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Tokyo and Kyoto Restaurant REVIEWS Summary: My Spring Japan Trip

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Having recently returned from my first vacation to Japan, I wanted to document all the culinary experiences I encountered. This is because this Japan Trip has been the greatest vacation in my life, both from a relaxation and cultural appreciation point-of-view, but also from a culinary point-of-view.

It's because of Chowhound and all the great contributors on the Japan board that I was able to discover some of THE best restaurants I've ever encountered for various types of food. As a side note, I feel I'm a pretty discerning lover of food (^_~), and while Japanese cuisine is one of my Top 3 favorite cuisines in the world, it wasn't until this trip to Tokyo and Kyoto that I had discovered just how great the difference in quality is from all my favorite Japanese eateries in Southern California (USA) have been compared to what I experienced in Japan. I suppose it's not surprising, but at the same time it was mind-blowing and amazing!

During this Japan Trip, I've eaten The Best Takoyaki I've ever had in my life; The Best Sushi I've ever had; The Best Modern Kaiseki-style meal ever; The Best Traditional Kaiseki meal (although it was my first time (^_~)); The Best Ramen I've ever had (multiple times over (one ramen restaurant exceeding the next), and ALL of them blowing away the pitiful stuff we have in So Cal); The Best Soba I've ever had; The Best Sakura Mochi; The Best Tonkatsu ever (yum!); The Best Yuba; The Best Tsukune Kushiyaki (mouth-watering ridiculousness from a Tsukune specialist in the back streets of Kyoto); The Best Green Tea I've ever had; The Best Izakaya I've ever been to; and much, much more.

It may sound like hyperbole, but it's true. I brought a fellow Chowhounder with me (who's even more picky and discerning) and S was completely blown away as well. I'm so grateful to all the Chowhounders who helped me out and I wanted to give back, so I've been writing Reviews of all the places I've visited. My sincerest "THANK YOU!" to:

Silverjay, skylineR33, FourSeasons, Charles Yu, Asomaniac, kamiosaki, snaporaz, E Eto, I heart ramen, lost squirrel, Oonth, and so many others (if I've forgotten to list you, forgive me!). _(._.)_

Here's a summary of all the Reviews to all the wonderful (and not so wonderful) Restaurants I've experienced in Tokyo and Kyoto. Enjoy - (^_^)/

*** RAMEN ***

#1 - Menya Kissou (Koto-ku, Tokyo, Japan)
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/509082

* Rokurinsha (Osaki, Tokyo, Japan)
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/509505

* Ajisen (Kumamoto Ramen) (Kabuki-cho, Tokyo, Japan)
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/507946

* Kyushuu Jangara Ramen (Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan)
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/508811

*** SUSHI ***

#1 - Sushi Mizutani (Ginza, Tokyo, Japan)
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/508418

*** KAISEKI (Modern / Traditional) ***

#1 (Tie) - Ryugin (Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan)
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/508697

#1 (Tie) - Hyotei (Kyoto, Japan)
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/513183

*** IZAKAYA ***

* Toki no Ma (Ebisu, Tokyo, Japan)
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/511168

* inton (Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan)
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/508926

*** YUBA ***

* Komameya (Kyoto, Japan)
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/512843

All the above Reviews Formatted with All Pictures found here:
http://exilekiss.blogspot.com/

Thanks~

ExileKiss

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  1. I'd like to thank you for your reviews. I'm in Tokyo now and went to a few of these places at your recommendation. I definitely didn't regret it. I went to Rygin,Toki no Ma, and Rokurinsha. I spent last night hopping cocktail bars in Ginza, it was sublime, best poured cocktails I've had just about anywhere (including London, NY, and San Fran).

    2 Replies
    1. re: longlines

      Thanks longlines. :)

      Glad to hear you're enjoying some of those restaurants and Tokyo in general! Let us know about any new restaurants you might've found on this trip that you'd recommend. :)

      1. re: exilekiss

        Hi exilekiss, thank you for all your great reviews and pictures !!! They are all very interesting. I wish I have tried some of those ramen places.

    2. exilekiss, I hope you had takoyaki in Osaka, not in Tokyo! (If not, you haven't had the best takoyaki just yet ;-)

      I took my partner, who had never been to Asia, to Japan with me earlier this month and he too was blown away by the food--even by the food from a grocery store. (He also says the steak he had in Osaka was the best in his life). Now he knows what real Japanese food tastes like ;-) (He says the Japanese food here is a joke.) He wants to go back there next year.

      You can probably understand now why I hardly went to Japanese restaurants in SoCal while I lived there for 15 yrs :-) Locals often asked me which was my favorite Japanese
      restaurant (since I'm a Japan native), but I never had one. The quality of Japanese food in SoCal deteriorated, esp. the last 10 yrs because more authentic restaurants closed after Japanese corporate expats returned to Japan in droves.

      I live in Dallas now and it's pretty sad what people think is Japanese food here :'-(

      3 Replies
      1. re: kuidaore

        Hey kuidaore,

        Thanks for your insight. Yah, I wasn't able to visit Osaka on this trip :(, but trust me, I've heard it from various friends in Japan and now you, that Osaka has the best Takoyaki. (^_~)

        What's sad is that even a simple Takoyaki vendor on the street in Tokyo *blew away* all the Takoyaki I've had in the U.S. It's not even close. (O_o) I can't wait to go back to Japan, soon I hope!

        1. re: kuidaore

          I am curious- where did you have steak and what made it so special?

          1. re: carfreeinla

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/49223...

            According to my American companion who made that statement, "taste and texture. it didn't melt in your mouth, but close, and it just had a really nice taste." He was also having very nice wine with it :-

            )

            I confirmed Ishizawa serves Miyazaki beef, not Kobe beef (there's a debate in Japan whether Miyazaki beef is better than Kobe and Matsuzaka beef.). And Ishizawa serves a special cut by the butt no one else serves.

            Personally, I liked the cheap lunch version, which melt in my mouth, but I'm not really a steak person.

        2. Thank you so much for your well researched review! I was getting a bit dizzy reading these boards researching for my trip. Your synopsis will be put to good use.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Miss Needle

            No problem. I hope your trip goes well and report back with your experiences when you can. :)

          2. I would be going to the same regions in Japan for about the same amount of time as well, so your blog has been whetting my appetite for what is to come. Thanks for your detailed reports!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Eldarion

              Very nice Eldarion. Definitely let us know how your vacation goes. (^_^)

            2. Here's one final review missing from my list above. (I had given up on writing the review because I never got their business card, and didn't remember the name of the restaurant (^_^; aaahhh...) But then looking at the pictures I took, I found the name, and finally found the details. :)

              *** More RAMEN ***

              * Chuka Soba no Ten Chiifu (Kyoto, Japan)
              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/514423

              Thanks~

              ExileKiss

              1. Thank you exile! I'm just in the planning stages of my trip and what you've done is wonderful. You seem to have searched out the best you could find and thus have eliminated a lot of work for those of us fortunate to come across your thread.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Rick

                  Hi Rick,

                  No problem, thanks~. (^_^)

                  I'm just giving back to the Chowhound Japan board as I stated in the original post above. Without all the great regulars here on CH Japan, I wouldn't have been able to find half the restaurants that made my 2008 Spring Japan Trip such a wonderful experience! I can't wait to go back. :)

                2. exilekiss, you're fantastic. i'm planning my summer 2008 trip to tokyo and have been compilng my own list from the Japan board, but you've nearly done all the work for me! (department stores though...i want to hit the food floors in a couple of department stores.)
                  Krista
                  (normally found on the UK board)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: kristainlondon

                    Thanks Krista~

                    Hope it was helpful for you, and please report back with your experiences as well! :)

                    There are numerous good threads on the Department Store Food Courts you're interested in (just search "Depachika" on the Japan Board here). That was the one major aspect I wasn't able to do on this past trip (next time! :).

                  2. I'm going to Japan on Thursday, and definately going to check out Menya Kissou and Rokurinsha.. Thanks for the blow by blow account.. I'm excited!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: foreignmuck

                      Hey foreignmuck,

                      You're welcome. Let us know how your Japan trip goes! :)

                    2. Exilekiss -

                      Thank you very much for the reviews. I have really enjoyed reading them, both for their understanding of food as well as the infectuous enthusiasm of a true food lover. I have learned a thing or two, and will visit the restauarnts you reviewed and I have not been to yet.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Asomaniac

                        Hi Asomaniac,

                        I have to thank *you* for all your helpful posts and insight as well. I learned a lot and was able to go to Japan with confidence. I can't wait to go back soon. (^_^)/

                      2. Thanks for all the reviews, ExileKiss! I don't even know when I'll be heading to Japan, but it was great fun to read through them and to experice such delight with you. I'm now looking forward to experiencing these restaurants for myself as soon as possible.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: LikeFrogButOOOH

                          Hi LikeFrog,

                          Thanks~. As I said previously, I just want to give back to all the great Chowhounders on the Japan board that've helped me out for my trip. I hope we continue to contribute and talk about great Japanese discoveries (^_~).

                        2. Where did you find the best takoyaki?? I'm a HUGE fan of takoyaki, so if you could point me in the right direction, that would be very helpful.

                          1. Where did you find your "the best takoyaki"?

                            I'm going to be in Tokyo, if that helps. I've had Gindaco's takoyaki, but that's about it.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: lighthouse

                              Hi lighthouse,

                              Hehe. I just want to point out that my statement is only for the best Takoyaki *I've* ever had in my life (this is coming from years of putting up with mediocre Takoyaki in Southern California). :P That being said, the best Takoyaki I had (and it just goes to show you how different the level of quality of Japanese food is in Japan vs. what I had previous) was an old-school Takoyaki Stand in Ueno Park. :) It was wonderful: Perfectly lightly-crisped on the outside, nice wonderful inside with a huge, fresh chunk of Octopus. Just the right amount of sauce and ginger. It was great.

                              It sounds like you're a huge Takoyaki fan, so you might've already tried a few places that exceeded what I had in Tokyo. Note also that a lot of people recommend going to Osaka for the best Takoyaki in Japan; I never got a chance to go to Osaka on my last trip, so I can't comment on that.

                              Good luck! :)

                            2. Sensational reviews. I'm looking at air tickets after having read only the first half of the kyoto kaseki meal! thank you for always having the last word.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: epop

                                Hi epop,

                                Thanks. :) Let me know how your Japan trip goes. I hope you find some new discoveries as well.