Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of Japanese curry – it’s what I always bring to dinner parties and was my favourite meal at the dormitory I lived in Tokyo in 2009. So I was pretty excited to hear that there was such a thing as the Tokyo Curry Lab. Yes, it’s touristy-overpriced, but come on, look at that curry! I went for the eggplant, tomato and mince curry, which is one of the spicier options. As we sat at the funky stools, we learned about the history of curry on the creative paper placemats – it also had good tips for curry stain-removal! The curry came out on a huge plate and whilst it didn’t fill the whole plate, I couldn’t finish all of mine. There wasn’t a huge amount of eggplant, but it was topped with grated parmesan cheese (it sounds weird, but was really tasty). There was a real kick to the sauce and I kept it separate from the rice so I could use the rice to cool down. The flavours were strong and it was definitely not a standard Japanese curry, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
Tokyo Curry Lab, Tokyo Tower, 4 Chome-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato, Tokyo Japan http://tokyocurrylab.jp/
I’ve been eating a lot of sweets lately, so I declare this to be #sweetweek, starting with a flashback to my favourite cake shop ever. Ah, Cafe Comme Ca. The lovely Shinjuku store with its fun lighting, creative wall art and immaculate display cabinet was our first dessert stop in Tokyo (of course!). We were seated in the back corner which has a great view of the cake decoration space (so much fruit being styled into perfect shapes!) and the wait staff bench where the delicate cocoa shapes are dusted onto the plates – the secret is a stencil, if you hadn’t guessed already. I adore their fruity cakes, so picked one with raspberry, strawberry and mango on a flaky pastry base. All of the cakes here are beautifully creamy and this was no exception. The vibrant flavour of the strawberries and raspberries matched the bold tropical mango perfectly. I also tried their seasonal iced tea – black tea with apple. It came out in a large glass with plenty of ice and was really refreshing. I like black iced teas that aren’t too bitter and this was just lovely. I can’t recommend Cafe Comme Ca highly enough – guaranteed to satisfy your inner foodie, design junkie and fruit artist (because here, that’s a thing).
Cafe Comme Ca, 5F Comme Ca Store, 3-26-6 Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku Tokyo http://www.cafe-commeca.co.jp/ (Japanese only)
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Reviewing this place twice is ok, but three times is excessive. Well, in my quest to share the best sushi experience in Tokyo, I did venture away from my beloved Sushi Zanmai in Akihabara and tried their flagship Tsukiji store. So, here’s how it went. Unlike in Akihabara, this Sushi Zanmai is multi-storey (oooooh), and at lunchtime it was pumping. We waited about 15 minutes for a table, and then were taken upstairs. Unfortunately our sushi chef was under the pump and had three groups of diners to look after at the counter, along with the table orders, so service was very slow. We started out with green tea and miso, sharing a bowl of the seaweed miso (so good). Next was the tempura squid, which was quite a good size portion and had a really lovely crispiness, along with plenty of salt to season. Then it was sushi time. We went for the classic favourites, having multiple serves of aburi salmon, before another go at the saba – sadly there was a bit too much wasabi on our pieces to fully enjoy this one. The unagi was excellent though – it just melted in your mouth. The verdict? Stick to Akihabara, or go at an off-peak time.
Sushi Zanmai, 4-11-9, Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo http://www.kiyomura.co.jp/ (Japanese only)
So many of my old favourites in Tokyo are just the same as I remember them – Bitter Sweets Buffet is yet another. We went nice and early on a weekday for lunch and didn’t have to line up (I remember waiting 90 minutes to go in 2009). For a fixed price, you have 90 minutes of all you can eat at the buffet, and all of their food is delightfully tiny so you can try lots of different things. There was a Mediterranean Cruise theme to the buffet when we went, so I started out with a slice of the margherita pizza, some crumbed fish with tartare sauce and (my favourite), a mini burger! You order the burgers from the chef and add your own toppings (lettuce, pickles, tomato sauce, onion) at the salad bar. I tried the potato salad (yum – so creamy) but went back for more crumbed fish – that was definitely the savoury pick. After enjoying some green tea we moved to dessert – hello mini cakes! I tried the strawberry mousse cake, the strawberry scroll (so light and fluffy!), the chocolate berry cake (my pick of the sweets) and a couple of jellies. We were so full that we didn’t last the whole 90 minutes, but every mouthful was delicious.
Bitter Sweets Buffet, 8F Lumine Est, 3-chome, 38-1 Shinjuku, Japan http://pscoop.jp/bsb/index.html
My general love of Japanese food is well-known, but if I had to pick an absolute favourite, it would have to be okonomiyaki. Why? Well, it’s exactly what it name means – as you like it, so you can enjoy it with all the things you like most. We stopped in at Monja-ya for dinner in Shinjuku (as a chain store, they have various locations in Tokyo). Half the fun of this place is that you get to cook the food yourself, but if you don’t feel confident, the staff are very happy to help. We started with an order of the cheese okonomiyaki and the standard monja, which the waiter kindly cooked while Mum made the okonomiyaki (go Mum!). The portions here are good value, even better if you pick the all-you-can-eat option. Whilst the cheese okonomiyaki was good, we all devoured the round two choice of kimchi – the added spice was amazing! The monja took longer to cook, but was worth the wait – we loved the sloppier texture with crispy bits from the grill. The trick to a good okonomiyaki? Layering it up with the sauces – okonomiyaki sauce, kewpie mayo plus bonito flakes. Perfection.
Monja-ya, Royal Puddings Building 4F, 3-35-10, Shinjuku, Tokyo Japan
There are quite a few restaurants around the Hamamatsucho JR station, but many of them are designed for quick churn (i.e. standing restaurants/izakayas). We were quite tired after a day of sightseeing so ended up picking Onomichi Ramen, as it had seats. Sure, the decor is nothing special, and it has a lingering smell of cigarette smoke, but once you’ve received your giant bowl of ramen those things fade into the background. I ordered the standard soy ramen and added on all the extras – pork and egg. They offer table service, and brought out edamame for us to start. The ramen didn’t take long (so a good spot if you’re really hungry!) and the broth looked rich and fatty. Research after the meal explained that Onomichi ramen is the local specialty of Onomichi, near Hiroshima, and uses a typical soy broth with added fish paste and melted lard. Whilst that may not sound appetising, I promise you, it was delicious, and if I’d had room to finish the bowl I would have. The pork was thick and tender, the egg gooey in the centre and the ramen had a great amount of bite. Yum, yum, yum.
Onomichi Ramen, Chome-30-11, Hamamatsucho, Minato, Tokyo Japan
Taiyaki is one of those quintessentially Japanese sweets that I haven’t managed to find in Australia. I don’t think we even have an equivalent, but that just means it’s more important to get it when I do go to Japan! One of my favourite places for taiyaki is Kagurazaka – Kurikoan makes them traditionally (compared to Fujiya’s take), using the fish mould and offering a range of fillings. I couldn’t help but order the red bean paste flavour, which is the original/recommended flavour. We each picked different ones (red bean paste, custard and a third one I can’t remember, maybe red bean with a nut of some sort?) and the staff were kind enough to let us dine in. I’d visited twelve months earlier and had their taiyaki set, which came with an iced tea – I’d highly recommend that option, especially in the warmer months! The taiyaki itself had a lovely slightly-crunchy, still slightly-soft shell, and the inner cavity was packed with red bean paste filling. I enjoy red bean paste as a not-too sweet option, and like taiyaki for being a light but filling snack. Give it a try when exploring Kagurazaka.
Kurikoan, Porta Kagurazaka 1F, 2-6-1 Kagurazaka, Tokyo http://kurikoan.com/cafe.html