Angelo has never been to Japan before, for me, it is my third time. I knew beforehand what to expect as far as what I like to eat here (okonomiyaki, curry, sushi, lots of street food) and what I don’t like (natto – I will let you google it). We are not professional chefs or culinary experts by no means, so this blog post will be likened to the average American palate. Also, we are on a pretty tight budget so most of the food is under 1,000 yen per meal ($10 U.S.) or bought from the grocery store. There is no fancy dining experience – yet. Hopefully we will get one really nice dining experience in every country we visit.
We started off eating at ramen restaurants. For a large meal and around 800 or 900 yen you can get ample amount of food. It is a bit tricky ordering if your like us and know no Japanese, but luckily every place we have been to so far has pictures of the food on the menu. After that, it is a guessing game as to what kind of meat your ordering.
Angelo, “Is that beef?” I usually shrug and just say yes even if I think it’s something else. I would rather eat vegetarian most of the time, but if there is meat in my meal I don’t mind. Ive been eating Jiaozi/Gyoza with rice and steamed bean sprouts. The Gyoza usually has pork in it, and always taste good.
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Angelo and I like our food served hot. We would rather wait a bit to let the food cool off than eat food that has been sitting for awhile. Here in Japan they are great at getting your food quickly to your table. There is no tipping in Japan, so we have been trying extra hard to be kind to the service people here who work so hard.
The ramen has a tasty fish broth and meat on top, usually adorned with green onion. Condiments at the table are soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame seeds, sometimes hot chili oil (yum!), garlic and black pepper. It has been cold here in Tokyo, so this type of meal is ideal.
We have been walking around a lot everyday, much more than usual when in Los Angeles. You can’t help but notice that there are drink vending machines everywhere, even in residential areas. The machines carry an assortment of drinks : water, soda, tea and coffee. It was only a matter of time that we found a machine with Dr.Pepper in the Shibuya area. Angelo loves his Dr. Pepper.
Walking around Harajuku there is this Happy Pancake restaurant. So cute! We did not eat there yet but it is definitely on the list to try soon. One other place we have tried in the same area is this curry house. When walking into this particular dining establishment you select what you want from an automated screen menu, put your money in and it dispenses your change and a ticket. Then you bring your ticket to the lunch counter and the woman/man takes the ticket and gets your order started. There is always water at your table/station. If you want beer, then I believe you can get a ticket for that as well. Angelo got thin beef with rice, miso soup and salad for around 600 yen. I got a bowl of tofu with curry and rice for around 450 yen ($4.50). It was delicious.
I will talk briefly about Starbucks ( I can see the eyes rolling now), for my fellow caffeine junkies who need their morning java to get their morning started. Obviously, there is Starbucks everywhere, which is great for this former Starbuckian (a term coined by my friend Aaron, whom I worked with at Starbucks a long time ago). Ordering is easy as they also have photos alongside the particular drink. They also have short sizes in Japan which is 8 ounces of hot or cold. They do not have short iced drinks in America, so I had to take a picture of my iced coffee. Just enough caffeine for us lightweights who need a small jolt in the morning.
There is an assortment of cute food here in Japan. Near Ueno Park, a place in Tokyo where we saw Sakura, there is a food court. We were starving, and the place looked busy (which is always a good sign of decent food), so we hurried in. Angelo got a small hamburger and fries from this place called Loteria. This fast food joint is like a McDonalds, but the portion size is much smaller. Maybe too small? The hamburger patty was a flattened brown disc and had this mystery sauce to accompany it, but on top of the wee little bun was a panda!! So cute! Aww pandas!! We heart PANDAS!
I went to another joint right next to Loteria called Wholesome. This is a bakery that specializes in what else but cute pastries! These cute animals are sweet bread. I bought, and devoured, this French toast bread. Usually, you can’t go wrong with pastries here in Japan. When I am home in America I sometimes dream about a Japanese bakery, it’s that good. After eating, we headed over to Ueno Park to see the Sakura or cherry blossoms. There was a lot of street food at the festival. Angelo took some great pictures of the vendors there. It looked and smelled good, but we were full.
That same day after we saw the Sakura, we met up with our dancer friend Jojo Diggs who is out here from LA choreographing for a Japanese pop group. She encouraged us to try a dessert crepe which seems to be very popular here. There are many choices to choose from, but Angelo choose….wait for it…strawberry cookies and cream cheesecake crepe!!!! He got a stomachache. Well, what did he expect? He is lactose intolerant and that is A LOT of dairy. I kinda flaked out of the crepe madness as I was still full, and I hate wasting food. But I definitely will try one soon and let you know how it is.
It is still the beginning of our trip, will definitely will have more to post on culinary adventures. Tomorrow we are supposed to eat okonomiyaki with Jojo, I wonder if Angelo will like it. All this talk about food is making me hungry 🙂