Tokyo: My Favourites (aka a Beginner’s Guide to Tokyo)

One of my colleagues is heading to Tokyo shortly and I am insanely jealous – I love Tokyo! Immediately I think of certain things I want to go back and eat, which triggered this entry – what are the food that I will return to eat, time and again? Each of these foods are foods I enjoy and have returned to eat, or will be returning to eat.. yes, most of them happen to be chain restaurants which everyone knows and are familiar with as well – that just goes to show you really can eat good food almost anywhere in Tokyo.

Without further ado:

1. Afuri

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Gotta admit I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks now. I have only tried one ramen on their menu – the yuzu shio – but that’s because I don’t see any reason to stray. Clear broth with accents of yuzu; thin, springy and chewy noodles topped with bamboo shoots (I love!) and a slice of grilled char shu – what’s not to like? I’ve been told the tsukemen is another cult favourite but I gotta wait till the next time I’m back. I love it so much that I try to force friends / family who go to Tokyo to bring me back the cup noodle version – yes, you guessed it, my favourite cup noodles everrrr.

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Location: Almost everywhere. I went to the one at Roppongi, specifically 六本木交差点

2. Ichiran 

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Yup, this is another reliable favourite. I think recently Mutekiya has been getting lots of traction for their tonkotsu ramen as well (disclaimer – have not tried it) but I gotta say there’s a reason why there are queues for Ichiran. I love the fact you are able to customise your noodles and most importantly, I prefer thin springy noodles offered in usual Hakata style ramen to thick curly noodles in Tokyo styled ramen. The broth is decently porky without being too fatty (just opt for more a more robust broth if you want it to be heartier) and honestly, that’s all I really need. I usually add a side of negi (I can live without egg and char shu in my ramen tbh – sacrilegious, I know, I know)

Location: Almost everywhere. Again, was at the Roppongi branch (no queue!)

3. Gyukatsu Motomura

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Loved it so much we had it twice in the last trip (and Tdy and I got an extra portion to share too..). Everyone has tried tonkatsu, but gyukatsu? Man, this is one big great level up from your humble tonkatsu. Each portion comes with a slab of rare beef, sliced lengthwise and coated in batter. You are given a mini hot stone where you finish grilling your own gyukatsu off to your desired doneness. Eat with wasabi and soy, or their house special sauce. Then order another portion and not feel guilty at all. It’s also 1,300 yen for a single portion. Good food, great price, it’s no wonder there’s always a queue. I went to the Hamamatsucho outlet and didn’t bother with the Shinjuku branches and had minimal waits both times.

Location: A few branches but I went to this one at Hamamatsucho (where you take the train to Haneda). 〒105-0013 Tokyo, Minato, Hamamatsucho, 2 Chome−5−1, 石渡ビル

4. Katsu Midori Sushi – Shibuya outlet (活美登利 西武渋谷店)

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For the longest time I remembered this as the sushi conveyor belt restaurant on top of Seibu (and not the name lol). I must confess I haven’t dined at expensive sushi restaurants in Tokyo before (not even Kyubey); I tend to be pretty #budgetbarbie in Tokyo and the most money I have ever spent on a meal in Tokyo was 4000yen? But that’s cos I subscribe to the philosophy that you don’t need to spend much to eat well in Tokyo.. anywayyyy, this sushi restaurant always has queues but it moves really quickly. How to find it? Find the waiting stools outside the restaurant and plonk your butt down on them and wait (or find the line of people queueing – so many queues in Japan!). For all snobs out there, this place is also thronged by the locals and it is a super great find – the vibrant atmosphere makes it a lot of fun to dine at! And at such good value too: a trio of aburi sushi goes for about 500 yen, with most basic of sushis starting at 100 yen. A great place to eat till you drop.

Location: Located in the Seibu in Shibuya (go to the food floor upstairs. Also another branch at the Seibu in Ikebukuro) – 〒150-0042 Tokyo, 渋谷区Udagawacho, 21−1 A館8階レストラン街ダイニング プラザ

5. Matsurokuya (御曹司 松六家) 

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I have eaten here twice and have raved about it before here. Well, I’ve said it before and it still stands – the lunch sets are of incredible value. It was 1,500 yen when I first visited it in December 2014 and it was 2,000 yen when I went back in September 2016.  Still, that’s an entire meal with salad, main (with wagyu hitsumabushi) and a small dessert for under S$30.. crazy, crazy value. Of course, the catch is, the number of sets they serve per lunch is limited and there are no reservations. I’d recommend coming at 10.45 to queue (they open at 11.30am) . Clearly, this is one of the worst kept secrets of Roppongi and Tokyo.. Protip: Don’t go for dinner, Kel went and said it was expensive and nowhere as good as lunch.

Location:〒106-0032 Tokyo, Minato, Roppongi, 4 Chome−10−2, 荒川ビル

6. Blue Bottle Coffee

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I remember the days when there were only two blue bottles and the queues at the Aoyama branch were mad (because it’s the only one in central Tokyo I think). Not to worry any longer because Blue Bottle is now in Shinjuku (NeWoman) and Roppongi (off an alley near Midtown) as well. I frequent these two the most often tbh – I now travel to Aoyama for Cafe Kitsune instead. Between the Shinjuku and Roppongi branch, the Roppongi branch is more quaint and is a nicer place to lounge around whereas the Shinjuku one is in a basement in a mall (like a Starbucks). Btw, I think blue bottle’s iced coffee is nicer than its hot coffees – but both are excellent, and easy to drink: a perfect perk me up in the morning.

PS: The first picture was taken in Roppongi; the second, Aoyama.

Location: (Aoyama) 3-13-14 Minamiaoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0062; (Roppongi) 7-7-7 Roppongi Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0032

7. Cafe Kitsune

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It’s Maison Kitsune so obviously the décor is gonna be pretty cool. Somehow Cafe Kitsune has managed to weave in Japanese elements into its decor (the picture speaks for itself). Come for the ‘gram, stay for the vibes. Little lanterns light up at night, and they offer some coffee based cocktails. Very hip spot and great for a morning coffee run.

Location: 3-17-1 Minamiaoyama Minato Tokyo

8. Shake Shack

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Don’t judge me for this – but I can’t get this in Singapore so gotta eat my fill in Tokyo. The Shake Shack by the Meiji-jingu park is the most gorgeous of all, cos well, it’s in a park. There are special Tokyo-only custards so.. obviously make a beeline for them. I’ve tried the matcha swirl with kinako one before – unfortunately neither the matcha nor the kinako taste came through. Still a great custard though. But most importantly, I remember the burgers being as good as the first time I tried them. The law of diminishing marginal returns certainly does not apply to Shake Shack.

Please also admire my photography skills:

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Location: Almost everywhere nowadays – Meiji Jingu park is really quaint. The instagram shot was taken at the Ebisu branch after we visited the Yebisu Garden Palace 

9. Tsurutontan Udon (Pictures do not do this justice!!!)

(Soz this doesn’t photograph well and the picture on the right is from 2014 so it’s been a while – but it is epic AF – beef, runny eggs, kitsune and yuzu topping in a bowl of soupy udon. The tempura is forgettable.) I used to go to the branch at Roppongi but now I just go to the one at Haneda to have my last Japanese meal before flying off. The queues can be nuts especially during dinner times (BOTH Roppongi and Haneda) – Kel and I waited for 30 minutes once (but it’s all good, just go browse at the Don Quijote next door where there are no queues for the sweet potatoes). But it’s really all worth it especially when your basin of steaming hot udon appears in front of you. Yup, basin – look, you need a ladle to eat it. My favourite here is the kitsune, as it comes with strips of yuzu and clear broth. The simple beef udon is also a great winter warmer. Best part, this opens till 8am (it was 3am previously) – so I guess it’s post-clubbing food and breakfast for the Japanese. Really, really insanely sick post clubbing food.

Location: 〒106-0032 Tokyo, Minato, Roppongi, 3 Chome−14−12, 六本木3丁目ビル

10. BONUS: Tea House Mayoor (ティーハウス マユール 宮崎台店)

 

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I only started getting into the whole kakigori craze around 2016 (I am basic, sue me) thanks to Little Meg (if you know, you know) and my kakigori friend KYW. Anyway, point being, I had to see for myself what was the FUSS all about. So I dragged Tdy to this tiny town 20 mins away from Shibuya called Miyazakidai in 2-degree weather where we queued for 45 minutes in the cold, to eat shaved ice. We did this TWICE, just because it was damn bloody good – I know, it’s just shaved ice. But it really isn’t. The ice is shaved in a way that it doesn’t clump together to form boulders of ice (unlike korean bingsoo, which absolutely cannot be compared to kakigori) and each mouthful melts on your tongue. Each kakigori is also carefully layered, meaning you get flavour, and not just water in every bite. Apparently, the quality of the water matters too, but frankly, I’m not sure in shaved iced form, I’d be able to tell the difference. The first time we trooped down, we had an avocado kakigori and a black sesame kakigori. I struggle to decide which is better but the black sesame edged out the avocado (just very slightly) due to black sesame mochi I found inside my kakigori (!!!!). We returned the next time for strawberry and royal milk tea, which couldn’t hold a candle to the avocado and black sesame. Btw, just a word of caution, if you’re gonna go down and stand in line, I’d suggest eating at least 2 kakigoris to make your time worthwhile. No need to worry about looking greedy, lots of petite Japanese ladies eat 3 to 4 kakigoris by themselves at one go – I’ve still got lots more to catch up on.

Location:〒216-0033 Kanagawa Prefecture, Kawasaki, Miyamae Ward, Miyazaki, 2 Chome−3−12 宮崎台ルピナス

Well, that’s all from me for now – I need to go draft an email right now, at least the weekend is almost here! I had lots of fun scrolling through old pictures and revisiting memories of Tokyo. If I have enough content, I’ll probably do up a value set lunches in Tokyo post – if not, I’ll just return and eat more till I have enough.. heh. Till next time, my fellow Tokyophiles!

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