Japan Eats

It has been a frantic scramble to get to Christmas this year and I’m glad it’s finally here! Time to wind down, relax and spend time with family and friends. Also means time to finally write up my Japan Eats post from my trip in September!

Japan was my first real visit to Asia (besides a 13 hour lay over in Singapore a few years back). For me, it was an absolute culture shock but I loved every bit of it. The crowds, the lights, the sounds. The big cities were just a complete buzz. Then of course there were the traditional elements that keep Japan true to their ancestry – the temples, the gardens, the years of practiced respect that has been carried on from generation to generation.

During my trip I visited four cities – Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima. All of these places had their own unique style both aesthetically and culturally. This included an array of different foods to try – both weird and wonderful.

Unfortunately as most places had their signage in Japanese, I was unable to capture names of most places I ate at. However, I will try my best to give a ballpark location (but rest assured, pretty much every place you go in Japan you will have a great feed). Instead of categorising by restaurant, I will categorise by food type.

Ramen

I feel like even if you visited Japan and hated noodles, you would leave loving them because ramen in Japan is as as far as the eye can see. The set up of a ramen is pretty standard but depending on what area you go and what place you choose, the toppings will vary. I’m definitely a pork fan, softish noodles, loads of toppings and that soft yolked egg. However the best part of a ramen and ultimately the deal breaker of the dish is the broth. Also known colloquially (by me) as “the elixir of life”. A good broth is a chef’s staple so I can appreciate when one is made well and is a flavour bomb. My preferred broth is a pork bone or salt based broth but you can also have miso or soy as well.

Gyoza (dumplings)

I must admit I ordered a plate of gyoza with almost every meal I had in Japan. No regrets. Crispy outside and soft flavoursome filling on the inside, how could you resist. They are cheap as too with most places serving a plate of 6-8 for less than $6. What I did want to call out was a gyoza place in Kyoto which i LOVED. There was a queue out the door of this place every night, they had awesome music playing and really chilled out staff. Felt a bit like a backpackers bar but with dumplings. They also had Asahi beer on tap. Win! The name of this place is “Gyoza Chaochao”. The signage is majority Japanese but I believe they had a romanised Japanese sign as well.

Okonomiyaki (omelette pancake)

Okonomiyaki is a layered pancake style dish filled with meat, cabbage, sprouts and an assortment of other bits and pieces of delish and served like an omelette. You can find them all around Japan but they are most prominent in Hiroshima. Just a heads up, they are quite big so would share one between two if you can. They are made fresh to order and it’s quite fascinating to watch them being made because you realise just how much cabbage shrinks when you cook it!

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Takoyaki (octopus filled balls)

Takoyaki is a dough ball filled with octopus that is cooked in a purpose built pan and is absolutely everywhere in Osaka! For those heading to Osaka and wanting a foodie slice of heaven, head to Dotonburi Arcade which is the main strip of quirky street food, music and where you will find pretty much all the tourists. Pretty much anywhere along this strip is a safe bet so make sure you’re hungry when you visit so you can try as many things as possible.

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Tonkatsu

Tonkatsu is the Japanese equivalent of fried crumbed meat. Most times when you come across tonkatsu, it’s pork meat. It is usually served with rice. It’s a good safe meal if you’re getting sick of noodles and want something filling for lunch or dinner. I took a leap of faith with the place I visited by heading up some stairs to a restaurant with a closed door where you couldn’t see in. It ended up being delicious, cheap and the staff were very friendly.

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Tempura

It’s 2018 and let’s just say you can pretty much tempura anything. My favourite tempura dish was the eggplant with miso sauce. Absolutely delicious. There isn’t really much else to say about tempura, it’s relatively easy to make, it tastes good and it’s a real satisfying comfort food.

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Dessert

What would a foodie adventure be without dessert? Pretty much my two main sources of sugar in Japan were matcha ice creams and cream filled crepes. What’s not to love! Most places will sell matcha ice cream and a fair few also sell the matcha swirled with vanilla (if you’d rather a subtle matcha hit, i’d suggest this option). For the crepes, they have about 50 options which are all variations of a few staple ingredients – cream, chocolate, bananas, strawberries and other summery fruit. Take a sweet trip down Takeshita Dori when you’re in Tokyo.

Other food items to mention

As I said earlier in the piece, Japan was filled with weird and wonderful food options. I’m sure you’ve noticed that sushi is missing from the above list. That’s not to say it’s not worth eating in Japan but I didn’t eat a lot of it unfortunately so can’t provide any recommendations. Instead, I opted for sashimi and ordered from a menu instead of taking from the sushi train.

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And that just about sums up my foodie experience in Japan. That’s not to say that there isn’t more to try, there most certainly is. I hope this inspires you to start planning your trip to Japan because it is 100% worth it in every way, shape or form.

 

New York City Eats

I have just returned from a two week holiday in New York City and I am already feeling the nostalgia. It was my first time visiting the United States and was definitely a change from my norm back in Australia. It really is the city that never sleeps. I spent 12+ hours of my day roaming the streets checking out the sights, catching up with friends and most importantly eating all the wonderful food that the city has to offer. What I bring to you today is a snapshot of the tasty delights that I consumed whilst in the Big Apple. It is by far not an exclusive list of places that are worth visiting but are the highlights of my short stint.

 

Bagels – Absolute Bagels (2788 Broadway, Upper West Side) $

Bagel

 

Oooo la la first New York bagels. I went with simple cream cheese on a plain bagel just for starters. The shop was everything I expected from a bagel place. It was a little local bakery filled with customers and pretty much raining bagels. As the mornings were quite cold while I was there, bagels served as a perfect warm start to my jam-packed days of sightseeing.

 

Pizza – Famous Famiglia Pizzeria (Corner W 96th Street and Amsterdam Avenue)* $

New York Slice

I was never really into “just cheese” pizza. It always seemed so uninviting and pedestrian. Well my thoughts have changed about cheese pizza forever since my first taste of a New York Slice. Homemade, rich and flavoursome tomato sauce base, a generous amount of cheese melted to perfection on a crispy thin base. Oh and bonus, they’re basically giving them away with slices ranging from $1 – $4. There were a few of these stores around the city but this was my local.

 

Bacon and Egg Roll – BEC  (148 8th Ave) $

Bacon and Egg Roll

Okay not going to lie, main reason I went to this place is because of the name. Alas, the food was actually
really good! If you want to switch it up from bagels for breakfast then have a wonder down 8th Avenue and get yourself a classic bacon egg and cheese on fresh ciabatta. I am a big fan of runny yolk and this place cooked the egg to perfection.

 

Deli – Katz Delicatessen (205 E Houston St) $$$

World famous deli both for their pastrami and also Pastrami Sandwichtheir movie features (When Harry Met Sally anyone?). I walked in here and was immediately intrigued by every little thing in the place. From all the photos along the wall of past visitors (both famous and non) as well as the enormous counter and diverse selection of food available to diners. I had pastrami on rye with a generous side of pickles. It was a battle to eat but worth it in the end and reaffirmed why people flock from all over the world to visit. Due to its popularity and fame, it is quite pricey for what it is. Best is just to not think about it and just eat there anyway.

Italian – Amici II (165 Mulberry St, Little Italy) $$

Lobster RavioliIs it even a trip to New York without a visit to Little Italy? I had a wander through Mulberry Street not really knowing what I was looking for but then stumbled across this quaint looking restaurant, dimly lit but filled with life (and a very enthusiastic waiter). I was spoiled with choice. The menu was filled with traditional Italian dishes with all the pasta made fresh in-house. I ended up going with the lobster ravioli with absolutely no regrets. It was so rich in flavour and the “flamingo” sauce complemented the fresh pasta perfectly. I paired this with a cocktail and devoured the free bread with homemade garlic and herb oil. Molto bene!

Fries – Food Stand at Yankee Stadium $$ 

Have you even been to America unless you have had a Cheese Frieshot dog, cheese fries and a soda? Well I had all three…in one day. Only managed to grab a photo of the cheese fries because they were the most glamorous looking of the trio. I didn’t even want to think about what the “cheese” sauce was made from or if it even was cheese but I ate it anyway happily because there is just something so satisfying in devouring junk food. I only do it sparingly so that when I do, I get the ultimate satisfaction and no guilt.

Brunch – Le Garage (157 Suydam St, Brooklyn) $$

Poached Eggs and ChorizoI spent my second week in the borough of Brooklyn and was lucky enough to have a wonderful friend show me around her local neighbourhood. But first, brunch. This place reminded me a lot of home. Quirky cafes, poached eggs, you name it. I dove straight into my chorizo and eggs whilst sipping on house made mimosas. What a time to be alive. This place is a bit out of the way from where most tourists reside but it is worth a look at if you want to feel a bit more local during your stay.

 

Burgers – Shake Shack (1 Old Fulton Street, DUMBO, Brooklyn)* $

My oh my, people rave on about this place for a reason. Shake ShackThe burgers are so fresh and flavoursome, it almost makes you feel like you’re not eating fast food. We went with the original Shackburger accompanied by cheese fries and a soda each. Enough said, you need to try this whilst in New York City (especially since this is the city where it originated). Get on it.

 

Poke – Sons of Thunder (204 E 38th St) $

Poke bowlI really wanted to try poke whilst in the United States even though this is a Western American dish technically. As per reviews on Buzzfeed and Instagram, I landed at this place on the East Side that was thriving. I happened to be around at lunch hour and the place had a huge line (always reassuring). I went with a half salmon + tuna over white rice + avocado ($1.5 extra). Overall I was satisfied with the dish. I had confidence that the ingredients were all fresh due to the turnover of trade. It is a generous portion and would probably get mixed greens instead of rice next time.

Mexican Fiesta – Tacombi (255 Bleecker St) $$

My first proper meal in New York City was at Tacombi, a Mexican place located in Greenwich Village. We had chipotle corn, guacamole and homemade corn chips and tacos (of course). I had a pork taco and a crispy fish taco (yum). The meal was filling, flavoursome and located in a really cool garage vibe place to give a street food feel. This food was accompanied with cocktails including a pina colada for me. All in all, night and money well spent.

Southern BBQ – Virgil’s Real BBQ (152 W 44th St – Times Square) $$

My friend and I were in desperate need for mood food on the day we discovered this place and it definitely delivered on what we needed. First up was BBQ wings with a blue cheese sauce (the full size wings and not the teeny ones that disappear in a second). I then followed this up with a pulled pork sandwich, house cut fries and homemade pickles. Let’s just say I was full for the foreseeable future. Even though it was close by to Times Square, it was tucked away a bit away from the action so you could escape the controlled chaos that is Times Square. Tasty, friendly service and moderately priced.

German – Retagast Hall & Biergarten (113 N 3rd Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn) $$

After a long day of sightseeing around the popular neighbourhood of Williamsburg, we decided to park ourselves at the long bench tables at Retagast Hall. My friend expressed how great the sausages were here so was keen to try them out. I had Bratwurst on a pretzel bun (yes that’s a thing) and loaded with homemade sauerkraut. I was spoiled with choice for mustard. I ended up going with the most German option available. As well as this we decided to split one of the giant pretzels! It was warm, fresh and the way every pretzel should be. There were also pickles on the side. Yes!

Greek – Souvlaki GR (116 Stanton St) $$

If you’re having Greece nostalgia like my friend and I were and you are unfortunately not in Greece, then this is the place to go. It is decked out exactly like the Greek Islands with the white and blue colours protruding from all angles. They even had the pink flowers and blue chairs as part of the decor. We started off with Greek fries which consisted of house cut fries covered in herbs and feta. Next up it was souvlaki pita which mimicked a mini “Gyros” but a bit more glamorous. Finally, we finished up the meal with loukoumades drizzled in honey and sprinkled with nuts. Food babies for days.

A few other places I visited that are worth mentioning that I didn’t manage to capture any decent photos from are as follows

  • The Meatball Shop (170 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn) – $. Perfect for lunch or late night feed.
  • Gray’s Papaya (everywhere) – $. Hot dog cravings sorted within seconds.
  • Magnolia Bakery (Grand Central Dining Concourse)* –  $. Cupcakes and fan girl moments.
  • Gallow Green (542 W 27th St) – $$$. Beautiful rooftop with light meals and cocktails.

So that’s it! I was spoiled with choice and have barely even scratched the surface on one of the most incredible cities in the world. Can’t wait to go back.


* Places indicated with a * are found in multiple locations. I have included the address of the location that I visited/frequented most.

Price scale 

$ – giving it away

$$ – a happy medium and well justified

$$$ – I really loved it and forgot about my whole food philosophy for a second