After studying in the mountainous suburbs of Hiroshima where there isn't much choice in eating out unless you like "family restaurants", McDonalds or okonomiyaki, I decided to explore what kind of tasty food Tokyo had to offer with total disregard for the price (to certain limits!).
Most of the pictures where taken with Mr. Blurrycam (iPhone 3GS) while a select few were taken with a real camera (Canon Powershot S80).
My meal on the 4.5 hour Shinkansen train ride from Hiroshima to Tokyo.
Stewed pork with some sort of teriyaki sauce. 6 pieces of pork in total!
Cost 1000 yen.
Quite expensive in my opinion.
Initially my plan was to cook something for dinner but after a 1 hour commute by to the apartment and the crazy August heat, I gave up that idea quickly and eat out for 2 out of 3 meals almost every day for 2 months...
Also because Japanese people work crazy late hours and the fact that I was always the first one to leave the office due to my hourly contract and student work visa restrictions, I needed to find some restaurant where eating alone doesn't look weird and the answer comes in the ramen shop!
(Actually in Japan, from my observations, it seems people don't mind eating alone in all sorts of restaurants, unlike in Canada, if you eat alone in some non-fast food restaurant, people will think that you are weird or something...)
Before I came to Tokyo, I almost never ate any ramen, and I was certainly not a fan of ramen (I am a big fan of wonton noodles, but that is only because I grew up eating it), but by the end of my stay in Tokyo, I had become a big fan of ramen! I guess that is what happens when you eat all the "good ramen" at the famous, highly rated shops.
Thanks to my iPhone and the 食べログ (tabelog.com), I was easily able to find highly rated customer reviews of ramen shops.
Also because the office I worked in was near Tokyo station, I could easily go to Tokyo Ramen Street (a collection of famous ramen shops in the Tokyo area) in the basement level, I found myself going there way too often...
The average price of a bowl of ramen was 800-1000 yen, so that did a lot of damage to my wallet.
Miso Crab Ramen
Shop from Tokyo Station's "Ramen Street".
蟹専門 けいすけ "Kani Senmon Keisuke"
Served in a bowl shaped like Hokkaido.
Cost 850 yen.
Karauma (Spicy) Ramen 辛旨らー麺
From "Ikaruga" (斑鳩) in Tokyo Station's Ramen Street. While it looks tasty it was in fact quite bland. There seemed to be no taste at all! Supposed to be spicy, but was not one bit. I "think" it was tonkotsu soup but could not tell because it was so bland! 800 yen.
Red Miso Ramen (赤みそらーめん)
According to their menu, this is the most popular item in their shop which is a branch from this Hokkaido-based ramen shop.
Price 850 yen.
From らーめん むつみ屋 - Ramen Mutsumiya at Tokyo station.
Kitakata Niku Soba (喜多方肉そば)
Kitakata (喜多方) style ramen (after searching, it is a town called Kitakata in Fukushima Prefecture). The specialty of this bowl of ramen was that the noodles were hand made and hand cut and came with ample amounts of pork (I don't know whether you could call it the standard ramen sha-chu or not...)
Price 990 yen.
From 麺や 七彩 (めんやしちさい) "Men-ya Shichi-sai" at Tokyo station's Ramen Street.
つけ麺 Tsukemen (Dipping Style Ramen)
From the shop called 六厘舎 TOKYO (Rokurinsha TOKYO) in Tokyo station. This shop always has long lines every single day no matter what time its open. I passed by it so many times hoping that I could enter without waiting but I decided to bite the bullet and went straight there after work.
The line (compared to the crazy weekend lines) was relatively short (40 mins) and once you sit down they give you a paper bid/apron to wear so you won't splash the dipping soup all over your clothes.
The thing that surprised me was that after you finish eating your noodles and have leftover dipping soup, I saw everyone asking that their bowl be refilled with something. So I followed everyone else and they added hot water and green onions to the thick dipping soup to make the soup more "drinkable". (Interesting style of eating I thought)
Price: 850 yen.
Next because I had to transfer in Akihabara, I also found myself going to a couple of shops near the Kanda/Akihabara area.
From some literally hole in the wall shop in Akihabara. The place was located among nondescript low-end office buildings.
Price 750 yen, kind of cheaper than the usual standard price of 1000 yen.
From "粋な一生 (いきないっしょう)"
Shoyu (Soy Sauce) Ramen - One of the best shoyu ramen I have ever eaten!
From a shop with counter seating for roughly 7 people. The iPhone app 食べログ gave it a high score so I decided to check it out. Because of the typhoon and rain there wad no line up at all! It was pretty good as it was not too salty nor too fat. Price 980 yen.
I found this next shop while I was in Shinjuku.
Spicy Shio Ramen
Fish based soup and comes with 2 fish balls instead of the usual sha-chu.
Also came with a grilled rice ball (onigiri) not shown here.
Price 1000 yen.
From "麺屋海神 (めんやかいじん)" in Shinjuku.
I ate this one while I was doing my walk in Yokohama.
The taste was quite good and the price was right!
Price: 680 yen
From: 鶴一家 (Tsuru Ikka) near Yokohama Station
This next one was quite unusual, a coworker/friend from the company recommended it to me. One afternoon, having nothing to do, I purposely took the train to Kichijoji 吉祥寺 in western Tokyo from where I was living near Daishi-mae 大師前 in northern Tokyo to try it.
Dry "Oil" Ramen 油ラーメン
"Dry oil shachu" ramen basically soup-less ramen, but mixed in "oil", quite a unique take on the regular ramen.
Price: 1020 yen (including the shashu rice bowl that I ordered, not shown)
From: らーめん専門店 ぶぶか 吉祥寺 (Ramen Senmon Ten Bubuka Kichijoji) near Kichijoji Station in Tokyo
Another thing that they serve in Japan's ramen shops is the "Shashu Don". I had this while going for a geeky self-guided exploration of the railway oriented developments (for academic research purposes!) along the Tokyu lines between Jiyugaoka 自由が丘 and Den-en Toshi 田園都市. I never realized what an upscale area this was until I got there.
Shashu Don (チャーシュー丼 Japanese style BBQ pork rice bowl)
In Cantonese food, you have something called BBQ Pork Rice (叉燒飯) basically Chinese-style roasted pork cut into slices and put on top of a bowl of rice with some sweet soy sauce. This is the Japanized version which one can usually find at ramen shops. Consists of the shashu (Japanized BBQ pork) that they use for the ramen toppings but cut into pieces and mixed with some mild sweet/spicy sauce and topped with dried seaweed. It tasted good and was cheap, if only the pork was hot, that would have been better.
Price 250 yen and comes with a bowl of soup (not shown) that was saltier than I would have liked it to have been. Its cheaper than a gyudon from a chain fast food restaurant!
From some shop called: 無邪気 自由が丘
Another dish that is ubiquitous to ramen shops is the gyoza.
Ordered together with the Shashu Don in the previous photo.
Price 300 yen.
From some shop called: 無邪気 自由が丘
After all the ramen, one day I found myself craving some "Chinese style noodles" and I stumbled upon a wonton noodles shop in Iidabashi.
Japan Wonton Noodles
After not eating any wonton noodles in a long long time, I felt the need to try it and I was surprised that it turned out better than expected. Way better than American Chinese food "wonton" but still a little off from the real thing.
Price 650 yen.
From (香港粥麺専家 飯田橋ラムラ店)
Another type of food I found myself eating way way too often were bentos (Japanese style boxed meals).
Every lunch time, especially in the office districts, there are tons of bento sellers, either from a shop or selling from a stand, all catering to overworked, over-stressed salarymen so being the fake temporary salaryman that I was, I also went to bought a bento everyday for lunch and quietly returned to my desk to quietly eat my bento in the dark (they turned off all the lights during lunch time for "energy saving purposes" in the wake of the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster).
Other times because I was lazy to cook dinner, I would buy one of those pricey (overpriced) department store bentos. I was under the mindset that "if I was a tourist I could not even try any of these, because where would I eat them?!" (there are no public seating areas in central Tokyo).
"Ginza 4 Chome Suehiro" Bento
Hamburg (meat patty) with some demi-glace sauce, 2 pieces of potatoes, 1 piece of karage (Japanese-style fried chicken), and beef sukiyaki all on top of rice.
Cost 730 yen.
"Kakiyasu Dining" Salad Bento
Department store food floor bento. Bought from Daimaru Tokyo Station for 50% off because of store closing time.
Original price of 735 yen is just too expensive but at 365 yen, it was pretty good.
Consists of smoked salmon potato salad, chicken with onions, 1 piece of karage (Japanese-style fried chicken) and pasta salad.
"Rosenheim" (ローゼンハイム) Bento
2 pieces of roast chicken, 2 pieces of pork, 2 pieces of chicken rolled with asparagus and 1 half-sized "hamburg" (pork/beef patty) with some potatoes and spaghetti.
I guess its kind of reasonable for 580 yen.
Chuka (Chinese) Bento
Japanized Chinese food bento from a store called "Shodoten". After searching its website, seems they have been in business since 1944 so they must have done something right. Shimp chili sauce (ebi-chili), 2 shumai, 1 shimp dumpling (har-gow), 1 spring roll and some pork stir fry.
Seems like something you would eat in dim sum rather than eating at room temperature (all bentos sold in Japan are cold, warm or room temperature). The shumai tasted weird as they were sweet!
Garlic Chicken Bento
From a department store basement store called "Chicken Farm Deli". 5 pieces of "garlic chicken", square yellow egg thingy, some kind of squash thing and some meatball thingy and "garlic rice".
Better than your standard convenience store bento but not that great when compared to other department store "high end" bentos.
Original price 680 yen but bought for 580 yen because of the closing time was near.
Mabo Tofu Bento
Seems Mabo Tofu is the main representative of Chinese food in Japan as you see it everywhere.
Unlike the Japanized Mabo Tofu, this is the "real" Sichuan version, or so they claim on the packaging. Quite elaborate packaging to separate the rice and sauce but so wasteful as so much plastic is used.
Flavour was good but rice and meat was so stingy.
For the original price of 500 yen, it would be overpriced but for the reduced price of 390 yen, it was reasonable considering that 390 yen could buy a lousy bento from a convenience store.
From a store called "昇龍園" at Kita Senju Lumine.
Nori (Seaweed) Bento
Grilled salmon, egg, 2 pieces of fried squid, 2 types of seaweed on top of rice, pickled vegetables and a pork meatball. 630 yen from food floor of Daimaru department store in Tokyo station.
Consists of some seafood stir-fry (2 pieces of squid, 1 piece of shrimp and some round egg thingy with no yoke that seems to be popular with Chinese food in Japan), beef stir-fry, mini Japanized shu-mai (pork dumpling), half sized mini BBQ pork bun, fried rice and Japanese yakisoba (of all things).
Price 630 yen from Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi Main Store.
Karage (Japanese Style Fried Chicken)
From Kakiyasu Dining in the food floor of department stores.
There is still something weird about eating non-fresh fried foods that I will never get used to (common in Japan).
Price: 500 yen
This next meal was from one of the restaurants operated by Iron Chef Chen Kenichi (of the Iron Chef TV show)
Mapo Tofu from Iron Chef Chen Kenichi (陳健一の麻婆豆腐)
From one of his lower priced restaurant which only serves Mapo Tofu. Much cheaper than at his regular restaurant, only 1050 yen and included unlimited rice and soup refills. So hot and spicy that I had sweat running down my face while eating it!
Had this in Haneda airport because I was forced to go back to Hiroshima for 1 day just to sign my name on a piece of paper in order to receive my next months scholarship stipend...
Cabbage Roll Stew and Pork Saute
Japanese "Yoshoku" (洋食) - Western (European) food first Japanized during late 19th century and early 20th century.
Cabbage roll consists of some minced meatball of some kind of meat (I couldn't tell) wrapped with the cabbage and embedded in some sort of sauce called a "stew".
Pork saute consists of thin slices of pork (with fat) cooked with some kind of soy sauce and oil and put on top of cabbage.
From "Shinjuku Acacia 新宿 アカシア" at Haneda Airport Terminal 2.
Price 1340 yen. Kind of pricey and I figured that I would only try this once since I thought it tasted so-so.
Another type of dish that is ubiquitous in Japan is the omu-rice.
Omu Rice and Hamburg
More Japanized western food. "Omu Rice" is some flavored rice wrapped in a fried egg and usually covered with some sauce. Hamburg is a meat patty formed by ground pork and beef and accompanied with sauce (usually demi glacé) and eaten together with rice. Price 1134 yen.
Curry is also very popular in Japanese food, but not regular curry, but Japanized curry. I had this while I was doing a day trip to Kawagoe.
"European Style" Chicken Curry
What I didn't like about it was that they included the chicken skin as well. From a popular shop in Kawagoe, Japan. Price 1100 yen.
Another popular dish are rice bowls.
Oyako Don (親子丼 Chicken Egg Rice Bowl)
Charcoaled grilled pieces of chicken thigh meat topped with egg on rice. Includes a bowl of chicken soup with pickled vegetables.
Price 1050 yen.
From 新橋 鶏繁 どんぶり子 (しんばし とりしげ どんぶりこ Shinbashi Torishige Donburi-ko) at Tokyo station's Kitchen Street.
I also had the most stereotypical of Japanese food: tempura.
Price: 650 yen
From: Tempura Chain Restaurant Asakusa Tenya 浅草 てんや at an underground mall in Tokyo station
Another very popular type of Western style Japanese food are meat on hot plates.
Hamburg on Hot Plate
A type of Japanized Western food that you see all over the place in Japan. The "hamburg", basically a patty of ground beef and pork that you eat with rice. Usually served on a hot plate.
Price: 1210 yen (they overcharge you on the rice)
From: 肉の万世 新宿西口店 （ニクノマンセイ）Niku no Mansei Shinjuku West Exit
This next one is from the Pepper Lunch chain "fast food" restaurant. I like this fast food chain because the food is not fried, is quite fresh and is cheap. Too bad the shops are mostly located in the Tokyo area.
"Service Steak" (サービスステーキ)
Chunks of beef (steak beef?) that you grill yourself on a iron hot plate from the fast food chain "Pepper Lunch".
Seems that anything that is served at a discount in restaurants that are time/quantity limited are called "service-"...
Price 580 yen.
Local prefectural food.
Yamagata Prefecture Food
The beef and taro "stew" tasted kind of weird but the grilled fish was quite food but had lots of bones.
The grated squash beside the grilled fish was really good and really fresh.
Price: 1000 yen for lunch set
From: Daedoko in the Marunouchi Building near Tokyo station
Impulse buy bakery goods.
I happened to walk through Daimaru after work and while I didn't intend to buy anything, once again I was lured into buying these cream puffs after seeing the display.
The cream filling was incredibly fresh!
From レ・フィーユ仙台 Les Feuilles Sendai
Because the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival occured in September while I was in Yokohama, I got the chance to try some Japanized Moon Cakes.
Japanized Moon Cakes
2 regular ones with green tea and purple sweet potato filling.
2 "unbaked" ones with green tea and milk tea filling.
From 崎陽軒 Kiyoken in Yokohama.
Finally on my last full day in Tokyo, I met with my friend from my student exchange days in Tokyo whom I hadn't seen in years and she asked me what would you like to do, so I thought "hmm, there is one type of Japanese food that I had never tried before, traditional style Japanese food", so I suggested going for kaiseki or Kyoto-style Japanese cuisine, as I thought that it would be better to go with a native Japanese than trying something like this with other foreigners.
I knew it would be expensive but given the amount of care and service put into each dish by the chef, it was well worth the price. I did not expect to be full after the meal given the small sizes of the multi-course meal but I was pleasantly surprised to be quite full, in fact stuffed after the 3 hour meal was over.
懐石料理 Kaiseki Style Japanese Food
Take Home Onigiri from Kaiseki Meal
Epic 3 hour long, multi-course Kyoto-style Japanese cuisine. All counter seating with the food made in front of you by the chef.
From: 凹町 Hokucho, Ebisu, Tokyo
Price: 9,500 yen including the Japanese sake
- I ate too much ramen and therefore became a ramen fan
- I ate too many bentos
- I ate sushi only once (not shown here)
- Japanese food != sushi (does not equal)
- Probably almost everything I earned in the internship was blown on food