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Japan trip report in Nov '13

Bu Pun Su | Nov 27, 201302:33 AM

It’s been our dream to visit Japan. We’re supposed to be here 2 years ago for our honeymoon, but then a huge tsunami and Fukushima incident forced us to change our plan - too risky to go. And this month finally we had a chance to make our dream become reality. We arrived in the morning, and began our meal with lunch at Shima steakhouse.

Chef Manabu Oshima gained his experiences by working in Europe, mainly France, Germany and England. The restaurant is in the basement of Nihonbashi MM building and it’s not too far from Takashimaya. Oshima is helped mainly by his 2 sons and his place would fit at most 20 people. The steakhouse menu was quite simple (in fact he has not changed them for more than 10 years), but don’t be fooled by it – he has plenty of off-the-menu items. For us, it’s simple and easy: we come here for the steak. I ordered a sirloin and my wife E had a filet. Prior to that, we tried a home-made onion gratin soup (rich with thick cheese layer on top, the chopped onion was not too much) and salad (fresh with clean dressing, my wife loved it). Then come the steak. My sirloin was tender and flavorful, it’s not really melt-in-your-mouth kind of beef but very well prepared; the fat thankfully was not too rich. E’s filet was a bit saltier than mine, but about equally delicious. Both of us had no problem finishing nearly 200 gr of steak each. The dessert was home made vanilla ice cream, petit four and musk melon. Oshima-san spoke good English and very approachable. It was a quiet lunch, only 4 people including us. At the end, we’re given the copy of the beef certificate we consumed. A good way to kick off our meal in Tokyo

Having ramen for dinner at Solamachi was actually unplanned for. Initially, we’re supposed to dine at Toriki but the map we got from our hotel was not that clear: no info which exit to take, and it’s too “broad”. If you don’t have any GPS with you, ideally, you should have 2 maps: one showing the restaurant location with respect to the nearest train station and secondly, the zoom-in map of the restaurant neighborhood so that when you lost, the people there can easily put you back on the right track. In short, we’re late and Toriki staff did not allow us to dine there unless we’re willing to wait for 2 hours or so. It was a freezing night, and since I was not too desperate to eat there, well – let’s forget it. Another lesson learned: give yourself plenty of time for the next restaurants. Tokyo sky tree was not too far from Kinsicho area. It’s almost 9 PM and luckily there’s no queue at Rokurinsha. Only tsukemen was available here and we ordered Ajitaman tsukemen with egg, Tokusei tsukemen full toppings and shared an additional order of chashu. We were surprised by the huge portion of the cold noddles, but I liked these thick noddles chewy texture. They ‘absorbed’ the broth (I wish it had been hotter) depth flavor well. My favorite part was actually the 3/4-boiled egg that remains soft with gelatinous center; the chashu was a bit tough to my likeness. Apparently, neither of us managed to finish the noddles. A nice casual eating, my best tsukemen so far

Gora Kadan
On the third day, we left the hustle and bustle of Tokyo for a day retreat. For this trip, we really wanted to try onsen (hot springs). Late Autumn or Winter should be the best time to stay in the open-air and soak ourselves in the Japanese hot bath. Hakone is probably the closest destination for natural hot bath from Tokyo. We were staying at the famous ryokan named Gora Kadan (GR). I think I shall not talk much about our general experience there, so let’s jump directly to the food part. In many elite ryokan, having dinner is a must – well, without which your ryokan experience would not be complete. I read several reviews praising the food here. The dinner was actually quite solid, but clearly it’s not at the level of Tokyo’s 2 & 3 star restaurants serving kaiseki. The highlight of our meal were: ankimo wrapped in spinach, grilled sawara and roasted wagyu beef yet none of these dishes really wowed us. I would say at most GR’s cuisine is worth 1-star michelin. The breakfast, however, was awesome – a very extensive Japanese style. There were tofu, miso soup, tamago, nori, orange juice, hot ocha etc. For the main, I had grilled Cod with miso sauce while E had Salmon with chef’s special sweet sauce. It was arguably the best breakfast we had of the entire trip. You can see the pictures below,

To be continued ...
At the other topic, you should be able to find my Ishikawa’s dinner review

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