I could write post after post after post about all the food we ate in Tokyo. Honestly, it was one of the three major pillars of our trip: Food, fountain pens, and fun. Instead, I just want to talk about the best, and maybe a little about the worst.
Gyukatsu Motomura, hands down, the best meat you’ll ever eat for 20 bucks. Gyukatsu means beef deep-fried in panko, or beef schnitzel. Motomura allows you to grill the meat however long you want on a small stone grill.
I already knew the meat was good, the reviews said to order two pieces of meat instead of one. The meat is wagyu although not A5. It’ll still melt in your mouth, filled with flavour. I don’t often dance in my chair from good food, but this piece of meat definitely did.
The whole set menu was great though. The cabbage was crisp (really good with the dressing), the potato salad moist, and the rice tasty. The miso soup was salty, the free barely tea also went well with the Japanese flavours. I’m glad I only ordered one piece because I could finish most of the set too.
Just lightly sear the meat on both sides and try it with the variety of sauces or just salt to see what you prefer. We both liked it with a little soy sauce, but plain is also very good.
The next time we’ll be more prepared and come hungry. If you go to Japan, seek out a Gyukatasu Motomura. They’re all over the place, more than twenty just in Tokyo.
Honourable mention: The plain salt chicken skewer from Torikizoku. We went to Torikizoku because we weren’t hungry. Ordering skewers until we had enough seemed like a great idea. And it was. It’s an izakaya restaurant, a place where you drink alcohol and eat. It’s always located on one of the upper floors, so if you’re looking for one, look up. And once you recognize their logo, you’ll see it’s everywhere.
It’s also a place where smoking is allowed. We came early (right when it opened) and no smokers were there. Which is good because it makes me feel sick. We were just leaving when the first smokers arrived.
We ordered a bunch of skewers using the tablet they provided. The English menu was easy to understand, luckily. Most of the skewers were chicken (the tori in Torikizoku means bird), but the best one was the plain salted chicken skewer. Not the chicken meatballs with cheese (also very good), or the teriyaki chicken (yum). The regular chicken. As soon as we finished that one, we ordered another set.
Bake Cheese Tart
I hear about this cheese tart on Youtube, either mentioned by TabiEats or Only in Japan. When I saw the shop at the Ikebukuro station, I knew I had to get them. They have a plain one and a seasonal one. I bought one of each. The seasonal was the blueberry at the time, a special mandarin flavour would be available the day after. Blueberry is one of my favourites, so I was glad to have that one instead of the new seasonal flavour.
One bite was enough to convince me this was the best thing I’d eat the whole trip. Yes, even better than Gyukatsu Motomura.
When we went to New York, I had to try Junior’s cheesecake, the original. Junior’s is the birthplace of the New York cheesecake. We bought two pieces of cake there and we ate it in between meals over three days and still couldn’t finish it. It was too much (also American sizes don’t help) and it was way too heavy.
This little cheese tart was the complete opposite. The tart itself was sweet and crispy. Not too crumbly so you’d lose half of the crust after taking one bite. The cheese itself was still a bit sour, to contrast the sweetness of the crust, and soft, smooth. It had the perfect balance of everything. The thin layer of blueberries (not too much because it’s a small pastry) was just enough to give it another flavour.
The plain one was for my husband, but he shared a bit with me. Yes, I danced in my seat as I tasted it. It’s soooo good, I’m not kidding. The sourness of the cheese is more apparent in the plain one, so if you don’t like your food too sweet, go for this one. It’s perfect. And I understand why the couple in front of me bought two six-piece sets to give away to friends or family and one set for themselves. We had two, which was more than enough after a very lovely dinner, but I could’ve eaten six.
That’s why went to a real store in Odaiba. We stumbled upon it, really. We wanted to get some food in the mall there and I saw the sign outside, with a large cow. It draws attention, then I realized it was the same company. Since we didn’t feel like a full dinner, we just had dessert there.
My husband picked the creme brulee cheesecake and I picked the strawberry tiramisu. We both tried for the other’s dessert, and I honestly couldn’t say which one was better. The cheesecake was covered in the familiar caramel of the creme brulee and the cheesecake itself was just as smooth, fluffy and sour as in the tarts (they sold them there as well, but they were sold out when we got there). The tiramisu was just as good, covered with freeze dried strawberries to give it a little crunch to go with the gooey cheese. No thick coffee flavour here, but the strawberries made a fresh.
These dishes are perfect as they are. If we had this following a meal (like ramen) we wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as we did. You don’t want to your pallet with eating strong flavoured food or drinks before or after you ate this.
Please eat this.
Once we landed at Narita airport and made our way to Tokyo, we had to transfer at Ueno station. There’s a bakery next to the station with the cutest panda bread. We still needed lunch so I went to buy some; panda bread for me, curry bread for my husband. It was a fried bread (or donut, I’m not sure) filled with curry. There was a basket with times, probably the times when the curry pan comes in fresh.
Honourable mention: dorayaki from Lawson.
Every morning we went to the convenience store next to our hotel for breakfast. The breakfast at the hotel costs 1300 yen per person, while we spend around 1000 yen for both our breakfasts at Lawson. And we get to pick something new every day.
But the dorayaki was always part of it. My husband loved them. 89 yen for two dorayaki, two pancakes stuck together with a little butter and maple syrup. That’s less than a dollar. The saltiness of the butter complemented the sweetness of the syrup. And the pancakes were so fluffy you’d hardly believe it’s convenience store food.
We tried the dorayaki from 7/11, which had whipped cream instead of butter and maple syrup, but the one from Lawson was better in my opinion. The saltiness with the sweetness was what made it interesting. It’s not overwhelmingly sweet, and that’s why we kept eating it.
I made the mistake of buying a shrimp katsu sandwich. Lawson only has Japanese on their packaging (no English like 7/11) so it was easy to miss. I studied hiragana before the trip, but reading was still a challenge. I released only too late it was shrimp or ebi. I really, really don’t like shrimp. Every time I ate it I feel slightly nauseous, but not quite. I just feel… off. Like I did after I took a bite. Then I checked the wrapper and recognized the hiragana for shrimp.
It was the only thing I’d consider as below average food and it was my own fault. It’s nothing personal, shrimp katsu sandwich, but I just don’t like you.
My husband’s pick would be Saizeriya. We ate there one of the first days when we were still heavily jetlagged. It was cheap, near our hotel, and I wanted to try it out. Seizeria is a family restaurant, the kind of restaurant you’ll see in high school animes. The teenagers are there to gossip, drink free refills until their full, meet with a tutor, all for cheap. The elderly come there because they have comfort food and you don’t have to leave immediately after you finish your plate (which is general practice in most restaurants since table space is limited).
We both had pasta, me a seasonal dish with extra mushrooms, my husband a carbonara. Nothing special. The mushroom flavour was strong and it was perfect in combination with the bacon. I enjoyed it. It still hasn’t the best pasta I’d ever eaten, but it was worth the 499 yen. My husband didn’t like his plate. It didn’t have much flavour and he barely finished it. Later his stomach agreed the pasta wasn’t that good. I’d eat there again, he won’t.