Foodie Paradise- all the eats in Japan
I think it’s safe to say that food is not only a highlight of almost all of my trips, but really a highlight of my life in general. I LOVE FOOD. I get a lot of pleasure from finding new places and then recommending them to friends- or even going with them.
Keeping kosher sometimes makes it difficult to find things to eat in other countries. Luckily, Japan is becoming a lot more vegan and vegetarian friendly and we really didn’t have any issues finding vegan/vegetarian Japanese food (besides sushi) places to eat.
But of course, taste is not the only contributor to a good food experience- service and atmosphere play a large factor as well. Japan seems to be lightyears ahead in many things, but the food there is truly on a different level.
Below I highlight some of my favorite experiences- try not to drool too much.
1. Afuri Harajuku- the first bowl of ramen I had in Japan on our first night. Also the prettiest bowl of ramen I have had yet- really colorful and delicious. I had the vegan ramen- which they don’t have at all Afuri locations. In Japan, at some restaurants, you can order your ramen from a “vending machine”. You walk in and usually to the corner there is a something similar to a vending machine where you can choose your ramen- you pay and get a ticket- then when a spot opens up at the bar you can sit and give your ticket for them to start making your ramen. Afuri was pretty packed- maybe because it is a small chain and they are known to have a vegan ramen option. I found that most places that had a vegan or vegetarian ramen option had foreigners.
2. Soranoiro- Technically this is a soba joint- but this place was SO GOOD. The broth is made of carrots and cabbage and is the creamiest best ramen/soba I have ever had. This place was in a small quiet neighborhood- but worth the trek. They also speak decent English there and can help with the menu/ vending machine.
3. T’s Tan Tan- we went to this place TWICE- and with all the restaurants and places in Tokyo to eat- that is a saying a lot. T’s Tan Tan is a fully vegan – and has many different ramens/curries and other snacks/appetizers to try. It is located in Tokyo Station and FYI it was really hard to find the first time. Tokyo Station is HUGE- and with the hundreds (maybe even thousands of restaurants) this cute vegan joint had us going in circles. Although, what was most surprising was how busy they were- we were lucky and every time we left the restaurant we saw a huge line form outside- with many Japanese locals. Guess you can’t argue with quality and taste. We ordered (between both times): the white sesame and the black sesame ramen, the spicy midori Ttntan ramen, fried veggie dumplings, curry with brown rice, and the soy meat (which was so goooood). The bowls are HUGE- you can order from a set menu that gives you two other sides and still get out paying around $15.
4. Ippudo (Nishiki Market, Kyoto)- Ippudo is actually a ramen chain- which I had first tried in New York (and you can read about here). As we walked out of the Nishiki market in Kyoto- we found Ippudo (without too much of a line). The Ippudo in Kyoto is different- I think I liked the ramen here even more than the one in New York- but unfortunately they didnt have those delicious eggplant buns.
Sushi is probably the most obvious part of Japan. We had some great sushi- we pretty much alternated between sushi and ramen between all meals. Although all the sushi was really great- even the cheap stuff was better quality than a lot of places in LA- there was one place that really stood out. So much so, that on the last day of our Kyoto trip- we decided to go back to Tokyo to try and get some more of that amazing sushi.
1. Shou Tsukijii- two doors from Sushi Dai- the most famous sushi shop in Tokyo that has a 2-3 hour line out the door every day- is a cute little shop with the best sushi I have ever had in my life. It’s hard to go back to other sushi after that. The chef was so nice- spoke English- recommended some really great things and made sushi that LITERALLY melted in my mouth. Can’t really say anything more than that- it was hard to describe. I did not know there was tuna out there that tasted like that. This will be my first stop the next time I go to Tokyo. We took a 3 hour train from Kyoto to Tokyo just to try to get another bite of this (we failed- we came as they were closing). One thing to note is that a lot of these sushi shops close at around 1 pm as they are usually open from 6am and on. Sushi is considered breakfast in Japan. Safe to say this was the first time I ever had raw fish and beer at 9 am.
Tokyo has some great cafe and sweets- but their dessserts tend to not be as sweet- which was actually a nice change of pace from the super sugary desserts you find in America. I loved all the matcha cafes that had some really tasty treats.
1. Mochi from Tsukiji Market- mochi can be found all over Japan- but some of my favorite mochi was from the markets. The mochi in Japan is not the ice cream kind that they give at the end of a sushi meal- but a chewy delicious treat that has some sort of cream or flavor inside. Japan also has some great fruit- although expensive.
2. Desserts from Tokyo Station- Tokyo Station- and really, almost all the stations, have an overflow of dessert shops and cafes. The desserts have some of the cutest designs! In Tokyo station there is a little shop called Tokyo Banana- these are adorably packages souvenir sweets. It is a banana- shaped sponge cake that has different cream fillings. Usually there is a line that forms out of the stand- but it is well worth the wait.
3. Matcha- Last but not least- I couldn’t forget about all the matcha goodness going on. Matcha in everywhere in Japan! They have many matcha cafes (like below from Nana’s Green Tea cafe in Kyoto). Many of the big attractions usually have some sort of cafe or outside area where you can order matcha (for a nice chunk of change)- but YOLO. Most of these tea sets came with a small dessert (usually some form of mochi).