“Salt. Fat. Acid. Gyoza is my favorite flavor profile and probably the reason I eat shameful amounts A whooooole mess of latergrams of all the glorious gyoza in my Camera Roll. Some may or may not be taken at inappropriate hours 餃子どんだけ好きやねん。この半年食べた量と種類、、、かなりヤバイw”
I really do eat too much gyoza. So much, I wrote 1,600ish words on gyoza in Tokyo. Do read if you’re interested. The piece is on Eater here.
I get how people visiting Tokyo for the first time go through hell and back planning trips. I can also see why it’s hard to believe when I tell people: relax and just get… lost. But I promise, Tokyo is packed to the brim with good food, booze, and everything in between that all you have to do, is walk a few steps and BOOM. Anything you put in your mouth will taste better than whatever you last put in your mouths in your home countries.
Tokyo is so massive that even after living here for almost four years, I still stumble onto new places to eat and booze. If I don’t notate, I usually forget places I randomly find.
Last Friday, I re-discovered a bar I thought I would never find again because I forgot to notate and, well, my IG caption says it all: “Found this super hidden bar I stumbled onto a while back and thought I would never, ever, ever be able to find again — shocked, delighted, but most of all, elated! My drink of choice: #Yamazaki Mizunara 🥃”
So if you’re planning a visit don’t be afraid to come without hours of research — Tokyo is one of the best places on the planet to wander without a plan. (Unless of course, you are looking to eat at all the Michelin spots).
And just for heck of it, here are some photos from another random bar — every piece of ice is chiseled to fit the specific glassware. So incredible! *pardon the laziness of uploading screenshots of my Insta; as of late, I don’t keep photos on my phone anymore…
There’s been this tugging of my heart for a while now. Emotions well up in the back of my throat, usually followed by this hollowness and my heart tugs again. I’m feeling all the feels and I don’t know what to do; these emotions are messing me up.
I’m a thinker not a feeler. Independent, strong, fearless, and carefree, I’m the one everyone relies on, looks up to, the ‘crazy’ one who picks up and moves anywhere, achieves anything and everything I put my mind to. So what is going on? What has been going on…?
After returning from SF earlier this month I think I figured it out. I’m homesick.
In late 2013 I moved from NYC to Tokyo. It’s pretty hard to leave a city like New York.
There’s an unmatched vibrance you can’t help but pick up just walking down the street. It’s packed with people from all over the globe. Focused. Driven. Rushing. It seems like everyone has a purpose, a goal.
The colossal skyscrapers, the culture, the subcultures, the food, everything about New York is a daily reminder of how insignificant I am in this world. Manhattan humbles me and I always want to do more. See more. Be more.
New York drove me to always be the best version of me. Especially moving from SF (where I was raised) a city where everything was handed to me effortlessly and easily, I craved a challenge. Thrived on it.
Then, I reached a cross-roads and what I loved so much about New York started weighing me down. I required a change of pace, a release, from the city that demanded so much from me, that I constantly wanted to please — needed to please — before I drowned.
In April of 2013, I visited Tokyo for 10 days. It was the first time in six years I stepped back into Japan. I was captivated.
Tokyo was bustling but not noisy. Busy, yet there was order. There was conformity but the city is so large, so diverse, there is room to be different. I knew this was the city that suited me after New York, LA, and D.C.
So I packed all my stuff and moved.
Several years later, Tokyo still manages to constantly delight me. Surprise me. Catch me off guard.
Tokyo has everything I love about a big city and more. It’s convenient. And clean. Pockets of old within new, new within old. There are so many layers, so much history. Every day I make a new discovery within the so many things that make zero sense.
Tokyo keeps me on my toes, yet it is peaceful. Non-confrontational. Passive yet aggressive. Just like the people. My culture. My roots.
I am at ease in Tokyo. But I am also alone. My friends, family, and loved ones — my support system — are all Stateside and with every visit back, my heart aches more and more when I reach an airport to fly back to Japan.
I’ve always liked being alone and never needed people in the past. Moving abroad has changed that, changed me. Or perhaps I’m simply learning that solitude and loneliness are two very different things.
But I know I can’t leave yet. I need to achieve something anything that defines my time here. Something that validates me … but then I wonder, is it really worth this emptiness?
I am homesick but more so, I need others for the first time ever. What do I do with all these emotions…?
It may seem odd to write an ode about McDonald’s, since in America, McDonald’s are filthy (gross, really), smelly, and nicknamed as ‘homeless people food’. In Japan, that is not the case. The store fronts are super clean, the food comes out made to order and usually piping hot. Another neat thing about McDonald’s in Japan is how they have limited time offer items so there is a new burger, new flurry, new pie, etc., If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find all these burgers and such that are basically non-existent in other parts of the world.
The McDonald’s here is so normal there are even people who wear super duper expensive kimonos and order McDonald’s like it’s no big deal. Only in Japan, I swear.
McDonald’s Japan is also one of, if not the last McDonald’s on the planet that still uses beef fat to deep fry the fries, hashbrowns, and pies. And the craziest part is how the oil isn’t smelly so everything actually, well, tastes pretty good.
My biggest addiction are the breakfast sandwiches and I am not even going to lie, I eat there at least once every two weeks.
If you’re ever in Japan, don’t turn your nose up on the McDonald’s here. Seriously, it’s worth trying.
I will leave you with one of my favorite breakfast sandwiches: the Mega Muffin (two sausage patties, bacon, egg, between McMuffins). SO. GOOD.
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.
Some of you may recognize this cake making its rounds all over Instagram. The baker, young Nacchan, made a huge splash in the Tokyo dining scene last year. Hailing from the Michelin starred “Florilege”, she was the sous then ventured on her own at the tender age of 27 to open “été”, an invite only private dining spot in Tokyo.
Anyway, I had the privilege to dine there and her food was in fact, delicious! Some of the photos may not do her food justice (too preoccupied eating) but if you get a chance to go, definitely worth it!
“I disappoint some first time visitors, I think” Gen-san says, “because everything isn’t made with rare whiskeys and the bar isn’t decorated with expensive spirits.” I hold up an imaginary shaker and swing it back and forth, “You don’t have big movements either.” I add. We laugh then he disappears into the back of the bar, returning with two bottles. Placing them in front of us he states rather matter of factly: “I have rare spirits too. I just do not use them for my cocktails.”
Bar Gen Yamamoto is far from a typical experience. But for those who care about food, you will not be disappointed. There is no other like him, no place like his bar anywhere on this planet.
Bar Gen Yamamoto
Drop this into Google Maps↓
*reservations are required