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Porter Exchange recommendations, please

I never get over to that area, but I have to be there around lunchtime on Monday. What do you recommend to eat at Porter Exchange, and is there anything in particular that I should look for at Kotobukiya Market? Thanks.

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  1. I love Bluefin! Their ohitashi is fabulous and the sushi/sashimi are fresh and reasonably priced. Definitely try their plum/cucumber roll too-- refreshing and really different.

    1. I usually stick to Cafe Mami, and it's been pretty good for homey Japanese cooking.

      1 Reply
      1. re: limster

        ditto. i think cafe mami is the best place there. not huge on any of the other stall places, myself.

      2. Cafe Mami spicy beef bowl, or vegetable curry don! I used to pick up spicy beef bowls for our entire office when I worked down there. Also like the adzuki bean buns at the Japonaise bakery.

        At Kotobukiya, I usually pick up lots of Golden or Vermont curry blocks, Pocky and random other crazy candy (Pudding Marshmallow!).

        1. Blue Fin is my stand by for reliable affordable sushi. And Sapporo Ramen is my stand by for, what else, ramen.


          1. I'm at Blue Fin absolutely all the time, and consider myself very lucky to have such a great neighborhood Japanese restaurant.

            Having said that, I feel like this is where it really shines, as a sort of Japanese deli where you can get a very satisfactory B+ take on whatever dish you might be craving. It is not, in my opinion, an unnecessary-road-trip-for-great-chow kind of a place.

            I'd have to agree with limster and Raedia that Cafe Mami is the place to start. I almost invariably get either their oyako bowl or their basic chicken teriyaki and vegetable bowl (with terrific homemade teriyaki sauce). As odd as it may sound, I know several people who routinely drive across town just for their stir-fried teriyaki hamburger.

            1. Mami is good, but if you don't feel like waiting in the ever-present long line, my wife and I often find ourselves at Ittyo in the far inside corner. Good noodle soups and rice bowls, simple but satisfying.

              My Kotobukiya staples are onigiri (those triangular seaweed-wrapped rice clumps with various dabs of filling) and cans of sweet, milky, Japanese-vending-machine-style coffee.

              And to answer the other question you should have asked, my Japonaise favorites are curry donuts, the heavy cream shoku pan (the best white bread on the planet), azuki cream buns, twist donuts, and chocolate-covered cake donuts.

              4 Replies
              1. re: glenn mcdonald

                I didn't ask the other question because I have to avoid the baked goods. However, I really love adzuki bean desserts, so I've already determined to indulge in one and try not to see all the rest of the temptations.

                Thanks to everyone for the suggestions. Very helpful.

                1. re: glenn mcdonald

                  The tempura udon at Ittyo is very good. I love the idea that you can buy imported Japanese toilet paper at Kotobukiya--like Charmin is too gaijin.

                  1. re: whs

                    While I agree with the recommendations for Bluefin and Mami, I'm always surprised to see Tampopo less crowded than the others. I love their tempura, age dashi tofu, croquette curry, various donburris, and -- this will seem trivial -- their salad dressing.

                    1. re: triple creme

                      Yeah, I was curious to notice this too. I do agree that Mami is the better of the bunch, I think of Tampopo as a close second. (I have to admit that I find *all* of the porter exchange options kind of mediocre, including mami & tampopo, but my feelings are driven partly by the fact that I find them a bad value/cost ratio, considering that you could cook the same thing at home in the same amount of time for a lot less money).

                      Anyway, Tampopo does have some odd combinations, like the guest appearance of seaweed salad into practically everything?!?! But, their croquettes are decent, and the spicy sauce is tasty. Their takoyaki can also be good, though they're a bit inconsistent--sometimes right on, and sometimes rather underdone. (In general, they just aren't as consistent as Mami) Tampopo also uses hijiki in a lot of their dishes, which I like, but may be a concern for those who are avoiding eating hijiki.

                      I personally abhor Bluefin, but this is based on only two experiences there--both marred by horribly cooked rice, and very unfresh tofu. Never again for me.

                2. Another +1 for Mami. I also like to get takeout sushi from Kotobukya. For the price (VERY cheap), it's amazing.

                  1. I must be a freak, I don't care for Blue Fin! It used to be good years ago but I just don't care anymore.

                    I find the sushi bar (near Ramen's and Cafe Mami) extremely good and affordable. I love their crispy crunch spicy rolls. The service sucks but who cares when all you're basically doing is giving them your order.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: surferbettygal

                      I wouldn't say you're a freak - I see a lot of negative posts on Bluefin on this board. Like another adam above, I've only been a couple times, and thought it was pretty mediocre both times, which was enough that I won't be back.

                      We've also found that the ramen and the Korean aren't so great either (just one try each). I do like Kotobukiya for Japanese groceries and snacks, and the fish is in pretty good condition.

                      I haven't tried Cafe Mami and would like to give it a shot. How is the kara age there? The tonkatsu?

                      1. re: nfo

                        i think cafe mami does a fairly solid tonkatsu...it ain't the maisen counter at takashimaya in tokyo or anything, but it's a good representation of the dish.

                    2. I've had pretty good luck at all the little restaurants there, with the exception of Sapporo Ramen (which can be inconsistent) and Kotobukiya -- the sushi bar, NOT the grocery -- which is consistently bad.

                      1. late but...

                        curry rice, katsu, hamburger - cafe mami
                        kara age, croquettes - tampopo
                        donburi, cold noodle soup - ittyo
                        red bean anything, twist donuts, cream bread - bakery
                        (overpriced) ice cream at mini mart

                        1. Thanks again, all. I ended up having the pork katsu at Cafe Mami, and that was good and a bargain, but the highlight of the day was the Japonaise adzuki cream bun. Damn! I could become addicted to those.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: QuantumKitten

                            I always see folks getting the katsu, but it's so hard to break away from Spicy Beef Bowl when I don't get there that often. Glad you enjoyed your lunch - thanks for reporting back!