Oishi! Umami! Those elusive words often fade once you're hot on foot. Let's say you're a traveler, perhaps, like a dozen hundred thousand of others out there, you probably haven't planned where to fill yourself up in advance simply because YOU HAVE NO IDEA. The search for yum abroad is often bumped off the checklist when trying to keep a schedule. The whole thing often evolves into a hit or miss spree—let's try and curb that. I had the privilege of being invited to Japan last month and had a bit more freedom and time to experience some delicious food spots over there:
1. Midori Sushi, Akasaka Biz Tower Atrium 2/F, Tokyo. The sushi I tried at Midori sushi, Akasaka is probably the best reasonably priced sushi I've ever tried in my life so far. The plate that wowed our tastebuds was their "popular specialty" on the menu, mackerel sushi, and you get eight pieces (each about 3.5-ish inches long). This plate costs ¥1050 which is a couple less than P450.00. The plate you see below is missing three pieces already, and yes they serve many other kinds of sushi that you can see on their website.
2. Family Mart or Lawson Store-bought Egg Salad Sandwiches (Anthony Bourdain's affordable Japanese convenience store craving). These sandwiches are not to be underestimated. It tastes like a Japanese or French sous chef prepared the filling for these delectable sandwiches and they only cost a little over ¥100 or so. They're soft but give back and are just super delicious—they're easy breakfast eats indeed.
3. The Lipton Milk Tea in Cartons. I'm not a fan of excessively sweet drinks, so when milk tea is at just the right level of sweetness it's heaven-sent. The flavor of this drink reminds me of the Earl Grey tea flavor by local indie brand of free-range milk ice cream, Merry Moo. It costs about just under ¥100 as well.
4. AFURI Fine Ramen, Roppongi, Tokyo. Pressing your order into a vendo-ish machine before cueing up to be seated just makes dining in Japan feel all the more authentic and special. You're first fed with your Afuri order ticket by machine before your actual order and since the place is in high demand a line extends outside the place. The bowls of ramen average between ¥600 to ¥800 yen with other special orders hitting the ¥1000 mark. The branch we ate at in Roppongi, Tokyo is open from 11AM to 9AM, great as well for night owls like myself. The ramen is way too delicious and comforting for me to completely ramble about fully here (save that delicious egg for last). It looked like my bowl could feed two moderately hungry people and one extremely hungry person.
I chose Shio Ramen which is a pork broth that is lightly salted, there are other types of broth that you get to choose at the machine. Then, you get a choice between a thin or slightly richer broth as soon as you're seated before they assemble your bowl.
5. Taiyaki Pastry, Dotonbori, Osaka. This Taiyaki/ seabream-shaped piece of pastry was bought for me by the one and only Megastar, Sharon Cuneta. She claims that she was eager to buy it for all of us on the trip so we could taste and experience what her parents treated her to when she was younger during their past trips to Japan. When you have it in your hands it's warm, crispy, and traditionally, it's filled with heated soft, sweet red bean paste inside. It reminded me of hopia, but softer. There are also other fillings to choose from like bacon and cheese, chocolate, and custard. I'm not quite sure how much they are but they're not expensive.
6. Gyu Kaku Yakiniku, Dotonbori, Osaka. Now, we get to the grill and Filipinos just love their grilled food, but I think from the side of all things Japanese, they take it to another level in Japan because of the quality and consistency of their local produce—meat, seafood, vegetables, you name it. We spent a bit of time looking for Gyu Kaku in Dotonbori, Osaka, because there were just so many restaurants in the area. Google maps got us there eventually.
Gyu Kaku, apparently, was in Manila for awhile but sadly closed because of a lack in locally supplied quality meat, they needed a steady amount to supply the restaurant. Pricing in Gyu Kaku, Osaka is reasonable as you can see here with the Wagyu selections but with self-service grill restos like this you can expect the bill to balloon easily with bigger groups unless you plan in advance. Be sure a couple of you know when to take meat off the grill at the right time to avoid waste, much of the meat is delicate and best eaten when not overcooked.
7. Bento Boxes at Train Stations. We came upon bento box meals at the Shinkansen/Bullet train station in Tokyo when bound for Osaka. I picked an unagi (eel) bento box at the store on the train platform that was about ¥900+ which sadly I was unable to finish because of fatigue and someone gave me an additional sushi box to consume.
Despite the fact that I wasn't able to eat it all, that unagi bento containing eel, rice, unagi, seasoned clam meat, and pickled sidings was quite delicious and would have been well-worth it. Had I had the energy to finish the whole thing if I wasn't tired that day I would have.
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Photography by author and from Instagram.com/afuri_official and Instagram.com/blessmybag