Because Japan


If the Michelin barometer dictates your eating,  it’s no secret Japan is the best place to visit. (We boast the most Starred restaurants on the planet.) 

I’m not a Michelin chaser, I just like things that are delicious. But, it’s nice to know a guide which influences diners world wide acknowledges Japan’s food culture. 

The above place is most likely Bib Gourmand but it’s pretty neat how such an affordable place is included in the guide ๐Ÿ˜Š

I love Japan! 

You can see all the Bib Gourmand (as well as the Starred establishments) here

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Shake Shack

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Shake Shack opened in my neighborhood. A three minute walk to be exact. They opened on 4/15. It’s 4/29. I’ve already visited 10+ times, ate through the entire menu. My favorite is the Shake Shack Double with Cheese Fries and a drink (no shake).

Eating Shake Shack almost daily makes me miss In-N-Out. I grew up in California but can’t recall the last time I ate In-N-Out and don’t remember how it tastes. Since the Shack is rapidly explanding, I see the Shake Shack vs In-N-Out debates almost daily. The last impression I have of In-N-Out is how it is overrated but I’m now so curious…

Looks like a trip back to California is in my near future!

Bonus: check out the line at Shake Shack on the first day. It’s not as bad (average 30 minute wait)

Reason No. Bajillion Japan is the bestย 

As if it’s not already amazing I live in one of the greatest countries on the planet, I get the best texts from friends who visit. 

Exhibit One: “We had the most mediocre gyoza tonight and it broke my heart please only you can fix it.”

Exhibit Two: “Hey Mona, you think theres a chance we can go to a small Japanese rock band concert, just a small venue – I would really like to do that.”

Top is from one of my favorite people on the planet who is visiting from New York. We went to my favorite secret gyoza place last time she was here. 

Bottom is from a super fun chef who lives in Copenhagan. Her and her husband (who is also a world class chef) will be in town later in May. Latter caught me off guard and made me laugh out loud. I thought she’d want to go eat or bar hopping but a Japanese rock concert?? So random! 

I love the people in my life ๐Ÿ˜Š

Natto

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Fuck.ย 

Last week I was at a super weird bar in an alleyway of Hakodate, Hokkaido. The bar is run by a jovial Master and his wife. Locals and regulars fill the seats. I met some random salarymen, had a glorious time. Too much sake and sochu were had.ย In my drunken haze I think I asked one of the salarymen who turned out to be a natto distributor to send me natto.

Well. Not even seven days later, a box arrived filled with six three-pack variations of Hokkaido soy bean natto I’ve never seen before.

One problem: natto is extremely difficult for me. Which is the grown-up way of saying I HATE NATTO.

It smells like socks worn by someone who went bowling, hiking, ice skating, then finished off those activities by marathoning cross country in socks he’s worn since childhood. Natto really stinks.

And can we talk about texture? It’s slimy and gooey and the fermentation coats your entire mouth. GROSS.

I just… can’t. Or I CAN’T EVEN as the kids are saying these days.

And now I feel like utter shit because a stranger shipped what seems to be some out of control high quality natto, just because he was kind. (And probably felt obligated to.)

Anyone want these? First come, first serve.
Or perhaps this will be a good chance to re-visit challenging myself to consume these nasty things.

๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Sushi Tokami and Kotaro, Shibuya

Before I forget… There are three places I’ve been evangelizing. Sushi Tokami (in my list of sushi recommendations here), Kotaro (which I fondly nicknamed the Statebird Provisions of Tokyo) and Afuri (the yuzu ramen place I love love love; my Instagram is filled with Afuri photos). 

Sad updates

Tokami is now super famous. Bookings are harder, they raised their prices and the worst: the chef isn’t as wonderful and warm as he once used to be. Frankly, I heard he’s now a dick. That’s too bad. 

Kotaro in Shibuya is now also famous. He’s getting attention from the Japanese media and slowly starting to be known by people abroad. I’ve heard a lot of people are having less than stellar experiences there too. Which again, is too bad. 

Afuri… I hate saying this. But I went once in March and again last week. Both times I couldn’t finish my bowl because the broth was oily and salty. The pork belly (char siu) was practically inedible. I’m going one last time before I absolutely give up on them. 

This is an extremely sad update for me as I dislike bad mouthing places. But for visitors who have limited time in Japan and happen to stumble on my blog, I wish you all excellent visits and of course, extraordinary food, that it’s only fair to be honest. 

Hokkaido Shinkansen

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I am in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan in a Starbuck’s killing time before my flight.ย My traveling companions are eating soup curry (super runny Japanese curry rice that looks like this — one of the things Sapporo is super famous for).

Hokkaido is the most northern island of Japan. It is the island known for their glorious seafood and the motherland of kombu.

I’ve had some incredible food here I will get around to posting but for now, here is a quick re-cap of what I learned from my second visit to this area in two months.

  • The bullet train is expensive ($200 USD for a one-way from Tokyo to Hakodate <– Hokkaido’s most Southern city; flights are about the same or cheaper. I rode in the Green Car, the equivalent of Business Class)
  • Hokkaido is MASSIVE. It takes about three hours from Hakodate to Sapporo on a super slow, lame train.
  • I much prefer Hakodate to Sapporo. Sapporo to me feels like Tokyo, where the city is so big there are many hits and many misses. The nightlife (bars, etc.) is similar to Tokyo. Hakodate has lots of small bars with more a cozy feel.
  • There is such thing as too much seafood. I’m so seafood-ed out, I am craving meat more than fish. Seriously such a first world problem in the highest order but I’m kind of over uni.

I’ll update with my recommendations in Hakodate (I’m still learning Sapporo).
Until then!