I thought I was pretty organised coming to Japan. I had relevant print outs of our itinerary, bus tickets to Niseko, directions to our hotel in Niseko, our hotel’s contact details… the works!
So it was a bit of a rude surprise that when we got to Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport, I realised that I wasn’t so organised after all. I had our friend’s apartment address, but not much else; no directions, no idea which part of Tokyo where it was. Nada! I think we spent 2 hours working out where we needed to go and trying to get there.
When we finally met up with our friend M, we were a little tired, but rather pleased we made it and maybe also a little bit hungry. Not really sure what we wanted to eat, we roamed around Akasaka for a bit before M made an executive decision and took us to “Watami”.
I actually don’t know where we ate (I stupidly lost their business card), but he said it was “Watami or something like that” and stated that it was a chain restaurant, not worth blogging about. R and I actually quite liked what we had, so I’m going to have to ignore his advice (even though I don’t really know what it’s really called).
I don’t know about the other guys, but I was a little surprised when the spring roll came out; I was expecting something fried, not wrapped up in what looked like tofu skins. Not that it was a bad thing, it was quite yummy and refreshing. Kinda like a healthy spring roll option.
After the odd scallops we ate in Niseko, I wondered what these scallops would turn out to be like (kind of hoping that it wouldn’t be too much like what we had). Happily they were pretty normal, if a little over done.
The gyozas made an impression on us when they came out.. they were upside down! They were also wonderfully crispy and piping hot.
Funnily enough, we’ve been in Japan for a whole week already and we haven’t had what I consider to be an essentially Japanese dish: edamame. It was of course delicious with its light saltiness, though then again, I don’t think edamame can ever be bad.
Meanwhile, the cheesy egg roll was marvellously creamy and a total hit with the table. Definitely R’s favourite dish of the night.
To be honest, I don’t think I’ve had so many deep fried chicken before… until I came to Japan and I’m starting to find that I miss the crunchy goodness and succulent meat.
I think the salad was more of an after thought than anything else, but it was quite nice and creamy.
We had a little dilemma when we came to dessert. Ideally, three people dining usually means at least 2 different desserts, 3 at best. However, we all had our eye on the chocolate fondant and not really willing to try any other dessert just in case it wasn’t as good as the fondant (terrible, I know).
In hindsight, it’s always good to have a back-up. Not that it was bad – it was awesomely chocolate-y, just not oozing, gooey chocolate like we had expected and for some reason, that disappointed us more than I had thought it would. The fondant not only came with ice cream and cream, but frozen yoghurt! Yum. I thought that kind of made up for the non-gooey-ness… almost.
Walking into “Watami” was kind of funny – it felt like an international incident as I almost blundered into the restaurant with my shoes on and my friends behind me hissing, “Shoes! Shoes! SHOES!!!!“. The offending shoes were placed into a locker and we were given the wooden locker tag block thing before being ushered to a cosy booth; all of which I thought was rather interesting and cool (clearly I’m such a big tourist).
R and I are massive fan of Studio Ghibli’s works, so it was a no brainer that we would go to its museum in Mitaka (on Valentine’s day no less). We excitedly pointed out recognisable inspirations to each other (almost but not quite squealing) and were equally disappointed that we couldn’t go into the cat-bus; it was strictly for kids (toddlers, even). Although it was smaller than we expected, it was such an awesome experience – seeing the inspirations of our much adored Studio Ghibli animations, learning how they create them and appreciating just how much work goes into one feature. A definite must for any fans of animated movies / Studio Ghibli fans.
The next day found us at the Museum of Nature and Science. We figured that it will take us about 2 to 3 hours to get through (like our Australian Museum back at home), but no… we were there for 6 hours. Yes, six!!! I know it sounds crazy, but the museum had more than six levels (across two buildings) and the amount of detail they put into their displays was amazing; half of one of the levels was modelled after a woodland scene (the bottom image), complete with stuffed animals and insects found in the woodlands like deer and warthogs. It was just insane. Also their collection of dinosaur bones (real and replica) was spectacular! There were so many dinosaurs… I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many ever!
Okay, okay… I’m likely to keep raving on about this museum, so I’ll leave it there.
That night, M took us to his favourite bar. He is currently obsessed with the ribs there, which he vows are the best he’s ever had. A pretty big claim, as I’ve had some pretty awesome ribs.
We travelled for what seemed like forever – going underground, through back streets – but we finally made it and feeling quite ravenous.
Hatos Bar’s menu doesn’t quite cater for pescetarians (or vegetarians), so R went with the chips and salsa, which wasn’t like the nachos she was told to expect, but it was still rather tasty.
Meanwhile, M and I tucked into the scrumptiously smoky, fall-off-the-bone ribs. It was seriously divine and crunchy shoestring chips were the perfect finishing touch to the dish. Did it meet my friend’s outrageous claim of it being the best? Mmm, almost; it’s definitely in my Top 3 in any case (and M’s probably feeling a little indignant after reading that haha… Sorry M! Just saying it like it is).
The pulled pork look absolutely fantastic and it tasted better than it looked, if that was possible. The pork was wonderfully moist and tender with the perfect amount of smokiness and then topped with that gooey cheese? Definitely yumsters.
M told us that this would be his standard order: half rack ribs with pulled pork and a glass of refreshing beer to chase it all down. It would be perfect had I the stomach space for all of that deliciousness – the ribs itself was surprisingly filling.
To accompany the chips and salsa, R ordered corn bread, which she loved. It came out toasty and with the melted, creamy butter, the corn bread would make her moan with satisfaction (that sounded a bit dirty didn’t it? Sorry… totally unintentional, but it did!).
I’m not sure if the brownies are a fad in Japan right now or if they’ve always sold them, but they’re everywhere! And of course we couldn’t resist the chocolate goodness.
To get that really authentic, smoky flavour, the guys at Hatos Bar uses a totally old school smoker, which I thought was pretty awesome. I think they said that they’re the only restaurant in Tokyo to use such an old style smoker.
Hatos Bar used to be a small art gallery displaying local artists until one idea lead to another and now it’s a cozy place where you can kick back with great food and interesting beer, surrounded by artwork that you purchase. Make that affordable artwork – some pretty neat looking pieces were going for 1,000 Yen! A must visit when you’re in Tokyo – I know I definitely will be back (in any case, I’m sure M would drag me there if I don’t hehe).
Prince Corp. 1F. 1-3-5 Nakameguro,
Meguro-ku, Tokyo, Japan