I really, really wanted to go to Osaka and/or Kyoto, but seeing how short on time we were, M suggested that we visit Nikko instead. A few Google searches and a (confused) trip to the Tobu Sightseeing Service Center near Asakusa station later, we had in our mitts our World Heritage Pass.
Nikko was so serene, beautiful and intensely cold. I was wearing two socks but even so, I could feel my feet quickly turning into blocks of ice in a matter of moments without my shoes within the temples and shrines. I was really grateful that M warned us how cold it would be and we at least had the foresight to wear our snow jackets. So note to anyone visiting Nikko in the winter: dress warmly, wear super thick socks (possibly with one of those heater pads inside), be wary of ice (cramp ons are a safe bet) and be ready to print out information on the places you visit as there are very little English translations of why something is so important. (I really feel like I missed out there).
We’ve passed Junkadelic several times on our way to the Metro, it’s cheery exterior (and it being Mexican of all things) piqued our interest. Also, M mentioned in passing that they served pretty decent Mexican fare, so we felt that we should at least try it before we left.
The nacho chips were wonderfully crunchy and I loved the abundance of melted cheese. There was not, however, enough of that awesome guacamole. We had to ask for some more, which we also polished off. I still rave on about that guacamole – it was just simply fantastic: bright flavours, not too salty and dreamily creamy.
The empanadas looked a bit different to what we were used to and it tasted a bit different too. However, the description on the menu should have tipped us off that it was a bit different: seafood in bechamel sauce rolled into tortillas and fried.
Junkadelic was pretty cool, being so cheery outside and in, and the staff was really friendly. It’s a pity we didn’t get to try more dishes (it would appear that when you’re tired, the appetite is also affected – who would have thunk), I would love to come back and try their quesadillas!
2-21-2 #102, Akasaka
Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan
On our first day in Tokyo, M insisted that we try his favourite ramen place, which he touted to be the best in Tokyo. Best ramen in Tokyo? I was instantly sold.
Unless it’s a meat dish, R would most certainly pick the spiciest dish on the menu. It looked pretty spicy too! I was told that the ramen was deliciously spicy and had a pretty decent kick to it.
Look how big that bowl is! That’s the standard bowl ramen comes in – there’s also “jumbo” bowls available as well and they are unbelievably huge. Who can possibly eat all of it?! Crazy. But I digress.
I’m not sure why, but the rest of us ordered the same ramen – we differed in our toppings though. There’s quite a few on offer such as bean sprouts, more meat slices, seaweed and pickled bamboo (but I think they’re pretty staple add-ons?) for a few bob extra.
The broth was pretty rich and hearty, though a touch too salty for myself, but the noodles were perfect and the meat so wonderfully tender. It was however, surprisingly spicy. There wasn’t a lot of heat to it, but the heat built up as I ate and I found myself gulping down lots of water. My friends looked on with amusement as they didn’t think it was spicy at all. Sigh.
Akasaka Ittenbari is a tiny, tiny restaurant where the ramen is dished out by a no nonsense wait staff and made by quick and efficient chefs. It seemed like one of those places where you order your usual, eat and then leave. No loitering, no shenanigans. A place where you go to sate you ramen craving and leave very well sated indeed. I think I need a ramen fix after this!
On our last day, I dragged R to Pierre Herme. I was determined to visit his Tokyo store, as I missed out when I was in Paris a couple of years back. Determined as I was, when we got to Shibuya I quickly realised, despite looking at the map for a whole week, I had forgotten to write down the directions on how to get there. Geez. It took us a while, but we finally found it and it was like finding gold at the end of a rainbow.
We weren’t allowed to take photos inside (sadness, our waitress came out with this massive silver platter with the entire pastry range arranged just so that made our eyes pop), so sadly I had to make do with this shot.
While R went for a pastry that was accompanied with a chocolate mocktail concoction, I had two pastries and oh my goodness, it was like we had died and gone to heaven – they were so amazing! You could taste all the individual components, delicious on their own, but made perfect harmony when eaten together. Nothing was out of place or seemed unnecessary.
I gamely bought 6 macarons to take home for F, hoping that it would last the two days of being in transit. (It did, much to my relief and our tastebuds.)
We could not believe just how many pastries and bakeries there are in Tokyo. It’s like there’s one on every corner! And of course, we found it hard pressed to not go in and sample a little of their wide selection.
In the end, our favourite bakery was Pompadour. We were lured in with all the bread and pastries in the display window, then we were made giddy with the wonderful, sweet, warm smell of freshly baked bread and cakes.
Pompadour was not all show and no-go: the sour cherries in custard danish, the flaky and sweet pear and (what we think is) rhubarb pie, and the slightly sweet blueberry bagel were absolutely amazing. The flavours were just spot on and the pastry! Oh.. so good. Just so you know, we had gently heated them in the grill for breakfast the next day, but managed to burn a bit of the pie – so it wasn’t their dodgy baking skills, it’s more like ours haha.
We also had a gooey chocolate-centered brownie-muffin top hybrid topped with chocolate chips, but we kind of ate that deliciousness before I got around to taking a photo of it (sorry).
On our last night in Tokyo, we squeezed in a quickie dinner with some friends before dashing off for a midnight flight back to Sydney via Singapore.
Monjya Izakaya has a massive range of food (which I can’t detail here because I had no idea what we ordered), either a la carte or as a set menu. One of the set menus is an all you can eat for 3,500 Yen. You get an appetizer, salad, 3 types of teppanyaki, okonomiyaki, monjya, dessert and all you can drink. That’s right… All. You. Can. Drink. This includes alcoholic beverages, which my friends most certainly took advantage of.
It was my first time having okonomiyaki and it was so much fun to make, as well as eat! I can’t wait to do something like this in Sydney (if we even do have an okonomiyaki place that is).
Monjya Izakaya is a cheerful restaurant with enthusiastic and friendly wait staff. The food was quite delicious and with an all you can eat and drink set menu for 3,500 yen I know I’ll be back to properly
take advantage of enjoy such a feast.
Monjya Izakaya Smile Kojyo Shinjuku Nishiguchi branch
Atlas Nishishinjuku building 5F,
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 160-0023
So, here ends my brief foray into Japan. It’s more like a toe-dip than anything else, I know, so I just can’t wait to go back to try more scrumptious food, snacks and take in the history and culture that Japan has to offer!