Here are some photos from my trip to Japan in 2008.
(Because even in the face of tragedy, we need to smile.)
Date of Last Visit: Monday, July 21
The Victim: Me
The Damage: 3500 yen
The Background: It’s my first night in Tokyo. My first stop? Itoya in Ginza. Itoya is a Japanese stationery store. I have this thing for Japanese wrapping paper and paper products and design. I stock up and then wander around in search of sustenance.
I end up at Ten Ichi Deux, the more inexpensive cousin of Ten Inchi, which is a well-known higher-end tempura restaurant. I suppose it might be akin to the Maze Grill/Maze relationship. I’m shown a table in the back and then my server does this…
And I’m so intrigued. A very good idea, isn’t it? This helped me keep an eye on my belongings, and I rested safer with the knowledge that for someone to take anything, they’d have to get into the entire basket. Hard.
That’s really all I have to say about Ten Inchi Deux because while the food was nice, it wasn’t the home run I was hoping for. It was just nice.
What was really nice was my lunch the next day with Norito, who gave me a great in-depth tour of Tokyo.
Teppan-yaki Ittetsu Grandeur
Grandeur Kichijoji B1 2-13-7 Kichijoji-honcho
Musashino-shi, Tokyo 180-0004
More Info from Gourmet Navigator
Date of Last Visit: Tuesday, July 22 2008
The Victim: Norito
The Damage: Monopoly money.
The Background: Months earlier, I had read an article in the Washington Post about tour guides in Tokyo. It seemed like a great way to see the city, so I signed up with Tokyo Free Guides and was assigned to Norito. We enjoyed a great e-mail dialogue in the months preceeding my visit. I told her I wanted to see parts of Tokyo that I wouldn’t normally see on my own.
Norito took me to Kichijoji, which strikes me as the Blackheath of Tokyo. A little on the outskirts, but still close enough to the city. My Japanese friends told me later that Kichijoji was a popular place for young couples to settle in. We wandered through the park and took a look at some of the shops, and then we stopped into Ittetsu for some teppanyaki. And this was a great meal. I ordered the pork and aubergine. Norito ordered the okonomiyaki. Don’t you love the plates?
The hardest part about this meal was not drinking the tea that accompanied the meal. I’ve been caffeine free for two months! I will admit to taking a few sips. Bad of me.
The Verdict: Kichijoji is a bit far to go for a meal, but I understand there’s also a branch of Ittetsu in Roppongi. I really enjoyed the Kichijoji location and would be intrigued enough to check out the Roppongi one when I next visit Tokyo.
1-14-1 Ebisu Nishi
Details on Bento
Date of Last Visit: Tuesday, July 22
The Victim: Melinda, Claire, and a very nice girl whose name I forget. Sylvia maybe?
The Damage: Again, Monopoly money. I have no concept.
The Background: So while I’m doing my research about Tokyo, I come across this article in The Guardian. Buri sounds interesting, and after I read this too, I make a mental note to try to check it out while I’m in town.
I also figured that while I was in Tokyo, it would be fun to meet up with another blogger. Melinda of Tokyo through The Drinking Glass was kind enough to oblige. I meet her at Ebisu station Tuesday night and she leads me up and around and over the side streets until we enter a little bar.
A sake bar. A one-cup sake bar, specifically.
It’s Buri. (Sorry for the slightly blurry photo. I was a little blurry myself!)
I excitedly show her my print-outs and how I had wanted to come here all along. It’s all too coincidental…out of all the bars in Tokyo! She takes me here.
Melinda has been to Buri before and written it up on her own Web site . As the bar editor for Bento, the English-language Tokyo restaurant- and bar-resource, Melinda has probably been to many bars. So I’m very very pleased that she’s taken me here.
But I’ve been up since 3 a.m. for my Tsukiji tour. And I’m a little jet lagged. And I’m HOT. So after some grilled skewers of meat and vegetables and two great little cups of sake, I call it a night and head back to my hotel, where I proceed to sleep for 13 hours. (I would tell you what sake I had, but I gave my guidebooks to my friend Dave on my last night in Tokyo while we were at The New York Bar at The Park Hyatt, and I had the notes written on the first page of Time Out Tokyo. So Melinda, if you’re reading this and can remember, please comment!)
Melinda has another sake recommendation for me before I leave Tokyo, and that’s Hasegawa in Omotesando Hills, the luxury mall close to/in Harajuku.
I’m so excited to check out Hasegawa that I get there at 10:30 a.m. It doesn’t really occur to me that they may not be open this early in the morning. They’re not, and it’s so HOT that I go back to my hotel to cool off for a bit before returning after lunch.
I enter Hasegawa and I love it already. It’s tucked up on the 3rd floor of the mall, so there’s not a lot of foot traffic. So if you’ve found Hasegawa, you’re probably seeking it out. There’s an older gentleman to my right intently reading all about sake. There are two gentlemen to my left who are in a very celebratory mood. And then there’s me in the middle and the bartender, who speaks just enough English for me to order something dry and smooth first, and then something rich and fruity next.
Here’s what I had…
I liked the first so much that I bought Dave a little bottle as a "Welcome to Japan" present.
The Verdict: I loved both Buri and Hasegawa. Huge thanks to Melinda.
May I experience many happy returns.
And may I ask…what’s the closest I’ll come to a sake bar in London?
Date of Last Visit: Wednesday, July 23
The Victims: Maki, Rio, and Risa
The Damage: I forget. It was all in Yen and you know it’s like Monopoly money with all those zeros.
The Background: I’m in Tokyo! I meet up with Maki and the kids for lunch around the Hiroo Metro station. While I’m waiting for Maki, I take a spin through one of the most beautiful grocery stores I’ve ever been in. It’s in the Hiroo mall right there by the Metro. I get the feeling I’m in a nice part of town, but to be honest, most of what I’ve seen of Tokyo at this point is nice. Clean. Neat.
The Restaurant: It’s HOT outside. Syun Hiroo is cool. And quiet (although it’s full). And nice. Organic too! Maki translates for me and I get the eel. Rio gets the kids’ menu, and if there’s ever been living proof that kids wll eat more than chicken fingers and spaghetti and chips, this is it.
I would have gladly eaten the kids’ meal. I had to stop myself from eating Rio’s leftovers. Look at the rice balls. The watermelon. The presentation! Rio is four years old and eats her salad! And her tofu. I know adults who wouldn’t eat either of those things.
So it leaves me wondering…
A: Why don’t American and English kids eat like this?
B: Why don’t American and English adults eat lke this?
C: What’s wrong with a little tofu?
D: Do you know of anywhere around town that has a kids’ menu that does not include chicken strips or chips?
The Verdict: I really enjoyed my lunch here–photo of my eel dish below–and I will endeavor to have my future children eat like Rio ate.
Tokyo rocks. I can’t wait to go back. I need to spend more time exploring Tsukiji. I got to the market last Tuesday morning at 3:40 a.m. to meet my Tsukiji tour guide, Mr. Nakamura. Mr Nakamura used to work at the market himself.
In short, I would get up at 3 a.m. again to go tour Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market and I would highly recommend Nakamura-san as your tour guide.