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Last Hurrah--where to go?

I'm leaving Japan at the end of March and am planning my eating for that last month. I live in Kansai (Nishinomiya), but will be bookending the month of March with stays in Tokyo.

Here's what I've got lined up so far:

Feb. 27th lunch???
Feb. 27th dinner--Ryugin
Feb. 28th lunch--Michel Troisgros
Feb. 28 dinner???

March 23 dinner--???
March 24 lunch and dinner???
March 25 lunch????
March 25 dinner--Aronia de Takazawa
March 26 lunch???

We're doing Tsukiji the morning of Feb. 27th or March 24th, 25th or 26th (probably March 24th). We're not huge sushi fans, so we're basically going for the experience (you'd think after spending 11 years in Japan, I'd have already visited Tsukiji, but unfortunately not!), but of course we'll have sushi somewhere. Have to get that last taste of super fresh ikura, hotate, and uni.

And I'll probably get a final tempura meal at my favourite place in Kyoto, so I won't be having tempura in Tokyo.

But what else is there? Background--I'm moving back to Winnipeg, Canada, a city more-or-less void of good restaurants in anything but the cheap ethnic category. So I'm pretty open to anything--Italian (including excellent Napoli-style pizza), French, curry rice, tonkatsu, ramen, etc. I can probably fit one more slightly higher priced meal in (Y10 000/person, at most--I was thinking of lunch at L'Osier for that), but Aronia and Ryugin will pretty much wipe out my high-end budget, so cheaper suggestions would be much appreciated.

Where would you go and what would you eat?

For ramen, would the Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum a worthwhile stop in lieu of waiting in line for hours at other very popular ramen spots? (I was thinking of trying Ivan Ramen, in part because I could chat in English there. . . ) I can't really eat more than 1 regular-sized bowl of ramen, or maybe 2 small bowls, but I'm sort of attracted to the thought of a one-stop place.

I was also thinking of Ukai Toriyama, in part to get some sight-seeing in. I can't have all my last days in Japan be about food, can I? :0) Any comments for or against it?

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  1. In case the dates change for when you want to do Tsukiji, I always find this useful:
    http://www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/etc/c...

    Also, I would strongly advice to go to Tsukiji early, in fact take the very first subway or maybe even go by taxi. I would definitely try to be there by 6am at the very latest. Know that Tsukiji is basically split into three area: restaurants in the front, then wholesale fish/veggies and all the way in the back the tuna auctions and the warehouses.

    they always have a "show" auction for tourists with low quality tuna and unmotivated traders as well as the real auctions further in the back. while this is officially off-limits it's a lot more interesting and i found that the traders actually don't care as long as you don't get in the way.

    i would however be extremely cautious with regards to the fork-lifts, especially in the south-western part of the market.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Scharn

      I read on their website that the tuna auction was closed to tourists until the middle of January, but there was no indication that it had reopened. I don't mind just wandering the market and warehouses and skipping the auction. We just like to look at food. :-) But we are planning to get there early.

      1. re: prasantrin

        It may still be closed. Problem is that some of the tuna sell for a lot of money -- $100,000 for a single fish, often much more -- and hungover english-teacher from Roppongi interfered with the auctions. Also, it seems some people took flash pictures during the auctions. It have no idea why anybody would to that, but that is what apparently happened.

        Anyway, there are no security/identity checks because the market is a very open space. So you can easily go anywhere. Helps to wear a hoodie =)

        1. re: Scharn

          I look Japanese, so I might have an easier time blending in. But I suppose the big SLR might give me away as a tourist. :-) I'll have to use my little camera surreptitiously.

          Thanks for the advice!

    2. Hi prasantrin,

      I'm sorry to hear you're leaving Japan (I hope you'll go back for visits and continue to provide your great insight on places :).

      Since you're asking for not-as-pricey suggestions, I would say a few things to get in before you leave would be:

      * Ramen: You don't realize how bad the Ramen is in North America until you leave Japan. :( I miss a good bowl (not even great bowl) of Ramen on a daily basis here in the States. :) I'd recommend showing up early (before they open) and trying Menya Kissou (my favorite) or Rokurinsha (Silverjay has a great review of this place - I loved it as well). Ivan Ramen is a place I can't wait to try. :) If you go, be sure to say "Hi" to Keizo, Ivan's newest assistant and a dear tomodachi of mine.

      * Soba: Even something as simple as Soba is something to be appreciated one last time before you leave Japan. Luckily in LA we have a few Teuchi Soba places, but the great places in Tokyo eclipse that.

      * Tonkatsu: One of my favorite comfort foods is simply gone here in the States (probably in Winnipeg as well?). Sure you can find "Tonkatsu" in a variety of Japanese restaurants here, but they are so underdeveloped (fry technique, succulence of the Pork, etc.) that I can't bring myself to order it any more until I go back to Japan. If you love Tonkatsu, get your fill in before you leave. Uncle Yabai and many others have great recommendations on places. :)

      * Izakaya / Kappo: If you like the wonderful small plates from an Izakaya or Kappo restaurant, be sure to get your fill as well. :)

      And prasantrin, "Yes," you can have all your final days in Japan be about food. (^_^) I wish I had a 2nd stomach so I could've squeezed in a few more meals before I left last time.

      Enjoy~

      1. For French lunch, how about something like Viron in Marunouchi?
        For me, I don't know when that will be, but my last lunch in Tokyo will consist of a round at Isetan depachika and a picnic at Shinjuku Gyoen.

        1. Thanks for the suggestions so far.

          I forgot I also have a solo lunch on the 26th, and dinner for 2 that evening. That's two more meals!

          With that in mind:

          26th lunch--Menya Kissou or Viron (I really want to try those frites!)
          26th dinner--tonkatsu at either Tonki or Butagami. I'm leaning towards Tonki because it's more accessible from Shinjuku, and I'm not sure what time we'll get in from the airport.

          Ramen is definitely on the list, although I'm not really a huge fan. That's why I'm wondering about ShinYokohama Ramen Museum. I don't think my companion will be eager to spend half an hour or an hour waiting in line at some of the other places.

          We're also making ramen at the Ramen Museum in Ikeda. I thought it would fun. :-)

          9 Replies
          1. re: prasantrin

            If you're not really a fan of ramen, definitely stay away from the museum in Yokohama. The lines, in my experience, tend to be worse than at the regular shops.

            I would pick 1 or two places, and just go for an early lunch or dinner. I think you'll have a much better chance of a better bowl with less wait. Make sure to think a bit about what type of ramen you like - it'd be heartbreaking to spend some time waiting in line and end up with thin, straight, uniform noodles (at least for me!)

            1. re: lost squirrel

              I like ramen, just not loads. Good to know about the lines at the museum. I thought if I went on a weekday during off-peak times, it might be OK, but I think Sunday Feb. 28 might be the best time to go, and it will probably be very busy then. Darn!

              I'll just do Menya Kissou on my own, then. It's convenient to where I need to be that day, anyway. Does anyone know if their regular ramen is as good as their tsukemen? I prefer regular ramen, but most of what I've read talks about their tsukemen.

              1. re: prasantrin

                I was there (Ramen Museum) last Sunday at 5:30pm or so and there was only one line, at the most popular place. I think other places had lines by 6:30 or 7pm though.

                1. re: prasantrin

                  Hi prasantrin,

                  I've only had their Tsukemen, but no matter which one you order, be sure to get their Hanjyuku Tamago and Chashu. Totally worth it. :)

              2. re: prasantrin

                Tonki in Meguro? Love that joint! They have a smaller 10-seat counter place in Kojimachi too.

                1. re: prasantrin

                  Keizo, who is interning with Ivan at Ivan Ramen, raves about a ramen joint in Shibuya called Basanova? Looks pretty interesting.

                  http://ramendb.supleks.jp/shop/2152

                  1. re: gkanai

                    I've been reading Keizo's site and read about Bassanova. It looks interesting, but it's more fusion-y than what I want. The gyoza looks really good, though!

                    1. re: prasantrin

                      If you're a gyoza fan, I'd recommend Ebisu Gyoza near Ebisu. Worth the wait, imo.

                      1. re: gkanai

                        That will definitely go on my list! I love gyoza!

                2. For your "higher priced meal in (Y10 000/person, at most)" meal, I would recommend Hirosaku or Quintessence for lunch. Dinner are expensive in those two places, but I think you can spend below 10k for lunch. Hirosaku is operated by an elderly couple, serves the best soba I ever tried, and the mini-kaiseki at lunch is very good. I recall it cost me 8k pp. Quintessence's lunch is a bargain too at 8k pp, and I much prefer my meal at Q over L'Osier (noted this is just a personal view, I know many here rave about L).

                  Oh, another note, Ristorante ASO offers lunch below 5k pp, very good deal as well for high end Italian. That maybe another option.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: FourSeasons

                    Quintessence was an option, too, but I thought it would be easier to get a reservation at L'Osier, even if I end up on the waiting list. I haven't tried to makes reservations at either, yet, so I suppose I should try.

                    I was thinking of Ristorante ASO, too. It's difficult--there are so many places to try, and I know all of them will have good if not great food, but I only have a few days and a limited budget!

                    Hirosaku sounds interesting. I must confess, I don't really like soba, but I do feel I should give it one more try before leaving. I was thinking of trying Owariya in Kyoto, but a mini-kaiseki sounds like much more fun.

                    1. re: prasantrin

                      Here's my 2 cent's Kinoshita near Odakyu sangubashi station. used to be impossible to get a reservation but seems no problem to get in at lunch, I used to call ahead and request a dinner set. for lunch. The 7,600 is a ridiculous amount of food, no surrender no retreat. very masculine cooking in a good way, not showoffy.

                      http://www.restaurant-kinoshita.com/m...

                      1. re: prasantrin

                        BTW, the basic 6-course lunch at Hirosaku is 2,000 yen.