Ikkaku: the best chicken to ever meet your mouth

Last summer, I traveled Fukuoka, Osaka, and Kyoto and during the Osaka leg, a girlfriend I’ve known for decades took us out in her hometown. We walk into this random building in the Umeda district of Osaka, head up to the 12th floor (?) or somewhere super high. Anyway, I would’ve never known about this spot unless she told me about it.

Turns out, this chicken place is a really famous.

Ikkaku, originating from the Shikoku region (wayyyyy down South of Japan) had an outpost in Osaka and because the population is higher in Osaka, Ikkaku became an Osaka staple. The style of chicken in Shikoku is a garlicky, peppery chicken with a kick but it’s not heavy at all and there is a huge cult following of this prep.

Adam (the guy I was traveling with and a super talented chef — he’s opening a spot in SF but more on that when he opens) and I were blown away and we instantly fell in love with the chicken. I thought I’d have to go alllllll the way back down to Osaka or even visit Shikoku but it turns out, there is an outpost in Yokohama!!! (About 30 minutes away from Shibuya.) The other day I of course traveled and it was every bit as delicious as I remember.

If you’re coming to Tokyo and not planning a trip to Osaka, Ikkaku is definitely worth the trip to Yokohama. Plus, the Chinatown in Yokohama is pretty legit and has super tasty foods!

Seriously. A Japan must.

Ikkaku Yokohama (the one closest to Tokyo)
Drop this into Google Maps↓
〒220-0005 Kanagawa Prefecture, Yokohama, 西区南幸2丁目15−1
Look for: TINOビル6F — and it’s on the 6th floor
045-317-1708

Go super early to avoid the long lines or make reservations (Japanese is required)

What to order: oyadori (dark meat) and hinadori (white meat) ONLY then go to other places to fill up. The chicken is the only good thing there, tbh.

Conversations with Gen-san: Oishī

“Maybe the character for oishī (delicious) is beautiful「美しい」 and taste「味」because in the Japanese culture, we express appreciation for food in two parts: we note the presentation when something is first served, the taste, once we consume.” Gen-san and I wondered. “Makes perfect sense as utsukushī「美しい」is used when describing art and aesthetically pleasing things, followed by aji「味」flavors.” We both then nodded in agreement, satisfied by our conclusions of the etymology. Turns out that is not the case but it was surely fun to discuss. Always, always learn something new with each Gen-san visit and the reason his 8 seater bar is my favorite place in Tokyo. 

Bar Gen Yamamoto 

Drop this into Google Maps↓
東京都港区麻布十番1−6−4
アニバーサリービル1F

*reservations are required
office@genyamamoto.jp
 // 03-6434-0652

Pelican Bread: Tokyo Must Try


Pelican bread is a Tokyo must-eat and no other spot serves the beloved local treasure better than Cafe de Rope. Every bite has a crunch then a slightly sweet, airy softness, before a delightful vibrance from the creamy, salted butter laces your mouth. Don’t stop to ponder how a stupid piece of toasted bread can make your sensations go haywire because you will never figure it out. The rule here, is to do as Trevor Moran says: “Hurry up and fucking eat it before it gets cold.”

Cafe de Rope
Drop this in Google Maps↓
東京都中央区銀座5-3-1 ソニービル B3F

Oden … and the most fucking amazing guide to Tokyo

Excuse the F-bomb in the headline (I know, so inappropriate but whatever. This is my fucking blog and I can fucking drop fucking F-bombs heeeeeeere… weeeeeeeee) but I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to contribute to a once in a fucking (another F-bomb!) lifetime comprehensive guide to Tokyo that nothing out there even fucking (and another one!) comes close to.

There is so much information about everything one requires when planning a Tokyo trip. Beyond that, though, the writing is high quality and puts my writing to shame. (Note to self: step your game up.)

The guide is here and everyone with even a remote interest in Japan and Tokyo needs to smash the bookmark button a bajillion times over and share with all.

…anddddddd somehow, I snuck in.

Still in disbelief I’m included and in no way am I posting this because I contributed. It’s a beautiful, informative, fascinating look into the complexity of Japan from various viewpoints and an excellent guide. My contributions are: decoding conbini (convenience stores), unraveling Tabelog (the most accurate dining compass of Japan) and share mid-range priced sushi; I eat at spots that aren’t expensive as shit and here’s the proof.

Hope you enjoy!

Bonus: you may or may not know this fact but massive editing takes place (of course). My pieces would be NOTHING without the editors. Seriously, they are all stars. But just for shits and giggles (loving the ability to freely curse, obviously) there are several parts of my conbini piece that were massively edited (and for good reason). I wasn’t attached to a lot of the parts the Eater editors vanquished but I just can’t let the oden part go so I’m side-barring here.

On Eater:

Oden

From September to mid-April, there are often large, heated metal trays or pots near the registers of most conbini. Inside the trays are different ingredients — tofu, daikon radish, boiled eggs, and fish cakes — floating in a hot, fragrant (almost pungent) dashi broth. This is oden, Japan’s winter comfort food. While the absolute best typically comes from chefs who have spent a lifetime perfecting their broth and curating the ingredients to pair with it, the conbini version is fun to try.

Butttttttt lemme tell you how I really feel:

From September to mid-April, there are huge pots with weird shaped ingredients floating in a funky broth near the registers. This is oden and a Japanese comfort food staple, delicious when properly prepared. Conbini oden is more symbolic. When we see oden set-up in conbinis, we immediately think: start of winter and once they are cleared, we know that summer is here. I have never seen anyone actually buy conbini oden but if you happen to be here while it is served, it may be fun to try. Oden is best home cooked or at oden specific restaurants where chefs are usually 70 year old men who have spent their lifetimes perfecting their broths and hunting for foods that pair perfectly with their broths.

Oden properly prepared is like this ↓ and I also wrote about it here

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Secret to Shinkansen (Bullet train) Eats

Shinkansen (bullet trains) in Japan are wonderful and as most visitors already know, it’s all about purchasing a JR Rail Pass for unlimited Shinkansen rides to get about Japan. Japan looks small but is actually pretty big and Shinkansen rides are super pricy. Like really pricy to the point where it’s cheaper to fly from Tokyo to another country. 

Anyway. The point of this post isn’t going on and on about Shinkansen because I know nothing about them except I love them. Ride them. Use them to see Japan. Even if flights are cheaper, I still choose a Shinkansen over an airplane because they are really that great. The point of the post is to rave about Shinkansen eats. One of THE BEST things about Shinkansen is you can eat and booze. In fact, it’s the only thing  people do. There are food carts that roll up and down the aisles with beer and sake and High Balls and Chu-Hi.

As much as I love the carts, I only use them to purchase booze and always, always, hunt around train stations for bentos. My personal favorite and addictions are katsu sandos (deep fried pork cutlet sandwiches). I normally never eat them, only when I ride the train.

And here’s the big, huge secret. Big Shinkansen stations are usually attached to mega department stores. And in the basements of big department stores are rows and rows and rows of tasty to-go food. Read: it’s not your typical, sad, dried out supermarket sushi.

So if you’re ever in Japan, do please find the tastiest Shinkansen eats by ignoring the train station / cart bentos and hunt in the department stores. Hopefully this tip will make your trip better. 

Love, your friendly neighborhood Japanese.

PS: The ‘best’ katsu sando are the pork fillet katsu sandwiches. Just look for the characters: ひれかつ・ヒレかつ・ヒレカツ (or simply point down to the sandwiches and ask: “hire-katsu?”)

$500 Grapes

The other day I was in Ginza Mitsukoshi which is the equivalent to Barney’s or Harrod’s in Japan to pick up some fruit to bring to Takahashi-san (my favorite sushi chef) and his staff. (I bring presents every time I dine there.) I got them three perfect peaches — which cost $50 but that’s another entry — from this famous fruit store inside Mitsukoshi. In the far corner, I noticed a windowed room with spotlights like in a wine or designer store, where all the special super duper expensive items are tucked away.

I walked into the glassroom out of curiosity and what the hell.

img_2663

That above are grapes. A single bunch of grapes. In wooden boxes. That cost between $3-500 USD. FOR A SINGLE BUNCH OF GRAPES. I mean. I like grapes but not enough to pay a sushi dinner’s worth…

So of course, I had to ask a fellow working there: “Have you ever tried the $500 grapes?

Him: “Yes, I have.

Me: “YOU HAVE?! 😳  What do they taste like…?

Him (matter of factly): “Exactly like the hundred dollar grapes outside of the glass room!

Me: “Oh. Okay. Thank you.” …in my head, I was wondering who in the F buys $100 grapes?! but instead, asked”do people actually buy $500 grapes…?”

Him (again, matter of factly) “No.”

And we both had a laugh. Japan is so ridiculous on all sorts of levels but $500 for a single bunch of grapes is just out of control. Part of me wants to work in that fruit shop just to see if I can sell $500 grapes to gaudy new-money tourists who swarm Japan as of late 😉

Japan endlessly entertains and delights. If you’re ever in Tokyo and feel like having a huge laugh, check out the silly fruit corners in high-end department stores. I don’t think there is anything like it elsewhere.

Here are the $500 grapes.

img_2664

Sushi

Almost a year has gone by since I ate my way through Tsukiji and it’s time to update — especially since revisiting some older posts, my face turned hot and red; I am extremely embarrassed at how little I knew about sushi.

So today, almost 12 months and many, many high-end sushi meals later, here are a few things I have learned. Warning: this will be a super long and ultra nerdy post with barely any photos…

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