Kusidore is the name of a simple Japanese restaurant located on the second floor near Hachioji Station in central Hachioji. We wandered into the warm, cozy establishment just because the sign looked inviting, and we had a great meal.
The menu was all in Japanese, and we were too lazy to translate, so we just pointed a the basic nabe stew for two. The small propane burner was quickly set up at the table, and before long a heaping pot of vegetables, mushrooms, and meat was delivered to the table. We let it cook for perhaps 10 or 15 minutes, and it was ready to eat. Perhaps the most unusual thing was that the waitress was probably the most attentive restaurant server I have ever seen in Japan, stopping to chekc on us every few minutes, never letting our glasses sit empty, and even taking our photo for us.
The menu also includes kushiage (fried meats and vegetables on sticks).
Excellent meal, with fantastic service.
Looking for coffee to help us stay awake after our long overnight flight we came across this small cheerfully decorated cafe not far from our hotel in Asakusa. The first sight that greeted us on entering was a model train set which took up a large proportion of the fairly small space (in fact there are two here), and the second sight was the smiling owner with a helpful English-language coffee menu in his hand. I was warm from the journey so had an iced caffe latte, and Chris had a cappuccino. The drinks were nice and strong and were served with a small biscuit. We paid 600¥ for both.
We enjoyed relaxing here with the models trains and other intriguing signs of the owner's hobbies on display (model cars were also much in evidence) and it was a nice start to our time in Tokyo.
A little refreshed we felt able to get out and see some sights, starting with the nearby Senso-ji Temple
On our first evening in Tokyo we were tired and didn't want to venture far from our hotel. We found a small restaurant on Kokusai Dori a block or so north of Tarawamachi Station. We had no idea what the name was as the sign was in Japanese only (we only learned the name the next day from Andrew, our tour leader), but they did have an English menu and various set dinner options, which made choosing easier. Service was friendly, and although, as the only non-Japanese in there, we caused a small stir on entering, we felt comfortable and welcome dining here. There is both western-style and traditional seating; the latter was all taken by a group of what I took to be local businessmen, and we were offered a choice of the one free table or eating at the counter, and chose the former.
We both had tempura meals - mine (number 2) with three large shrimps and a couple of vegetable pieces, Chris's with diced squid and scallop in a single large batter. The meals also came with miso soup, rice, sauce for dipping the tempura, pickles and a small salad. The tempura was OK though the batter wasn't as light as it should be, and we liked the dipping sauce but the miso soup was too salty and not nearly as good as others we had later on during the trip.
This was our first meal in Japan so hard to judge at the time, but looking back later in the trip we both agreed it was probably the least good meal we had in Japan. But the price was reasonable - 1,100¥ for each of the set meals and 400¥ for the small Asahi beer we shared. We also got complementary green tea when we sat down. Although the meal wasn't fantastic it was good value at 2,600¥ all in - about £16.
This was the end of our first day in Tokyo but the next morning we continued our explorations with a visit to the excellent Edo Tokyo Museum.
On our second evening in Tokyo we met up with the rest of the group who were to be on the Inside Japan tour with us, and our tour leader Andrew. Nine of us decided to accompany Andrew to his recommended spot for dinner, one of the Watami chain of izakaya (Japanese-style pubs) on Kaminarimon Dori. On arrival we all removed our shoes and put them into the lockers provided. We had a large group table on the third floor with the semi-traditional sunken seating (much easier for Westerners than sitting on the floor!)
Favorite Dish: Andrew suggested a selection of dishes and as we were all still pretty new to Japanese food we were happy to go with his ideas. A good decision, as everything he picked was very tasty. We had good spicy udon noodles, delicious pork dumplings with hot sauce to dip them in, chicken minced and formed around cheese on skewers, chicken wings and Caesar salad ( the last of these surprised me rather but it was good). Most of us had dessert - I chose the "citrus sherbet" (sort of like a lemon sorbet) and Chris had a really good chocolate fondant. We both drank draft beer (Santory) which was very good too. The whole meal, with the drinks, came to 3,700¥ for the two of us (about $37 or less than £24) - excellent value, and a great evening out with our new friends.
Our tour had officially begun and the next day we would explore more of Tokyo together, starting with a stroll through Asakusa to the banks of the Sumida River and a rather unusual building
We liked the look of this restaurant on Kokusai Dori almost opposite our hotel so decided to try it on our last evening in Asakusa. The menu (there was a single English one, which we had to wait to see) suggested a fusion of Western and Japanese cooking styles, which we thought might be interesting. The decor appealed to us too, with an interesting mix of art work displayed on the walls.
To start with we shared the crudités with bagna cauda , and for mains both chose burgers with cheese and egg topping and soy sauce with wasabi. These came with a few vegetables (including bean sprouts and broccoli) and rice. We drank two small, draft Asahi beers each. The meal was OK but nothing special (we found the burger meat a little soft with no meaty bite), but the beers were good and the service friendly, with a little English spoken. The bill came to just over 2,400¥.
The next morning we left Tokyo after breakfast, to return eleven days later to a very different part of the city and a stay in lively Shinjuku
On the last evening of the group tour part of our trip Andrew proposed a visit to one of his favourite restaurants in Tokyo, an unpretentious and great value udon joint. There are no frills here, but you can get a filling bowl of udon noodles in a wide range of styles for less than 1,000¥, and they are tasty!
It is self service, but with the noodles cooked to order, and according to Time Out Tokyo “are handmade in-house by expert noodle makers from Kagawa, where the dish originates”. The first thing you'll see on entering is the cooking area on the left, with the chefs hard at work and a small counter where you order. Make your choice (there are pictures to help you but I didn't see an English menu) and order by number, stating if you want small or large - on Andrew's recommendation we all went large, and for dinner that's probably good advice. You then sit on a bench opposite the counter while you wait for your noodles to be prepared, and can watch the chefs in action as they roll and cut the dough and cook the noodles before topping them with your chosen sauce. Both Chris and I opted for cheese, again on Andrew's recommendation, and it was very good (a bit like macaroni cheese!)
Once you have your bowl of noodles you take your tray and proceed along the counter choosing any additional dishes you fancy, all of which are priced at around 50-200¥. I chose a vegetable tempura dish, and Chris some potato salad. Others in our group had rice, other salads and different tempura including octopus and even a tempura bacon rasher! You can also get drinks - beer, sake, soft drinks. A few items are priced at 0¥ and can be added for free - I sprinkled some sliced spring onion onto my bowl of noodles and had some ginger paste on the side with my tempura. At the end of the counter you pay, take your tray to a table (we sat at one end of a long wooden one in the centre of the room) and tuck in. Yummy!
Oh, and also very cheap – for our two large cheese udon bowls, a couple of side dishes and two large beers we paid just 2,400¥ (about £15).
Later that evening Chris and I spent some time exploring Shinjuku by night.
Niraikanai Hachiojiten (ニライカナイ 八王子店) is an Okinawan restaurant located just a minute north of the JR Chuo Line's Hachioji Station. This small, rustic restaurant is well designed to resemble a beach-side shack on the tropical island of Okinawa. And the food and drinks in this restaurant also bring back memories of Okinawa.
We sat at a table on the cozy first floor of the small restaurant and we got great service from the friendly staff. The menu was all in Japanese, but the waitress searched high nd low until she found the one English menu in the establishment. We scanned the menu and quickly settled on two bowls of traditional Okinawa soba, one with pork meat and one with fatty pork ribs. I also got a glass of Okinawa's own Orion beer.
Our meal started with a few sides of pickled vegetables with some seafood. Our soba noodles came out shortly thereafter, hot and full of a surprisingly large amount of meat. While just a simple soup, it was very good, in a comfortable and friendly environment.
Yoshimaru (由丸) is a ramen bar that has 11 locations in Tokyo and one in Singapore. We stopped at the location in Akasaka not far from Roppongi. The restaurant is located on the second floor of a triangular building, up a small set of steep, twisting stairs.
We were seated in the small shop that overlooks the big intersection below, and we scanned the small menu. Luckily the menu had pictures, and we had a Japanese speaker with us, so it was easy to order. I ordered a bowl of very spicy noodles, with six thick, rich pieces of pork, a bowl lined with seaweed, and rich, red sauce. The bowl was on the small side, but a great lunch for about 1000 Yen.
Google Map of the restaurant location: https://www.google.co.jp/maps?q=35.670607,139.743022&ll=35.670572,139.743057&spn=0.001896,0.004128&num=1&brcurrent=3,0x60188b8f8cea2c61:0x8f81042b884b91a4,0&t=m&z=19
Google Street View of the location: https://www.google.co.jp/maps?ll=35.670617,139.742844&spn=0.242651,0.528374&cbp=12,95.66,,1,-2.69&layer=c&panoid=F4LjVJ000AhECRBwyaV44Q&cbll=35.670617,139.742844&t=m&z=12&brcurrent=3,0x605d1b87f02e57e7:0x2e01618b22571b89,1L*
Michelin stars are usually attached to European style restaurants, particularly French cuisine. If you ever wondered what a 3 Michelin star Japanese restaurant is like, Ryugin can show you. At the time that we visited in April 2013, we paid 23,100 JPY per person (~ USD $231) for a 10 course set menu and there is no "a la carte" menu. They are able to do substitutions for menu items due to allergies only. I've included a photo of the English menu at the time we went. The menu changes every season so that the ingredients are always fresh to the time of year you visit.
The service was impeccable and what I would expect from a 3 Michelin star restaurant. Our English-speaking waitress described each course as it was presented to us and always made sure our glasses were never empty. Each course was BEAUTIFULLY presented and very delicious.
I think it was a great experience but a place I would probably only visit once, as I felt the money could have spent on other fantastic meals, like high quality sushi, but Ryugin is certainly an extravagant treat.
Go! Go! Curry, or Gorilla Curry, as we like to call it has several locations throughout Tokyo. The restaurant is very low key. You order from a self-service machine in English or Japanese and you can customize your curry with the meats and toppings you like. (See photo) The curry is very delicious and comes out quickly. Great place to go to get your curry fix while in Tokyo.
House of the Sound of the Waves of the Sea (海の家 波音 - なみおと) is an Okinawan restaurant in Tachikawa, just north of the main station. This large restaurant, is quite obviously an island-themed spot, since it is brightly lit, with festive colors, blow up dolphins and other unusual decorations, not to mention the piped in sounds of the waves.
We glanced at the menu, entirely in Japanese, and quickly selected one of the special shabu shabu dishes, called on the menu "Exquisite Pot of Okinawa Wagyu," but in Japanese. We also got a Fiji Islands beer called Vanu and a coke.
The "Exquisite Pot of Okinawa Wagyu" was impressive, with a mound of bean spouts, mushrooms and other vegetables topped with a thin layer of flavorful beef. Since it was shabu shabu, of course the vegetables and meat were uncooked, so the waitress lit up a propane stove. On the side was a ponzu sauce, along with a tofu-ginger paste and a very spicy red paste for seasoning.
The meal was great, running about 1500 Yen per person for the shabu shabu.
Iijima Noodle Shop is a soba restaurant located at the base of Mt Takao, near Takaosansuchi Station in western Hachioji. We stopped here is gas up before a trip to the top of Takao-san. The sign out front had pictures of the soba options, but the menu was only in Japanese, so I walked the owner out to the sign to show him what we wanted for lunch.
We decided to have four bowls of soba, with the shops signature thick broth. Four bowls of soup plus beer, cost about 5,000 Yen.
The restaurant has a handful of Western style tables, a room with Japanese-style seats, and some private rooms.
Misaki Sushi is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant in Narita Airport's Terminal 1. This is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, which are famous in Tokyo for good cheap sushi. We stopped here for lunch while awaiting a flight.
The sushi was a bit scarce, since there were not a lot of customers in the shop. Few of the cheapest 150 Yen plates looked good, so we ended up getting mostly 200 Yen and 280 Yen plates of tuna, sushi and mackeral. This is 2 to 3 times what I would normally spend on good conveyor belt sushi. Four of us spent 6,400 Yen for about 27 plates of nigiri and 2 beers. In some great little sushi places in Tokyo, the same meal would run half that price.
Itadori Sushi has a number of locations in Tokyo, Nagoya and nearby areas of Japan, but we visited the location in an area most famous for sushi--Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market. Itadori has several locations in Tsukiji, but we visited one in a small side alley, with the sushi bar on one side of the narrow passage, and a few tables on the other side.
We decided to order a few bowls of mixed sushi, with a variety of fish like salmon, eel, octopus, shrimp, and tuna. The fish was good (except for the the undercooked shrimp), but a bit expensive at 2,000 Yen per dish for a lunch entree.
Kappe-tei is the name of a kushiyaki restaurant in Shinjuku's p!ss alley. We stopped here with some out of town guests and had a great meal with lots of variety. We were happy to see an English menu, and we selected a variety of dishes including chicken and leeks, chicken skins, beef, kimchi, and much more.
Shoben-yokochō (P!ss Alley) or Omoide Yokocho (Memory Alley) offers some of the best street food in Tokyo. Though covering a very small area, they somehow packed about 40 restaurants into this alley, plus another 10 or so on the parallel alley to the east.
This alley earned its name appropriately, as it was originally a narrow alley with numerous restaurants, but no restrooms, so people had to do their business where they could. The area was established following World War II, and soon earned a reputation for its street food. Unfortunately, the original alley burned to the ground in 1999, and the city rebuilt the small alley of restaurants, coining it with a new moniker, Memory Lane. The look and feel of the place is similar to the original, but now it is cleaner, and it has public restrooms, so the urine smell is gone.
The restaurants are so tiny here, you may have trouble squeezing by other patrons to get to a stool at the bar. There is a variety of food, but the common theme is fast and relatively cheap. You can find anything from standard yakitori, to stews, and even oddities like pig testicles and horse ***.
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