Bento box – Shinkansen (Tokyo and Kyoto stations)

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In case you are planning to travel around Japan using the Shinkansen (the awesome bullet trains) you can bring your meal to have on the train while enjoying the view, especially if the trip is going to take a few hours. And an excellent option for such purpose will be the traditional bento boxes!

We took the Shinkansen twice, first time going from Tokyo to Kyoto and then from Kyoto to Tokyo. This trip takes around 3 hours each way and the trains are well equipped with tables (aeroplane style) so you can have your meal there.

Both Tokyo and Kyoto stations had a great number of stores selling bento boxes, all varying between A$8 and A$18 (U$ 7 to 15). There are plenty of options (including vegetarian and kids-friendly meals), and they are served at room temperature, very convenient as you don’t need to worry about storing them in any special way until it’s time to eat. As our trips were both at lunchtime, we didn’t think twice and grabbed them to have on the train! 🚅

Tokyo station – Tokyo Bento

At Tokyo station, we bought our lunch at Tokyo Bento. The food was very good, tasty, well-sized portions, and lukewarm.

Tokyo Bento store
Tokyo Bento store

Our choices there were:

  • Hubby: On the left: rice, omelette, pork. On the right: beef kebab with rice.
  • Mine: Rice, pork dumplings, Japanese omelette, narutomaki, beef, and sorted pickles.
On the left: rice, omelette, pork. On the right: beef kebab with rice.
On the left: rice, omelette, pork. On the right: beef kebab with rice.
Rice, pork dumplings, Japanese omelette, narutomaki, beef, and sorted pickles.
Rice, pork dumplings, Japanese omelette, narutomaki, beef, and sorted pickles.

Kyoto Station

Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten to take a photo from the store we bought our lunches, and I don’t even remember its name. :/
Sorry, my fault! Anyways, it a very big one selling souvenirs too (in case it helps). There we got:

  • Hubby: Rice, crumbled pork cutlet, and ginger.
  • Mine: Rice with veggies and beef stew. Plus chicken (in pieces and like a meatball), Japanese omelette, rice dessert, and pickles.
Rice, crumbled pork cutlet, and ginger.
Rice, crumbled pork cutlet, and ginger.
Rice with veggies and beed stew. Plus chicken (in pieces and like a meatball), Japanese omelette, rice dessert, and pickles.
Rice with veggies and beef stew. Plus chicken (in pieces and like a meatball), Japanese omelette, rice dessert, and pickles.

So, in summary, if you’re going to use the Shinkansen to travel between cities while visiting Japan, don’t think twice, grab a few bento boxes to have on the go and enjoy the local food like a boss. 👑

Chibo Okonomiyaki | Osaka

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Chibo entrance
Chibo entrance

Okonomiyaki is a must try while in Japan; for the uninitiated: the dish consists of a savoury pancake mixed with cabbage, topped with a large variety of ingredients, and finally cooked on a hot grill. You can find places that allow you to cook it by yourself (like on my visit to Tsurujiro Okonomiyaki) or, you can also find places like Chibo where the food is served already cooked and you just keep it warm using the grill on your table.

Either experience is fine, in my opinion, what really matters is to take into consideration the flavour, and regarding this one, Chibo got the crown!

My order

There are plenty of options in their menu, with a huge variety of okonomiyaki flavours. We decided to go with Dotonbori yaki and Hiroshima yaki meal for two, which consists of:

  • Hiroshima yaki: Pork, cuttlefish, prawn, scallops, and noodles.
  • Dotonbori yaki: Pork, beef tendon stew, cuttlefish, prawn, and cheese.
  • Chibo’s salad.
  • Omelet wrapped pork.
Dotonbori yaki and Hiroshima yaki meal for two.
Dotonbori yaki and Hiroshima yaki meal for two.
Hiroshima yaki - Pork, cuttlefish, prawn, scallops, and noodles.
Hiroshima yaki – Pork, cuttlefish, prawn, scallops, and noodles.
Dotonbori yaki - Pork, beef tendon stew, cuttlefish, prawn, and cheese.
Dotonbori yaki – Pork, beef tendon stew, cuttlefish, prawn, and cheese.
Chibo's salad.
Chibo’s salad.
Omelet wrapped around pork.
Omelet wrapped pork.

As I said before, they bring the okonomiyaki already cooked and you use the grill on your table only to keep it warm, different from other places that allow you to cook by your own, which is very fun actually. Anyways, in case you seat at the counter, it’s possible to see the chefs preparing it in front of you.

In addition, it is a very good sized serving, both of us (hubby and I) ate everything until full, and of course, it was delicious! we liked everything, especially that pork omelette.

The verdict

In case you are an okonomiyaki fan spending some time in Osaka, I would highly recommend you to visit Chibo. The service is good, staff are friendly and food delicious! Also, the combo for two meal is very cost effective comparing to one single serve.

About the English: English menu available and staff can communicate in English.

Bill: 3840 Yen (A$45.00)

Exact location: https://goo.gl/maps/LaLeWT6kmFz

More information: www.chibo.com/en

KyoTofu Fujino Cafe | Nishijin District – Kyoto

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KyotoTofu Fujino Cafe entrance.
KyoTofu Fujino Cafe entrance.

Within walking distance from the Kinkaku-ji temple you can treat yourself with delicious soy-based desserts at KyoTofu Fujino Cafe. There is also a restaurant serving traditional tofu meals and soy milk treats, but I only had time to visit the cafe during this occasion.

The place serves different types of desserts, all soy milk based and a yummy and creamy ice cream. Which sounded like heaven after walking the whole morning in a heat of 38C degrees. Geez, it was scorching ☀️ in Kyoto that day.

My order

For a quick stop and to refresh ourselves before the next attraction, we decided to have:

  • Hubby: Soy milk ice cream, with mochi, azuki beans paste, fried gluten, and soy milk cinnamon stick.
  • Mine: Soy milk cheesecake with black sesame seed crust.
Soy milk ice cream.
Soy milk ice cream.
Soy milk cheesecake.
Soy milk cheesecake.
Soy milk cheesecake.
Soy milk cheesecake.

As every Japanese dessert, they were just sweet enough. In case you have a strong sweet tooth, you may find it needed more sugar, but for my taste it was amazing! I got a little bit of the ice cream, it was very creamy and you could definitely taste the soy milk.

About my choice, the cheesecake, it was extremely delicate and light. I could feel some lemon or citrus flavour, what gave a special kick to it. Although the ice cream had a clear soy milk taste, the cheesecake had nothing like that. Definitely, a must go if you are around the area. 🙂

The verdict

They say their soy milk and all soy based products sold in the store are homemade. I really liked the desserts and would go back in case I return to Kyoto one day. Ah! For all vegans out there, I don’t know about the desserts (they are vegetarian for sure), but for the traditional tofu meals, they can adapt everything to be vegan, you just need to book in advance.

About the English: English menu available and staff can communicate just enough in English.

Bill: 824 yens (A$10) – no drinks.

Exact location: https://goo.gl/maps/EDcM2PjCUaU2

More information: www.kyotofu.co.jp/en/

Anzukko Gyoza Bar | Kyoto

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Anzukko entrance. If I'm not mistaken it's on the 2nd floor.
Entrance to building where Anzukko is. It’s on the 2nd floor, I think. 🙂

According to the Internet, Anzukko Gyoza is well known by their iron pan gyozas. It seems they are one of the last restaurants that cook gyoza this way, instead of using a grill like other places. As a gyoza fan, I had to try it out!

The place is kinda hard to find – on the 2nd floor of a small building, if I remember it correctly – and only by paying attention to the signs hanging out of it you will be able to find the place. Use my photograph above to confirm the location when you get there. 🙂

My order

Once you get seated, you are served a small appetiser (not for free, though). Then you can proceed and place your order.

There are traditional pork and veggies gyozas cooked on an iron pan and some curious flavour we thought it’d be interesting to try. Our choices are described below:

  • Appetiser: Little portion of seasoned tofu.
  • Gyozas: Anzukko Gyoza, cooked on an iron pan, Camembert cheese gyoza, and Yuzu-citrus gyoza.
Tofu as appetizer.
Tofu as an appetiser.
Anzukko Gyoza, cooked on an iron pan.
Anzukko Gyoza, cooked on an iron pan.
Camembert cheese gyoza and Yuzu-citrus gyoza.
Camembert cheese gyoza and Yuzu-citrus gyoza.

I might say, the iron pan gyoza is AMAZING. That cooked crunchy crust is completely different from a grilled gyoza. I could eat hundreds of them, however, this place has some unusual rule where they allow you to buy more than 8 pieces of gyoza per person. As we got the 12-piece plate to share, we couldn’t get more after that. 🙁

Can you believe that? I had that delicious thing in front of me and I COULDN’T order more! Bummer!
So in case you go there with more people, I suggest each person in your group buying their own 8 pieces plate and then you guys can share the other flavours.

The other gyozas available can be ordered as much as you want, but there is no traditional flavour for these ones, though.

The verdict

The place is good, staff is friendly, iron pan gyoza AMAZING. It’s just the “8 pieces per person” rule that doesn’t make any sense in my opinion. We left the place disappointed and still hungry, having to stop somewhere else for a snack.

About the English: English menu available and staff can communicate in English.

Bill: $1520 Yen ($18.00 AUD)

Exact location: https://goo.gl/maps/sgrfmVQuxKs (2nd floor if my memory doesn’t fool me)

More information: http://www.anzukko.com

Ramen Sen no Kaze | Kyoto

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Ramen Sen no Kaze - entrance
Ramen Sen no Kaze – entrance

I could finish this post right now by simply saying: Ramen Sen no Kaze is THE BEST RAMEN EVER in Kyoto, but I’ll be a nice person and give you some extra information. 🙂

While planning my trip to Japan, I did some research on the food subject. You know, must-go restaurants, dishes to try and sweets. I’ve also added some places to my itinerary, so I wouldn’t miss them. But something that I can’t believe is HOW ON EARTH there was nothing about this place? Seriously Internet, are you kidding me?

Anyways, Hubby found them while we were there and we decided to give it a try, and what a nice surprise! They have a deep in flavour broth, perfect noodles and GOD, those chashu slices, dear lord they were the best ones on our trip. I believe after cooking, then grill it so you get a nicely and very tasty caramelized slice of pork. YUM!

My order

We had been there 3 times (could have gone more :P) and tried the dishes below:

  • Mine: Yamato no Miso with gyoza – miso-based broth, with veggies, minced pork and spices, topped with three chashu pork slices.
  • Hubby: Kyo no Shio Ramen with gyoza – pork-based broth, topped with three chashu pork slices.
Yamato no Miso with gyoza - miso-based broth, with veggies, minced pork and spices, topped with three chased pork slices.
Yamato no Miso with gyoza – miso-based broth, with veggies, minced pork and spices, topped with three chashu pork slices.
Kyo no Shio Ramen with gyoza - pork-based broth, topped with three chaser pork slices.
Kyo no Shio Ramen with gyoza – pork-based broth, topped with three chashu pork slices.
Gyozas
Gyoza side

You can have only the ramen bowl (which is cheaper) or with a side of gyoza or rice. We got the gyoza one and it was delicious! Gee, I’m mouthwatering seeing these photos again. Don’t they look perfect?

The verdict

This is a MUST GO place. Do not dare to leave Kyoto without going there, I’ll never forgive you! Ah, a good thing to remember is that this is a very small place so lines can get huge. I would go around 6pm or be prepared to wait. We once arrived there around 7 and waited for at least 40 minutes.

About the English: English menu available and staff can communicate very well in English.

Bill: $2160 Yen ($25 AUD) – no drinks.

Exact location: http://goo.gl/maps/ZCT7FRNHtM32
More information: http://ramensennokazekyoto.com