Tokyo Food Tour
Last night I went on a walking tour of Tokyo food establishments. Booked via Viator, I knew it would be decent, as they tend to check their tours out well and only offer good quality/value experiences - and I was correct.
Meeting the group at Yurakucho station was easy enough, as the tour guide Ikumi was easyto find. A really nice bunch of people from all over the world ranging from Portland, Maine through to New Zealand, we assembled and headed off to the first location. Walking from a business district straight into an area that resembled something more "shanty" was a lovely juxtaposition, and the colours and smells were amazing.
There are small enclosed sidewalks beneath the train lines, where small bars and restaurants (izikaya) serve something very close to street food, but with limited seating. They were beginning to get a little busy, as it was a Friday evening, and time for the local businesses to end for the week - and the staff to go out drinking.
The first restaurant we visited was an izikaya and served yakitori - a selection of bites ranging from stuffed bell peppers and chicken wings to shiitake mushrooms and quails eggs. Before this, we were presented with a starter that was pickled vegetables and shredded chicken, absolutely delicious.
The main bites, each, served on a skewer, tasted amazing and was accompanied by Shochu (an alcoholic drink made by fermenting sweet potato). To finish here we tried chicken heart - which had the texture of a slightly tougher liver, but an amazingly delicate flavour.Moving on we took a walk through Ginza, past a number of up-market shops and restaurants to a shop selling wagashi - sweet rice things flavoured with fruit. The presentation was astounding, and the place was bustling - obviously something of a desirable place. I shall blog about that separately, as we all kept these to eat later - it seemed odd to have a sweet course second, but that was because this particular shop sells out quickly, and when they are gone, that's it.
A short walk later, we ended up at an okonomiyaki restaurant, which serves a kind of savoury pancake with various fillings. The tables themselves had heated plates in the middle, and after settling on a seafood choice, the ingredients are brought to the table in a bowl. You pour these out onto the hot plate with monjayaki which is like a savoury batter, spread it all out and allow it to cook until slightly crisp underneath. The food was absolutely lovely, as was the company - I sat with two ladies from the US, one of whom had lived in Japan 30 years ago and was very knowledgable about the language and culture, and her friend who had been travelling around the US looking for a nice city to retire too. It's always reassuring when meeting Americans in-person, that the pervasive global image does not apply on a person-by-person basis, as they have always been intelligent, friendly people with a world-view beyond their borders - then again, travel implies such things.
To finish the evening, we had a sweet pancake with a chocolate filling and a green tea ice cream. I must say, this green tea flavour is growing on me hugely. It seems akin to coffee flavour in sweets and ice cream, not overly representative of it's namesake, but still lovely.
I had agreed to meet the two ladies later in the week for a robot cabaret, but unfortunately it was fully booked, which was a shame, I was really enjoying the conversation. However, I shall attempt to book that myself another night, as I have had recommendations that it is hilarious.
Again, another triumph of an evening, and a tour I can very much recommend. Japanese food is delicious and I'm eating a lot of things I tend not to usually. As much as the individual servings tend to be smaller, there are many of them - but as much as you eat (and I'm not suggesting it's a "lot" but easily sufficient) it never seems to sit heavy, which is odd considering the amount of rice and meat!