Following on from out adventure in Kyoto, we had caught the Shinkansen to Tokyo (and adventure in itself!) where we spent the remaining days of our Japan trip. We had done our fair share of sight seeing and other touristy things in Osaka and Kyoto, so we planned the Tokyo part of the trip around food. And shopping...only because we didn't have enough stomach space to eat 24/7!
Ikkakuya ramen 壱角家 秋葉原店
We stayed in Akihabara, and although we did arrive late afternoon, our first dinner in Tokyo was a really disappointing sushi train experience so let's skip straight to the morning!
When we first explored Akihabara at night, there were too many restaurants to choose from- not only were the streets filled with every type of restaurant you could think of, but the bright signs on the buildings indicated many times that number of restaurants in the buildings towering above.
Despite this, we found ourselves in the opposite situation when looking for breakfast in the morning as we struggled to find something that was open that was not KFC. We waited around until 11am for some ramen shops to open and after being shooed out of one despite us walking in some half an hour after their advertised opening times, we ended up at Ikkakuya ramen.
There was an overload of signs at the front, making it clear that they were published in magazines (as is every other ramen shop there ever was) and that they had English menus….so why not?
The menu seems to be aimed at tourists and it isn’t particularly specialised- it appears to have a little bit of everything, from your normal Tonkotsu ramen, to tsukemen to tawianese maze soba. Order from the machine at the entrance to the restaurant and then find yourself a seat (there’s plenty in the morning!).
We couldn’t go past the gyoza, of which they had the pan fried and boiled versions. We tried both, but nothing really beats the crispy golden bottoms on the pan fried versions.
It appeared that tsukemen is quite popular in Tokyo (even in the winter months!), with many of the ramen restaurants we walked past offering it on the menu, so we gave that one a go. Whereas ramen toppings are usually found in the broth, this one comes on top of the noodles in the form of chashu, onion, seaweed, bonito powder and interestingly, cooked spinach.
There’s no mistaking which one’s the black garlic ramen, with a distinct dark dash of black garlic oil floating in the creamy tonkotsu broth. Although perhaps not the most aesthetically appealing, there’s a nice balance between the strong aroma of the garlic oil and the rich tonkotsu broth such that the garlic oil isn’t too overwhelming. The black garlic ramen was always going to be a winner as we’re all avid fans of garlic, but we’re surprised how much we like this one.
And what’s a trip to Tokyo without a visit to Harajuku? We didn’t manage to plan our visit for a Sunday afternoon, where all the excitement occurs, but there were still plenty of shops to see and food to try!
Calbee is one of my favourite chip brands (their seaweed chips are easily my favourite!) so I’ve wanted to try Calbee+ since forever, which offers their chips in freshly made varieties. You can see all the action from big glass window within the store , where you can watch the potatoes being fried. There’s a couple of flavour options, including some sweet ones, which are tossed with the chips prior to serving.
There’s quite a bit of promotion for the Calbee chips served with Royce chocolate and ice cream, but we prefer our chips savoury so stick with the chilli flavour. To be honest, they’re not as amazing as I’d expected and taste quite similar to the bagged versions. The poteriko (French fries) are quite cute, but again, nothing particularly exciting.
I had marked down a crepe store from a recommending in a travel book, but there were crepe stores scattered throughout Harajuku, so I needn't have worried about finding one. The line for Marion Crepes seemed the longest at the time we were there so we joined the queue and ordered the chocolate brownie crepe (570 yen). With a decadent slab of brownie, scoop of chocolate ice cream, banana slices and plenty of whipped cream, it was a rather indulgent snack for the morning but nonetheless enjoyable.
There's some hundred or so flavour combinations to choose from and we wish we'd had more stomach space to try more flavours, but unfortunately we'll have to try them next time we're back in Japan. We're thinking we'll try the store across from this one (Angel Hearts) as their crepes looked softer too!
We hadn’t intended to eat at Harajuku, but with the many character cafes we passed, we couldn’t leave without trying at least one, so we ended up in Pompompurrin café to get our daily dose of cuteness.
There’s pompompurin everywhere in the café- from the large décor pompompurin that greats you at the front, to the plushes scattered throughout the café, the small store with pompompurin merchandise in the corner and even the placemats. Oh. And of course the food!
Everything follows a pastel yellow theme, so most of the food is yellow- including the drinks, such as the Mango Soda and Ice Cream Float and the Iced Caramel Latte. The addition of a pompompurin cookie on the latte was cute, but the pompompurin ice cream decoration on the soda was super creative!
There’s a policy where all diners must order at least one item off the menu, but we were only after something light so we ordered drinks and desserts. We couldn’t resist ordering the curry rice though, which was super cute!
We love the detail in the rice, with star and heart shaped veggies, as well as spoon and fork shaped capsicum pieces as well! (You can’t really tell in the photo as they were submerged in the curry). It’s not a Japanese curry, as you can probably tell from the colour, but rather made on a coconut base and lightly sweet and spiced. It was surprisingly moreish - I’d even go so far as saying that it was my favourite curry that I’d tried in Japan.
I’d always thought that pompompurrin was actually made of pudding, as I’d always referred to him as pudding dog….but apparently not. Well in any case, I did my fix of pudding dog in this pompompurin pudding- a custard pudding that comes in a cute pompompurin jar. It comes with a side of (slightly burnt) caramel to pour over the smooth pudding- it’s nice, but nothing particularly exciting. What was genius though, was the chocolate coated cookie which fits perfectly on the jar as a lid!
If there was one place that kept popping up every time I searched for recommended sushi restaurants it was Midori Sushi. With quality sushi at very reasonable prices, there’s a never ending line of (predominantly) tourists outside. We tend to shy away from queues, especially when they’re impossibly long, but we popped over to Midori Sushi to check out how long it was anyway. Luckily for us, there was only ten or so people waiting at the time so we grabbed a ticket and were seated surprisingly quickly!
Ultimate Sushi Assortment (2000 yen)
The sushi menu is very extensive- there’s endless varieties of nigari sushi as well as rolls, so we thought we’d save the decision making and try a platter instead. And with a name like Ultimate Sushi Assortment, why wouldn’t you?
The ultimate sushi assortment comes with a bit of everything- we ordered it to share, but really, you wouldn’t want to! There’s super fresh nigiri, gunkan, tamagoyaki, minced tuna hand roll as well as sides of miso soup, chawan-mushi and crab paste salad.
We did not expect to be blown away by the sushi here, but the sushi here was so fresh and delicious, it was easily our most memorable meal in Japan. We're really only fans of raw salmon and tuna usually, but there was not one piece of sushi on the platter that we did not like. Needless to say, when we were finished this, we did not even leave behind a single grain of rice!
Mackerel Nigiri (150 yen)
You can also order individual pieces of nigiri, all very reasonably priced, so I took the opportunity to try out mackerel sushi which I'd been wanting to try since the beginning of the trip. Midori's version comes in a rather unique, almost triangular, shape. Taste-wise, it wasn't particularly unique, rather similar to most other silver fish I've had (I'm definitely not a sushi connoisseur) but enjoyable enough that I'd order it again. It must be a rather popular option too, as it is the only nigiri that is available in a single assortment platter.
Red Roll (400 yen)
We had intended on having dinner later in the evening, so we tried not to order too much, which proved to be quite difficult considering the amount of tasty looking choices available. We thought we'd try some of the rolls which come in full (8 piece) or half (4 piece) sizes which was perfect for trying without filling up too much.
The red roll was quite impressive and certainly lived up to its name, with the salmon and cucumber roll coated in a variety of both tamago and ikura.
Norway Roll (800 yen)
The Norway Roll didn't quite look like it did on the menu, but that didn't really bother us as it was delicious all the same. We can't get enough of the fresh salmon and the combination with the cucumber and crab meat filling was a winner- we were definitely glad we ordered the full size!
Sashimi Salad (800 yen)
And I had to leave the best til last, the most amazing sashimi salad I've ever had.
Part of the menu is only available in Japanese, and were it not for the photo of the salad on the menu we probably would not have even known it was available. But boy were we glad we ordered this! It was unbelievably good- a very generous serving of fresh sashimi cubes, fresh salad veggies avocado, mixed together with a combination of salad dressing and mayo. So good infact, that we ordered another on straight away!
Mother Farm Milk Bar
Our dinner plans did have to change a little due as we ate a little too much as Midori, so instead, we had a much light dinner in Akihabara before wandering around to find a place to fill out dessert stomach. I'm sure there's plenty of nice dessert restaurants/cafes within the forest of buildings but the ones on ground level were much easier to find, which is how we ended up in Mother Farm Milk Bar in the Atre Akihabara 1 department store.
Mixed Berry Parfait (450 yen)
It specialises mostly in milk, and their soft serve desserts, which it offers in a wide variety of flavour combinations. We tried the mixed berry parfait, which comes with a mix of frozen berries and delightful textural contrast between smooth soft ice cream, coco pops and cake squares. We would have preferred fresh fruits, although the hardness of the frozen fruits was surprisingly enjoyable textural element to the dessert which just worked.
We were definitely not disappointed by the the soft serve, which is super smooth and creamy and has a rich milky taste which is quite unique.
Chestnut Soft Serve (580 yen)
I'm a huge fan of chestnuts and chestnut desserts so I had to order the Chestnut Soft Serve, which is served Mont Blanc style, with the soft serve topped with a messy squiggle of chestnut cream, sprinkle of sweet chestnuts and chocolate. The chestnut cream is deliciously fragrant, and a must try of chestnut lovers!
It is a rather large serving, but so delicious we didn't have any trouble finishing it off before heading back to our hotel in a food coma!
Ikkakuya ramen 壱角家 秋葉原店
Chiyoda Sotokanda 1-9-8 Akihabara Diamond Building 1F
Marion Crepes 原宿竹下通り店
Junes Building 1F 1-6-15 Jingu-mae Shibuya-ku 150-0001, Tokyo Prefecture
1-7-1 Jingumae | 3F CUTE CUBE HARAJUKU, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Prefecture
Midori Sushi 梅丘寿司の美登利総本店
Mark City, 1-12-3 Dogenzaka, 渋谷区 Tokyo 150-0043, Japan
Mother Farm Milk Bar マザー牧場 milk bar アトレ秋葉原1
1-17-6 Sotokanda, Chiyoda, Tokyo Prefecture