Here’s the continuation of my trip to Tokyo!
If Part 1 (click here) had a lot of food photos, this Part 2 has even more yummy food adventures! So excuse the many photos, I really just had too many to eat! 🙂
The easiest and most practical way to go around the city of Tokyo is by the use of their trains. Tokyo’s public transportation system is one of the fastest, cleanest and most efficient in the world. You will never see a trace of vandalism nor a piece of trash inside or around and it always arrives and departs precisely on time.
The Japanese are very quiet and reserved people, much more when they are in public places. They don’t snack (that’s why there’s no trash!), they don’t talk (even on their celphones!), and they don’t do anything that will bother people around them. See how these 3 ladies are doing their own thing quietly? 🙂
One of Tokyo’s top sights is the Shibuya Crossing, which is known as the busiest intersection in the world.
Nowhere else says “Welcome to Tokyo” better than this sight! Large video screens, neon lights, young people dressed in the most colorful and outlandish outfits and hundreds of other people crossing the intersection all at the same time at a hurried and rushed (but still orderly) pace!
And so I joined the rest of the crowd (with my matching umbrella since it was drizzling!) and tried my very best to take a snapshot of this moving image of the busy Tokyo life! Yes, this is the modern and fast-paced Tokyo that I have always imagined it to be! 🙂
They say over a thousand people cross here at every time the light turns green for the pedestrians. But what is quite impressive here is that even if a huge number of people come from all directions, they are able to manage to do it orderly and efficiently, and in perfect timing until the light turns red again and the cars go.
My photo above doesn’t doesn’t even do justice to the energy I saw and felt while in the middle of this crossing! 🙂
Now on to the food part of our trip…
One of my most memorable meals in Tokyo was from Ukai-Tei, a one Michelin star restaurant located in Ginza.
It was something worth remembering because this is one restaurant which was very generous with their freshly shaved Truffles! 🙂
And this is also one of Tokyo’s few restaurants which serve the top quality black beef, the Ukai-gyu. It was cooked Teppanyaki style. The steak was done medium rare – they only cooked the outside and ensured that the juices of the meat inside remain intact.
No marinade was used, no dipping sauce was given. Just the basic Japanese salt and pepper, some radish and a few toasted garlic flakes on the side. With every bite of this steak, I was in heaven!
Another great meal I had in the city was in Ryugin, located in Roppongi. There were several dishes served to us during this meal, but the one pictured above was the highlight.
This was Chef Yamamoto’s specialty : Sanuki Wagyu Beef Sirloin and Matsutake Mushrooms cooked in Sukiyaki style with a very Crispy Poached Egg on top. The beef was oh-so tender, the sauce was superb and the poached egg was just perfectly done well. No wonder this restaurant’s rating was promoted from two to three Michelin stars recently! 🙂
On another night, when we craved for some good Tempura, a friend of ours suggested Kyoboshi, which he explained is the first and only 3-Michelin star Tempura restaurant in the world. This got us very curious so we made our reservations right away and headed straight to this place in Ginza.
We were served a variety of unusual Japanese ingredients including this perfectly poached and then tempura fried Quail Egg that literally had its yolk bursting in my mouth! The popular tempura soy sauce was not allowed here too; we were only given the “fine as a powder” type of Japanese salt (see above photo) and some lemon for dipping – which I actually liked very much! 🙂
Another interesting tempura dish I had was when they served me this poisonous fish called Fugu. We were told that preparation and cooking of this kind of lethal fish is strictly controlled in Japan. Only chefs who have undergone some sort of rigorous training can serve this fish. It must be properly cleaned and carefully prepared so as to remove the toxins!
Another Sushi place we got to try in Tokyo was Sushi Taku, located in the Minato-ku area. I’ve never been to a Sushi place before that bothered to explain to us what we were eating, using what I call a Sushi book! Because the Sushi chefs have a hard time speaking English, they used the book to tell us which kind of fish or seafood we were being served.
If there’s only one Sushi you have to have in Japan, let it be the Otoro Sushi, the fattiest portion of the Bluefin Tuna Belly. 🙂
Still on the topic about Sushi…another great place to go to for the freshest and the best Sushi in Tokyo is the Tsukiji Market. In fact, this place is also one major attraction here because this happens to be the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world! It’s so huge that you will need a full day to navigate yourself all the way through the market. But the one thing this place is most popular for? Its auction.
If you have the time (and the energy and the willpower), the best time to go to Tsukiji is at 3am when the market officially opens. This is when ships from all over the world start to arrive and begin unloading several trucks of the biggest and freshest seafood and fish for auction. The actual auction happens at around 5am. But you must note however that bidding can only be done by licensed participants. These are their accredited wholesalers, retailers, dealers and restaurant owners from Japan and from all over the world.
But if you’re just like any other regular tourist (like us!) wandering around the Tsukiji Market to experience the vibe, you may come here at anytime of the day and randomly select any restaurant in or around the area. Because when you’re already here in the market, it doesn’t matter anymore which Sushi place you go to, because you are already guaranteed to have the freshest and one of the best (if not the best) Sushi you will ever have in your life! 🙂
Photo above is my Sushi platter from one hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Tsukiji Market. I personally chose and filled it with my favorites : Otoro, Hamachi, Ebi, Salmon, Uni, Ikura, Tamago and Unagi.
Another memorable and learning food experience for me here in Tokyo was in Kawamura, located in one of the buildings in Ginza. This place was recommended to us by our friendly hotel concierge as it is widely known to serve the most excellent of all Kobe Beef in Tokyo.
We were lucky to have an English-speaking Chef who explained to us everything that we should know about the beef, all while cooking. 🙂 He shared facts and trivia about the whole fascination about this most famous type of Japanese beef, the Kobe. He told us that the term Kobe must not be loosely used; there is the right breeding and raising of the cows that must be followed, and there is a proper way of slaughtering it before finally reaching the grade of Kobe.
To be technical about it, there are several criteria that make a real Kobe beef : it must only come from a certain breed of Tajima-gyu cows, it must pass certain stringent tests, it must receive a fat marbling index of no. 6 or higher, it must possess the qualified fine meat texture dictated by the rules and it must reach a certain weight limitation. Only cows who have undergone and pass these tests can actually be called “Kobe Beef.”
No words can justly describe the taste of the real Kobe!
At the end of our excellent meal, we were even shown the certificate and other “papers” of the cow. The “noseprint” (which is the cow’s identifying thumbmark) and its family genealogy were also there. I guess this is part of the restaurant’s marketing to show diners that what we ate was actually the real deal! 🙂
As I’ve mentioned in the beginning, good food can actually be had almost anywhere in Tokyo. From little shops in the corner to small restaurants inside buildings to obscure hole-in-the-wall places, almost anywhere you look, there are good places to eat.
Although, dining in Tokyo is generally expensive compared to other Asian cities, it doesn’t always have to be that way. There are budget-friendly options too that serve excellent food as restaurants here are known to use only the freshest and the best ingredients available.
This Ramen place (with a Japanese name that I can’t recall) is one good example. We just spotted this restaurant along the streets and for me this is one of the best Ramens I’ve ever tried! 🙂
And we were lucky that aside from having a really good Ramen, this restaurant also served us our favorite Kurobota Pork Tonkatsu! 🙂
Now moving on to our desserts…
One of my top spots for sweets is Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki. This is headed by a Japanese pastry chef of that same name, who made it big first in Paris many years ago. Because he was quite successful there, he then returned to Tokyo to open this very sleek patisserie.
Sadaharu Aoki is known for fusing Japanese ingredients with French baking techniques. I was able to try some of his excellent cakes, pastries and his famous Matcha (Green Tea) Cappuccino Latte. At present, there are 4 shops all over Tokyo, as well as 4 in Paris and 2 in Taipei.
Somewhere located in Roponggi Hills is another Michelin rated French restaurant, L’atelier Joel Robuchon. If you are not keen on eating in the fine dining side of the restaurant, you may opt to go to its bakery, which is just right beside its main dining room. Here they sell freshly baked breads, cakes, pastries, biscuits and chocolates to take home!
And speaking of chocolates…
While I was walking along one of the main roads in Ginza, I chanced upon this little street that had 3 foreign Chocolatiers right beside each other. There were Joel Durand from Provence, Hirsinger from Paris and Pierre Marcolini from Brussels.
I of course, went inside all 3 Chocolate shops and had a field day! 🙂 I tried their best-selling dark chocolate truffles and pralines! But the best ones for me were the fresh and handmade Belgian chocolates from Pierre Marcolini.
Aside from chocolates, the shop also has a mini cafe upstairs where you can have some of their famous eclairs, chocolate puddings and a variety of small cakes and pastries to go with their excellent coffee.
Pierre Marcolini’s Salted Caramel Praline…really one of the best ones I’ve ever tried! 🙂
Pierre Herme, also another very popular French patisserie has opened quite a number of shops here in Tokyo.
This one I went to was in Isetan Shinjuku’s Food Hall.
This shop is most well-known for its Macarons!
Macaron lovers all over the world know that there’s always a rivalry between this shop and the other widely-known French Patisserie, Laduree, as to who has THE BEST in the world. Both have shops in Tokyo, so it’s really a matter of personal preference and what flavors you like best that will spell all the difference 🙂
I have written about Laduree in this part 1 here.
Now if you happen to walk along Ginza, you can’t help but notice this long line outside a small store by the street that smells freshly baked waflles! 🙂
This is Manneken, a Belgian store that sells anything and everything waffles!
There are several flavors to choose from including Green Tea (Matcha), Strawberry, Chocolate and the Original (plain). I got one of each to try and bought several boxes to bring home as pasalubong. Yes they have it in properly sealed boxes to take home and it lasts for a good couple of weeks! 🙂
For sight seeing…
We visited the newly built Tokyo Sky Tree, which just opened last year (2012). This is a 643-meter broadcasting tower that completely changed the Tokyo skyline.
This is now known as the tallest tower in the world! 🙂
Would you believe that we took the lift all the way up… to the 450th floor?!!!
The view from top was amazing! Definitely worth the trip! 🙂
This is Central Tokyo in all its glory!
And last but not the least, here’s something to do for those with little, restless kids… 🙂
We took the kids to Tokyo Zoo, which was located in Ueno Park. Although this is the oldest zoo in Japan, it is still properly maintained and upgraded every now and then. There are elephants, gorillas, polar bears and giraffes as well as smaller animals and these cute pink flamingo birds!
The kids, especially my 2-year old little girl enjoyed interacting with the animals and picking each and every beautiful flower in sight! 🙂
All in all, Tokyo will always be one of our family’s favorite bonding places. We love visiting this city and we’ve built quite a number of good memories here. But more than anything, this trip taught us more about family and living each and every moment to the full. We will forever be grateful for this opportunity!
Hopefully, someday when my kids are a little bit older, they will look back and remember all our moments together with fondness, the way I do now. 🙂