Tasting Tour of Tokyo

Tokyo Skyline view from Westin Tokyo
Bryan travels a lot for work (did I mention he recently hit the two-million airline miles mark?)

In fact, we recently calculated that he has spent the last 7 weeks (out of 12) on the other side of the world. Interestingly, he’s spent most of that time in countries that walk and drive on the left side of the road, which has made coming back a bit confusing (especially when walking on sidewalks and such).

Although it’s not fun having your husband away so frequently, there are sometimes perks. Occasionally, if the destination is enticing, I’ll choose to go with him. It’s great because I get to spend more time with him, and the trip becomes a bit cheaper because lodging is usually already covered by his work.

About a month ago, I had the opportunity to go with him to Tokyo. I love Japan, and it’s hard for me ever to pass up a chance to go there. Instead of focusing so much on sushi this time, we branched out, and tried several different types of Japanese food.
Sukiyabashi Jiro
Of course, we still had sushi. In fact, we had a chance to taste sushi made by probably the most famous sushi master in the world right now.

Here’s a brief summary of where we went on our trip, all to be described in mouthwatering detail in the upcoming posts in this new series: Tasting Tour of Tokyo.
Joel Robuchon Tokyo
This pic is just for fun. It’s the gorgeous mansion that houses Joel Robuchon in Tokyo. It was right across the street from our hotel, so I walked by it everyday. Alas, my biggest regret is that I never took the opportunity to pick up some fresh baked items from the bakery downstairs.
Homemade Soba with quail egg and mountain yam
Bryan loves fresh noodles, so we visited this quaint, cozy, and very, very Japanese (the entire menu was not even translated) soba shop that made its own soba, served here with mountain yam (yamaimo) and quail egg.
Tsukemen from Rokurinsha
Speaking of noodles, I queued up for over an hour for one of the best bowls of ramen I’ve ever had at this simple, tsukemen (dipping noodles) shop inside the Tokyo Sky Tree complex.
Fried Bitter Melon Snacks
I love snacks, and it’s always fun to see what different countries eat. I stopped by a 7-11 and picked up these cool, fried, bitter melon chips (surprisingly tasty!).
Asakusa Street Food
Of course, the most fun place to get Japanese snacks is to stroll the street at Asakusa leading up to the Sensō-ji Temple, where vendors sell snack-sized, freshly made portions of all sorts of goodies, such as homemade sembei (rice crackers), mochi balls, ningyoyaki (red bean filled cakes), and many other fun, delectable nibbles.

This street is walking distance to Kappabashi, my favorite place to shop for inexpensive, Japanese kitchenware. It was easy and pleasant to visit both during one of my day-excursions while Bryan was at work.
While I always want to visit Kappabashi, Bryan invariably wants to go to Akihabara, electronics capital of the world. This time, we browsed endless rows of iPhone 5 cases (every type imaginable), as well as tons of other types of fun gadgets. Seriously, there’s nothing else like this place in the world.
Tokyo Station Character Street
I finally found “Tokyo Character Street”, a fun section in the Tokyo Train Station that houses stores devoted to different Japanese characters. Immerse yourself in all sorts of fun products featuring the likes of Domo-kun, Hello Kitty, Doraemon, Snoopy, and Totoro (just to name a few!).

I didn’t find out until later that Ramen Street was just around the corner – gahhhh! Next time, next time . . .
To relax, I took the monorail train across the beautiful Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba, a manmade island right in Tokyo Bay that offers gorgeous views of Tokyo, funky futuristic architecture (reminds me of Tomorrowland in Disneyland), as well as many recreational activities.
Matsutake Soup from Kikunoi
On my first night dining alone, I visited a two-star Michelin kaiseki place whose “mother ship” restaurant in Kyoto actually has three Michelin Stars. Matsutake mushrooms were in season at the time, and I had a sublime soup made out of them.
Wagyu Beef from Ukai-tei
Bryan has always wanted to try really, really good Japanese beef, so we tried ukai-gyu, top quality black beef (a breed of Wagyu) at a one-star Michelin Japanese teppanyaki place. Bryan’s thoughts? “Best steak I’ve ever had in my life.”
Tempura Mikawa Zezankyo
Tempura is treated very, very seriously here in Japan, to the point that it’s an art form. I trekked out into the “burbs” in order to enjoy ethereal seasonal tempura (uni & shiso on left and gingko nuts on the right) made by a famous tempura-maker who essentially came out of retirement to open his own shop.
Kyushu and Hokkaido Uni from Sushi Aoki
Although we tried more of a variety of food, we had to at least eat some sushi in Tokyo. After all, sushi is really one of Tokyo’s specialties. We sampled different types of uni (sea urchin) from two different regions at this one-Michelin star sushi place in Ginza.
Sushi Sawada
We weren’t allowed to take pictures at this tiny, seven-seater two-star Michelin sushi restaurant, where the entire meal is prepared solely by the sushi master and his wife.

Sukiyabashi Jiro
And finally, the epitome of our trip – a chance to try sushi made by the eighty-six year old master (first ever to get three Michelin stars for sushi) in a tiny, basement shop right inside the Ginza subway station.

It was a fabulous yet whirlwind trip (we were there for only 5 and a half days!), and I can’t wait to share the details of it with you. Stay tuned!
Jen at Sushi Jiro
P.S. Yes, you’re supposed to eat nigiri with your hands.

UPDATE: Here are all the posts in the series
Kikunoi Akasaka (kaiseki)
Rokurinsha (ramen)
Mikawa Zezankyo (tempura)
Kaoriya (soba)
Sushi Sawada (sushi)
Sushi Aoki (sushi)
Street Food in Tokyo (street food)
Omotesando Koffee (coffee)
Ukai-tei (teppanyaki)
Japan’s Underground “Depachika” Markets (market)
Sukiyabashi Jiro (sushi)

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  1. Brian says

    I just got back from Tokyo and was amazed at the food options. Next time you are there try Roppongi Nouen a farm to table restaurant in the Roppongi area. You will be amazed! Glad I read this, now I have some more places to try on my next trip.

  2. Jessica Hampton says

    Just watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi on Netflix. Amazing. I can’t wait to hear the details of your meal.

  3. Patrick says

    Loved your review of the kaiseki restaurant in Akasaka. I worked in Akasaka for a year, and although, I never visited this place I did enjoy many extraordinary kaiseki meals in Tokyo! I look forward to your other reviews, as I begin to plan for my next scheduled trip to Japan in February. I greatly appreciate your detailed reviews and your wonderful photos!

  4. Aileen @ 300 Threads says

    My husband and I are leaving for Tokyo for the first time next week and your reviews have been really helpful in your planning. I’m looking forward to your review on Jiro – the documentary is amazing and many of our friends are pressuring us to try his restaurant, but I’m reluctant to pay $300+ per person for a meal that takes 20 minutes with an old guy glaring at us the whole time.

  5. michael says

    Hey Urbs, noticed you went to both Sawada and Jiro. Lucky you! I’m looking forward to your thoughts on both those legendary places!

  6. says

    Did you try Sushi Dai or any of the stalls at Tsukiji? I waited from 5:45-8:45 am to get into Sushi Dai on Tuesday and thought it was an amazing value for getting the freshest nigiri I have ever had. I’m wondering how Jiro compares food satisfaction-wise and price-wise. I’m willing to pay for the best of the best food quality-wise and execution-wise if indeed there is something more to be had that can be experienced anywhere else for the $. However, I just spent a small fortune on top-rated Kobe beef at Aragawa in Kobe and can honestly say I had the best steak of my life (previously was Carnivore in Vegas) but left concluding that I would rather going to Carinvore or Grill 23 four or five times for the same money. After experiencing Jiro, would you pay to do it a second time or third in the future?

  7. Yuhe says

    Sukiyabashi Jiro?! What an opportunity! Out of curiosity, did you need to go with a native Japanese speaker? I heard that was a requirement for placing the reservation.

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