First Trip to Japan - Please Help!

Sorry to hear. Usually the AmEx platinum concierge bends over backwards…

However, Visa is doing its due diligence. I am going to copy and paste their last response to me regarding my inquiry about a lunch reso request. The results are not all that favorable, but I appreciate how thorough they have been:


Arai is fully booked.


Kimura is not open for lunch

Sushi Sho

Sushi Sho only accepts bookings from the hotel where you are staying, they do not take reservations from 3rd party concierges.


Namba is fully booked for your requested dates.


Miyaba has a table available on March 28th and 31st for lunch. Please note that this is subject to change and we are not holding a table at this time."

I’m having them work on Miyaba, also based on a friend’s recent experience there.


How about even lowered tier? In my jet lagged delerium, I headed over to TripAvisor’s #1 pick in the area (Zanmai Higashi) , which is almost certainly a bad idea more or less. First meal in Japan. Total tourist trap. Yet still, leaps and bounds over anything comparable back home. And the largest anago nigiri I have ever seen.


Eat well, my friend.


Breakfast: Ichiran

I am a coffee and pastry breakfast kind of guy anyways. So I was like, what the heck? Good way to start the day. And zero line in the morning. Nice thin translucent slices of pork, thin noodles with just enough bite, and a little bit of a kick to the broth.

Lunch: L’Effervescence

Glad I knocked this Pellegrino top 50 whatever kind of experience off of my list on the front end Mind you, I had a very good experience overall. The poached amedai was one of the best cooked pieces of fish I’ve had in a long time. But there seem to be a strange over reliance on dairy products. Especially this house-made sour cream that appeared in three of the dishes. It worked well to match with tofu in lieu of butter for the bread service, and to lacto-ferment the celriac for the fish dish. But the blue cheese used in the sauce for the pork (the pork itself was awesome) and the camembert used for the dessert ice cream weren’t very good fits. Service was beyond in the room was beautiful during lunchtime. No regrets, but no need to return.

Dinner: Goryukubo

I don’t think I fully appreciated the spirit of this meal until I got back to my hotel. They sent me a box with the leftover rice dish ( containing bamboo shoots that had just been harvested that morning and Sancho pepper buds). I had a bit of it as a midnight snack and cooed like a little baby. I also don’t think I missed out in ordering the least expensive menu. I looked at the other diners who had ordered the more expensive option. They receive some beautiful crab legs and some shirako. I think with my palate and knowledge of seasonal Japanese seafood, it probably would’ve been lost on me. Having said that, there were some truly sublime moments: the grilled goldeneye, the clear broth with clam and pea tofu, the aforementioned rice dish, and obscenely perfect soba noodles. I had a great time chatting with the chefs wife, talking about life in the states. I showed her photos of my last meal at n/nada and told her all about Niki. She was very pleased to hear that women are holding it down in Los Angeles! I walk away from this experience with a sense of contentment and a little grin on my face. Thanks for the recommendation.



Breakfast: Yakumo Saryo

Off to the suburbs to Meguro city. This private home and restaurant was designed by the architect who created the Andaz. It was such a beautiful respite from my somewhat chaotic life and just what the doctor ordered Started with two kinds of tea: wasabi flower and green, and hojicha freshly roasted to order. The breakfast was lovely, but the highlight was the Sakura wagashi that was accompanied by a bowl of matcha at the end. Glad I went a bit far afield for this.

Lunch: Nakajima

Easily the cheapest Michelin starred meal I’ve ever had in my life. And a really great sardine sashimi set Line was kind of massive, but got through relatively quickly. At this point, I’m still wondering at how this rice everywhere is cooked so well, and doesn’t seem to make me feel bloated. It is like some kind of magic.

Afternoon snack: Isetan

After the Santee Alley/Canal Street/Fisherman’s Wharf madness of Asakusa, I decided to stop at the basement Isetan on the way back to my room. Which is conveniently accessed in the subway station. And to do a compare and contrast on store bought sushi. Obviously, the quality is better As a matter of fact, I would be hard pressed to buy a piece of scallop nigiri in a grocery store in Los Angeles ( it was one of the highlights here). But again, the race. I won’t belabor the point anymore – it’s just amazing to me

Dinner: Wako Takumian

Against my better judgment, I took my servers advice and ordered the file rather than the loin. Having said that, this tonkatsu was unbelievably juicy, with a light coating, perfectly crispy, and not oily in the slightest bit. I might’ve appreciated the fattiness of the other cut a bit more, but really no complaints at all. One thing I did notice is that locals seem to have received a big bowl of shredded cabbage, whereas “tourists” like myself were given a mixture of salad greens and cabbage with some sliced bell pepper on top. Too many Americans complaining about cabbage in the past? Whatever. It was a nice way to end the day. It was my second experience in terms of waiting in line for food this day Queues appear to be handled in such a courteous and efficient manner around here.


Ditto, one of the downsides of traveling in Japan, just can’t stop eating the fluffy perfectly cooked rice. And they sure love their rice 24/7… And coming off the high when you return stateside… :cry:

So where did you decide to go for your high end sushi meal?

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I’m having lunch at Miyaba tomorrow:

Came highly recommended by a friend who was just here. Reso pretty darned easy to secure. I have an email out to the Visa concierge to find me one last hurrah on my final night in Tokyo!

It’s Japan. Anything less than courteous is dishonorable.

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Concierge is offering me Sushi Shin or Seamon. I will do a little bit of research as soon as I get out of this Tokyo Disney Sea situation. It’s very beautiful, but very intense.

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Snack: Tokyo Disney Sea

This is something that is an known as a "rice roll.’ What it is is basically a cylinder of rice wrapped in bacon. No issue with any of this, particularly since I neglected to eat anything for breakfast and I was running around the park for two hours just to go on a couple of rides. Maybe even more intensely than Disneyland in Anaheim, there is no "quick "bite to eat in this park. Some of the longest queues I saw were for various flavors of popcorn. At this point, I would’ve ate just about anything Thank goodness I like both rice and bacon.

Lunch: Magellan (Tokyo Disney Sea)

This came recommended to me from my sister. By this point, any food was welcome. This park is not really laid out very intuitively. To accomplish anything, one has to walk a great deal through winding paths and up and down some pretty healthy grades. Server looked a little bit like he was out of the cast of “Amadeus”. I chose the next hors d’oeuvres, braised beef cheeks, and berry mouse cake. If only this were served at any of the various conferences are attended in the past where the standard issue “chicken breast in unknown sauce with baby vegetables and new potatoes” meal had been served, I would have been over the moon. I am happy to have my depleted calories return back to me and swift order.

Afternoon snack: Sawamura

As I am deliriously returning back to my hotel room, I find this little pastry shop near Shinjuku station. Without any explanation required, I pick this pastry simply because it was “pretty”. It was actually really delicious. Filled with sour cherries and a layer of dark chocolate underneath. Totally hit the spot. And also got a cappuccino which was the best cup of coffee I’ve received since my trip.

Dinner: Sushi Tokyo Ten

This place came recommended by Jeffry from n/naka. Located in the NEWWoMAN food hall near Shinjuku station, and had a decidedly polished feel with very young chefs behind the counter. This all came in a rather rapid clip, somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes. Please don’t ask me to remember everything because the dishes were name in English and some in Japanese. And rather quickly. Maybe not the best quality, and a bit under seasons. But they certainly give you quantity. And at ¥7700, it was a pretty substantial omakase. And the place was packed at 9:30/10 o’clock at night.

After dinner snack: Family Mart

I just dig this picture I took of an ice cream cone that I bought right in front of my hotel. That is all


Look out for rokurinsha branded cup noodles if you need to load up on emergency snacks. Got mine at 7-11

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Doutor Coffee for breakfast sandwich. Lawson for onigiri and manga. Vending machine for hot corn soup on Shinkansen.



Breakfast: Nagi Ramen

In my continued quest for a non-bacon and eggs breakfast, my digging found another 24 Hour ramen place near my hotel. Located right smack dab in the middle of Golden Gai, I was the only customer for a little bit. When I was a little kid, my sweet grandmother used to feed me tinned sardines and pickled herring all the time. Thus I’ve always had an affinity for strong flavored, oily fish. Which did not quite prepare me for this. The broth was enriched with some sardine or anchovy base. It was really tasty, but at the end of the meal my fingertips were redolent with the smell of sardines/anchovy and all of my burps until lunchtime were a constant reminder of my breakfast. This was really tasty, but I can’t imagine drinking the entire bowl of broth.

Lunch: Miyaba (or Miyaha)

This was the one highly rated sushi experience and I was able to book through the visa concierge. Where the night before was an exercise in quantity, this was definitely an exercise in quality. Not heavily seasoned, but really nice cuts of fish. At this point I am really become entranced with the whole concept of the clear broth in Japanese cuisine. Just blew me away at Goryukubo and here as well. Not really a concept that we seem to get into in terms of American cuisine. But I’m just amazed at how or something seemingly so simple can provide me such comfort and satisfaction.

Dinner: Tempura Tsunahachi

I went here for two reasons. One, I had the audacity to call Ryugin directly to see if they had any same-day bookings (they did not). Secondly, I saw a bunch of people standing in line here the night before. I did a little research and a fair amounts of reports indicated that this was a tourist trap. Whether that be true or not, I have learned from past experience that sometimes tourist traps truly serve legitimately delicious food. Having said that, I was the only non-Japanese speaking person at the counter. Everything came out fresh, one piece at a time. Everything was cooked quite nicely. I really liked some of the accompaniments that I had not been familiar with, such as graded radish with plum, and red perilla salt. And despite being served all of this fried food with a bowl of rice and a cup of hearty soup with baby clams, I continue to be amazed at how all of these seemingly heavy meals are not weighing me down. It is like magic. I am falling in love with Japan.

Sidenote: I’m not gonna post any pictures of all of these pastries I’ve been wolfing down. How is it that these French style bakeries are nailing these baked goods so well? No need to ask, just need to enjoy.


… and welcome to the club.



Lunch: Tokyo Station/Shinkansen

Easy food day today. En route to Kyoto. As I am sitting on the train eating this tonkatsu bento, I’m struck by how decent it is. And how nothing I have ever bought to-go from any bougie market in LA has ever been this satisfying. It was thoughtful (mustard/tonkatsu sauce duo packet; black sesame and umeboshi on the rice; couple of bites of really good potato salad: a few bites of juicy pear). Not to mention the packaging. And how about its freshness: I was told when I purchased it that I had to eat it by 5:30 PM. I’m impressed.

Dinner: Okonomiyaki Katsu

I’m staying two nights in the residence hall of a Buddhist temple. This was one of the local joints that they recommended. And the proprietors recommended pork. So I just rolled with it. Extremely satisfying. Literally felt like I was in the annex of somebody’s house that had been converted into a little tiny restaurant. Because I probably was. Again, I’ve not had a version in the states that’s quite as good as this

Dessert: Gion Tsujiri

I decided to do a little sightseeing around Giontonight. As did everyone else. Before I tapped out, I saw people walking away with these beautifully green hued ice cream cones. This was pretty legit. Very prominent matcha flavor. And I hope I can fall asleep tonight. But it was worth it.


Dang you are eating very well!

The matcha soft serves are killa’h!

Train bentos are shockingly good. You can partake in an ekiben exploration. Individual train stations typically offer a specialty box.

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In Osaka check out the depachika at Hankyu’s Umeda main store

IMO Osaka’s depachika scene > Tokyo’s.

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Part of the reason the food in Japan feels more fresh and “satisfying” is largely because of the pristine food chain in Japan. In other words, you are eating REAL food, made with real ingredients. Before the age of industrialized mass processing and additive preservation of food from the West, THIS is what all humans were eating. The pride you can taste in Japanese sourcing is found in produce, meats, seafood, rice, you name it.

I hope you appreciate the contrast from the modern skyscrapers of Tokyo to the ancient temples in Kyoto to be as wonderful as I find it. Kyoto is the cultural heart of ancient Japan - Enjoy it!


Nice Goryukubo pictures! Yes they also make their own soba and it’s very good.

Glad you made it to Nakajima. For me the soy sauce braised sardines and the deep fried versions were the best, outperforming the sashimi. The meal is light overall because for the sets they do portion control of rice for the first round, though you can get refills. It’s also not meant to be a huge filler type of meal but leaving you just sufficiently satisfied. Just a stone’s throw away is a kissaten/coffee shop where one could load up on some cakes and coffee. It’s pretty amazing they can offer this type of specific fare year round, considering there are off seasons for sardines, but at least they can get them easily.

Nagi ramen’s broth is made with a lot of ni-boshi (dried baby sardines, not anchovies), which give out a lot of flavor but at the same time, it’s probably a bit too pungent. I can imagine the bowl being a sodium bomb in itself. I had this place bookmarked for late night snack just in case, but maybe would have gone to an Isomaru Suisan (also 24 hours and a chain, but does shellfish bbq/cook at table plus other izakaya fare), or the lighter yuzu shio or shoyu ramen at Afuri instead.

Deep fried food is a highly skilled art form in Japan compared to tonkatsu or croquettes you get in the States, yet it is a golden standard there. Items like menchi katsu (minced beef croquette), aji fry, maguro croquette are so darn good, even when cooled to room temperature (and still retain the crisp and flakiness of the exterior). And yes, doesn’t make you feel like a slob afterwards (though your fingers could get a bit messy eating them)

Clear broth, it’s all about the dashi…deceptively and seemingly simple, but so hard to do right. It’s the staple of any Japanese cuisine, and the dashi had better be good at a kaiseki restaurant. So many variations for clear broth too (I’m reminded of the brilliant ones done by Mori Sushi in LA…). Do you have a kaiseki meal lined up in Kyoto? If so, you can do a comparison of what you had at Goryukubo (East vs West).