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Old 06-22-2018, 04:18 PM   #51
amoeba
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Re: Trip blog and perhaps more

Chop, I didnt have time to answer your other questions yesterday but I can today.

In general I find most of the interactions with Japanese people in the short time I was there to be very friendly. I find Osaka to be more laid back and friendly than Tokyo. Tokyo feels much more like NYC or Shanghai where the rush of everyday life means that people have less time for your smalltalk.

I mentioned that to my wife and she said "yeah, its just like how lots of people in China think Shanghainese are *******s" (I am Shanghainese).

I look Chinese and sometimes Japanese people will automatically start conversing to me and my wife in Mandarin. This usually tends to be sales people in shops. Then again, half of these are actual Chinese people living in Japan while the other half are Japanese people who learned Mandarin.

Usually sales people are less enthused upon learning we live in the US as opposed to living in China as that likely means our appetite for luxury goods arent as great.

I have gotten questions of "where are you from?" and I answer "the US" because that is where I flew in from and also the sole nation I have a passport from ad swore allegiance to.

I am conflicted when I answer in such a way as in the past 10 years, the massive boom in Chinese tourism and the sudden expansion of the nouveau riche has caused some backlash against Chinese tourists abroad. I would like to fight some of the negative sterotypes of Chinese tourists by showing that Chinese tourists are not as bad as the media would have one believe. On occasion I do show discreetly that I can read Kanji and when the Japanese person inquires why, I explain that because I am Chinese.
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Old 06-22-2018, 10:04 PM   #52
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The VR zone is very close to Kabukicho, the famous Tokyo red light district. The name comes from the original plans to build a Kabuki theater in the neighborhood. The theater never came to pass but the name stayed.

During the day, Kabukicho is fairly tame, and even during night, the sketchiness is not too bad. Although, we do know of a friend who on her last trip to Japan, walked through Kabukicho at night and was mistakenly thought to be looking for "employment".

Even though this area is fairly safe, many of the host clubs, hostess bars, strip clubs are yakuza run. As we walked through, government installed loudspeakers blasted in Japanese, Mandarin, and English the message " beware of doormen/advertisers who pull tourists in to clubs with promises of low prices and then execute a bait and switch".
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Old 06-22-2018, 10:10 PM   #53
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In any case we just walked through to go enroute to some more camera shops. My wife was in search of a Rolleiflex.



https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolleiflex

Luckily most of the vintage camera stores either carry vintage watches or are close to other watch stores so thats what I occupied my time with.
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Old 06-23-2018, 02:24 AM   #54
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Your story about your friend in Kabukicho reminded me of when I was living in St Kilda in Melbourne, an area known for street prostitution, and popped out to go grab some milk in the middle of the day. I'm rugged up to the max as it's winter and have my dog with me and I get curb crawled and propositioned by some stupid idiot.

Sorry lol, just annoyed on behalf of your friend. Great stuff in here amoeba, really enjoying it.
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Old 06-23-2018, 10:25 AM   #55
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Thanks Rexx. Glad you're enjoying it.

I find the concept of host/hostess clubs interesting and its really something that is only prevalent in Japan.

The following video explains it really well.




Kabukicho is also the main setting of the Yakuza line of video games where visiting a hostess club is one of the possible activities. Having a virtual simulation of a real life simulation of having a successful date is surreal.

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Old 06-23-2018, 10:52 AM   #56
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Re: Trip blog and perhaps more

amoeba - you need to keep this blog going. I forbid you to end it. Your writing and photos are top notch and we need more of both.
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Old 06-23-2018, 10:23 PM   #57
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On the way to our last camera store, we pass by the mega department store of Takashimaya. It was at this moment that my wife said she would like to have sukiyaki tonight as its raining and a body warming dish such as sukiyaki would hit the spot.

We notice a decent sukiyaki place on the top floor of the department store and make a mental note to come back.

After browsing the camera store, we came back to Takishiyama but found the restaurant not open until 5pm.

We then see the Taiwanese Xiao Long Bao chain, Ding Tai Fung on the 11th floor of the same department store which is open throughout the day.

We go and get a light snack of 6 pork xlbs, 2 scallop xlbs, 2 crab xlbs, and an almond tofu dessert.

Patronwas correct that these are very well done XLBs. The wrappers are very very thin yet there was not a single leaky dumpling. The smaller dumplings were refined with a flavorful but light broth. The only complaint is that the pork is of the loose ground pork style ad opposed to the whole ball of pork style which I slightly prefer. All in all, still very solid and in the top 10% of XLBs I have had.

We pay our check then take the escalator up 2 floors to the sukiyaki restaurant.

Got 2 sukiyaki sets, one with the middle grade wagyu and one with the top wagyu.

I didnt taste anything too special in the sauce but beef wuality was very good with the top quality ever so slightly softer and richer but honestly you can stick with medium grade and its still really good.


This is one set worth of beef with 2 sets worth of veggies.

After we finish all the beef and veggies, the server at the restaurant (another old lady in a full kimono) comes and cooks runny scrambled eggs in the leftover pot that has beef fat and sauce and serves it over rice with what else, miso soup and pickles.



We make sure to let her know that the eggs were really good ( they really were good) and her somewhat austere visage breaks in to a kind smile.
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Old 06-23-2018, 10:33 PM   #58
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As an aside, there are two main ways of saying delicious in Japanese. Oishii is the standard way and what you hear the most of. Umai is the second way, which as far as I can tell is usually only used by men. I think its because there are too many exaggerated exclamations of oishii in film by girls that the men decided to use a different word. Its just an uninformed conjecture though.

I think women do use a shortened version of Umai that sounds like uma.

In any case we finish our dinner and are too tired to browse Takishiyama aside from the giant food shop in the basement. Since we're full, we wont be as persuaded to buy as much stuff.

The basement of Japanese department stores are supposed to be a food wonderland and Takishiyama Shinjuku has one of the largest. Here's a video tour


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Old 06-24-2018, 12:40 AM   #59
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In the department store basement, we also saw the 1000 dollar melons and 500 dollar pack of cherries (about 60 cherries in total) at the Sembikiya counter.

http://roadsandkingdoms.com/travel-g...much-as-a-car/

Having no one to gift in Japan and feeling slightly prudent, we buy the least expensive item there, an $8 grapefruit. We also pick up a bottle of nori paste from another counter and prepare to leave Shinjuku.

We take the subway back to Ginza and then walk to our hotel.

While almost there, 2 Lamborghini Aventadors, grey and lime green, pull up and park right next to where we were walking. Out pops a man and a woman enveloped in streetwear with the woman sporting a diamond encrusted face mask. Another street fashion sporting man exits from the lime green Lambo. A white van then quickly pulls up behind the cars and a camera crew scurries out to conduct an impromptu interview on the 3 individuals.

We crash as soon as we reach our room
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Old 06-24-2018, 12:52 AM   #60
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day 7

Today is our final full day in Japan and it will be more food photography filled than previous days. One of the great things about our hotel is that it is within walking distance of Tsukiji market. I dont intend to get up at 4 to attend the tuna auctions as I have seen enough cattle auctions to figure it'll likely be similar. However, there are lots of stalls and restaurants in Tsukiji's outer market.

There is ome place that we have been planning to go for a long time and they dont take reservations (not sushi Dai). We get there 15 minutes before opening time and get handed a place card that asks us to come back in 40 minutes, when we will get a seat.

We stroll around Tsukiji and pick up some more kitchen implements and try some of the snacks




Fresh sansho



Wasabi a lot cheaper than US.
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Old 06-24-2018, 01:22 AM   #61
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We split a cup of Blue Mountain coffee between us and head back to the restaurant. Side note, Japan buys up 95 percent of the yield of this Jamaican coffee producer.

The restaurant is Sushi Kuni, knoen for their



My split an order of Hotaru ika, firefly squid.



My wife got the pure sea urchin bowl



Orange colored is aka uni (red uni), yellow color is murasaki uni, and the orangish uni on the side is a subset of red uni called bafun uni.



I get the uni and ikura bowl.

Out of the 3 types, best tasting is the bafun, followed by murasaki, and then the plain red uni.

It doesnt reach the height of the bafun uni we had at the ryokan but its still pretty damn good.
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Old 06-29-2018, 07:35 PM   #62
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Been super busy at work so haven't had a chance to update.


day 7 continued

After our Uni fest, I follow my wife back to the Camera store right across from our hotel where she found the right model and was deciding between 2 different year makes. Since both were in the display window, she went outside the shop to take another look while I chatted with the storeowner, who spoke excellent English, inside.

While she was still outside browsing, a random tourist came up and spoke Mandarin in to google translate to Japanese asking her the way to the subway. Not quite sure why he picked my wife out of everyone else on the street to ask directions.

We made the purchase and the shopowner also included a cool original case.

We then traveled by subway to the Omotesando neighborhood of Shibuya ward.
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Old 06-29-2018, 07:51 PM   #63
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Omotesando reminds me of a more well heeled Japanese Williamsburg NYC. It is fairly hipster and full of guys looking like the pages of the Sartorialist blog.



There's many great vintage shops, cafes, and boutiques.

Feels like a place where the words curated and atelier will be overused.

Still, I see some great watches way out of my price range while my wife windowshops some clothing stores.

I do have a planned stop here at Koffee Mameya, which can be best described as a temple of coffee.

The entrance





The inside reminds me of a Chinese medicine shop. It is manned by who I would characterize as coffee sommeliers who asks us what our preferences are with respect to acidity, bitterness, temperature. No sugar and cream to be found here.



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Old 06-30-2018, 02:52 AM   #64
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We did some more shopping and I picked up some chocolate truffles from Jean Paul Hevin.



And later, I got a mixed bag of caramels from Number Sugar.

These caramels are really really good, tasting strongly of fresh cream, real caramelization, and the flavor they are labeled with.

https://onthegrid.city/tokyo/omotesando/number-sugar
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Old 06-30-2018, 10:00 AM   #65
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Amoeba,

Awesome, awesome trip report. Gonna try to copy a bunch of your stuff in Tokyo in a few months, thanks!
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Old 06-30-2018, 11:06 AM   #66
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I want to eat that Hotaru ika so badly.
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Old 07-01-2018, 12:07 AM   #67
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We stroll through the youth fashion district of Harajuku with its many cosplayers, crepe shops, donut shops, and giant cotton candies. We save our appetites for the heavy dinner we have planned ahead.

We do stop in MUJI, which can be described as the Japanese Ikea, where I end up picking up an exfoliating washcloth. Many Asian men use products such as face masks so comparatively I am Grizzly Adams. I wonder when did the term metrosexual fall out of favor? Its 15 minutes went by fairly quickly.

Night falls and we briefly watch Shibuya crossing before stepping on the subway to the Chiyoda ward where our restaurant is located.
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Old 07-01-2018, 12:13 AM   #68
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If you come to Japan to eat Wagyu, there are a few different ways of having it. The classics being shabu shabu, teppanyaki, and yakiniku. My wife has a large appetite but having rich meats fills her up very quickly so she chose yakiniku, the Japanese interpretation of Korean BBQ, hoping the charcoal char would temper the richness of beef.

Sumbiyakiniku Nakahara has recently gained quite a lot of fame in food blog/vlog circles. I first learned of this place through the Luxeat blog

http://www.luxeat.com/blog/sumbiyakiniku-nakahara/

Since, this place has been visited by both Mark Wiens and the Food Ranger.
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Old 07-01-2018, 12:28 AM   #69
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The restaurant is in a midlevel building in the Chiyoda government district. The place is quite large by Tokyo standards.



The waitstaff brings out a bucket of already hot binchotan charcoal



The vent fan is super strong.

We start with a dish of beef consomme gelee on top of potato soup with some dehydrated beef



This was followed by a dish of yukhoe, or Korean style beef tartare, which I unfortunately dont have a picture for.

We then move on to what Nakahara-san is most known for, beef tongue.



Beef tongue tip on right and connective tissue to floor of mouth on left.



Center tongue



Center tongue finished. This is very good and very different from the slowcooked beef tongue I am used to. Texturally it is reminicent of kidney but with less iron flavor and there is some explosive meat juice as I might in to the tongue.



Market vegetable salad



Ribeye. This was very tender, with the meat tissue barely there.



Patrons used to cook some of the meats but now the staff cooks it all probably due to too many screwups by customers.



Hanger steak and rump. The rump is the single meltiest piece of beef I have ever had. The fat melts away as soon as it hits my mouth leaving a superfine lattice of meat tissue that also melts away a second later.
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Old 07-01-2018, 12:30 AM   #70
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Hangar cooked.



Top sirloin and strip.

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Old 07-01-2018, 11:23 PM   #71
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Now we get in to the offal


Beef intestines and beef stomache



After grilling

This was followed by a beef bone soup reminicent of sulungtang of which I missed out on taking pictures of.

Then the highlight



Wagyu katsu sandwich.



Naengmyeon, Korean style cold noodles



Kimchi served with beef rice bowl. I like how the Korean roots are kept. Forgot to take a picture of beef rice bowl.

Then dessert which was a pistachio ice cream that we barely finished.
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Old 07-05-2018, 12:27 AM   #72
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I will take a minute now to talk about the Japanese conecpt of the Shokunin, or the craftsmen. I believe the idea largely gained a following in the West after the movie "Jiro Dreams of Sushi".

You see Shokunin all over Japan. People devoted to their craft dedicate a lifetime to one profession. For example, even the taxi drivers are lifelong drivers who mostly could retire due to Japan's generous social security policies yet choose to work well in to their 70s.

However, there is perhaps a misconception about this idea in the West. Inevitably, I see the idea of the Shokunin combined with Western narratives about "finding your passion". The evidence actually seem to suggest that most Shokunin did not do some deep soul searching but rather through happenstance fell in to the craft they mastered. Ideas such as passion or life's calling can only be found after sufficient exertion of effort and responsibility.

This article seems to support some of that.

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2012/09/3...ollow-you.html

And to an extent, this one

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/01/0...althy-one.html


Last edited by amoeba; 07-05-2018 at 12:33 AM.
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Old 07-05-2018, 01:22 AM   #73
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back to the beginning

I lie in bed but I can't sleep. I wonder if Bourdain had a great last meal. His answer for what he would choose for his final meal has changed through the years from Fergus Henderson's roasted bone marrow with parseley salad to Jiro's sushi omakase.

What would I choose for a final meal? If death would immediately proceed after dessert, would I gluttonously eat myself to indigestion?

I think if I had the presence of mind to choose a final meal, then that would imply that my death is not of my own choosing. If I am committing suicide, I would not be in the right mental state to worry about what I am eating, I think. On the other hand, if I am to be executed, I might just gorge myself with foie gras, rare beef, cognac, runny cheese, and chocolate as a tasty yet diarrhea inducing **** you to my executioner.

How silly I am, thinking of last meals when I haven't even decided on the last meal for this trip.

There has been many foods I missed out on, no udon, soba, tonkatsu, kushi katsu, oyakodon, unagi, etc......

Yet I wanted something distinctly unJapanese yet Japanese in its preparation spirit. Should I go get Neopolitan pizza at Seirinkan or Pizza Studio Tamaki? A bit far and its risky on the day we're leaving for the airport.

Then it hits me. Old School French. Either a classical bistro or some forgotten grande dame of what was once "nouveau" cuisine. The new style hot restaurants such as Sugalabo, Florilege, Le Effervessence, or Quintessence I wouldnt have been able to get a seat at anyways. The chef would have to be Japanese. As much as I like Ducasse, Robuchon, and Gagnaire, they are more appropriate for Paris. And of course, the restaurant must be open for lunch.

Beholden to these criteria, I begin my search and as luck would have it, I find a well regarded French restaurant not more than 100 meters from our hotel.
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Old 07-08-2018, 12:28 AM   #74
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Apologies for the delay. Once again, work has been unrelenting recently.

For our last meal in Japan, we end up at Tateru Yoshino. Chef Yoshino was a long time sous chef under chef Robuchon and now runs Stella Maris in Paris and 3 namesake restaurants in Japan, all with at least a Michelin star.

Despite the accolades, the restaurant was completely empty when we arrived and would only be 1/3 filled throughout our lunch.





The service was very classical European fine dining with the maitre'd wearing a full tux and such extras as amuse bouche, bread cart, mignardise.

We opted for the 8500 yen mid level lunch menu.



Choice of appetizer, fish dish, meat dish, and dessert



Amuse tray. Vegetable and goat cheese tart, gourgeres, and foie gras macaron.

The execution is really good. The veggies very fresh, the gourgeres nice and crisp and airy and the foie sweet and lush eithout overwhelming.



More amuse. Beet mousse. Subtle beet flavor.



Mini baguette from bread cart. Other choices include milk bread and boule.

Very good example of baguette. Glass shattering outer crust with very soft and airy interior.



Wife's first course, Monet's Garden. Seems like a variation of Michel Bras' Le Gargouillou.

Vegetables were all very fresh with the cooked ones controlled correctly in terms of doneness.



I went with a more pedestrian asparagus risotto as I wanted to test the kitchen with a simple classic.

Very good rendition. Rice seemed like cannaroli rice done to an al dente that was a bit softer than many places in the US where there is still some over hardness in the center of rice kernal. Richness permeated the dish, tasting of chicken broth and parmesan, while the asparagus pieces lightened the dish.



Issaki with a citrus sauce. Crisp exterior, melting interior. Proper fish cooking.


Sea Bass with artichokes and a red wine butter sauce. Again very competent cooking of the fish and sauce.



Lamb. Meat was nicely done though there seemed to be a lot of the outer fat. Wife says she prefers the lamb rack I make as I score the fat very finely to render and crisp the fat.



Beef cheek in red wine. Incredibly meltingly tender. Puree of potatoes rich yet light.



We both went with the apricot dessert. Many texture: gelees, nougat, ice cream, sorbet, meringue, sauce.



Mignardise of macaron, chocolate covered hazelnut, and mini cannele.

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Old 07-08-2018, 12:48 PM   #75
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Amoeba,

That seems like a really great value.
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