36hrs in Food Paradise – Hour 18, Izakaya
About halftime in food paradise and I was far from being finished yet. Today the plan was to meet my host and his colleague for some Tekka Don at Big Tuna just around the corner. We had missed the sign at the door last night though stating that the shop was gonna be closed for the holidays and so we found ourselves before closed doors and sadly also without any tuna rice bowls. His colleague, a passionate foodie himself, quickly came up with an alternative not far away from Big Tuna and this is how I ended up at Kushi-Tei of Tokyo unintentionally.
Entering the shop, a cloud of fragrant steam hit me right in the face with scents that instantly triggered memories of past trips to Japan mainly spent at random izakayas and ramen shops. The kitchen and service crew greeted us in a loud and familiar chorus and the many Japanese customers made me feel confident that this was gonna be a good choice.
Out of curiosity and for research reasons I grabbed one of their regular menus off the bar. I hadn’t even opened it yet when our waitress swiftly took it away signaling that they don’t serve food from this menu before dinner time. Being surprised but hungry I started scanning their small lunch menu with mostly little set meals and a few noodle dishes.
My choice fell on the udon with wakame, scallions and tempura crumbs. I don’t know what it is with the dashi broth that’s so particular to udon but I could soak it up by the gallon, light and defined. By the time I was finished taking my pictures the tempura had already softened but the udon still had their signature bounciness and chew, and even though I’m not huge on wakame I really liked theirs here. This dish always seems so simple and easy but it’s so much more than just a soup and hardly ever disappoints.
I truly liked it here and would have loved to experience its full smokey izakaya potential and spirit in the evening but I guess this just has to wait until next time.
Get Your Grub On!
Kushi-Tei of Tokyo
p: +49 211 360 935
OMO – Oh My Okonomiyaki!
I wasn’t super hungry this evening because of my late and generous ‘Menya Musashi‘ lunch but still felt like a little something to close the day. I randomly went into the Shinagawa Front Building and when I realized that there is a ‘Okonomiyaki Kiji’ branch located on the second floor I decided to have a slightly bigger dinner than anticipated as in Singapore this seems to be impossible to get.
I decided to go less traditional and ordered a ‘Kimchi & Pickle Starter‘ and the ‘Pork & Kimchi Okonomiyaki‘. As I was sitting at the bar I could follow the action as the chefs were entertainingly preparing mine and other dishes which was particularly important because a good and thick Okonomiyaki can take around 15-20 minutes.
It looked beautiful and tasted fantastic. The big chunks of kimchi cabbage had a nice bite and heat to them and were balanced just right with the Oko-dough. Best about this though was the thick slices of pork belly on top. Whilst preparing, I was a bit worried as the pork often doesn’t get enough time on the flame but here they took their time and waited until the fat melted away and the meat transformed into crispy salty goodness. All finished with salty butter and freshly chopped green onions on top. Simple food tweaked to greatness.
The ‘Kimchi & Pickle‘ starter upfront helped me through the waiting time with it’s great tastes and different textures. The pickled radish was crunchy and cooling and the the kimchi style cabbage had a very mild taste with only a little bit of spice to it. My favorite of all was what seemed to be some kind of kimchi cabbage jerky as it was stringy and quite hard to bite and by far the most spiciest of the trio.
‘Okonomiyaki Kiji’ is a famous brand from Osaka and they sure lived up to their name. I am pretty happy to have stumbled into this shop as I didn’t have any decent Okonomiyaki in years as it just seems impossible to get a remotely good one in Singapore. I would do it again and again and again.
Okonomiyaki Kiji お好み焼 きじ
Shinagawa Front Building 2F
Tel: +81 3 6712 0256
Second Rounds at Menya Musashi!
I just had to come back here before leaving Japan and even that I originally intended to have this fantastic ‘Tsukemen‘ again, standing in front of the vending machine I reconsidered and changed for the “upper left” signature bowl. Since I started this blog I find myself more often trying new dishes rather than just going with the usuals which I find a pretty positive development as I’m normally a creature of habit and rather go with what I know i like.
I went for the thicker broth, fat noodles and medium size and didn’t have to wait very long for it to arrive. Compared to the ‘Tsukemen‘ from last Sunday this broth was slightly lighter but still on the salty side which worked great together with the fat springy noodles. I seldom had these wider noodles before but I think I do prefer them over the usual thinner ramen noodles as they seem to transport the broth much better and are not getting soft as easily. All ingredients here tasted fresh and delicious even that the egg again and unfortunately wasn’t that special at all. The pork belly though had the same tenderness and delicious texture I had missed all week. I savored each bite knowing well I won’t have the opportunity to taste this for probably a long while.
After i had slurped my bowl dry I wondered if I could have managed to finish a large portion and if one of the buttons on the vending machine would actually have given me some extra of that fantastic pork belly. This place is well on my radar now and even that I heard the branches in Singapore are completely different I might give them a shot to see the difference between them and the mothership.
Menya Musashi 麺屋武蔵
7-2-6 Nishi Shinjuku
K1 Building 1F
Tel: +81 3 3796 4634
Put Some MOO in Your Ramen!
It was the weekend and I had my mind set on a beef ramen place for lunch that I found on a dedicated ramen blog for Tokyo. The place is called ‘Matador’ (マタドール) and is located in the Kita-Senju area in only a 5 minute walking distance from the east exit of the train station. I was slowly getting better in navigating and hardly walked off the ideal route. I arrived just after the lunch hour but still had to queue up because this place only has six ish bar seats.
Finally in, I went for the shop’s signature ‘Luxurious Roast Beef Ramen‘ (贅沢焼牛らぁ麺) which, as everywhere, was the upper left corner button on the vending machine. I passed my ticket to one of the staff and waited excited for my lunch to arrive.
This must have been the prettiest ramen I have ever seen with it’s two big slices of roast beef floating on top of the clear broth that smelled simply wonderful. The broth was soya based (shoyu), light and salty and was topped with some finely chopped chives. The roast beef looked not only beautifully rose but was juicy and tasted great and beefy. It only was a bit difficult to bite of small pieces so I ended up gobbling down a full slice at once. The noodles were thin but unfortunately a bit too soft for my taste. One thing I found outstanding was that besides the two big slaps of roast they had added some slow cooked brisket-like beef that stuck to the noodles when slurping them in and made this really an incredible dish.
I didn’t regret making my way out here on this beautiful Saturday as ‘Matador’ awarded me with a great new experience and even that I couldn’t really imagine how beef ramen would taste like before I have sure become a big fan of it. I will definitely be back here anytime I will get remotely close to Kita-Senju. Pretty awesome, you should try it.
Crazy or Super Crazy?
My first week in Japan was nearly over and my friend was so nice to take me ‘Tantanmen’ hunting on Friday. I found this place in Kanda on the internet and as it looked great and promised to be super spicy we head for Ogawamachi station directly after work. I have never been in this area before and here were heaps of little restaurants found around every tiny corner. After taking a couple of wrong turns we eventually found ‘La-Show-Han’ by the red sun logo on the door which I recognized from a blog. This place has only few bar seats and first we were the only ones and so had the chance to have a little chat with the master who was actually hilarious and very kind.
We were only two people but not knowing when we would return to this place, we pulled three different bowls and a couple of beers from the vending machine outside. My friend ordered the ‘Spicy Green Hot Pepper‘ version but the master recommended her an off menu option which he called ‘Mala Tantanmen‘ and described as a Sichuan/Thai fusion dish as it used Sichuan pepper, bird’s eye chilis and sesame. This one was my favorite, the sesame broth was nicely thick and the heat was moderate enough to still taste the ingredients and enjoy it. Also the bird’s eye chilis kicked in in a very unfamiliar way. Great stuff.
The second bowl was the ‘Sesame‘ version which was delicious. This one wasn’t spicy at all and tasted lovely and obviously like sesame with a nutty finish coming from crushed peanuts sprinkled on top. I also liked the sort of sprouts topping every dish seem to have and that were giving it a cool and fresh twist. Okada san said that he uses the same noodles as his favorite ramen shop does and they were wider than usual and cooked until nicely chewy and springy.
Last but not least Okada san brought us the ‘Premium Sichuan Style‘ Tantanmen which was the initial reason to come here. He checked twice if we really wanted to have this particular one and noted at a sign mentioning that this was only meant for “crazy people”. He left out the spicy extras at first, for us to try the milder taste first before turning it into the full version. It was more of a dry type and tasted great. The soup at the bottom was much thicker than in the bowls before, lovely creamy and rich and after some slurps we handed the bowl back to the master and he worked his magic. He sprinkled a lot of ground Sichuan pepper on the noodles and finished with a generous drizzle of homemade Sichuan infused vegetable oil. The noodles now were covered under a generous layer of cracked red pepper color and looked much more intimidating than before/. I tried to be courageous and started with a big slurp of noodles. Oh, they were dangerous. The pepper instantly numbed my outer mouth, inner mouth including tongue and everything else that was touched by the noodles. It all became cold and hot at the same time, made me sweat on my head and made my ice water taste very odd. It all tasted brilliant though and very different to every Tantanmen I ever had before but I might just have overestimated my tolerance for spice in this case. There is also a ‘Super Crazy‘ version which I politely skipped after tasting this bad boy.
This was a great find and even that i had to realize that apparently I am not “super crazy” I absolutely loved it here. Besides the great and eye opening super spicy food we really felt very welcome here and it was nice talking with the master who took his time explaining and answering all of our questions. When I will be back in town I’ll make sure to pay this place another visit to try some of their other options working on my craziness.
Kanda Nishikicho 1-4-8
Trains, Raw Fish and Sticky Rice
After a beautiful day walking around I felt slightly hungry. My big portion of ‘Tsukemen’ from ‘Menya Musashi’ at lunchtime still made me feel pretty filled but since it was my first day I felt it was my duty to have at least a little something raw and just outside of Shinagawa station there was ‘Ushio’ a small sushi bar that fitted the purpose perfectly. It’s one of these small places you find all around with hardly more than ten seats which unfortunately were all taken when I arrived but after a little wait I finally placed the order for my first round of sushi with the master.
I started up with ‘Kappa Maki’ (cucumber roll), ‘Tako’ (octopus), ‘Ebi’ (cooked shrimp), ‘Hamachi’ (yellow tail) and ‘Maguro’ (tuna). The different types of fish tasted fresh and sweet and had great textures, all soft and firm. I particularly liked the dark red ‘Maguro’ and the ‘Tako’ who I grew to love. Beforehand I had read up some sushi etiquette and not knowing if it was actually true I followed it to the last bit. This meant not asking for extra wasabi, what was not necessary anyway and eating the sushi with my hands. The rice was super sticky so it was a bit of a bother getting it off my fingers after eating each piece.
Time for the second round. I felt a bit more adventurous so I ordered ‘Engawa’ (halibut), ‘Chutoro’ (medium fatty tuna belly) and to see one familiar face I added a second piece of that lovely tuna. I have no complaints at all about the taste the halibut actually didn’t taste like much but the ‘Chutoro’ had a nice distinct aroma, which was much richer than the lean version. I still preferred my old favorite as both others were borderline in regards to enjoyable texture for me and needed much more chewing to bring them down.
I really liked ‘Ushio’ as a small casual place, yet with atmosphere and this typical Japanese feel of special and hidden elegance. Where else than only in Japan to find a ten seater train station restaurant with tasty quality food at 80-300 JPY per sushi. Not socks of rocking but still much better than many proper restaurants in other countries.
Ushio Sushi Bar タイトル
1-30-2 Nishigotanda (Shinagawa Station)
Tel: +81 3 3490 0367
Ramen Gambling in Shinjuku!
After over three years I finally made it back to Tokyo and upon arrival at Narita I realized how much I actually had missed this place. This time around though I came much better prepared in regards to what food I had lined up for my two week stay here. The list was much longer than the days I had available but you always have to keep something for next time. After I had checked into my hotel and freshened up I headed straight for Shinjuku to have my first ramen of the trip at ‘Menya Musashi’s’. As geographically challenged I intuitively head into the completely wrong direction but since there was no ‘Mos Burger’ anywhere to be seen as indicated on my map I turned on the spot and eventually reached my desired destination. Tip for all if you can’t find the west exit of Shinjuku Station, just walk around the building until you do and you’ll be right on track.
At the shop there were only three color coded pictures on the vending machine – a red one for their signature ‘Shoyu Ramen‘, a yellow one for ‘Tsukemen‘ and a white one for what I guess was ‘Beef Ramen‘. Each color gives you a choice of four buttons with no further picture explanations for the non-Japanese amongst us. I knew that I definitely wanted to try their ‘Tsukemen‘ and so I tried the only of the yellow buttons that had red Japanese signs on it (1,000 JPY) thinking it might be a sign for a spicy version; it wasn’t. After I had passed my order to one of the guys he asked me for my choice of size and broth and I went with medium and “kotteri” (thick and stronger broth). I was a bit concerned if I would get the delicious looking pork belly and eggs that all other guests seem to have ordered but when my bowl arrived it thankfully came with full specs.
The looks and taste were beautiful. The broth was dark and rich and pretty salty – oh so very very salty – which was perfect for soaking the “futo-men” (fat noodles) in it before starting the big slurps and yet made me gulp down several glasses of the free ice water to prevent my tongue from drying out. The noodles were nice and chewy and I appreciated very much that they make them a bit broader here. There were two big chunks of pork belly in my bowl that they cooked in Japanese wine and soya sauce for hours so the fatty parts melted away and the meaty bits fell apart. I tell you this could be a dish by itself and I felt like gobbling it down at once but paced myself to have little pieces of porky goodness all the way through my seating. The one thing I expected a similar level of perfection was the egg which unfortunately was not so super special, nice and waxy sure but I had better.
This one surely made it on my list of places well worth remembering and I’m sure I’ll return here when I’m back in Tokyo or maybe even during this stay. Ramen shop atmosphere in Japan just is a little different than in Singapore and even that I hardly spend more than 20 minutes in here I really liked it; interior, shouting chefs and all. So if you take the wrong turn as I did don’t give up yet, it might just be worth the search. Look out for the noren with the swordsman.
Menya Musashi 麺屋武蔵
7-2-6 Nishi Shinjuku
K1 Building 1F
Tel: +81 3 3796 4634