Simply said — Tokyo has spoiled us.
We have experienced a wide variety of cuisines, from high-end sushi and shabu shabu to ‘street ramen’ and Tsujiki fish market feasting. This large spectrum of food has been incredible for us to experience (partially because we consider ourselves pseudo-foodies). So let’s dive in!
Sushi in Japan
Having come to the ‘mecca’ of sushi with large expectations and big appetites we were expecting life-changing indulgences. Imagine a world where the most simple of places on the side of the street or on a hidden corner of the fish market are all better than the best sushi places back in the states and could even be a fraction of the price — consider the likes of Nobu and Zuma.
The sushi here is mind-blowing. Get lost, and explore the native cuisine in Tokyo. You cannot go wrong with any options whether you are in one of their bustling subway stations, with gourmet markets better than Fresh Market and Whole Foods, or a small ‘hole in the wall’ sushi spot with only 6 seats situated off the beaten path.
noun \SHäbo͞o ˈSHäbo͞o\ : a Japanese dish of pieces of thinly sliced beef or pork cooked quickly with vegetables in boiling water and then dipped in sauce
So, this was an interesting experience. Think of a boiling hot ultra-gourmet Melting Pot. The look of shabu shabu is not the most appetizing thing in the world, but it is something that is not offered in the US. Just quickly dip the beef into the boiling hot water, throw some sauce on it, rinse and repeat.
Shabu shabu is a more involving experience for its patrons, so it isn’t as readily available as sushi restaurants, but a great time investment for the more adventurous foodie travelers.
The ramen trend is starting to catch on in the US with some restaurants popping up here and there, but the more widespread understanding of ramen is a form of cheap food consumed predominantly by college students, or just a very ‘economical’ form of sustenance in general.
Well, having originated in Japan, ramen noodles here are not only popular, but very tasty. One of the best meals I had here in Japan was a $7 bowl of ramen noodles at a shack on the street by the Tsujiki fish market. There was a line around the block for this place that was manned by a single ramen-chef who occupied a 5′ x 5′ shop that cooked up amazing portions of ramen.
Definitely not for the feint-hearted, but if my better half can stomach it, so can you!
Tsujiki Fish Market Feasting
4 am and the alarm clocks are already going off. People from all over Japan get up in order to be a part of the Tsujiki Fash Market auction where they auction off some of their best catches of the day, or 800lb tunas. These massive fish easily top $40,000 USD and go to the highest bidder whether it be 5-star restaurants and hotels, or just local fisheries.
Wandering through the Tsujiki Fish Market is fascinating. You can acquire anything that has to do with seafood there. And, I truly mean anything. You can walk through the side streets and buy any type of fish you would like whether it be sushi grade, cooked, marinated, or even alive!
Not only can you see what Japan prides itself in (the best fish in the world), but one can also enjoy the potent smell of this food while walking around 🙂 Yes, it smells like you were ‘Finding Nemo’, but the hustle and bustle witnessed throughout this area was very different from anything in the US.
On our way around the fish market, we stopped in to have some of the most fresh sushi in the world at Ryu Sushi, where we tried fish that I didn’t even know existed!
My favorite culinary experience while in Tokyo was in a place by the name of Kyubey. Upon first walking into this five-story venue we were a bit intimidated. The dining rooms were buzzing with people moving in and out, and other people being denied access as they didn’t have reservations. Thank god we had reservations, but we had no idea of what was to come.
We were led up to the private dining area, had to take our shoes off before entering the dining room, and we were greeted by our own personal Sushi Chef for the evening. We were being served by a sushi master who had to train for over a decade by washing rice and cleaning fish in order to be at the helm of this sushi making enterprise. We left our lives, or stomachs, in his hands and it was beyond worth it.
Shortly after sitting down we were then greeted by the owner himself, Yosuke Imada, who has built this enterprise into a world-renowned sushi destination. Mr. Imada was one of the most personable proprietors I have ever met and is known for greeting his guests whether they are corporate CEOs, Hollywood stars, or even just tourists (like us). All in all, Kyubey is a must for anyone who visits Japan!
I could sit here and go more into the details of each experience, but I encourage you to come out and experience it for yourself. Shoot me a quick note if you have any questions, or if you just want some recommendations!