Tokyo. The capital of Japan. The city where the ultra-modern is set alongside the traditional.
In Asakusa (located in downtown or “old town”), Tokyo’s past still lives on. Take for instance this beauty here, the Senso-ji Temple. It is one of Tokyo’s most popular Buddhist temples and also, the city’s oldest. Just spend a day here and you will see that the culture and lifestyle of Tokyo is beguiling. It is one city I have come to appreciate and love. But I have to admit, Tokyo (and Japan, in general) also means gastronomic adventures. From day to night, from hole-in-the-wall street corners to luxurious Michelin-starred restaurants, Tokyo has a lot of amazing food to offer. It is a city that gives you a delicious feast all the time! Let’s start at the beginning of each day: Breakfast. My usual breakfast in the city was made of Japanese eggs (nutritiously rich, super tasty and very yellow), Japanese milk (sooo creamy), and black coffee (I take it black all the time – the true test of a coffee drinker!). I had this kind of breakfast everyday (well, mostly) because I am a creature of habit and because I really enjoy the rich yellow Japanese eggs!
Sometimes, breakfast would be outside the hotel and it would look like this: super thin crepes (galettes) filled with ham, bacon, sausages, and, again, eggs. This was at Cafe Yoku Moku.
Cafe Yoku Moku has both savoury and sweet offerings. And it’s also here where I discovered what a good strawberry shortcake should be! Look at this beauty: it’s fluffy chiffon cake in between layers of light Chantilly cream. The cake is filled and topped with perfectly sweet and juicy strawberries. Simple but incredibly delicious.
Tokyo is really the land of good eats. Everywhere I went, as I mentioned in my little postcard a few posts back, was a place for foodies to enjoy. And I mean everywhere and anywhere: whether it’s tonkatsu in a nondescript hole-in-the-wall shop (I had mine with curry sauce and lots of togarashi chili), shaved ice treats at every corner that helped me manage the summer heat (drizzled with brown rice sugar syrup, red beans and fresh shiratama sweet rice dumplings), the best green tea ice cream sandwiched in a dark chocolate wafer from a 7-11 store, and Haagen Dazs’ Crunchy Crunch Green Tea ice cream from a Lawson outlet somewhere in Ginza.
The expedition for good food had only begun. This is Birdland, one of Tokyo’s best yakitori places with a one Michelin star rating. Here, the art of grilling chicken or yakitori is taken seriously. The chicken they use here is pretty special. They are free-range Okukuji shamo (gamecocks), raised in the northwest Ibaraki prefecture mountains, which explains why their meat is fresh, tender, and aromatic! Meanwhile, the yakitori skewers are grilled over Bincho charcoal from the Kii Peninsula, which is highly rated for the constant and even heat it generates.
I had my own food itinerary, of course. My constant go-to dessert place in Tokyo is Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki. Ever since I discovered this shop a few trips ago, it has always been on top of my must-visit places in Tokyo. It is a French-inpired Japanese patisserie filled with the most delicious and scrumptious desserts imaginable. Never leave Tokyo without having their Millefeuille Vanille, Matcha cakes, and Chocolate eclairs. They also make the best macarons I’ve ever tasted! I recommend the coffee, green tea, and caramel sale flavors. Our next food destination is one of our most memorable meals in this trip: Narisawa. San Pellegrino’s Best Restaurants Awards has rated it as the No. 2 best restaurant in Asia and No. 8 in the world! It features innovative fine dining cuisine, with a big focus on nature.
Our menu was very extensive as you can see, and this was just a portion of it! We left with our stomachs full and packed to the brim! I also had a very memorable sushi meal while in Tokyo, and the only photos I have to show for are these two:
Well, it was a fantastic sushi meal at this place called Sushi Mizutani, located in Ginza. It is one of Tokyo’s oldest sushi places and it has been awarded with two Michelin stars. Only 11 diners are allowed at a time and I was so fortunate to have been invited by a friend. Thus, I could not take photos because it wasn’t allowed inside. Besides, for this kind of experience, it is more important to pay attention to the sushi master chef and watch him in his element, doing his art – rather than be distracted by taking food photos. There were 14 different kinds of sushi, most of which were won from an auction earlier that morning at Tsukiji market. You must come here if you want an authentic sushi experience! Now for more good and even meatier stuff… Never leave Japan without having teppanyaki! For this trip, we went to Sazanka at Okura Hotel.
We enjoyed big, meaty Hokkaido crabs, scallops, and some beautiful lobster teppanyaki in the beginning. However, the main event of that dinner was the Kobe beef. I was not going to let this pass me by – that beautiful, pink, marbled meat cooked to perfection.
Another meal we had was at Gonpachi in Ginza, where that famous scene in the movie Kill Bill was filmed. Here, we didn’t just have chicken yakitori, but we were able to try all sorts of grilled meat and seafood, including my new favorite, the grilled toro (fatty tuna belly)! An interesting tidbit: if you look at the spread below, take note of the two raw eggs in bowls. They were for dipping the meatball yakitori in — making the chicken, richer and more flavorful!
Okay, so it wasn’t all eating. It was still a family vacation after all and we wanted to take the kids to something they will enjoy as well. So we checked out one of Tokyo’s newest family attractions, the Epson Shinagawa Aqua Stadium. It is a small indoor park with a huge aquarium. The facility houses over 300 species and about 20 specimens of marine animals. The dolphin show was the biggest hit!
It’s not easy to travel with a tight schedule and a packed itinerary so I’m really glad that my kiddos not just keep up with the plans, but also show interest and genuinely enjoy themselves. This little trooper, our smallest traveler in the group, surprises us with her tireless energy! And that’s it for Tokyo! Watch out for the continuation of our Japan adventures.
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