Kon'nichiwa, Tokyo CH!
It's been 3 whole years since our last visit to Japan (feels a lot longer!) and we can't wait to return in the spring... We'll be in Tokyo for 15 nights straight, from mid-March through early-April, based in Akasaka.
Our last visit was timed around koyo and this time we're coming to experience sakura, though it's all the fresh seasonal ingredients that really excite me!
I'm trying to streamline our eating plans and put together a rough itinerary and I would greatly appreciate your input and opinions. They were incredibly helpful the last time around and our trip would not have been nearly as enjoyable w/o your advice and suggestions.
I've spent a lot of time on Tablelog lately and it's definitely been of great assistance in narrowing down options, but I feel uncomfortable with picking places out based purely on social rankings. I'd much prefer some personal input.
Here's what I've got so far...
- 1st night arrival: no reservations, explore food stalls around Nonbei Yokocho; wander around and sample v/a things that look/smell good or seem to be popular w/ locals. I'm guessing we won't be enjoying our best meals in any of Tokyo's yokochos but they look like a lot of fun and I want to make sure we've got some freedom to explore and allow for adventure which is always at the heart of our travels. If anyone has thoughts or tips for the area (food or otherwise; places of interest or to avoid), please let me know!
- 2nd day lunch @ AFURI Harajuku -- looks great!
- 2nd day dinner @ Shinsuke.
I have a list of izakayas that I'm having a lot of difficulty narrowing down, so I will follow up on this at the bottom of this post. None of these are set in stone; hence this thread. I'd like to feel pretty confident that our choices are all well rounded and diverse.
- 3rd day lunch was originally @ Kanda Matsuya Soba, however I'm weighing it against Kyotei Daikokuya, which seems to be favored locally. Both seem to be old Tokyo institutions for soba. Can anyone please tell me how the two places differ in style? Are they good choices? I might actually schedule this later in the trip so we're not eating noodles for lunch two days in a row... not that I have a problem w/ that! ;)
- 3rd day dinner -- I'm on the fence with this -- I was originally thinking Fuku in Shibuya based on some blog posts and older Chowhound recommendations, however it's not rated so highly on Tablelog. The food looks pretty good to me, to be honest, but how much can I really discern from some pictures on the internet... should I strike this off the list and replace it with something safer? Does anyone here enjoy Fuku and if so, could you please tell me what you like about the place?
Other options incl. Kotaro (高太郎) in Shibuya and Kishidaya (岸田屋) in Chuo.
On the higher end, Kirakutei (器楽亭) is another consideration.
I'd love to get your thoughts or feedback on any of the above, incl. Fuku.
As an aside, I'd also like to get some info on the really high end yakitoriyas like Toriki, Torisawa, Omino, and Shinka. Are these all omakase style places or can you order a la carte and would you say they are worth the time or $ if we don't eat organ meat? I should point out that the only things I don't eat are organs and raw chicken meat. Would you recommend we stick to basic izakayas for this sort of thing, where we could just order skewers of "safe cuts" off menu/a la carte along with other foods?
- 4th day lunch no plans; want to leave some room for flexibility.
- 4th day dinner @ Ishibashi in Ueno.
My wife does not eat red meat... will she be able to find something on the menu here? Chicken, tofu and/or veggies? She's not that picky... just so long as there's another option. The egg yolk and crispy rice (socarrat) looks so goooood. I'm assuming that alone would please her. Has anyone been here lately and is this a good choice?
- 5th day lunch I was thinking of maybe dropping into a depachika; maybe Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi... no set plans eitherway.
- 5th day dinner @ Sushi Hashiguchi.
- 6th day lunch @ Maruka Udon.
- 6th day dinner @ Dachibin ???
This is another one I'm not really sure about. It looks like a really fun place, it's rated highly on Tablelog and I'm curious to sample Okinawan cuisine, but I can't say the photos excite me all that much. Can you please tell me a bit more about this place or about Okinawan food in general and how well it's executed here? I see lots of spam looking meat (similar perhaps to HI island food culture?). To anyone who's spent any time in Okinawa, would you say this is a pretty faithful approximation of regional tastes and would you recommend it?
7th day lunch @ Fukamachi (I was considering Kondo as well but this seems a notch above)
7th day dinner @ Ebisu Yokocho stalls -- casual night in contrast to our fancy lunch. We're freewheeling it again to get a taste of the different neighborhoods and street scenes. Any advice, tips, etc. always appreciated!
8th day lunch @ Harmonica Yokocho (maybe?) or nearby Kichijoji Station. It seems really interesting and I've read that there are many great restaurants in the vicinity. Is this a good daytime/early afternoon destination? Keeping it casual and relatively inexpensive since we're hoping to line up the following evening plans...
8th day dinner @ Sugita.
9th day lunch @ Botan. (better for lunch or dinner? is there a significant difference in menu or atmosphere?)
9th day dinner @ Kanemasu or Akasaka Kitafuku -- maybe? Is March/Arpil a good season for local crab? Last time we visited in the fall we had the freshest local crab from various parts of Honshu but I'm guessing they're still flown in fresh from Hokkaido... would you recommend this place? I know very little about it and while we had the best crab we've ever tasted on our last visit, we did not make it to any dedicated kani restaurants, which seem to be pretty popular (everyone knows about the famous chains in Osaka, for instance). Would love some thoughts and feedback on these and which you prefer between the two (Kanemasu or Kitafuku).
10th day @ Tempura Shinjuku Tsunahachi So-honten -- too much tempura?? should we skip this place? I like the idea of a more casual alternative to our high end tempura meal but if it's nothing special, we needn't spend our time here. Heck, I'd even be willing to do something fancier like Motoyoshi (or Takiya, though I'm not sure its open for lunch). If we did go upscale to something like Motoyoshi, how repetitive would it likely be with our meal at Fukumachi 3 days prior and do you think there'd be much of a divergence in regards to style or ingredients served? It's a beautiful restaurant and probably more geared to evening dining, I'd imagine (nighttime photos look gorgeous). Anyhow, I'm not sure about Tsunahachi... I appreciate the history and often seek out legacy restaurants when traveling, but if this is just straightforward middle of the road tempura, I'd rather spend time and money elsewhere and on more interesting food. I think I was originally drawn to this place after reading up on its heritage, but we've been to so many old establishments from Edo era to postwar on past visits, that this isn't reason enough. Another option is to scratch a 2nd tempura meal from this lunch and instead push it back to the very end of the trip and do Motoyoshi for dinner. Not entirely sold on this and would appreciate input...
10th day dinner @ HaruKor in Shinjuku.
11th day lunch @ Menya Hanabi -- is there a non meat option for my wife? She's not picky about the stock but won't eat actual pieces of meat nor the garnished ground beef/pork that looks so deliciously tempting in all photos I've seen.
11th day dinner @ (don't laugh, I have NO expectations!) Saito... yeah right, I know. not happening.
Backup choice (i.e. realistic option) is Arai, which is just as exciting to me.
12th day lunch - no plans! (we're on vacation afterall)
12th day dinner @ Tonkatsu Maisen Aoyama Honten
I'm also considering Narikura, Tonta, Maruichi, Mochibuta Tonkatsu Taiyo and Marugo.
Tonta, Maruichi, Mochibuta are strong contenders.
Can anyone offer some pros/cons; what you like/dislike about different choices? Personal preferences and menu highlights? Thanks!!
13th day lunch @ Kanda Yabu Soba
13th day dinner ... originally looking at another chose your own adventure @ Omoide Yokocho but read very "meh" reports on Chowhound + mediocre to bad ratings on Tablelog. I love the atmosphere and think we might stop by after a proper meal to stroll down alleyway and stmble into v/a bar stalls for drinks. Perhaps this should be where Motoyoshi fits in?
14th day lunch @ Tensuke originally but obv not if we're doing Motoyoshi night before!!
Can anyone offer feedback or perhaps some more interesting alternatives? I do love tempura but it's kind of boring to eat 3 focused meals of it in 2 weeks; especially with so many other options. It looks wonderful and probably much better than Tsunahachi but I feel a bit guilty doing this in Tokyo... that egg and rice plate though! Are those crispy fried onions its served with? I'd be very satisfied eating that alone... in fact, I started working on this rough draft itinerary weeks ago and I think that was the dish I had in mind when thinking about this lunch. Anyhow, I look forward to your input w/ this one.
14th day dinner @ Morimoto ???
Good for less than adventurous yakitori eaters who don't go for organ meats? Is this sit at the counter and chef places skewers in front of you kind of place or can you order safer meats off menu?
15th day lunch (afternoon tea) @ Higashiya
15th day dinner @ Matsukawa (hopefully! I think our conierge might be able to pull it off)
2nd choice would be Kyo Aji
Last day I was thinking either Ramen Muginae, Yamasuke (山介), Shusai Soba Shodai (初代), Asakusa Juuroku (浅草じゅうろく), Kurobiki Soba Nagara (玄挽蕎麦 NAGARA), Teuchisobaginnan (手打ち蕎麦 銀杏), Sobakiri Saketaigu (蕎麦切り 酒 大愚), Dosanjin (土山人 芦屋店), Matsuou (松翁) or Watanabe (渡邊)
or we could splurge and try for Mitani but that's a hell of lot of expensive sushi and I think I'd rather mix it up and go for something new.
And finally, one other (izakaya) dinner option that I was looking at and strongly considering:
- Sanchokuya Taka
This could easily be swapped out for any of the above, if recommended, or even added in place of one of the food alleys (which we could visit before/after for libations)
I'm eager to get your thoughts and feedback on all of the above, and I realize that this post is long and messy and was knocked out in an almost stream-of-consciousness writing, which I apologize for! Hopefully you'll take the time to cut through it and offer some advice. I can't tell you how much I genuinely appreciate it...