Eating in Tokyo
Eating in Tokyo
I’m greedy. Not just with food, or drink, or even Ryan Gosling films, but apparently with holidays too. A six week trip to Hong Kong wasn't enough for me and so I added in a cheeky excursion to Tokyo. Queue a five-day trip filled with arcades, imagawayaki, matcha and of course fish.
We stayed in Shinjuku and I couldn’t rate this area enough. Fun, well connected and fit to burst with delicious eateries and bars. If you’re planning a trip this is a great area to set as your base.
Our first stop, a trip down Omoide Yokochō or translated, Memory Lane (also known as Piss Alley, but don’t let the name put you off). This tiny lane, no wider than two people, holds countless yakitori (meat skewer) restaurants and intimate bars. Far from the skyscrapers and ultra techno Tokyo you may imagine, this is more old school. With roots dating back to the 1940s and not an English menu in sight. Although Memory Lane may draw some tourists interest, it is still full of locals, letting loose and enjoying a bite. Each bar and restaurant hold between 5 - 8 people, all of which are counter service, so prepare to get up close and personal.
We visited Kameya a soba noodle bar run by two men who can just about fit back to back in the kitchen. We ordered soba noodle soup with an egg and vegetable tempura. They only have four dishes on the menu, which for me is a sure sign that they know what they are doing. My instincts were right. Watching our dish being made before our eyes was mesmerising, with a pile of tempura to one side and a tap for soy sauce on the other, these gents know how to maximise space.
A light broth, nutty noodles, perfectly soft egg and crisp tempura worked perfectly and I cannot wait to get back into the Gills kitchen to give this dish a go.
Another must see on Memory Lane is The Albatross bar. Three rickety floors high, with enough space for around six people per level. This bar was a fantastic experience. Low lights, french jazz and a barman who I’m sure is Noel Fielding’s Japanese doppelganger, it’s the perfect location for a Saturday night drink. If you go try the matcha and oolong cocktail, bright green and dangerously moreish.
Street food in Tokyo
As a Gills Gal, I am of course always on the look out for the best seafood. I was told that the street food takoyaki was a must. Takoyaki is a Japanese snack in the shape of little round balls containing pieces of octopus. The octopus inside the ball is swimming in molten batter, so be careful on your first bite, topped with takoyaki sauce and dried bonito flakes this hot snack is delicious and sure to warm you up in the cold Japanese winter.
This is the perfect bar snack. If you’re feeling greedy it’s easily a full meal, but for me this is perfect with a cold pint at the start of the night or to recover at the end. Yakitori is pieces of marinaded meat (typically chicken) or vegetables, threaded through a skewer and grilled over charcoal. We visited many great Yakitori bars on our trip but my favourite has to be Jomon, in Roppongi. The skewers are delicious and if you’re feeling a little dubious about what to order this restaurant offer a very handy chef’s selection. What I particularly liked about this restaurant is that is was very traditional, you had to remove your shoes on entering and you were say crossed legged under the kitchen bar. If you’re anything like me, watching your dish being cooked is always an added extra.
Tsukiji Fish Market
Of course, you can’t go to Tokyo and not have sushi. It’s blasphemy. We opted for breakfast sushi in Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo’s answer to Billingsgate. The legendary 4 am tuna auction was a little too early for us and so instead hit the outer market for sushi. A maze of streets with vendors selling fresh and dried fish, as well as delicious seafood snacks, this is Gills Gal heaven
With queues for miles for some of supposedly the top sushi spots in the city, we decided instead to try Tsukiji Itadori, tucked away up a flight of stairs. It turned out to be a hidden gem. Three chefs prepare the sushi at the counter, smiling as they go. A thousand worlds away from conveyor belt sushi back home, each dish is prepared to order, with the fish bought from the market that morning. It is incredibly fresh and flavoursome and when they say fatty tuna, they mean it. I urge anyone visiting to try this restaurant for a sushi brekkie, a far cry from a fry-up back home.
It's been an exciting and filling five days in Tokyo. If you're heading there anytime soon, check out the above recommendations and feel free to contact us for more tasty and fun things to do that we couldn't quite fit in one post. You can also check out other eateries in Tokyo and Osaka Becky visited on her Foursquare list.