Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Last Days in Tokyo

Last full day in Japan.  Leaving tomorrow afternoon.  :(

Needed breakfast.  Most of us were ok until later...  Connie wasn't.  Went to Tokyo Station, and she wanted a Valrhona chocolate donut from Dean and Deluca. I didn't have a bite of it, but she said it wasn't good.  Why am I even writing this? Well, I had to fill in some stuff about breakfast.

Here they are, eating on the run in Tokyo Station, a no-no.

Actually, I was holding back on breakfast.  Just had my UCC coffee over ice at 3 AM.

Why was I holding back?  The one place I really wanted to go to this trip was Narikura.

I read a bunch of stuff about Butagumi and Tonki.  And this place called Maisen too.  All wannabes.  Even Katsukura is, though it doesn't try to be the mecca.

Anyway, Narikura is said to be a great, under the radar, Tonkatsu place in Takadanobaba, an area of Tokyo.  

Here we are, walking past Big Box in Takadanobaba. Eagle eyed viewers will notice that Em is right below the Emio sign.

So, under the radar means that the line isn't more than a block long, a half hour before opening.  We'd have been higher up in the queue, except for a Gaijin, seen here at the end of the line, who still doesn't grasp queue etiquette in Japan.  I was mid-line, but the efficient staff came out to distribute menus and take orders.  I did NOT want a repeat of my experience at Rokurinsha a few years prior.  Please note.  In Japan, if you're in line for food, ALL eaters must be in line. So, to be polite, I relinquished my spot in line, and several folks took their place.  I was steamed.

There was a sign right in front of the black sweatshirted guy that said to NOT block the entrance to that other business. I guess the line is omnipresent.

So, we miss the first sitting!  Argh.  The place seats 18.  Six at a counter and 12 in tables.  They got 17 patrons in just before us, and the guy then asked us if we wanted to split up or let the next person in line who was a singleton.  I felt tempted to say I was a singleton at that point.  But common sense took hold.  The next lady got the last counter seat.  We stood in a hot stairway (even though it was only 11 AM) for what seemed an eternity. Then our day came, just like the Ruby/Romantics song! We're in.  Got the corner table. I felt uncomfortable snapping a pic, so the above photo will have to do.  You can google Narikura and find numerous pictures of the place.  The head chef / owner was right behind us.  It really was efficient.  We ordered well before we even reached our place in the stairway, so the food came soon after being seated.  This place does their pork slow and low, with a relatively low temp hot oil.  Hence, the slowness of the service.  Everything is cooked to order.

Above, find my Kirifugi-Kogen Nagano-raised Rosu. 

Above find Connie's Aguu Okinawan Rosu.

Above, find my empty plate.

I got a bigger portion than Connie.  And mine came with a few more sides.  I learned that Connie really likes the fatty stuff!  She preferred mine.  She also likes Rosu (loin) more than Hire (or fillet), which I realized, finally, at Katsukura a few nights before, in Kyoto).  She wants the real stuff.  There is hope for her yet!  The flavor of the pork was really great! It was just a tiny bit pink, and so moist.  I would definitely come here again, and I would call this better than any other Tonkatsu I've ever had.  The crust wasn't really the best though.  It wasn't as crispy as the crust at Katsukura, and it fell off the pork really easily.  But the pork was really moist and flavourful. Sweet and salty.  I didn't use too much of the sauce.  Wasn't really cheap, either, about ¥4000 for the two of us.  No drinks, just water. But I'd clearly come back.  If I was taking guests, I would go to Katsukura.  Not as much of a production to get the food, and it ain't bad at all (way better than anything stateside). I shouldn't say that; Katsukura is really good.  But for the best pork, come here.

Emily needed to get a bunch of binders, binder paper, a printer, printer paper, pens, and pencils, so we hired a wheelbarrow to go to Loft in Shibuya.  Actually, she didn't need all that stuff, even though she was going off to college in less than a week. But she was insistent to go to Loft, and it was convenient to go to the big store in Shibuya.  But first, the obligatory picture with Hachiko.

The B1F entrance to Loft.  We spent a LONG time there.  Loft has everything, and the other three wanted to see EVERYTHING.

Then, I wanted to go to Shimokitazawa.  A neat neighborhood that I had never been to.  Lots of young kids and young adults live there, and it is a "happening" place. We saw a bunch of vintage clothing stores, and interesting street food vendors.  We also saw a queue for "Pancake Pie." 

If we had time, I would have gotten one.

Our last night, we went to an upscale Izakaya in Brick Square, in Marunouchi. Called Robatayaki Isogai, I chose it because it was relatively foreigner friendly.  One of the cooks behind the counter called out, "Ni Hao Ma," when I blurted out that my Japanese wasn't good.  I immediately said Eigo!

Our meal started with Tsubu, a sea snail, boiled in dashi. I didn't order this; this was an obligatory order for sitting in an Izakaya, just like the obligatory drink.

I still remember, in Salinas, in our large backyard, the numerous Tsubu shells scattered all over.  Remnants of meals from the past, they had a purple hue and were smaller than these.  I know my Ojichan and Obachan ate them a lot before I was born, and instead of ending up in the garbage, the shells were strewn about our backyard, waiting for some Anthropologist, millions of years from now, to dig around and find them along with other evidence of my past presence.

These tsubu were chewy and flavourful.  Kind of smoky, and they were easy to remove from the shells. The very outside was a shell-like cover which was not edible.  Two for ¥300. I ate 7.  Connie ate 1.

Sashimi plate.  I ate about 90 percent of this.  Connie didn't like the huge chunks of fish.  The fish was fresh, and tasted delicious, but I'm more used to eating sashimi with hot rice (or as thin slices on shari at Iwa).

At an Izakaya or Robatayaki, it is a must to order a drink.  Here, the kids are drinking their first beers.

Edamame with stems.

Clams boiled with Sake.  Really nice.  I ate the whole thing!!  The broth was really nice, and there was not a single grain of sand. Just one unopened clam.

Yaki-onigiri.  I didn't eat any of this.

Nasu, with the Katsuobushi brushed off. Called Nasu nashi miso.

Nasu with miso.

Yakitori.  Really hot.

Ate it all.  Actually, I ate it all.  The others were not as happy with this choice of place.  Sorry.  At least we got out before it got too smoky.

Next door was a gyutan joint.  I guess they get Gaijin there; this sign explains this place, just in case someone goes there expecting to get vegan food.

The view from Marunouchi, street level; here is the re-done Tokyo Station.

View of Tokyo Station from the seventh floor terrace of the Shin Maru Biru. They're building a multilevel parking structure under all that stuff there.  Will have lawn and walkways on the ground level.

A restaurant on 7F of the Shin Maru Biru.  We are that.

We opt to forego dessert and have dessert in our room.  This was purchased at Lawson just downstairs.  Macha cream roll and Yebisu.

In our mini bar, we have a couple of scotches.  Yamazaki 12, but only a tiny bottle for ¥2000!

The next AM, the kids went back to T's Tantan for breakfast.  Connie and I roam about wondering where to eat.  We end up at Rokurinsha.  Amazing that just a few years before, there would be a huge line.

Practically no line.  Just a couple of folks in front of us.

Anticipation of our meal.  Our two tickets; my deluxe and Connie's basic.

Basic tsukemen with a piece of Chashu buried in the thick broth.

My "deluxe" tsukemen with extra chashu and an egg.

One last spiral noodle.

All gone.

Later that day, after shopping at Tokyu Hands at Daimaru at Tokyo Station, we ride the Narita Express to Narita. 

So long to Tokyo and Japan, for this year!


  1. Very nice post! That flat eggplant looks great! The big box at Takadanobaba was where we met Kayla a few times. We know that place. Great places to eat there. Of course, lots of Waseda students eating cheap good food there. I'm amazed that Rokurinsha didn't have a line. That's crazy isn't it. Why? Robatayaki looks great. Funny they thought you were chinese! Haha. Im glad you went to Maisen. I wanna go there. I really like Katsukura as well, more crispy like Tonkee in Meguro. I guess no Coredo or Gontran Cherrier. Oh well, sounds like you are going next year.

  2. Oh, you went to Naruika, not Maisen. We went to Maisen near Omotesando and it was great! Nice tender fatty kurobuta. Never tried Naruika but wanna check it out next time.