Just returned from a trip to Japan where I was fortunate to have eaten some spectacular meals. Posting the non omakase meals here with pictures as a start - if folks don’t think I’m spamming the site, I’ll add the sushi and kaiseki meals later one by one
This was a bit out of the way, but we figured we would rather make a res and schlep here and eat rather than wait in line for 45-60 minutes at Okakita or Yamamoto Menzou. We ordered the “mini set” for 3000-4000 JPY each, and the meal was utterly delightful. I got the cold seasonal soba with veggies, which came with a starter course consisting of carp sashimi, veggies, and plain soba. Then the main soba course, followed by a fantastic grilled unagi course with rice, and the dessert, a soba cream pudding. This meal was a fantastic value and it would be a great way to eat an excellent course meal without breaking the bank. However, amazingly, I don’t think this was the best soba on our trip - that honor would go to soba courses that were served as part of our kaiseki / sushi meals (at Ifuki and Kimura).
Starter course with carp sashimi and cold soba
Seasonal cold soba with veggie toppings
Rice with grilled unagi and oshinko
Soba cream for dessert
Menya Hiro (ramen)
My goodness. I know it’s hard to compare among different types of ramen, but if I were given a chance to go back and eat only one bowl of ramen from my past, this would probably be it. We had his signature kanishio soba (crab and salt ramen). The chef uses water he sources from nearby Fushimi and then boils the crab for 4 days. The result is such an intense but light crab broth where we basically drained every last drop. The pork was thinly sliced and well done, but the highlight toppings were the grilled bamboo shoots and what seemed like poached chicken. We also asked them to recommend a donburi, and we got a poached chicken bowl with raw egg. Absolutely delicious. We didn’t know at the time, but you can order ajitama (or course) and extra toppings. I would for sure get the egg and extra chicken toppings next time. Our cab ride to Yamashina-Ku from our hotel was 3-4x the cost of a bowl of ramen here. But even if you factor in the fully loaded cost, this ramen was well worth it for me.
Kanishio “soba” goodness
Chicken and raw egg donburi
Great as always. We got the tokusei (special) ramen for breakfast, which uses a lighter broth.
Tokusei Tsukemen - nothing here comes close (though I like Menya Musashi’s tsukemen FWIW)
Check out that ajitama!
Ekibenya Matsuri (bento takeout)
This place in Tokyo Station was packed! They sell all kinds of bento box meals from different regions in Japan. One highlight was the sukiyaki box; the beef and broth both were both flavorful even though they were served at room / cold temps. They probably used some unholy combination of chemicals that I don’t want to know about.
Awesome sukiyaki bento
Personally, I normally don’t like spending precious time with non Japanese food on trips to Japan, but we wanted a quick dinner as we had just had a big lunch. David Chang highlighted this place in Ugly Delicious, and we walked in out of curiosity. This pizza joint is 100% hipster and wouldn’t be out of place in Noho NYC or Silverlake LA. The pizza wasn’t the best in the world but pretty darn good. They were able to keep the crust stiff enough to stay straight but still be chewy, and the olive oil was fragrant and permeated the pizza (in a good way). Ingredients were of a high standard, as is to be expected.
And the undercarriage…
I prefer Japanese curry over other types, so this really hit the spot for me. The beef was extremely tender (you could cut it with the fork) and moist, but a bit less flavorful (presumably because it has been stewed for a while) and the goodness is all in the curry. Would go again to scratch the itch.
Ordered mine with extra avocado and leeks. Also check out the complimentary onions!
Thanks Tabelog. We went on a weekday around 13:30 and “only” had to wait in line for 25 minutes or so. This is the best udon I’ve ever had. I got the cold udon with pour over soy sauce with mtn yam. The noodles were the perfect texture. My dining partner got hot udon in broth; as another poster mentioned, some of the chewy texture gets lost. We also order fried chicken nuggets and fried fish cake. This was not a “light” meal.
Yamaimo cold udon
I have always wanted to try Mizai in Kyoto but have never been able to finagle a reservation. When I learned that a former apprentice from Mizai had opened his own shop in Tokyo, this restaurant automatically moved up my list of must-tries. The counter seats 7-8. There were three of us foreigners, and we sat down and started at 7pm. The remaining seats were reserved by locals, and their reservation was at 7:30. I didn’t mind, and maybe this helped the pace of the meal. No photos were allowed, which was liberating, but this was maybe visually the most beautiful meal of our trip. I would say that all the flavors were very restrained, but not bland (and I know it can be a fine line). This was our third white miso soup, and we still weren’t tired of it. Miyasaka-san is very warm and friendly, and service was responsive without being overbearing. The hassun was perhaps the most spectacular dish, both visually and in terms of taste. But the meal itself was eminently Kyoto in style, not opulent (like Kimoto), with a focus on seasonal ingredients and especially vegetables. We had a soup with the kabu radish and a simple carrot that will long live in my memory. A roasted wagashi with chestnuts was an amazing dessert. The meal really lifted our spirits and nourished us, but it was not a visceral experience. I would not eat here if this is your first foray into kaiseki, but I can absolutely see how Tokyo denizens would be ecstatic about being able to eat at a Kyoto- style kaiseki restaurant without having to jump on the bullet train. The only picture I got was of the onigiri to go that they made with rice we hadn’t eaten
Dons de la Nature (wagyu)
For me, still the best wagyu I’ve had (I liked it more than Ukai Tei or Shima) though the wagyu at Kimoto was comparable in quality yet different in preparation. I’ve found the best serving size for my stomach and wallet is to split 400g between two people (we had a choice of sirloin from Matsusaka, which we picked, vs some sirloin from Hokkaido and some filet from Omi). It was empty on a Saturday night - I’m not sure how he stays in business given he must be paying crazy rent in his Ginza location.
A5 Wagyu sirloin from Matsuzaka
Oden at Family Mart!
Wagashi from a Kyoto dept store food court
Additions from November 2019
A few odds and ends from this year’s short trip to Japan. Didn’t think it warranted a new thread.
Ramen Mugi to Olive
Located in Ginza, they specialize in shoyu ramen. This was our first meal off the plane, and it was extremely solid. No wait whatsoever.
You can get a few types of ramen - a clam broth ramen, a chicken broth ramen, and a triple broth with clam, chicken, and niboshi. I got the triple, and wife got the chicken. Both are light shoyu broths. Excellent texture from the noodles, and very fresh and tasty toppings. They use “olive” in the name because they had containers of olive oil to use as seasoning. I only remembered to do so at the end, and the olive oil added a nice sense of flavor to the ramen soup.
This is another great ramen place that surpasses any here.
I’ve been wanting to try this tsukemen joint ever since the legendary Exilekiss reviewed this place on the predecessor board circa ten years ago. When this place opened, it consistently placed among the top five ramen joints in Tokyo, with long lines to match. I finally made it for this trip. They have two bowls - tsukemen and ramen. This is the prototypical pork plus gyoukai broth popularized by the likes of Rokurinsha, Tetsu, and Fuunji. It was friggin’ outstanding. They age their noodles, which gives it this fantastic, toothsome texture. The picture of the egg speaks for itself. I read that folks order the menma separately, which I also did, and it was outstanding. Everything about this makes it perhaps the best bowl of tsukemen and ramen I’ve ever had. The only big caveat is that they serve the tsukemen broth at a lukewarm temp. Given the perfection of everything else here, I gotta think this was an artistic decision and not a lapse in cooking. However, for me this prevents the bowl from being perfection, which it would be for me if the broth were 10 degrees (or whatever) warmer. As it is, I think I might slightly prefer Rokurinsha, but think Kissou is better than Fuunji or Tetsu.
We arrived at opening at 11:30 and waited 40 minutes. They have a pretty good drill now, and you sit in these organized rows as you get closer to the front.
Ginza Aoki Tonkatsu
This was a snack before a big kaiseki meal, so we wanted to grab something reasonably quick. We only waited 15 minutes, so the line wasn’t unreasonable. This is the best tonkatsu I’ve ever had, though I’ve only really hit one or two others in Japan, so there’s plenty of room to go up :). I ordered the fatty loin, and the fried fat was tasty. Wife got the lean filet, and I gotta say, that piece was better. You can better taste the robustness of the excellent quality pork they use. Aoki fries their tonkatsu at a higher temperature, making the outside more crispy, but the offset is that you risk drying out the meat more than if you use a low temp. No issues here!
Here is a gratuitous shot of Sakura mochi soft serve