Tokyo Restaurant Roundup

Who’s got time to blog anymore?

Anyway, I did want to get a list down of the restaurants that we thought were worth recommending. Really, pretty much everything we ate was good, at the very least. So that means we didn’t try Yoshinoya, but we did even go to some pretty down and dirty noodle shops for quick meals, and that food was certainly passable.

But here’s the good stuff:


Very hard to say, but this might have been my favorite of the trip. This was an old-school noodle house featuring tsukemen, which is a noodle I didn’t really know about until this meal. They’re thicker and saltier than soba, made from white flour (I think) and nice and al dente. I found this place on Chowhound.

The noodles were great. They come served with pork belly (not really as fatty as US pork belly, so maybe it’s a different cut) or sliced pork. Of course, we got both. Then they come with bowls of broth with veggies. They have shoyu or miso. You can guess which we got (both). You dunk the noodles in and load up the soup, eat them with veggies and pork. Heaven.

And there are two other great items: the aged egg (liked it, but pretty mild) and the negi-wonton, as in, scallion-wonton. It’s a plate of pork dumplings, with homemade wrappers, clearly, in a nice soy-based sauce, covered with scallions. Loved it.

The noodle plate with pork belly, and the negi-wantons

Important note here: pretty much no English is spoken at Suzuran. We ran into some Americans there who tried to help, a bit, but they were kinda lost, too. And it was our first morning, so we didn’t really know how to deal yet. The menu has some pictures, but we figured out, after we ordered, that the more complete pictures are inside the restaurant on the wall above the front window. You might try ordering by pointing at these if you go.

Finally, a line forms. We got there a few minutes before they opened for lunch (11:30?) so we got right in.

Next up:


Another find on Chowhound. We were looking for something good and close to our hotel after a long day walking the streets and riding the subways. We really weren’t expecting much; I guess that’s the best mood for being surprised.

Yuian is located on the 52nd floor of the Sumitomo building in Nishi-Shinjuku, so it was basically across the street from the hotel, which was the main selling point to us. I don’t think I’ve dined on top of a skyscraper since Windows on the World. If you remember that restaurant, you know how long ago that would have to be.

Anyway, this was our first shoeless experience, which was definitely fun. The place had a gorgeous sushi bar and waiting area, and then, when we were taken to our table we were shocked to find out that we were sitting on the floor (with a foot well) right at the floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows looking out over Tokyo. I guess, considering the number of skyscrapers in Tokyo, this isn’t such a rare situation, but it was spell-binding nevertheless to us lowly Angelenos.

Bad pic, but you can get a hint of the view out the windows

OK – the order of the day here is Izakaya. So we ordered some sake and a ton of appetizers and went to town. They do also have a set menu, but we didn’t go that route. We went fried, pickled, steamed, etc.

Salad and pickles and veggies

Fried gluten things with pork

In addition, we had sushi and sashimi (both great) and my favorite item of the night was a tofu skin (yuba?) in tofu milk, or something like that. The English translation was “sleeky tofu” which would seem about right, if only sleeky were a word. Maybe they meant slimy? Silky? It was both of those. Also mucousy. And great!

Third up, was another noodle place. At home, I don’t think I’m that crazy for noodles, but here, I couldn’t get enough. And we never did find excellent soba, but that’s another story.

Chuka Soba Inoue

Apparently, ramen was once called “chuka soba.” So this old-school ramen hut uses the old terminology. Confusing, but fine.

We found this place listed in a few spots on the web – one being the New York Times, actually. And we knew we’d be walking by it on the way to Tsukiji, so we figured we ought to pay a visit.

There’s only one order of business here on the “menu,” and that’s a bowl of ramen. Granted, no English was happening, but I’m pretty sure that there’s nothing to say, other than the number of bowls you want. Then they boil your noodles, make your broth, add the MSG, assemble, and lay pork slices and bamboo shoots on top, with some scallions. Done.

The chef is shaking in some special ingredient (MSG)

You take the bowl, and walk over to one of the bar tables nearby, and slurp away.

Here’s Leo doing just that:

I was a little scared to step away and snap the pic because I thought he might suck the whole bowl down before I had a chance to dig in.

So that’s the roundup of the great meals. We also had many, many others that were both delicious and memorable, including shabu shabu, a nine course tofu meal, grilled eel, all-you-can-eat deep fry, tonkatsu style, tons of street food (mochi, roasted sweet potatoes, and plenty of other things that we can’t name, still), gyoza (yes, a whole meal of it), tempura (not as good as I was hoping for, actually) and, of course, sushi. I would say the one letdown was the tempura – we need to try again on that. And the soba we had was at fast-food-ish type places, so next time, we need to find a handmade, 100% buckwheat soba place.

I can’t wait to go back!

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