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Your "must try" Japanese food experiences.

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May 2nd, 2015, 11:17 PM
  #1
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Your "must try" Japanese food experiences.

My boyfriend and I are big on trying new foods, and are always willing to test out palates and have interesting food experiences. For eg: one of my highlights from our recent trip to Singapore was to go to Nox restaurant. Where you dine in complete darkness and have no idea what you are eating.

Anyway..

We go to Japan in July and want to get the most out of our holiday. We will spending 4 nights in Tokyo, 1 night in Hakone, 2 nights in Kyoto, 1 night in Koyasan and 4 nights in Osaka.

We have already booked into the Tapas Molecular Bar in Tokyo, for some Molecular Gastronomy.
Our ryokan/shukubo in Hakone and Koyasan will include a kaseiki/Shojin ryori meal. And our hotel in Osaka is right near Dōtonbori. I've read about places that sell bear, horse, whale and even salamander. Does anyone recommend specific restaurants that have these on the menu?

I'm also interested in suggestions about themed restaurants, "hole in the wall" eateries, or anything different that we don't have here in Sydney. I'm open to all suggestions, no matter how weird and wonderful. Or even recommendations for the best local favourites. I love okonomiyaki, so if anyone has a favourite place to get that, I'm super keen.

Thanks!
Em89 is offline  
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May 3rd, 2015, 02:46 AM
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I find the everyday food in Japan so wonderful that I've never felt the need to seek out deliberately weird stuff for the sake of it, so can't help on that front.

We did visit a specialist horse restaurant in Kumamoto in Kyushu, as this is a local speciality, not really that unusual, I've also had horse in France and Italy. For us it was more about trying a local speciality prepared in local ways.

I did write a long list of everyday Japanese foods that a traveller may wish to seek out, many of which you will likely know already. You can see that in this thread here: http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...s-anywhere.cfm
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May 3rd, 2015, 09:57 AM
  #3
 
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Chawanmushi is an appetizer that you must try if you see it on the menu at a Japanese restaurant. It is not weird and you would find it in Sydney, but it is very tasty, and uncommon enough that it is not on Kavey's terrific list.
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May 3rd, 2015, 04:47 PM
  #4
 
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TOKYO:
We had lunch at the two-Michelin star Sukiyabashi Jiro Roppongi, which gained fame in the documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi." Couldn't get into the father's place, but the son's less pricey outpost was an easier ticket and a sushi highlight of a lifetime. You will be thrilled with the omakase menu - some items were too gooey for me.

We also had an exceptional robata experience at Inakaya West. Excellent food and exceptional ambience. You point to what you want - everything from small crabs (eaten whole) to wagnu to stellar veggies - all will be grilled by singing chefs and delivered to you on a paddle (as you consume sake in a crate). Highly entertaining, fun and delicious.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfOfPVUhgso

And the last time I was in Tokyo, I had a piece of seared albacore sashimi at the Fish Market that I'm still dreaming of (It was 8am and we chose the most crowded sushi bar, but the wait was not long).

HAKONE:
We had some interesting food on the boat-cable car circuit, including excellent local pastries from Bread and Table (across from the pirate ship) that you eat as you soak your feet in the outside onsen.

And don't miss the black roasted eggs, each will add 7 years to your life.

If you're staying at Gora Kadan, let me know and I'll weigh in on the food there.

FINALLY:
Everyone was obsessed with Green Tea Kit Kat bars. I'm not normally a fan of Kit Kats, but these were quite good and make fun souvenirs. You can get them at most markets or at the airport.
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May 3rd, 2015, 07:19 PM
  #5
 
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Two thoughts:

1. Sushi shops at Tsukiji. I hate lines, so ate at one with no lines, no tourists. Instead of having to order while still in line and get hurried (or at least felt hurried) to leave, we ate leisurely, with our sushi served piece by piece by the sushi chef. I strongly believe it is much better than going to one of the shops that every guide book in the world recommend.

2. While in Kyoto, just go to Nishiki Market, and you get tonnes of tasty snacks there. Do go early, as it closes down early in evening.
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May 3rd, 2015, 11:56 PM
  #6
 
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Ooh I love chawanmushi MrWunrfl! Knew I'd miss stuff out! Doh!

Regarding those kit kats, there are many many flavours available, some that are permanent flavours (green tea, roasted tea, strawberry cheesecake, rum raisin, citrus blend) and some that seem to be limited editions (my friends recently came across a chilli yuzu variety). There are also regional ones such as purple sweet potato in Kyushu. We loved collecting as many as we could find.

I agree with rkkwan on sushi, we went for one that was busy but not one of the famous two, and had a tasty selection without a wait. Perfect!
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May 4th, 2015, 04:03 PM
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My family is going next year, so no recommendations, except that we're looking forward to trying many different foods, also. We particularly enjoy my version of okonomiyaki and are interested to see whether it at all approximates the authentic Osaka street food version. I'll be reading the replies with interest.
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May 4th, 2015, 10:50 PM
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What a nice surprise, I met some friends for lunch yesterday (about 4 hours after writing my last comment) and two that had just returned from Japan gave me a selection of Japanese kit kats -- most of which I'd tried before (strawberry cheesecake, wasabi, citrus blend and sakura matcha) but also a new one, Japanese chilli, wooo!
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May 6th, 2015, 11:06 PM
  #9
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Thanks everyone for your responses!

We are not deliberately setting out to only eat the weird and wonderful (though we do like doing that), but we don't want to miss out on "must try" experiences. To be honest, I see us going back to Japan one more time after this, but possibly not back to the same places. So I want to get as much out of this experience as possible.

I was unsure about Tsukiji at first, but a few people have recommended it. Perhaps we will go there for breakfast one day.

Definitely will try chawanmushi. Thanks mrwunrfl!

And a big thanks to crosscheck. Just watched the youtube link you posted. That looks awesome! Exactly the thing I am after. Did you have to make a reservation at that robata?

Those kitkat bars sound great! Even though I cant stand green tea. Will definitely collect some of those!

Finally, Kavey. Thanks for the link to your other thread. That list is awesome! Definitely helps a lot. Just checked out your website too! Looks awesome. I think we have a bit in common there. If I could just travel, eat new food, look at art... and then eat some more... I'd be a very happy lady!
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May 7th, 2015, 02:40 AM
  #10
 
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You are most welcome, glad the list is helpful!
And thanks for your comments on my blog too. It's just for fun but I do love doing it. All the Japan content is tagged, so you could find it by looking at http://www.kaveyeats.com/tag/japan and yes, just travel, eat, look at interesting things, meander slowly and eat some more... perfect!!!
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May 7th, 2015, 07:03 AM
  #11
 
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Em89 - You absolutely do need a reservation in advance at Inakaya West. Many prefer Inakaya Roppongi, the original branch, which is right nearby. Your concierge will be able to get you the reservation. There is no menu - you get your food by pointing. We went with a large group and were lucky to not have to worry about the check, but you should look at their menu online before you go to make sure what you order is not too outrageous. Some of the sakes are quite pricey as well.

http://www.roppongiinakaya.jp/en/menu01.html

BTW, that style of cooking (open grill, a theatrical dining ceremony) is called robatayaki - not to be missed, even if you can't get into Inakaya.
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May 7th, 2015, 12:49 PM
  #12
 
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Sushi at the 4am Osaka Fish market
JoanneH is offline  
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May 8th, 2015, 11:22 AM
  #13
 
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Gonpachi Restaurant Nishi-Azabu
1-13-11 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo Japan
Ph# - 03-5771-0170

I have had a couple of fodors gtg at this fun place.

http://www.gonpachi.jp/nishiazabu/?lang=en

In Osaka along the Dotombori just walk around. The vast variety of foods will amaze you.

Aloha!
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May 8th, 2015, 02:48 PM
  #14
 
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The Hida beef in Takayama was a highlight. We had it at lunch and 2 dinners in a row.
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May 10th, 2015, 10:31 AM
  #15
 
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Fugu deserves mention on this thread. Fugu is the puffer fish that is toxic if not prepared correctly. It in a must try if you visit Shimonoseki. Nothing special about it other than the fact that it can kill you. Most of the fish is farm-raised and packaged to last a long time. That is probably what we had as sashimi - little flavor and odd texture. Maybe fresh wild-caught fugu would be better.
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May 10th, 2015, 11:59 AM
  #16
 
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Something else that we loved on our early April trip this year were tiny baby squid, which were incredible delicious. Apparently this was the season for them because they were everywhere, and were in several of our meals.
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