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. 👑

Travel itinerary | 6 days in Tokyo – Japan

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My itinerary for 6 days in Tokyo.
My itinerary for 6 days in Tokyo.

In August I had the opportunity to go to Asia for the first time in my life and visit a place that I always dreamt about: Japan 🇯🇵.

If you follow my blog you already saw I’ve been posting about my food experience there, so now it’s time for an overview of my 6 days in this amazing city. Get here my Google maps with some of the places I visited there in this itinerary of 6 days in Tokyo.

This post will be huge, but I hope also very helpful for those planning a future trip to Japan. Shall we start? 🙂

Day 1: Taito and Akihabara

Tokyo Skytree
I suggest you to go there early in the morning; lines are huge all day long. In case you want to save some money, keep reading to find a better place to have an amazing view of the city of Tokyo and the best part: totally free!

Tokyo Skytree
Tokyo Skytree

Sensoji Temple
Including Asakusa Shrine

Sensoji Temple
Sensoji Temple

Nakamise Street
Small shops full of Japanese goodies and souvenirs.

Nakamise Street
Nakamise Street

Akihabara
If you like video games, anime, and mangas this is the place to be. Take half day (or more in case you have time) and explore the area and all its shops. Video games fans must visit a place called Super Potato store, there are so many old games, your inner teenager will go crazy!

Akihabara
Akihabara
Akihabara - Super Potato
Akihabara – Super Potato

Where to eat

Tsurujiro Okonomiyaki
Around the Sensoji Temple, you will find many restaurants with a vast variety of Japanese cuisine to pick from. This day we decided to have a traditional Japanese Okonomiyaki (savoury pancake, not gluten free), prepared by myself using the restaurant grill and the ingredients provided.

Pork and Spring Onions Okonomiyaki
Pork and Spring Onions Okonomiyaki

Continue reading “Travel itinerary | 6 days in Tokyo – Japan”

Ume no Hana | Ginza – Tokyo

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Ume no hana - entrance
Ume no hana – entrance

Every time I travel I make sure to include one thing in particular in my must-do list: have the traditional food experience of the place I’m visiting. I like to explore new flavours and eating experiences. It’s the time I put my everyday diet aside in order to try new things, which means, obviously they must be REALLY GOOD and REAL FOOD, of course.

I don’t know about you, but I get very disappointed when I eat something that I normally don’t eat as part of my regular diet, like grains for example, and the dish is a disaster, either in terms of flavour or experience. Hopefully that wasn’t the case here. 🙂

Anyways, I’m telling you that because I thought A LOT before deciding to have dinner at Ume no Hana. Once I started doing my travel research, it was clear I should try Japanese ramen (although I don’t do well with gluten) and a tofu restaurant.

Ume no Hana is a very well-recommended Tofu restaurant that brings to you all the most traditional Japanese dining experience possible. They serve a set menu (minimum of two people) that includes a great variety of Japanese dishes, where tofu is usually the main ingredient.

Once you get there, you are taken to a private room where you can enjoy your dining experience without been disturbed by other customers.

Ume no hana - private dinning room
Ume no hana – private dining room

Our order

There are 2 set menus available, a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian one. Hubby and I decided to go with meat, so our decision was for the Kiwami set menu.

  • Yame matcha go-tofu: tofu with yame matcha miso paste.
  • Hawasabi to shirauo no ohitashi: boiled wasabi leaves and ice fish seasoned with soy sauce and fish soup stock.
  • Katuo no tataki: Bonito sashimi. (hubby was very pleased with this one)
  • Hikiage Yuba: Yuba cooked at your table, served with ginger and soy sauce.
  • Chawan-mushi Tomatoan: steamed egg custard containing shrimp, mushrooms, mochi, ginkgo nut, and tomato paste sauce.
  • Kani Shumai: crab shumai.
  • Yaki-minazuki-tofu: cooked red beans tofu with soy sauce and wasabi.
  • Namafu Dengaku: deep-fried wheat gluten coated with miso paste. Yep, I had deep fried gluten, everything just sounds plain wrong here. LOL.
  • Aigamo to Nasu no Hakata-age to Hamo-shinjyo no Daizu-age: deep fried duck loin and eggplant + deep fried pike eel ball with flaked soybeans.
  • Ayu no shio-yaki: grilled sweetfish.
  • Kuroge Wagyu no Yogan-yaki: Japanese beef steak grilled on a hot plate.
  • Kisetsu no Hanmono: seasonal rice.
  • Ko-no-monoi: pickled vegetables.
  • Yuba Suimono: yuba soup.
  • Dessert 1: red bean jelly with green tea
  • Dessert 2: vanilla ice cream with brown sugar
Yame matcha go-tofu (tofu with Yame macha miso paste) and Hawasabi to shirauo no ohitashi (boiled wasabi leaves and Ice fish seasoned with soy sauce and fish soup stock)
Yame matcha go-tofu (tofu with yame matcha miso paste) and hawasabi to shirauo no ohitashi (boiled wasabi leaves and ice fish seasoned with soy sauce and fish soup stock)
Katuo no tataki (Sashimi - Bonito)
Katuo no tataki (Bonito sashimi)
Hikiage Yuba ( Yuba cooked at your table, served with ginger and soy sauce)
Hikiage Yuba ( Yuba cooked at your table, served with ginger and soy sauce)
Chawan-mushi Tomatoan (steamed egg custard containing shrimp, mushrooms, mochi, ginkgo nut and tomato paste sauce)
Chawan-mushi Tomatoan (steamed egg custard containing shrimp, mushrooms, mochi, ginkgo nut, and tomato paste sauce)
Kani Shumai (Crab Shumai)
Kani Shumai (crab shumai)
Yaki-minazuki-tofu (cooked red beans tofu with soy sauce and wasabi)
Yaki-minazuki-tofu (cooked red beans tofu with soy sauce and wasabi)
Namafu Dengaku (deep-fried wheat gluten coated with miso paste) and Aigamo to Nasu no Hakata-age to Hamo-shinjyo no Daizu-age (Deep fried duck loin and eggplant + deep fried Pike eel ball with flaked soybeans)
Namafu Dengaku (deep-fried wheat gluten coated with miso paste) and Aigamo to Nasu no Hakata-age to Hamo-shinjyo no Daizu-age (deep fried duck loin and eggplant + deep fried pike eel ball with flaked soybeans)
Ayu no shio-yaki (Grilled Sweetfish)
Ayu no shio-yaki (grilled sweetfish)
Kuroge Wagyu no Yogan-yaki (Japanese beef steak grilled on a hot plate)
Kuroge Wagyu no Yogan-yaki (Japanese beef steak grilled on a hot plate)
Kisetsu no Hanmono (seasonal rice), Ko-no-mono (Pickled vegetables) and Yuba Suimono (Yuba soup)
Kisetsu no Hanmono (seasonal rice), Ko-no-mono (pickled vegetables) and Yuba Suimono (yuba soup)
Red bean jelly with green tea
Red bean jelly with green tea
Vanilla Ice cream with brown sugar
Vanilla ice cream with brown sugar

Our dining experience was unforgettable. The waitress served us one dish at a time and always trying her best to explain what was it about, despite the limited English.

For me the most remarkable moment was the Hikiage Yuba cooked at our table. Yuba is known as tofu skin, but it actually is the skin that forms after boiling soy milk. As you can see on the third image above, you keep the milk cooking at low heat and a very thin layer will form. This is the Yuba! You pick it with your chopsticks (a bit of skill handling chopsticks helps heaps :)) then place it in a cup with soy sauce and ginger. I don’t know how to put in words, but the flavour and texture are simply amazeballs!

Other two things that really impressed me were the Chawan-mushi Tomatoan (steamed egg custard) and the Kani Shumai (crab shumai). Hubby’s favourites were the Katuo no tataki (Bonito sashimi), Aigamo to Nasu no Hakata-age to Hamo-shinjyo no Daizu-age (deep fried duck loin and eggplant + deep fried pike eel ball with flaked soybeans) and the vanilla ice cream.

The verdict

In case you are a good-eater like us, I might need to say that although it seems a like a long menu, the portions are rather small and you might not feel completely full at the end of the experience. However, all dishes were truly delicious and every bite was worth. It’s that kind of thing you need to appreciate the food quality and not look only for quantity. 😛

About the English: There is an English menu and staff can communicate just a little in English.

Bill: $11,440 Yen (A$ 145) – dinner for two and no drinks.

Exact location: https://goo.gl/maps/H72xX5orAE32 (This restaurant is inside a building. Unfortunately, I don’t remember which floor it was, but it is very easy to spot the right location once you get to the address.)

More information: www.umenohana-restaurant.co.jp

 

Odori Yakitori | Odaiba – Tokyo

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Odori Yakitori entrance
Odori Yakitori entrance

Let’s say you are goofing around Odaiba and looking for a paleo-ish place for a quick lunch, if that’s you, you can give Odori Yakitori a try. As the name says, they serve yakitori – which is basically chicken grilled on a skewer seasoned with salt or soy sauce (not paleo). Yakitori serves as a good low carb meal option as well.

However, if you are not keen to have yakitori (it was my case) you can try other dishes available in the restaurant! There are many options of rice bowls and yummy salads at a good price.

My order

This day I remember I was kinda hungry and needed something more substantial, so we decided to have:

  • Caesar salad: this is not gluten free (not surprising), but if you don’t have any serious intolerance or allergy (like me), you can just take the pieces of bread off of your plate or ask the waiter to not include them in your dish when you place your order.
  • Roast Oyako chicken and egg rice bowl: it includes miso soup and sliced cucumber. My very jealous husband got the same as me.
Odori Yakitori - Caesar Salad
Odori Yakitori – Caesar Salad
Odori Yakitori - Roast Oyako chicken and egg rice bowl with miso soup and cucumber.
Odori Yakitori – Roast Oyako chicken and egg rice bowl with miso soup and cucumber.

About the salad, it was just OK. Now, talking about to the rice bowl, we really liked this dish! I was expecting just rice with plain scrambled eggs, but I believe they added some sort of chicken broth to the rice, which adds a really good extra flavour and an interesting twist.
It’s also a paleo-friendly option in Tokyo. Of course, they don’t advertise themselves as a Paleo restaurant, but if you are not that strict with the idea, go for it!

The verdict

This is a very cost effective restaurant in Odaiba. The portion sizes were enough for the size of our midday hunger, plus the rice bowl was yummy and very tasty.
Also, for those following a paleo-ish diet or just avoiding heavily wheat-backed foods, having a non-ramen option is a godsend.

About the English: There is an English menu available and staff could communicate well.

Total bill (two people): $2,650 Yen (A$ 34) – no drinks.

Exact location: https://goo.gl/maps/yRZ1idQsZD82 (It’s inside the Aqua City Shopping Centre, in their main food court.)

Tsurujiro Okonomiyaki | Asakusa – Tokyo

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In August I had two weeks of holidays and the destination was a country that I always wanted to visit: Japan.
During this time there, I managed to visit Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka and I’ll try to show here on the blog a little bit of my experience there, especially in regard to the topic I know more about: food. Yum Yum Yum!

To start, I decided to put here our first lunch in Tokyo: Tsurujiro Okonomiyaki in Asakusa. This restaurant is very close to the Senso-ji temple and had good reviews online, what convinced us to give it a try. Also, I was very excited to try Okonomiyaki and, if possible, to cook it by myself (some restaurants don’t give you this opportunity).

Okonomiyaki is kind of a savory pancake cooked on a grill, very popular in Japan and delicious. Toppings can vary but basically, the ingredients are eggs, cabbage, seafood or pork, green onions and wheat flour (Yeah, unfortunately this is not gluten-free).

My order

As the entrée, I ordered a portion of Kimchi. I simply love it! It was delicious, the only disappointing thing was the portion size. Very, very small.

Entree: Kimchi
Entree: Kimchi

After that, we ordered the mains. There was a good variety of Okonomiyaki flavours, including a two-flavour option, which was my husband choice: Pork and Pollack Roe Mochi Cheese. This one comes fully prepared out of the kitchen, so you just need to keep the pancake warm.

Two-flavours Okonomiyaki: Pork and Pollack Roe Mochi Cheese
Two-flavours Okonomiyaki: Pork and Pollack Roe Mochi Cheese

My choice was a simple Pork and Spring Onions Okonomiyaki. As I wanted to cook it, all the ingredients were brought to our table, together with some instructions.

Pork and Spring Onions Okonomiyaki ingredients
Pork and Spring Onions Okonomiyaki ingredients

The idea is to mix everything from the first bowl (egg, cabbage, cheese and wheat flour dough), next put them on the grill making (pork aside) a pancake shape. Then, once the bottom is golden brown and crunchy flip to the other side. Top the cooked side with the extra egg, spring onions and it’s done.

Pork and Spring Onions Okonomiyaki almost there!
Pork and Spring Onions Okonomiyaki almost there!

As I prefer my egg and pork well done, I decided to put them on the top before flipping the pancake, so they would cook a little bit more.
It’s still funny to remember … the waitress apparently didn’t like my style of cooking and tried to tell me that it was wrong hahaha! 😀
Well, to finish, top with some spring onions and some of the dressings available. I’ve decided to have a little bit of mayo. 🙂

This cooking process takes some time. I can say around 15 minutes for sure.
The final result was delicious and I was very proud of myself. Almost felt like an authentic Japanese cook. 🙂

Pork and Spring Onions Okonomiyaki
Pork and Spring Onions Okonomiyaki

The verdict

Although both plates were good and the experience of cooking it by myself was very cool, I believe the portion sizes were too small for the price, especially comparing to other places we visited during the rest of our trip. However, the location is good, especially if you are visiting the Senso-ji temple, and it does not seem to be a very busy restaurant comparing to others in that area (huuuge lines!).

About English: It is an English-friendly restaurant, including English menu. In case you have any questions on how to cook your Okonomiyakiyaki, the staff had an average level English, but were friendly and helpful.

Total bill (two people): $2,745 Yen (A$ 35) – no drinks.

Exact location: https://goo.gl/maps/xdWytcMLDcD2