Cheapest eat in Waikiki: udon at Marukame


Everything in the touristy Waikiki is designed to scorch your wallet, but Marukame Udon does it most gently: each bowl of udon sets you back only around 5, which can be even cheaper than Coconut Cafe’s shave ice! This bukkake udon in cold broth is only 3.75, and it’s good, especially to give us some relief from the heat and humidity. Granted, because we add the goodies, the ticket goes up fast: shrimp tempura is 1.75 each, sweet potato tempura is 1.25 each, etc. What’s even better is the self-serving, cafeteria style: grab a tray, place your noodle order, take noodle, grab a few tempuras, pay, find a seat. Fast, efficient, and no tip.

Sasa no Yuki – Ten courses of tofu


This is ten courses of tofu. Without*), I can’t read half of it, the hostess speaks only a minimal amount of English to me and mostly just smiles, my company simply tells me that this is the menu. There’s little necessity to go further anyway, they probably think, the joy is in eating the courses and not in knowing what it is, since I’m just a foreigner who most likely eats here only once. And they’re right… This stylish restaurant, Sasa no Yuki, is not quite for a student’s everyday dining, the cheapest lunch course (Uguisugozen, 6 dishes) is 2200 yen (~$22). But I keep the slip of paper, and I will remember what everything is called! First 2 courses: ike mori namasu (生盛膾) – vegetable (and jelly) assortment with a tofu dipping sauce, and sasanoyuki (笹乃雪) – a block of cold white tofu. Don’t underestimate the tofu block, it’s uncooked, extremely pure and actually tastes like soybean. Continue reading Sasa no Yuki – Ten courses of tofu

Food and film: Rinco’s Restaurant


This movie is Slow Food personified. It is about food that’s cooked in a slow way (literally), and the movie itself is at a pace that could not be slower. Since childhood, the protagonist has always dreamed to make a restaurant. With the help of a family friend, she succeeded in converting her mother’s back shed into one, where she only serves one table per day, and the customer leaves it up to her to decide the courses. Her restaurant is named Restaurant Snail. As always the case with Japanese movies, there are several scenes that can easily be a painting. The cast doesn’t go the cutesy or glamorous way; in fact, they don’t make themselves beautiful, but the beauty comes from the realistic portrayal of people in their normal lives. The food is quite diverse, it’s not only Japanese food. I was surprised that Rinko can find some of the ingredients that she uses, considering that the setting of her town seems to be rural Japan. I mean, would we be able to find lamb chops and pomegranates in a local grocery store in Smallville, Kansas? Hmm… Continue reading Food and film: Rinco’s Restaurant

Kaze: the place to go when you crave ramen in Berkeley

Tonkotsu ramen with a side of gyoza. ($10.99)

Kaze, Berkeley: tonkotsu ramen with a side of gyoza. ($10.99) This little shop opens sometime last winter, it looked unassuming then, but now it is packed every time I come, so I think it’s safe to assume that it’s packed almost everyday if not always. People on the East Bay think of The Ramen Shop when they think of ramen, simply because until now there has been no other shop that really specializes in ramen. There’s ramen at sushi places, izakaya places, and some random places that should have nothing to do with ramen. Hence, the consistently ridiculous 2-plus-hour wait at The Ramen Shop. Now, let’s do a check-and-compare list between Kaze and The Ramen Shop (TRS): Continue reading Kaze: the place to go when you crave ramen in Berkeley

Sai the Izakaya


Izakayas in the Bay Area mostly target customers with a lot of money to spare (looking right at you, Ippuku!). Although there are merits to that (it costs to support local business and ethical ways of raising animals), a meal at these places is just not the same as sitting in a small neighborhood izakaya, talking to the chef who’s cooking 5 feet away from you, smelling the smoke from both the food and the tobacco of the nearby customer (who you may know by name), and inhaling your food, which comes in big bowls, to your heart’s content. I love neighborhood izakayas in Tokyo. Sai is one of them. This place jumps to mind when I think of izakayas nowadays. One big reason is that when I had a homestay in Japan, my host family took me there one night and it was a perfect family experience. If I had discovered the place myself (which I’m not sure is possible), I wouldn’t know what to order (the menu is 90% kanji @_@), I wouldn’t have had two parental figures to share the meal with (traveling alone makes you want […]

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One shot: lunch at Chano-ma Nakameguro


Comfy seating on white cushion, a tray of simple, delicious lunch, and a look out to the Meguro river. In the middle of Tokyo, there seems to be always little coves like this for a cozy, relaxing brunch. The lunch set includes a nice big bowl of rice, soup, 3 sides of choice and dessert (or a finishing drink) for 1250 yen (~ 12 USD). The latte art may be wanting, but I’d rather dive into my matcha latte with no remorse than adoring little bears or cats too much to drink them. 😛 Address: Chano-ma at Nakameguro 〒153-0051 東京都目黒区上目黒1-22-4-6F chano-ma webpage

Cafe Calaugh – why no cats came to me?


Yesterday Kristen posted on Facebook pictures of cutie fluffy four-legged pals that walk all around her in a cat cafe. I’m so jealous, Kristen! My jealousy is as high as Mt. Fuji right now. You know the (almost) first thing I did when I went to Japan? I looked for a cat cafe. Unfortunately, just about everybody decided to go to the same cat cafe that day (I wished I had found a less popular cafe, this one being on the internet with English and all just makes it too known). One middle-age man chased the cats around relentlessly. (He wanted their attention just as much as I did. I feel you, man.) Then after he was about to leave, a couple came in and the girl took over the chasing duty. >__> All of the cats retreated under chairs and onto inaccessible window sills. My phone sucks at taking their pictures. One cat semi-approached me, but somebody (either the middle-age man or the girl) inched to him and he left. Me devastated. I spent an hour there reading, trying to hide my misery, but I was too heart-broken to […]

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Flavor Japan: best Japanese fastfood


There’s a Mister Donut near our apartment, but I still haven’t walked into it once (*). As much as I like Mos Burger (which is better than McDonalds Japan, which in turns is inarguably better than McDonalds US, of course 😉 ), I prefer the fastfoods that we don’t have. 1. Takoyaki Fluffy and bouncy. Inside each of these shining orbs is a piece of real octopus. When I die, I want to be buried with takoyaki (which is also the name of my phone, by the way)… 2. Taiyaki Continue reading Flavor Japan: best Japanese fastfood

Flavor Japan: Summer eating in Tokyo

Unaju at Oodawa (~ $20 per set)

When I saw GaijinPot published 2 pieces on summer food and summer festival food in Japan, I wanted to write a piece on the same topic, but I got skewered like a dango stick in work. Now that summer is on its way out, here’s an account of what we can (and should) eat in summer in Tokyo – for next year, that is 😉 . THE SAVORY: Unaju at Oodawa (~ $20 per set) Continue reading Flavor Japan: Summer eating in Tokyo

Flavor Japan – Somen


The third installment of the “Flavor Japan – Noodles” series: somen, i.e., Noodles Part 3. Somen is thin white wheat noodle, much thinner than udon and much lighter than soba (buckwheat noodle). Why have I not seen any somen in The States?!! It most closely resembles the Vietnamese bún in bún thịt nướng (grilled pork with rice vermicelli). Is that why I love it the most now, more than ramen, udon or soba? Maybe. This noodle is such a beauty. The day we had it was also a beauty. We were wandering around Fukagawa at 10:45 or so and no restaurant that we wanted to try was open. Then I heard drumming and chanting, so I dragged Mutsumi toward the sound and ended up in Naritasan Fukagawa Fudoudou. Two imageries of this big temple will stay forever in my head: 1. a modern hall whose white outer walls are covered with a Sanskrit mantra in black, and 2. the fire ceremony with powerful drums, beautiful garments of the monks, and exceedingly warm and mellow chanting. We came in the middle of the ceremony, and it went on […]

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