Back in 2020, when I first planned to read 氷菓 as my first-ever Japanese novel, I decided to add one more book to the order so I could justify the shipping cost from Japan (this being before I had figured out how to buy ebooks), and so ended up with a new copy of 異世界食堂. I’d seen the anime quite some time ago and been interested in reading the source material for quite some time, so I was excited to get my hands on it.
One year and six months later, I’ve finally gotten around to reading it!
Part of the reason I put it off for so long was the fact that the page count was pretty high. Aside from 雷の季節の終わりに, this was definitely the longest book I’ve read so far, and the language used is complex enough that I can imagine it giving me a lot of trouble when I originally started reading novels. At this point it was pretty approachable though; I rarely had trouble and even did a bit of speedreading practice where I tried to avoid subvocalizing as much as possible.
In any case, finishing this book feels like somewhat of a milestone. It’s good to have it on my “completed” shelf.
The basic premise of the series is that there’s this one restaurant whose front door becomes mysteriously connected to another world every Saturday. The owner closes to his regular Tokyo clientele and serves western food to the various fantasy creatures who find their way in. Each chapter focuses on a different dish and (so far) a different guest to order it, which provides ample opportunity to describe each meal in excruciating detail. It’s a bit of a running gag for a character to use their “native word” for onions, but besides this it’s also interesting to see how the author goes about describing certain modern delicacies, like ice cream or fresh unsalted fish, from the perspective of someone from a comparatively primitive fantasy world. Every chapter made me hungry and I was always smacking myself for reading it before bed.
If I have one major complaint about the book, it’s that there was a severe lack of Aletta, the homeless demon-blood girl who ends up working at the restaurant as a waitress. Her presence in the anime is a delight so I was looking forward to her in the book, but whereas the show introduces her in episode one, she only appears in the second-to-last chapter (a very good chapter to be sure, but I was hoping for more of her). I guess I’ll have to wait until vol. 2 to get my fix.
I do plan to read more of the series, but will probably hold off until I make a bit of a dent in my existing novel backlog (and have a bit more breathing room in my yearly pace). There are five volumes out right now and all of them have been translated to English, so (if you like reading about food) I would definitely recommend picking them up!