Saturday, December 27, 2008

One Word: Ramen

Ramen is something that hubby really looks forward to eating when we come to Japan. Nothing in the states can beat real, authentic ramen in Japan. This little spot in Jyuugaoka has been hubby's favorite since he was a school kid.
When you walk into the place they don't hand you a menu, but you choose your meal ticket from a vending machine. Simply hand your meal ticket to the cook, and he will whip it right up for you before your eyes as you sit at the counter.
If you ever have a chance to visit, try the spicy negi ramen. It's the ish.
Tokyo, Japan

Merry Christmas! Eat Your Face Off!

I'm a few days late, but I wanted to share with you our Christmas dinner. On the 25th we went to our all time favorite Italian restaurant, Chianti. Christmas is all about eating, and family of course... so Otousan, hubby and I went out for a festive Christmas evening meal in Tokyo.
When they break out the finger bowl, you know it's a proper place. The first time I was offered one of these things I nearly drank the water out of it. I guess it's used for rinsing your fingers before you eat your meal but I still don't really get the point of it. hmmm.
Anyhow, I was excited about the meal because the restaurant was dressed up in Christmas decorations and they had special dishes on their Christmas menu that evening. I started off with a Cassis Orange cocktail which is a mix of Cassis liqueur and orange juice. Sweet, fruity, and girly, just the way I like it.
This isn't the typical Italian restaurant that I'm familiar with. They don't serve heaping bowls of pasta or jumbo plates of lasagna, but they serve what Otousan calls Nouvelle cuisine. A new and innovative way of preparing and serving food.
I'm the type of person who can never make up her mind about what she wants to eat on the menu, because I want to try everything! So for someone like me, Chanti is godsend. The server wheels out carts of dishes and you can choose as many dishes as you like and he will serve you small portions of each. Awesomeness.
I want that one, that one, that one, that one and that one! This particular appetizer was escargot in a pastry puff. I don't have much experience trying escargot, and I didn't want to order a whole plate. So without wasting too many snails, I was able to taste test and realize that escargot is just not my thing. The portions are quite small so I got to try so many things!
This was a crab bisque soup. Creamy and warming.
We even had some pasta before our main course. I had some spaghetti arrabiata and pepperoncini.
Hubby had the veal cutlets which were juicy and delicious.
I had the herb encrusted grilled fish. Very aromatic and delicious as well.
Dessert was the best part. I got to pick as many desserts as my heart desired and the server sliced small slivers from each cake.
I had strawberry shortcake, roll cake, and Mont Blanc cake. Whenever I come to Japan I have to eat loads of Mont Blanc cake because you can just never find it in the states! Mont Blanc (pronounced "monbran" in Japanese) is cake made by using a lavish amount of chestnut. This cake is called Mont Blanc because it imitates the appearance of a mountain in the Alps.
Hubby had the pumpkin flan, gateau chocolat, and cheese mousse cake.
Christmas evening ended on a perfect note of sweets and warm tea. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
Tokyo, Japan
Tel: 03-3717-6200

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Sweetest Potato

I just tasted the bombest sweet potatoes of my life. These small, round potatoes are a specialty from an island called Tanegashima (種子島), the south of Kyūshū.
These sweet potatoes (satsumaimo) grow only in Tanegashima and are called "Mitsu Imo" or honey potatoes. These special potatoes are so creamy, rich, and sweet that you feel like you're eating a rich pudding. Bake these golden jewels for 30 min in the oven and you have a toasty and warm winter treat.

Tsukiji Fish Market

I finally made it out to the famous Tsukiji fish market!!! This market (築地市場) is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. I've always wanted to visit Tsukiji, especially since it's pretty close to our home in Tokyo, but this was actually the first time I ever visited. Why, you might ask... because I've never been able to wake up in time to make it out to Tsukiji. The operating hours are between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. and most of the action happens around 5:30 a.m. With our jet lag, we woke up at 4 a.m. yesterday so we decided to take advantage of the situation and finally visit Tsukiji.
I've seen this place featured on countless travel and TV show but I was still amazed. This fish market is said to date back to the 16th century during the Edo period when fishermen brought in fresh seafood to supply to the Edo castle.
The market place was like a huge winding maze with rows of small stalls selling everything from the sea that you could imagine. I got to see some fish and sea creatures that I've never even heard of before!
Fish, fish heads, fish guts, different varieties of squid, sea urchin, seaweed, clams, eels, the list goes on and on.
I got to see some fishermen expertly slice and portion hundred pound tunas! Amazing.
New years is quick approaching, and it is the busiest season for Tsukiji. Every household in Japan is beginning to prepare for their special "kaiseki" or new years meals that usually consist of a variety of fish and sashimi. I didn't feel quite welcome as I walked through the narrow walkways, to be quite honest it was intimidating! Workers were frantically running back and fourth, and men riding motorcycles and 3 wheeled carts nearly ran me over at every corner.
If you ever visit Tsukiji, beware these speeding carts! These loud 3 wheel carts haul ass all over Tsukiji Fish market carrying fish on their rear platform. Thousands of these carts are dominating the walkways and they really don't seem to slow down even if you are in their path, it was quite a frightening experience.
We walked to the very back part of the market to observe the tuna auction going on.
In the auctioning section there were rows and rows of gigantic frozen tuna fish. At the auction house, or oroshi gyōsha, they estimate the value of each fish and prepare the incoming products for the auctions. The licensed buyers also inspect the fish to estimate which fish they would like to bid for and at which price. As we were staring in awe at the intense auctioning process I noticed that there weren't very many tourists walking around. Until, a security guard asked us in his polite English to "please go, area bery dangerous. thank you." Only later did we find out that the Tokyo Government that administrates the Tsukiji Market has recently made tight restrictions for tourists. Tourists are no longer welcome in the auction area! I guess tourists have been disrupting business by getting in the way and taking pictures. oops. Well, at least we got to see it once in our lifetime... even though we weren't supposed to.
After walking around, we decided we were really hungry so we headed over to "Sushi Dai." Just look at the line... you know it's good.
Who lines up for close to two hours to eat sushi at 7 in the morning? We do. And apparently those people in line do too.
Sushi Dai is the most popular sushi restaurant in the Tsukiji Fish Market. So popular that most of the time, the wait is about 2 1/2 hours! We got lucky and waited in line for about 1 hour 45 minutes. Someone told me that on new years eve, the wait could get to be about 5 hours. yikes! My hubby and I are major hype beasts, and we had to find out what was so special about this sushi place. Boy, are we glad we waited.
This tiny sushi place is just a bar with 12 seats. Their hours are from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. and apparently there is ALWAYS a line. This sushi place is THE place at Tsukiji, boasting the freshest and best prepared sushi.
Standing in line at 6 a.m. in the cold morning air was well worth it. Once you enter the bar, the sushi chefs greet you warmly. We ordered the "omakase" menu, or the chefs choice menu which consists of 8 pieces of sushi plus one of anything you want.The staff is so friendly, the sushi is something you can't describe, and everyone at the bar is just so happy to be there that you can't help but take your time and enjoy (even though you know dozens of hungry people are desperately waiting in the cold outside).

These photos are completely gratuitous. Go ahead, thank me later and enjoy the feast with your eyes.

This sushi was beyond words. Needless to say we left Tsukiji at 9 a.m. very happy and satisfied.

Tsukiji Fish Market. Located in a row of barracks, in Building 6 in the 3rd alley (just past the mailbox); it's the 3rd shop on the right
Tsukiji, Tokyo

Tel: 03-3547-6797

Monday, December 22, 2008

Our First Meal in Japan This Year: Mon Cher Ton Ton

It was a struggle trying to decide what our first meal in Japan would be. On our 11 hour flight to Japan, hubby and I conversed quite a big about the things we wanted to eat when we got back to our homeland. We finally came to the consensus that we go to eat some authentic Japanese grilled MEAT. Immediately after our decision we headed straight for Mon Cher Ton Ton. Despite the funny French name this restaurant totes, it is a fine Japanese teppanyaki restaurant. 
The meal was out of this world. It blew the airplane food out of the water. No contest. 

We went for the special Christmas course dinner starting with some sort of seafood sausage topped with caviar. I wasn't quite sure what it was, but it sure made my tummy happy.
The raw oysters were heavenly. I've recently developed a love affair with oysters in the past two years. I couldn't eat them when I was younger, and wouldn't you know that it's one of my favorite things now. These oysters were big, plump, juicy, and flavorful.Next, we had a Foie Gras flan topped with sliced truffles. Smooth and light to start the main course off with.
At Mon Cher Ton Ton, you even get to watch your very own private chef prepare your meal right before your eyes. You don't get the bells and whistles like you do at Benihana's in the states, but you don't need any of that show because the food is just THAT good. It was quite educational to watch the chef expertly and precisely cutting and grilling everything to perfection.
The teppan grilled lobster tail rocked my world. The lobster was cooked perfectly with a slight crisp to each bite and the cream sauce was a great compliment to the meat. On the side was simmered tomato based Japanese vegetables topped with grilled lobster brain. 
The chef recommended the sirloin steak so we all went with that. 
Like I've mentioned before, I'm not a big beef eater but I can really appreciate a little bit of well cooked meat. I eat all of my beef well done, but the chef prepared it without that burnt taste that most places serve up when you ask for well done. Each cube of meat was so tender you didn't even have to really chew because it just melted on my tongue, that's how soft it was!
We had a few varieties of sauces to choose from: spicy negi sauce, onion soy sauce, and pure red sea salt. 
The lobster head was used as stock for a miso soup that warmed me right up on this rainy winter day.
At this point, we were all about to blow up... but the meal ended with a delicious garlic rice with plenty of chopped garlic and shirasu (dried baby sardines).
After our meal we went over to the cafe/lounge area to enjoy our dessert and tea. Dessert was a shallow ramekin of rich creme brulee topped with apple sherbet and fresh strawberries. 
Can the rest of my meals in Japan top this? Stay tuned to find out!
Mon Cher Ton Ton
Seryna Bldg B1 F3-12-2
Roppongi, Minato-ku
Tokyo, Japan
Tel 03-3402-1055

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