[Japan Series] Day 6 Cont’d: All You Can Drink at Yakitori Marukin やきとりまる金 新宿本店 in Shinjuku

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While we were on the train heading back from Hakone to Shinjuku, I decided to look for a place to eat dinner. Did some searching and ended up coming up with the idea to go check out an all you can drink spot. Actually, I was craving yakitori (Japanese grilled skewers) and this spot just came up. Yakitori Marukin is located just in the busy streets of Shinjuku and is popular among locals.

 

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It took a while to find the place because you actually needed to take an elevator upstairs. Actually, many of the good restaurants are often upstairs, so if you’re looking for food in Japan, look up! Anyways, the restaurant was filled with locals and when we arrived I think we got some curious looks. The staff could barely speak English but they were still very accommodating and welcomed us in. Luckily, they have an English menu, so I’m guessing they have a lot of tourists here still. With some pointing and nodding, we were good to go!

 

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I read online that this may be one of the cheapest all you can drink restaurants in the area. Plus, they have an English menu, so it really helps. For only 598 yen + tax, you can drink as much as you want for an hour! My understanding is that you need to do a minimum of one hour, but we chose to stay 90 minutes as it gave us more time to eat. Honestly though…that is dirt cheap! We can only get a beer…sometimes not even for this price back in Vancouver!

 

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So when you think of all you can drink beer, you must be thinking that the restaurant will just serve your drinks super slow so that your time is up. Well, not a problem here, because it is self serve! I was pretty mind blown at this concept! Along a wall in the restaurant, there are a bunch of bottles that dispense your liquor. The waiter will give you a beer mug and you just head over to the drink station and fill it up with whatever you want. The majority of the drinks were sochu (tastes sort of like vodka), plum wine, and I believe there were some whiskeys. There are also flavoured syrups that you can pump into your sochu so that it’s not straight liquor and gives it some more flavour. I suggest filling only a quarter or half a mug each time so that you can try other drinks if that’s your liking. Otherwise, you’re sort of stuck with that drink until you finish it! This was seriously lots of fun and the liquor is quite high in alcohol content, so you will for sure have a good night! No beers here for you beer lovers though!

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As for the food menu, they had one menu which listed all the yakitori items which had English on it, but there was also a menu for appetizers and other izakaya type food. Unfortunately, this menu was all in Japanese, but there are some pictures to help. As you can see, the yakitori is also relatively cheap here compared to other yakitori shops. The quality is not amazing, but it comes with this dipping sauce which is really tasty! There is a big jar of sauce on the table which is left there all night… Kind of sketchy since you have no idea if the previous diners did anything to the sauce, but they state on the menu that you are not allowed to dip your food in the sauce twice. Let’s really hope no one does that!

 

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First up, we got the Chicken Thighs. Pictures are really dark as it was very dim inside, but these were definitely not as charred as I’d like. However, I really enjoyed the dipping sauce and when you’re a bit tipsy, anything tastes great!

 

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There were a lot of intestines for yakitori on the menu, so we weren’t really a fan of that. Instead, we decided to try the Grilled Wing Tip. This was not bad but a bit difficult to eat as there is not much meat. I would stick to the chicken thigh next time.

 

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Then came the funny story… So we ordered off the all Japanese menu and I pointed at the picture thinking they were popcorn chicken. Turns out…we ordered a plate of Grilled Garlic! Yup…we did not finish this.

 

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Some other appetizers included this Squash Croquette. This was really yummy! And great with drinks!

 

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The Gyozas were also one of our favourites. I think we ended up with two orders of this! I love how in Japan, they cook all the gyozas together and the skin becomes super crispy.

 

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Finally… we got it right and ordered the real Chicken Karaage. Chicken was moist and batter was crispy.

 

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What a fun night at Yakitori Marukin! We probably spent around $25 each in total for the food and unlimited drinks. What a steal! After dinner, we wandered the streets of Shinjuku. It might have also involved taking some shameless sticker pictures… Last day in Tokyo next!

Yakitori Marukin
Address: Shinjuku 3-34-16 | Ikeda Plaza Bldg. 4F, Shinjuku 160-0022, Tokyo Prefecture

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[Japan Series] Day 5 Cont’d: Asakusa 浅草, Katgetsudo Melon Pan 浅草花月堂の店舗, Ueno 上野, and Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building 東京都庁

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After visiting Akihabara, we decided to train to Asakusa which is known for the Sensoji temple. Funny how the first thing we saw was another Don Quijote store though! Oh by the way… if you are here around Halloween time and need a costume, this is the place to buy it! I bet you will stand out when you return to Vancouver!

 

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Asakusa has a mix of modern but older buildings as well. Asakusa was known to be the leading entertainment district back in the day. During the Edo period, it was the site of kabuki theaters and a large red light district. Today it is most famous for the Sensoji temple, Tokyo Skytree Tower, and the bridge above the Sumida River. I remember visiting a few years ago during one of their famous festivals and this was the spot to watch fireworks. It was crazy hectic!

 

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If you’re going to visit a temple in Tokyo, then you should probably check out Sensoji Temple, as it is probably one of the most famous in Tokyo. You’ll first walk through a large entrance gate called Kaminarimon which leads to Sensoji Temple. I believe there are two gates in total before you hit the temple.

 

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Sensoji is famous because it is one of the oldest Buddhist temples, built in the 7th century. However, the ones we see today were built post-war, so are reconstructions. Still, it is pretty neat, especially with the large Japanese lanterns. Admission is free and you can usually go inside the temple but when we arrived it was near closing. The temple closes at 5pm.

 

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You will find tourists and locals doing rituals here such as writing a wish and tying it on this bar in a knot. There is also a water fountain where you pour the water over your hands along with some other rituals which are supposed to give good luck. Look around you and follow if you want to try it out!

 

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Between the first gate and the second gate, you will find a shopping street of over 200 meters, called Nakamise. You will find traditional Japanese souvenirs as well as local snacks here. At night time, it is lit up and is quite lively.

 

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My friend had told me there is a bakery that I needed to try at Asakusa. Tucked away in a street off this busy shopping street is Katgetsudo. They are famous for melon pans!

 

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Melon Pan is a sweet bun with a cookie like crust at the top. It is shaped like a melon, hence the name. It had some crystalized sugar on top, and when warm, the bun was soft and fluffy! Too bad we arrived near closing as well, or else they have other varieties to choose from, including adding ice cream inside. I thought it tasted like a pineapple bun that we commonly eat in Hong Kong. Worth trying as it is a cheap snack and Katgetsudo is known to be one of the best!

 

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After snacking, I suggested we visit the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center which is nearby as I heard they have a free observation deck. The center is only eight stories, but you can still get a good view of the Nakamise shoppign street and the Sensoji Temple. It was quite gloomy that day, but I would suspect you can get some decent pictures.

 

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To our right, we saw the Tokyo Skytree and what is that…? A golden yam? Turns out that is the Asahi Beer Tower and Asahi Super Dry Hall! Too bad we didn’t get a chance to check it out. I believe they have a restaurant and beer on tap.

 

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We decided to then head over to the Ueno district to look for food. Ueno is famous for its park and also many museums. However, if you get off at Ueno station and walk out, you will find that there are tons of restaurants along the streets. There was also a street that sort of reminded us of a night market.

 

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We ended up finding this building that housed many restaurants and found a izakaya type restaurant called Kotekichi. They featured okonomiyaki and many omelette type of dishes. First up was a pork omelette filled with cheese and topped with mayo and takoyaki sauce. Really enjoyed this piping out.

 

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Next was a shrimp yakisoba. We were surprised that the shrimp were tiny dried ones. The flavour was great but I wanted fresh shrimp instead. Guess that would’ve cost a lot more though!

 

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Last but not least was a seafood okonmiyaki. They actually brought us the okonomiyaki with the wrong filling so we returned this back to the kitchen and they were very nice about it. Perhaps there was a language barrier issue!

 

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After dinner, we headed back to Shinjuku and S suggested we walk to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (東京都庁). He read online that we can visit the observation deck for free. What a great idea because you can get a panoramic view of the city! We visited at night time, and I believe it closes at 11pm. However, there was still a line up to go in. We probably waited around 30 minutes as they have security check and also a wait to go up and down the elevator. The view was amazing and well worth the wait, especially since it’s free!

 

Senso-ji Temple
Address: 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito 111-0032, Tokyo Prefecture

Kagetsudo
Address: 2-7-13 Asakusa, Taito 111-0032, Tokyo Prefecture

Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center
Address:
2-18-9 Kaminarimon, Taito 111-0034, Tokyo Prefecture

Kotekichi (Ueno)
Address: 1-54 Uenokoen | Uenonomori Sakura Terrace 2F, Taito 110-0007, Tokyo Prefecture

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Address: 2-8-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku 160-0023, Tokyo Prefecture

[Japan Series] Day 3 Cont’d: Tsukiji Fish Market 築地市場 and Roppongi 六本木

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After wandering the streets of Ginza, I suggested we walk over to Tsukiji Fish Market. What a mistake beacuse it was definitely more than a 20 minute walk and normally in Vancouver this is fine, but when we’ve been walking non-stop for a few days already, our feet weren’t feeling it. After making various pit stops, we finally arrived at the market. The market was supposed to move near Odaiba in late 2016, but it seems like they have delayed this until 2018.

 

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Tsukiji Market is a wholesale market for seafood, fruits, and vegetable. The market is one of the most famous in Tokyo because of the amount of fish it handles. Tourists can actually visit the market in the morning to watch the tuna get auctioned. However, you’ll need to get here around 5am to make the cut as there are limited spots. Otherwise, you should stop by in the early mornings to catch the most action. You can’t enter the warehouse before 10am though as they are afraid tourists will disrupt business at its peak. If you choose to arrive early, you can still check out the outer market, which is an area with retailers and restaurants. This is where you can enjoy a sushi breakfast as well and some arrive as early as 5am to get their sushi! We arrived around 2pm, which is usually the time many of the stores along the market begin to close down so it definitely wasn’t as lively.

 

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You’ll still find some retailers open but I’m not sure how fresh the fish would be anymore as the best would probably have been sold out by now. If you love sashimi, this is the market to get your fix! Tons of chirashi-don stores.

 

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There are also many stalls that sell quick snacks like these grilled scallops with sea urchin on top. Looks delicious!

 

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As we already had lunch and S doesn’t eat sashimi, we decided on a light snack instead. Tamagoyaki is very popular at the market! You will find some stores that have much fancier decor and packaging, but the 100 yen price at this store caught our attention.

 

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Tamagoyaki is a Japanese omelette which has requires the chef to perfect the skill of making many thin layers or folds. It is slightly sweet and is paired with some soy sauce.

 

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For 100 yen at this stall, we got a large chunk of tamogoyaki and it broke apart so easily because of how fluffy it was! I’m sure some of the fancier stalls are much better, but this already satisfied my craving and tasted delicious!

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As there wasn’t much going on at the Tsukiji Market by the time we arrived, we ended up training to Roppongi district. Roppongi is known as the city’s most popular nightlife district for foreigners. There are many bars, restaurants, and nightclubs that cater to the foreigners. Hence, prices are also higher in this area.

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After walking around the area, we couldn’t really settle with a restaurant and ended up training back to Shinjuku. Shinjuku is so busy at night and fun to walk around with all the bright lights.

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After a long day of walking, we just wanted something fast to eat and we settled at a random shop that seems to specialize in tempura type dishes and rice bowls. This is a super casual spot and again you can purchase your ticket in the vending machine before entering.

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S had the Pork Cutlet on Rice which was served very home-style. Definitely nothing spectacular, but it was cheap and quick.

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For myself, I got the combo which included prawn tempura, pork cutlet, and some meat patty that was battered and deep fried. The oil was definitely old as the colour was very dark. The coleslaw on the side helped make the dish less oily. Miso soup and rice was also included.

Overall, if you’re looking for some quick, affordable food, then these spots may work out for you.

Tsukiji Market
Address: 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo 104-0045, Tokyo Prefecture

Roppongi
Address: Roppongi, Minato 106-0032, Tokyo Prefecture

 

[Japan Series] Day 2 Cont’d: Conveyor Belt Sushi at Numazuko Shinjuku

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Conveyor sushi belt restaurants are usually not that good, but are always fun to try out. I did some searching on Google and found Numazuko in the Shinjuku area was highly rated. However, when we went for an early dinner, there were no line ups and the inside was not busy. Guess that should’ve been a sign already…

 

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Anyways, we sat down, and were given a menu of which I think you can order directly from or you can choose the plates from the conveyor belt. Honestly, looking at the dishes that went by round after round, nothing really spoke to me. The other problem was that there weren’t that many other diners, so I felt that the sushi might have been sitting around for a while.

 

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The plates are colour coded, which essentially tells you the price. I believe they start at 90 yen, but many of the sushi with fish cost up to 520 yen, which isn’t super cheap for a convey belt restaurant. Each plate comes with two pieces.

 

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After some slim pickings, I settled for the scallops and some salmon and tuna. Honestly, I didn’t think the seafood was very fresh and that we have much higher quality in Vancouver. It was quite disappointing, and I’m not sure why this spot is so highly rated. Perhaps if seafood is not readily available in your city, then this may be quite good, but compared to Vancouver sushi, this was below average. Wouldn’t recommend for Vancouver locals.

 

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After a disappointing night, we walked around the busy Shinjuku and enjoyed the night lights. I love how the streets of Tokyo are always so busy even late at night.

Address: 3-34-16 Shinjuku | 1F Ikeda Plaza Bldg, Shinjuku 160-0022, Tokyo Prefecture

[Japan Series] Day 2: A day in Shinjuku 新宿 – Ichiran 一蘭 and Wa Pasta

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The next morning, we decided to take it slow and just walk around the streets of the Shinjuku neighbourhood. First things first – breakfast! There are many options and fancy bakeries in our neighbourhood, but trying to stick on a budget, we decided to go to Family Mart to just grab some quick snacks. I absolutely love the Family Marts and 7-Elevens in Asia. There are so many choices to choose from! My all time favourite are the onigiris. I ended up having these each morning. They are usually under 150 yen, so under CAD$2.

 

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Shinjuku station is known as the world’s busiest railway station and home to the business and entertainment district. On a weekday morning, it wasn’t too busy as most locals were at work. Of course, it is still much more busy than the streets of Vancouver though! We decided to check out many of the famous Japanese department stores (because there is always so much to see even if we can’t afford it!) and also admire the tall buildings and towers in the area.

 

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Getting close to lunch time, I suggested we check out Ichiran 一蘭, one of my favourite ramen spots in Japan. It is a chain restaurant, but I don’t care, because I absolutely love their ramen! If you’ve had Danbo Ramen in Vancouver and like it, then I’m pretty sure you will enjoy Ichiran. We went to the Shinjuku location, but there are Ichiran stores in almost every district.

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Even though we went to the restaurant before the peak lunch time, there was already a line up, and it didn’t stop after. Once you get closer into the store, there is a ticket machine, where you purchase your ticket for your ramen. This is really common in Japan, and I absolutely love it, as you don’t need to worry about payment after. The hostess can help you out if you have some trouble with the Japanese menu, but usually you can sort of figure it out. Then you are taken down closer to the seating area, where you will see a light up board that shows which seats are available. It’s super high tech like that! The hostess will also give you a piece of paper so you can fill out your specifications of the ramen you ordered.

 

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The seating here is perfect for single diners as there are dividers separating each diner. However, you can easily close the divider so you can see your friend! This location only has 19 seats, but ramen is quick, so the turnover is usually within 30 minutes for each diner.

 

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Here is the ordering menu once you have purchased your ramen ticket. I like how they have an english version now, so no need to worry if you can’t read any Japanese. Here is my order! Once you are ready, you click the button on your table and hand your sheet along with your ticket you purchased to the person behind your table. I believe the ramen is 790 yen, and the soft boiled egg is at an additional cost.

 

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Once you’ve handed in your order sheet and ticket, the person will pull the blind down. You basically won’t ever see the people behind the blinds during your whole visit. I love this intimacy so you can just enjoy your food. There are also cups on the side, green tea powder, and a tap for hot water so you can make your own green tea. I ordered the marinated soft boil egg, and this comes with the shell and a packet of salt. You will have to peel your own egg, but it’s worth it!

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As you can see, the egg yolk in Japan is almost orange! Quite different from what I’m used to. The egg yolk is not really runny here, but more of a medium creamy texture. I still find it great with the ramen! You can also dip it with some salt to eat on its own.

 

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Here is my order of ramen. The broth is rich and flavourful, and the noodles are thin and firm, just the way I like it. The selling point here is the spicy sauce, which is not numbing spicy, but extremely flavourful instead. Even if you don’t like spicy, like S, he still really enjoyed the broth on its own.

 

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S paid extra to purchase the extra chashu ticket. However, we were quite disappointed with this and the amount you get. I would skip this next time. Even the chashu that comes with the ramen already is not anything exciting. They are not known for the chashu, but rather the broth, spicy sauce, and noodles. Definitely would skip the extra meat next time.

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After lunch, we continued to wander the streets of Shinjuku. We ended up inside Mylord, a trendy department store with 7 floors of shopping and 3 floors or restaurants. As our feet were getting tired, we decided to stop by a cafe to cool down and rest our feet. We ended up at Wa Pasta, which I can’t seem to find the restaurant name anymore. So not sure if the name changed, or if it no longer exists. I got the Yuzu and Orange Pudding which was creamy smooth and perfect with the citrus.

 

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S got the Hazelnut Chocolate Cream Puff. Sweet and beautifully presented, perfect for those who love chocolate.

Overall, a cute cafe with both pastas and desserts to choose from. Mylord has so many options to choose from, so is a great place to stop by after shopping.

Ichiran (Shinjuku Central East Entrance location)

Address: 3-34-11 Shinjuku | Peace Bldg B1F, Shinjuku 160-0022, Tokyo Prefecture

Mylord Shinjuku

Address: Mylord, 1 Chome-1-3 Nishishinjuku, 新宿区 Tokyo 160-0023, Japan

[Japan Seires] Day 1: Marugame Seimen Shinjuku Gyoenmae, Tokyo

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Almost a year later… I’m finally getting to my Japan travel posts. Last September, S and I did a 3 week vacation in Japan. Our first stop was in Tokyo and we booked an Airbnb in the Shinjuku area. Accommodation in Japan is expensive, so I highly recommend using Airbnb if you want to save some money. Hotels are obviously covenient, but can cost almost twice as much each night.

Our Airbnb host, Yopey, had a nice flat nearby Shinjukugyoenmae station. The station is 2 stations away from Shinjuku station, and around a 10-15 minute walk from the busy Shinjuku area. It is a residential neighbourhood, so not noisy at all. However, because it is a bit further away, we found that it was not as convenient, as we always had to walk at least 10 minutes after a long day or take the extra stations back. However, you definitely can save some money by living a little further away. The flat was also much larger than I expected for Japan, and everything was clean and modern. From past experiences, I would recommend staying in the Shibuya area if you enjoy shopping and the young lifestyle. Shinjuku felt more like a business district and shops were more high end.

From the Narita airport, it takes roughly an hour to get to the city center. Therefore, I actually recommend flying into the Haneda airport, if possible, as it is only 30 minutes or so away. However, most airlines fly into Narita and it is also usually cheaper as it’s their main international airport.

 

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By the time we got to our Airbnb, it was already around 8pm. And by the time we settled in, it was getting late. We decided to walk around the neighbourhood to find some quick eats. We ended up finding Marugame Seimen, which I later learned is a chain restaurant, known for quick, value and decent quality udon.

 

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You get to choose cold or hot udon, and you just let the chef know. I think there are more options, but clearly I couldn’t read all of the menu. The chef was very accommodating even though we spoke English. He then gives you your udon and you move down the line to the tempura station, where you can choose already prepared tempura to add to your udon. Then, the cashier will add up what you’ve got on your tray and you pay.

 

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S got a hot udon. They also provide a station where you can add green onion and tempura batter on top.

 

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For myself, I got the cold udon, which comes with a light soy dipping sauce. We were both surprised with the quality of the udon for such a quick convenient shop and low price. The udon itself is below CAD$5 and was extremely chewy!

 

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The tempura though, is quite average. The batter is rather thick and the oil is old from reusing it. The tempura is also lukewarm as it has been sitting around. I would probably skip the tempura next time, but you sort of want something to go with your udon, hence people will still purchase it.

Overall, the spot is great if you need a quick cheap meal. We found lots of locals here, many of which were businessmen who had just gotten off work.

 

Address: 1-4-13 Shinjuku, Shinjuku 160-0022, Tokyo Prefecture

Cafe Est! Est! (MyLord Shinjuku) – Tokyo

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Mille Crepe Cake Parfait

After lunch at Tamago to Watashi, we found a dessert shop on the same floor. It was called Cafe Est! Est! and the plastic models of the desserts presented in a display outside their store definitely lured us in. They had a large selection of parfaits, crepes and sundaes. Other than desserts, they also have actual main entrees, but we were here for the desserts! After sitting down, we realized that again, each person had to order at least one item. Seeing that the drinks were roughly the same price as the desserts, we ended up each ordering one dessert. For myself, I chose the Mille Crepe Cake Parfait. After having the Mille Crepe from Lady M in Korea, I had to try it again! Unfortunately, this was nothing close to as good as the one from Lady M. It did have the layers of crepe, but it was hard rather than light and fluffy. It didn’t seem like a fresh cake. Underneath, there was a scoop of vanilla ice cream, some corn flakes, and the rest were whipped cream! After eating the cake, I didn’t even end up finishing the rest of it. It was overly sweet and eating pure whipped cream was nasty. It wasn’t even good whipped cream. Super disappointed!

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Black Sugar Mochi Crepe

K went for the Black Sugar Mochi Crepe. It was filled with mostly whipped cream and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. On top, there were also mochi that was covered with black sugar. Some sprinkles were added to make it look cute and pretty. I actually enjoyed her crepe much more than my parfait. The black sugar mochi were very yummy!

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Cheesecake Parfait

C got the Cheesecake Parfait, which had the same problem as mine. Way too much cream at the bottom! The cheesecake was decent, but it wasn’t the best I’ve had. It was smooth, but again, it didn’t taste fresh. Overall, I wasn’t too pleased with the parfaits at Cafe Est! Est! They are also quite pricey, at around 800 to 1,000 yen for a basic parfait. If you are interested in crazy looking parfaits, then this may be the place for you. They have a famous parfait called EST 48, which has ice cream sundae cones stacked on top of another and reaches 48 centimeters. high. But honestly, I doubt that it tastes that great. It’s more for the looks.

Address: 160-0023 Tokyo, Shinjuku, Nishishinjuku, 1−1−3, 新宿ミロード7階

Tamago to Watashi 卵と私 (MyLord Shinjuku) – Tokyo

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The next day, we headed to Shinjuku. Shinjuku is known to be filled with great shopping and businesses. The Shinjuku station is also the busiest train station in the world! Next to the station, there is a large shopping mall called MyLord filled with young women fashion that is more affordable. On the top 3 floors, it nests a variety of restaurants. We ended up trying Tamago to Watashi.

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Tamago to Watashi focuses on omurice. It’s an omlette filled with fried rice and can be topped with several different sauces. The most original one is probably topped with ketchup. This is a western style Japanese dish.

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Omurice with Demi-Glace Sauce

C and T shared the Omurice with Demi-Glace Sauce. They said the sauce was very good!

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Demi-glace and White Sauce Omurice

K and I chose the Demi-glace and White Sauce Omurice. The omlette was mixed with both the demi-glace sauce and a white creamy sauce. The demi-glace came with some mushrooms to bring more flavour to it. The rice was cooked well and served hot.

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The restaurant forces you to purchase at least one item per customer, whether it be just a drink or what not. So we ended up getting an iced tea with it. The iced tea was the American type of iced tea, where it was unsweetened. Our meal also came with a soup, which had a very flavourful stock. Overall, Tamago to Watashi was decent. I found it a little pricey with the omurice being at least 1,000 yen. It was good, but wasn’t amazing.

Address: 160-0023 Tokyo, Shinjuku, Nishishinjuku, 1 Chome−1−3, 小田急新宿ミロード7F