Archive for the ‘Tokyo’ Category

Ramen Jiro, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Yes, there can be not great ramen in Japan. There’s a chain in Tokyo called Ramen Jiro, which apparently is a good way to start your ramen tour in Tokyo if you’re trying to find the best ramen. I’d like to point out we first heard about this on a NY Times article about ramen (thanks Asta!). This article highlights finding the best (or local favorite) places for ramen. There are apparently blogs and serious ramen scholars dedicated to finding that perfect noodle. This article took some of those finds.

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The ramen place is on the corner of a small alley, and is actually near some other fast food restaurants we like (Mos Burger, anyone?).

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Like most ramen places, you go to the machine, put in some money, and get a ticket. We randomly picked (again) and got our tickets. This place is famous for using lots of garlic, and we hoped we bought stuff with garlic. We then sat at the counter, which was tiny. They actually had a couple booths but they reserved those for large parties of business men. By the way, the guy who took our tickets was a complete jackass. Yes, you heard it from my mouth – JACKASS. He completely ignored us, and took at least five other people’s tickets first. I was so upset.

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The chef was much more mild, and sometimes smiled. Whereas the jackass didn’t.

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This was Kyung’s. I have no idea what it was, other than it was a large size. I think it was pretty much mine, except with more noodles, while mine was smaller but had more meat. weird.

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Here’s mine. The final consensus? The broth is thick and really savory, but after like three spoonfuls of it you’ve pretty much eaten your entire meal. The meat was tough and flavorless, the noodles thick and almost too heavy in your stomach, and everything was covered in inches of sprouts. And this is supposed to be good ramen?

I think if I were drunk, and wandering the streets of Shinjuku with no shoes, I’d eat here. But otherwise, not so much.

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Daiwa Sushi, Tsujiki Fish market, Tokyo

Can you imagine waking up at 5 am and stumbling into what just happens to be one of the two most famous sushi restaurants at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo? Yeah, I’d be speechless too.

The first time we were in Tokyo, we happened to stumble into the other famous one (purely by luck, we followed a well dressed couple that was walking purposefully within the fish market). This second time, our dumb luck led us to this one too. We had no idea where we were going, so we just sort of wandered til we found the alley that had the first sushi restaurant, and went into the one next door. No line! We went in, and the chef said omakase, so we just nodded and said ok.

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This is a very tiny restaurant. Small bar that probably housed 15 max, minimal walking room, minimal seating. You’re basically rubbing shoulders with the folks next to you. Which is, in fact, how we found out this restaurant was so famous; as luck would have it, we were sitting next to two girls from SoCal, who mentioned this was one of two famous restaurants, with the other one being the one next door that we had previously eaten at. Wow. How random is that!

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The food here wasn’t as stellar as the other famous one (have we gotten spoiled?). We had a lot of ‘filler’ pieces so to speak.

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The octopus was meh. Chewy, not flavorful, I don’t know why they considered this an appropriate starter. The toro was good. I don’t like eating rice with my sushi (I prefer sashimi) so I didn’t bother eating the rice. The six piece rolls are actually 3 different types of rolls (roe, and spicy tuna, and other things). I didn’t eat the one with roe, but I tried the others (decent). I didn’t eat the uni, I traded for Kyung’s tamago. hah! The tamago was good =) I’ve seen a lot of tamago shops around the fish market, must be a regional speciality.

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This is what I mean by filler pieces – ebi and unagi. They were delicious, don’t get me wrong, but not exactly high end.

Overall the place was solidly good, but the other place was a lot better I think. It probably also explains why the long was like 3 rows deep while we walked out of this one with only a handful of people in line.

Take the Oedo line (if you’re coming from Shinjuku) on the Tokyo Metro, and pop out at the Tsukiji exit *the name is slightly longer than Tsukiji, but if you ask anyone they can tell you. As soon as you pop out, go left, then turn left at the light into the warehouse area of the fish market. Walk until you see the small rows of shops, it’s about the third one from the warehouse area to the left.

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Kouryu Ramen, Akihabara, Tokyo

Yes, we went back to Japan! Our 8 day trip has just concluded. Today is day 1 back in the States and already I’m missing good curry, ramen, and the miles of walking and subways. Kyung and I had falafels today and we were discussing how it felt so weird to not be eating a katsu or something. We also wondered if we brought falafels to Japan, would we make it big? We decided no, because one thing we’ve noticed is how homogenous the food tends to be.

Anyway, the first time we went to Tokyo, we found a ramen place in Akihabara which we really loved. It was raining that day, and it was a haven for us from the wet. We went back again this time to see if it was a fluke but it wasn’t, we actually loved it! Kouryu is like a typical ramen shop – vending machine outside with various ramen options, toppings, and sides, and you enter your yen and receive a little ticket for each dish, side, or topping you order. Then you head inside, find a seat at the counter, and hand your tickets to the staff. People are in and out under 15 minutes. And I also found that most people in ramen shops are men. Very often I’ve been the only girl at a counter full of businessmen or teen boys. Kind of weird.

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I have no idea what I ordered, since I just randomly picked based on the picture. But – once you order your bowl of ramen, before they prepare it, they give you a sheet where you fill out things like how much oil do you want in your broth, if you want thick or thin noodles, etc. They had an English version of that luckily, so while I can’t tell you what soup base I had, I can tell you it had little oil, thin noodles, thick slices of soft pork, green onion, and a boiled egg. I also ordered a side of chicken fried rice (it was only 100 yen, which is a little over a dollar). The broth was delicious – light and savory, and it complemented the hearty pork with the thin and firm noodles. The rice was great!

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Kyung customized his noodles with thin as well, lots of pork, spicy sauce, and more oily sauce. He loved his ramen and was very glad that it was just as good as the first time. He also ordered a roe rice, but he said it was just ok. Oh well, I think it was like 200 yen (cheap!).

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If for some reason you run out of noodles, or want more sides, you can order it by placing some coins into this machine. They’ll then bring it to your counterspace so you can slurp up more things happily.

We rounded out our scrumptious meal with my favorite – glass bottle Cokes.

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I don’t know the address but if you exit the Akihabara station, it’s near one of the exits. It’s very small, so you may need to keep an eye out. Or you can ask the JR station staff. They’re usually very friendly and understanding if you don’t speak Japanese.

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Kit Kats – Final Round

At long last, the entire collection of Kit Kats I managed to bring home have been completely sampled. I took my sweet time (pun intended?). I think this post contains some of my absolute favorites of them all!

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Strawberry flavored and endorsed by Rilakkuma himself! Beyond the insane cuteness, the light strawberry flavor was delicious! In case you’re wondering who or what Rilakkuma is, he’s actually a San-X bear that I have been completely obsessed by for the last few months. Before Tokyo I was already pretty crazy about this bear, and then the explosion of Rilakkuma EVERYWHERE in Tokyo had me going nuts – it was so bad that one night Kyung and I spent over an hour in our hotel room watching the same musical video over and over of Rilakkuma and friends dancing. But I digress…

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Kit Kat with cookie crumble – another winner. It tasted remarkably like Twix, though there was no caramel to be seen. The creaminess of the Kit Kat with the crunch of the cookie were complimentary.

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Strawberry cheesecake flavored – light cheese flavor, sweet, with very very slight tang. Definitely one of the better Kit Kat flavors.

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Tasted exactly as you’d expect a sweet potato flavored chocolate to taste. I’m ambivalent on this – just like the corn one, it tastes like it’s supposed to, but I’m really not sure what I’m supposed to think – I’d rather just eat a real sweet potato.

Final order:

Strawberry
Green Tea
Red Bean Manju
Cookie Crumble
Ginger Ale
Strawberry Cheesecake
Koi Kinako
White Chocolate
Sweet Potato
Melon
Roasted Corn
Soy Sauce
Apple Carrot

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Kit Kats – round 2

I originally intended to only do two blog posts about Kit Kats, but I have more than enough content so I’ll be writing THREE posts about it. Plus, I can only eat so many Kit Kats in a period of time without losing my mind, so I had to spread it out. Now let’s hop to it!

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Red bean manju flavored – the ultimate winner! I dare say I liked this even more than the previous blog post winner – green tea. This one had a great flavoring of red bean – subtle, but pleasantly sweet and it lingers on your tongue after the candy is long gone. Even Kyung thought this was the best one he’s ever had, and he doesn’t even really like red bean anything! He liked it so much he asked our friend Daniel (an avid photographer and good friend) to bring some of this loot back from Tokyo, which he did – super awesome. Now we have two more boxes of this goodness. We’ll have to hoard it until the end of the world.

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Next up is koi kinako. This probably tasted the most like ‘regular’ Kit Kat out of all the Kit Kats I tried. The kinako flavor was too subtle to really notice (but I guess if it’s bean powder, you really can’t expect much). Wikipedia says this may taste like peanut butter, but it didn’t. Still good though (can’t go wrong with OG Kit Kat flavor).

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Roasted corn tastes just like..corn. Seriously. You bite into the Kit Kat wafer texture, get a sweet beginning, and then suddenly you are eating something extremely corn flavored. And then it finishes with another sweet flavor. Chocolate corn? I mean, if you really want to eat something corn flavor they did a VERY good job, but I think I’d rather eat real corn, thanks.

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Soy sauce Kit Kat tastes remarkably like salted caramel. Except you have a nice lingering nasty after taste that you really can’t describe and does not go away on its own. Blegh. This is definitely not a winner. And I like salted caramel! What does that tell you??

If I could be in Tokyo right now at a convenience store to purchase some more Kit Kats, I’d get the green tea, ginger ale, and red bean manju.

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Kit Kat from Japan – round one

Japan is serious about Kit Kats. In America, you get milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, and the occasional other flavor. In Japan, there are seasonal flavors – numbering in the dozens. I’ve heard about flavors that I didn’t see or buy, and I bought over 10 different kinds to bring back to the States. Ok, some of these flavors are pretty bad, but hey, some sacrifice has to be made for quantity over quality.

I figured I’d split my taste tests into two rounds, since it would be way too much to write about a dozen flavors in one post. I’ve ordered the flavors in order of YUM factor. The more I like it, the higher up it is! Here goes…

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This is green tea flavored (aka matcha). This is the best of the bunch – tastes just like green tea ice cream, not too sweet, and with a hint of white chocolate undertones. The Kit Kat itself was light green, with thin green layers between the wafer. I’m sad I didn’t buy more of this flavor!

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This one is a bit of a mystery flavor – at first glance I thought it was white chocolate, but it has vanilla overtones, so I’m not sure exactly what it is I’m eating, but I like it – smooth, sweet, and vanilla-y.

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The ginger ale one was interesting – it tasted like a lemon creme cookie from the Girl Scouts, but it seemed to have a texture like I was really drinking soda pop – a slight ‘fizz’ sensation on my tongue. Maybe it was in my head. Or maybe they have secret elements of PopRocks.

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Canteloupe – Ever been to a Korean restaurant where they give you that melon flavored gum afterwards, in the pink wrapper? That is exactly what this one tasted like. Light melon flavor sandwiched between light milk chocolate flavor.

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This one is pretty disgusting, if I say so myself. I believe it’s supposed to be like the flavor of a carrot apple drink from Ito-En (a famous tea company), but with chocolate, it was disgusting. I can’t even begin to describe the flavor, other than there’s a slight apple essence, and then the essence of something that definitely does not go with chocolate.

And there you have it – stay tuned for round 2!

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Tamago to Watashi in Shinjuku

When Kyung and I first started dating, he would randomly cook me omurice. I had no idea what it was before him, so it seemed fitting that while in Tokyo we would search for omurice. And search we did! We found it in the MyLord restaurant megamall that is part of the Odakyu mall, which also happens to rest on top of the Shinjuku station. And it’s pronounced ‘milord’ not ‘my lord’. The restaurant we went to was called ‘Tamago to Watashi’ and had a catchy sign.

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Now, before seeing this restaurant, I always thought omurice was basically just an omelet filled with rice (usually cooked with other little bits of meat and veggies). Here, it was that and more – everything came in unique sauces.

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Since they didn’t have an English menu, and the descriptive fake foods weren’t descriptive enough, we blindly ordered. I ordered omurice in a thick, dark curry like sauce filled with chunks of beef, carrots, and potatoes. The omurice was delicious (thin layer of egg crepe covering hot seasoned rice), and it went well with the thick curry sauce. Some of the chunks of veggies didn’t taste very fresh, but that’s okay, the rest of it more than made up for it.

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Kyung ordered another mystery dish with came with a red sauce and a large slice of what looked similar to Canadian ham. The omurice was tangy with the sauce, and pretty satisfying as well.

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This makes me appreciate omurice even more! Now at home when Kyung makes it I’ll probably make some thick curry sauce to go with it. It’s so tasty!

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Donuts in Tokyo

I love donuts. It goes to figure we would look for donuts while in Tokyo. Before heading over, I was curious to see if there was any difference. In a nut shell, they are less sweet than their American counterparts, and have different presentation and flavors. Overall though, I think I prefer the super junky donuts of the US, but for variety I’d go to Japan.

First up is Doughnut Plant. This isn’t a Japanese chain, it actually started in New York, but it is prominently displayed in several subway stations, so I figured I’d give it a try.

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I tried the pumpkin cake doughnut, the apple cinnamon glazed donut, and the kinako glazed donut. The pumpkin and kinako ones were fails. No flavor, strange after tastes. The apple cinnamon one tasted the most like what I would expect a fatty donut back home to taste like – it was moist, cinnamony, and soft.

Next up is Mister Donut, which apparently wasn’t always an Asian company but became a predominantly one when an Asian company bought the franchise/chain. These donut shops are all over Tokyo. We went to the one in Akihabara.

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I ordered a chocolate dip crueller which was sliced in half and filled with light creme, and a strawberry cake donut. The strawberry cake donut was pretty flavorless as well, but the crueller was delicious – the chocolate was perfectly hardened and had the right crunch when biting into that and the soft donut filled with creme that wasn’t too sweet. A good afternoon treat!

Here’s a better shot of the entire counter:

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Okay, for something a little less donut looking but still a donut, we went to a bake shop called Kimuraya. This was in the Matsuya Ginza shopping mall on one of the bottom floors. We ordered a curry bun, and an azuki (red bean) bun.

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The curry bun was delicious, even when cold. Kyung and I each ordered one, and it came in a deep fried bun filled with fragrant and delicious curry with bits of meat.

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The azuki bun was even more delicious – chock full of red bean that was not overly sweet, in a deep fried soft bun covered in sugar. I love eating these azuki ‘donuts’ and I eat them at home all the time too!

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Daily Ice Cream Ration

One of the things I’ve been known to do on each trip somewhere is to have that one thing that I do – whether it’s to look for a certain store, buy a certain item, or eat a certain food only. In the past some examples have been to only drink pineapple juice when ordering at a restaurant, or always buying a Gucci bag when visiting New York (I broke this streak the last time I went to NY, I think I’m getting soft). This trip my thing has been to have a nightly ice cream snack from the AmPm across the street. A quick look into my daily indulgence –
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On the first night I went a little overboard and bought a bunch of things, one of which was sweet potato pie haagen dazs. It was very tasty! The way it was packaged was really awesome too – crumble on top!
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I also got rum raisin on another night, but that was kind of a fail. Slight rum flavor, with raisin chunks, but overall pretty bland. I didn’t eat it in favor of eating the other one, which is a ice cream sandwich encased in a wafer outside, and with a thin layer of chocolate inside. That one was really good! I ended up eating a few other variations of it (green tea with azuki – red bean – layer, and then another vanilla one with a chocolate wafer outside and a crispy chocolate layer inside).
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One thing you may have noticed on this particular ice cream wrapper are the notations of 80 kcal. I don’t know if that’s for one sandwich, or half of it, or a quarter. What I have noticed though, is that people here, especially girls, are very concerned with calories and being thin. It’s a little unfortunate, because everyone here is already so thin, and while I’m sure they can’t be thin without such care when eating, it’s a little sobering that what I thought was an American obsession is actually elsewhere as well. Life is so short, is it really worth all the obsessing? After we die, I doubt people will paint us as ‘oh, that fat person.’

Anyway, besides my nightly ritual, I also sometimes ate ice cream at breakfast.

This particular strawberry parfait was gross. It tasted like cheap strawberry and vanilla ice cream.photo (1)

This one is very very good though – Lotte brand chocolate mochi. Thin mochi skin that was soft, and delicious chocolate ice cream inside. Yummers.
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I’m a little sad that once I head back to the States I can’t do my daily ritual anymore. There isn’t a convenience store down the street that I can walk to at all hours (and feel safe doing it). Maybe it’s better for my health!

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Santouka Ramen – Shibuya

You may be a little surprised to hear that Santouka can actually be found in California – yup, there’s one in San Jose. I haven’t tried that one yet, though I’ve heard of it. Kyung’s coworker suggested we go to one of the originals in Shibuya, so today after visiting a friend, we walked down the street to find this restaurant.

The restaurant is small and cozy, and moves up vertically for seating. We sat on the second floor in front of the open ramen bar and ordered the special pork cheek ramen (what they are known for) and the miso ramen. We also ordered a side of gyoza.
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The ramen was made swiftly, and also came with a random side of rice log. I can’t really describe it better than it was literally a log of rice with some sesame on top.
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Kyung’s pork cheek ramen was amazing – the broth was so thick it was like pork and butter flavored porridge, and the pork cheek meat was so tender and melted in your mouth. This was the best ramen I have ever had.
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My ramen was great but not stellar. I ordered the miso which came with soft pieces of pork that was slightly fatty in a good way (but not as tender as the cheek). The broth was hearty but not quite as satisfyingly thick as Kyung’s.
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I did like the gyoza a lot though – it wasn’t overly fried and came with a very light skin and tasty but dainty filling of meat.
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Santouka is definitely the best ramen here so far, and we’re eager to try the one back home (though I doubt it would match the flavors and preparation and FUN of the one here.

On a random side note, our hotel randomly gave us a free sample of ramen. Behold. Even the ramen that comes prepacked is still better looking and tasting than the stuff we get back at home!
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