Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I'm currently in Hong Kong and taking a brief break from updates.  I'll be back soon with my eats from this trip.  Until then, continue to check out my social media accounts (links on the right) for up-to-date food and eating action.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Day Trip to Yokohama

For a change of pace from Tokyo, we hired a hotel van to drive us to Yokohama, about a 30 minute drive.  Yokohama is where my dad went to high school, up in the hills in a pleasant suburban location.  What's really cool is that the location of his school (which sadly no longer exists after nearly 100 years) was right next to the former Kirin factory headquarters.  That's dangerous yet so cool if I went to school near something like that!

Yokohama has progressed over the years because of its port location.  It's a metropolitan city with quieter aspects from Tokyo.  There's a nice downtown street with boutique shops, both local and foreign.  There's also an old brick warehouse which from the facade you wouldn't think anything of it.  On the inside, though, is this shopping warehouse full of local vendors and fun eats.

If you've exhausted Tokyo and want a slight change of pace, Yokohama is an option for a day trip to another city calmer than the bustle of Tokyo.

If you can't see the slide show here, check out my Flickr album: Yokohama

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Eating my way through Tokyo

When I travel I tend to let go of my health conscious eating.  I eat more salads than usual and workout double time prior to these trips.  As a result, I fly into the city a couple pounds lighter just so I can freely gain a few pounds over the next days of travel.  All to I eat carbs, fats, and sugars with no abandon.

Tokyo was certainly no exception.  I felt like I ate 5 meals a day, including soba for breakfast from 7-11 (it's so fresh and a clean way to start the day).   Every one of these "nibblings" are still ingrained in my head as some fantastically memorable bites.

The handmade ramen noodles from Ramen Street in the Tokyo Station, the tonkatsu and katsudons, curry over rice, fresh sushi and seafood from the department store grocery, a huge piece of karaage from the department store food hall, Korean food with loads of vegetables, Japanese Italian pizza done to perfection, beer beer and more beer, convenience store soba, the tastiest salted caramel crepe, the fluffiest cheesecake, and sinful croissants that are worth all the butter intake.

Whew, I cannot wait to go back to Japan and eat all this and more finds.  In the meantime I'll look fondly at these photos and workout for the next big weight-gaining trip.

If you can't see the slide show here, check out my Flickr album: Tokyo Nibblings

Friday, June 14, 2013

Yakitori at Birdland, Tokyo

Japanese cuisine has so much to offer that every restaurant focuses on its specialty.  By doing that, the specialty is of a higher quality and close to perfection.  That's the beauty of eating in Japan.

Walking from the Tokyo Station back to the Palace Hotel Tokyo, there's an "underground world" in Marunouchi.  Almost all these financial buildings have a sort of restaurant row in their basement floors. The Marunouchi Eiraku Building has a great selection of the world's cuisine on one floor.

What looked like an unassuming yakitori restaurant from the facade actually turned out to be one of our best meals in the trip and in Japan.  Birdland is one of two restaurants.  The other in Ginza has held its Michelin stars consistently.  Here at Marunouchi, the food and service are equally Michelin worthy.

Even though we waited for our table, the service from pre-beginning to end was impeccable.  The waiter spoke to my dad in Japanese apologizing for the wait and even made sure we found a comfortable waiting area.  Suddenly his limited English ability turned flawless when he and the rest of the staff served our courses with an excellent range of English describing the dishes as though we were celebrity judges on a food show.

The service was so excellent that at the end of the meal with our last course, my mom was about to take her vitamins with the cold water.  Our waiter suddenly ran by us and yelled, "Wait!"  I stopped my chopsticks thinking he meant, "Wait, there's more food or a condiment coming."  Of course that's where my mind went.  He came back in a hurry with room temperature water, explaining it's better for my mom to take her vitamins with that degree of water.  Wow, what detail and care!

Aside from the amazing service, the atmosphere (a casual but clean wooden set up) and the food were so memorable.  All 13 courses with some of the cleanest and tastiest chicken I have ever encountered.  Each course and its progression is so well thought out and detailed.  This is a meal worth paying for and worth waiting for.

If you can't see the slide show here, check out my Flickr album: Tokyo Birdland

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tempura at its best in a tempura bar

Tempura is one of those classic Japanese dishes.  In my experience, it's either been done well or mediocre.  When it's done well, the crispy batter shines with the freshness of the seafood and vegetables.  When it's done mediocre, the batter is heavy and too oily - it becomes a heavy, guilty meal.

With all the tempura I've eaten, I can really only count a handful of restaurants that do it really well.  These days, I tend not to order tempura unless I can properly guess that it'll be done well, usually in higher end restaurants where they change the frying oil more often.

I've had two amazingly memorable experiences with tempura.  One was well over 10 years ago in Japan at an ordinary tempura bar.  I can still remember each course freshly fried as we ate and savored the lightly battered fishes and vegetables.

The second time was this most recent trip back to Tokyo.  Again at a tempura bar - that seems to be the only way to go when you want tempura done the real way.

Tatsumi is the tempura bar in the Japanese restaurant in the Palace Hotel Tokyo.  It is an exclusive six-seater bar.  You definitely have to book ahead for a seat.  The whole meal is like edible performance art.  Watching the chef's artistry and craftsmanship while he plates the raw ingredients in preparation for the frying.  You're pampered with leisure as you eat one dish at a time.

Lightly battered, piping hot, and crispy while showing off the fresh taste of the seasonal vegetables and fishes.  This is another tempura bar meal for the books.

If you can't see the slide show here, check out my Flickr album: Tokyo Tempura

Friday, June 07, 2013

Highlights and Sights in Tokyo

Looking back at my photos in Tokyo, I didn't really take too many "tourist shots."  I now realize that's because we spent most of our days surrounded by food.  Those photos will be coming up in the next two weeks.

For now, here are a few highlights and sights:
-  Tokyo Station
The purpose and highlight of our food trip.  This is the busiest railway station in Japan with over 3,000 trains running through each day.  It was built in 1914 and just recently renovated with an even cooler "underground world" featuring a ramen street, countless restaurants, and a character street.  Plus, the station is connected to Daimaru department store, which like all high end department stores, has fantastic food hall floors.
-  Sophia University
A Jesuit university 100 years old and my dad's alma mater.
-  Roppongi Hills
There's a pretty large shopping center here, and another highlight is the density of extreme-luxury cars in this small area.
-  Marunouchi
The financial center of Tokyo with high rises and plenty of underground restaurants and food destinations.

If you can't see the slide show here, check out my Flickr album: Tokyo Sights

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

New History in the Palace Hotel Tokyo

Japan was so fun last year, we had to do it again this year!  This time we based our one week stay completely in Tokyo.

Last time, we stayed at the Peninsula Hotel in Ginza.  It's an impeccable hotel with a great location if you want to be in the Ginza vicinity.  For this trip, we wanted to focus on the newly constructed and renovated Tokyo station.

Opened just last May 2012, the Palace Hotel Tokyo has a half century history in its location next to the Imperial Palace gardens.  With its moat-side setting, the hotel sits in the "heart of Japan" located conveniently in Marunouchi.

The hotel is contemporary and luxuriously cozy.  If the city wasn't so amazing with endless eats, it would be hard to leave the spacious rooms with picturesque views every day.  From dawn to dusk to dark, the views of the greenery and the surrounding city skyline gives you peace in the midst of Tokyo's constant crowds and bustle.

There is so much to do in Tokyo that even one week didn't seem like enough.  Oh well, that's great incentive for another Tokyo trip in the near future!

If you can't see the slide show here, check out my Flickr album: Tokyo Hotel