[Japan Series] Day 4 Cont’d: Harajuku 原宿 and Maisen Tonkatsu とんかつ まい泉

DSCF by info9813 on 500px.com

After shopping around Shibuya, we decided to take the train to Harajuku station. This district is between Shinjuku and Shibuya, so a great spot to visit if you are near these two stations. Harajuku 原宿 district is famous for extreme young and trendy culture and fashion trends. This is where the Harajuku and Lolita girls shop and although you will unlikely find anything to buy here unless you are into these trends, it is still worth a visit as there are a lot of wacky and cute things to find here. The famous Takeshita Street 竹下通り is where the action is at, with a closed off pedestrian only street where retailers are on either side of the street.

 

DSCF by info9813 on 500px.com

The Takeshita Street is quite narrow and since it is a well known tourist attraction, it is extremely busy and packed! Other than this trendy street, there is Omotesando, which is a street known as Tokyo’s Champs-Elysees. The target for this street is higher end adult clientele, but also includes a shop called Kiddy Land which is perfect if you love all the Japanese cartoon characters or are looking for toys (Japanese toys are next level by the way!).

 

DSCF by info9813 on 500px.com

At the end of the street, you will find Santa Monica Crepes. I believe this is a chain, and you can actually find it in other districts, but crepes seem to be quite popular in the Harajuku district. They have literally hundreds of flavours! The crepes are rather expensive, going at around 500-700 yen, but they are visually appealing.

 

DSCF by info9813 on 500px.com

I wanted a matcha one, but of course S said he wanted the Chocolate and Oreo Crepe. I like how the whipped cream is light and the chocolate is not overly sweet. Funny because I read that many American tourists find it rather bland. I guess it is just a personal taste. I wouldn’t say this is the best crepe, but I think it is worth trying if you are in the area. Or at least try crepes from another crepe shop.

 

DSCF by info9813 on 500px.com

After wandering the streets, we took a long walk to Maisen Tonkatsu. This is a famous pork cutlet restaurant that my friends highly recommended. The price is on the higher end but this is because they are famous for using kurobuta pork, which are acorn fed pigs. They have so many varieties, and therefore the price can vary.

 

DSCF by info9813 on 500px.com

At first I thought the interior was very small as you first enter here. There is some bar area, but it seems like they put single diners here mostly.

IMG by info9813 on 500px.com

Keep walking through, and there is a huge dining room! It was sort of weird actually because it reminded me of a Chinese restaurant with round tables. However, this is perfect for large groups and many tourists come here. The reason for the large space is that this restaurant used to be a public bathhouse! Pretty neat ambiance, but don’t expect any fancy decor. We found there was a mix of diners although many were tourists. The group next to us seemed to be businessmen who had brought a foreign worker here.

 

IMG by info9813 on 500px.com

First up, if you don’t eat pork, then you might as well not eat here because pork is what they are famous for. We were given this jar of sauce right after we ordered. This is the famous Tonkatsu sauce and it was so good! I poured it over my pork as well as my coleslaw. Sweet and savoury but not overly salty.

 

DSCF by info9813 on 500px.com

We each got a Tonkatsu set meal. It comes with the pork cutlet, a bed of cabbage, a bowl or rice, some pickled vegetables, miso soup, and dessert at the end. When we read the menu, we were actually quite overwhelmed. The menu has many of the common languages including English, and thoroughly goes through what each cut of the pig would taste like, and then the different brands of pork they offer. Some brands include the Tokyo-X, Kurobuta, Benibuta, and Amai-Yuwaku. Prices range from around 1500 to over 3000 yen. I believe these pigs feed on different diets and are raised under different atmospheres, creating different textures. From what I remember, we got a Tokyo-X and a Kurobuta.

 

DSCF by info9813 on 500px.com

To be completely honest, S and I could not really taste the difference between the two brands. I think depending on the cut, this would give a bigger difference. We both got the loin, which is supposed to have just the right amount of fat and is the highest grade of pork next to fillet cuts. As we both had the same cut, I found it difficult to taste the difference in texture. Plus, both of the brands were similarly priced, so I guess we weren’t really expecting a low end and high end difference. I have to agree with other diners that the pork cutlet was delicious and probably the best I’ve had. The outside batter is light and did not taste oily at all. The meat remained moist, and the sauce was just addicting.

 

DSCF by info9813 on 500px.com

For dessert, we were given a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Nothing special, but a great way to end our meal.

 

DSCF by info9813 on 500px.com

After a delicious meal, we headed back to Shibuya, and the neon lights were now all lit up. How beautiful! We did some shopping at Don Quijote which is a must visit for any tourist. This is a discount store for makeup, snacks, and pretty much anything. Perfect stop to pick up some souvenirs and stock up some goodies to bring home. You can find this store in many districts actually, but the Shibuya one is always crazy hectic with tourists.

Takeshita Street
Address:

Maisen Tonkatsu
Address: 4-8-5 Jingumae, Shibuya 150-0001, Tokyo Prefecture

Don Quijote
Address: 28-6 Udagawacho, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0042, Japan

Advertisements

[Japan Series] Day 4: Uogashi Nihon-ichi Standing Sushi Bar 魚がし日本一 in Shibuya 渋谷区

DSCF by ukijojo on 500px.com

On the fourth day, we took the train to Shibuya station. Shibuya is one of my favourite districts in Tokyo since it features young and trendy fashion and lively restaurants. Many fashion trends actually originate from this district. I highly recommend living in this district if you enjoy the young and trendy lifestyle and love shopping.

 

DSCF by ukijojo on 500px.com

The last time I visited, I found Uogashi Nihon-ichi Standing Sushi Bar which I fell in love with. This is a small standing sushi bar which features fresh and cheap nigiris. The downside is that there are no seats, so is not worth going when your feet are tired after a long day of walking. I suggested going for an early lunch before our legs were tired. I believe it is a chain, so there should be some other stores in Tokyo, but this one was fairly empty at around 11am.

 

DSCF by info9813 on 500px.com

Many of the nigiris are under 200 yen and you get a pair of nigiris, so it comes to under 100 yen each which is a steal!

 

DSCF by info9813 on 500px.com

This time I noticed they have a set deal which was even cheaper. I think it was around CAD$10 for a variety of nigiris. I’m not sure if this is only during lunch time though. It included the red tuna, squid, salmon, and tuna.

 

DSCF by info9813 on 500px.com

Also scallop, avocado, tamago, and a negitoro. Such a good deal for so many nigiris. I have to say that the avocado was quite a disappointment though as the avocado looked rather old.

 

DSCF by info9813 on 500px.com

My favourite is the maguro red tuna, so of course we had to get an extra order. This is quite expensive in Vancouver, but readily available in Japan. So delicious!

 

DSCF by info9813 on 500px.com

After a quick lunch, we headed to Shibuya crossing, one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in Tokyo. All traffic stops in every direction so that the pedestrians can cross in any direction they need to. Pretty neat and fun to watch.

 

DSCF by info9813 on 500px.com

If you are looking for a good spot to people watch and get some shots of this busy crossing from above, I suggest visiting the Starbucks store in one of the buildings at this intersection. Plus the Starbucks in Japan have some items that North America does not carry. We tried this Mango Smoothie which was refreshing on the hot day. Prices in Japan are much higher though unfortunately.

 

DSCF by info9813 on 500px.com

Shibuya is also famous for many department stores and malls. Some of the ones we visited and I recommend include Shibuya 109 (super young and trendy for women although many of the styles are almost too trendy for me!), Tokyu (12 story department store with a basement floor full of food, Tokyu Hands (a creative life store filled with items for crafts, interior, and travel), Loft (stationary and crafts similar to Tokyu Hands), Seibu and Marui (both department stores are great for higher end fashion).

 

Uogashi Nihon-ichi Standing Sushi Bar
Address: 25-6 Udagawacho, Shibuya 150-0042, Tokyo Prefecture

Shibuya District
Address: Shibuya 150-8010, Tokyo Prefecture

Yoshisoba (Shibuya) – Tokyo

IMG_9990

There are tons of restaurants near the Shibuya station. For breakfast, we decided to head to the street where the Standing Sushi Bar is and look for some food. We came across Yoshisoba, which is a standing noodle bar. The prices definitely drew us in. For under 600 yen, you can get a don and soba set! What a steal. First, you must insert your money in the vending machine and choose your food. A ticket will print out and you hand it to the chef. He will ask you whether you want soba or udon.

IMG_9992

Squid Tempura Don

I went for the set, which first consisted of the Squid Tempura Don. I was utterly disappointed with this. The tempura is not fresh at all. You can see a bunch of tempura already premade on the shelf. All he does is heat it up a little and dip it in a tempura sauce. It is then served on rice. I could barely finish this because of how soggy and cold the tempura was. The squid itself was very tender, but the batter was gross. Do not order!

IMG_9993

Soba in Cold Soup

The set also came with the Soba in Cold Soup. Luckily this was more decent, but still not the best I’ve had. The soba is already put in the broth. Usually the broth or dipping sauce is separate, so that you dip your noodles in as you eat. It was just average and tasted like soba you can buy at the grocery store.

IMG_9994

Overall, we were all very disappointed with Yoshisoba. It is cheap and will fill you up, but none of us finished our food because of how bad it was… Stay away!

Address: 4-26-5 Sendagaya, Shibuya, Tokyo

Sushi Daidokoya すし台所家 (Shibuya) – Tokyo

IMG_9971

Sushi Daidokoya is located in Shibuya and literally just by the corner of our apartment. Every time we walk past it, there are people in it. For me, it’s always a good sign when I see people inside a restaurant. It’s open from the morning until late night. During the day, they have some pretty good deals like Chirashi-don. Wish I had tried that… Anyways, after a tiring day in the sun, we decided to head down to grab a late night snack.

IMG_9984

Sushi Daidokoya offers kaiten sushi, or more familiarly known as conveyor belt sushi! However, at the time we arrived, there weren’t too many sushi on the conveyor belt. Instead, we were told we could just tell the chef what we wanted and they would place the order. Pricing is determined by the colour of the plate. Luckily, a Japanese couple sat next to us and were able to speak English fluently. They were able to give us some tips on what was good!

IMG_9982

The server gave us an English menu with pictures. Most orders come in two and are very well priced. Some items are pricier than at the Standing Sushi Bar (my personal favourite), but some are cheaper. Really depends on what you order. It ranges from 120 yen to 500 yen.

IMG_9972

Maguro – Tuna (120yen)

The tuna did not look as nice as the one at the Standing Sushi Bar, but was still very fresh. Cheap price tag too!

IMG_9973

3 Types of Grilled Fish (500 yen)

We ordered the 3 types of grilled fish, which were as named, all slightly seared on the top. I didn’t try all of them, but I had the one in the middle. I believe it was aburi salmon. Not bad!

 

IMG_9974

Grilled Fatty Salmon – Aburi Toro Salmon (240 yen)

The grilled fatty salmon comes in two as well, but someone ate the piece too quickly! This piece of salmon was more fatty than the previous one. It was lightly seared and topped with some wasabi. It melted in your mouth! Loved it!

IMG_9975

Tamago

The Japanese couple recommended us to try the Tamago. Here, the tamago are in thick blocks and filled with other ingredients like sausage! It was really yummy! Not your regular tamago.

IMG_9976

Scallop – Hotate (240 yen)

The scallop were thick and fatty. Again, I found that they put much more wasabi in the scallop nigiris. I wonder why… Still good!

IMG_9977

Sea Urchin – Uni (240 yen)

Say what? Sea urchin nigiri for only 120 yen a piece? That’s equivalent to roughly $1.20 in Canadian! However, we were slightly disappointed. It wasn’t as fresh and had a fishy taste. They also had the Supreme Sea Urchin on the menu for double the price though… Perhaps we should’ve gotten that instead?

IMG_9980

Yellow Tail – Hamachi (120 yen)

Yellow tail can be quite pricey in Canada, but this was a steal! I didn’t get a chance to try this one, but the girls said it was pretty good!

 

IMG_9981

Octopus – Tako (120 yen)

I tried the Octopus, which was very good. Normally, octopus can be slightly too chewy. However, this one was more tender than tough.

IMG_9985

Horse Meat – Sakura (500 yen)

Um ues, this was horse meat. Raw horse meat to be exact. I know it may be a taboo in many countries, but it isn’t something too rare in Japanese cuisine. Topped with a bit of ginger, you can still see some of the fat. I took a nibble from the meat and found it to be very gamey. It sort of reminded me of lamb. K ate it and said it wasn’t terrible, but not something she loved. Apparently, they serve raw whale meat here too…

 

IMG_9986

Raw Octopus – Namadako (240 yen)

Lastly, we had the Octopus. I found that it reminded me of cuttlefish. It’s not live octopus, so don’t worry about the suction cups like in Korea… I liked the bouncy chewy texture. Yummy!

Overall, Sushi Daidokoya is great if you want to try a large variety of fish. They also have specials written on signs on the conveyor belt, but it’s mostly in Japanese. If you’re daring and want to try some exotic items you are unlikely to find in America, then this is the place to go! Prices aren’t too bad either and the chefs are very nice even though they don’t speak too much English.

Standing Sushi Bar Uogashi Nihon-ichi (Shibuya) – Tokyo

IMG_9832

Prior to our trip, I had done some quick Googling to see which restaurants would be great for sushi, specifically nigiri sushi. There was the popular but expensive Jiro, and a popular one was the Standing Sushi Bar Uogashi Nihon-ichi. Luckily, there are two in the Shibuya area, and one was literally right across the street of our airbnb. It is also extremely close to the Shibuya metro station. K and I decided to head here for a late night snack.

IMG_9833

What’s cool about a standing sushi bar is that there are no seats at all. You must stand in front of a bar table to eat, so it’s not the ideal place if you’ve walked too much and need a seat. Perfect if you want to just eat and go though. You meal will usually last from 10 to 20 minutes. Plates and chopsticks are on the lower bar table. On a higher level, they place a lotus leaf where they place the sushi on. You also make your own tea here. There is a hot water dispenser, and you just add a bit of green tea powder in your cup. You tell the chef what you want to order, and he will make it for you on the spot. They provided us with an English menu and we just pointed.

IMG_9834

Squid (Ika)

First up was the Squid, which was probably the best ika I’ve had! It was very fresh and had a nice bite to it without being too chewy.

IMG_9835

Red Tuna

One of my favourite was the Red Tuna. I liked it because it wasn’t as soft as normal tuna. It had more of a chew, similar to salmon. Very fresh again!

IMG_9836

Egg (Tamago)

Next, K wanted to try the Tamago. I didn’t end up trying this since she wanted both. She said it was very good! As you can see, all nigiri come in a pair. The above three items were all only 150 yen for the two pieces. That comes to only 75 yen a piece! That’s like impossible to get in Vancouver! Such a great deal!

IMG_9837

Scallop (Hotate)

Next, we got the Scallop, which was also one of my favourites. Each nigiri had two pieces of scallop. All nigiris come with wasabi already placed inside. It’s usually the perfect amount, but I found that they put more in the Scallop one. It might be to remove the fishier taste that scallop usually has. Nevertheless, the scallop was smooth and fresh.

IMG_9838

Grilled Squid Tentacles

We then realized many customers were ordering nigiri that were lightly seared with the torch to make it aburi-style. We decided to order the Grilled Squid Tentacles, which was delicious! The tentacles were lightly grilled and topped with some mayo and torched. Loved the grilled flavour and the squid had a nice chew. These were roughly 200 yen, so only 100 yen per piece! A good deal again!

IMG_9839

Toro

Since we enjoyed most of the food so far, we decided to just go for it and purchase one of the pricier items on the menu. The Toro! Tuna belly is expensive in Vancouver, and here, they sold the pair for 400 yen. The toro was very smooth and buttery, but I felt like I’ve had better in Vancouver. To be honest, we thought that the red tuna was more worth it! We ended up getting more of the red tuna instead since it’s of much better value. The chef also served us another pair of the red tuna, but didn’t charge us. Super nice!

IMG_9840

Grilled Salmon

Since the aburi nigiri was so good, we also got the Grilled Salmon. Again, the salmon was topped with mayo and lightly seared. Loved how the salmon would now melt in your mouth. Yummy!

Overall, I would definitely recommend coming to the Standing Sushi Bar. There are many locations all over Tokyo. Great value and great quality. The service was also extremely friendly! I think we paid less than 1,500 yen each and were more than full! I’d definitely come back here again!

Address: 2-9-1 Dogen, Shibuya, Tokyo

Kindenmaru 金伝丸 (Shibuya) – Tokyo

IMG_9767

The next morning, we woke up early to take the airport limousine to Incheon Airport. We had the worst luck ever and were stuck in a huge lineup for check in. Luckily, after some speedy runs, we made it to the gate and boarded our Asiana flight. Super happy with the service on Asiana Airlines and I would definitely recommend it! We had great meals even for a 2-3 hour flight, and the flight attendants were extremely friendly! Next thing you know, we were in Tokyo, and we took an airport bus to Shibuya station. We had a terrible encounter dealing with our Airbnb host, but we finally settled in. We stayed literally on the streets of Shibuya, so it was extremely convenient.

IMG_9775

For dinner, we walked across the street and found a bunch of restaurants. Shibuya is filled with restaurants, but the shops are also very small! Most of them were actually all occupied. We ended up at Kindenmaru 金伝丸, where we luckily snatched four seats at the bar table. Here, you can watch the chefs prepare your noodles.

IMG_9776

In Japan, it’s pretty neat how many ramen shops just place a vending machine, and you can insert your money and click on the dish you want. A little ticket will print out, and you just give it to the server or chef. It’s not about the service at these shops, but rather about the efficiency. You can sit down, get your food, and leave. We realized that most Japanese people don’t linger around and chat at these shops. The ramens at Kindenmaru were roughly 800 to 1000 yen, which was actually a bit pricier than many of the other ramen shops.

IMG_9777

Garlic Ramen

T got the Garlic Ramen, which had a deep brown coloured broth. I had a taste of it, and I really enjoyed the flavour! Very rich and thick. If you like more flavourful broths, this is the one for you.

IMG_9779

Miso Ramen

K and C both got the Miso Ramen. As you can see, the broth is again very cloudy, showing that the stock had probably simmered for many hours.

IMG_9780

Shoyu Ramen

For myself, I chose the Shoyu Ramen, which is soy sauce based. Like the other ramen, it came with a soft boiled egg split in two. The yolk could have been more runny as I found that it was starting to become more of a hard boiled egg. It also came with two slices of cha-shu (pork), beansprouts, corn, kelp, and green onions. The noodles were bouncy and chewy. Loved it! There was also quite a lot of ramen and I was thoroughly full. The only downside was that I found the broth to be a little too salty. Otherwise, it was a delicious bowl of ramen!

Address: 2-9-2 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo