Tokyo: Day 3

On our first full day in Tokyo, we had sushi for breakfast, which was a real treat. We typically eat American breakfasts at home, meaning fruit and cereal or oatmeal on weekdays and pancakes or pastries with eggs and breakfast meats on weekends. They’re not the most balanced meals, and they’re usually high in sugar or fat content. When traveling, we love to leave our eating habits behind and embrace the food culture of the place we’re visiting. In Asia, that usually means eating just another meal like lunch or dinner.

So what did we do? We walked around Shinjuku in search of something that was open and looked enticing. We found this shop somewhere north of the Shinjuku station, across the street from McDonald’s, and started to study the shop’s kiosk. The pictures definitely helped, and after putting some coins in and making our selection, we went in and gave our tickets to the woman staffing the kitchen. A few minutes later, the next customer came into the shop and spoke to same woman in the kitchen; immediately afterward, she came over to us, said something in Japanese, and handed me ¥180. After a moment’s confusion, Tim tells me I put too much money in the vending machine, and that Japanese people are so honest and nice that it was in the open on the street until the next customer came in and honestly gave it to the restaurant who honestly returned it to the last customer, me! Wow, that really blew me away. That would be like leaving $5 on the sidewalk on 42nd Street in New York…. see what I mean? Wow.

Now the curry itself was good. I actually liked it better than the curry rice we had the first night. And the tonkatsu and ebi furai (fried shrimp) were so freshly fried they had extreme crunch, really great texture. We were already impressed with Tokyo at this point in the trip, and that experience just added to it.

After breakfast, we walked around Harajuku and Shibuya and made our way to Meiji Shrine that’s dedicated to the Emperor and Empress of the Meiji era. Walking through the grand forest was serene, and everything from the architecture to the trees surrounded us with their beauty. You simply must visit Meiji Shrine when in Tokyo.

We made our way back to Ginza for lunch at Sushi Kanesaka, and I can say that it’s the best sushi I’ve ever had. It was such a special meal, I’m saving the details for an entire post on its own.

We had a short list of things to buy in Tokyo, and glasses from Muji were at the top of that list. We went to at least 5 Muji locations in search for them, but were unsuccessful. We finally found Muji Yurakucho, which was the largest Muji of the ones we visited. There were bikes, many floors of housewares, beauty/skincare products, furniture, plants, and most importantly, glasses! After picking out frames and giving them a prescription (which they confirmed by examining Tim’s current pair of glasses), we were told to come back in 30 minutes.

We took that time to sit and relax at Muji Cafe & Meal. Much like IKEA does, Muji offers food cafeteria-style, using their own housewares. For our afternoon snack, we picked an orange brioche and a milk cream bun to go with our iced coffee and tea. We are true Mujirers, so it was quite an experience sitting in the Cafe & Meal eating our Muji goods waiting for our Muji glasses. Yes, I realize how ironic that is, considering Muji means “no-name”, but we are still big fans of the quality of the “no-label” goods.

After more walking and a tiring trip to Akihabara, we decided that our last dinner in Tokyo would be more ramen. One of the places I wanted to visit was Tokyo Ramen Street, located in First Avenue Tokyo Station. By the time we got there, it was late and we were exhausted and famished. The lines weren’t too bad, but we were in no mood to wait for a line. We tried studying the guides/maps to find a shop with no line that served the kind of ramen we wanted.

That proved to be impossible, and we gave up by finding Ramen Mutsumiya and ordering miso ramen with chashu and corn and tsukemen with chashu and shoyu dipping sauce. It was all very good.. not quite as good as Suzuran, but it fit the bill considering how tired and hungry we were. I’d love to go back when I have energy to wait on line for supposedly the best tsukemen at Rokurinsha Tokyo.

Muji Yurakucho
東京都千代田区丸の内 3-8-3

Tokyo Ramen Street
At First Avenue Tokyo Station
B1F Yaesu South Exit


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!