Oyakodon Shio at Toritō

I cannot stress this enough. Oyakodon at Toritō in the Inner Market of Tsukiji is a Tokyo must. For 160 years, they have been distributing chicken and duck across Japan, opened two spots inside Tsukiji a decade ago and have a strong loyal following. Toritō is the only place I’ve ever eaten oyakodon shio (親子丼塩), a version where the soy sauce is held back. The seasoning is so subtle, the sweetness of the yolk, the flavor of the chicken are prominent and the melty, creamy egg with the juicy chicken over a piping hot bowl of rice is so good it always makes me want cry. Chicken soup is mandatory – it’s the best chicken soup that’ll ever meet your mouth. 🐓🥚🐣🐥 Tokyo favorite! 

…found this post in my drafts and decided to publish. RIP Tsukiji but don’t fret, Toritō is still operating.

🚨🍣New Sushi Spot Alert 🍣🚨

Found this place that just opened through a wonderful food friend… and oh my god it was seriously one of the best meals I’ve had in Japan.

From the attention he pays to every single detail in his shop (design, hand towels, and even specialty toilet paper), to ceramics, his choice of staff all reflects in his stunning food.

His shari (sushi rice) was literally perfection. His otsumami (small plates) surpasses any of the places I’ve eaten before.

Above are only a few of the photos and the notes, not as extensive as I’d like (too preoccupied enjoying my meal).

6 hour steamed abalone in its juices
Hokkaido shishamo caught only in October served two ways (nigiri and gunkan)
Ankimo with mizunomi (ankimo steamed with the mizunomi omg the texture!!!)
Of course nodoguro

…and the sushi was 100%. Not a fan of cured neta that is pungent, or shari that is too sour (I can name a handful of super famous spots that are aggressively flavored)

On and on I can keep going but honestly, I only remember being blown away. Asking trillions of questions like I always do. And not retaining most of the information… hashtag OLD.

So, I will leave this post with my friend Ash’s succinct – but vulgar – description (and this guy knows. his. shit.)

Ingredients in Japan

I rarely eat Chinese food by choice. Dim sum bores me (it feels like an endless on parade of tiny baskets with fish or pungent meats and chives wrapped in dough, cooked in different ways), black bean sauce is way too potent (can’t taste the ingredients). A lot of the fish has this slimy texture reminiscent to cheap catfish and a lot of the dishes — irregardless of style or region — tastes like the pan (or wok?).

XLB are my favorite but there’s only so many soup dumplings one could eat.

The other night I had Szechuan food for the first time in I can’t even recall how long ago and it was so delicious and flavorful. The dishes look extremely spicy because of the red peppers but the heat was subdued. There was one stewed chicken dish that literally blew my mind. I could taste every layer of the ingredients unfolding on my tongue — anise, sansho, soy, and I learned Szechuan peppers have this unmatched brightness, a subtle acid, that brings the dishes to a new level.

The chicken, fish, shrimp, beef, sansho peppers and all the greens are so optimal in Japan that it’s almost unfair. I swear, a cooked box of rocks in Japan would taste good.

Now I am keen on learning more about Chinese cuisines — especially Szechuan. Ahhhh the learning process here is never, ever, ending.

Sushi Saito

snapseed-1

In 2009, when Michelin decided to uncover Japan’s culinary scene by including us in their guide, two things happened. One: the world got a glimpse of our extraordinary cuisine. Two: it caused absolute chaos to the reservation situation in Tokyo.

Frankly, it’s now shit.

There is way more demand than supply since most spots seat only 8-10 people and for those who aren’t Japanese or speak the language, they are SOL (shit outta luck). Sadly a lot of crappy tourists bail last minute or worse, don’t show up or even call (seriously, who does that?) and have ruined it for others to score bookings. Nowadays, a majority of the higher end and exclusive places are invite only for quality control. This isn’t because Japanese people don’t like foreigners. It’s because when a place is so small they only serve 20 or so seatings a night, it hurts the business a lot when people don’t show up; especially since ingredients are purchased daily.

But as frustrating as the booking situation is, one of the best parts about dining in Japan is the intimate experience. A lot of high-end sushi and kappo (cuisine with heavy kaiseki influence – thoughtful presentation, high quality, hyper seasonal ingredients, open kitchen, usually counter seating where diners get to watch/interact with the chef and his apprentices) spots, the taisho (chef) is extremely generous with his knowledge and every time I dine, I always learn something new.

This visit to Sushi Saito, here’s what I learned:

  • Male shishamo tastes better than female shishamo. Shishamo is smelt and kokusan shishamo is Japanese smelt. For about 15 or so years now, Russian or Mongolian smelt are served instead of Japanese smelt since there is a shortage and kokusan shishamo is now hard to obtain. Female smelts are widely served carrying eggs (komochi shishamo) but I barely see male shishamo. I’m not sure if I’ve even had it before. Saito-san also shared that male shishamo is served raw (sashimi) and slightly seared in the spring. Amazing.
  • Kimo is fish liver and the most commonly served fish liver is ankimo (monkfish liver). Fugu (blowfish) kimo is also served — I had no idea. Saito-san told us his first fugu kimo was in a region far up north (I forgot where). When we asked him if it was good, he said: “It’s delicious but I can’t say for certain if it was tasty because it’s so rare or because it is truly tasty. Would I risk my life to eat it again? Probably not.” while laughing. And then he went on to say: “Nothing beats Kawahagi kimo. Ankimo has a kuse.” Kuse, means a distinctness — scent, texture, flavor, what have you — like blue cheese. People either love it or hate it. I kind of think he didn’t really like fugu kimo haha
  • Saito-san trained at Kanesaka and directly under Kanesaka-san. (Kanesaka is now legendary and has two restaurants in Tokyo, several abroad. I’ve only been to Kanesaka once and didn’t really like it but that’s a story for another day.) Saito-san calls Kanesaka-san, Kanesaka jiisan (Jiisan is old man but for Saito-san to fondly address him by that nickname is a huge sign of respect and signifies their closeness) and told us how Kanesaka-san taught him how to crab and fish. Saito-san also mentioned how they used to go together all the time. So cute ❤︎
  • Saito-san can tell the difference between a male and female fish; he said he has to feel them though. That’s pretty mental.
  • The best fugu restaurant in Tokyo is Ajiman

 …I feel like I’m missing some learings so I’ll add if I remember. 

Such a fulfilling meal both physically and mentally, which makes Sushi Saito one of my favorite places on the Earth.

Glorious Gyoza

gyoza
Salt. Fat. Acid.

via my IG

“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.

Mona

McDonald’s Japan

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.

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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.

été – an invite only French spot in Tokyo

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!

*phone number and address are withheld

Another ‘Only in Japan’: Insane Wine List

So I get a text to meet at this restaurant and when I looked it up I could barely find information on it. I decide to put myself in his hands because this guy knows food and wine, more wine than food but he knows enough about food to be a good dining partner.

I walk into the restaurant and a bit taken aback, it makes zero sense. If a thrift store for theater companies threw up the furniture and props into the room, this place would be it. The interior is cluttered with tchotchkes of gnomes and Japanese figurines, empty bottles of DRC (Domaine de la Romanée-Conti) and magnums of rare Dom Pérignon. The table has a bell to ring for service.

I am confused.

Well. I open the wine menu and I finally got it. Here is only part of it (not even a 1/3).

I’m no wine expert but even I was able to pin-point some rare names and vintages. But, I think the best part of the menu, was ‘other country’ sections and some of the best wine producers from countries other than France were added towards the end of the menu like an after-thought. LOL.

This weekend was full of firsts; more to come on my Saturday.
Ahhhh Japan, you are the best!

By the way, this is what we had:

Comtes de champagne and Corton-Charlemagne 2005

Mirror Pancakes in Aoyama

Mental flapjacks I fondly nickname ‘egg shell pancakes’ because they’re so crazy smooth, the surface almost mirror like. Located in Aoyama, you’ll definitely wait an hour or two but go during off-peak hours on a weekday and you may just skip the line. Pro-tip: this spot is known for the pancakes but if you look at a local’s table, everyone has an order of the soufflé. And for good reason: it’s another perfect soufflé in perfect Japan Land! 🥞🥞🥞

Ginza West Aoyama Garden
1-22-10 Minami Aoyama
Website click this
*no reservations