunch of hamachi kama, katsu curry, and tempura while they talked about the history of the neighborhood and the greater Japanese history in California.
Like other family-owned restaurants in Japantown, Minato Restaurant is known for their home-style cooking, large portions, and old-fashioned prices.
San Jose Tofu
After lunch, Bourdain's crew reportedly stopped into San Jose Tofu (175 Jackson Street), a small family-run business which features handmade tofu. If you don't think you like tofu, you've probably never had fresh tofu! San Jose Tofu is one of the last traditional Japanese-American tofu makers that still make tofu by hand. When you go into their tiny storefront, you can sometimes see the owners cooking, fermenting, and straining the tofu.
You can pick up a fresh (still warm!) block of tofu, a sweet tofu-ginger dessert, or a bottle of homemade soymilk.
The family-owned Shuei-Do Manju Shop (217 Jackson Street) makes traditional Japanese rice-flour sweets called, "manju." Some manju are baked, and others are made with sweet rice (mochi) or rice powder. Manju is sometimes filled with a sweet bean paste. When the Emperor of Japan visited the United States, his U.S. delegation served him Shuei-Do's manju. Bourdain missed out on a royal treat!
The Japanese American Museum of San Jose
The Japanese American Museum of San Jose (565 N. 5th Street) collects and preserves Japanese American history from across the United States, with a special focus on California. One of the primary goals of the museum is to preserve a dark part of our history that is in danger of being lost--the stories of thousands of Japanese American families that were forcibly incarcerated during World War II. Bourdain never shies away from learning about the more challenging parts of a community's history and he would have appreciated this tribute.
The Japanese Temple and Garden.
Wander the property of the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin (640 N. 5th Street) to see traditional authentic Japanese temple architecture and garden design. You might forget you're in California!
Parts Unknown episode 5, season 6 "San Francisco Bay Area," airs on October 25, 2015.