Tokyo and Kyoto – Part 6 – Day 6 Nishiki Market

When you go to Kyoto, you simply must stop at the Nishiki market; there’s no questions asked. Our advice is to go for lunch, with an empty stomach, do not get doubles for anything – just share every piece.

The market is generally open between 9 – 5, most stores closed on Wednesdays and Sundays. Of course this varies by store, but since we lived close to the Nishiki Market, it wasn’t a big hassle to come back if we wanted to try anything that was closed (which did happen – Gogyo)

In the order of the pictures:

The tamagoyaki (egg roll) was quite good, but I actually liked the one from Sushi Dai better. However it was fun to watch them make it. The tamagoyaki was light in texture and flavour, but unfortunately didn’t wow us.

The baby Octopus had a surprise inside when I bit into it, housing a quail egg in the head. Genius, and a nice snack. It is served cold, still retains that crunch of a just-done octopus, and coated in a sauce that is slightly sweet and sour.

There were numerous stalls with various yaki, mostly made of fish. These were good, but nothing we felt we couldn’t get elsewhere.

If you know me, you know I’m obsessed with sugared donuts. When I saw these soybean donuts I almost cried out and ran for it. Almost. Watching the little machine squirt out the dough into the frying oil was mesmerizing as I tried to count the change to pay for the donuts. It was 600¥ for 6 small donuts, and you can choose what powder you’d like as topping; we chose soybean. They were good, interesting flavour due to the soybean but I still like 沙翁 better…

Fermented vegetables are a staple in Japanese restaurants and homes. We really wanted to buy some but really had no good way of keeping it and bringing it back home so unfortunately we had to skip this. We tasted some and they were so fresh and flavourful, but had richness of fermented flavours at the same time. Over the years I’ve grown to love fermented vegetables, especially the extremely sour ones, so this was definitely a treat.

The highlight and star of the Nishiki market however, was the matcha-hojicha ice cream swirl. Holy. This was the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted in my life. So creamy, and so much matcha.We also learned what hojicha is; a roasted green tea leaf, compared to the unroasted green tea powder, matcha. Even though the cone was a common, buy-it-at-the-conbi type, it was still so delicious. I wanted to get another one but when we returned, they were closed already :(. The store is actually a tea shop, 錦一葉 (ask for Nishiki IchiHa) but it was their icecream that seems to be their most popular item.

Nishiki Market is definitely a place where you can easily blow all your money at. Be wary of the amount of food you get, or you might find yourself low on cash! However, it is a must-visit in our books. Especially the ice cream shop.

Tokyo and Kyoto – Part 5 – Day 5 Konoya Curry Udon

Konoya is in one of those massive mall complexes that are very popular in Asia in general. It is located in the Oazo Building, near Tokyo Station.

We knew we had wanted to try curry udon, but didn’t have much of an idea which to try. We decided to just take a bet at this shop as it had received some good reviews in various sites.

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On the fifth floor of the Oazo building, we finally were able to locate this commercial, after-work spot.

We ordered the set dinner, which came with curry udon and a mixed vegetable tempura. The tempura was absolutely amazing, creating an excellent contrast in texture juxtaposed to the smooth creaminess of the curry udon broth. The curry broth was rich, not too spicy but had enough kick, and salty. Perfectly complementing the chewy udon that we love so much.

Of course we looked very silly with our disposable apron (assumed to be for the protection of the businessmen’s dress shirts from the slurping of the udon), we thought this meal was incredibly well put together, and surprisingly tasty. It was a little more expensive than we would’ve imagined for a restaurant like this, but is overlooked since everything was quite well done.

Food: 8.6/10
Service: 3/5
Atmosphere: fast-food, commercial, mall restaurant
Cost: 3000-4000¥

Tokyo and Kyoto – Part 4 – Day 2 Maisen Tonkatsu

We had tried some Tonkatsu in Hong Kong the last time we were in Asia, but we wanted to have the “real deal” in Tokyo. Maisen is one of the most famous Tonkatsu restaurants, and is known to have massive line-ups. Outside the front of the store, there is permanently pylons and rope outlining a snake line-up.

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We arrived at 11am, when they opened, and we were seated promptly. The restaurant filled up in less than 15 minutes, affirming their popularity.

We ordered the kurobuta (black pig, 黒豚), and the regular tonkatsu. Because we had just finished Bills Omotesando breakfast, we only ordered the set for one of them. In the end, we were so stuffed it was difficult to finish.

The fluffy batter and tenderness of the tonkatsu was something that is difficult to describe, but also something that I still remember well to this day (almost 8 months later). It was so light, and easy to bite into, but still retained that satisfying crunch we seek. The crunchy fresh cabbage on the side went well with the fattiness of the meat. The side dishes were quite interesting, my favourite was the dashi-soaked pureed daikon.

In terms of the difference between the kurobuta and regular, kurobuta is definitely more fatty and tender. However, for my own preference, perhaps because of my profession, I tend to like the regular tonkatsu better. It is too fatty for me, and even though it’s more tender, it just leaves me feeling a little too queasy.

We were glad we didn’t have to wait in line for Maisen, and would definitely recommend this to our friends and family. I would also try their curry katsu next time as well.

Food: 8.9/10
Service: 4/5
Atmosphere: Traditional, quiet, white table cloth
Cost: ~5000¥ total 

Tokyo and Kyoto – Part 3 – Day 2 – Bills Omotesando

 

Because I fell in love with brunching during my time in Montreal, we had to go and have a proper brunch somewhere whilst we were travelling. We found this very popular breakfast place, opened by Bill Granger, a chef in Australia who opened the “best breakfast in the world”. Needless to say we had to come and try.

The interior was very chic, bright, and tended to attract more feminine clientele. But its neutrality and simple design welcomed all types of people. We arrived at around 9am, and the restaurant was almost full. The terrace was packed, so we unfortunately were not able to enjoy the breeze and the outside air with our breakfast.

We ordered a chia pudding with coconut milk, and berries. The ricotta pancake with banana and honey, and the scrambled eggs with toast.

Everything was very fresh and plated very nicely, in keeping with the simple feel of interior of the restaurant. However, we didn’t feel that the dishes were exceptional tasting. The scrambled eggs were fluffy, but also felt a little plastic as well.

The pancake was fluffy, but only a little fluffier than what I had managed in my own kitchen. There wasn’t much ricotta taste, which is just as well since I am not a fan of ricotta. The honey and banana was quite good, but didn’t seem to blend with the flavour of the pancake very well.

As for the chia seed pudding, it was mediocre, and again nothing I couldn’t make out of my own kitchen easily.

Overall, the breakfast was good, but definitely not “best breakfast in the world”. It is the interiors that make up for it, as it seems it is what most of the patrons enjoy anyway.

Food: 7.6/10
Service: 3.5/5
Atmosphere: chic, simple, clean, bright, modern
Cost: 3000¥

Gallery

Tokyo and Kyoto – Part 2 – Day 1 Sushi Dai

 

So our first destination was of course Tsukiji Market. We always plan and recommend this to be the first thing on the agenda because in order to minimize wait times, you will need the be there at 4 to 4:30am to line up for sushi. Since most of our friends are from North America, you may be jet lagged, and what better advantage do we have against others than already being awake? Yes, it’s worth it if you love sushi because it’s both affordable and incredibly fresh. You will not be able to get this freshness and simplicity in sashimi unless you go straight to the source.

Sushi Dai is fresh (AF), simple, and to the point. They do not dwell on anything fancy or excessive, not striving for creativity or inventions, they take the best quality ingredients and present it to you in what they feel to be the most optimal way. They are efficient, and the service lasts for about 20-30 minutes.

There are two options, 7 pieces or 11 pieces. Pretty much everyone is willing to pay for 11 pieces, so just get the 11. Between some of the nigiri courses (raw fish served on small ball of rice), there are also other foods, including their famous tamagoyaki which is very thin layered egg wrapped on itself. I love their rendition of the tamagoyaki because it is still very wet, like the texture of scrambled egg to my liking, and they incorporated other flavours into the egg, including green onion. They also had 4 pieces of maguro maki served in between.

Sushi Dai was as we had remembered it, and they were nice enough this time to provide hot tea during our wait outside. They were also much more organized in providing order to the line, and telling their patrons roughly how long the wait will be from their position. Overall, they’ve really done well in managing the tourists who come for their amazing sushi. Their chefs often dabble in multiple languages, and are proficient in english. The particular chef that we had on both occasions we were there spoke some Cantonese and Mandarin which was nice, and added a sense of familiarity that many tourists realize they are missing when travelling.

I love this sushi shop and will be sad if they do not re-open upon the move of the Tsukiji Market (date unknown as of yet).

Food: 9.2/10
Service: 4/5
Atmosphere: sushi bar, small
Cost: ~$40CAD

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Tokyo and Kyoto

A much delayed update on my trip to japan in the past year. But it was such an amazing experience I still wanted to share it with  you.

We traveled for 2 weeks, heading to Tokyo and Kyoto, as well as Bangkok. It was our second time in Tokyo and we were excited to bring in our new passions and interests to explore what the Japanese has done in these industries. Of course, the trip was centered around food, as all our vacations are.

Japan is always an amazing destination in our minds due to our love for Japanese cuisine, as well as my very superficial knowledge of the Japanese language, making traveling a little bit easier. We had first visited Japan 3 years ago, and it was our first trip together as a couple. This time, we wanted to truly experience and explore the city as much as we could as we would have if we were to live in Japan. We wanted to avoid the tourist spots (and traps) as much as possible. So the obvious choice in accommodation was AirBNB.

Food
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Colette Grand Cafe – Fashion District

So for my birthday (which was about a month ago), tfung took me to the buzz of the town for quite some time, Colette Grand Café. He knew I’d love the décor, and that I was missing the french pizazz as I’d been away from Montreal for some time at this point.

Walking in, the visual impact was stunning of course. As we had an early dinner on a weekday (Tuesday), the place was quite empty. Personally, I prefer this, as it is much more romantic and intimate this way.

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