My biggest reason for wanting to go to Japan was to eat. I think my expectations for the food in Tokyo were too high and I underestimate the fact that I live in New York City and have access to good food. I have to admit that I was little underwhelmed with the food. Don’t get me wrong though, the food was really good, I just felt that I could get similar food back home. There definitely were some showstoppers though.
Ichiran is a chain in Japan, but it was the best ramen that we’ve ever had. And the best part is that it’s open 24 hours. Lucky for us we were jetlag and were able to walk about 10 minutes from our hotel to the nearest Ichiran. There was no wait at 6am, but we weren’t the only ones there. I was surprised at how many other people were eating ramen that early in the morning. The cool thing about ramen joints in Japan is that they place your order at a vending machine, take your ticket to the seat and they quickly bring you your order.
Ichiran on only has one type of ramen, so it made it easy for us to choose. We added extra meat, extra noodles and other extra sides. Clearly, we were too excited to try out the vending machines. We we received our food ticket and sat in indivual booths. I could see why this style of dining would appeal to single diners.
The ramen was amazing! It had a rich broth, the meat melted in your month and the noodles were the perfect consistancy. It was the best 1st meal that would could ask for. Regretfully, we didn’t go back again. But, I hear that Ichiran is coming to Williamsburg this summer. I am so excited for this. Hopefully, it’ll taste just as good as it did in Tokyo because I’ll be there often.
Tsukemen is a style of ramen where the noodles are served dry and you dip the noodles into the broth. I never tried it at home, but I definitely wanted to try it in Japan. We reached for some of the best tsukemen in Tokyo and stumbled upon Afuri. We read that Afuri was known for their tsukemen as well as their yuzu ramen broth so we decided to try both. Unfortunitely, the yuzu ramen didn’t hit the spot for us. We weren’t a fan of the citrusy flavor broth. Their tsukemen was the real winner here! Everything about this ramen was amazing. I would do anything to have some more of the pork belly that came with it. I can’t describe the flavor of the broth, but it was perfect. My mouth is watering for this ramen as I write this. We tried another highly regarded tsukemen restaurant for comparision called, Fuunji, but it was such a letdown. The broth was a little too fishy for my liking.
We were also on the hunt for the best tonkatsu and among bloggers and food apps, it seemed to be a unamious vote for Maisen Tonkatsu. We ordered the Kurobuta Loin Pork Cutlet, which is apparently a higher fat piece of meat. It was perfectly crispy, yet non-greasy and the meat was juicy.
They had additional condiments on the side and one really won us over. I don’t know how to describe it, but it was like an Asian seasoning salt that they made in house. We fell in love with it an put it on everything. Before leaving, we asked if they sold it and lucky for us, we were able to snag 2 to bring home.
We left bright and early for Tsukiji fish market to get our hands on a sushi breakfast. We got there around 5am, but the line for Sushi Dai (apparently the best) already had a really long line. We stood on the line for about 10 minutes before deciding to move on. Just around the corner was the “2nd best” sushi spot, Daiwa-Sushi. The line was much shorter and appeared to actually be moving. We waited about 45 minutes before landing a seat at their sushi bar.
The only option was to do omakase. The sushi chef seemed to serve everyone a different assortment of fish. Some of the standouts for me was the fatty tuna, shrimp and eel. I have to admit that this trip helped me come to the realization that I just don’t appreciate omakase. The fish tasted fresh and definitely was better quality that what I can get at most local Japanese restaurants, but it didn’t blow my mind. I’m a cheap date and prefer to eat salmon sashimi and special rolls.
You can’t go to Japan and not try their Waygu beef. We oringinally wanted to try Matsuroku House for their $15 Waygu beef lunch special, but they sold out even before opening. They only serve 30 servings for lunch and by the time we arrived, they had already cut off the line. Disappointed, we decided go Teppanayki Grow which was nearby and also had good reviews. When we walked in, we were the only people there. I expected for there to be a line and doubted that this place could be any good. We were presented with their lunch menu which only had 3 items and it was only in Japanese. We were able to barely communicate with our waiter, but decided to try two different grades of Waygu beef.
We were presented with 2 steaks that were already sliced and came with the same three condiments- soy butter mouse, salt and mini garlic chips. The meat itself was delicious but the soy butter mouse sent it over the top. The more expensive slab of meat was fattier and of course melted in your mouth more, but overall, both were satifying.
Now, I won’t say that I would highly recommend going to Matsuroku House, but I will mention it just because of the story behind it. The first time we tried to come here, we showed up 15 minutes before opening and were turned away because they were already sold out of their lunch special. So we decided to come an hour before opening the next day. And guess what, we were turned away yet again. Due to my FOMO, I was determined to get my hands on that lunch special. The only opportunity we had left was on our last day in Tokyo. The restaurant opened at 11:30; we arrived at 9:00! We were first in line, which turned out to work in our favor. It was a hot day and we were able to grab the only seats in the front of the restaurant that provided us with some shade. Good thing we had a personal hotspot to keep us occupied while we waited.
After the long wait we were greet inside. Everyone had their own personal room and we sat on the floor; it felt like a true Japanese experience. We each got a set which included the Waygu beef and a bunch of seasonings. They also gave us a set of instructions on how to eat the beef. The first way was to eat the beef alone with some rice. The second way was to experiment with the various types of seasonsings. Lastly, they provide a broth to pour over the meat. The meat was only slighly cooked so it didn’t melt in our mouths like the previous Waygu beef that we had. Our favorite method seemed to be the last because the heat of the broth helped cook the meat a little more. FOMO got the best of me and I left feeling a little disappointed, but for around $19, you couldn’t go wrong. According to reviews, this place is one of the best, but maybe we just weren’t fans of the partially cooking our beef.