I love Japanese food so a trip to the Japanese capital was only natural. While food in Tokyo is expensive, any food lover will tell you that that is not obstacle. Most gourmands will spend a sizeable portion of their money on food in Tokyo. I was no different and did not regret it one bit.
Here’s a look at my gastronomic journey in one of the world’s busiest cities:
This was at SunshiZanmai Shibuya, just a five-minute walk from the Shibuya Crossing. My favourite on the plate was the grilled salmon belly with uni. The buttery texture of the uni was absolute perfection with the smokiness of the salmon. The raw tuna belly and salmon belly were equally delicious, and the freshness was out of this world. Devouring this meal within two hours of arriving in Tokyo was a good start to my culinary journey.
What better to accompany your sushi meal than sake? My favourite, and what I kept drinking over and over again, was Mio Sparkling Sake. It had a tinge of sweetness, which was great for a sweet lover like myself, and was a great to wash down my meals with. In spite of the cold weather, Mio was best drunk chilled.
Shifting away from the seafood, the next item on the list is pork belly yakitori. The right ratio of fat and meat, with the right amount of char made this snack an absolute delight to feast on! This was also at Shibuya, although the name of this restaurant escapes me now. It’s a late night yakitori place, next to SushiZanmai Shibuya. There’s a staircase leading to the basement where this joint is located.
This next dish was a major highlight of my culinary journey in Tokyo. At the Tsukiji Market, with only the freshest of freshest produce, I stopped at this tiny restaurant. I was mesmerised by photos on the menu and decided to splurge on a seafood extravanganza (also, I was craving for uni). Fresh cuts of tuna and salmon, scallops, barbecued unagi (eel), crabmeat salad, fish roe, plump prawns, and rich and buttery uni (sea urchin) with slices of pickled ginger and a dollop of wasabi over a bowl of rice made for a wonderful start to the day! I left the restaurant a very satisfied man.
If you thought I was satisfied with that gigantic rice bowl, you were wrong. It wasn’t long before I was queuing up at another restaurant a few doors away for my second breakfast.
The clams were so fresh I could taste the ocean while the shisamo had just the right amount of meaty crispiness you want in a snack. A squeeze of lemon on top gave it a nice tang.
So what’s great to have on a cold winter night? Fiery ramen, of course! I chanced upon this place in Shinjuku, very close to the Sunflower Building.
Upon entering, I was somewhat overwhelmed by the machines where diners placed their orders. Sensing my confusion, the host came running over to tell me how to operate the machine.
I ordered 250gm of noodles (way too much), which came with chicken karaage, a ramen egg, two seaweed slices and two crispy strips of battered and deep-fried mushrooms (I think). The pièce de résistance was the fiery broth that accompanied the noodles. Being a bit of a noob, I asked the chef if I was to pour the broth into the bowl of noodles. He said “dip”. So I did just that. The cold noodles were amazing with the thick and spicy broth. The chicken pieces were battered nicely, crispy and were even more delicious when dipped into the broth. It was such a wholesome and satisfying dish. Exactly what I needed to warm up on a really cold day.
The ramen extravaganza continued the next day at the Shinjuku Gyoen Ramen Ouka. A lovely fishy broth and springy noodles were served with mouthwatering grilled chicken (which I did not take a photo of, unfortunately). Diners have also the option of a spicy broth if they wish.
No trip to Tokyo would be complete without the authentic conveyor belt sushi experience. I headed to Ganso Zushi in Shibuya to savour its delightful sushi offerings.
My favourites were the salmon and tuna slices. The octopus slices were tasted good but I found the texture a bit too chewy for my liking. What caught my eye was a kind of minced meat that were used as toppings. Upon asking the chef, I found out it was called Negitoro – minced fatty tuna topped with spring onions. Needless to say, I reached out for a plate and it did not disappoint. The tuna mince was fresh and delicious, and with a touch of soya sauce, it was perfect!
Disneyland is a magical place but what does one eat when in Disneyland? My choice for appetiser was a corn chowder while my main was a mystery meat patty accompanied with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. Dessert consisted of an extremely rich and dense chocolate cake with a raspberry coulis, and my drink was a Mickey brand oolong tea.
All that walking in Disneyland certainly roused my appetite so I stopped by one of the patisseries and got yourself a Mickey-shaped pastry! I admit, I bought that particular pastry because it was in the shape of Mickey’s head!
Back in Tokyo, don’t forget to try out some Japanese fusion cuisine. My choice was Oyahinaya in Shibuya where I had the Gyusugi Matsaman curry – thin beef slices in a spicy, sweet curry served with flatbread. Typical of Japan, the beef slices were melt-in-the-mouth tender.
Also not to be missed is takoyaki. Fluffy balls of flour stuffed with octopus and topped with salty benito flakes. This was in Haneda Airport just before I boarded my flight back.
And what’s the best drink to wash down your meals? A glass of Yamazaki, of course! Best enjoyed neat or on the rocks, this premium Japanese whiskey is so smooth. One glass will never be enough!