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Jan 26, 2014 07:57 PM

January Tokyo trip report

Hi all,

Thanks again for all of your suggestions. We had a truly excellent time in Japan and I'm already planning my trip back to Asia! Here's a quick roundup of all the spots we tried:

Birdland: we did the yakitori pre-set menu. The chicken was moist, tender and so flavorful. The gingko nuts were definitely something we had never tried before either!

Tsukiji Market: I'm not sure of the name of the place (photo attached if anyone can translate), it was a couple of doors down from Sushi Dai and packed with workers from the market, so we thought it was a good bet. Sushi was delicious, of course, and the miso soup had fish in it, which was something new for us.

We tried out many, many pastries at Mitsukoshi and Matsuya. I think my favorite were the sandwich cookies from Circa.

Sometaro in Asakusa: this is where we went to try okonomiyaki. I hope I can find a decent version in NYC because we absolutely loved this. The waitress helped us cook everything and it was great to be able to take off our shoes and relax after sightseeing.

RyuGin: beautiful, as expected. I've never seen more elaborate and gorgeous plating. Standouts were the crudos and the sake ice cream and souffle at the end.

Rokurinsha on Ramen Street: I had no idea that ramen could be taken to this level. The broth was so rich, so complex and so incredibly tasty that I don't think I'll ever have a better one. Definitely worth waiting in line for (again and again).

Maisen in Harajuku: again, so much better than katsu stateside. We ordered what everyone else seemed to be getting (pork cutlet with the shredded salad) and it was crisp without being too heavy. The dipping sauces were my favorite part, I especially loved the one with apple.

Sushi Mizutani: This was probably one of the most special dining experiences I'll ever have and it wasn't necessarily because of the food (which was fresh and fabulous, of course). We were lucky enough to get seated next to a woman who was fluent in English and Japanese (as well as being a regular) and by the end of the meal we were doing shots of whiskey with Mizutani himself. What a charming and talented man! Even if you don't speak a lick of Japanese, like us, totally worth it.

Airport sushi: we stopped at Kyotatsu twice during layovers and it was a super enjoyable meal served very quickly. I recommend the tuna special.

Treats: I couldn't believe the variety of KitKats! We stocked up on both regular matcha and sakura blossom matcha as well as strawberry cheesecake and spicy chocolate. I was too skeptical about the wasabi to try, haha. Also loved trying all the Tokyo Banana products, but I think my favorite were the caramel banana sponge cakes.

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  1. On those KitKats, you should have tried the Wasabi since the worst it would be is just a bit weird. Lots of kids have them, so any wasabi flavor will not ever be shocking.

    1. I like the tokyo shoyu kitkats, the weirdest one I've seen is mentai mango

      2 Replies
      1. re: Shirang

        The shoyu ones taste like maple and the maple ones also taste like maple. I liked the golden citrus from Shikoku. They taste like creamsicles.

        1. re: Silverjay

          The shoyu ones taste like mitarashi dango to me

      2. The name of that sushi shop is Okame. I think it's good to have another place mentioned outside of standards that are always mentioned. Price and quality of all of them are probably very close....Miso soup can have a piece of fish or shrimp heads or crab or shijimi (tiny clams).

        1. I bought wasabi and rum raisin Kit Kats to bring back to the US, figuring that the first was a joke and the second would be good. Turns out the rum raisin wasn't very good - just tasted greasy to me, like poor quality white chocolate. The wasabi was pretty good, though. It wasn't too sharp, just enough to cut that same mediocre white chocolate mouth feel and add interest. I'd actually recommend it.

          10 Replies
          1. re: jmarek

            Where have you found these Kit Kats? I'm in Tokyo now and all I've seen are strawberry and chocolate. Got a good place? Thanks.

              1. re: wolmania

                The airport also has a ton and I think you can only get the matcha there?

                1. re: JulesTei

                  I found the Tokyo, Kanto, Yokohama, and Shizuoka region flavors (which include wasabi and rum raisin) at a store on the lower level of Narita Terminal 1 in mid-December. The level where the ticket booths and fare gates are for the Narita Express and Keisei trains. The store was near the express elevators to the 4th floor.

                2. re: wolmania

                  pretty much any convenience store would have the matcha if in season. If not in season, then tourist shops (like at airports or shinkansen stations). In Ameyayokocho, there's a discount candy/snack shop that sells many kinds of specialty kit kats.

                  If you happen to make it down to Kyoto, a few stores along Nishiki also carry it (including the big ones).

                  1. re: prasantrin

                    Waited on line 20 minutes and all that was left were Sakura Green Tea Kit Kats. Everything else was sold out. I'll check the airport on my way to Penang tomorrow. Thanks.

                    1. re: wolmania

                      Airport has a ton, I was just there on Sunday (strawberry cheesecake, wasabi, matcha, rum raisin, etc). There's also a great snack store inside Tokyo Station across from Rokurinsha Ramen if you happen to be leaving from there to go to the airport.

                      1. re: JulesTei

                        We found a few flavours in the small shops in large train stations, but found the largest selection at Narita airport too.

                3. re: jmarek

                  Interestingly, the rum raisin is one I really liked... yes cheap white chocolate, but it's a kit kat, so that's to be expected, but I really liked the rum raisin flavour! :-)

                4. Sounds like a great balance of eating, what a lovely report. And what luck you had at Mizutani, can see why you will cherish the memory of that meal!

                  The wasabi kit kat was one of my favourites of the flavours we picked up in 2012, along with hojicha and rum raisin! On the last trip, we didn't find as many new flavours but we have a couple waiting for me to try...
                  Here's the ones from the first trip: