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Tokyo Eateries, Part 2..

More on the Tokyo eateries…..

7. Genpin Fugu, Shinjuku

One thing I wanted to eat in Japan was FUGU! Also known as puffer fish, it can be lethally poisonous due to its tetrodotoxin, a poison that is 1200 times more lethal than cyanide. It only takes a small amount to kill a person and each blow fish contains enough to kill 30 people, therefore has to be carefully prepared. I am not quite sure what my obsession with fugu is but I HAD to try it. Not sure if it’s trying to live dangerously or the simpsons episode but I was determined to eat it.

Genpin Fugu is a restaurant that serves fugu and nothing else. There are many branches; however, ‘The Mother’ and I went to the one in Shinjuku. Upon entering the restaurant, there is a fish tank where your meal is still swimming around in it. It is one of the ugliest fish I have ever seen!

‘The Mother’ and I opted for one set course (they are really into their set courses!) plus another serving of hot pot.

We started with the ‘Yubiki’ – boiled chopped skin served with sauce which was AMAZING! The sauce consisted of soy sauce, shallots, garlic and onions. The fugu was fresh, it was a little chewy but eaten with the sauce was quite tasty.

Next the fugu sashimi. The sashimi itself was a little dull and tasteless, it has a similar texture to yellow tail but it has a really interesting effect of numbing your mouth after a few bites. Dipped in sauce, it gave it more flavouring and taste. Surprisingly, both ‘The Mother’ and I really enjoyed it.

The fugu hot pot – now this was incredible and you have to see it to believe it. Cooked on the table in the most amazing pots, it’s a basket with a piece of paper lining – yes just a paper lining! You then cook everything in there – I was amazed and I kept wondering how this paper didn’t rip or whiltered?

The sauce – I LOVED! One of the best I have ever eaten.

The different cuts of fugu – ready to be boiled and eaten.

Cooking the fugu and vegetables.

The boiled fugu was wonderful, it was still a tad chewy and tasteless but again with the sauce was excellent.

The ‘Zousui’ – porridge of rice and egg yolks cooked with the broth and as horrible as it looks, it was actually quite tasty. Similar to that of porridge, it was moist and more watery than porridge or congee. ‘The Mother’ had about three bowls, he definitely enjoyed it.

Lastly, dessert, a scoop of macadamia ice cream, it was creamy with big chunks of macadamia and was the perfect way to end the meal.

I really wanted to try the ‘torafugu karaage’ – deep fried fugu, but ‘The Mother’ was full and well I doubt I could have eaten the whole thing on my own.

Everything was fresh, I have heard that this delicacy can get really expensive. One set meal and an extra hot pot costs about (5900 yen, which is about AUD 72).

We both survived it, so if you feel like you want to live dangerously for a night and want to try something different, go for it, try the fugu!

GA’s ratings: 7.5 / 10

‘The Mother’s’ ratings: 7.5 / 10

Genpin Fugu

2F, 3-8-2 Shinjuku,

Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Ph: +81 3 3341 9529

6. Soba and Tempura, Akasuka

‘The Mother’ and I were meeting some friends for lunch who has recently moved to Tokyo for work – LUCKY SOD! So jealous! ‘The Mother’ worked with H and luckily for him, got a transfer to Tokyo to work.

Unfortunately S, H’s beautiful wife, couldn’t be there as she had a big night the night before and was not feeling too great. S had picked this wonderful all you can eat restaurant, she loves food just as much as I do, however, H could not find it, so we went to the first restaurant that we saw which was this soba house, call Tanakaya.

Soba is a thin buckwheat noodles which can be eaten either hot or cold and are great all year long.

‘The Mother’, H and I all opted for the tempura, soba lunch set, except H opted for the cold soba. Prepared in a different way to that of pasta, most Japanese noodles, including soba are rinsed vigorously in cold running water to get rid of excess starch. The cold soba was served on a sieve-like bamboo tray called a zaru with dipping sauce known as soba tsuyu on the side. The tsuyu is made of a strong mixture of dashi, sweetened soy sauce and mirin.

It was a cold day and I couldn’t bear the thought of eating cold soba, so opted for the hot soba. It was served in a bowl of hot tsuyu, which is thinner than that used as a dipping sauce for chilled soba. The soba was cooked to perfection and delicious, I couldn’t help but keep slurping the soba – it was good.

The tempura, was served on a bowl of rice, prawns, fish, eggplant and pumpkin – it was wonderful and a great complement to the soba. The rice was a little too much for my liking!

It was great catching up with H, I am a little jealous of his new venture in Tokyo! It was an enjoyable meal, and reasonably cheap too, about 1400 yen (AUD 20).

GA’s ratings: 7.5 / 10

‘The Mother’s’ ratings: 8 / 10

Soba Tanakaya – www.soba-tanakaya.com

5. Gonpachi, Roppongo Hills

If you have watched kill bill, then you will recognise the battle scene – it is one that is not forgotten easily. Uma Thurman in her yellow jumpsuit with her big samurai sword being all scary and well quite impressive in my opinion. This restaurant can be found near Roppongo hills in Tokyo.

I have heard about this restaurant from various friends, and was keen to check it out (and because I am a Kill Bill fan!). Upon entering, we were greeted by all the staff who loudly shout their welcomes in unison. We didn’t have a reservation but were offered a table by the bar which suited us fine.

‘The Mother’ didn’t want the set menu – too much food he claims so we opted for a la carte. We started with the grilled miso glazed back cod and it was as delicious as it looked! It was served with a mound of grated daikon. The cod was wonderfully cooked, the skin was caramelised and sticky and the miso marinade was delightfully sweet. A great start!

‘The Mother’ and I were highly impressed with the kakuni stewed pork belly with radish served with half a boiled egg. The pork belly was so tender it just fell apart. It was brilliant, we couldn’t help but fight for every single last piece.

The japanese wagyu beef steak was to die for. Served medium rare, the beef just melted in the mouth, no chewing required and the grated daikon was a great complement. This was definitely a winner for me.

The charred grilled eggplant with chicken miso sauce and cheese was delicious. Soft tender eggplant baked with miso and sprinkled over cheese – it was gooey and cheesy. ‘The Mother’ didn’t want any of this, so yes, I ate the whole thing myself! Appalled? I was!

‘The Mother’ opted for the kake soba – plain noodels served in hot broth. It was plain but ‘The Mother’ certainly enjoyed it.

They do have set meals if you don’t want to pick and choose. The restaurant is simple but wonderfully decorated. I love the lanterns hanging from the ceiling. The waitress were attentive and service excellent. It was a fun and buzzing restaurant  at affordable prices. I would definitely recommend Gonpachi, even if its just for lunch and to check out the fighting scene!

GA’s ratings: 8 / 10

‘The Mother’s’ ratings: 7.5 / 10

Gonpachi

1F,2F, 1-13-11 Nishiazabu,

Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0031

Ph: +81 3 5771 0170

Hope you have all enjoyed part two of Tokyo Eateries. Last post of Tokyo eateries to come shortly.

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Tokyo Eateries Part 1

‘The Mother’ and I had such a great time in Tokyo that we didn’t want to leave! It wasn’t our first trip to Tokyo, it was our first time together to Tokyo and it was absolutey fantastic! The food, the shopping, the sight seeing, Japan is truly a magical city and a must visit, at least once!

We caught up with some friends, ate some deliciously good food and indulged in all sorts of snacks and ice cream, especially green tea ice cream – how can you say no to that? We certainly ate well, we tried as many different types of Japanese cuisines as we can and thought I would share it with all of you in the next couple of posts. Food we ate and enjoyed in Tokyo.

10. Tempura: Tsunahachi Restaurant, Shinjuku

Also recommended by the lonely planet, this is the main branch out of eight restaurants in Japan. ‘The Mother’ and I love tempura and this is definitely the place for it. We had the pleasure of sitting by the counter and watched the chefs fry each course and place it on our plate. Located in Shijuku, you can find this delicious fried goodness restaurant near Mitsukoshi department store.

‘The Mother’ and I both had the tempura set, the smallest and cheapest (1999 yen, about AUD25) – two prawns, seasonal vegetables, season fish, congeal eel, shrimps ball, miso soup / rice / pickles.

We started with the traditional two prawns, and wow – excellent. The batter was thin and crispy and the prawn fresh and absolutely delicious.

The seasonal vegetables consisted of only mushroom, which was good, but I expected more, like eggplant and pumpkin, alas, just mushroom. The fish was incredibly tender, again the batter was crispy and excellent.

The congeal eel was a larger serving and cut into two. The fish was firm and delicious.

Last but not least, the shrimps ball which I loved, and by now I was getting a little sick with all the fried goodness.

I am glad we got the smallest set, everything was freshly made and the batter was scrumptiously crunchy and light. If you don’t have a reservation opt to see at the bar – you get to see the chefs in action!

GA’s ratings: 7.5 / 10

3-31-8     Shinjuku, Tokyo Prefecture, Japan

Ph: +81 3 3352 1012

9. Shabu shabu: Kurumaya, Shinjuku

We were originally looking for a different shabu shabu place, but couldn’t find it and found this instead. Kurumaya is also a yakitori place but ‘The Mother’ and I were cold and wanted something warm. Shabu shabu is a type of Japance hot pot. It is similar to that of sukiyaki, in that they both use thinly sliced meat and vegetables but shabu shabu is more savoury and less sweet.

Our pot on top of a bunsen burner where we steamed (or cooked) our food.

The dipping sauces.

The beef – we opted for wagyu beef and WOW, it was delectably tender and just melted in your mouth! We ordered two servings of this, and I could have easily eaten a third serving. To think that I didn’t eat beef for a good ten years!

The pork was good, but the wagyu beef was a definite winner!

Here is how we cooked the wonderful dish.

Last, the noodles, cooked in the broth and eaten with the broth.

‘The Mother’ loved it, I do prefer shabu shabu over sukiyaki – it tends to be too sweet for my liking. They do have English menu, service was good and total bill was about 4800 yen, which is about AUD59.

GA’s ratings: 7.5 / 10

‘The Mother’s’ ratings: 7.5 / 10

2-37-1 Kabukicho,Shinjuku,

Tokyo Prefecture 160-0021, Japan

Ph: +81 3-3232-0301

8. Sushi and Sashimi: Tama Sushi, Ginza

You can’t go to Japan and not eat sushi and sashimi. ‘The Mother’ and I were shopping at Ginza, which is apparently Tokyo’s answer to NYC’s Fifth Avenue.

Tama Sushi is located just a short walk away from the glamorous Ginza shopping district. I didn’t know at the time, but apparently this restaurant has all you can eat sushi which is a good deal for a pair of people. Apparently two women dining will costs 6,300 yen (AUD 77), two men dining will costs 8,400 yen (AUD102) and a couple 7,350 yen (AUD 90). Unfortunately, ‘The Mother’ and I didn’t realise that and besides I don’t think we could eat all you can eat sushi.

The sushi and sashimi here is fresh. Apparently the chef can make whatever it is that you want. I opted for Tsukiji Nigiri (2,625 yen, AUD 32) – variety of sushi with miso soup and dessert. I love the different types of sushi, king fish, tuna, prawn, scallops and many more. They were all fresh and absolutely fantastic, especially the tamagoyaki, it was sweet and not sickening, and scrumptiously good.

It was SO good that I did have order another serve of the tamagoyaki sushi and it was divine.

With my set, it came with eel and the eel was magnificent. Sweet and my goodness, it was a small piece but one of the best I have ever eaten.

‘The Mother’ opted for the edo chirashi different types of sashimi served on a bed of rice and also served with miso soup, rice and dessert. The sashimi was fresh and superb. ‘The Mother’ certainly enjoyed it.

The green tea ice cream with red bean was a little frosty at first but it was deliciously creamy and deliciously sweet – I wanted a second serve of this but it was one of those occassions where my eyes were bigger than my stomach!

We stumbled across this restaurant and it was definitely a great find. The sashimi and sushi were fresh, tasty and absolutely magnificent. Service was excellent, its a tiny restaurant, so come early or be prepared to wait.

GA’s ratings: 7.5 / 10

‘The Mother’s’ ratings: 8 / 10

Ginza Core Building

B2F, 5-8-20 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Ph: +81 3 3573 0057

Till next time, Part two of Tokyo Eateries….

Second stop, Nozawa Onsen

The next day, we caught the JR train to Nagoya Station and caught the local train to Nozawa Onsen. It took a while, from memory about three to four hours, and I have to admit, I did sleep most of the way. There is something soothing about catching the train and just letting your mind drift and then fall asleep!

Nozawa Onsen is a cute little town, which is tucked into a corner of the Eastern Japan Alps. It is the quintessential Japanese onsen and ski resort. You can walk to the ski slopes from pretty much anywhere you are staying. Although Nozawa is worth visiting anytime of the year, the main attraction is actually skiing.

We stayed at Kiriya Ryokan, a wonderful little place that has Japanese-style rooms. We slept on futons and wore a kimono to dinner and breakfast. I do remember staying at places like this the last time I was in Japan and enjoyed it.

We arrived around lunch time, and as per usual, I was starving! We went to restaurant which was a couple of houses down, Restaurant Billiken. It was snowing and the place was empty. I assumed everyone were skiing, and ‘The Mother’ and I planned on going after lunch.

On the menu, we noticed they had horse meat sashimi – don’t knock it until you have tried it! It was like beef tartare, only that it was a little chewy and rough. It tasted like beef but we both certainly enjoyed it.

‘The Mother’ opted for the vegetarian soba – which I thought was a little weird. No meat? The soup was hot, and full of flavour, the soba was soft and cooked to perfection. Mix with different types of vegetables, it was surprisingly good.

I on the other hand ordered the katsu don, another favourite of mine. Deep fried pork and topped with egg and sweet onions on a mountain of rice! The pork was tender, and batter light but a tad soggy after the egg. The egg and sweet onions were the perfect combination. I have always enjoyed this dish, it was good but I wouldn’t say it was the best I have ever had!

Scrumptiously full, we thought we would rest for a couple of minutes before heading to the slopes. Unfortunately, that couple of minutes turned into a couple of hours of nap and before we knew it, it was 4.30 pm and way too late to go skiing! Probably a good thing, as the weather was horrid, it was snowing and visibility was poor.

So we decided to do the next best thing, onsen. For those who have never been to an onsen, it can be slightly intimidating. Being totally naked in front of someone else can be rather uncomfortable. This is not the first time for me, I remember when I went to boarding school for three months, the shower was similar to that of an onsen. The more you try to cover up, the more others will look at you. There are separate male and female onsen, for obvious reasons which I am sure you know.

An onsen is a term for hot springs though the term is often used to describe bathing facilities and inns around the hot spring. There was an onsen in our hotel which was perfect. Below is a little instruction or etiquette on how one should behave in an onsen. I won’t go into the details, but from the picture below, you enter the bath house naked, wash yourself clean with soap and shampoo that’s provided. Make sure that all the suds are washed off before entering the hot bath. Now the hot bath is HOT! But once entering, it is actually quite soothing and relaxing. I certainly enjoyed it, and felt absolutely refreshed and clean once I got out.

We had dinner at the hotel, kaiseki which is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. WOW! Kaiseki started with just a miso soup and three side dishes, however, it has evolved and includes an appetizer, sashimi, a simmered dish, a grilled dish and a steamed course – so much food! There were ALL that plus more!

The sashimi – a favourite of ours, fresh and delicious!

Grilled vegetables – which was nice but some were ‘interesting’ to say the least.

Agedahi tofu, another favourite of mine, which was served at room temperature and was wonderful.

Radish – vinegarish and refreshing, palate cleanser.

Steamed pork with radish, I wasn’t a fan of the radish this time but the pork, wonderful!

The steamed course, sukiyaki with beef – WOW! Beef was tender and succulent, soup deliciously sweet and wonderful. If only I had more beef.

Tempura – vegetables and a prawn which was excellent.

Steamed salmon with egg which I enjoyed, salmon was so tender and the egg a great complement.

Not to mention the grilled prawn sprinkled with salt.

Miso soup which was warm and divine.

And dessert, sweet poached apple which was the perfect way to end the meal.

We waddled back to our room, read and fell asleep! It was indeed a fantastic day.

Here is the view in the morning from our room, snowed under!

The next morning, we had a traditional Japanese style breakfast. Similar to that of dinner, there were a lot of food which consists of steamed rice, miso soup and various side dishes including broiled / grilled fish, tamagoyaki, onsen tamago, tsukemono pickles, seasoned nori, natto and many more.

Pickles and fried egg – the pickles I wasn’t a fan off, but the fried egg cooked to perfection and oozed with yolk!

Beans, mushroom and pickles – the beans I loved! It was sweet and tasty. And the grilled salmon that you see at the end which was fantastic!

The mix salad with corn and mayonnaise, again delicious.

The seasoned nori, it was served at room temperature but delightful.

The miso soup – you can never go wrong with miso soup!

Thankfully we only stayed for one night, imagine if we stayed the whole week – so much delicious food!

We weren’t leaving Nozawa until late afternoon so decided to go for a half day ski! Oh how I have missed skiing – it certainly has been a while!

Fresh powder every where! ‘The Mother’ fell and struggled to get out, but the view, was just magnifique – photos below.

Our half day pass only allowed us to ski till midday, so after that, we went back to the hotel, cleaned up (even managed to go for one last onsen!) and headed to the station to go back to Tokyo! It was a good half day of skiing – I kind of wished we were staying for another day but I was looking forward to the wonderful eateries and sigh seeing in Tokyo.

Till next time, Tokyo.

GA’s ratings on Restaurant Billiken: 7 / 10

Right next to Yoshimi Soba and down from Ogama

GA’s ratings on Kiriya Ryokan: 8 / 10

8714-2 Nozawa Onsen-mura

Shimotakai-gun, Nagano-ken

Ph: +81 269 389 2502

First stop, Matsumoto, Japan

Japan, I have been looking forward to going back for such a long time! ‘The Mother’ and I have not been to Japan together, I have previously gone with some girlfriends to ski and with my parents, and spent a good three months in Kyoto in a boarding school so I can ‘perfect’ my Japanese. Needless to say, that, I didn’t end up doing Japanese for my High School Certificate and have forgotten most of my Japanese. One good thing though, it was one of the best thing that happened to me during high school and made some wonderful memories and friends.

Our first stop in Japan was Matsumoto. We arrived in Tokyo and took the JR Shinonoi Line, the train took about 2.5 – 3 hours, I can’t exactly remember as I passed out and slept most of the way. Matsumoto is located in Nagoan Prefecture on Honshu, main island of Japan. It boasts ‘a surprisingly metropolitan atmosphere while maintaining historical sites and traditions’. The streets are super clean, so clean that ‘The Mother’ would eat off it, and the people are extremely friendly! Apparently the region is famous for delicious apples and soba (buckwheat noodles).

We stayed in a cute little hotel call Dormy Inn, in the heart of Matsumoto. As ‘The Mother’ checked in, I was going through a couple of pamphlets and something caught my eye ‘the Staffs recommendations for eating out’ – PERFECT! Unfortunately, I didn’t really do my research on Matsumoto so was happy to have found this little information – check out the drawing below, it is pretty neat!

We got there early, so thought we would check out the castle, completed in 1614, it is considered one of Japan’s top three castles. The scenery from the castle is quite breath taking, the photo below really doesn’t do any justice! It was truly magical and mind blowing.

You can enter the castle, admission is around 600 yen, and climb to the top of the stairways. From there, you can see the whole view of Matsumoto town. Below is a little sneak peak of Matsumoto town from the top of the castle, gorgeous.

The castle is located 15 mins from Matsumoto station and admission ticket also includes Matsumoto City Museum on the castle grounds, with artefacts documenting the history of the city. I really do love the scenery below!

First stop, lunch! Recommended by the staff of the hotel – Pork cutlet and Japanese curry – Takuma (Tonkatsu and curry) and my goodness, it was one of the best Japanese curry I have ever had!

It’s a very casual place that serves pork cutlet and Japanese style curry. I am not a huge fan of curries usually, but I have taken a liking to Japanese curry, and had to try in Japan. We started with a salad, fresh fruits with vegetable drizzled with mayonnaise. I certainly enjoyed it but ‘The Mother’ just ate the fruits. He is not big on mayonnaise and didn’t particular like the cabbage!

I opted for the pork katsu curry, and it was sensational. It was quite a large serving, which suited me fine – the bigger the better, I was ravenous. The pork was tender and succulent, the batter was light and extremely crunchy, even after it was poured with curry sauce. The sauce was wonderful, it was slightly spicy and not sickening, I could have easily drunk the sauce on its own, but that would seem a tad wrong!

‘The Mother’ is not so big on Japanese curry, so opted for something smaller. He ordered the pork loin, half size with curry. The batter was exactly the same, just a different cut of pork and it was just as good as mine. The difference is I don’t think I would have been satisfied with this, it was just too small! Yes – I can eat!

The whole meal came to 1650 yen, which is about AUD$22 which I thought was pretty good!

Deliciously full, we thought we would wonder around the town. We found a park, which was walking distance from the hotel. We sat there for a while admiring and soaking up the view. It was beautiful. Life was good, things were great, if only we could stop time.

We went back to the hotel and rested for a bit before heading out for dinner. ‘The Mother’ wanted yakitori, something he enjoyed and we found this cool yakitori place near our hotel. The place was buzzing, lots of diners, and since we didn’t have a booking, we sat by the bar, which was no problem at all! I can see the chefs in action.

We started with Tsukune – chicken skewered meatballs with quail eggs in side. Tender chicken and the surprise of a quail egg which was cooked to perfection was just amazing. We both really enjoyed this dish.

I couldn’t help but order fried chicken wings – hot deep fried chicken wings. They were tasty, I sense that they were battered with beer as it had a strong beer flavour. It was spicy and crunchy, and absolutely soft and juicy on the inside. It was a winner!

Next the chicken skins – these were crunchy and soft at the same time. Tiny chicken skins barbequed with salt. It was good.

The pork neck salad was incredibly! Ever since that pork neck dish at Gi Kee in Hong Kong, I have to order it if it’s on the menu. The pork neck was deliciously succulent and tender and was absolutely wonderful. I could have easily eaten the whole thing on my own!

The skewered rolled pork meat and mini tomatoes was ‘The Mother’s’ favourite. He loves the juicy roasted tomato that bursts in your mouth.

The grilled chicken breast filled with yuzu flavoured chilling was nice but nothing to rave about. The yuzu sauce was delicious but the chicken breast was so so.

Last but not least, just a stick for me, as I could still eat, chicken thigh carcass meat with pong vinegar was the perfect way to end. It was so tender that it required absolutely no chewing, and just melted in your mouth.

It was a fantastic meal, we both certainly enjoyed the meal and was absolutely stuffed. The meal costs about 2500 yen, which is about AUD$33, which isn’t too shabby at all!

For dessert, we thought we would get something from the convenience store. There are so many different types of ice cream that ‘The Mother’ wanted to try as many as he can. I was a tad full but couldn’t help but have some of his crème brule ice cream. Chocolate coated, with crème brule flavoured ice cream – it was just to die for! I loved it! I probably should have got one for myself but knew I would be sick.

Matsumoto is a beautiful city, it is Nagano-ken’s second largest city and has been around since at least the 8th century. I love the view of the Japan Alps and it is a transit hub for Japan Alps National Park and Kiso Valley. I would recommend going there, but don’t think you need to stay more than a day, two max.

Next stop, Nozawa Onsen for a day of skiing.

GA’s ratings on Takuma: 8 / 10

Takuma (Tonkatsu & Curry)

1 Choume, Chuuo

Matsumoto, Japan

Ph: +81 263 35 6434

GA’s ratings on Yakitori: 8 / 10

Fukashi, Matsumoto,

Nagano, Japan