Saturday, August 31, 2013

144. Tokyo - Grubbin' on Gyoza at Tokyo Haneda Intl Airport / 羽田空港せたが屋の餃子

Instead of flying out from Narita International Airport (NRT), I chose a departure flight from Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND).  Haneda Airport is much closer to the city center, which shortens the time needed to get to/from the airport drastically.  I saved on the extra commute time, so I wandered up to Edo Market on the fourth floor to check out the airport's pre-security restaurant offerings.

I found a ramen shop called Setagaya (せたが屋) in the corner of Edo Market (江戸小路).  It is ideal for travelers flying individually or in small groups since it is a small space.  A ticket vending machine greets you to the right of the entrance.  This is where you are supposed to make your selection and pay.  As soon as you find a seat, you hand the ticket over to the server.  Their specialty is ramen, but I had not had any gyoza (餃子) in Japan during my six days there, so I knew I had to have some before I left the country.

For now, though, ikimasho... we gotta go! I'll try the noodles the next time I fly out of Haneda Airport.  There is also a Tsurutontan (つるとんたん), famous for their giant bowls of udon noodles in the Edo Market as well.  Until next time, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

ML - 20130630

Thursday, August 29, 2013

143. Tokyo - Arigato gozaimashita: Wrapping Up A Week in Japan / ありがとうございました, 日本!

If I dedicated a post to every single restaurant I visited in Tokyo, I would never get to my long back log of posts from the Bay Area and the East Coast.  Here's the remainder of the eating, seeing, and doing from Japan... all in one post.

Ken and I slurped up some very homey ramen that really hit the spot after an exhausting morning at Tsukiji Market.  The shop owner joked that the bamboo was from the same place Ken was from... Taiwan.  Look for a red noren that says ramen in white Japanese lettering (ラーメン) hanging in the doorway.  The faded red business signage reads Chinese food (中国料理) in Japanese.  The owner says the gyoza is very good too.

天好 24
東京都 台東区 / Tokyo Metropolitan, Taito Ward
花川戸 1-15-7 / Hanakawado District, 1 Chome 15-7

We passed the Asahi Breweries Headquarters on the way to Tokyo Skytree, the tallest freestanding tower in the world.  It was camouflaged against the gray sky and too pricey to travel up to the observation deck.  We relaxed over some chocolate and macadamia ichigo wafflate on the entrance floor instead.  The coffee is decent, and the chocolate beverages are milky and quite delightful.

100% Chocolate Cafe
東京都 墨田区 / Tokyo Metropolitan, Sumida Ward
押上 1-1-2 / Oshiage District, 1 Chome 1-2
東京スカイツリー / Tokyo Skytree
東京ソラマチ 4F / Tokyo Solamachi, 4th floor

A popular expat gathering hole serving Spanish-Italian influenced Japanese tapas helped us shield the hustle and bustle of Metropolitan Tokyo at bay.  We ordered the hot spiced chicken, fries with anchovy butter, squid in black ink sauce, and quattro formaggio pizza, oysters, and more.  The highlight was the octopus and ooba pasta with yuzu pepper.  The shiso garnish helped keep the pasta light.

Rigoletto Bar and Grill
東京都 港区 / Tokyo Metropolitan, Minato Ward
六本木 6-10-1 / Roppongi District, 6 Chome 10-1
六本木ヒルズ ウェストウォーク 5F / Roppongi Hills, West Walk, 5th floor

Kristen has a knack for introducing some very aesthetically appealing treats.  She ordered a gripping grape tart, and I selected a scrumptious summer peach tart.  There are more than two dozen tarts, all of which center around an individual fruit or combination of fruits that are formed into various flowers and other intricately carved shapes.

Berry Café
東京都 中央区 / Tokyo Metropolitan, Chuo Ward
銀座 3-2-15 / Ginza District, 3 Chome 2-15
外堀通り / Sotobori-dori Street
ギンザ グラッセ 6F / Ginza Glasse, 6th floor

A true late night in the streets of Tokyo must include yakitori at an izakaya.  Grilled chicken wings, skewers of extra crispy chicken skin and succulent meatballs are go-to favorites.  What captured my attention, though, was the mentaiko omelette... salty orange fish roe rolled into sweet yellow tamago for the ultimate egg in egg action.  Oh, and the beer here is only 380 yen in the wee hours of the night.  Kanpai!

串焼ダイニング十兵衛 (Juubee Skewers Dining)
東京都 渋谷区 / Tokyo Metropolitan, Shibuya Ward
恵比寿南 1-23-5 / Ebisuminami District, 1 Chome 23-5
恵比寿 スカイウォーク出口 / Yebisu Skywalk exit
アメリカンブリッジ ビル 1F / American Bridge Building, 1st floor

We celebrated the final night in Tokyo with drinks... a foam topped Yebisu Stout at the top of the Westin overlooking Ebisu District seemed fitting.  There is a scenic view of the Tokyo night scape just behind the bar.

コンパスローズ / The Compass Rose
 東京都 目黒区 / Tokyo Metropolitan, Meguro Ward
三田 1-4-1 / Mita District, 1 Chome 4-1
恵比寿 ガーデンプレイス 内 / Yebisu Garden Place 
ウェスティンホテル東京 22F / Westin Tokyo, 22nd floor

And that's about as much as my stomach can handle.  It's time to pack, get some rest, and head to the airport first thing in the morning... Taiwan is next on the itinerary! Super big thanks to Ken, the Lee family, and Kristen for the utmost guidance and hospitality on this trip.  Without you guys it would not have been as fun and gluttonous as it was.  Arigato gozaimashita!

I'm going to finish up a few posts on some recent fooding in the States.  Posts on my trip to Taiwan will start popping up in October, so stay tuned... until then, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

ML - 20130625-30

Sunday, August 25, 2013

142. Tokyo - Locals Only: Tsukemen from Ginza Ishii / 銀座 いし井のつけ麺 (Tokyo: Chuo-ku, Ginza / 東京都: 中央区, 銀座)

One thing that I love about traveling is finding those hidden gems that only the locals know about.  Tokyo local Kristen-chan took me to a couple of spots that were completely void of tourists and foreigners save for myself... but I blend in around here right?

Down a quaint side street not too far from Ginza Station (銀座) is Ginza Ishii (銀座 いし井), a noodle shop specializing in dipping ramen (tsukemen / つけ麺) that is unassumingly popular.  Perhaps because the locals want to keep this a secret.  They certainly eat these noodles like they have been doing something mischievous.

Before entering the shop you will pay for your bowl of noodles with a ticket vending machine.  Although overwhelming at first, there are actually only a couple of types of noodles.  All other buttons are size preferences, additional toppings, and beverage choices.  If you are still bewildered, it is probably a good idea to pick based on the prices printed on the buttons.  An average bowl of tsukemen should cost 800-1,200 yen.

The machine spits out your ticket, and the only thing left to do is to play the waiting game.  Which customers will finish their noodles first?

The chef serves you by placing two burning hot bowls of noodles and broth quickly on the counter top.  His swift action indicates that the heat from the scalding hot broth has traveled through the ceramic bowl and that he does not want to burn his fingers.  In his silence he does not tell you, though, that the bowl will still burn your tender non-F&B industry fingers off while you lower the bowl down from the counter to eat... no matter how quickly you move.

If you squeeze the chilled lime over the noodles, it might sooth the burning sensation.  But by now your stomach is so full of the burning desire to eat that the pain in your finger tips has quickly numbed away. 

The broth is quite unholy.  And by unholy I mean that it is devilishly good.  It is fatty.  It is flavorful.  It is salty and savory all at the same time.  The pork is so smooth and tender that it truly does melt in your mouth.  There may even be fragments of the meat floating, sinking, or swirling around in the sinfully rich and fatty broth.  Did I mention the broth was searing hot? This is what you will dip your noodles in.  Transferring the noodles over and dipping them into the broth will feel like you are cheating on your significant other.  And slurping the noodles up ever so loudly in true Japanese fashion will taste like you cheated with her younger, sexier, naughtier sibling.

Oh, and when you finally bring your attention to the soft boiled egg... it will feel like your one act of sin has quickly turned into a love affair that you have to keep secret.  No one can know about this egg and its silky, velvety golden yolk.  No one.

That is perhaps the reason why the patrons in the noodle shop act as if they are doing something wrong.  The tsukemen tastes so delicious that eating it feels almost like adultery.  Get here.  Get here quick before anyone finds out.  Get rid of the vending machine ticket.  Leave no paper trail.  Until next time, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

銀座 いし井 / Ginza Ishii
東京都 中央区 / Tokyo Metropolis, Chuo Ward
銀座 3-8-4 / Ginza District, 3 Chome 8-4

See more shots of our tsukemen on my Flickr set here.

ML - 20130629

Friday, August 23, 2013

141. Tokyo - Kitsuneya Gyu-don: Our Second Breakfast / きつねや 牛丼 (Tokyo: Chuo-ku, Tsukiji / 東京: 中央區, 築地)

Walking out of Tsukiji Market (築地市場) down the main street of Shin-Ohashi Dori, we passed by many stands that offered sashimi over rice and some shops that sold ingredients for sushi making like dried nori and fresh wasabi root.  These stores are also part of Tsukiji Outer Market.  There was even a small food court just behind an entrance shielded by traditional blue Japanese curtains.  What really caught our attention was Kitsuneya (きつねや), the token food stand that sold hot beef bowls.  It smelled so damned good that it stopped us in our tracks.

We ordered a gyu-don (牛丼) just to try it out.  The thinly sliced shreds of beef were infused with its own juices, and even the little curls of onion were browned, sweet, and bursting with beef broth.  This bowl of bountiful beef was an unexpected but very welcomed way of finishing off one of the most memorable breakfasts of my life.

Just a few primitive instructions makes it is possible to find this stand without knowing any Japanese.  There is only one stand that sells beef rice and noodle bowls on the main street of Shin-Ohashi Dori (新大橋通り).  Just past Harumi Dori (晴海通り) there are two freestanding makeshift stainless steel counters on the sidewalk near the curb of the street where people stand to eat their rice bowls.  Patrons with piping hot bowls of motsudon noodles eat while sitting at the counter.  There is a navy blue awning that reads きつねや in white Japanese lettering.  There is also a wicked eldery obasan who ladles broth at the stand.  She does not smile.  She does not like foreigners.  She does not like two people who split one bowl of rice and ask for two pairs of chopsticks.  If she is spotted, then that is where Kunetsuya sits.

Good luck.  Until next time, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

きつねや / Kunetsuya
東京都 中央区 / Tokyo Metropolis, Chuo Ward
築地市場外 4-9-12 / Tsukiji Outer Market, 4 Chome 9-12
新大橋通り / Shin-Ohashi Dori Street

For more shots of the Kitsuneya gyu-don, check out my Flickr set here.

ML - 20130628

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

140. Tokyo - Tsukiji Outer Market: Early Breakfast at Bentomi Sushi / 寿司弁富 (Tokyo: Chuo-ku, Tsukiji / 東京都: 中央區, 築地)

Immediately following the tour of the tuna action, Ken and I went on a hunt for authentic Japanese rice and fish.  With the long lines at some of the most popular sushi restaurants, we selected a relatively busy spot that looked more traditional based on the lack of English and just a bit of racial profiling.  The menu at this spot featured Edo style sushi as well as donburi (丼), which is basically rice in a bowl with food covering it.  Thinking about Yoshinoya? Yup, those beef bowls are also considered donburi.

We each got donburi bowls filled with fresh tuna sashimi and other fish, seafood, and assorted deliciousness.  There were at least two grades of tuna, including both the more common maguro (マグロ) and the more fatty toro (トロ).

Mine consisted predominately of sea urchin (uni / うに), which is a personal favorite.  The freshness of the seafood was pretty much guaranteed considering that many of the restaurants from the Tsukiji Outer Market purchase their products directly from the wholesalers in the Inner Market.

Even the egg (tamago / 卵) was freshly made.  It could almost be described as buttery smooth even though I can almost guarantee that there was no butter used in the preparation.

I still could not believe that Ken and I were having sashimi for breakfast.  It was not even 7:00 in the morning yet.  This meal was definitely one of the highlights of my time in Tokyo.  Until next time, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

寿司弁富 / Bentomi Sushi
築地中央卸売市場内 8号棟/ Tsukiji Market Central Wholesale Building no. 8
東京都 中央區 / Tokyo Metropolis, Chuo Ward
築地 5-2-1-8-4 / Tsukiji District, 5 Chome 2-1-8-4

Bentomi opens at 5:00 a.m. every morning, and they are closed on Sunday.  For more pictures of our breakfast bowls, check out my Flickr set here.

ML - 20130628

Monday, August 19, 2013

139. Tokyo - Massive Maguro: The Tuna Auction at Tsukiji Market / 築地市場 (Tokyo: Chuo-ku, Tsukiji / 東京都: 中央區, 築地)

Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market (東京都中央卸売市場), more commonly known as Tsukiji Market (築地市場), allows a maximum of 120 visitors to tour the world famous tuna auction each morning.  Registration for the tour begins promptly at 4:00 a.m.  These 120 spaces on the tour are coveted spots, and registration for each tour is only allowed on the day of.  As a result, tons of Tokyo tourists queue up at the tour office before the sun even rises.  In anticipation of this race to Tsukiji, Ken and I hailed a cab and set out to the market around 3:00 in the morning.

After putting our names down for the tour, we were herded into a waiting room along with the other tourists to await instructions and details about the auction.  Many visitors were sleepy, and some were still inebriated from the night's festivities, but there was a general buzz of excitement in the room.  We met some fellow travelers from America's Midwest that were just as eager to see the maguro.

The first group of 60 set off around 5:20, and the second group took off just shortly before 6:00.  We followed the guide directly to see the tuna auction in progress.  Several auctions were being prepared while we entered, and they were organized into sections around the warehouse.

Each section of the auction house has its own caller, and each of them have their own individual style and flair to the way in which they shout out the prices just like how our own American automobile auctioneers have their own unique method of calling out bid amounts.

As soon as the giant tuna is sold, it gets hauled away immediately, and the auction on the next fish begins.  That was the cue for us to leave too.  It was time for us to find a traditional Japanese meal of fish and rice.

Until then, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

築地市場 / Tsukiji Market
おさかな普及センター/ Fish Information Center
勝どき門 / Kachidoki Gate
東京都 中央区 / Tokyo Metropolis, Chuo Ward
築地 6-20-5 / Tsukiji District, 6 Chome 20-5
晴海通り / Harumi-dori Street

See more pictures and video from the early morning auction on my Flickr set here.

ML - 20130628

Saturday, August 17, 2013

138. Tokyo - Fresh Fruit Cocktails at Library Lounge THESE (Tokyo: Minato-ku, Nishiazabu / 東京都: 港区, 西麻布)

After filling our stomachs with gigantic bowls of udon, Kristen led us down some dark Roppongi alleyways to discover this hidden library lounge called THESE tucked away amongst other bars, lounges, and restaurants that only the locals frequent.  Most of the guests are seated throughout the downstairs lounge area, but we were led up the side stairs to a lofty location where the lounge opens up with an outdoor patio.  The upstairs lounge has a more intimate feel with its cozy couches and soft lighting. 

Rather than bringing menus to the guests, the staff brings a basket of fresh seasonal fruit for its guests to select from.  From peaches to passion fruit, pears to pineapple, the bartender pairs the selected fruit with a liquor of choice.  Ken selected watermelon, which the bartender shook with vodka.  Kristen picked a peach, which was a prime selection for the Japanese summer.  The bartender paired the peach with Schnapps.  I went for the passion fruit, and the bartender sliced it up and infused it into some champagne. 

The plush seating makes for a very relaxed atmosphere, and the closed off lounge areas are suitable for intimate dates or even countless hours of catching up with old friends.  These Library Lounge was definitely a highlight during my time in Tokyo.  Many thanks to Kristen for donning the tour guide role that day.  We headed back to the hotel for a little shut eye because we planned to be back up in just a couple of hours to head to the world famous Tsukiji Market.  Until then, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

Library Lounge THESE
東京都 港区 / Tokyo Metropolis, Minato Ward
西麻布 2-15-12 / Mishiazabu District, 2 Chome 15-12

カルテットビル 1F / Quartet Building, 1st floor

ML - 20130627

Friday, August 16, 2013

137. Tokyo - Tsurutontan Serves Godzilla-sized Bowls of Udon / つるとんたん (Tokyo: Minato-ku, Roppongi / 東京都: 港区, 六本木)

Despite my unholy consumption of bread earlier in the day, I was not done eating carbohydrates just yet.  For dinner, Tokyo resident Kristen Shimatsu introduced Ken and me to Tsurutontan (つるとんたん), a restaurant that serves Godzilla-sized bowls of udon (うどん) noodles.

I ordered the nabeyaki udon (鍋焼きうどん), a traditional noodle soup served directly in the cast iron pot that it's cooked in.  Even though the display case outside the restaurant gives customers a glimpse into the life sized portion of the noodles, it is still hard to believe that a bowl approximately the size of my torso is sitting piping hot in front of me.

A variety of ingredients were placed atop the broth, including shrimp tempura, chicken, unagi, a poached egg, tofu skin, enoki and shiitake mushrooms, sliced bamboo, cabbage and kikuna.  The jagged edged vegetable known as kikuna in Japan is more commonly known as tongho in Mandarin at hot pot restaurants or crown daisy in English at local American supermarkets.

Common in Japanese ramen is one half of a soft boiled egg that garnishes the top of the noodles.  However, in Japanese udon, the egg is usually fully cooked through.  What I love about eggs in Japan and Taiwan is the glowing orange hue of the yolk.  It is something that we rarely see in America, so when I see it in Asia it becomes a sort of treat.

Kristen ordered a vegetable udon, and Ken ordered the pork udon.  We also chose a tako salad with  lotus root and nagaimo to share.  The citrus in the salad dressing was a good palate cleanser for our very savory noodles.

The flagship location in Roppongi is open for lunch at 11:00 and does not close until 8:00 in the morning.  I am already thinking that this might make a good spot for some post-drinking eating.  Speaking of which... now that dinner was complete...

Until next time, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

つるとんたん / Tsurutontan
東京都 港区 / Tokyo Metropolis, Minato Ward
六本木 3-14-12 / Roppongi District, 3 Chome 14-12

外苑通り / Gaien Higashi-dori Street
六本木3丁目ビル / Roppongi 3 Chome Building

Check out more of the giant bowls of udon in my Flickr set here.

ML - 20130627

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

136. Tokyo - Bread, Bread, Bread at Saint-Germain / サンジェルマンのパン (Tokyo: Shibuya-ku, Ebisu / 東京都: 渋谷区, 恵比寿)

If you ask anyone about what he or she wants to eat while visiting Japan, the likely answer will be sushi... sashimi, perhaps... maybe even ramen or tempura.  Well, at the top of the list for me is none other than bread (pan / パン).  While strolling through Yebisu Garden Place, I came across Saint-Germain, a two story bakery and café brimming with the warm aroma of baked goodness.  This popular chain is part of a larger family of bakeries including Maison Kayser, one of my favorite producers of European style Japanese bread.

Lucky for me, the nearest location of Saint-Germain was a hop, skip and a jump from the Westin Tokyo where I was staying.  Right across the street from the entrance of the Yebisu Sky Walk (恵比寿スカイウォーク), it was utterly convenient to grab some breakfast on the way to Ebisu Station (恵比寿駅) on the JR Yamanote Line (JR山手線).  For those that don't know already, I am bread crazy.  Like... insane when it comes to bread.  This was my loot from just one morning.

Mentaiko bread (明太子パン) is easily one of my favorite types of Japanese bread.  A salty spread of pollock roe that is utterly glowing is smeared across the soft inside of a crisp baguette making for an absolutely irresistible version of caviar on toast.

There is no way to avoid a curry donut (カレードーナツ) when visiting a Japanese bakery.  When done right the outside should be golden brown but not to the point of crunch.  The inside of the football shaped fried fritter is gooey with spicy curry, peas, and carrots, and the mantle of bread should still be soft and easy to tear apart to reveal the goods within.

This bacon and cheese baguette (チーズベーコンバゲット) captured my attention the moment I laid eyes on it.  Tender and succulent slabs of sweet bacon and cheddar are sandwiched inside thin, crusty French style bread.  Japanese bacon is usually not as crispy or salty as American bacon, which makes for a texture more like that of a fatty ham.  Yum.

Just close your eyes and take one bite of the pork cutlet and egg salad sandwich (サンドイッチのとんかつ卵サラダ), and you will feel like you have gone to heaven.  There is nothing like a deep fried pork chop with sweet ketchup essence submerged under a fluffy cloud of egg salad.  Really, there isn't.  When the pork cutlet and egg salad canoodle under the covers of a soft bun, the combination becomes the definition of excess and decadence.

I picked up a tomato, cheese and bacon calzone (カルツォーネ) based on the staff recommendation.  I still prefer a piping hot pocket feel stuffed with heart attack inducing fillings, but if you like a more delicate, less oily take on the Italian-American classic, this is a good choice.

Custard pudding (カスタードプリン) or flan, Japanese or not, is one of my favorite things to eat of all time.  So naturally, when I saw it sitting in the refrigerator section, I had to take one back with me for dessert.  It was something that I could eat without needing to glance away from the morning paper.  Digging for the caramel syrup that lines the bottom of the smooth custard is like diving for gold at the bottom of a treasure chest.

Also somewhere in this mess of carbs was a hash brown, but I ate it so hastily that I did not get a chance to take a picture of it.  Just a heads up... my next meal is definitely carb overload too.  Until the next carb fest, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

サンジェルマン / Saint-Germain
東京都 渋谷区 / Tokyo Metropolis, Shibuya Ward
恵比寿 4-20-5 / Ebisu District, 4 Chome 20-5
恵比寿 ガーデンプレイス 内 / Yebisu Garden Place

Check out some more mentaiko madness from my Flickr set here.

ML - 20130627

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

135. Tokyo - No Mo' Nomihodai for Me / 半兵ヱ 飲み放題 (Tokyo: Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka / 東京都: 渋谷区, 道玄坂)

Nomihodai (飲み放題) means all-you-can-drink in Japanese.  Sometimes offered in conjunction with tabehodai (食べ放題), it is usually an option that many izakaya (居酒屋) in Japan offer as a way to eat and drink... for cheap.  Ken and I joined his local Japanese friend Reina at Hanbey (半兵ヱ), a hole-in-the-wall izakaya in Shibuya for some all-you-can-eat-and-drink festivities.  For only about 2,500 yen (about 25 USD) per person, we were treated to unlimited biru, sake, and fried food for two hours.

Normally I would post a plethora of food pictures, but the food at Hanbey, like many all-you-can-eat Japanese izakaya, is pretty terrible.  It was a good thing that there's plenty of cold beer to wash the food down with.  Despite the terrible food, what attracts people to these all-you-can-drink establishments is the warm ambiance and fun environment that makes for good times.  This particular location of Hanbey required navigating through a labyrinth to our table.  We sat down next to the open air kitchen so that we could see the chefs at work.  The walls were decorated with old movie posters, and they echoed with the cheerful noises of friends and co-workers toasting each other after a hard day's work.

After the many rounds of beer, the two hour eating and drinking party comes to a close when the staff brings the check and a complimentary order of bread to the table to help mop up all the alcohol in everyone's stomachs.  I guess it's the restaurant's way of saying, "You ain't gotta go home, but you gotta get the hell outta here!"

After one experience with nomihodai, I know I don't want no mo'.  But who would say know to friends, fun, and all-you-can-drink? Until then, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

半兵ヱ センター街店 / Hanbey Town Center Store
東京都 渋谷区 / Tokyo Metropolis, Shibuya Ward
宇田川町 31-4 / 
Udagawacho District, 31 Chome 4
井ノ頭通り / Inokashira-dori Street 

シノダビル2F / Shinoda Building, 2nd floor

ML - 20130626

Monday, August 12, 2013

134. Tokyo - Stand Under My Umbrella at Shibuya Crossing (Tokyo: Shibuya-ku / 東京都: 渋谷区)

At the Hachiko Exit (ハチ公) of Shibuya Station (渋谷駅) is one of the world's busiest and most famous intersections... Shibuya Crossing.  A huge number of tourists take the escalators up to the Starbucks store overlooking the intersection to take pictures and video of the scramble crossing.  I was one of the many that did just that on a rainy day in Tokyo.

I can only assume that there would be more people crossing this intersection when it's not raining.

This is definitely one of the big tourist attractions in Tokyo.  Many people also visit Hachiko, which is the bronze statue of a dog by the same name that apparently met his owner Professor Ueno at Shibuya Station everyday after work.  The dog is famous because he continued to arrive at Shibuya Station to wait at the same time each day even after his owner had passed on.  Tons of people use the Hachiko statue as a meeting location.  Just a warning... it's packed.

Enough people watching... it's time for dinner.  Until then, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

ML - 20130626

Friday, August 9, 2013

133. Tokyo - The Tonkatsu is Tops at Maisen / とんかつまい泉 (Tokyo: Shibuya-ku, Jingumae / 東京都: 渋谷区, 神宮前)

One of the most anticipated meals in Tokyo was the tonkatsu from Tonkatsu Maisen (まい泉).  Many friends have urged me to try the crispy, deep fried pork cutlets from this restaurant, saying that it is one of the best that they have ever had.  I had yet to give my own verdict.

There are numerous cuts of pork used for Maisen's tonkatsu.  The selection ranges from the everyday filet (a little under 1,000 yen) to the more extraordinary cuts from black haired hogs (more than 6,000 yen).  The menu is extensive, and the pictures appear to show the same set of lunch specials from the first to the last page... but every choice varies.  While Ken ordered the traditional hire (ヒレ / filet) cut of tonkatsu, I ordered the rosu (ロース / pork loin), which meant that the tonkatsu came in medallions.

Each set came with the traditional accompaniment of shredded cabbage, which can be replenished without limit with a quick request to the server.  There was also miso soup, rice, and pickles.  We drizzled on the tonkatsu sauce over the pork before taking a big bite out of the pork.  It was a sort of fruity, caramel-like, vinegary Worcestershire... tangy, sweet, and thick like syrup.  Seeing it drip over the crevices of the deep fried panko breading was almost like watching thick and sweet maple syrup find its home in the ridges of a perfectly crispy deep fried chicken.

One bite, and I knew it the petite patty of pork was pure perfection.  The breading was lightly crisp but then crunchy in a soft, melt-in-your-mouth way at the same time.  Imagine taking a bite of super crunchy cotton candy and then letting the intertwined threads of sugar dissipate on your tongue... it's that feeling.

The pork itself really does not need any description.  It was juicy.  It was tender.  It was everything I wanted it to be and more.  It was worth the trek in the rain following all of the signs pointing to the restaurant off the main Omotesando Street (表参道).

The tonkatsu is tops at Maisen. I am literally drooling as I write this.  If there is anything as good as this breaded, deep fried pork cutlet in the Los Angeles area, please let this drooling blogger know immediately.  Until then, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

とんかつまい泉 / Tonkatsu Maisen Aoyama Honten
東京 渋谷区 / Tokyo Metropolis, Shibuya Ward
神宮前 4-8-5 / Jingumae District, 4 Chome 8-5

View more images from my Flickr photo set for Maisen here.

ML - 20130626