Tokyo: Day 2

The second day’s activities exhausted us by lunch time, so it was a nice break to sit down for a three course Italian meal at Faro. Faro is on the 10th floor of the Shiseido building in Ginza, not to be confused with Faro Slow Time which is on the 9th floor. We made the mistake of going to the 9th floor and were seated at Faro Slow Time. After getting situated in the comfy chairs, the maître d’ came to tell us that our reservation was for the restaurant upstairs!

We got used to making mistakes and getting lost at this point, so we bowed our apologies and found our table at Faro, nicely surprised that our reservations were for the higher-end of the two! Our cousin Elisha, being fluent in Japanese, graciously took care of our reservations in Tokyo. (Thanks Elisha!)

Okay, so onto the food and service at Faro. We each ordered the Porto lunch which included appetizer, pasta, dessert, and coffee for a steal of ¥2,800! This deal is only good for weekdays, but I highly recommended fine dining for lunch since dinners easily cost 2-3x as much.

To start, we had octopus and grain salad topped with yuzu foam and a mixed shellfish salad topped with uni and citrus dressing. Both were very clean and fresh in taste, and we liked how the seafood was enhanced with light use of citrus and not much else.

The pastas we chose were a creamy fettuccine topped with roasted corn and shrimp ravioli with tomato and basil. Every dish was simple, but elegantly done. Pastas were perfectly al dente and fresh ingredients stood out on their own. People questioned why we chose to eat Italian in Tokyo, and it’s because we knew it would be good. I read that Faro offers an uni pasta in certain seasons, but I didn’t see it on the menu. Otherwise I would have loved to try it and see how it compared to Marea’s.

And the best part about lunch was dessert. When it came time for dessert, our server rolled the dessert trolley over to us and asked what we’d like. It’s not advertised, but you can choose as many as you’d like! We were shy and only chose two each, but afterward I saw our server cut a piece of every dessert for another customer. But each piece was tiny, so the benefit of choosing fewer pieces meant we had larger serving sizes. We slowly enjoyed our choices with finely pulled espresso (passionfruit/raspberry cake, rum cake, raspberry meringue cake, and flan), and decided lunch at Faro was very relaxing with just the right amount of service and attention.

After more shopping and more walking, we decided to search for a ramen place in Shibuya that would be open for dinner, and not surprisingly, we got lost. We actually found the place by chance, and it was the big picture sign of ramen that tipped us off. Based on a Google Street View image, I was looking for a large sign, but there was none! They removed the sign I was looking for! I read about it being behind the police station, but even Google Maps couldn’t help us because I was fixed on that one landmark. Defeated by the streets of Tokyo again.

When we tried to go in (this was around 5:30PM), we were told it be another 30 minutes before they open for dinner. Sigh. So we walked around some more, being careful not to stray too far. When we finally sat down and ordered our chashu miso ramen and chashu shoyu tsukemen with tamago, we were famished with a hunger only noodles could satisfy.

The ramen was great. It was better than ramen in New York, but like I said about Sushi Daiwa, not orders of magnitude better. And the tsukemen was also great. The noodles were definitely some of the best noodle I’ve ever had, but I thought the shoyu sauce was very salty. I’m not a tsukemen connoisseur, so maybe that’s how the dipping sauce usually tastes, but it was extremely salty for me.

Of course I’d recommend visiting this place as it’s talked about on many forums and blogs. But I’d also recommend visiting a variety of ramen places to experience the subtleties of different styles of broths, noodles, toppings. If only we had stayed a few more days…

10F Shiseido Bldg
8-8-3 Ginza, Chuo-ku

Better than an address, use this link to find Suzuran!

Tokyo: Days 1 & 2

The trip started with Tokyo, so that’s where I’ll begin. I have to admit that I “prepared” for my trip by watching Lost in Translation, and I’d forgotten how great that movie was. We were extremely fortunate to have stayed at THE Park Hyatt Tokyo where the majority of the film took place. While we weren’t waited on like Mr. Harris, it certainly was the best service we’ve received from any establishment hands down. If you’re going to Tokyo and haven’t stayed there before, you must go. But first, sign up for the Hyatt Visa like we did to get two free nights (thanks for the tip David!).

I said we spent three days in Tokyo, but really, it was even less than that; we arrived Sunday afternoon and flew out Wednesday morning, so we only had two full days. On Sunday after we checked in, we only had energy to explore around the Shinjuku station where we ate quick curry at a counter then enjoyed pricey desserts before we decided to rest up for an early start at Tsukiji fish market the next day. The curry was great, and we were surprised it wasn’t orders of magnitude better than what we can get in New York. But the desserts.. they were perfect in taste and presentation. I mean, look at the menu picture and the actual dessert itself! I’m still not sure what flavor the jelly was, but it went very well with the kinako powder and vanilla ice cream. And the matcha azuki shaved ice made me a very happy girl.. even though it cost us nearly ¥1600. Pricey indeed.

Our first full day started at Tsukiji Fish Market, but not as early as we had originally planned. Since we were already packing in so much in our two full days, we decided to skip out on the 5:00AM tuna auction, but we still left relatively early to get our sushi breakfast.

Skipping the early auction couldn’t have worked out better for us. We stumbled upon Sushi Daiwa just after 8:00AM, and the line was so small that we had to double check we were at the right place! We only waited about 10 minutes before we got our seats at the bar, and as soon as we sat down, the meal continued at that pace. We were immediately shown a menu, but we didn’t need any because we asked for the ¥3,500 set.

The set included tea, miso soup, 7 pieces of nigiri and 1 maki roll. The sushi itself was pretty good, no doubt. The only piece that stood out as tasting significantly better than some of the best sushi we’ve had in New York was the otoro (fatty tuna belly). It was so creamy it melted in our mouths. Besides the otoro, we were impressed by how great sushi tasted and felt for breakfast. Filling up on lean protein to kick start the day makes perfect sense! It’s probably not traditionally done, but it was fun to try at the biggest wholesale fish market in the world.

After our morning at Tsukiji, we planned to shop around Ginza before our lunch reservation. We are big fans of Muji and Uniqlo, so we visited almost every store we saw in Asia.. probably at least 8 Mujis and 10 Uniqlos? Yikes. The flagship stores were fun to visit, but the 12-story Uniqlo in Ginza felt underwhelming compared to the 5th Avenue one in New York. But then again, that could be a good thing, meaning that they did such a fantastic job with the store layout, that all 12 floors were manageable and easy to shop. Tokyu Hands was another store I could easily spend days in. The kitchenware floor.. the stationery floor.. all the washi tape! Ahh, I’m still surprised at the self-control I exercised there.

Because this post is already getting lengthy (and I’m not halfway done with Day 2), I’m going to leave lunch and dinner for another post! The next post will cover lunch at a Michelin-starred Italian restaurant and our first ramen experience in Shibuya.

Sushi Daiwa
Tsukiji Fish Market
Building 5-2-1 (but don’t bother looking this up, just look for the lines!)
near the Tsukijishijo Station on the Oedo Line