I’ve noticed that a lot of folks who check out this blog are interested in Tokyo Ramen Street at Tokyo Station, so I thought I should highlight another of its shops — Oneshiki Jun (俺式 純). Oneshiki, which is part of a chain of ramen restaurants called Setagaya, is one of the new ramen joints that moved in following recent renovations to the Street. It specializes in tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen and offers a couple of tsukemen (dipping noodle) options as well.
I don’t know what convenience stores are like in other countries, but a 7-11 in the United States is a wasteland for food compared to their Japanese counterparts — hot dogs and hamburgers that taste boring and stale, Big Gulps, and the usual junk food. I know there have been some efforts to improve the offerings, but Americans are still being shortchanged on this front.
On the other hand, a 7-11 in Japan (or any of its myriad local competitors such as Lawson’s and Family Mart) is a surprisingly good place to grab not just a quick and affordable meal, but a relatively enjoyable one as well. It’s not gourmet cuisine, but you’ll have a far better time eating the vast assortment of bento boxes, ready made noodles, rice bowls, salads, sandwiches, and (my personal favorite) onigiri rice balls than you will their mystery meat counterparts in America. Konbinis are also great places to grab delicious breads, like the ubiquitous melonpan, and pastries on the go.
You can debate the merits of each konbini chain. But personally, I believe that the very best konbini here is one that even many Tokyoites have not heard of. It goes by a funny name: Gooz.
Some of the best places to do gourmet foodspotting in Japan are the food sections of major department stores, which are normally located in the basement level. Yennie Cheung of the blog International Gluttony does a great overview of these depachika, which she describes as “essentially like supermarket delis, except that these would make Whole Foods weep with inadequacy.”
The one my family and I have gone to relatively frequently is in the Mitsukoshi Department store in Ginza, conveniently connected to the Metro station. It is a wall-to-wall Versailles of high quality, spectacularly presented food — European-style pastries and baked goods, chocolates, some of the most immaculate looking fruit you will ever see in your life, a broad selection of Asian and European cuisines, and much more. You really have to be careful not to drool over everything you see.
Items tend to be on the pricey side, as you would expect from an upscale retailer. But we always seem to buy something from the European-style bakery there, Johan, which makes great bread, croissants, and other pastries. They offer some sort of “bread of the day” (at least on the weekends) and there are often a lot of people waiting in line to pick some up.
Of course, any of the Japanese departments stores (especially the high end ones such as Mitsukoshi and Takeshimaya) will have depachika like this. So if you happen to see one while you’re hanging out in Japan, definitely check it out.Mitsukoshi Department Store 4-6-16 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo
British blogger Haikugirl has a great blog dedicated to the startlingly wide variety of Kit Kat candy available in Japan. Nestlé makes special Kit Kats for various regions of Japan that reflects a particular dessert or food product associated with that area. So you can all sorts of interesting and exotic flavors in addition to the standard chocolate.
Afuri (阿夫利) is the gift that keeps on giving great ramen. I went to the branch in Azabu-Juban again a few days ago to introduce the restaurant to a friend. It was a very hot, humid and sunny day and we weren’t really in the mood for hot soup. Luckily, Afuri offers other ramen options better suited for the weather, including a summer special: cold yuzu ramen. Continue reading
It’s summer, which for many people (Japanese included) means it’s time to head to the beach for sun, sand, and surf. RocketNews24 has an interesting article on various street food you can eat down in Enoshima, a beach community southwest of Tokyo and a short drive down the coast from historic Kamakura. Whether it’s green tea ice cream in a cone shaped like a clam shell, octopus crackers or super-fresh, locally caught clams and other shellfish, there’s a culinary adventure to be had while hanging out by the sea.
Best tantanmen in Tokyo. That’s a serious declaration, one that gets your attention especially when it comes from multiple people, including ramen blogger Ramen Adventures and local English magazine Metropolis. So my friend TC and I had to go and check out Rashohan (辣椒漢), also written as La-Show-Han.
Ramen is arguably Japan’s national dish, but it originates from Chinese la-mian (pulled noodles). In fact, another term for ramen in Japan is chuka soba — Chinese noodles. If you’ve been to China or even a local Chinatown, you may have come across a noodle shop where someone made la-mian by taking a big piece of dough and stretch it out with to the full length of his wingspan, separating it into many individual strands in the process, and doing it over and over until he achieves a pile of noodles. Interestingly, I’ve never seen or heard of any la-mian places in Tokyo. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough or perhaps I need to go to a fancy high-end Chinese restaurant. It’s also possible that the demand for la-mian is limited here, overshadowed by the locals’ affinity for their own iconic ramen.
However, what I have found are plenty of noodle joints that serve tantanmen (dandan mian in Chinese), a spicy Sichuanese noodle dish.
You all know the gist about ramen: noodles in hot soup. But you’re probably much less familiar with tsukemen — dipping noodles. Continue reading
I was at the Tokyo International Forum near Ginza recently where I came upon a group of food trucks standing outside, ready to serve the lunch crowd. Food trucks have been a growing phenomenon in major cities in the United States over the last several years, and Tokyo has its share as well. However, the trucks are a lot smaller in Japan. Some of them are basically converted micro-vans that are ubiquitous in this country. Others are converted 1960s-area Volkswagen microbuses, which lend a cool retro/counterculture vibe. Continue reading