Eating My Way Through the World: Tokyo Edition!
Food in foreign lands always needs a post of it’s own! As you know, I love eating my way around the world, I am a big foodie! I have brought you the run down on foods from Taiwan to China in this blog, and it’s time to talk about Tokyo! So let’s get down to it! In the interest of full disclosure…I found the food in Japan AMAZING, and yet, extremely limiting.
Here is the thing, I am a pescatarian, with serious vegetarian habits. I love salmon and tuna, but I needs ta have my vegtables! For more information on how that came to be, you can check out my book review on Jonathan Saffron Foer’s book, Eating Animals. Anywho, in Japan, and I am talking specifically about Japanese cuisine, you have three major options in terms of food, and they all revolve around fish or meat. 1.) Tempura 2.) Sushi 3.) Noodles. That’s literally it. Of course you can go to an American or Italian restaurant, but if you want to immerse yourself in Japanese cuisine, those are your only options.
Our first night in Tokyo we found a restaurant in our Time Out Tokyo guidebook, a wonderful guidebook that we used almost exclusively for the entire trip, where we dined in a traditional tempura house. The Japanese are really big on specific houses specializing in specific cuisine, you would rarely go to a tempura place and get sushi, or vice versa.
The tempura experience was really interesting! It was a very small space, almost all wood, and very old-school! We found that most restaurants had an English menu if you requested it, and if not, they had a lot of pictures so you can point and order- Denny’s style! This restaurant included a little English map because you had to mix your own tempura sauce! Usually when you get tempura, it comes with a special type of sauce similar to soy. This restaurant you mixed your own with radish, soy, salt, pepper, and some other stuff!
We got the full experience! It was really a beautiful meal. My boyfriend had a soup with these tiny clams inside, which he said was magnificent. All of the quality at every restaurant we went to was off the charts! The only caveat was it was usually all fish! It’s extremely hard to eat vegetarian in Japan. Even at places for Tempura, where you can usually order Tempura don, fish and some vegetables over rice, was usually a lot of fish and one pepper.
Sushi, I love, and I could eat 24/7. The problem with eating sushi in Tokyo is it is impossibly expensive. If you thought it was expensive here in the States, forget it! The price of food in Tokyo is nothing like the price of food in Taiwan, my only other base to compare prices with in Asia. For example, we only ate sushi for one meal while in Tokyo. We went to a restaurant that was suggested in Time Out Tokyo as being moderately priced. When we got to the restaurant, we realized that it was similar to a sushi express, which we had eaten at in Taipei. You can read about that experience HERE, but basically in Taipei food is so cheap we paid one dollar per plate that we ate off the conveyor belt. 12 plates= $12.00. That is unusually cheap, true! But considering you don’t have someone serving the food to you or waiting on you, it should be relatively inexpensive.
At the sushi restaurant in Tokyo, we had maybe the same amount of plates, about 12, and paid 5,000 yen, roughly $50-60.00 You don’t have to tip, which is a plus, but that was the MODERATELY priced sushi. No service, food off conveyor belts, about $60.00. The sushi was incredible, and they only had mostly sashimi, not sushi rolls like we are used to here. Even though it was great, we clearly couldn’t have sushi for every meal, because we would have went broke!
Lastly we ate noodles at one of the millions of noodle houses in Tokyo. The ramen was out of this world, but once again, almost every dish had meat in it! The noodles were much cheaper, though at least!
Even though I found the choice limiting, Tokyo does take their food very seriously. At Ikebukuro station there is a giant department store, Seibu, on top of the station. At the bottom floor of this department store is an entire floor dedicated to food, and half of the counters are for desserts only. The desserts are unlike anything you have ever experienced before!
One super interesting dessert I ate was Mochi! A Mochi is a round ball that is covered in a sort of…gelatinous skin, a gummy outer shell, that usually has a sweet filling. The Mochi I ate had fresh strawberries inside, and it was so good! The texture was so different, I will definitely be having that again some day!
A Mont Blanc is another popular Japanese dessert. It’s a giant pastry that has a chestnut icing, and inside is completely filled with cream. It was a little sweet for my taste, but it’s extremely popular!
Lastly, we ate these little cakes called Taiyaki, which are shaped like fish and filled with cream and red bean filling. SO GOOD!!! The outside has a spongey, crepe-like texture, and the filling is so good! I think the Taiyaki was my favorite dessert.
Overall, while it was often delicious, I enjoyed my food experience more in Taiwan. Taiwan has a ton of options for vegetarians, and a large variety of food in general!