Rothay Manor Blog
Culinary Adventures in Japan – Part One – Exploring Tokyo
By Dan McGeorge
I arrived in Tokyo early on Tuesday 21st February and, although tired, I was keen to start exploring this amazing city. I caught the monorail and underground to Shibuya, which is not only the suburb where I will be staying for the next 3 nights, but it’s also the centre of Japanese popular culture, and a great place to immerse myself in the local food scene. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in! I was spoilt for choice as I traversed the busy streets, and it wasn’t long until I found myself in a local eatery, tasting the most authentic and delicious Japanese Ramen (Garlic Tonkotsu).
As any chef would do, after filling my belly, I headed straight into a nearby supermarket. Supermarkets are a great way to really see a culture, and I love to get acquainted to all of the different produce available. I was like a kid in a sweet shop and only wished that I was in self-catered accommodation so I could have shopped and cooked with the incredible ingredients!
I continued my strolls through the neighbourhood, trying not to get too distracted by every shop and food stall, keeping a mind to where my evening adventures may take me…I spied a great looking restaurant called Morimoto and knew that would be where I would find myself that evening.
Morimoto is a Yakitori (skewered chicken) restaurant – I ate SO much chicken, all of which was juicy and flavoursome! It was the first time I have ever eaten rare chicken (and by rare I mean under-cooked not scarce!) it was cooked with Wasabi and onion and was wonderful (but don’t worry, raw-chicken won’t be featuring on the Rothay Manor menu).
The people in Japan are so friendly. I was very apprehensive before my journey that I would feel out of place and out of my depth, but everyone is so welcoming. It’s easy to chat to locals in the bars and restaurants and I have been able to get some good insider tips of where to visit next on my adventures!
It was an early start this morning with a 4am alarm call as I was eager to visit Toyosu market. It’s on an area of reclaimed land in Tokyo’s Koto ward, which was an hour by train from Shibuya. The market is huge – there are so many stalls and shops, and viewing platforms where you can observe the live auctions. First thing first though…I needed breakfast: with so much choice I feasted on sushi, miso soup with clams and plenty of matcha tea.
I mooched around the public market, which was a hive of activity. There were so many interesting products from kombu to fresh wasabi. I then headed to the viewing platforms to get a taste of the action, I just wish I could have got closer but the auction floor is closed to the public.
I then caught the bus to Tsukiji outer market. Tsukiji is the largest fish market in the world, and was an eye-opening experience. There were stalls selling any fish you can think of, from the biggest mussels I have ever seen, to lovely fresh tuna. Then I ate my way through the street food vendors eating Unagi (freshwater eel), Menchi Katsu (basically a burger coated in panko crumbs), Tamagoyaki (omelette), Sashimi salmon, and some of those giant mussels that I spied earlier! For such a small area there was so much to see and do, I think I could have spent a whole fortnight there!
In the afternoon I made my way to kappabashi, otherwise known as Kitchen Town. This is a street where the restaurant trade comes to shop, and features everything from knives to ovens! It would have been rude if I didn’t treat myself to a couple of knives while I was there!!
A 4am alarm call and jetlag seems to have taken its toll today, so an early night calls, ready for more exploring tomorrow!
I thought I should see a bit of the history and heritage of Japan, so today I traveled to Asakusa and visited Sensoji temple. This is an ancient Buddhist temple, and the oldest and most significant in Tokyo. The temple itself is surrounded by food stalls and trinket shops, and other small temples and Koi ponds. It was buzzing with people (tourists and locals alike) making offerings, lighting incense and saying silent prayers.
The street food was unreal! I had Menchi-katsu again (this time stuffed with cheese…oh yeah!!), crab claw croquettes, Daifuku (a type of Japanese confectionary) with strawberry, and a sugared strawberry (kind of like a toffee apple).
I headed back to Shibuya and visited a small canteen-style restaurant for lunch where I dined on Kake (a Udon noodle dish with dashi broth) followed by Tempura shrimp and chicken. I spent some time in the Togoshi Ginza district, which is one of the leading shopping areas, and a street food paradise. It was full of local people, going about their day-to-day business and had a really authentic feel.
In the evening I had my heart set on visiting a nearby restaurant which specialises in tuna and I ate almost everything related to tuna including the cheek, heart, brain, Kamatoro (gill flesh), and tail meat. The nose to tail eating ethos in Japan is truly admirable, not just from a sustainable point-of-view, but also the health benefits, and may be a reason why the Japanese have a low obesity rate as well as long life expectancy!
Tomorrow I’m heading to Osaka and starting my “work experience” in the michelin-starred Rakushin. I can’t wait to get back into the kitchen and meet the chefs at this renowned restaurant.