Brief trip report....Tokyo and surrounds....(well, maybe not so brief:-)
We had a great 9 days in Tokyo visiting our son who lives in Meguro-ku, and ate well every day. Unfortunately, many times I did not note the names of restaurants...as I couldn't read the signs. And of course anyone who's been to that great city knows that addresses can be impossible (many streets don't even have names). So I have tried to stick to directions where possible...and to give you a feel for the place.
One advance warning: Not only is my husband a pescaterian (sp?) who won't eat meat, so is my son's girlfriend who accompanied us for most meals. So we avoided meat and thus no doubt some good meals ....so this report will be fish-centric. For example, we ate udon and soba, but never had ramen, as son said that you cannot find it without meat in the broth. Sigh.....I did have a really good tonkatsu our last day at a restaurant on the western edge of town...but other than telling you that it was on the fifth floor of a large mall across from the train station I can't tell you anything else. Son took me there because he knew DH and his girlfriend weren't hungry and we were, and he told me: "I know where you can get a really good piece of pork" (and of course he was right:-).
We were good chowhounds, and on a couple of occasions DH and I entered places where no one spoke English and we had no choice other than to point...but we survived. Son told us that he doesn't like fancy places, just good food, so that's what we stuck to. Most of the places we ate were on his recommendation or were close to where we stayed (in an apartment about two blocks east of Meguro Station).
We did not have a bad meal in Tokyo. Even a veggie burger (actually a corn fritter on a bun with lettuce and tomato) at Mos Burger (local chain)was good. And for those who have never been there before, there may not be a bad cup of coffee in Tokyo. Most local coffee houses are quite good and priced comparable to the US. Oh, and do not hesitate to try the french pastries. Delicious! A local chain called CHOCHOCO or something like that was next door to our apartment (on Meguro-dori about a block or two east of the train station on your left as you walk away from the station). They had GREAT lattes and better chocolate croissants; it became a regular morning stop. That was a very pleasant surprise to find....
Our first evening we ate a late, light meal at Bistro Go Ma Ya, which is just across from the east exit of Meguro station. Don't have an address (card is in Japanese) but the telephone number is 03-3770-8158. Sort of a French-Japanese fusion place. Cozy and Romantic. We ate late (close to midnight) and the place was still packed; reservations might be a good idea. I wasn't very hungry, but did eat a beautiful shrimp/avocado salad (see pic); ingredients very fresh and tasty. And if you go there you must have the sesame tofu....yum!! My son had some sausage that looked good. DH had miso soup with clams which he enjoyed; son's SO had a salad. It seemed a little pricey but I'm not sure: son disappeared and paid the bill before we saw it. Pic above of my avocado salad...a piece of art, really!
The second day we were there the weather was beautiful, and since it was forecast to be the best day all week we decided it was time to take the Shinkansen (bullet train) to get a glimpse of Mt. Fujii. Mission accomplished! But two food notes: as you leave the train station at Fujinomiya (we took a local train from the Mt. Fujii Shinkansen station to get closer to the mountain) you will walk across an elevated walkway and then descend stairs to the street. All the action is to the left, so take the left-hand stairway. At the corner, turn right, and on your right is a great tea shop. They specialize in macha (sp?), the powdered green tea. The owner promised us that if we drank it every day we would live practically forever; how could we not buy some? Continue down that street and take the first shopping alley (well, I guess its really a street, but narrow enough to be an alley) to your left. About three quarters of the way up on the left hand side is the restaurant where we had the best meal of our trip. I guess I was still jet-lagged; I didn't think to get a card and none of us can remember the name. Look for a small place with wood interior; about four tatami rooms and a small sushi bar. That's it. The owner/chef told us he'd been there about 40 years; his wife is the waitress. His sushi is very good (DH had the cucumber roll as an appetizer), but the shrimp and vegetable tempura was the best I'd ever had. Not even a whisper of oil; perfectly fried. yum. More of that great clam miso soup to start. A late/large lunch for four, with plenty of beer, was about 50 or 60 dollars. (and remember, no tipping in Japan:-) We will be back.
And now to Shibuya. First of all, our son introduced us to a great dive soccer bar there. SRO only (no seats), called Tasuichi. Its on the end of Basketball Street on the left-hand side (exit Shibuya station by the Hachiko statue, and look across the big intersection for the most narrow of the streets branching out; its at about 10 o'clock) Non-stop soccer games (pre-recorded) on the TVs, and cheap drinks. Pints and "high balls" (whisky and soda, served in a mug) are 300 yen (about 3 bucks). They serve a stout that is Japanese, but hard to find, and rivals Guinness (forgot the name; son told me but it didn't stick...). (Ask for "dark beer" and you'll get it; the bartender speaks a little English). A young crowd, but that's true in all of Shibuya. And plenty of interesting people from all over the world to talk to....At those prices you'll want another:-)
The soccer dive bar serves a few food items (mostly snacks), but you'll want to head back down Basketball street towards Shibuya Station. There you'll find the Standing Sushi Bar. No idea if that's the real name, but the only English signage says just that. It will be on your right as you walk down Basketball from Shibuya Station, or on your left if you head to the soccer bar first for beers (as we did on several occasions:-). It is, as the name implies, a stand-up bar...so be prepared. Tea and sushi, and maybe miso soup if you ask for it, and that's it. (You help yourself to water and tea..they have the powdered macha which you mix with hot water from a container...don't make the mistake my husband did and confuse the macha powder for wasabi...it sort of looks like wasabi but the sushi chef will give you exactly the amount of wasabi he thinks each piece needs right on the piece..and of course he is always right..That's the best sushi I've ever eaten. We found ourselves returning a couple of times...The chefs make good veggie rolls, which made DH happy, but honestly, the fish is so fresh and delicious, why wouldn't you want it? My son rightly suggested just to let the chef pick his favorites of the day....delicious. Sushi there runs about 300 yen (3 dollars) for two pieces; given the quality its quite reasonable. No charge for tea. We ended up spending about 15 to 20 dollars a person each time we ate there. Highly recommended. DH and I ate one night in a sushi bar in Meguro and although it was fine, it paled compared to the standing sushi bar...and was slightly more expensive.
Our last day of the trip we wandered around Ebisu a bit, and DH was starting to complain that he needed some Indian food, so when we saw a little place called Local India just west of the station we had lunch there. They have a good vegetable curry, and it was spicy, and the restaurant was attractive...but not worth going out of the way for. Besides, it was probably one of the more expensive lunches we ate the entire trip (around 25 for two).
Two final notes: my second picture is of the ice cream concoctions served in the evening at CHOCHOCO (mentioned above). I had the mango one night: mango ice cream and mango custard served over pound cake, with soft serve vanilla ice cream and fresh mango pieces on top....oh, and corn flakes on the cake for a little crunch. Better than it sounds, trust me....About 6 dollars for a sundae.
Finally, more Indian food notes: someone had mentioned Rasoi west of Meguro for South Indian. We found the restaurant, but never ate there...no South Indian dishes on the menu anymore. Strictly North Indian.
But here IS a tip worth noting (and son did note it, as he lives near Meguro): if you walk east on Meguro-dori from the Meguro station, and take the first alley on your right after the light, at the end of the alley and across the street look for a small Indian food store on the second story of what appears to be a residence. Its called Maya, and although it is small they do have a very good spice selection, as well as a good selection of dals and basmati rice (otherwise unheard of in Japan), some Indian snacks, and some frozen foods.
If I think of anything else will post later. Guess this report wasn't so brief. Sorry....
Thanks for the report. By the way, there are some places that serve ramen that isn't just meatless, but is completely vegan in addition to their meaty offerings. I'm not sure I'd go out of my way for any of them, just so you'll know next time.
Thinking about it, the award for "best meal of the trip" may have to go to a dinner (lunch, actually, but we were still sitting at the table nibbling and talking around 5pm:-) at the home of my son's girlfriend's parents. Homestyle Japanese, with maybe a touch of French thrown in. Anyway, one of the dishes was delicious, and I never did get a name for it: it was like a savory custard, but with vegetables and chicken pieces inside. Does this ring a bell with anyone? And another dish almost reminded me of a taquito: it was a thin crepe-like pancake, filled with a potato mixture, and then fried. DH really liked that one. There must have been at least 10 dishes on the table; we left stuffed. Fortunately, they were very pleased with our addition to the meal (Two bottles of a Sonoma Cabernet, purchased at the duty free shop in LAX. yes, prices there were high, but at least then we didn't have to risk packing red wine in checked luggage:-)
And another little (tiny actually, seats about a dozen people) place that my husband really liked is called the Glass Onion. It was on Setengaya-dori a few blocks from the Sengenjaya Station (long story how/why we ended up there. Anyway, we were wandering around the neighborhood getting hungrier and hungrier, and agreed to just take a chance on the first restaurant we saw. The Glass Onion was it. They only had three lunch specials; its really more of a bar than a restaurant. A Beatles bar btw; some really cool old Beatles stuff (album covers, dolls, etc) decorate the place. I had a pork dish served over rice (pork sauteed with vegetables). No idea what it was called: this was one of those "just point at what you want and hope" type of places. No English spoken, despite all the Beatles stuff. DH had a type of omelet served over rice with sauce. He absolutely loved it. Lunch specials were 900 yen (nine dollars) and came with either a large (for Japan) salad or miso soup. The place was fun.