Japan, Part 2

  18 May 2014

So Day 2 was a Sunday which meant the Tsukiji Fish Markets were closed so instead we chose to visit the famous tonkotsu ramen shop, Muteppou (4-5-1 Ekoda, Nakano). We took the train via the Seibu Shinjuku line and then it’s about an 8 minute walk from the station. Gumshara’s Mori Higashida did an apprenticeship at the Muteppou branch in Kyoto before setting up shop in Sydney and since Noods worships at the temple of Gumshara he made sure to push it up our must eat list in Japan.

We’d arrived a bit after 11am and the place was already full but luckily the infamous queue hadn’t yet started.

Immediately to the left of the entrance is the order machine buuuut there weren’t any pictures. Selecting the chashu tonkotsu ramen was fine but then when we sat down and gave the waiter our ticket he sprouted off a whole lotta questions in Japanese which I wasn’t prepared for and while they tried their hardest to explain, in the end I said omakase which basically means ‘I’ll leave it up to you’ and they smiled and wandered off. Google tells me they were trying to ask what level of hardness for the noodles, the richness of the broth and the amount of spring onions we wanted.

Oh helloooo gorgeous ๐Ÿ˜› The submerged slices of pork are fattylicious and so meltingly tender that I have to use a spoon as they disintegrated when I picked up a piece with my chopsticks. Disintegrated and became one again with the soup!!

Zomg look at that perfect golden egg yolk! The noodles are thick and have a firm bite to them and if you somehow manage to finish your noodles and get Kaedama (extra noodles), the noodles are thin like Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen.

The soup gravy basically hugs each strand of noodle. And I say gravy because that’s how thick it is. Like, 10 times thicker (and richer) than Gumshara if you can imagine that! But it was mind blowingly awesome, ridiculously rich and just so fricken amazing that I barely have enough superlatives for how tasty it was. It’s definitely not an every day meal!

Caught ya!

Kept watching this dude stirring all the pork bones non stop! Apparently Muteppou uses more than 300 kilograms of meaty pork bones for the broth each day which is pretty crazy. The waiters kept checking on us gaijins but we pointed at a sign near us that had Gumshara Sydney on it and said we knew Mori-san and they immediately told the chefs in the kitchen who all smiled and bowed. When we got up to leave the waiters followed us outside and thanked us for coming which I thought was super sweet. I definitely want to check out the first Muteppou store in Osaka!

After lunch we caught the train to Harajuku and this, my friends, is my nightmare. I have claustrophobia issues and had been bracing myself for the inevitable people crush. On the street I was fine- while there were a lot of people walking around they somehow had the ability to brush past and not touch anyone and if anyone did accidentally bump someone they would be incredibly apologetic. Or they would be foreigners who didn’t give a damn. Luckily this ride was the only time it was packed and even then it wasn’t as sardine packed as the trains we saw at rush hour during the week. Also lol Hiro Nakamura flashback! YATTA!

Arrived at Harajuku Station (via the Yamanote Line) and crossed to the narrow, pedestrian only side of Takeshita Street where I fell in love with a cheeseburger skirt and insisted on wearing it immediately much to Noods’ chagrin. There were a couple of people dressed up in cosplay but maybe we were there too early for the fashionable kids to be awake ๐Ÿ˜›

Weekends are the busiest times in Harajuku so be prepared to inch your way along the stream of people until you escape into one of the many wacky shops selling jewellery, bags, or clothing for humans and even dogs!

A couple of hours trawling all the shops made me work up an appetite! There were a couple of crepe stores that I kept eyeing and even though the queues looked long they moved pretty fast. I picked Angels Heart partly because it said it was the oldest crepe shop in Harajuku buuut also because it was pink and I always get suckered in when I look at plastic food displays.

I chose the Strawberry Strawberry Crepe (490yen/$5.15) which had super sweet strawberries, strawberry ice cream and whipped cream all rolled up in a freshly made crepe. Simple, but so damn tasty.

Noods chose the Hot Honey Apple Cream Cheese Crepe (420yen/$4.40) and although it doesn’t look like much it was just like eating an apple pie! There wasn’t much cream cheese which he was fine with but cinnamon + hot apples = warm hugs and happiness.

Another insanely popular shop was Calbee which fries up potato chips and comes complete with toppings of cheese, sour cream, flavoured salts or chocolate sauce. There’s a wall of pre packaged snacks like ROYCE chocolate covered chips but the queue that snakes around the shop and out the door is all for the hot stuff. We waited maybe 15mins? Any longer and Noods would’ve walked out lol

Mmm fry me up baby! Once you’ve ordered and paid, take your tray around the corner and walk up the stairs where there’s tables to stand and eat and get a birds eye view of the street.

I’ve always been a dip a fry into ice cream kinda gal so I knew I had to get the ruffle cut (choice between ruffle and thin cut) ROYCE chocolate covered potato chips with ice cream (410yen/$4.30) which was pretty delish. Salty sweet combos are always a winner with me!

We also ordered the Maple Syrup and Cream Cheese thinly cut potato chips (310yen/$3.20) because I heart all things maple syrup. The cream cheese was a little weird, I think I would have preferred to have ice cream instead.

Aaand then I randomly pointed at the Poteriko (a deep-fried version of Calbeeโ€™s popular Jagariko potato stick snacks), which were basically just deep fried potato sticks with I think a salad seasoning? Not sure what salad seasoning is supposed to taste like but luckily it didn’t taste like real salad…

We round the corner and I spy a soft serve ice cream which automatically acts as a homing beacon that I can’t help but follow.

I’m not used to the intensity of the matcha flavour here compared to the mildness in Aus so ordered half green tea and vanilla soft serve in a chocolate waffle cone which was creamy and perfect. Even though it was fricken freezing I will eat ice cream in any weather. Oh also side note: the Japanese call soft serve ice cream soft cream.

We spotted this tiny Yakult delivery cart on the street! Wish I could get Yakult home delivered!

Wandered back up to Shinjuku and somehow got lured into Komatsuan on the 13th floor food court of Takashimaya. The only table available was sitting on the traditional tatami mat which we accepted because originally we had thought we were only going to share a quick bite to eat.

But the prices were decent so we ended up getting a meal each heh. My set (2900yen/$30.50) came with buckwheat soba, grilled beef with miso and a side dish of greens. It was crazy warm inside the restaurant so dipping the soba into the cool broth was pretty refreshing and the beef was melt in the mouth tender.

Noods’ set (3050yen/$32.10) was more substantial with the same soba and dipping sauce and a giant salad but also a bento box filled with sushi rice and slices of beef. Loved the complimentary green tea but also couldn’t help ordering a round of Yebisu beer because, thirsty.

One thing that made us feel absolutely ridiculous was that we couldn’t figure out how to open some doors, you’d assume that a door would be either the push/pull type or the automatic sliding door yeah? So some places have a door with this silver strip that you have to push before the door slides open!

Somehow a whole bunch of Sydney food bloggers happened to be in Tokyo at the same time with no planning whatsoever so with some last minute googling on where would be a good place for a large group we settled on the Lockup (Shibuya Grand Tokyo Bldg, B2F, 33-1 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya) a jail themed restaurant. It is dark. Like, my night vision is pretty awesome but I kept bumping into walls and tripping so be prepared when you suddenly find yourself face to face with creepy skeletons or people being electrocuted lol the leader of your group (hoho hai Richard!) is first handcuffed and then led to your cell.

There’s an all you can drink package but because we were a bit late to our booked session we wouldn’t have made full use of this because they do take a while to make your drinks. The alcohol content in the cocktails are pretty poor but hey! Creepy looking drinks ftw! The food and drinks veer into more of a crazy scientist theme but well, you don’t go there for the food ๐Ÿ˜›

Mmm giant beaker of beeeeer! Each session there’s ‘entertainment’ where the restaurant goes completely dark and monsters run around to terrorise each cell so be careful if you’re near a window or door because some monsters are sneaky and will scare the beejesus outta you!

So the Charcoal Chicken looked super burnt but the colour came from the squid ink and tasted pretty good for karaage!

I was perhaps a little too excited at the 1kg of fries with flavoured salts but cmon there was a cola flavour! And corn potage! And bacon! And curry! And chocolate! Suckers for novelty we are!

We’d ordered other foods at the Lockup but they were meh so after saying goodbye to everyone Jacq and I set off to find Uobei (2-29-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya), a super fast sushi train that shoots out your plate of sushi to where you are sitting! Love that it’s diy green tea too, each seat had a hot water tap and a container of matcha powder mmm free anti oxidants.

Select what you want on the touch screen and await your order

WHOOOOOSH!!! When your order arrives take your food and hit the yellow flashing button to return your train. I may have had a blond moment and hit the button before taking my food lol but not to worry it’ll come back!

Oh how I love sushi in Japan, there’s always the perfect rice to fish ratio!

And yes the toilets in Japan are all kinds of fascinating, what with all their buttons and gadgets that does just about everything under the sun. All toilets have the usual bidet option to wash your butt but hey shy about sounds? There’s a button that plays music or even mimics the sound of a flush! Cold? There’s a seat warmer button! And sensors that will automatically flush! And every single bathroom we went to was freakishly clean even the ones in the subway! Which made visiting Malaysian bathrooms later on in the trip so disgusting

Taxis are exxy, people usually only take them after 1am when the trains stop but if you do catch one just fyi the doors open out automatically so be careful lol

The famed Shibuya Crossing! The line at Starbucks was too long and I’m not a fan of their ‘coffee’ so we crossed the street into the Shibuya Mark City building and up to the 2nd floor which overlooks the crossing.

So many humans! Later we partook in the crossing but oddly I didn’t find it overwhelming to cross as like I said previously, the Japanese have the ability to slide right past without touching you.

And last pic from diff window! See you next week for part 3 on Tsukiji Markets ๐Ÿ˜€

Click here for Japan Part 1
Click here for Japan Part 3
Click here for Japan Part 4

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