Our recent trip to Japan was an experience for all the senses (you can read more here) but today I want to talk about taste.
I enjoy Japanese food, especially sashimi and gyoza, so I was looking forward to this food journey, but Mr M was a little more reserved and didn’t know what to expect. Any concerns that he would have to eat sushi or noodles for two weeks straight were soon dispelled.
Yes, we did eat a lot of ramen noodles and miso soup on the slopes (a tiny ski-in/ski-out wood hut restaurant with a stove to warm up beside was a favourite lunch spot while skiing) but our three destinations in Japan all served up a smorgasbord of fresh, delicious and some unusual meals.
Here is our pick of places to dine in Niseko, Kyoto and Tokyo:
The ski village of Niseko on the island of Hokkaido has a broad range of restaurants. As well as traditional Japanese, there are European-flavoured options including fondue and crepes at the Niseko Supply Company (a must after a day skiing) and western-style breakfast at Green Farm Café. However, consider yourself warned: breakfast as we know it is not traditional in Japan, so expect some unusual additions with your bacon and eggs such as salad or a peeled banana.
Crepes and fondue at Niseko Supply Company were delicious, but the salad and a quarter of a banana was a surprising addition to our eggs and bacon at Green Farm Café.
Ren: Friends who were staying in Niseko at the same time found this gem on TripAdvisor and it was so delicious Mr M and I went back there again on our last night in the snow. Highlights were the cheerful staff, a warm atmosphere and of course, the delicious food.
- What we ate at Ren: Seared salmon; chicken and sour plum meat balls; dumpling soup; tempura squid; pork skewers; Hokkaido potatoes.
Steak Rosso Rosso: You can’t expect a country boy (or for that matter, a country girl) to go too long without a good steak, so we treated ourselves to this fabulous restaurant. The meat was scrumptious and cooked to perfection – choose from Australian, Hokkaido or Wagyu cuts – and the jus was, quite simply, one of the best sauces we’ve ever tasted. I wanted to swim in it. Incredible. Plump scallops were another highlight.
- What we ate at Steak Rosso Rosso: Hokkaido beef with jus; crab croquettes; scallops with plum sauce.
Etemoto: Gosh I love stumbling across unexpected food gems! Mr M and I were roaming the streets of Kyoto, looking for somewhere which had the right ‘vibe’ and we found this tiny restaurant. The little space was dominated by the hot plate, which we sat right in front of to watch our lunch being prepared. It doesn’t get any fresher than that! I picked ginger and prawn fried noodles and Dave tried a pork Okonomiyaki – a savoury Japanese pancake.
- What we ate at Etemoto: ginger and prawn fried noodles; pork Okonomiyaki.
Giro Giro: We went here on the recommendation of our fabulous friend Anne (you might remember her from Mrs M Chats) and it lived up to her rave reviews. Giro Giro is a degustation restaurant – we were treated to 10 courses of beautifully-prepared, tiny dishes. It is a popular spot, so make a booking. Positioned beside a canal lined with cherry trees. We dined on the top floor so enjoyed views of lanterns and cherry blossoms reflected on the water, but downstairs gives diners a close-up view of the food being prepared by uber-cool chefs.
- What we ate at Giro Giro: Wagyu beef cooked on a jojoba leaf; sashimi; bento box of deliciousness; orange granita; seafood broth with rice.
Andy’s: This haunt – hidden under the railway tracks in the trendy shopping area of Ginza – is popular with locals and visitors alike. Those in the know head here for Andy’s fresh seafood washed down withShōchū . In this crowded, smoky room you’ll rub shoulders with visiting dignitaries and Japanese businessmen, all enjoying fresh crab, huge fried oysters and tempura prawns.
- What we ate at Andy’s: Shōchū (Japanese distilled alcohol) and fresh crab.
Omoide Yokocho (a.k.a Memory Lane or Piss Alley): This smoky network of alleys in Shinjuku served up the most authentic experience of ‘old Tokyo’ we found. It’s gritty, real and the place to go for Japanese street food. Tiny bars, some only two metres wide, serve up yakitori – skewers cooked on open grills. There are so many to choose from. We settled on Fukuhachi, a tiny hole in the wall packed with locals (always a good sign) where a rather gruff (but awesome) woman presided over the grill. We sat right in front of the yakitori and kept ordering skewer after skewer, which were cooked right in front of us. She ordered us to try her favourite ones and we were rewarded with smoky, salty, char-grilled bacon and tomato, fish, chicken, squid and even spring onions which, it turns out, are simply heaven grilled. Visit Omoide Yokocho at night for a truly memorable food experience, and be prepared to soak up the smoke, the grit, the noise, the charm.
- What we ate at Fukuhachi: grilled peppers; tomato wrapped in bacon; squid; whole fish; garlic gloves; chicken and pork skewers.
What interesting foods have you eaten while travelling?
Love, Mrs M xx