Updates 

It’s been a while since updating here and I am totally slacking, neglecting my own site. First and foremost I spent a lovely Thanksgiving holiday back home in San Francisco and finally made it to Nashville. Then for my birthday I re-visited Nashville and went to NYC for the first time since leaving (most of the food photos are on my Instagram: @MonaNomura)

So I will leave you with a book photo. Strand in NY has one of the best selections and I spent way too much on used books. Looks of food writing and food books. I was also gifted a bunch of back editions of my favorite food magazine: Lucky Peach.

Carrying all this home was a bitch (I never want to experience it again haha) but so worth it.


Oh. I also had my first piece published on Lucky Peach’s website with few more to follow. It’s not everyday you get to see your name on the landing page! Exciting stuff.

There’s also another big project I’m contributing to and will update when it launches.

2017 is starting off fabulously. Hope all is great with whoever is still reading this. Lol

You can read the LP piece here

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Sushi in Tokyo Ranking

UPDATE: this is no longer just sushi. Scroll to bottom for all rankings.

Forget Michelin, the Japanese all rely on Tabelog, the Japanese equivalent to Yelp or Trip Advisor. Unlike Yelp or Trip Advisor, though, Tabelog’s rankings are accurate — any place rated 3.5 or higher (out of 5) is 99.99999999999999% of the time excellent.

The reason Tabelog is accurate, is because Japanese are passive. We do not complain directly to establishments when we have bad experiences. We do not tip to show appreciation of places we love. We return to our favorites and become jyōren (regulars). Places we dislike, we tell all our family, friends, colleagues to avoid and… rate on Tabelog. Tabelog is very accurate.

I put this together because I realized most people aren’t food nerds. When people ask for recommendations, they don’t really care about the whats, whys and just want “the best” (whatever that means).

So, for all the list chasers and ‘foodies’ who use Michelin as your food barometers, here you go. Knock yourselves out! Bookings are near impossible though; even through hotel concierges.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  1. Saito
  2. Sugita
  3. Hatsune
  4. Mitani
  5. Mizutani
  6. Tokami
  7. Hashiguchi
  8. Sushi Shō
  9. Miyaba
  10. Namba
  11. Masuda
  12. Takumi Shingo
  13. Arai
  14. Kimura
  15. Sushi-ya Ichiyanagi
  16. Sushi-ya
  17. Hashimoto
  18. Kanesaka
  19. Daisan Harumi Sushi
  20. Yoshitake

See the entire list here (in Japanese)

You’re welcome.

*in case you stumbled onto this post and looking to learn about sushi, I write my take on sushi in Tokyo here

Update 7/13/2016

Since I get asked for recommendations ALL the time, I’m just going to start listing the Top 10 of everything on Tabelog. So here we go, in no particular order:

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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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Super Mega Early Tsukiji


More visuals from backlog posts continue as I sort through photos from my old phone… Here are the photos I took from this post in which I finally went to the tuna auction at the butt crack of dawn. I don’t even remember taking the photo up top but, it came out pretty legit.

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Beautiful tuna sashimi pieces (that again, I do not recall taking) from the breakfast sushi. My defective phone camera worked perfectly whenever it felt like it I guess because this one isn’t blurry. I’m actually shocked by how it turned out!

And in case you’re interested, more photo dumps after the jump…

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200th Post and an Ode to the Tsukiji Fish Market

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200th post on this little blog of mine, thank you to those reading and especially those who leave a comment or two. It’s nice to know there are actually people out there interested in Japan and Japanese food. Updating this blog has been so much fun and I love sharing things about my culture, country, people and especially foods! Also, I’m such a food nerd and on occassion include things unrelated to Japan, so again, thank you to those who continuously read and check this site.

On this (self-proclaimed) special occasion, I am going to share something that I’ve been hesitating to share for quite some time; since May, to be precise. A huge part of the struggle is because I don’t want to ruin the magic for those who are visiting or planning to visit Tokyo and… Tsukiji.

Early this year, I started a pet project: Mission Daily Tsukiji in which I was determined to get to know the market inside-out before they move. What initiated this was a random solo visit after several extremely sour experiences. Going to the market alone felt like I was visiting some place completely different and fell head over heels in love.

After a week of research (googling, reading tons of blogs but in the end, I bought four Tsukiji guides in Japanese) gained enough confidence in my command of the market. Tsukiji is pretty overwhelming and once I’m standing inside of the market, everything I thought I knew or remember flies out of my head and I wander around lost, not knowing where to go or what to eat. So I built a plan.

Several months of daily visits to the stores and markets, eating at almost all the sushi places and non-sushi places including random food stands, getting to know the people of the market and asking them where their favorite places are and eating at those places, I got to know the market extremely well and realized something quickly.

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Tsukiji Tuna Auction

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Photo courtesy of Naveen

It’s an ungodly hour in Tokyo but the fish market is alive and buzzing. We get there at 3:30am but barely make the cut into the second group to view the tuna auction. We walk through the door and given vests. The first group is bright green. We, the second group, put on blue ones. The room looks like a pretty big storage room cleaned out and turned into a waiting room. Hard concrete floors, bright halogen lights and white walls makes the room more reminiscent of a looney bin. I am the only Japanese and almost feel like a refugee waiting for Japanese immigration to give me permission to enter the country. It is not a pleasant experience. 

The holding room.

Apparently, I texted a friend this photo who kindly sent it back to me. Sort of hilarious this is the only photo I have after my big, sad ordeal. We’ve been sitting around this room for hours and finally the first group goes out into the auction room. We stand around for a few more minutes and it’s our turn.

Being the only Japanese is a bit of a blessing and a curse. The workers are shocked a Japanese national is actually participating in the auction viewing but more so, I learn things I perhaps would rather not know. There are the things I learned.

Heads up: this may take the magic out of the experience if you are planning to go so I’m putting it behind a jump.

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Deciphering Sushi Garnish

 

This is aji from the Mie prefecture, over akazu rice. Aka is red. Zu su or osu is vinegar. Akazu is used in Edomae Edo is what Tokyo was called sushi, the traditional Tokyo sushi. Red vinegar sleeps for three years before it can be used for consumption.

Akazu vinegar sushi basically ruined me from enjoying sushi made with clear vinegar. The acids are toned down and akazu draws out the flavors of the fish. It can only be used in the freshest fish and the results are absolutely magical.

Aji, is a hikari mono shiny fish because the fish are really shiny. In Japanese, hikari mono indicates a more prominent sea taste vs subtle ocean like with shiro mi zakana white fish like trouts and snappers (hirame, tai, hamachi, etc.)

Now the toppings seem complex but really not. It complements the fish and rice instead of taking over the flavors. This one piece of nigiri was a stand-out.

1. daikon oroshi grated daikon
Daikon is a Japanese radish and is in season during the winter. It’s used in grated form added to many foods in Japanese cuisine. It’s topped on grilled or raw fish, added to udon, rice bowls, grilled vegetables like eggplant. In solid form, daikon is added to a lot of our winter dishes like oden, nabe hot pot. Daikon and daikon oroshi is a must in any Japanese kitchen.

This piece of nigiri had a teensy dollop of daikon oroshi.

2. Kujyo negi
Negi is Japanese green onions or scallions. Kujyo negi is just a variation of Japanese green onion. The root portion is a bit thicker and seen in hot pots or sukiyaki whole.

3. Myoga
Myoga is a type of ginger and they are so delicious.

They come in two forms: stick or bulb:

They are commonly used as a garnish for grilled foods – generally fish. Both the stick and bulb can also be pickled to eat with rice. Yum.

For the sushi, the itamae-san sushi chef cut them in ultra thin strips and added the teensy bulb shape on the aji. The nigiri was then spritzed with kabosu (a citrus that is used when yuzu is out of season).

And there you have it – sushi garnish 101.
You’re welcome.