I’m not a foodie, not at all. But I grew to become one while experiencing Tokyo.
Dining in Japan, to me, is akin to appreciating a sacred form of art. One thing which made eating such a joy was the recognition of how much LOVE and PRIDE the Japanese put into their food preparation process. Expect the freshest ingredients, cleanest hygiene practices, most courteous staff and irresistibly mouthwatering food presentation.
First recommended dish – Teppan Okonomiyaki！
Let’s take a look at how this piece of art was crafted under the nimble hands of these young artistic chefs.
Step 1: lay out the “canvas” and “sketch” the foundation
Step 2: adorn the canvas with a playful sprinkle of fish flakes
Step 3: Enrich the art piece with bold colours
Step 4: Here’s the test of our food artists’ skill and mastery – swift frying of the noodles and construction of the Okonomiyaki’s basic frame
Step 5: Preparing the key ingredients of the masterpiece – look at how huge the scallops are! Not to mention how juicy and fresh they taste!
Final Step: Brush a layer of teppan sauce and decorate the final product with succulent seafood bites and the delicious masterpiece is ready!
And right there, the okonomiyaki was presented in front of us without a plate. We were supposed to eat straight off the teppan board – how interesting! While savouring our dishes, the next batch of artwork were being prepared right in front of our eyes, just like an entertaining live performance :)
This shoebox-sized food place is secretly tucked in one of the main streets along the Shimokitazawa area – a laid-back “college town” frequented by the young and the young-at-heart. Be forewarned about the waiting time! My local friend and I stood outside the store for a good 45 minutes before getting in. I was told that on a busy day, the waiting time could stretch to as long as 2 hours!
Address: Tokyo, Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa 2-14-14
Price of my Seafood Yakisoba: 1,260 Yen (about $13 USD)
这间名为 Hiroko 的不起眼的小店坐落在下北泽的一角。由于与好几所大学相邻，下北泽是个充满了年轻人的大学城。少了原宿的吵杂与花哨，多了一份悠闲与自在，这里布满了个性小店、咖啡厅与小吃店。如果想来Hiroki品尝美味的煎菜饼，可得做好排队等待的准备。我跟朋友在店外足足站了45分钟之后才被请进店内，而这还算幸运！听说在最繁忙的时候，等待的时间要将近两小时呢！
价钱：海鲜煎菜饼 － 1260 日元（13 美元左右）
Second Recommended Dish: Oil Noodle @ Abura Soba!
Japanese ramen are famous for their thick and richly flavoured broth. Under the recommendation of my local friend, I was brought to one of the Abura Soba chains to try out the latest trend in town – Dry Noodle.
Never judge a noodle by its appearance! What seemed like a nondescript dish turned out to be one of the BEST Japanese ramen I’ve ever tasted!
The noodles at Abura Soba are basically drained dry and completed with a sprinkle of toppings no more than a few slices of roasted pork, bamboo shoots and seaweed. There was free-flow of chili oil, chili flakes, vinegar and fried onions on the tables as additional garnish. The secret, though, behind its heavenly taste is the special sauce hidden beneath the noodles.
I was taught the proper way of eating this – position the vinegar and chili oil bottles above the bowl and pour 2 circles-full of each over; then stir and mix the content until the texture of the noodle becomes a little “sticky”.
This is again another humble-looking eating place without any waiter. All you have to do is to place the order via the vending machine. The buttons on the top row refer to the original flavour with different sizes (並盛 ＝Small; 大盛 = Big；W盛 = XL) while the buttons on the second row refer to the spicy flavour. Various additional toppings are also available (if you know how to read Japanese).
小小的餐厅没有服务生，只有一架自动售货机。如果喜欢原味拉面，就按最上排的按钮（並盛 ＝小碗; 大盛 = 大碗；W盛 = 超大碗）。如果喜欢辛辣口味，就选择第二排的按钮（我选的是小碗的辛辣油干面）。如果看得懂日文的话，还可以选些附加食材，为拉面加料。
Notice the many alarm clocks on the wall? Every portion of noodle is cooked for 4 minutes and 20 seconds – no less, no more. It’s all about absolute precision.
This was by far the most delicious and memorable ramen experience I have had. So awesome that I even thought of getting a franchise license and introduce it into Singapore! Hahaha. Business partner, anyone? ;)
Abura Soba (油そば)
Address: Akasaka-Mitsuke 3-10-20
Price of the noodle I ate: 730 Japanese Yen (US $7)
Third Recommended Dish: Shabu Shabu
This was overall the best meal I had in Tokyo.
When my friendly colleagues in Japan proposed the idea of having shabu shabu (Japanese hotpot), I was skeptical, for I didn’t have any good impression of the shabu shabu places in Singapore. Somehow the visual image of shabu shabu in my mind was a paper pot heated by disposable lighters… (haha, thanks to the bad dining experience in one of the Japanese restaurants at ION Orchard) Furthermore, I’m not much of a “meat person” to begin with. With much skepticism, I followed my colleagues to Shabusen at Ginza Core.
When I took my first bite, I was BLOWN AWAY.
Joke of the day: one of my colleagues mentioned that he would love to be a Hokkaido cow in his next life because the cows are not only fed with beer, but also have dedicated masseurs to loosen up their muscles on a daily basis! :D
The beef slices were paper thin, the sesame sauce was well-seasoned with a tinge of spiciness, the tofu was so light that it instantly melted in my mouth. And even the seaweed tasted so light and so different from the ones I tried elsewhere! Gosh my mouth is watering all over again recalling those moments!
Address: Level 2 Ginza Core shopping mall, Ginza, Tokyo
Price: 3000 Yen per pax for the promotional dinner set (100g of Hokkaido beef + vegetables + choice of udon or rice)
价钱：促销晚餐配套 － 每人3000日元（约30美元）
Spotted a Food Avenue and a Kitchen Street in the humongous labyrinth-like Tokyo Station. Good spots for those who seek a quick bite or junkies who wanna indulge themselves in a sea of candy and Japanese snack stores.
Shark fin Hong Kong noodle (2700 Yen) – something interesting, but tastes a little bland
Restaurant name: Choujoumen Tsukushirou
All guests have the privilege of using their VIP wash room. To keep this interesting coin, I skipped the tour to their fanciful washroom :)
This is named the #1 dessert in Tokyo Station – Arinco Salt Caramel Roll (1500 Yen)
Freshly baked fragrant swiss roll with a caramel twist. Thumbs up! However, the portion is a little too much for 1 person to handle, best to be shared among 4 persons.
Kumquat Jelly Cup (380 Yen)
I’m a citrus fan and this is refreshingly delicious! The lovely presentation gets a double thumbs up from me!
The downside to my gluttonous Japanese food adventure? Withdrawal syndrome upon getting back home. That’s not to say that Singapore has no delicious cuisine, in fact, I’m a big fan of the many local delights. But when it comes to the above authentic Japanese food items, you just can’t find the exact replicates here. Above all, it was the magic of being there that enchanted the whole dining experience under an irresistible spell.