Tokyo casual eats and cool concepts

Ramen, Soba, Sweets to Cool Concepts (16 - 26 Dec 2012)
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In Part 2 of my Tokyo trip in December 2012, I will share with you some of the more casual eats that I enjoy very much.

EATS – CASUAL

1. Ichiran Ramen
1-22-7 B1F Jinnan Sibuya-ku Tokyo-to 150-0041
Tel: 03-3463-3667
www.ichiran.co.jp/english

This ramen joint has something close to 30 branches in Tokyo. The one we love to go to is in Shibuya, as that is where we usually stay. This trip, we stayed at Shibuya Excel and it’s around an 8 minutes walk to Ichiran. What I love about Ichiran is that I am able to state my preferences for the noodles – from al dente to soft, soup intensity of flavour, choice of extra garnishing, which is perfect, so it doesn’t end up too salty, which is a case I find with many ramen places where it can be too overpowering or salty for my preference. Here, everything is done just perfect to my beary taste buds. It’s flavourful without feeling like I have an MSG overload. It’s my number 1 recommendation for Ramen in Tokyo!

First you order Ramen from the vending machine, and pay for it. After that, the receptionist give you a paper that you tick on your preference for the noodles, extra garnishings etc.
First you order Ramen from the vending machine, and pay for it. After that, the receptionist give you a paper that you tick on your preference for the noodles, extra garnishings etc.

Once shown to the seat, hand the paper through a small slot to the cook behind this booth. The seats are all individual booths, the partition can be folded in so we can still talk to each other.
Once shown to the seat, hand the paper through a small slot to the cook behind this booth. The seats are all individual booths, the partition can be folded in so we can still talk to each other.

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Glorious pork broth soup, done exactly the way you want!

2. Jangara Ramen
1-13-21 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan
Tel: +81 3-3404-5572
http://www.kyusyujangara.co.jp/

This is a great ramen stop near Laforet in Harajuku if you are around that vicinity. It’s constantly packed anytime of the day, but the queue moves rather fast. What they serve here is a Kyushu style ramen, and compared to Ichiran, the broth here is bit more salty, and intense in flavour. Overall in terms of taste and flavours, I still prefer Ichiran, but this is also not bad, it’s just different.

We actually came here for a very late “tea” just 45 mins before our degustation meal at Aronia de Takazawa. It’s amazing how much we can eat, but let me qualify – I didn’t finish my ramen! It was more to satisfy R who kept complaining he hasn’t eaten ramen yet in the trip.

Small Jangara Ramen shop in Harajuku, packed to the brim at the counter seats.
Small Jangara Ramen shop in Harajuku, packed to the brim at the counter seats.

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2 styles of the Kyushu Ramen – Y and I shared one bowl which we barely finished. R probably had 1.5 bowls of ramen before our degustation meal at Takazawa.


3. Yabusoba

2丁目-10 Kanda Awajicho, Chiyoda, Tokyo 101-0063, Japan
Tel:+81 3-3251-0287
www.yabusoba.net

This is like my favourite soba noodles place since discovering it in 2008, after Auntie LY’s friend had recommended this to her in our trip with her and Auntie YW then. Since then, I have been back here everytime if I can, when I come back to Tokyo. It’s in Kanda area, and in a pleasant rustic Japanese house. What I love about this place is the lady owner SINGS out the orders. Yes, no kidding, you will just hear non-stop through the day as you sit there and slurp down the soba noodles, definitely an authentic Japanese eat not to be missed.

A must order is the soba noodles with sliced duck served on the side. It’s heavenly!!

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Close up shot of the “eggy” in the soba noodles. I LOVE IT A LOT!


4.
Honmura-An Tokyo
7-14-18 Roppongi, Minato-ku
Tel: 81-3-5772-6657
www.honmuraantokyo.com/eng/

This modern-designed soba restaurant, was first established in New York before opening in Tokyo. And now it seems it’s closed its original Soho New York branch, when I just tried googling it for the New York location – was planning to also share that address location with my readers here.

Prior to going to Tokyo this trip, I had researched for other interesting soba joints in Tokyo, and came across this. I was totally SOLD on trying this after reading they were famous for their UNI SOBA!! My favourite sea urchin is now done in a soba combination? That intrigued me. I had to just try it, as am somewhat in love, obsessed with UNI – especially with pasta, it’s just heavenly.

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Uni soba - dry style - Honmura An's signature dish
Uni soba – dry style – Honmura An’s signature dish

The verdict is this is pretty yummy. However, if you want something classic with soup, I think Yabusoba is still the best. R had their duck noodles and though it was tasty, it still lacked a bit of oomph that Yabusoba clearly has.

 

EATS – CAFES
Here’s a list of cafes i won’t mind hanging out in Tokyo. These were my favourite

1. Sunday Brunch
Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 2-2-14
Marronier Gate 4F
www.sundaybrunch.co.jp

Located in a young hip mall in Ginza which carries young Japanese brands like United Arrows, Journal Standard and Beams, I discovered this little cafe by chance on my previous trip in 2010 with Y and R. This wonderful cafe has the most yummylicious cakes and French Toast!!! The must tries are definitely their multilayered cream cake – mille-feuille and french toast (see pictures below). It’s a very popular place especially during tea time, so it is best to go just after lunch around 2 plus to also ensure you still get the cakes you prefer.

We came here twice this trip – once during our first day in Tokyo, and then on Xmas Day with Y’s friends – Auntie YW and her hubby AL.

French Toast at Sunday Brunch - just drizzled
French Toast at Sunday Brunch – just drizzled “lightly” with maple syrup and fresh whipped cream. YUMMY!

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Mille-feuille, one of Sunday Brunch’s best seller cakes – made with light layers of sponge, fresh cream and fresh fruits. All i can say is Japanese really do amazing cream and sponge cakes like no other nationality.


2. Daikanyama T-Site

http://tsite.jp/daikanyama/

The T in this case stands for Tsutaya, one of my favourite hang out joints whenever I am in Shibuya or Roppongi, where their other branches are. Tsutaya stores are a great place to browse books and music, stores like that don’t exist anymore in Singapore unfortunately. And T-site has definitely cemented itself in my mind as my new favourite late night hang out joint.

I read from Timeout that recently Tokyo’s Klein Dytham Architecture won an award at the World Architecture Festival for their work on Daikanyama T-Site. which is spread across three interlinked buildings adorned with lattices of interlocking Ts. It’s a pretty cool building, and has in way anchored Daikanyama as a cool place amongst the streets of local hip labels already there. Even the taxi driver knew where it was without us telling him the address. We just said “Tsutaya – T site”, and he replied “Hai!”, nodding his head.

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It’s weird how this Tsutaya “super book shop/ store/ cafe” is supposedly aimed at the upper class 50 and above year olds, I felt like was I getting too old as a bear, loving to hang out at this place? I can see why though when I went to the cafe, but as a young one, I could so easily chill out here. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the cafe though. The interiors are modern yet inviting, gives me a very relaxed feeling when I am there, and it’s like a beautiful gentlemen’s library with carefully curated hand made Japanese art pieces with books.

What’s best about this place is that it closes late till 2 am, so you can come and browse music and books even after dinner. I love the bookstore, they have even car manuals for every brand of car as early as from the 1960s, it’s a great bookstore especially for people with hobbies and need book references.

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View of the cafe while walking across the bridge from the bookshop.

 I decided to have a dessert and cappuccino after browsing the books.Yummy! The cake was surprisingly quite good.
I decided to have a dessert and cappuccino after browsing the books.Yummy! The cake was surprisingly quite good.

IMAG1979- anjin bookshop bar, above t-site

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T-site has a few interesting independent stores around the complex area – including this camera shop, which sells
cool vintage polaroid cameras.

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3. Yoyogi Village

1-28-9 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
www.yoyogi-village.jp/top/index.php

This new concept complex alternative to a typical shopping mall is located in the Shinjuku area, overseen by Takeshi Kobayashi, otherwise known as the producer of famous Japanese rock band Mr. Children. It comprises of an organic Italian restaurant, a bar, coffee shop, art gallery.

I would recommend this if you have nothing else to do, and just want to wind down in Tokyo. When you step in here, due to all the plush greenery and architecture, you do feel quite relaxed here. We came here on our last day for a light lunch before heading to my favourite Isetan supermarket in Shinjuku.

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Inside the cafe where we had a light lunch
Inside the cafe where we had a light lunch

Organic coke in the Italian restaurant - I never knew Organic Coca cola existed!
Organic coke in the Italian restaurant – I never knew Organic Coca cola existed!


The bar area, which has a small performance stage and seats. I can imagine it’s quite fun at night. It was closed in the day when
we went for lunch.

 

TOKYO FOOD HALLS

Tokyo food halls, are like special supermarkets I don’t see anywhere else. Everything is so beautifully created, there’s aisles and aisles of amazing food produce that I wish I could just bring back the entire food hall.

My all-time favourite is Isetan Shinjuku, which I think has the best selection. Takashimaya Shinjuku is also not bad, followed by Mitsukoshi Ginza. But it takes a lot of time to cover these food halls, so I usually only go to Isetan. I could go here everyday and find something new to buy. It’s worth it to bring back the beef, Japanese wine, sauces and condiments, dried goods, Japanese fruits, that you don’t get so easily in Singapore or have to pay a high price for it back here. I always buy such items when i am in Japan, and it helps to “prolong” my Japanese gourmet experience.

Picture of Japanese beef from the beef counter at Shinjuku - Isetan, where I always buy from.
Picture of Japanese beef from the beef counter at Shinjuku – Isetan, where I always buy from.

I have to give special mention to my favourites in the food halls:

• Gramercy New York’s strawberry cheesecake – Takashimaya supermarket
• Japanese cheescake – Tokyu Supermarket (located below Shibuya Excel Hotel)
• Multitude of other pastries and cakes, and Japanese beef – Isetan Shinjuku

Lovey’s tips on bringing back foodstuffs from any of the food halls:

For beef: it’s best to go a day or 2 days earlier to reserve the beef first with the chef, so that it saves some wait time on the day of collection. If you go during the year end where Japan New Year falls on the 1 January, please book your beef the moment you touch down in Tokyo, as the whole world be buying beef and things gets sold out. It’s important to advise the chef the time of pick up (which should be a few hours before your flight) and tell him how long is the flight duration, so that he will make sure he freeze pack the beef with enough ice to last the whole flight. I usually bring a cooler bag on the day of collection, so he just packs all the beef and ice in that bag. BEST TO CHECK IN YOUR BEEF with the rest of your luggage, as it will be in the coolest area of the plane with the rest of the bags and cargo.
For dried goods, sauces: Can buy anytime when you are in the food hall, even the last day in Tokyo is fine. There’s plenty of stock.
For perishables: Popular items I always buy are mochi cakes (the good fresh ones only have 1 week maximum duration) for Y’s dad, Japanese fruits, vegetables, buy on the last day in Tokyo.

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Me on Christmas eve with Japanese cheesecake and Strawberry cream log cake from Tokyu Supermarket below Shibuya Excel Hotel.

Sigh, this blog is making me miss soba and strawberry cream cakes, I guess I have to wait for my next trip in October 2013 to enjoy. Can’t wait!

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