Category Archives: Food

Have I been to this restaurant before?

After finally getting back to our hotel room, we got to lie down and rest a bit. It was nice to get out of wet clothes. Soon the hunger set in and we realized food wasn’t going to bring itself to us. Fortunately it had stopped raining.

We settled on Uroco, an Izakaya restaurant two subway stops from our hotel.

The restaurant had a very Western design to it.

The menu makes me think of a joint we like to go to back home called Musha. For those of you that have been, I’m sure you agree.

No, these are not testicles. They are actually a tofu appetizer. Very light on the flavor, unlike testicles.

Pork belly over peas and baby corn.

The closeup.

This is very similar to MFC, Musha Fried Chicken. Perfectly crisp skin on the outside and the meat is so juicy.

Kim chi and cheese tempura rolls.

Ebi mayo. This was the only dish I wasn’t impressed with of the meal. The batter on the shrimp turned to a spongy texture from all the sauce on it.

Tofu donut and Houji tea cream Brule of parfait. I copied that straight from the menu. This is green tea ice cream on an egg custard with donuts,whip cream, and a few pieces of fruit topping off the whole thing.

Cheesecake of a Strawberry plentifully. Again, straight from the menu. I’m not a dessert person. I turn down birthday cake, even if it’s my own birthday, but I loved this. Maybe it was the going such a long time without having any sweetness that resembled American flavors that made me enjoy it so much.

I probably would have also enjoyed A lot of fruit is crepe ice.

Kyoto has the same letters as Tokyo!

When we originally planned our trip to Japan, we really only were excited about Tokyo, but we figured since we flew all the way across the world, we should at least something else. In an attempt to get a little history we stopped into Kyoto. The bullet train only takes about two hours to get to Kyoto from Tokyo, so we arrived in the morning to a wet mess.

Kyoto is an older city, and some of the people there stick to older traditions in clothing. Women in kimonos walked the streets in the rain.

A temple. I honestly don’t know what this was, but we were just trying to get out of the rain.

Nijo Castle. They make you take your shoes off. There is bare wood floor with no insulation underneath it, just air. I thought my feet where going to freeze and snap off.

The rain stopped just long enough for us to get some views of the castle grounds.

Cherry blossoms were just starting here too. Nothing was in full bloom.

Then it started hailing and raining sideways, so we took cover in some restaurant.

It’s pretty much like Yoshinoya, but the meat isn’t complete fat.

After the meal we were soaking wet and knew we weren’t going to want to do any more sight seeing. We went to a bath house, where we separated ourselves to our respective gender baths and got naked in front of strangers. Sorry, there are no pictures except this one. I found a beer vending machine!

Our room for our stay in Kyoto. I could totally live like this.

Timeout from Tokyo for Tacos

Let’s take a quick break from all the Japan posts to write about something more familiar to you here in America. I speak of tacos. Not too far from my office is a little joint called Three Amigos. I was told to check them out by my coworker since I was looking for some Mexican food.

They make their corn tortillas by hand. Here you can see the press and in the bottom left corner you’ll see one of the freshly pressed tortillas on the griddle.

My first trip there I opted for two carne asada tacos. At first you see the price of $1.80 per taco, and you want to walk out the door. $1.50 is the most you should pay for a taco, but these tacos are much larger than most tacos you get around Los Angeles. They’re already rolled up for you. Unrolling the taco for a photo kind of makes a mess, but I do it for you.

Let me talk first about the tortillas. If you’re not a fan of corn tortillas, this is the corn tortilla for you. They’re very light and airy with barely a hint of corn flavor. There is a down side to this. By frying the tortilla on the griddle first, you get a sear that becomes resistant to the grease inside the taco. This doesn’t exist with Three Amigos’ tortillas. Eat fast before you get a soggy hole in your taco.

The carne asada was decent, but I’ve definitely had better. It could stand to have more grill time to get a little more texture. All in all I was happy to have tried this joint out.

You didn’t think I was going to leave it at that, did you? I went back, this time for three tacos so I could check out their other taco offerings. This was a dumb idea. These tacos are pretty big. I was in need of a siesta after this meal.

First up, carnitas. I have to say I was disappointed in this taco. The pork seemed to be lacking saltiness and fried texture. It was as if they slow cooked it in an environment that was too wet. It didn’t get a crisp texture and any saltiness seemed to be washed away.

Cabeza. I’ve never had cabeza with this much gelatin in it. I have to say this is the first time I didn’t like cabeza in my taco. This is also a texture issue, and more time on the grill could have rectified this.

Chorizo. You really can’t mess up chorizo. It’s delicious pretty much always. This taco was a mess to eat though, staining my fingers red. Totally worth it, like every bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos.

Lengua. This one was super gamey. I think they tried to hide it with lots of cilantro, but it was still pretty noticeable.

Chicken. It tastes like chicken, which in this case is a good thing. This isn’t anything special, but sometimes that’s a good thing. Familiarity and consistency aren’t always bad. Trying to get what’s new all the time grows tiring.

While I wasn’t impressed with the meats in every taco and even disappointed in some, the tortillas here get a big thumbs up. Since I’ve only tried each type of meat once, I’m willing to go back to try some again. Perhaps they were having an off day, or maybe it was me.

There are also three items left on the taco menu to try that I haven’t already. Birria, buche, and chicharones. The first two I’m pretty afraid of after tasting how gamey the lengua taco was, and the last one makes my chest hurt just thinking about it. Still, I must…

Nikuzushi: Can’t Eat This in America

Michelle and I went wandering Ebisu, looking for a restaurant we had on our intinerary. We walked back and forth along the block, where the restaurant was supposed to be located, but it looked like there was only one restaurant on the block. Looking through the window we could see it was serving noodles , not what we were looking for after two noodle museums. We decided to poke our heads in and ask where our restaurant was located.

We found this. It was a narrow corridor of restaurants, an indoor alley of street vendors. The air smelled of so many flavors, grilled meats and seafood, potent broths, and even some cigarette smoke. We charged forward finally finding our restaurant, Nikuzushi.

This place specializes in meat sushi. While their raising and handling of the animals used is much cleaner than America’s animal factories, there are still inherent risks. A year ago some children died after eating raw meat, so pork and beef are no longer allowed completely raw.

This is pork. It’s not raw, but this amount of pink in the meat would probably scare a lot of people back home. Very tender. I’d like some of this meat in a sandwich back home. Come on, Subway!

The meat on the right is beef, which looks more like roast beef. What’s on the left, however, is something you probably won’t find on a menu in the states. That is horse. A bit chewy, like any raw piece of meat. It’s lighter than beef, but beef is probably what I’d compare it most closely with, although some people say it’s also a bit like venison.

Ground horse, topped with a raw egg.

I liked the horse as a thin slice of meat. Tenderize it by grinding it up and stir in a raw egg, and you have a creamy, delicious dish. The texture on this is out of this world too. It’s soft and delicate, almost melting in your mouth.

The owner is super cool, and although his English is very limited, he helped us out and treated us like any of his other customers. If you get to Tokyo, please check this place out. Expand your mind and try not to think of food as normal or weird. It’s just different.

PS. It helps not to think of Sea Biscuit or Mr. Ed while you’re here.

 

Raumen Museum

If you haven’t figured it out by the last post, Japan has museums for everything, but they’re not quite like museums in America. They tend to be more like mini amusement parks than museums. The Raumen  Museum is even called a food amusement park on the Wikipedia page.

Here we are at the entrance to the Raumen Museum in Shin-Yokohama. The doorway is a noodle bowl! This is going to be awesome.

What we walked into was mostly a gift shop that also housed this remote control car racetrack. We proceeded to head downstairs to find out what else was going on in this “museum.”

One flight of stairs here was like a time warp, dropping you into a 1950’s Tokyo neighborhood.

Inside ramen shops representing different regions of Japan surround a plaza, where performers entertain guests.

I was baffled at this place. Although it did not cost very much to enter, it was obviously very gimmicky. I wondered why they would even bother offering a yearly membership to this place. Then I realized that it was really buying a pass to a food court that serves up some pretty delicious ramen.

This is probably the first amusement park I’ve been to where the food was good but not sugary or fried. If I lived or worked near the Raumen Museum, I think I might get an annual pass. It’s be great to have so many good options for ramen in one spot all the time.

Nissin Cup Noodle Museum

Michelle and I jumped on a train to Yokohama, a short ride outside of Tokyo. It was a day of noodles for us. We arrived at the Cup Noodles Museum, and there were kids everywhere. It reminded me of the time we made the unfortunate decision of going to The Aquarium of the Pacific on Labor Day weekend.

You can create your own cup noodles? We’re all over that!

On second thought, too many kids.

There’s even a kitchen where you can make chicken ramen with fresh noodles but again, too many kids. We decided just to get something to eat.

Noodles Bazaar! They serve different noodles from all over the world.

China.

Thailand.

Singapore.

Each noodle stand had posters to represent the country. China had Mao.

Korea had a Pokemon movie poster in Korean.

Kazakhstan had…Borat!

The coolest thing in the museum was the Instant Noodles History Cube from the very start in 1958. They had all sorts of instant noodles, stuff I’d never seen or heard of before.

A sculpture to the glory of noodles in a cup.

This man probably kept me alive freshman year of college. Raise your noodle cups in honor of a hero, Momofuku Ando.

Craft Beer and Fugu in Japan

During our trip Michelle asked me if I missed home. I told her, “Not at all.” Then after thinking about it for a moment I said, “Beer. I miss beer.” There is plenty of lager available, but I was craving an ale. Japan’s laws have recently changed to allow craft breweries to become a reality, so they’re not well distributed. Fortunately I put a spot on our map just in case I started to miss beer.

This is Craftheads, a place to get good beer and bourbon as well.

They carry beer from Fujizakura Heights Beer.

If you look at the list of beers they carry on tap and bottle, you’ll find some familiar brewery names like Stone, Lost Abbey, and Bear Republic. I decided to stay local and went with the Sakura Bock. So good when it hits your lips!

After a beer we headed down to Shibuya to watch a horde of Japanese people walk across an intersection. As one of the busier subway/train stations, Shibuya Crossing gets packed with people. Although they don’t like it, Starbucks is a great spot to take photos.

This is fugu, also known as puffer fish. It’s known to be poisonous but also a delicacy in Japan. We decided to try this rare food.

Skin, which seemed to be blanched. This was super chewy with little flavor, like a cross between tendon and jellyfish. I guess that’s kind of what we should’ve expected for a fish that can inflate its body to double the normal size.

We also ate fugu sashimi. This was also a bit chewy, though not quite as much as the skin. Flavor here was also very light, almost non existent.

Some pieces of fugu were set out for us to cook in a soup. When you cook the fish it actually becomes very tender, but before it’s cooked it’s tough. It also continues to move on the plate.

Did I forget to mention that our friends Jen and Charlie were also in Tokyo the same time we were? Actually they’d been with us since Yoyogi Park but I had no pictures to prove it. The good news is none of us died from eating fugu.

After fugu Michelle and I went to Albatross, a two-story bar that holds about five people on each floor. What you’re seeing here is about half the bar.

I can barely fit the bar in the photo, because there’s no room to back up.

One of the guys at the bar with us was an origami master. He was sitting there folding squares of paper in the dim light. He made us a cat!

He then proceeded to whip out a pair of scissors from his coat pocket and made this piece of art. He also made us Minnie too, which is even more intricate with a bow on the head and eyelashes.

I’m going to say it again. Japanese people are awesome.

The Playground: Omakase

Michelle and I were fortunate enough to get to check out The Playground’s  Omakase-Style Seafood Dinner. Some pretty unique dishes were in the lineup, and we were excited.

They had some Japanese brews that aren’t very common in the states available to pair with the meal. Hitachino’s Real Ginger Brew is very light and refreshing.

Tai. This dish was inspired by the ocean with sand, surf, and even some seaweed.

Albacore. The mint and tangerine with the fish was a great flavor combination, fresh and sweet.

Mackerel. Fried soba noodle gave this dish an awesome texture contrast.

Pork belly. The only land animal in the meal, with a root vegetable sauce of carrot and soil. Get it?

Skip jack. Pretty lean piece of fish here compared to tuna, complimented with some fat from an egg sauce, done like an aioli.

This torch came out a couple of times in the meal.

Octopus. The broth it’s sitting on is a broth made from Doritos. You heard me. It tastes like ranchero sauce with a faint taste of corn at the end. Combined with the octopus, apple slices, and avocado, this dish had huge texture and flavor.

Watermelon. Combine that with carbonated pineberries, powdered condense milk, and a sprinkle of pop rocks. This dessert was a literal flavor explosion in my mouth.

The Playground is doing some pretty great things with food, but the fact that the chefs are given liberty to produce special meals like this in addition to that is fantastic. Compliments to Chef Frank DeLoach on a fantastic meal.

Wandering Harajuku

Harajuku is a fashion-forward region in Tokyo. This is where Tokyo’s youth like to spend their time. On Sundays it is crowded, people everywhere. We didn’t step into most of the clothing stores because they were packed.

There are people everywhere!

Again with the options. Clean in any color you wish.

And the snacks!

So many snacks!

MoMA has a store where you can buy expensive, cleverly designed products.t

Japanese people love crepes. There are crepe shops all over the place.

They also love condoms.

Just a chicken sandwich from a fast food joint we poked our heads into while walking the area.

They cook noodles perfectly, but they also always cook eggs perfectly so the yolk is perfectly runny, not so thin that it runs away from the sandwich.

I really want this foosball table.

Stopped for a coffee break.

We got hungry so we stopped for some ramen. There is one rule in Japan for food. If the line is long, it’s probably awesome. We kept getting into lines and then realizing they were places we already had on our map to check out.

Hungry customers slurping down noodles.

Michelle always goes the spicy route. Always.

Egg, pork, chashu, bamboo, onions, and seasoned cod roe.

So, so very good.

 

Ghibli Museum and some more wandering Tokyo

I’ve got a golden ticket! Too bad they won’t let you take pictures inside the museum. Some of the animations are pretty neat.

They will let you take picture of the Giant Robot from Laputa Castle in the Sky. Our eyes are barely open here as the wind whips dust around everywhere. It was pretty painful being on the roof.

We tried to return the favor and take the picture of the couple behind us that took our picture. No, they trusted their five year old instead.

I did manage to sneak one picture of an exhibit from Princess Mononoke.

After seeing the museum it was starting to get rainy, so we decided to head back into Ginza to hang out in shops where it was dry.

That is where we found this.

And where I took this.

Sony has a great showroom, where you can play with all of its newest toys. These little cameras made me wish I had a smaller body camera like this, that is until I saw the price tags on them.

They have different lighting setups so you can play with camera in different scenarios. The software is so good on these cameras now that they adjust for damn near everything. The only thing these things can’t do is compose the shot. A great camera still doesn’t make you a photographer. Damn. I was so close.

Dinner was tsukemen. Every single place we stopped into cooked noodles perfectly. This was no exception. Great bite and the dipping broth was excellent. It was packed with flavor but not heavy.

After dinner we said we’d take an hour nap and head out on the town for the first night since getting to Japan. Four hours later we woke up and forced ourselves downstairs to our hotel bar. At least they had some good Scotch.