eating my way through Tokyo

Despite having been to Tokyo countless number of times and obviously loving the place, I can’t say that I know the place well because Tokyo, whether we are talking about the city in itself or the various precincts, is so huge as compared to Singapore (which I also can’t say I know well). The other reason also would be that these days I don’t have a planned itinerary when I visit, but rather go with my mood which more often than not takes me back to places that I am familiar with, unless the adventurous and energetic streaks spring forth that takes me on an exploratory trail around. There is a lot of walking involved even if we are talking about the usual places and therefore it is easy to grow weary.

Where food is concerned, it is seldom a miss, even if it is a very non-descript tiny hole-in-the-wall shop or those convenient booths that you find crammed in a corner of the busy train stations. One afternoon, before meeting my friends for coffee, I popped into this shop somewhere near JR Shinjuku. It is in the basement of Odakyu department store but not part of the mall’s food hall, more of a small collection of eateries interpersed between the floors of the mall and the train station. I used to ‘frequent’ the tempura joint in that stretch but I wasn’t feeling the mood for tempura that day so I thought that I would go for chirashi, a serving of sashimi atop a bowl of rice. I really love this bowl! Even if I am not a big fan of rice these days and only ate the bed of white, chewy Japanese rice beneath as a sign of respect for the chef since I was sitting at the counter, the generous serving of fresh and delicious sashimi made this 850yen pre-tax (iirc) totally worth it, especially now that the exchange rate is relatively favourable for us!

On another day, while I was at the Roppongi Hills area, I was again checking out food options near the metro station. Near the exit to Roppongi Hills, I had tried a couple of shops before which sold ramen, both the soup and dry versions but again ramen wasn’t ranking so high on my list of cravings then, so after a long process of walking back and forth I finally settled into this shop that sells very yummy-looking set lunches (based on the displays outside the shop). I chose this grilled fish set, which my goldfish memory has caused the type of fish to elude me, and it comes with healthy brown rice, some pickled vegetables and sald and a bowl of miso soup. The fish was a little oily, not so much from the grilling but I think more from the natural fish oil that was found on the underside of the skin. Well, perhaps I am in  self-denial in saying this but at least it wasn’t deep-fried and I really enjoyed it to the last morsel of fish!  Here is a closer take on the fish, which is a litte charred on some parts but overall, it’s all good!  I had an earlier post on the food halls that I was checking out on a daily basis (hoping I don’t get recognised by the obasans manning them) and they are really amazing even if prices are not what I would consider as economical, at least not from a Singaporean point of view. Perhaps it is also not that cheap from a local perspective because comparatively, we are able to get cheaper options elsewhere, such as those shops that operate with the vending machines where you buy your meal ticket and present it at the counter in exchange for food. One of those nights after a Bikram class, I decided to give myself a treat, not that I wasn’t already indulging and treating myself in Tokyo every single day….

But this bento box that I got from Takashimaya really made me happy just by looking at it. After I finished it, I discovered to my horror that this was meant as a 2-person portion! Again, I tried to make myself feel better by getting friends to agree with me via a post on Instagram that this can’t be for 2 persons, right? Either that, or the Japanese people have really small appetites. Haha, as you can tell I am still in self-denial mode. All nine items in this tic-tac-toe box tasted great for post-workout me in that cold weather which called for a sumptuous meal! It included breaded and deep-fried chicken and fish, salads, sauteed squid and prawns, etc. It was probably the best bento box I ever had so far. 😀    And the last item here is something I didn’t eat, but my friends ordered from a Food Court at Diver City, when we visited to check out the life-size Gundam figurine. The food court is so atypical of Japan but I guess this area catered more for tourists and visitors and a collection of food stalls in an enclosed free-seating area makes sense. It felt very un-Japan though, but the food quality I would reckon is far above the general food court fare that we get (in most Singapore food courts anyway), as commented by my friends who loved the dollop of eggy mash on top too. 

Sugisawa, Robertson Quay

I was trying to look for any homepage online of Sugisawa at Robertson Quay but they only have a FB page it seems, although there have been various reviews by local food bloggers since years back for this Japanese restaurant. Well I didn’t actually read the reviews but a quick scan shows that the reviews seemed generally good and positive, and it is also proof that this eatery has been around for a good many years. For good reason too! It is actually the first time I’m trying it, because there are just too many F&B outlets in that area to check out and I don’t usually go there because it is kind of like some “atas” area that is not within close proximity of MRT stations. I love Japanese food, and have tried a different Jap restaurant just next to it (if I’m not wrong it’s called Shunjuu) which was really good too!

Anyway, back to Sugisawa. Their menu doesn’t contain many pictures, especially of the a la carte items but the bento boxes are mostly pictured, to give you an idea of what you are paying for and also to perhaps help with the decision-making. Prices are pretty reasonable, for each bento box you pay about S$20 (before taxes) depending on what goes into the box.

My friend ordered an assortment of tempura, cold soba and sushi, priced at S$24. Imagine all this food for just S$24!

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I might have considered this too because tempura is something I really enjoy but it felt like a substantial amount of carbohydrates and I had quite a big sandwich at lunch so I passed on it.20130813-101419.jpg

And opted for this instead, which had a very generous fillet of grilled teriyaki cod, salmon and tuna sashimi and some other assortment of items that included a prawn, sweet egg, carrot, fishcake, etc. There was rice too, of course, sprinkled with a dusting of plum powder which I liked but I didn’t take the rice since the rest of the items in the box already left me extremely full by the end of it. 20130813-101426.jpg

Here’s a closer look, and oh man, just looking at the cod makes me feel like eating it again.20130813-101433.jpg

What I liked about them was that the food was really good, of course that’s one of the things we look for in restaurants/eateries, and they are generous with the serving too. The sushi is more fish than rice and the ingredients were fresh and tasty. It was an enjoyable dinner that did not burn a hole in our pockets, and it was also a rather cool evening so sitting outside did not make us start perspiring over our food. I’m not sure how spacious the inside of the restaurant would be but on weekends if you would like to sit indoors perhaps you want to try calling for reservations. Service was generally ok but when the customers started filing in around dinner-time, they seemed pretty short-handed and requests for top-up of our green tea took a while, three times to three different waitresses before our cups were re-filled. Other than that, it’s a good place that I will return again for their food.

Mikuni at Fairmont

What used to be called Inagiku many years ago changed its name, and perhaps concept, to Mikuni, which is located at level 3 of Fairmont hotel, accessible from a corner of Raffles City.

While it was still Inagiku, I visited it a couple of times, usually choosing to order their sashimi platters or shabu-shabu or sukiyaki sets. Food was good but pricey, and back then the decor of the restaurant was that of a typical Japanese restaurant of the old days, boasting homely colours of light ply wood (I think, something beigey-yellow) that just make me think of many of the eateries I have been to in Japan. When it underwent a renovation the interior got many shades darker, the walls became dark brown/black. I think it was meant to give the restaurant a more updated and modern vibe, or perhaps the change in name or management fuelled the need to overhaul its appearance, to give it a look that is more aligned with the pricing of the food.

I went there once after that and felt that the food quality dropped, or maybe it was just the ambience or somewhat that made the food taste a bit different. Anyhow, that was also where I went a couple of weeks ago for my birthday treat! This time round, I think the food was better, maybe the years in-between this and my prior visit gave them the chance to finetune and improve the culinary skills of the chefs, or maybe it was just how I felt on both occasions.

Their menu is pretty comprehensive but it makes the ordering difficult because if you would like to have a few items that includes sashimi, then you have to think about your budget too. Haha. My friend was able to get a discount off the food so it was well-worth it for us!

Complimentary appetiser. I cannot remember what this is but it’s thin and crispy and tasted like it contained prawn.

Instead of sashimi, we ordered the mixed sushi plate. I liked that the sushi is more fish than rice, and of course the ingredients were really fresh! But perhaps we had too much rice, because in addition to this platter we also had a maki plate.

But this was really good, avocado and I think yellow tail (one of my favourites). And with sushi/sashimi, the wasabi just makes it even better.

Being a big tempura fan, we also had a mixed tempura plate, which consists seafood (prawn and fish slices) and assoted vegetables.

There was an additional grilled or barbequed pork rib that we ordered, that we only had a bit of and were unable to finish because we were so full from all the rice stuff. So a tip for those who have small appetites, don’t take too much carbo, or maybe that’s not really a tip, we probably overestimated ourselves. :p

The pork rib was nicely done and not too oily but it had lots of fatty parts in it that I think most people would really enjoy; we packed that back home but I don’t know why I don’t have a photo of it here.

Since we were already bursting we decided to skip dessert but anyway there was a complimentary matcha mochi dessert, that also came with cubes of azuki sticky cake (rice cake maybe). This was good because it wasn’t sweet, the sweetness of the red bean was complemented well with the slight traces of bitterness from the matcha in perhaps its natural unsweetened form. Nice way to end the meal! And thanks for the treat, my friend!