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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Japan 2013: Tokyo - Casual Dining

*EDIT 8/7/13*
I totally forgot about these places we tried in Asakusa!! It's my favorite place to visit in Tokyo!

This place had a window in the front where you can see a guy making noodles. Totally cool! So we had to try it.
Soba Set (cold soba with mini tempura rice bowl) 1,200Yen~ Great texture, very refreshing. 


Japanese Udon (served cold with dipping sauce) 700Yen~ I think I like cold udon better than cold soba! The udon in Japan is always cooked to perfection. Nice and chewy. And cold noodles are great for a hot day!

Pork Dipping Noodles 880Yen~ I wanted tsukemen, which is dipping ramen but this wasn't what I expected since I've tried it elsewhere last year. It was still good, but didn't satisfy that craving I had. haha. TONS of noodles... I couldn't finish it.

Chow Mein (fried noodles) 850Yen~ Basically yakisoba. I liked that it had a lot of veggies in there. Good flavor too!

Melon Cream Soda 

This year I didn't do much research at all for food spots. There are too many good food everywhere so we just walked around and looked at different places and narrow it down from there! Tough choices sometimes since everything looked great. Especially when you're hungry! hehe. 

Here are some places we randomly ventured into in Tokyo... 

First day in Tokyo, we stopped in Shinjuku station to pick up our JR passes and just walked out in search for some lunch. We found this underground udon place, Hanamaru. Appears to be a chain, and I went to a very similar style udon restaurant in Hawaii and it was awesome. It's cafeteria style where you grab a tray, pick up the tempura you want, then order the noodles and they make it right there and give it to you to check out. Seating is community tables, first come first serve. 

I got the Cold Udon with Pork and a Soft Poached Egg (small for 399Yen~) The noodles were cooked PERFECTLY. The texture was amazing. So chewy! I liked that it was in more of a sauce instead of full on soup. It had tons of flavor, and so many different textures. I topped mine with some tempura crumbles. The egg was amazing, soft and runny. 

The bf got a Hot Udon with Pork (small for 399Yen~)
Also got Octopus Tempura 147Yen~ and a Salmon Rice Ball/Triangle (Onigiri)

First meal in Japan, and it's easily one of my favorite meals of the trip. Simple but done perfectly... YUM! 

For dinner the first night, I don't even know which area we were in... We saw the signs and pictures outside of Za-Watami and was lured in. haha. Later, I also realized this was a chain because I saw it everywhere! It's an Izakaya which is a type of Japanese drinking establishment which also serves food to accompany the drinks. We had to take our shoes off at the door and put it into little cubbies. Fun! :) 

We started with some cocktails. We ARE on vacation after all. hehe. Cassis & Orange 499Yen~ Easily one of my favorite drinks. I discovered it last year in Japan. It seems to be a very common drink in Japan. It's like juice, so it's good for people who don't really like the taste of alcohol. 
Bf got this Mango Yogurty Cocktail thing. Looked really pretty. But since I'm allergic to mango, I can only appreciate its presentation. 

We got these little appetizers that came with our drinks. (We realized after that they charged us for it!! What?!?) 
Apparently a lot of places in Japan have a "sitting fee". I'm assuming it's to cover the rent of the space? Not sure, but we were so confused why our bill was so high so we asked the waitress. Her English was very limited and ended up just removing the charges because she saw how confused we were. haha. These apps cost as much as the cocktails!!! Whoa! 

I wanted some veggies so we got a Salad. So pretty, and bigger than I expected. Topped with a crab salad and soy sauce dressing on the side. It was delicious. So fresh and crisp and the creaminess from the crab salad paired perfectly. I didn't even need to use the dressing. My favorite item of the night. 

5 Skewer Combo 699Yen~ We had Chicken, Chicken & Scallions, Chicken Hearts, Scallions, and Okra. We also added a skewer of Mushrooms. Not the best yakitori I've had but still pretty tasty. 

Butter Corn 349Yen~ The picture on the menu looked better than the actual product. Could've used more butter. haha. 

The 2nd day, we visited the Tokyo Skytree. Which is pretty cool. You gotta wait in pretty long lines but it's got a great view at 450 meters from the 2nd observatory. We wandered into one of the department store's restaurant level for dinner. Found a tonkatsu place that didn't have such massive lines as some other places. Saboten Tonkatsu. Staff's English is pretty limited (as was most places), but they had English menu. 

Bf ordered the Saboten Combo (pick 5). He picked Barley and Rice, Pumpkin Salad, Side of Chicken Cutlet, Side of Asparagus Roll, and Pork Loin Cutlet of Kenbiton (a higher quality of pork) 1,680Yen~ 
With the meals we also got unlimited shredded cabbage, rice and miso soup. SO. MUCH. FOOD. The tonkatsu was fried to perfection. Juicy and moist on the inside, nice and crispy on the outside. There was just enough fat on the pork to give it moisture and flavor. My bf loved it so much. He's had tonkatsu in Dallas before but never cared for it because it's usually thin and dry. This is the real deal! It also came with sesame seed with pestle and mortar.. You grind the sesame seeds and then mix it with the tonkatsu sauce. NOM! The pumpkin salad was yummy as well, I could've just had a tub of that. 

I wanted to try something different and got the Mizore Combo (Pork loin cutlet with Mizore sauce which includes chopped scallion, bitter orange juice, grated white radish, and grapefruit) 1,350Yen~ Very interesting. The radish and citrus gave the fried cutlet a level of freshness. I also loved the barley & rice. A little nutty and difference in texture.
We both finished our food. I'm shocked. haha. But it was too good not to. Can't get quality like this in Dallas that's for sure...

Another lunch we had was close to our hotel at Nippori Station. It was inside another hotel. We didn't realize it was a smoking establishment though. Bleh!! We ate quickly and got on with our day. haha. Keeping it light, we got the Yakisoba 680Yen~ and I got a small salad 380Yen~ The food was good. Too bad we couldn't stay long to savor it. 

This next location is pretty cool. I specifically hunted this place down. I always wanted to try the live octopus... where the tentacles are still moving and stuff. Wanted to do it in Korea but didn't know how to order, and didn't find it in Japan last time. I found out that this dish, called Sannakji, is a Korean dish, so we went to "korea town" outside of Shin-Okubo station. We basically walked around and looked for pictures and signs outside for the octopus. Only found 1 location. So here we go... 
We asked for it at the door and the waiter showed us the menu. As soon as we ordered it, we see him go to one of the many fish tanks and pull out a live octopus 2,000Yen~. Pretty quickly we had a bunch of squirming tentacles in front of us. How cool! It came with sesame oil and chili paste to dip. 
The octopus itself doesn't have much flavor so all the flavor comes from the dipping sauces. The texture is the most important. It was definitely fresh! haha. The sensation is a new experience. You can feel the suction cups sticking on your tongue and inside of your mouth. I'd recommend chewing thoroughly before swallowing! Don't want them to stick to your throat. We enjoyed it. And had fun battling the food. haha. It was a feat just to pick the things up, since they suck on to the plate. :P If you are adventurous, I'd recommend trying this at least once. The picture doesn't do it justice. But if you google Sannakji, you can see them in action... 

We also got Jap Chae to supplement our dinner. haha. 

Next day, before we headed off to Osaka, we had a quick lunch at Ranmen in Tokyo Station. 
Soba, Tempura and Rice 950Yen~
Katsu Don and Soba Set 950Yen~  


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