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Japan for Foodies

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Apr 20th, 2017, 01:22 PM
  #1
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Japan for Foodies

Hi Guys! My husband and I are going to be in Japan on May 18th (so excited) and I am hoping I could get some restaurant recommendations from you. We tend to plan all our trips around where and what we will be eating and fill in the rest once that;s all planned. I seem to have a hard time finding sushi restaurants that aren't $300 a person,booked up or have only Japanese websites. We will be in Tokyo (I would love to sit at a sushi bar), Kyoto, Kinosaki (dinner at Ryokan) and Osaka. Thanks so much in advance!
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Apr 20th, 2017, 09:17 PM
  #2
kja
 
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I had an extraordinary meal, French Kaiseki, in Kyoto some years ago at Misoguigawa, which still gets very good reviews:
http://www.misogui.jp/original11.html
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Apr 21st, 2017, 08:47 AM
  #3
 
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<< I seem to have a hard time finding sushi restaurants that aren't $300 a person>>

That's absurd. We got fresh sushi at a little random stop in place in Asakusa and ordered what would have cost about $95 at our good local sushi place for less than $40.

We travel differently and I'm not going to rip your style but some meals don't necessarily require planning ahead. Your preoccupation with preplanning where you will eat sushi in Tokyo based on a notable restaurant's reputation will prevent you from finding what you're really looking for. Tokyo is shot through with sushi restaurants (what's so special about sitting at a sushi bar - just being in Japan? If you live in the US, you can find tons of sushi bars and many of them with Japanese emigres preparing the food).

If you go to the Tsukiji area near the fish market at 10 am or earlier, when the sushi restos near the fish market open, you'll be better off than at some reservation-only restaurant that will somehow charge you $300pp for the same food you can get at 1/10 the price. Even if the new fish market location is ready by the time you go (it was supposed to open last November but did not), the sushi restos at the old location should still be live. And whoever knows Japan and the sushi offerings will recognize the notion of "I had sushi for breakfast at a little restaurant 30 feet away from the Tsukiji market entrance").
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Apr 21st, 2017, 09:18 AM
  #4
 
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Hi mrsashyt - I'm landing in Tokyo the same day and love to eat. I started trying to research food ahead of time but have pretty much given up (I will be reading the Eater Guide to Tokyo and jotting down a few recommendations from various website but that's it). I usually preplan a few musts for restaurants, this time I'm going to mostly wing it and ask for recommendations when I'm on the ground.

Tsujiki is a must and looks like the original location will be open when we are there. From what I've heard, we will eat well in Japan..maybe I'll run in to you at a sushi counter. Have fun!
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Apr 21st, 2017, 02:38 PM
  #5
 
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Russ has it right. We've eaten sushi outside Tsukiji Market many times, and never had a bad meal. The fish market opens to tourists at 10 am, so either go a lot earlier or at 10 to avoid the worst lines.

Even a local chain like Sushi Zanmai has excellent sushi, and if you go to one of their shops that aren't at Ttsukiji, you won't even have to wait in a long line!

This is an old article, but you can get some good info here:
http://travel.cnn.com/tokyo/eat/city...-tokyo-549502/

Head down to "piss Alley" in Shibuya at night and do a serial dinner popping into some of the tiny izakayas there. No reservations, just good walking shoes will get you food & drink equally as memorable as one of the high end sushi bars.
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Apr 21st, 2017, 04:57 PM
  #6
 
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Isn't sushi about 70% white rice, 5% seaweed and piece of fish or cucumber? What's the attraction, esp to pay $300?
Me, i'd rather try fugo or saba straight from the sea without all the rice.
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Apr 21st, 2017, 05:08 PM
  #7
kja
 
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As one you truly loves planning my trips, I think it is entirely reasonable to seek recommendations in advance -- if that's what you want! IME, it is also true that you can eat very well in Japan without a lot of advance planning, as others are noting.
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Apr 21st, 2017, 05:21 PM
  #8
mjs
 
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I agree with BigRuss. I eat quite well and cheaply without much fuss in Japan. The food is of much higher quality in Japan in comparison to what passes for Japanese in most of the rest of the world. Sometimes I do seek out special places but most of the time I do not. A friend of mine took me out to a special sushi restaurant that cost $300/person for my birthday a few years ago but that would be the exception not the rule. I do seek out noted restaurants including those with multiple Michelin stars sometimes when I travel to other countries but tend not to do this in Japan.
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Apr 21st, 2017, 09:04 PM
  #9
 
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If I you were you, I'd focus on foods that I can't find easily where I live. There is a whole long list of Japanese dishes on Wikipedia. Do the research and ask about finding dishes which you don't normally have access to.

Also, you should familiarize yourself with tabelog.com, the ridiculously extensive website devoted to eating in japan. They have a listing for every place to eat with photos of the exterior, (key for finding the place), interior, and all the food. There is an English language version, but it is more productive to search using the Japanese version. I do not know Japanese, but with cut and paste, you don't need to know.

My favorite discovery was himono (干物), or dried fish. It is usually found grilled, and can be surprisingly moist despite the name. There are places that specialize in this.
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Apr 22nd, 2017, 01:13 AM
  #10
 
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I did exactly the same before our first trip to Japan in 2012, as I really wanted to experience the best of Japanese food. However, I realised that in most of the discussion groups where people were sharing tips for restaurants, it was nearly all at that $300 and up price range, and those rarified experiences, while no doubt superb in their own way, were not what I was looking for in the main part.

For me, some of the key food experiences I decided to seek out on that first trip include:

* A classic multi-course seasonal and regional kaiseki meal in a traditional ryokan
* Shojin Ryori - the vegetarian cuisine practiced by Buddhist monks. We did this in Shojoshin-in temple on Mount Koya.
* Sushi and sashimi, but in a regular place rather than the "Jiro dreams..." kind of places. And also a kaiten sushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurant.
* Yakitori, I love food on sticks, what can I say?!
* Wagyu beef (not specifically kobe, which is simply the wagyu brand that has marketed itself most successfully internationally. In fact, I went for Hida beef, during a visit to Takayama).
* Ramen - ramen had finally become a bit of a thing in London in 2011, so I wanted to try some in Japan
* Eating in an izakaya, which I was lucky to do with some friends I had made online and who kindly met up with us when we were in Japan
* Yakiniku, thought of as a Korean import, it's very popular in Japan. We did a fair few of these including an offal specialist one in Osaka.
* Tonkatsu, another western dish re-imagined by the Japanese, and very popular, love the way it's served with sesame to grind, a pile of cabbage and a couple of classic sauces.
* We also loved trying Japanese takes on familiar brands such as the amazing kit kat flavours they do, and visiting Burger King as well as Japanese chain Mos Burgers.

I also made a long list of as many specialities as I could and we sought out as many as we could. E.g. Takoyaki, Nabe, Oden, Sukiyaki / Shabu Shabu...

Here are some of my trip report blog posts on food and drink:

https://www.kaveyeats.com/2012/11/te...uku-tokyo.html
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2012/12/hi...ama-japan.html
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2013/04/yu...e-delight.html
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2013/05/ja...suke-jaya.html
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2014/01/tokyo-bento.html
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2014/02/bu...uro-ninja.html
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2014/02/ka...he-corner.html
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2014/03/en...-in-japan.html
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2013/01/ka...o-in-nara.html
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2013/03/he...n-me-into.html
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2016/06/ca...oya-kyoto.html
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2013/01/mitarashi-dango.html
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2014/02/su...-kumamoto.html
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2016/10/le...beginners.html
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2013/04/ja...-kit-kats.html
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2016/09/vi...ko-museum.html
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2012/12/ow...-takayama.html
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Apr 22nd, 2017, 04:28 AM
  #11
 
Join Date: Feb 2017
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Go to the markets for sushi! At Tsukiji, there is a stall that cuts fresh fatty tuna right in front of you. The grade A pieces will melt in your mouth the same way salmon sashimi does. Sushi fills me up quickly because of the rice content, so I always get sashimi.
In Osaka, try the Kuromon Ichiba market. Also, Osaka is known as Japan's kitchen. You will find plenty of restaurants there along Dotonbori. No need to plan ahead. I find that good food is always around the corner in Japan and you should not limit yourselves to recommendations. In fact, when we were in Hiroshima, we made a point to go to a recommendated store for okonomiyaki but the store happened to be closed that day. We simply walked down the street to another one and it was amazing, filled with locals, and yep, not mentioned on the internet.
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Apr 22nd, 2017, 08:25 AM
  #12
 
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My son went on holiday to Japan last year. As a present before his trip I gave him Matt Goulding's book 'Rice, Noodle, Fish'which had been reviewed in the Guardian.

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2...-matt-goulding

Some great illustrations and my food loving son read it from cover to cover before he went !
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Apr 22nd, 2017, 03:19 PM
  #13
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Thanks for all the feedback guys! I totally get what you're saying but I'm a little worried because I tried to take the approach of just going into random places in Hong Kong and we were so overwhelmed, after a nasty dim sum experience we ended up going to an Italian restaurant 2 nights in a row (whomp whomp). I can appreciate that they're different countries but this is why it worries me. I'd like to have maybe 3 must-visit places and I will feel better.

I definitely don't want to hit up $300 dinners everyday, I would love to know some names of places you guys have found and loved

We are for sure going to go to Tsukiji and we will have Kaiseki in a Ryokan we've already booked.

I'd like to go to a sushi bar because of what I've read about the master passing on the baton, etc. It seems like it would be a special experience that I wouldn't experience in Canada. Is this incorrect?
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Apr 22nd, 2017, 03:24 PM
  #14
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BTW, even the small places that don't cost a fortune need reservations weeks in advance so how would i do this if I don't research first?
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Apr 22nd, 2017, 11:40 PM
  #15
 
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In around 70 days in Japan across 3 trips we've only ever had one poor meal and that was a hotel's breakfast buffet, a cheap hotel at that and even then, an unusually poor offering.

Even when we chose whatever we could find where we were, we ate superbly well. From the more elegant places to the tiny cheap places, from city centres to department store restaurant floors to station holes in the wall.

By all means research, but what you will find is that most of the recommendations in many sites (such as chowhound) centre on the several hundred bucks places, and not on the everyday places.

That said, you can try bento.com - a friend of mine runs it, it's a review site that is most comprehensive for Tokyo. Tablelog is also now available in English (used to be in Japanese only which was a pain). It's a consumer review site and can be useful too.

The danger is that you become fixated on, for example, the best ramen place listed and it's actually an hour and a half across town from where you are when you want to eat. Of course, nothing wrong with travelling an hour and a half for it if you like!

For me, even as a foodie, I didn't have the palate to be able to distinguish between really decent sushi (in Japan) and stellar sushi in Japan because all of it was a country mile above what I had tried in the UK. Same applied to ramen and other dishes too.
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Apr 23rd, 2017, 12:10 AM
  #16
kja
 
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Unlike most of the Fodorites who have posted on this thread, I had some truly lousy meals in Japan, including overcooked tempura, ridiculously tough tonkatsu, and an exceptionally uninteresting beef teriyaki. I was trying to keep costs as low as I could outside of select splurges (like my dinner at Misoguigawa). It seems that I chose poorly....

OTOH, I also found some extraordinarily delicious meals at small, local eateries....

I already offered a rec for a specific place that does require reservations; see my post upthread. And note that it is FRENCH kaiseki, which you won't get at a ryokan. It will be served with decent wines, which is not always the case in Japan.
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Apr 23rd, 2017, 05:39 AM
  #17
 
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Here is my recommendation for Tokyo. Shirosaka in Akasaka, the chef used to work for the Japanese ambassador to the UN. Two years ago he opened this restaurant. There are 8 seats at the counter and 6 in a small room. The maitre d’/waiter used to work at Union Square Tokyo, and did a stint at USC in NYC as well.
This was probably one of the best meals I have ever eaten.
the cost for 8-10 courses wine and Sake was around $120 this was last October.
This was the only restaurant I tried after reading this article, though I had wanted to try the Tempura place.
https://www.departures.com/travel/re...in-tokyo-japan.
Hopefully I will on my return this year.
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Apr 24th, 2017, 01:03 AM
  #18
 
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Kja, so sorry to hear that. You have reminded me that we did actually have one poorer tempura meal on the last trip, it wasn't awful but the tempura was greasy and a little less crisp as the very elderly cook had not got the oil temperature right. For us, it was an unusual exception.

Mrsashyt, within the links I gave is an account of an incredible kaiseki meal in Hoshinoyo Kyoto, I'd recommend that in a heartbeat. Likewise, the tempura restaurant linked there, from our first trip, was eye opening to how good tempura can be!
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Apr 24th, 2017, 09:52 AM
  #19
 
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We've had two trips to Japan, one sh-t meal that was mostly our own bloody fault. In our experience, Japan is like Italy - you have to try hard to find bad meals.
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Apr 24th, 2017, 11:20 AM
  #20
 
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This is some great info here. Bookmarking.
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