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Honeymoon in Tokyo/Kyoto for foodies!

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Really appreciate any and all help.

My fiance and I will be heading to Tokyo on September 16th after our wedding and will spend three nights there and three nights in Kyoto. Here is what I have so far, and need help on:

Tokyo:

Staying at the Ritz Carlton (in Minato-ku)

Arrive at about 12:30pm

Lunch: We'll be tired, but will walk around to try and beat the jet-lag. Something easy and relatively quick. Any suggestion on a ramen/udon/soba place nearby? Please note: Not ippudo, we have one in NYC and while I'm sure Tokyo is better, I'd like to branch out.

Dinner: Again, something easy, fun, preferably close to the hotel. I've heard a lot of talk (good and bad... mostly good) about Birdland, Kushimura and Gonpachi - not sure which is considered "best" and which is closest to hotel.

Following Day:

Fish Market, Sushi Breakfast (probably Sushi Dai depending on the line)
During the day we'll probably do the following:

Meji Shrine -> walk to Harajuku -> walk to Omotesando -> walk around and get lost.

If anyone knows any good lunch spots along that route, that would be great. Again, noodles sound great - but we're totally open, would eat anything. Your recommendations are valued.

Dinner: Tempura Kondo (is this place stuffy? Or cool?)

Following Day:

Breakfast: No idea, probably hotel
Lunch: Maybe Sushi Saito? Heard it's the "best lunch deal in town" or I read an article about doing a food crawl through Asakusa stopping at places like: Raishuken, Koyanagi, Asakisa Namiki Yabu Soba, Sansada, Kamiya Bar, Suzuyo

We have sumo tickets for that day, but I understand that this starts around 3-4pm

During the day I've heard Naka-Meguro and Daikanyama are great neighborhoods to walk around and get lost. Maybe we go to the major anime area (forget the name).

Dinner: No idea really - so many options and I have been reading until my eyes bleed.

I think Park Hyatt for drinks (a bit cliche but heard it's still great)

then for dinner:

Sushi Mizutani
Sushi Kyubey
Narisawa
Ramen: Gogyo, Yatai Nagahamya #1, Maisan for tonkotsu. Menya Kissou for Ramen (any of these near where we will be in previous days? or by the hotel?)
This place apparently called Yakitori Alley by Westerners only: http://blog.wandr.me/2011/07/dining-u...

Obviously if we went to Mizutani or Kyubey (or any other sushi place for dinner we wouldn't do Saito for lunch

)

The next day we travel to Kyoto and are staying at Ryoken Tawaraya that night. So dinner that night and breakfast the next morning are done. Then we check into the Ritz.

I've been focusing all my efforts on Tokyo, so Kyoto is totally up in the air. I've heard of the following:

Shoraian: Tofu place, right? Could be cool
Yamashita: Is all over chowhound as an awesome spot

Samboa Bar (and some steak place that the bartender will take you to if you ask)

A friend of mine said the following:

There is a duck ramen joint which was hard to find but delicious. There is a long strip that used to be the red light district which is now all converted to restaurants and bars. we found an amazing counter only sushi spot there - marble topped and sushi put straight on it bit by bit.

For both Tokyo and Kyoto - we like cool spots, great food, great drinks - I don't want to go to the Robot Restaurant, I don't want to go where there are all ex-pats and Westerners. I really want to experience Japan and blow my mind.

Well, that's all I got. Really appreciate you reading all the way through and helping me figure out the important parts of my honeymoon.

Oren

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  1. A few comments:

    Day 1 lunch: There are some very casual places in the basement of the complex where your hotel is located. I like the heirloom-breed pork cutlet at Hirata Bokujo (http://www.bento.com/rev/3373.html ) and they have the advantage of being open all afternoon, in case you miss the lunchtime window. Suzunami (http://www.bento.com/rev/3922.html ), is also quite good - they serve sake-marinated grilled fish.

    Day 1 dinner: Hachibei (http://www.bento.com/rev/0900.html ) is very near your hotel, and serves fantastic yakitori.

    >I read an article about doing a food crawl through Asakusa stopping at places like: Raishuken, Koyanagi, Asakisa Namiki Yabu Soba, Sansada, Kamiya Bar, Suzuyo

    "Food crawls" tend to be evening events - things aren't really set up that way at lunchtime. But yes, you should totally do a food crawl in the evening sometime.

    >Maisan for tonkotsu.

    Is there actually a tonkotsu ramen shop called Maisan? Are you getting confused with Maisen, which serves tonkatsu (a completely different dish)? Note that very similar-sounding words in Japanese have different meaning, and similar-sounding names belong to completely different shops.

    >This place apparently called Yakitori Alley by Westerners only

    Probably not just "Westerners." The atmosphere is fun, but the overall quality level is fairly mediocre.

    >I don't want to go where there are all ex-pats and Westerners. I really want to experience Japan and blow my mind.

    Don't worry, with your list you'll run into plenty of Chinese tourists as well. I'd suggest you skip the touristy sushi shops in Tsukiji, and try to broaden your horizons beyond just sushi, noodles and Michelin stars - there's lots more going on than that.

    Have a great trip!

    13 Replies
    1. re: Robb S

      In Harajuku, you could check out the branch of Jangara, a ramen chain that serves a very "assertive" tonkotsu broth. I also like Komen, another chain with an interesting blended broth.

      I agree with Robb on the irony of your listed places (are people downloading a template or something?) vs. your desires for who you want to avoid.

      1. re: Silverjay

        Thanks Robb and Silverjay!

        Totally understand and recognize the irony of the places I wrote and what I ideally envision my trip being. While I would love to find the hidden places and drink and eat with locals, I do only have 3 nights, so I have to try and get things set up, and understand they will be touristy.

        I do have some suggestions for snacks and late-night drinks and stuff like that along the way: Chibo for okonomiyaki, Tonki for katsu, Naniwaya for taiyaki.

        In regards to dinner, we are pretty set on Kondo (assuming we can get in, but not sure what we should do the next night for dinner. Narisawa, Sushi Saito, Sushi Mizutani - just not sure what we should do. Any thoughts? And feel free to say "none of these - go to this amazing place that is cool and the food is delicious - it has no michelin stars and is not written up. That's fine by me).

        Definitely going to try and branch out aside from sushi and noodles, but when in Rome... for only three days... and the wife-to-be loves sushi... well, I'm sure you get it.

        Lastly, and places close to the hotels for late-night snacking/drinking?

        1. re: orenshapiro

          I wouldn't call okonomiyaki and tonkatsu snacks. They are not light eating. Not really considered late night drinking foods either.

          Personally, if I'm in Japan for only 3 days, tempura doesn't make the cut. Especially for dinner. That's just me. I think the idea of an evening food crawl sounds like best part of your plan. Or consider a place with good seafood and sake selection.

          The three restaurants you listed seem to be on all the Michelin lemmings list. So I would check out the boneyard of reservation threads for advice how to even get into them.

          Menya Kissou is going to be a detour from center of city and probably a long wait. So might want to consider somewhere near one of your sightseeing destinations.

          1. re: Silverjay

            Well we want to go to one amazing sushi place - Jiro is too expensive and more-so, too fast of a meal for my fiancé to enjoy it so I was deciding between mizutank, Saito and kyubey.

            Do you have a preference or one that I haven't even mentioned?

            Any recommendations for an excellent seafood/sake place instead of the tempura?

            Was hoping the concierge at the hotel could help with reservations...

            Thanks again - appreciate this so much.

            1. re: orenshapiro

              I think tempura for one meal is fine, since there is no good to amazing Tempura in NYC, maybe do Tempura in Kyoto instead, I actually prefer Kyoto(kansai) style tempura. I would give up on Saito already because everyone and their mother wants to go to Saito. I like Mizutani the man himself, but I think there are many better places for the money.

              Maybe a ramen place like Matador, Junk Garage, one the Keisukes, these types of ramen dont exist in the US.

          2. re: orenshapiro

            Naniwaya (I assume you mean the Azabu Juban location) isn't open at night. I think they officially close at 8pm, but anything after 7pm is hit or miss. I don't know the opening hours for the rest of the sembei and sweets shops on that street, but I'd assume they all shut down early evening.

            1. re: orenshapiro

              I assume you know Shimizu-san at 15 East? He's got a recommendation for a sushi place a few blocks from the Ritz that you're staying at. I've been once maybe 3 years ago or so - I can't say it was particularly memorable relative to all the other usual places in Tokyo. But given location, I'd check it out.

              Ah found it on Tabelog. Pretty well regarded there I guess.

              http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1307/A13070...

              Personally, if I were staying at the Ritz again and looking for Japanese food nearby, I'd hit the Jojoen across the street for yakiniku, Itamae down towards Tokyo Tower a bit for cheap 24 hour sushi or Ippudo two blocks away for tonkotsu ramen. I know you rejected it in your original post, but I find it is different and far more satisfying than the 10th Street location.

              But honestly, I'd leave Roppongi. It's not that hard to grab a cab to Ebisu or Ginza even or some other place in town. Tokyo's a rather small city, in some ways smaller than Manhattan.

              I've got a bias for the Kyubey in the Hotel Okura, which isn't that far away from you. That's what I'd do after a long flight into Narita then off to the Ritz with a craving for sushi. But I like that place for sentimental reasons rather than pure sushi quality. But I doubt many NYCers would be disappointed, tbh.

              1. re: jjcha314

                Tokyo is a small city? And compared to Manhattan? I'm trying to figure out how someone could come to that conclusion. Interesting.

                1. re: Silverjay

                  I can see how that can be confusing.

                  For example, in Manhattan, to get the best Korean food in town, you have to hop in a cab 15-30 minutes to get to K-Town (I'm excluding Flushing).

                  In Tokyo it's about the same amount of time to get from the usual locations inside the Yamanote loop to get to Okubo or Akasaka.

                  In San Francisco, where I'm at, at the moment, you need to get in a car and drive over an hour to get from downtown to Santa Clara.

                  When it comes to a time traveled to good food perspective, NYC and Tokyo are smaller cities than San Francisco or Los Angeles.

                  1. re: jjcha314

                    Why would you hop in a cab to K-town when there multiple subway lines right there? And what extreme part of Manhattan are you traveling from that it takes 30 minutes to get there? I walk from 14th or Grand Central to K-Town all the time. It's nothing. Chowhound worthy Manhattan is a small box from Wall St. to 59th St. and 1st Ave to 10 Ave. Or something along those lines.

                    Plot Shinjuku, Ebisu, Asakusa, and Tsukiji on a map and look at how much ground that is and then consider walking between any of those two points.

                    Not sure how Santa Clara gets into the convo. Ikebukuro to Motomachi in Yokohama (by train not taxi) takes how long?

                    Public transport in LA sucks. Oh well. Tokyo compensates for it's size and density with excellent public transport.

                2. re: jjcha314

                  Thank you so much! Very helpful info!

                  Currently I'm waiting to hear back from my concierge in regards to the possibility of getting reservations at some of the "best-ranked" sushi places...

                  I heard cabs are a nightmare cost-wise and the subway is the way to go...

                  The first day and night it just really depends on how we feel. I hope that we are so amped up from our wedding and to finally be celebrating our honeymoon that we crush it all night! But, after a 14 hour flight, we may very well crash in which case we'd want to be close to the hotel.

                  Thanks again!

                  1. re: jjcha314

                    The Kanto Plain has 35 million people compared to around 20 million in the NYC metro. Tokyo city is also larger than NY. It's much larger than Manhattan by any stretch.

                3. re: Silverjay

                  To the OP - if you're interested in Komen which Silverjay recommended there's also one right there, basically across the street from your hotel, kinda towards Roppongi crossing. It's a great suggestion for a solid chain ramen that's really convenient to your hotel. Your hotel staff will definitely be able to direct you.

                  I personally would hit both Komen and Ippudo (and compare them) if I were a tourist and craving ramen in that area.

                  A little more of a walk is Akanoren, which has a solid bowl of tonkotsu as well.

                  From a tourist in Harajuku perspective, the Jangara Ramen there is certainly hard to beat. I personally like the bonshan versus their regular ramen, but I like assertive broths.

              2. I think you'll find that if there's consensus about anything on this board, it's Gonpachi.

                Afuri (Harajuku location) sounds like it fits the bill for your meiji jingu lunch.

                3 Replies
                  1. re: Uncle Yabai

                    I wonder why the tourist guides like Time Out, Frommer's, Lonley Planet etc still keeps recomending that place.

                    1. re: Roysen

                      so I'm guessing totally nix Gonpachi from my list... Done!

                1. We went to Shoraian in May. I was disappointed. The hospitality is very good and so is the setting. Some of the dishes were quite good, but what really ruined it for me was the old shrimp they served me. A restaurant that charges as much as it does should NEVER put a shrimp as old and over cooked as the one they gave me on the table.

                  8 Replies
                    1. re: Uncle Yabai

                      That's what I was thinking. I don't remember having shrimp when I went there, but I looked at photos online, and saw a couple with shrimp. Maybe they got too many complaints from furreners about the lack of meat/fish? ;-)

                      1. re: prasantrin

                        When I made my reservation, there was an option of JPY 5,800 vs JPY 4,600 for the addition of wagyu beef, I believe.

                        1. re: PAO

                          That's like one itty bitty shrimp, and it's definitely not the centerpiece. So you went to one of the world's best tofu restaurants, and you complained about the shrimp?

                          1. re: Uncle Yabai

                            You bet. Why, for the price we had to pay for Shoraian, shouldn't the shrimp be fresh? There's impeccably fresh shrimp all over Japan. I wasn't all that impressed with the rest of the food either. I think they're resting on their laurels. The tofu restaurant we went to in Tokyo was hands down better.

                            1. re: PAO

                              So before I write to the Ritz in Kyoto and ask them to book a reservation at Shoraian, what are some other places you all recommend?

                              I like the idea of a tofu restaurant, even though I am definitively a carnivore, because it seems like something special and out of the ordinary.

                              Am I better off going with a beef place, or a seafood place? We are already doing a Kaiseki meal at our Ryokan, Tawaraya. We'll have plenty of sushi and noodles in Tokyo.

                              Thanks!

                              1. re: PAO

                                Where was that? Tofuya Ukai, or somewhere else?

                      2. Thanks Everyone!

                        Really appreciate all the feedback - love this site.

                        I think I am going to do the following:

                        Day 1 Lunch/Dinner - Follow Robb S. advice - easy, close and apparently delicious.

                        For Dinners, I am going to do the following:

                        E-mail the hotel - for night 2, I am still kind of lost. Based on the discussion, I think I will shy away from the Tempura and take care of that in Kyoto, maybe for lunch. I will look up a number of places and maybe ask them to try and get me reservations at Den, Gonpachi, do a food crawl as mentioned previously, or just get lost with the wife and walk around for drinks and food - maybe drinks at Park Hyatt to start.

                        For night 3, I will e-mail the hotel and ask to try and get reservations for:

                        Saito
                        Sawada
                        Mizutani
                        Miyako
                        Yoshitake
                        Kyubey (although I read somewhere that this place is 'big business' which I don't really like the sound of), but a client of mine that goes frequently says he loves it. Any thoughts?

                        **we will be going to sumo that day - any of these places close to the arena?

                        For lunch, just kind of go with the flow and use all your suggestions to try some different ramen, udon, soba, okonomiyaki and tonkatsu - depends on where I am.

                        Kyoto: I think I will still try and get a reservation at Shoraian - I want to try the tofu experience, and Pao, you loved everything except for one "old" shrimp - I'm hoping that's just a mess up on there part. And then maybe go for a teppanyaki place like Hafuu, or go to Yamashita which I've read all over chowhound as a great place.

                        What do you guys think? Any more advice??

                        THANK YOU!! Can't wait for a very memorable honeymoon.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: orenshapiro

                          "Kyubey (although I read somewhere that this place is 'big business' which I don't really like the sound of)".

                          So why are you booking into Gonpachi, then? There are actually 7 Gonpachi shops in Tokyo, and they're owned by a huge parent company called Global Dining. Gonpachi is about as authentic as the exaggerated stories linking it to Kill Bill are.

                          1. re: wekabeka

                            And that's why I'm posting! Because I wasn't sure. Gonpachi is OUT.

                          2. re: orenshapiro

                            Miyako is not far from Ryogoku, where the sumo arena is. But it's quite possible the only one of those shops you'll get a resrv at is Kyubey- not that there isn't like another 20-30 shops worth looking into.

                            You could also eat at a chanko nabe place in Ryogoku. This is a huge varied type of hot pot specialty for that area. I've posted some listings in the past.

                            Another option is to head down a short ways to Morishita and check out Yamariki, a kind of historic family run izakaya that serves beef nikomi, grilled pork skewers, and actually some good veggie dishes as well. They have an English website. If you research Morishita, you may also come up with another place or two worth popping into. This is in the original part of Tokyo low city. Although it doesn't have an old school look to it, the vibe is still there.

                            1. re: Silverjay

                              Thanks so much, Silverjay.

                              Would you recommend Morishita over Asakusa?

                              Really, really appreciate it!

                              Oren

                              1. re: orenshapiro

                                Asakusa is a more dynamic, interesting, albeit touristy part of town. I was merely recommending a specific restaurant, which you had requested.

                                1. re: Silverjay

                                  Right - appreciate that... Just trying to combine "experiencing Japan" while also the food.

                                  Have you heard anything, good or bad, about the following places in Asakusa: Raishuken, Koyanagi, Asakisa Namiki Yabu Soba, Sansada, Kamiya Bar, Suzuyo?

                                  1. re: orenshapiro

                                    Couldn't find Suzuyo, but others don't appeal to me. There are a bunch of soba places in Asakusa though. It's a popular lunch time meal...Nearby Tokyo SkyTree, which is an attraction in itself, has a bunch of daytime dining options.

                                    Near Asakusa I've always wanted to go to Otafuku one evening but haven't made it. Wekabeka has written about it and also listed other Asakusa nighttime options.

                                      1. re: Silverjay

                                        Funnily enough, I was over that way today, in Sendagi, cooling my beak in a bowl of nama Hokkaido melon kakigori at Himitsudo. Yum!

                                        Here is the link to that conversation. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9176...

                            2. If you enjoy treat classic (and sometimes not-so-classic) cocktails, I highly recommend Star Bar (1-5-13 Ginza)

                              http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2...

                              1 Reply