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Best Food in Tokyo

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I was in Tokyo a couple of years ago, largely because I wanted to try some of the oldest restaurants in the city. Now, I did expect the food at these establishments to be great. What I didn’t realise is that food in Tokyo is just out of this world. It was hard to find bad fare anywhere in the city. And I’m not talking only about Japanese food. It applies to all other cuisines I’ve tried there. As a matter of fact, many perfected dishes from other countries. No wonder Tokyo trumped Paris with the most number of Michelin stars and better food. You can check out my blog for maps, links and photos: http://asiaescapades.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/tokyo-food-porn/

Izuei Honten

Izuei Honten is a 260-year old restaurant specializing in Unagi. It is not far from Ueno Station but takes some asking around to get to. In fact, I stayed the first two days of my Tokyo trip in Ueno at Touganeya Hotel (map) to make sure I manage to find the place. I would highly recommend staying in Ueno for a couple of days. It’s a great place to explore and a much quieter neighbourhood that those closer to the city centre. They have an amazing and popular market - Ameyoko market, a nice park – Ueno Park - complete with a decent zoo, pleasant residential neighbourhoods and a massive cemetery – Yanaka Cemetery. Touganeya hotel was nice. Rooms were slightly larger than hotels closer to the city and location-wise, it was perfect for us. Back to Izuei Honten and their prized Unagi. Simply put, I’ve never tried Unagi that good anywhere, ever. I was never a very big fan of the dish because many restaurants tend to drench the poor fish with sweet soya sauce. At Izuei Honten, it’s grilled very simply with some soy and pepper. A savoury dish that almost brought tears to my ears, so good it was. I will probably never have Unagi that good ever again…unless I plan another trip there.

Maisen

It will now sound cliche but yes, Maisen had the best Tonkatsu I’ve ever tried, ever. That’s a dish I really love and I’ve had it at a number of restaurants where I’ve travelled but nothing memorable. At Maisen it’s just a class above, a different league altogether. I tried the Kurobuta Tonkatsu and a few side dishes. If you are in Tokyo and love Tonkatsu, do your palate a favour and go to Maisen. It was not easy to find. It’s between Harajuku and Omotesando, closer to the latter it seemed. We started from Harajuku and had to walk quite a bit from the train station to find it. Well worth it!

Daikokuya

Daikokuya is an old, cosy tempura place in Asakusa very near the Sensoji temple. We were there for lunch and there was a queue so try to get there early. The place was really hard to find as there are no English signs. I manage to find the place by comparing Japanese characters with the one I found on the main site. Lucky, to say the least. Upon reaching the place and being seated, we realised they didn’t have an English menu. So I had to look around at what people were being served and eating to pick my food. I was lucky once again as a nice Japanese couple next to us helped us out seeing how desperate we looked. I had tempura tendon and it was extremely nice! It was served very differently from those I’ve tried elsewhere. It was drenched in some dark sauce and was not dry and crispy as I’m familiar with. Nonetheless, taste-wise it was way up there!

Sushi Dai

Sushi Dai was the highlight of my trip to Tokyo. Sushi is one of my favourite dishes and no one does it better than Sushi Dai (from those I’ve tried obviously)! It is a very small place at Tsukiji market that serves only Omakase (the chef decides what to serve). If I remember correctly, we were served 10 kinds of sushi and out of these, we could pick our 3 favourites for a second round. The sushi was very different from those served elsewhere, specially outside Japan. They were very generous with the fish slices and those were not served cold but rather at room temperature. Considering it was below 10C outside, I guess that worked well. We had to wait 2 hours in line in the cold with the sea breeze blowing at us before getting in. And once in, we were shocked that there was only one bar counter and very few seats (at most 10). The place however was very warm and cosy (welcoming after the long wait in the cold outside). The chef was very friendly and tried his best to speak with us in English. The experience was phenomenal! I understand that Tsukiji market will be moving and I really hope Sushi Dai remains a fixture at the new location! The good thing is the move has been delayed until 2015 so go now.

Kyushu Jangara Ramen

I spent at least an hour and a half to find this place in Akihabara. I knew that there was one at Shibuya, which is relatively easy to get around, but I heard the one at Akihabara was the best. So after a long walk across the maze that the place is, I managed to locate it. I realised I walked a couple of times in front of the place without seeing it. It is a real hole in the wall and although there was a long queue outside, I missed it because of the crowd. Anyway, ramen was never a favourite as I prefer dry dishes. However, once I tried the ramen there, I can’t get enough of it. Naturally, nothing comes close to what they serve in that hole in the wall that is Kyushu Jangara Ramen. The place was so small that I was squeezed against the wall and the man seated at the next table. Regardless, I dug into a hot bowl of brothy goodness and boy was it amazing! I had two big bowls and extra servings of noodles, so good it was! Now, if you’re willing to test your sense of direction, go for it!

Random Kaiten Sushi

I stayed in Shinjuku for over a week and tried several food places in the neighbourhood, all better than the previous. I don’t know the name of that sushi place but they did serve some pretty decent sushi (nothing compares to Sushi Dai of course).

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