Sunday, February 26, 2017

Tokyo Food Highlights

AKA "so much food, so little time."

Here I have my particular favorites for Tokyo; the places I try to visit every time I am in Tokyo.

For other recommendations, see these other pages:
For sushi, definitely make reservations for Sushi Yajima (鮨 やじま) in Shibuya (渋谷). It's delicious and inexpensive, and you don't have to decide what to order because the chef will pick for you. Supposedly the chef will get upset if you don't eat your sushi in 15 minutes or so, but I haven't experienced this personally. It’s a small place so reservations are highly recommended.
  • If you have time, visiting a conveyer-belt sushi place (回転寿司) is super fun, plus you don’t have to try to decipher the menu. Just be careful about pouring the hot water into your tea cup - I have accidentally gotten hot water on my hand instead of the cup.
To experience the wonder that is Japanese fried chicken at lunch (it's only offered at lunch, and the shop is closed Sundays), check out Yakitori Tori BomBon (焼とり 鶏梵梵) for the best chicken katsu curry (チキンカツカレー) ever. Check out the specials too. It's a little out of the way, but totally worth it. Try avoiding the rush by going around 1:30 pm or 2 pm. But even at peak times, it's not too bad a wait, as it's not that well known. Hopefully it is more popular now, because I want to continue to be able to eat it!
I love tori soba (鳥そば), which is usually a chicken variation on pork-broth/tonkotsu (豚骨) ramen, rather than a type of buckwheat noodles. My current favorite is 156 Ichikoro in Azabu Juban (麻布十番) near Roppongi (六本木).
  • Ramen is also referred to as Chinese soba (中華そば), so I wonder if soba originally just meant any kind of "noodles" in Japan, rather than buckwheat noodles. Yakisoba uses ramen noodles, as opposed to buckwheat soba noodles.
I first discovered tantanmen (坦々麺) in Japan, before realizing that it originated in China, but the Japanese have a creamier, richer take on it. Sasazuka station (笹塚) is a bit out of the way - about 5-10 minutes by train/taxi from Shinjuku station (新宿) - but it is home to 豪快 Gokai - the best tantanmen I've ever had.  Cheap all the time, and pretty fast.  Counter space only (12 seats).  They don’t speak English, but just order the tantanmen (坦々麺) with thin noodles (細麺).
For awesome hamburg steak (lunch only), go to Boucherie AmiaBras.
The restaurant is actually between Aoyama and Shibuya, so it’s pretty convenient while you're wandering around either area. I posted a review of this place earlier.
If you go here, tell the chef (the guy with the newsboy hat) that I said hi!

In Shibuya (渋谷), the Japanese coffee roaster SS&W operates a coffee stand called The Coffee Hangar; the barista is an expert. Originally this coffee stand was only open 9-6 on weekdays, but since 2015 they've been open on weekends also, so hopefully you'll have a chance to drop by.  My friend raves about this place.

It's a bit out of the way, but in Nakameguro (中目黒), I cannot fail to mention Miyabian (雅庵) a traditional Japanese dessert place with some Western innovations - their seasonal specialties are always so good!  If you get a chance to try their fluffy cakes you are super lucky. Take-out only.
They have a little shop inside Shinagawa (品川) station too, inside the gates, so a good stop-over if you're riding around the Yamanote (山手) line.
And finally we come to the beef choices.  This is difficult, as I didn’t focus on beef in my time in Japan, so unfortunately I have limited experience here.
  • For teppanyaki I like Colza in Ginza (銀座), an old-school Japanese place actually owned by Kikkoman, the soy sauce producer. The potato hash browns made in front of you are great if you like potatoes in butter, and the ice cream w/ crepe is lots of fun. Excellent salad, garlic rice is tasty. Lunch specials are a deal. I usually just got the Australian beef, but they do have wagyu too. Very nice to foreigners. Good to make reservations, but if you go early not usually a problem. However, some TripAdvisor reviews make the valid point that dinner here is not very good value. I’ve personally had wonderful service here, and fully enjoyed all my meals, but in general I haven’t tried very many teppanyaki places.
  • For wagyu, I've never been to Tsukiji Sato (築地さとう) near Ginza (銀座) but it was featured in the French documentary Steak (R)evolution. I have gotten the menchi-katsu at the Kichijoji (吉祥寺) shop, but I didn’t try eating upstairs. 
  •  I have been to Imahan (今半), which is famous for sukiyaki and shabu shabu. They do a wagyu nigiri sushi - tasty! They have 2 restaurants in Shinjuku, and more around the city. 

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