In February, Manuel and I took a trip to Tokyo! We hadn't been back since we moved from Japan to Canada a bit over 5 years ago, and it was unbelievably fun to go back as a tourist. One of the best things about the trip was being able to gorge ourselves on on the food that we had been craving since we moved away. Here's some of what we ate:
Not really a food destination, but one of our first stops was Tokyu Hands, a store that sells virtually everything. If you are in Tokyo for the first time, this store is a must-visit. In particular I highly recommend the cosmetics floor, for some 'only in Japan' moments. We were there just before Valentine's day - just in time to witness Japan's crazy consumerism at its finest. Don't knock it though: we started the day off right with some yummy corn chocolate from Hokkaido.
The Takashimaya basement was probably my favourite stop of the first day. Department stores in Tokyo usually have a basement (depa-chika in Japanese) full of food vendors - row upon row of prepared food, sweets, basically pure deliciousness. I had forgotten how amazing these places are; I was grinning like a fool the whole time we were in there. If you have only one day in Tokyo, I would suggest coming to one of these places, as you can find a stunningly wide variety of choices all in one location. Besides Takashimaya, my favourites are Isetan (also in Shinjuku) and Tokyu in Shibuya.
Gyoza Rou - Harajuku:
Gyoza Rou was a nostalgic choice, though we definitely aren't the only fans. If you go at a peak time, it's likely you'll have to wait for a table, but as we were there on a weekday, well after the lunch hour, it was only about half full. When we lived in Tokyo it was our favourite place to go for gyoza, mostly because the gyoza are delicious, but also because of the youthful atmosphere - not full of salary-men, but a younger, hipper, more varied crowd.
We had the pan-fried (yaki) and boiled (sui) gyoza, rice/miso soup, cucumber with a sesame dressing (kyuuri), bean sprouts (moyashi) with a spicy miso/meat topping.
Gyoza is one of those things that although you can find them in Toronto, they just never seem to taste quite right. These ones were perfect.
Something else we forgot about: that smoking is still permitted in many restaurants here. A girl sat on the other side of the counter from us, chain smoking. To our relief, she eventually left - revealing a young family behind her, mother bottle-feeding their baby, father enjoying a smoke not two feet away.
Tsunahachi Tempura Shinjuku
For our first dinner in Tokyo, we went with our friends Rob and Emi to Tsunahachi, an almost century old Tempura restaurant in Shinjuku.
The tempura arrived 2-3 pieces at a time, so everything was crispy and fresh.
more to come...