Premium Membership at Ippudo

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Last week, an elegant black box from arrived at my house — a gift from the famous ramen chain Ippudo. I have an Ippudo point card and have been steadily collecting stamps for each bowl my family and I have eaten (see my previous posts on their tonkotsu and seasonal ramen). Recently, I got enough to become a Premium Member, which meant that I received a black membership card that entitles me to free kaedama for myself and guests for a year, among other things.

But what about the black box?

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246 Common: The Coolest Food Court in Japan?

IMG_4281Omotesando is widely known as being a very posh and fashionable neighborhood, a place to shop at high-end luxury stores. That is why 246 Common, essentially an outdoor food court/farmer’s market made up of a collection of food carts and specialty shops, is so completely — and wonderfully — out of place. I’ll use an analogy from Los Angeles: If Omotesando is Beverly Hills or Rodeo Drive, then 246 Common is like a piece of the Venice neighborhood, with its laid back bohemian vibe, plopped down right next to it.

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A Fresh, Organic, and Laid Back Dinner at N_1221 in Nakameguro

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Nakameguro is a quiet but popular residential neighborhood in Tokyo, an oasis of calm compared to the hustle and bustle of other parts of the city.   Situated along the Meguro River, it is also one of the best places in Tokyo to see cherry blossoms in the spring.  A number of trendy restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops line the river and surrounding streets.

One of these restaurants is called N_1221. It may sound a bit like a World War II-era secret Japanese government project, but it’s actually a cozy eatery that utilizes fresh organic ingredients to create simple, delicious dishes with Mediterranean and Japanese influences. Although it is not a vegetarian restaurant, it does offer tasty seasonal vegetable dishes that makes it a good casual place for omnivores and herbivores alike.  It’s one of three ambiguously named restaurants that emphasize organic ingredients, the other two being N_1155, also in Nakameguro, and N_7110 in Futakotamagawa.

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Burnt Miso Ramen at Gogyo

IMG_3173When people first hear me mention burnt miso ramen, they usually think it sounds intriguing and want to try it.  However, some folks are a little more skeptical.  After all, how good could burnt anything really be? But rest assured, the burnt miso ramen at Gogyo (五行) is among some of the tastiest ramen I have had so far in Tokyo.

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Happy New Year!

IMG_3718Happy New Year, everyone!

Since the clock turned midnight last night to mark the beginning of 2014, millions of Japanese have been flocking to temples and shrines throughout the country to offer their prayers for a good year. If you go to one of the major religious sites here in Tokyo, such as Zojoji near Tokyo Tower or Meiji Jingu next to Harajuku, you will see an impressive annual exercise in mass crowd control. In almost clockwork fashion, wave upon waves of people are cycled through to the heart of the temple/shrine, where they throw a coin into a collector (five or fifty yen coins are considered the luckiest), pray, and go on their merry way.

Of course, after spending so much time standing in line, you end up getting a little hungry. That’s why there are usually food stalls set up at major shrines and temples.

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