As you may have noticed, we have been a bit quiet at The Culinary Library for the last few weeks as we have been very busy running around the country and overseas. After a quick trip to Queensland, I headed off to Japan for a week. Then after I got back and did quick load of washing, I was off to Adelaide last weekend for the Australian Food Bloggers Conference; Eat Drink Blog 2012 (which I’ll talk about in a post next week). Anyway, Japanese cuisine is one of my favourite things to eat and we certainly did plenty of eating when we were there so I thought I would share some of my favourite places to visit and eat.  We went to some places because we had heard about them from reading other blogs, so for those of you who are thinking of heading to Japan, I have tried to include the addresses to make it easier for you to find them. I’ve tried to be detailed but please feel free to ask for more info about restaurants, districts or accommodation in the comments below if you need it.

The busy streets of Shibuya – a great central district to stay with plenty of restaurants, shopping and people-watching. If you do get to Shibuya, make sure you stop off at the Jean François Bakery on the fourth floor of the Mark City Building… they make the most amazing french pastries and baguettes by a French chef who has started a chain of bakeries in Japan. Not exactly authentic Japanese I know but delicious nonetheless. Unfortunately we didn’t take any photos as we were having a late breakfast and didn’t realise how tasty they would be, but this blogger has a few pics if you want to have a squiz: Tokyo Treats Blog.

This is a Chicken Yakitori bar that we stumbled across when we were staying in Ginza and while we seemed to eat a lot of Yakitori (and a lot of chicken!) in Japan, this was one of the best. Ginza is like the New York of Japan with lots of shopping and wide cobbled streets and a main strip reminiscent of Fifth Ave.

3-3-8 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 〒 104-0061, Ginza
A 4-minute walk JR Yurakucho Station

Can’t quite remember the exact directions to this place but this is the Japanese address which will hopefully help you find it if you ask for directions. Japanese people are very generous and will probably walk you there themselves even if it is out of their way!

Chicken Breast Yakitori Skewers with the skin on for a change which kept them moist and full of flavour.

Oddly enough we ordered the grilled whole tomato cooked on the coal fired grill which came with a chicken Bolognese style sauce and then grilled mozarella on the top. I guess it was an Italian inspired dish and quite different to everything else but was very tasty. We also found our veggie intake quite lacking in Japan. We weren’t sure if it was just the places we were eating or the pure nature of eating out all the time but many of the veggie dishes like this one seemed to be served with meat! The exception to this rule was that we ate our fair share of pickled vegetables.

Chicken meatball skewers. There were actually many different types of chicken in yakitori restaurants, some places boasting up to 15 different cuts of chicken but we usually opted for the safe options as you can see and avoided the offally bits!

Chicken Karaage. Kind of like the Japanese version of KFC… and you get salad with it too which maybe balances out the deep fried aspect!?

And this was also an especially lovely meal because we were celebrating our engagement!

This is the famous Yoyogi park near Harajuku where you can usually see the crazy Japanese fashions but we didn’t seem to see many… maybe because we were there late in the day. The area around Harajuku station is a great shopping area with lots of bargains for young trendy Japanese people on Takeshita-dori.

Sake Barrels in Yoyogi Park.

One of the best restaurants we went to in Tokyo was Kyubei, a Sushi restaurant in Ginza. Fancy restaurants are quite expensive for dinner in Japan but if you go for lunch like we did, you can get a 10 course sushi banquet for half or a third of the price (this one was about $60 AUD per head for lunch and $120+ for dinner). Seated on our traditional tatami mats on the floor, we had our own personal chef who prepared each exquisite piece of sushi right in front of us. Our favourites were the Sea Bream, Salmon, Tuna and raw squid which were all mouthwateringly tender and the best sushi I have ever had. We were game to try everything, but one that didn’t really rock our boat was the sea urchin which had a jelly like consistency and from memory, not a nice taste or texture. Being very close to the Tsukiji Fish Markets, everything was so very fresh, most likely sourced that morning by the restaurant. In fact, one dish, the prawn sushi was a bit too fresh for me. They brought out two large prawns on ice that were alive and jumping around on the chopping board. After seeing them snap off the heads and serve the brain and raw prawn (that was still twitching) to the people seated next to us, it was a bit too close for comfort for me so I stopped our chef and asked if we could have cooked prawns instead. He took the prawns out to the kitchen and was back in about 30 seconds with our two prawn friends now cooked and steaming hot. Because it was such a fancy restaurant and very intimate with your own chef, I decided not to take photos inside the restaurant as it felt impolite. It was one of the highlights of our trip and I would recommend going there if you are ever in Tokyo.

7-6, Ginza 8-chome, Chuo-ku,Tokyo
104-0061, Japan
Take the JR-line to SHINBASHI Station and get out at the Ginzaguchi exit, about a 10min walk.
They take reservations for 11.30am for lunch but we just walked in about 1pm and got a seat straight away.

Ueno-koen Park next to the train station is a beautiful place to go and have lunch and enjoy the peace and quiet, something which can be tricky to do in Tokyo. It houses the Tokyo National Museum and Symphony Orchestra. The Ameyoko Arcade is market full of food, clothes and trinkets that runs under the train tracks between Ueno and Okachimachi stations. A great place to do a bit of shopping in the late afternoon and then pull up a stool for some Yakitori skewers; a bowl of noodles or a freshly cut pineapple and strawberry kebab stick. (For indulgent travellers like us, a fresh stick of fruit was just what we were craving). A few train stops away from this area is the musical instrument district which has endless new and used guitars etc. Not really my thing but my fiance liked it a lot.

After a few days in Tokyo we took the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto. It travels at 270km/hr making it a quick 2 1/2 hr trip. It is so quick and easy to travel to different regions in Japan, I really wish we had these trains in Australia! Fittingly we travelled on my Dad’s birthday who was obsessed with trains and would have loved to try out the Shinkansen.

One of the other benefits of travelling on Japanese trains is that you get to pick up a Bento Box from the train station beforehand and then enjoy the amazing healthy takeaway food on your trip. This was a mixed sushi bento which cost about 400 or 500 yen ($5 AUD)!

The Japanese countryside whizzing past on the Shinkansen.

Check out my post about Kyoto in Part 2 of Japan Adventures here.

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One Response to Japan Food Adventures – Part 1 – Tokyo

  1. Melissa Loh says:

    *sigh* Reading about your gastronomic adventures in Tokyo makes me nostalgic about our holiday there, especially for yakitori. That stuff with beer is amazing!

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