Jump to content

Recommended Posts

On ‎12‎/‎6‎/‎2017 at 10:16 AM, iolaire said:

It was a set meal with multiple courses.  You pick one of three courses and we both went with the most expensive option that included wagyu beef.  Our 

This should have been corrected before I could no longer edit the post as no set menu had three courses, each had way more:

It was as set meal, each version with numerous courses.  You pick on of three set menus, we both went with the most expensive option that included wagyu beef.

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On ‎11‎/‎15‎/‎2017 at 9:18 AM, Simul Parikh said:

Trying to do research for Japan trip and I'm getting really overwhelmed. Any good way to break it down and figure out must-eats or a focus? We want 1) amazing sushi 2) amazing ramen/noodle soups 3) weird stuff.

We have 3-4 days in Niseko when we are skiing, and my friend has gone and has places in mind, so I think we are fine there.

Then 1 dinner in Sapporo on the way to Asahikawa. Any great ideas for the one meal here? Seafood/sushi seem to be specialties. 

Then 2 days in Asahikawa.

Then 3 days in Tokyo. That's the main spot. I want to go to a nicer (but not the top dollar, would like it to be $200-250, rather than $300-350) sushi omekase, lunch at Tsukiji, various ramen/noodle shops, the Robot show, and other weird stuff. Is it worthwhile to do a food tour? They work out well in most other Asian countries I've been to, so thinking one day for that. Also, yakitori. And tonkatsu. And maybe a legit izakaya. Any recs? I know a lot of people say that if you walk around in the neighborhood and follow the lines, you'll inevitably get good food, but this is how that makes me feel.  

If someone could make a fairly idiot proof itinerary for 3 days in Tokyo, I would be forever indebted to you and give cancer treatment advice to you for free forever. Eh. I'd probably do that any way. But, still. 

Hope this is not too late. Sushi Ten is a great value with excellent sushi in a lively atmosphere. I have been there twice and much prefer it to Kyube and some other place run by an apprentice of the Sushi Giro chef. You can talk at Sushi Ten while it is almost prohibited at the super high end places. Kadawaki  is always the place my wife and I eat on our last night in Tokyo. It is now 2 stars and as good as ever.      

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So we're thinking about a week-long trip to Japan next year, this time without the kids!  Which, food-wise, opens up tons of options that weren't available during our prior visit.

Of course, high-end sushi is at the top of the list.  I can totally live with not experiencing any of the two or three-starred Ginza places.  Based on the initial research thus far, the impression that I get is that an inability to interact with non-English speaking sushi chefs about the fish/nigiri/etc. being served -- and of course we don't speak Japanese -- will inevitably limit how great the dining experience can be.  Does that sound about right?

P.S.  We actually have no prior experience dining at sushi counters, whether in DC or elsewhere, so it seems like that has to change as well before our trip, otherwise it would likely be a waste of time and money to want the high-end sushi experience in Tokyo.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 hours ago, silentbob said:

Based on the initial research thus far, the impression that I get is that an inability to interact with non-English speaking sushi chefs about the fish/nigiri/etc. being served -- and of course we don't speak Japanese -- will inevitably limit how great the dining experience can be.  Does that sound about right?

P.S.  We actually have no prior experience dining at sushi counters, whether in DC or elsewhere, so it seems like that has to change as well before our trip, otherwise it would likely be a waste of time and money to want the high-end sushi experience in Tokyo.

There is significant issue for local restaurants and non-English speaking sushi chefs which is that it is difficult with getting an accurate impression how much you are willing to spend. It is important to keep in mind that a lot of places that you will 'find' have already been visited by foreigners and unfortunately sometimes there have been issues with them complaining about the bill. Again a lot of places don't have a menu or written out price list so the bill is when you find out how much things cost and it is easy to go from $100 to $300 per person. 

Once I traveled to a local sushi place in northern Tokyo that was highly rated. Even the review spoke of it's unique status as it was more a local neighborhood place that had grown over the years in stature. I actually walked past the door 2-3 times before finding it. Once inside, the owner and kitchen staff were surprised to see a foreigner and actually thru broken communication asked how I heard about it. As I sat down at the counter, they communicated to me the price of the box lunch which was reasonable for such a high end place. I thought I would be able to order more pieces. That was not the case. This establishment didn't take credit cards so I had traveled there with yen in the amount of $500 US dollars. The lunch was only $40. 

This place was old school and the sushi chef even at the time 15 years ago was in his late 60s so plainly he ran his establishment in that vein. The two men next to me having lunch clearly were regulars and were eating the most interesting pieces of sushi right off the counter. Also they didn't make any payment when leaving so they must have had a monthly bill arriving in the mail or by some other means. 

I'm not saying this as warning but rather to acknowledge some difficulty that exists when going off the beaten path. Keep in mind, the younger generation of chefs will most likely have someone on staff who can speak rudimentary English if not fluent but it would be helpful to have some learned or written phrases with how much you would like to spend if the restaurant does not take credit cards. 

We're hoping to make a trip to Japan next year and I plan to use Tablelog as it looks a great resource. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I didn't write up my trip from February but there are some thing it would have been nice to know. It is the most incredible place to eat that I've ever been to, beats Thailand and the parts of China that I've been to (well, except Chengdu). 

- Sushi - the very best of the best in Japan (Michelin 1 star or higher) essentially don't exist in US. We had a lot of sushi. The average sushi tends to be better than the best of ours, and there are very few restaurants that make poor sushi. Also, many of our restaurants just randomly have sushi on the menu (despite not being Japanese, or hell, Asian) and do a crap job. That's not common at all here. The 2 star restaurants will absolutely blow your mind and ruin sushi for you forever. It's not that hard - really - you don't need "practice" here. It's not the same anyway. They aim to please. Just have an open mind about what you will be served. I've been to a few 'top' places back in DC since I've been back, and I'd rather just have a fried baloney sandwich. 

- If you walk in to a sushi place (which is really hard for the top ones), it may be confusing. But, if you make a reservation, they make it pretty clear about the prices on the email. You may have to be a large deposit (like 50% or more of total price)

- Communication can be hard, but use google translate. We met a great couple and became besties, and they knew zero English and we knew zero Japanese. Technology, amirite?

- Back to food. Like the sushi situation, most restaurants are good - at any price point. And if they look busy and have Japanese people in there, it's probably good. Use your app to translate the menu and pick some stuff that sounds good, that sounds innovative, that sounds weird and go to town. 

- High end dining is NYC prices. Everything else is Cleveland prices. I'm serious! Unless it's starred or known to be 'fancy', you eat SO WELL for so cheap. Noodle shops, izakayas, standing bars, grill places, yakitori, everything. Walk around in the bigger cities and follow the crowds.

- Drinking is cheeeeeeeap. Beer is cheap. Liquor is cheap. Wine is more expensive and not great. Drink the light beer. Drink Japanese whiskey drinks.

- Did I mention drinking is cheap? Sometimes you can just pay $20 a get all you can drink for 2 hours during your meal. Why not? You're on vacation.

- Sashimi apps at non sushi restaurants can be amazing - i.e. - you can get it at a grill or izakaya and for $9 you get the equivalent of what I pay $30 for at what's considered an average sushi place here. 

- They do 'other' food really well. I.e. neapolitan pizza, french food. I had a really hard time doing this, b/c the variety of Japanese foods is so vast that I never had a craving.

- If you're in a non tourist area or a small town, and you come across a cute and busy place, you may be ignored for a long time. I.e. - no napkin, no water, no one taking your order while the person next to you is getting served. It happens. Lady wanted to walk out of a few places, but we just remained patient and with a little help from other guests, we eventually got served (one person literally gave us their appetizer b/c they felt so sorry for us, haha). Annoying, but a cultural quirk I don't have figured out. I did not get the sense it was racism. 

- For the love of god, do not take taxis in Tokyo. $30 for 3 miles! $250 from Narita to center city! The public transport is incredible, easy to use, and in English pretty much. Some station attendants can help you. Some can't. All are friendly. Metro stops at 12am. Be prepared to pay a hefty charge in a taxi after that. Uber wasn't that great, about same price as taxis. 

- Have your luggage transported by the airport to wherever you're going so you don't have to carry on the train. Inexpensive.

- Their food is even tastier because of MSG. They view Aji Moto as holy. Since I got back I realized why our Asian food here is so terribly bland. When I make it at home, throw on a little MSG it starts tasting a lot better. Don't be afraid of it. Embrace it.

- They don't eat spicy food. Fellow Indians and spice heads - deal with it. Enjoy the quality of ingredients and perfect grilling and incredible presentation.

- Fish markets - in a lot of coastal cities - do it! Go there! Eat random stuff! Eat the sea urchin! Eat sushi at 9am. OH MY GOD, for $20 will blow your mind. Get the sweet shrimp that's raw. It now makes me cry to eat the terrible shrimp at our sushi restaurants here. Tsukiji is great but so are the other smaller ones. 

- Get all the noodles - udon, ramen, soba, whatever. Especially if hand made. Especially if the grain is from local farms. If it's more expensive than you'd think it would be ($15 for noodles), it's probably the world class stuff. If it's $8-10, it's probably ONLY better than anything else you've ever had. 

- I don't love tempura. We went to some places that focus on it. It's aight. I don't get it. 

- In the ski/mountain towns, Japanese comfort food was incredible. Cutlets. Noodle soup. Tonkatsu. All kinds of stuff. And super cheap both in resort and in town. 

- Go to the Robot Restaurant. Just do it. Don't eat there. Eat later or before. It's great stuff. It's what Japanese people think American people think Japanese people like. Super Meta. Great songs. I know it's tacky. But for real, it's worth it. 

- Go to the Park Hyatt in Tokyo and get a drink at the top. Before the cover charge though (I think before 7 on weekends and 8 on weekdays), b/c that's like $25. You can eat there if you want, but it's just a high end steak house. Just get a drink and enjoy one of the greatest views in the modern world. And maybe see famous people! Pretty sure we saw Action Bronson, Crown Prince Of Lowbrow Foodieism. 

- A word on standing bars/izakayas. These were our favorite to eat at. SOOOO good. Especially if a skilled yakitorian was managing the grill. But it's so smoky :( I wish it was grill smoke. It's just straight tobacco smoke. For a polite people, they are incredibly rude about this. They will smoke next to you as you eat and drink. We sucked it up a few times, but our eyes burned and it was annoying. Try to get there earlier before all the smoking starts... fried fishies, sashimi, yakitori, other random stuff that you just point at and give it a try. It's pretty much all good. Chicken AORTA! For real, it's good. 

- The weird foods ... for example, natto. I mean, you gotta try it. It's a taste you WILL NEVER HAVE outside of Japan. Throw it in some rice and mix it up. Raw egg in rice at the breakfast buffet that all the locals seem to be eating? Do it! Funky fermented stuff? Just try a bite and spit it out if you don't like it. It's so interesting.

- The coffee is third wave and really good. Costs about the same as our larger cities, sometimes you'll get a bargain.

- Vending machine food is for convenience and novelty, not quality. Sure, get something in a pinch, but do not have anything from them instead of a real restaurant. 

- I'm really hesitant to make specific restaurant recommendations. The number/density of restaurants is far greater than anywhere I've visited. From small towns to Tokyo, there are restaurants galore. People can pick a few Michelin/fancy places, but other than that, I'd resist trying to plan ahead. Enough times we were headed somewhere, and something would catch our eye, and we'd decide we'd rather try there.

- Shopping malls ... I wouldn't say they are as good as Bangkok. But, if you want to just go to see, it's pretty interesting. 

I hope you love your trip. We cannot contain ourselves about how much we want to go again, but it's going to be a busy year unfortunately, so it could be a while. 

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Everything Simul said!!! If you can bring a wi-fi device and use google maps and google translate (you can download for offline use if you don't, but not as comprehensive) do!!  It does make it a lot easier, and taking those stress points out means a lot more time for fun things- google maps also had the train schedules for all the lines and was amazing.  Really, it makes traveling so much easier.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Definitely get a local wifi modem or if possible a SIM card. Using a local SIM card in India with my iPhone made it very easy on many fronts such as coordinating with private drivers, Uber and Ola when there was a traffic jam on the road which can add hours to trips. 

The Japanese don't really eat spicy food in the Indian sense even though there are plenty of standing curry fast food places. During one trip I cooked Indian food at Japanese friend's house for a small gathering. I purposely made it as mild as possible while still retaining some flavor and still some of the guests broke out in a sweat! They finished the seafood dish though. 😊

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/1/2018 at 3:37 PM, silentbob said:

So we're thinking about a week-long trip to Japan next year, this time without the kids!  Which, food-wise, opens up tons of options that weren't available during our prior visit.

Of course, high-end sushi is at the top of the list.  I can totally live with not experiencing any of the two or three-starred Ginza places.  Based on the initial research thus far, the impression that I get is that an inability to interact with non-English speaking sushi chefs about the fish/nigiri/etc. being served -- and of course we don't speak Japanese -- will inevitably limit how great the dining experience can be.  Does that sound about right?

P.S.  We actually have no prior experience dining at sushi counters, whether in DC or elsewhere, so it seems like that has to change as well before our trip, otherwise it would likely be a waste of time and money to want the high-end sushi experience in Tokyo.

We traveled in 2016 with a pair of 16 year-olds.  A few thoughts about sushi in Tokyo:  

If you go to the Tsukiji fish market area, be prepared for a European experience with hawkers trying to lure you into their stalls for sushi.  It's okay, but you may get the crappy cuts that seem to be reserved for foreigners.  Still a must-do and there are plenty of good items, just make sure you eat where you want to eat and not at one of the nondescript interior stalls.

In Ginza, we found what was supposed to be the ONE rotating sushi bar in all of Ginza, Numazuko Sushi Bar. (https://www.numazuko-bar.com/) It's on the 4th or 5th floor of a building on one of the main drags and we had two outstanding meals there.  We were the only non-Japanese but there was English on the menu and there are plenty of apps to help you with fish names anyhow.   Everything was fresh and with the rotating bar, there is no chance that you are going to get served the apprentice's cuts.  One night the server was a little slow to ask us about alcohol and the 2 adults rolled out stuffed, without booze, for $30.  

We stayed at a Ryokan in Kyoto on one splurge night and they set us up with an insanely good kaiseki restaurant; the kids had shabu shabu with local Ome beef (think Kobe but in the Kyoto locale, it is supposed to be even more marbled than Kobe) while we grazed our way through course after course of little gems consisting of Ome beef or impeccably fresh fish, often with interesting accompaniments.  The advice we'd gotten was to wait for Kyoto or Osaka to go all out on a meal; the value is better there. 

If I was going to Japan without the younger one we took with us, definitely Ryokan experience that was more romantic than what we did.  A higher end sushi than we did and at least a couple more fine dining experiences.  

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We just got back from our annual trip to Tokyo. If you are something of a omakase neophyte but want to try without going somewhere that is intimidating, unfriendly to foreigners or prohibitively expensive my strong recommendation would be lunch at Sushi Iwa Ginza. $80 per person, approachable and will make attempts at English. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×