Tokyo Blog, Tokyo Story

The blog of Stephen David Smith, Tokyo, Japan 2017

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My Local Sushi Place

I’ve had so much good food recently but always forget to take a picture in the heat of the moment. Having a 3GS doesn’t help matters as it has a potato camera, but I’m just holding on until this Autumn for the new iPhone. Still, just so happened to have my good camera with me when I was at my local sushi place the other day and took this picture of what I always order these days. It’s summer, so it’s super hot in Tokyo and I always feel like eating something cold and refreshing, and sushi is one of my favourite Japanese foods, so inevitably I end up here and ordering this. It’s 16 pieces of sushi, salad and a bowl of miso soup (which is amazing too by the way – they always have good dashi fish stock at sushi places). It’s not the best sushi you’ll find obviously, but you get all this for ¥1,100. Compared to London, that’s a steal and anyway, the stuff in London doesn’t come close. This particular restaurant is near my apartment in Kasai, east Tokyo. Sorry, can’t remember the name – will update later.

 

SoftBank Ramen!

Mobile phone provider SoftBank is now offering instant ramen in store featuring the famous white dog on its packaging. What’s more, all you have to do to get your hands on some is go into the shop and show interest in a product or service! I don’t know exactly what this entails, but you can bet they are going to run out of these pretty damn quick, so get down there as soon as possible if you’re in Tokyo and want to get your hands on one of these surely collectable instant ramen pots!

 

Lunch at Meal MUJI

Lunch at Meal Muji

When I have time there’s nothing I like more than strolling over to Muji Yurakucho (the Tokyo flagship store) and going into Meal MUJI and grabbing some lunch. The lunchtime and dinnertime offerings mainly consist of a 3 or 4 option deli plate. You can get a combination of hot and cold dishes cooked on the premises. In fact, you can see the chefs at work in the kitchen through large glass windows. They also bake bread and cakes which are sold in the bakery area, which I also highly recommend over any of the Japanese supermarket offerings or the overpriced department store boutique bakery products.

The food is pretty simple and perhaps portion size is a little small, however everything tastes good and is really nutritious and healthy made with organic produce and quality ingredients. I usually get the 4 option plate with the homemade miso soup which you can see above and that comes to ¥1080, which is reasonable. The plate above consists of tandoori chicken, green pesto ratatouille, pumpkin mash and vegetable curry; rice and miso soup.

 

Cookpad Goes Global

Cookpad Goes Global

Cookpad.com is a household name in Japan, but if you’re reading this in another country, I’m guessing you’ve never heard of it. Well, you’ll probably come to hear of it over the coming months as it has now officially expanded with a new international version of the website currently in Beta. Leading the new project on behalf of Cookpad in Japan is fellow Brit, John Yongfook Cockle. Based in Singapore, he’ll be overseeing operations and very much hands-on in terms of design and production. If the success of his previous recipe sharing website opensourcefood.com is anything to go by, it should be a great success and the site will soon be helping people cook great food on every continent.

The unique selling point is the site’s step-by-step photo guide to each recipe. Recipes are created and shared by the public and photos are necessary, but a new iPhone and Android app will soon make that process much easier, presumably by making use of the device’s built in camera.

I really hope this is a huge success and I take my hat off to Yongfook who I’ve followed for a long time, due to the fact he was also based in Tokyo. I’m looking forward to see where this goes and am also thankful that I don’t need to rely on the clunky Japanese version to find good recipes anymore!

 

MOS Burger x JAL

MOS Burger x JAL

JAL often collaborates with famous brands on its in-flight meal offerings. It was only this April just gone that I was treated to a tub of Häagen-Dazs as a part of my in-flight meal. JAL’s newest collaboration sees it teaming up with Japanese fast food outlet MOS Burger. It will be served in Economy and Premium Economy classes and will be called Air MOS Burger. This is only available on flights departing from Japan to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Frankfurt and London. So if you’re on one of these routes, do your bit to continue JAL’s extraordinary bounce-back from bankruptcy and fly with them. You can try this novel in flight meal and check out the fleet’s new livery having by now gone retro and reverted to their old logo.

 

Mutekiya Ramen Shop, Ikebukuro

Mutekiya Ramen

It’s about time we had another food post. Frankly any post would be welcome around here as I haven’t been posting much recently, I know. I haven’t been resting on my laurels though, I’ve got plenty of freelance work occupying most of my time not to mention the redesign of my personal site as well as a redesign for this blog which are both well underway. Whilst we’re waiting for those to launch, why not head over to one of the best Tonkotsu Ramen restaurants in Tokyo? Mutekiya in Ikebukuro isn’t very big so you can expect a wait of up to 45 minutes but, once you’ve eaten there once, you’d gladly wait double that in order to gain the privilege of eating what is one of the most well-balanced Tonkotsu Ramen dishes you’ve ever tasted. It’s not much more expensive than average, but all of the ingredients seem to have been poured over by the 3 chefs who run this place. The menma (fermented bamboo shoots) are the best I’ve tasted and the soft-boiled egg is always cooked to perfection (as you can see in the picture above). And then there’s the chashu (roast fatty pork) which is also incredible. People say though, that the most important element of a bowl of Ramen is the soup. Well, this is tonkotsu (pork bone broth) and I honestly think it’s one of the best I’ve ever tasted. It’s not too oily and not too salty so it doesn’t get sickly by the end of the meal. If you do need to cleanse your palette because of pork overload, you can do so with the free jasmine tea they offer on the counter. In that sense, it’s quite a refined Ramen experience and one that I thoroughly recommend to anyone living in, or thinking of going to, Tokyo.

1-17-1 Minami Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Google Map

 

Draft Beer on ANA Flights

Draft Beer on ANA Flights

The Japanese love affair with beer is evident again in this latest move by Japanese airline ANA to install draft beer dispensers in the galleys of their domestic flights. They’ve wisely decided not to offer the service on their international routes, and have also wisely decided to limit the number of glasses available to 20 (40 on one of the Okinawa routes that uses a larger jet), to stop things really getting out of control. Instead, you can enjoy a cold draft beer responsibly at the outrageous cost of ¥1000 (£7, $11, €9) per glass. Initial reports actually show that the drinking vessels will be made of plastic, another good safety move. The big question right now is, which beer company has the contract? There doesn’t seem to be any information anywhere on this, but my money is on Asahi Super Dry. They’re always up for breaking new ground. After all, this is the first time draft beer has been served from a keg on a plane due to the high pressures involved and it has taken a combined effort from ANA, electronics company Hoshizaki Denki, and said unnamed drinks company to make it possible. Anyone who has taken one of the flights and tried it for themselves, please let us know what brand they’re serving in the comments thread.

 

Asahi – The Master

Asahi - The Master

Oh boy, what an awesome name! This beer has come out, possibly to coincide with the Tokyo Oktoberfest in Hibiya Park, which I’ve already been to twice since it opened a week ago. On the TV commercial they sing the classic German beer drinking song, and then toast using the german ‘Prost!’. Of course, I was straight down the shop as soon as I saw the commercial, to try out this all malt pilsner from Asahi Breweries. I have to admit, it’s very, very good, but it still lacks the sweetness of the german beer, in fact it’s very dry. This seems to be a pattern that’s emerging, and relates to the Japanese aversion to sweet things in general. The strapline is not very interesting this time, also, unfortunately:

“A full-flavored 100% malt draft beer based on traditional German brewing techniques.”

 

Sapporo Baisen Beer

Sapporo Baisen

The Japanese beer series continues with a new Sapporo breweries offering that I picked up from the local 7/11. It had been a busy day working on a hot, humid day, so I wanted something refreshing and beer-based to take the edge off the wired feeling that comes from excessive hours in front of a computer display. Once the raster burn had faded from my retinas I checked the catch copy on the front of the can, and what a beauty!

“The superb aroma of Sapporo Baisen is created by a unique malt roasting process. This roasted malt is blended with pale malt for a flavor experience so thrilling it even smells delicious.”

Genius strap-lines aside, the flavour is pretty much what you’d expect from any Japanese beer. It’s strong, at 5%, and crisp, much like usual lager beer. I couldn’t taste any distinctive differences to usual Sapporo beer, except it was possibly more bitter than usual, and lacked the usual sweetness I’m accustomed to when drinking lager. I couldn’t decide the whole time whether this was a good thing or not.

 

Sennen Soba

Sennen Soba

If you don’t want to die from ramen abuse, I suggest switching to soba. This place in Ginza is one of my regular haunts. It’s cheap, fast and actually tastes pretty good. The buckwheat noodles are served in a soy-based soup with spring onions and Japanese pickles. In winter the soup is hot, and I add lots tougarashi shichimi (7 flavour chilli seasoning), eat the noodles then drink the soup. Now that the weather has become hot and humid, I usually get them cold, with less soup, and add lots of wasabi. It’s a healthy lunch, and you can get a dinner set for around ¥500.

 

Insane Ramen

Insane Ramen

About time for another food post, and another ramen post at that – and not just any ramen. We had to wait in line for over an hour to get a seat at this place in Ouji in the northern part of Tokyo. It was worth it though. Insane portions and ridiculous slabs of pork in a broth that was beyond belief. No wonder it’s so famous. The place is called Fujimaru a.k.a. ‘Jiro’. I couldn’t finish mine and I felt like death for the entire evening, but that’s all part of the ramen experience!

 

On Venomous Blowfish, Whale Meat, and Fish Served Twitching

Last night I went to a sushi and sashimi restaurant under the guidance of my fish expert friend Take-san. Whilst there I further expanded my experience of strange and unusual raw things: raw fugu (blowfish – which if you prepare incorrectly causes asphyxiation then death), raw whale meat, raw horse (again), and a fish caught from a huge fish tank that I was sitting right next to, sliced and served so quickly that it was still moving when it reached our table. Now that’s what you call fresh!

 

Van Man’s Song


Van Man’s Song from Stephen Smith on Vimeo.

This is a recording of the song the driver of this small van sings as he slowly crawls around my neighbourhood. I think he’s selling hot Japanese potatoes, but I’m not sure. I can’t understand the lyrics.

 

Kirin Strong Seven

Kirin Strong Seven

OK, another beer review now. This time I’m drinking a can of Kirin Strong Seven, a newly released beer from one of Japan’s biggest brewers. It gets its name from the fact that the alcohol percentage by volume for this beer is, predictably, 7%. The taste is quite unusual. I was expecting it to be sweet, like strong beer usually is, but it wasn’t. It tasted a bit artificial to be honest so I didn’t particularly rate this beer very highly compared to the other great beer available in Japan. The advertising for this beer features Hideaki Ito, a fairly rugged and macho individual frowning a lot and looking pissed off, which will no doubt appeal to the overworked salaryman and the twenty-something down-and-outers alike. The beautifully worded catch copy on the front of the can reads, ‘This hard and clear taste brings you the great feeling’. Actually, I have the feeling that this isn’t real beer at all but rather, beer’s evil Japanese impersonator ‘happoshu’. More about that stuff later…

 

Butter Miso Special Ramen

Butter Miso Special Ramen

Imagine this: An enormous bowl filled with a garlicky butter miso soup, into which is dumped a huge serving of ramen noodles, some flambéd beansprouts, thick dark bamboo shoots, and sea weed. On top of that they pile up stir-fried pork, crack a raw egg into the soup on one side, sea weed on the other, then place a large knob of butter onto the hot pork (which subsequently melts). What you end up with is a Butter Miso Special from one of my favourite Ramen joints which is located in Okachimachi (opposite Matsuzakaya and just down from KFC). It will set you back ¥1180 and you’ll pay for it dearly in later life, but here in the now, you’ll taste a very indulgent twist on a classic Hokkaido style ramen recipe. You can then use the complimentary garlic cloves and clove crush to taste. Pictured Top: The front of the restaurant.