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Mar 3, 2012 08:38 PM

Prodigal Daughter Revisits Tokyo [Trip Report pt 1]

About 18 months ago, I posted requesting suggestions for a visit to Japan, but I was unable to make that trip. I finally made it back to Japan and over the last couple of weeks, I made it to Tokyo, Osaka (very briefly), Kyoto, Kawanishi, and Nishinomiya. I may most more details in other relevant threads, but for now, here's a summary of my eating:

Tuesday Feb. 21
Dinner--late arrival at my hotel (~21:00) so I decided not to eat dinner. But as I sat there, I realized I was quite hungry. Off to Takashimaya Times Square and Katsukura! Dinner was fine (Meibutsu Katsukura set). Did you know the Meibutsu set is Y200 more in Kanto than in Kansai? I didn't. . . but it included an extra course (I think) of your choice--tofu or special tsukemono. I had the tofu. Katsukura is always consistent no matter where you're dining, but truth be told, I prefer the Katsukura in Kansai. I think it's more about memories than about the food, but the Katsukura in Kyoto near Daimaru will always be my favourite (though the one at Kobe Mint is probably the nicest one I've ever been to).

Wednesday Feb 22

Breakfast--I woke up early, so I decided to venture out. I knew Tsukiji was closed, but according to Tabelog, Nakaya is open every day. Well, after I got there, I found out it's not. Boo Tabelog! I walked around and had the option of eating at one of the few places in the outside market, but I didn't feel like it. Instead I bought a couple of onigiri (ikura and sea chicken mayo) at Lawson's. The proceeded to Tokyo Station to hang out at Starbuck's with my onigiri and a Matcha Frappuccino.

Snacks--Since I was there, I waited in line at Echire. There were 2 people in line at 9:20, so I joined them. By 10 there were 20+ people. I only got 1 each of the 50% more butter ones, a chausson napoletain, and a slice of butter cake. The 50% butter croissants still rock (especially the salted one), but the chausson napoletain was probably the best pastry I ate during this trip.

I also went to Viron and got one of their Echire croissant as well as a kouign amann. The kouign amann seem different--too light now. But still better than what I can usually get. The Viron Echire croissant was nothing compared to the Echire one, but it wasn't a fair comparison. Must try a taste test b/w regular Echire croissant and Viron Echire croissant.

From here I headed to Ginza to Hidemi Sugino. I bought three cakes to go (Cappuccino, Chantaignes, and Tartelette au Caramel) and a bunch of little financier. I was too tired to sit and eat one of the eat-in only cakes (plus none of them appealed to me), so that was it for HS.

Lunch--back to Tokyo Station for lunch at Aoyuzu. I had the Gindara Hoho-niku set. The other gindara set had a larger piece of gindara, but from what I saw, it had a lot of bones and I was too lazy to pick through the bones. The hoho-niku was moist and tender. Excellently cooked piece of fish. But my favourite of the set was the age-toro (don't know if that's the name). It was absolutely delicious. I thought it was some kind of braised pork at first, but soon realized it was tuna.

Dinner--at Sushi Bar Yasuda. I found my bill, and I paid just over Y6000 for 14 pieces. I wrote about it a little in the Sushi Bar Yasuda thread I started, but I'll just repeat that I thought it was a fine sushi experience. I don't know if it would compare with some of the pricier places out there (Jiro, Kyubei, etc.), but I'd go back.

Thursday Feb. 23

Breakfast: I woke up early again, so I went back to Tsukiji. And I got really lost, venturing to places within the wholesale market that I wasn't supposed to be (according to the sign I found later, visitors are not allowed in the wholesale area until after 9:00). But no one yelled at me or kicked me out, probably because I tried to stay out of the way (in part because I was afraid of getting run over). I finally found Nakaya and had the uni-ikura donburi. Mmmmmmm. . . I love uni and I love ikura. This was a fine breakfast. I also wanted to go to Tenfusa for a nice tendon, but there was a line up by the time I got there, and I didn't feel like waiting.

Lunch: After getting very very lost, I finally made it to Nakajima for the iwashi lunch special. I had fried iwashi. I wanted shioyaki, but they don't do shioyaki anymore. Oh well. It was a wee bit greasy, but I enjoyed my meal. The best part of the meal was the rice, though. I think they use really good rice.

Dinner: OK, I had McD's. By the time I finished at Ghibli Museum, I was hungry and tired, and McD's was just there. I really just wanted an apple pie because they still fry their apple pies in Japan. The apple pie did not disappoint. I also went back to my hotel and ate some pretty frickin' amazing strawberries that I had picked up at Tsukiji. And I ate some of the sweets I bought on Wednesday.

Friday Feb. 24

Breakfast--I started with some of the cakes and pastries from Wednesday, then I went to Omotesando. First stop was Jean Francois to pick up a croissant for my croissant taste test. Then off to Omotesando Koffee and the best cappuccino I've ever had. I also really enjoyed the okashi which is like a cannele but better. Final stop was D'Une Rarite for a cannele and a Rarite (their version of a croissant).

Lunch--Pizzeria Baggio. I had the margherita. I thought their pizza was just OK as far as Neapolitan-style pizza goes. The crust was a little too thick for my tastes, and there was too much cheese. Then we went to Toshi Yoroizuka for dessert. I had the baba. They warn you that it's very strong, and they aren't kidding. I love baba/savarin, and this was definitely the most rummy one I've ever had. It was fine, but I don't think I'd ever stand in line for TY.

Dinner--Met up with a former student for an OK Italian dinner in Shinjuku. It might be a chain, but I can't remember the name (or much about the food).

Saturday Feb 25

My last day in Tokyo
Breakfast--the last of the cakes, pastries and strawberries. Whew! I didn't think I'd ever finish them.

Lunch--got lost looking for Fu'unji, but managed to get there in time to make it in for the first seating. I eat ramen very slowly, though, so I didn't finish until the first people of the second seating finished. The ramen was good, but very filling.

Snack--I met a former student at Harbs. Strawberry cake--strawberries were good. Cake was OK. Very light and fluffy, but too much whipped cream.

Dinner--I don't think I had dinner. Or maybe I had croissant. Oh! I had a croque monseiur from Dominique Saibron, and also a croissant.

That was it for Tokyo. I took the night bus to Kyoto that night (where I had an unfortunate happening at a rest stop in Shiga).

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  1. Waouh ! You chased the 'best croissant' at Tokyo.. So, what did you think of Jean-Francois, or the hedgehog croissant of D'une rarete, or the croissant of Dominique Saibron(Ginza Mitsukoshi ones>Shibuya)... But after returning back what was the most obvious thing you have had that missed you ? Is it the 'miso shiru(miso soup)', the 'lunch set', ..

    5 Replies
    1. re: Ninisix

      I have to precise that the croissant Echire I have had, due to the high temperature (summer time), the Echire better unfortunately did go to the bottom.. and it felt like eating a 'gratin' with my morning coffee !! Perhaps, more recommended in winter, but at 399.-yens per piece, I don't agree on that may be a bad day !

      1. re: Ninisix

        Of the non-50% more butter croissant (i.e. every croissant but Echire's), I think I liked Jean Francois' best (the one at Omotesando Station). d'une rarete's was very buttery, but it was much greasier than the others and very difficult to eat. The Dominique Saibron I visited was in Shinjuku-sanchome. It was fine. Maybe the second best of the regular croissant. The one I liked the least was the Viron Echire croissant. Not very flavourful, and quite dry.

        By "lunch set" do you mean my lunch at Aoyuzu? The hohoniku set included all the stuff in this picture http://www.flickr.com/photos/27022368... --some tsukemono, the age-toro, onsen tamago, miso-shiru, some kind of nimono. . .

        I think the thing I missed most about Japan was (surprisingly to me) the seafood. I found myself craving seafood a lot, and I wanted to bring it back with me (most fish is OK to bring to Canada, but I ended up with just some uni). It's just so much fresher there, and of much better quality than what I can find in the Canadian prairies. I found craving fish surprising because I don't recall eating a lot of seafood when I lived in Japan. I ate fish at home, but rarely when I went out to eat.

        But if you meant what food did I miss eating (i.e. that I should have eaten but didn't). . . I'm not sure if there's anything I really regret not eating. I did miss Gokuri--I searched everywhere for grapefruit-flavoured Gokuri and only found peach or mandarin orange. My friend found a couple of cans somewhere after I left, though. I was very sad!

        Well, there's always next time! Seconds of all the good stuff I had, plus I'll get to eat all the things I didn't have!

        1. re: prasantrin

          Glad to see a new adept on seafood, especially sea urchins in Japan are great, there is 100varieties !! The best ones eaten are for me for sure at Sukiyabashi Jiro Ginza (=murasaki uni). And the speciality of Sushi Araki is to served them a bit cold, so it's like feeling eating an ice cream !! Ok, I stop here my stories on seafood... or I mignt continue for too too long..
          Thank you for the photos of your meal at Aoyuzu, in reading your review it seemed like a nice lunch !!
          Croissant, I have to queue also at Echire, and after have had a bite, I thought taste really differs between persons..same as you about the Viron's.. but D'une rarete, I liked the crunch !

          1. re: prasantrin

            Suntory seems to change up the flavors of Gokuri that are on the market at any one time. The competitive nature of the beverage market in Japan seems to mandate such tactics.

            1. re: gkanai

              That sucks for me. I only like the grapefruit flavour, and it's my favourite grapefruit-flavoured beverage of all time! It's not too bitter or too sweet, and it has just the right amount of pulp. It's perfect!

        2. You mentioned Nishinomiya. I've family from that area. Was there any place you particularly liked in the Nishinomiya/Ashiya area?

          5 Replies
          1. re: gkanai

            I lived in Nishinomiya for six years. I haven't posted about the Kansai portion of my trip, yet, but will do so shortly! I didn't get to eat much (was only in Nishinimoya for a couple of days), but I do have many many old favourites from my time there.

            1. re: prasantrin

              Ah, memories! I used to live in Nishinomiya as well - went to Kangaku for a bit (and never managed to figure out why they call it Kwangaku). I miss Kansai.

              1. re: Asomaniac

                I had an acquaintance who taught there, and she said the teachers there are very particular about the pronunciation (I always called it Kangaku, as my students did, but those teachers emphasized kWangaku). I worked down the road at the "famous" girls school. (ETA--didn't Uncle Yabai go to KanGaku, too?)

                I loved living in Nishinomiya almost as much as I loved living in Kyoto. My favourite burger place is in Nishinomiya (but near JR Nishinomiya). My favourite neapolitan pizza place is in Kurakuen (which is either Nishinomiya or Kobe, I'm not sure). Lots of great food places can be found in Nishinomiya.

                1. re: prasantrin

                  ...not to mention the proximity of Sannomiya where I would get all my ingredients for lots of spicy cooking. Miss it!

                  I'll have to check with Uncle Yabai, not sure.

                  1. re: Asomaniac

                    Don't forget the proximity of Osaka where all the Thai grocery stores are! The best Indian provisions stores were in Sannomiya, though.

                    It wasn't Uncle Yabai. I did a search, and it appears you and I have had a similar conversation before. We must be getting senile and forgot! :-)