Posts Tagged ‘Katsuobushi’

Eating Your Way Through Japan – Part I

January 4, 2009
 Part I  | Part II

[A hearty welcome to all you new World Wide Ed readers from the print world… Much love for visiting! Let’s make um a habit from now k? 😛 ]

About a month ago, the brand spankin’ new wifey and I went back to the motherland for our honeymoon. ‘Twas ten days of ‘moonin bliss, complete with shopping, temples, trains, onsens, monkeys (yeah, monkeys!), snow, wedding reception #2, and, best of all… food.

I’m hoping to eventually break this out into a full-fledged review of Japan (little girl diary style 😛 ), but for purposes of this blog, let’s just concentrate on the eats yo! Cool? Cool! Let’s do this!

Our first night was spent touring the Odaiba area where we stayed. We walked over to the Aqua City and Decks Tokyo Beach (Tokyo Joyopolis) shopping districts for some product-browsing and sight-seeing.

Night time view of Rainbow Bridge in Odaiba
Night time view of Rainbow Bridge in Odaiba

In the mood for some good kine Japanese rahmen, we poked around the food courts at Decks to see if anything spoke to us. Nothing did. So we took it to the streets. Awesome choice, as we ran into Yotteko-Ya Ramen. Yeah, the same one that made its way to McCully Shopping Center on Oahu.

Located on the ground floor between Decks Tokyo Beach and the Yurikamome Line (local train), the flamboyant exterior quickly catches your eye.

Outside Odaiba's Yotteko-Ya Ramen
Outside Odaiba’s Yotteko-Ya Ramen

I swear, every time we visited the one in McCully, they were sold out of their popular Paitan soup base ramen (the thick, creamy one). We’ve been there on at least 5 different occasions at 5 different times (even like 10 in the morning!), and, every single time, they were sold out. We were beginning to think that it was some kind of a conspiracy, and that they only made enough soup base for three bowls or something. We were glad to get the authentic one straight from the source.

Char Siu Ramen from Yotteko-Ya Ramen
Char Siu Ramen from Yotteko-Ya Ramen

Yotteko-Ya Ramen

Much like some Las Vegas hotel packages, the great thing about some of the hotels in Japan is that the price of the room includes meals. The next morning, we enjoyed a delicious Japanese style buffet breakfast at Ocean Dining Restaurant.

Buffet table at Ocean Dining Restaurant, Hotel Nikko Tokyo Hotel, Odaiba
Buffet table at Ocean Dining Restaurant, Hotel Nikko Tokyo Hotel, Odaiba

Our view of Rainbow Bridge during our eats was amazing!

Our beautiful view with my not so beautiful mound o' food
Our beautiful view with my not so beautiful mound o’ food

Hotel Nikko Tokyo – Odaiba

Then, it was off to see the town baby. We took the Yurikamome line to Shimbashi Station and walked to the Ginza district. There, the wife shopped at various department stores, including the (apparently *rolling eyes*) popular H&M store from America. We also found some time to snack in between.

Treats at Nenrinya
Treats at Nenrinya

Yes, we’re posers. We didn’t actually buy anything from here (if you saw the crazy lines, you wouldn’t either! 😛 ), but we did capture some shots for you curious bees out there.

The line at Nenrinya
The line at Nenrinya

Nenrinya

One place we weren’t posers at was Starbucks (the Ginza Matsuya-dori store to be exact). We stopped to fill our tummies here real quick like.

Two Tall Tazo Chai Tea Lattes (¥940) and one Strawberry Roll (¥280). Typical Starbucks prices...
Two Tall Tazo Chai Tea Lattes (¥940) and one Strawberry Roll (¥280). Typical Starbucks prices…

On the wall, we noticed a sign that said “Starbucks Coffee Japan, Ltd. The 1st Store August 2nd 1996″… Pretty cool! We’ve been to the first store in America (Seattle) and now Japan. Where’s next? 🙂

Sign at Starbucks Ginza Matsuya-dori store: Starbucks Coffee Japan, Ltd. The 1st Store August 2nd 1996
Sign at Starbucks Ginza Matsuya-dori store: “Starbucks Coffee Japan, Ltd. The 1st Store August 2nd 1996”

Starbucks Ginza Matsuya-dori

Refueled, we caught the JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku to check out the famous Takeshita Doori. There we went to a food court and ate at the best looking option: Umaya.

Umaya
Umaya

They are famous for their Miso Fried Noodles, which I loaded up with all the toppings I could get my hands on (including Nori, Katsuobushi (dried tuna), Sansho (Sichuan pepper), and Black Pepper)!

Miso Yakisoba (Fried Noodles) from Umaya (with my bevy of sprinkles!)
Miso Yakisoba (Fried Noodles) from Umaya (with my bevy of sprinkles!)

The next day, we headed to Ueno to check out the popular Ameyayokocho shopping street.

Ameyayokocho, also known as Ameyoko, in Ueno
Ameyayokocho, also known as Ameyoko, in Ueno

This area is good for buying snack-type omiyage or produce if you were gonna whip up something yourself at home. We walked by a fresh fish/sashimi type street stand that seemed to be getting a lot of action Jackson. Perhaps, if it were lunchtime we would’ve checked it out, but, ah, next time!

The line at a popular sushi/sashimi stand in Ameyoko
The line at a popular sushi/sashimi stand in Ameyoko

Next stop: Sensoji Temple in Asakusa.

Sensoji Temple in Asakusa
Sensoji Temple in Asakusa

The path leading to the temple is full of vendors selling anything from gifts, to good luck charms, to food.

Mall leading to Sensoji Temple in Asakusa
Mall leading to Sensoji Temple in Asakusa

We ate our share of fresh snacks like kinako mochi on a stick, fresh senbei (cooked right in front of you) and red bean manju in the shape of birds.

For lack of a better name, let's call this one mochi-on-a-stick. :P
For lack of a better name, let’s call this one mochi-on-a-stick. 😛

Frying up fresh senbei and dipping it in their shoyu-sugar base. YUM!
Frying up fresh senbei and dipping it in their shoyu-sugar base. YUM!

Wifey got her hands on all the warm, an filled manju
Wifey got her hands on all the warm, an filled manju

Then it was back to Ginza for a kushikatsu restaurant recommended by pops. To kill time, we did more browsing/shopping and ended up at a neat, little Tea Lounge on the top floor of Ito-Ya (a popular paper/pen/office supply type store).

Ito-Ya Tea Lounge, Ginza, Japan
Ito-Ya Tea Lounge, Ginza, Japan

There, we rested our bones from the day’s travel, next to a hot (and cold) cup of Joe, er Tea.

Hot and Cold Tea from Ito-Ya's Tea Lounge
Hot and Cold Tea from Ito-Ya’s Tea Lounge

And that concludes Part I yo. WHEW!

Sorry, but there are CHOKE photos from the kushikatsu restaurant, so you’re gonna have to wait for those in part II. *grin*

Talk to me!
* Been to any of these hotspots yourself?
* How were your experiences there?
* Gonna check um out next time you go to Japan?
* What are the “must-trys” at the places I went to so far, but missed?
* Did I make you hungry yet? 😛

Happy New Year y’all! Hope you’re still holding strong by your resolutions this, what, 4th day into the new year. 😉 Shoots!

 Part I  | Part II

P.S. No fo-get fo check out my latest AroundHawaii.com column:

Anuhea Jenkins - Reppin' Hawaii One Song At a Time
Anuhea Jenkins – Reppin’ Hawaii One Song At a Time

Let’s Get On With the Shokudo

August 1, 2007

Pops and I have this ongoing joke/battle with each other about where the best Japanese eats are around town. Hailing directly from the heart of Tokyo, he’s got this unyielding, old school, traditional Japanese palate, while I have more of an open “nu skool” hunger for innovative dining experiences. Who’s right? Let’s get it on and see shall we?

When you think of traditional Japanese fare, you think tsukemono, miso soup, okara, chawanmushi, nabeyaki udon, oden, tonkatsu, and much more. Oxtail rahmen, sushi pizza, spicy tuna summer rolls, or beef tataki with balsamic sushi doesn’t exactly enter the mind. As well, sliding shoji or fusuma doors, tatami mats, and servers dressed in yukata kimonos are all what you would relate to a traditional Japanese restaurant. Not, funky light fixtures and eclectic design aspects, in an upbeat, colorful setting.

Inside Shokudo

I think this is where I’m losing pops.

Shokudo Japanese Restaurant & Bar, located on the ground floor of the Ala Moana Pacific Center on Kapiolani Boulevard (next to Angelo Pietro), opened its doors on March 2nd, 2005 and has been rolling ever since. In their first year in Hawaii, they earned the Gold Hale `Aina Award for “Best Japanese Restaurant” and have continued to garner accolades since. As part of a franchise of Dream Dining Honolulu LLC, they have since successfully spawned a second store by the name of Tokyo Table in La Cienega California in late December 2006.

Dream who? Dining what? Shokudo Restaurant Manager Geraldine Jordan details the history: “Tetsuya Emura, President & CEO of Dream Dining Honolulu LLC. d.b.a. Shokudo Japanese Restaurant & Bar, once occupied many important roles in management for Watami Food Service Co. in Japan. Watami is a food service conglomerate that owns 400 restaurants which operates 10 different types of restaurants. In 1998, he was appointed the position of the founding CEO of T.G.I. Friday’s Japan, Inc. This company established a subsidiary of Watami Co. in a joint venture between Carlson Restaurants Worldwide, Inc. Watami Co. acquired a T.G.I. Friday’s restaurant in Guam that gained him the invaluable experiences with the unfamiliar laws, foreign business custom, and new market. He also got involved in the setting up of a Japanese Izakaya restaurant named ‘Watami’ in Hong Kong. His successes and invaluable experiences from Watami had led him to venture on his own and introduce Japanese food culture overseas.”

One of the greatest things about your dining experience at Shokudo is just that, it’s an experience. I’ve been here for large parties (private room holds up to 20-25 people), after work get-togethers (excellent bar selection, including wine, beer, sake, shochu and vodka sodas), the first stop of a bachelor party night (don’t ask), and date nights with the lady, and all experiences proved to be equally fulfilling, festive and fun. Taking one look at the company info page on their web site, it’s not hard to understand why. They take great pride in balancing and enriching their customers, employees and company to create what they refer to as the Triangle Theory. Jordan explains:

“The Triangle Theory and philosophy is one of the main reasons why I came to join the company in the first place. It consists of three major aspects: the employees, the guests, and the company. It is important to harmoniously balance and equally enrich these areas to build a wholesome and successful business. It is also good for the community to raise these values in their business. We have to understand that the business success is due to the employees that will take care of our guests. And if our guest is well taken cared of, we create loyalty. My past experiences working in the food and beverage in larger corporation may have etched somewhat of this theory in their mission statement, but was never practiced or really valued. Look at it like a tripod. If one leg is in poor condition or missing, the result will lead the tripod to fall. It’s really a simple analogy yet so profound with fundamentals to building a successful business.”

With everything now in perfect harmony, let’s get to the food!

Shokudo’s selection is as eclectic as its interior design. Research & Development Manager Norimasa Okazaki is responsible for most of the 60 or so diverse dishes they carry. A few of the items on their seasonal and grand menu have been influenced by the staff that Nori could not resist putting in the lineup.

Their best seller is the Chicken Karaage. Not particularly unique on its own, but with the Spicy Tartar Sauce, it gives it that extra oomph that you’re looking for.

Chicken Karaage with Spicy Tartar Sauce
Chicken Karaage with Spicy Tartar Sauce

According to Jordan, other popular dishes include their homemade fresh tofu, tofu salad, Ishiyaki (hot stone bowls), and the mouth watering Honey Toast.

Honey Toast
Honey Toast

But are you going to take the Restaurant Manger’s word for it or mine? 😉 (kidding Geri!)

I’ve had the Chicken Karaage with Spicy Tartar Sauce, homemade fresh tofu and of course, the Honey Toast, and yes, I agree with you peeps that these are definitely the must-haves. However, I’m not one to go with the crowd. I run with scissors and talk to the driver while the bus is in motion. You can’t stop me! 😛

For me, the one constant is their Agedashi Tofu. Good lord! Deep fried and covered with katsuobushi, two types of negi (onions) and their shoyu-based sauce, it’s Fergalicious!

Agedashi Tofu
Agedashi Tofu

Other personal favorites include the Rock Shrimp,

Rock Shrimp
Rock Shrimp

the Clam Miso Soup,

Clam Miso Soup
Clam Miso Soup

and the Fried Chicken with Sweet & Spicy Sauce.

Fried Chicken with Sweet & Spicy Sauce
Fried Chicken with Sweet & Spicy Sauce

If you’re bringing a hot date here, some fun things to try are one of the many variations of Vodka Soda,

Grape Calpico Vodka Soda
Grape Calpico Vodka Soda

the Honey Toast of course, or the Garlic Marlin Seared on Hot Plate.

Garlic Marlin Seared on Hot Plate
Garlic Marlin Seared on Hot Plate

This is a truly interactive dish and can prove to be the ice breaker you need to save this “hot” date of yours. The seasoned garlic marlin comes raw and is cooked by you on a provided hot plate.

(! – World-Wide-Ed Tip: Next time you stop by, be sure to sign up for their Dream Diner E-Frequent Member Card! It’s free and will collect valuable points (special hours will earn you double points) every time you dine there, good for special savings and a 1 in 20 chance to win a lottery prize giveaway. Best of all, you automatically earn a one time $25 birthday reward, which you can redeem during your birthday month.)

Future plans are to open up more restaurants in the L.A. area by the end of the year, and continue to service their loyal customers here in Hawaii.

“We can’t thank the community enough for all their love and support. Without the community support, we would not exist. But I cannot forget to mention our staff that truly loves serving our guests that they developed a bond beyond business. Some of our regular guests are like family to us. And we welcome anyone to join our family here at Shokudo Japanese Restaurant and Bar.” says Jordan.

As soon as I publish this article, I’m sending the URL to pops. It won’t be long until he joins me back in the Nu Skool…

The Shokudo Management Staff (L to R): Sam Eligio (Operation Manager), Takaaki Fujii (General Manager), Justin Mizufuka (MIT/Manager in Training), Kellyn Higa (MIT/Manager in Training, Geraldine Jordan (Restaurant Manager), Yuji Shimojo (Kitchen Manager), Eiji Kato (Kitchen Manager in Training), Takahide Kukidome (HR and Kitchen Manager in Training).
The Shokudo Management Staff (L to R): Sam Eligio (Operation Manager), Takaaki Fujii (General Manager), Justin Mizufuka (MIT/Manager in Training), Kellyn Higa (MIT/Manager in Training, Geraldine Jordan (Restaurant Manager), Yuji Shimojo (Kitchen Manager), Eiji Kato (Kitchen Manager in Training), Takahide Kukidome (HR and Kitchen Manager in Training).

Shokudo Japanese Restaurant & Bar
Ala Moana Pacific Center, Ground Floor
1585 Kapiolani Boulevard
Honolulu, Hawaii 96814 (map)
(808) 941-3701
Sunday-Thursday: 11:30am to 1am
Friday-Saturday: 11:30am to 2am
E-mail: InfoSHOKUDO@hawaii.rr.com