Every Day is a Sushi Day!
If you live near Torrance, CA or New Jersey, and if you like Japanese food (which, if you don’t, I hate to tell you this might not be the right food blog for you… ), then you MUST go to the Mitsuwa Japanese Gourmet Fair this weekend (next weekend if you’re in New Jersey). (Also, if you live near Costa Mesa, San Jose, San Diego, or Chicago, they all have smaller versions of the fair, so those stores may have some, but not all, of the things I mention here.)
Mitsuwa has these food fairs every year and I always try to make a point to go, because there is always SO much good food to try that they don’t normally carry!
I visited Friday, and let’s just say that my tummy is in a very happy place right now.
First things first, let’s talk about the food that they sell to be eaten there. Because oh my goodness, I think this food fair was my favorite of all the ones we’ve been to.
If you haven’t ever been to a Mitsuwa, then you should know that every one has a large food court with about five or so different Japanese restaurants there, as well as assorted other shops, and a large grocery section. For the food fairs, Mitsuwa takes over one of the restaurants and brings in a restaurant from Japan.
This time, they brought in Kamome Diner, owned by a man named Mr. Chiba, from Kesennuma, Japan. His shop served “Kesennuma Ramen Ushio Aji (Salt)” – a shio (salt broth) ramen – and a salmon bowl with sesame shoyu (soy sauce).
We LOVED the ramen. A lot of time ramen can be pretty heavy, but since this had a chicken-based broth instead of a pork base, this was really light. The chashu was incredibly flavorful. We could have happily eaten another bowl. ($11 with the egg, less if you go without.)
(Pardon the instagram photos – someone forgot to bring his camera.)
I wasn’t expecting much from this, but it was insanely good. The sauce was a little bit sweet, and perfect for the fresh salmon. Seriously, so good we went back for a second bowl (and at only $4, totally worth it!) Even as we were eating it, Son was telling me that we will have to replicate this at home – so hey, maybe you guys will get a recipe sometime soon!
That was it for the food court (although all the other restaurants are still open, so you could totally have takoyaki, okonomiyaki, ramen, or all sorts of other delicious things, at least if you’re at the Torrance store!), but there was plenty of packaged food available to purchase.
We didn’t buy/try everything (some of the stuff is CRAZY expensive, like seafood salads that cost $40/lb!!!), but here’s what we did get:
This seafood bento (which I’d call a chirashi, because there was definitely sumeshi underneath all that seafood, but what do I know? ) was so beautiful, we couldn’t pass it by. Son really wanted to try it.
It’s a little pricy at about $16, but SO WORTH IT. It consists of sushi rice topped with a mixture of uni, tamago, mushrooms, two types of tobiko, ikura, crab, and… I’m not entirely sure what that translucent white thing is, but it was delicious.
I have never tasted such a satisfying bento/chirashi before! Everything was fresh, perfectly seasoned, and all the ingredients were wonderfully complementary, not to mention the presentation is gorgeous. Son really wants to go back tomorrow and get another one.
When we bought these, Son was all, “Meh, I don’t really like croquettes, just get whatever you want.”
And then he actually tried them after taking the photos, and was more like, “OMG THESE ARE THE BEST THINGS EVER! WHY AREN’T ALL CROQUETTES THIS DELICIOUS?!?!”
(Okay, maybe not so much yelling, but you could tell that’s what he meant. )
We got potato and butter, salmon cream, and uni cream croquettes. The potato was alright, not too exciting. Tasted like mashed potatoes. However the salmon and uni croquettes were MIND BLOWING. Imagine taking the best things about salmon and uni, then make them creamier, mix them with potato, roll them in panko, and fry them up. It tastes even more amazing than it sounds.
They’re $1.50 each, but fairly large, so not too pricy.
The thing Son loves most about every Mitsuwa food fair is the stalls that sell a huge variety of fish cakes. He always buys a bunch, then brings them home to put in his instant ramen or eat them over rice. They’re pretty much his favorite thing ever.
This time, they were all on sticks. There were six types (not like I have any idea what they all were – sorry!) and we got one of each.
Delicious x 6. (Obviously we had to try a little of each, so we could report back to you!)
I’m a total sucker for anything black sesame (Rachael is 100% to blame for that one) so I just had to get one of these black sesame makidora (rolled dorayaki – like little Japanese pancakes filled with some sort of filling).
Mmmm, yum. I always love Japanese sweets, especially if black sesame is involved.
$2 each – they also had red bean, custard, and matcha fillings.
I’ve had something like these Sweet Pumpkin Obanyaki before and wasn’t super enthused about them, but this time, everything was different. We skipped the red bean one, and went for the caramel and custard ones.
HOLY COW THAT CARAMEL.
So here’s what you do.
Buy a caramel one. (I bet the custard is good too, but I haven’t actually tried that one yet.)
Heat it up just a bit, until the pastry is warm and the caramel is soft.
Take a bite. Make sure you get some of the caramel.
Do a happy dance around the kitchen because it is SO FREAKING GOOD.
Eat the rest, and then wish you had bought a few more at the fair.
Realize that hey, there are still two more days of the fair!
These were quite a bit sweeter than I’d usually expect from Japanese sweets (that caramel is LEGIT caramel!), but I did not mind one bit, they were so good.
$2 each – there was also a red bean-filled one, but I seriously recommend the caramel.
Lastly, green tea cheesecake.
We almost didn’t try this one. Son wanted to buy something for his dad, so he decided on the cheesecake. Then while we were in the checkout line, he piped up, “I kind of want to get another one, because I really want to try it…” So he ran back to grab another one for us.
This is true Japanese cheeesecake. Now, forget everything that comes to mind when you think of cheesecake. This is nothing like the rich, heavy, sweet American cheesecakes you’re probably familiar with. No, this is super light, not too sweet (especially with the green tea flavor), with only the slightest hint of cheese.
In other words, absolutely delicious.
About $20 each.
We also got a lemon chiffon cake which we haven’t opened yet because we’re saving it for dessert on Father’s Day (hi Dad!)
So if that hasn’t convinced you that you should go check out the Mitsuwa Japanese Gourmet Fair, you should go read Mary the Food Librarian’s post… and if you’re STILL not convinced, then there’s no hope for you at all.
Personally, Son and I plan to stop by at least once more this weekend, because, um, we kind of want to get more of everything.
For more information, you can visit Mitsuwa’s website.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, no, I was not paid to write this review. Mitsuwa probably has absolutely no idea who I am. I just adore Japanese food (obviously) and want you all to be able to share in the deliciousness as well!
Japan Day 10, Part 3: In which we get lost, find ourselves, and then get lost again.Posted on February 4th, 2013 · 5 Comments »2012 Japan Trip, Japan
We headed across the river, and found ourself on a large, busy street full of clothing stores and fast food. We could have stopped at a McDonald’s, or Burger King, or Subway (or even Baskin Robbins!), but we weren’t quite that hungry. (Although we did eat at a McDonald’s the first time we went to Japan (for our very first meal!) and it wasn’t *that* bad. Better than American McDonald’s, definitely.)
Instead we kept walking, and walking, and turned down another walking-only street, and hey wait a minute, something about this place looks familiar…
Turns out we found our way over to the mall behind Nishiki Market without even realizing we were in the area!
This was a very good thing, because there are lots of good eats in this mall.
I’ve been on a takoyaki kick throughout the entire trip (and ever since we got home, too!) so when we found a takoyaki shop, of course we had to try it.
We ordered takoyaki covered in cheese and spicy roe mayo. Yes, it sounds weird, that’s partially why we got it – what’s the point of traveling if you don’t try all the weird foods you can’t get anywhere else? ^_^
However, as weird as it sounded, it was freaking delicious. I never, ever would have thought cheese atop takoyaki would be a good idea… but it turns out whomever thought of this is a genius.
A little further into the mall, we found a place called Churro Star.
Sounded interesting, so of course we had to investigate.
We got a churro that came with something called “strawberry milk” – very interesting.
The churro was fantastic. The strawberry milk was… well, it had the texture of caramel, and tasted like a strawberry-flavored Hi-Chew. While you can’t ever go wrong with strawberry Hi-Chews, it was kind of a weird combination with the churro.
(Even the Subways there are nicer!)
Then we found a sock store. With awesome socks. Yes, I had to buy some. Yes, I actually wear them. (The Totoro ones are my favorite.) ^_^
Before we left Tokyo, Rachael said we should definitely try Choco Cro. There was one in the mall by Nishiki Market, so we stopped in and bought one to go.
Unfortunately by then, it was late enough that all the restaurants were closed. So we headed back to Kyoto Station… where got lost again… and by the time we found ourselves, everything was also closed.
So we went back to our hotel, stopping at a Family Mart on the way.
We ate the Choco Cro (chocolate croissant) back at our hotel, and it was delicious.
(Oh hai, Twitter!)
Ain’t nothin’ wrong with a Family Mart dinner, yo.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – convenience store (combini) food in Japan is better than grocery store food in the US. Seriously good stuff.
Sushi, salad, zukemono, and ice cream. And then an Icy Hot bath. All that walking makes for a sore Allison…
After spending the morning going in circles, we once again left our hotel, and walked to the train station. This time we went to the station nearest us, which – go figure – was not a JR Station. However this time, we had an actual goal in mind.
At Son’s suggestion, we were heading to the Gion area of Kyoto – an area famous for its Geishas (or, as they’re called in Kyoto, Geiko).
We took the local subway to the Gion-Shijo station, which let out on Shijo street, which is the main street in the Gion area.
It’s a busy street, and obviously caters to tourists.
Eventually we turned down a side street, and just wandered.
We found our way to one of the busier side streets, where there was a traffic jam of cars lined up all the way up and down the street.
According to a woman on flkr who is apparently familiar with the Gion area, this is a lantern in front of the Tama ochaya (tea house).
It was the time of day when the maiko were beginning to make their way around the area.
This narrow alley holds the entrances to the two most popular okiya (geisha houses) in Gion Kobu: the Tama (left sign) and the Tsurui (the right sign).
We also saw one or two geisha… or at least, we got quick glimpses before the poor geisha got mobbed by tourists wanting to take photographs. We kept our distance, but some people had no problem getting right up in her face, crowding all around her to take their pictures. Crazy.
We headed off on another side street to avoid the crowds and try to see more of the area, and ended up at a temple.
We wandered the temple grounds for a bit, Son taking pictures, me taking pictures of him taking pictures.
It was late enough in the afternoon that everything was closed, but it was a beautiful, serene area.
By that time we were getting pretty hungry, so we headed across the river to try to find somewhere to eat…
Japan Day 10, Part 1: In which we end up right back where we startedPosted on January 7th, 2013 · 11 Comments »2012 Japan Trip
Our first whole day in Kyoto was such a jam-packed day that I’m splitting it into three posts. Looking back, I can hardly believe we managed to fit so much into one day… and yet can now totally understand why I was so sore I could barely move that night.
We started the morning off walking to Kyoto station from our hotel.
We stopped by a tiny hole-in-the-wall bakery to buy a curry pan, which unfortunately was one of the few not-so-good things we ate on the entire trip.
We managed to find our way to Kyoto Station, and then spent the next ten minutes trying to figure out where we wanted to go.
We were looking for a park, somewhere that we could sit and eat the onigiri we had bought at Family Mart earlier that morning, and take some time to relax after the hectic week in Tokyo.
All we found were temples… and somehow it felt like it would be a little weird to go to a temple just to sit, eat, and read.
So instead we went to Mister Donut.
Mister Donut (along with Bassanova and Beard Papa’s) are one of our must-visit places when we go to Japan. We had already gone once in Akihabara, on our third day in Tokyo. But obviously, once was not enough.
We got a chocolate pon de ring doughnut, and a ginger doughnut (which was one of their summer specials – they had a huge ginger promotion going on while we were there.) The chocolate was good, but the ginger was better. A nice strong ginger flavor, with a delicious white chocolate frosting.
We also had a bottle of mugicha and a tamago onigiri that we had bought at Family Mart earlier that morning.
After we ate, we were all ready to head out… and then we realized that someone (*cough* me *cough*) had forgotten their JR Pass at the hotel. Oops. Guess we weren’t going anywhere after all.
Instead, we explored the train station, and wandered around the food mall downstairs.
Son is kind of obsessed with creme bruleé, so we bought one at a fancy dessert shop.
We headed back out of the station, and sat on a ledge to eat the creme bruleé.
It was just as good as it looked. It shattered perfectly, and the custard was creamy and smooth. One of the better creme bruleés we’ve had.
… and then we got to walk back to our hotel.
It was a very hot day, so we took a little break and ate onirigi and a bag of chips, before heading off to our next adventure…
Our ninth day in Japan was our last day in Tokyo. We started the morning by finishing up packing (and ate a couple of onigiri), before checking out and leaving our baggage with the front desk so we could do a couple more things in Tokyo before heading to Kyoto.
We met Rachael and her girls at their hotel, and headed to Kappabashi – the “cooking street”.
Kappabashi is a street in Tokyo where many restaurants buy their supplies – cookware, dishes, signs, even the insanely realistic fake food that is often displayed in front of restaurants.
We bought a few things there – a plate, a set of coasters, a silicone doughnut mold, a ramen strainer, and a couple of ramen spoons.
We really wanted to buy some of the fake food (or maybe a keychain or magnet) but we were in a little bit of a rush.
Seriously, though, doesn’t that yakitori look like it should be sizzling, ready to eat?!)
We always say every day is a sushi day, but how about every minute?
After we walked down Kappabashi and back, we took a train to the Ginza area for lunch.
… and promptly got lost.
We were looking for a yakitori restaurant that one of Rachael’s friends had suggested. After a good bit of time wandering around Ginza and trying to ask for directions, we finally found it thanks to Son managing to locate it on his iPhone.
The entrance to Torigin is in a small alleyway, which is part of why it’s so difficult to find from the larger streets.
The restaurant is in the basement of the building, so you go down a flight of stairs once you enter the front door.
But once you’re there, you can smell the smoke of the yakitori being grilled. Delicious!
Son and I shared two plates of yakitori (and Rachael shared the same two plates with her girls).
There was a huge variety – from grilled peppers to these odd, ball-shaped eggs, meatballs to chicken livers.
All of it, delicious.
(There’s also a shop right next door called New Torigin. We have no idea if it’s related to the one we went to, or if it’s even a yakitori place. Let us know if any of you ever go there!)
After we all ate, we got a taxi back to our hotel and said our goodbyes.
We still had a little time before we had to head to Shinagawa station to catch the Shinkensen to Kyoto, so we hung out in the lobby of our hotel for a bit.
And then ran to Beard Papa’s to get supplies for the trip. It’s a terribly long trip from Tokyo to Kyoto. A whole three hours! So obviously, we needed cream puffs in order to survive a trip that long.
Then we caught a taxi to Shinagawa station, ate a cream puff while we waited for our train, then it was off to Kyoto!
By the time we got there it was late in the evening and pouring rain, so we caught a taxi to the Kyoto Hyatt Regency Hotel and ate a couple of onigiri and a cream puff that we had left over from earlier that day, and passed out.
Stay tuned for our few days of Kyoto (and Osaka!) adventures, coming up soon!
On the eigth day of our Japan trip, my true love gave to me… cookbooks, udon, and sushiiii!!!
(Sorry, now that Thanksgiving is past, I’m in a bit of a Christmas-y mood!)
So. Day 8. This was a hot, hot day!
Our eighth day in Japan started out like this.
If, like us, your legs get attacked by crazy biting bugs when you’re out late at a park, then you’ll want to acquire some of this apparently fairly popular cream at a pharmacy. Luckily for us, Rachael knew just what we needed.
We had decided on sushi for lunch that day, since it was eight days into our trip and we hadn’t had a single sushi meal yet.
So off we headed to Shibuya, Rachael’s old stomping grounds.
We went to a kaiten sushi restaurant (“conveyer belt” sushi) that she liked.
(Kaiten sushi, or “conveyer belt” sushi, is a type of sushi bar where the sushi chef(s) stand in the center and make the sushi, and then place each plate on a conveyer belt that revolves around them. The customers sit at a bar around them, and take a plate off the conveyer belt anytime they see something they want to eat. You pay by plate (sometimes they color-code the plates; here all the plates cost the same amount, except for a few specially-marked ones) so at the end of the meal they just tally it up for you.)
We ate our fill, for a fairly reasonable price – just 1560 yen (about $19) total, for Son and I to eat our fill of sushi and each have an incredibly refreshing mango pudding for dessert.
After lunch, we headed back to the other side of the Shibuya JR Station, past the famed Shibuya crossing.
We were headed to a store known as Tokyu Hands – a Japanese homegoods store that seems to have pretty much everything. We got some cooking utensils there – silicone saibashi, and a rice paddle.
After taking some time to browse Tokyu Hands, we stopped at a combini and had ice cream in a pouch – it tasted like a Ramune slushie, and was exactly what we needed in the middle of that sweltering day.
After that, we took a train to Roppongi Hills, for the second thing we wanted to do that day.
It was terribly windy in Roppongi Hills. We nearly got blown away while the girls were running around beneath the spider statue!
After walking around Roppongi Hills for a bit, we headed to the Tsutaya bookstore – I really wanted some Japanese cookbooks, but needed Rachael’s help picking them out.
As you can see from a photo I took later that evening, we ended up with quite a haul of cookbooks, design books, and a hiragana/katakana for beginners book!
Rachael and her family had a dinner with her husband’s work at a super expensive place, so we decided to pass up the invitation to join them, and instead take Rachael’s recommendation to go to her favorite udon place.
As Rachael describes it, “the bowls are the size of your head.”
The place is called Tsurutontan, and there are apparently several locations around Tokyo.
Seriously, Rachael wasn’t kidding about the size of the bowls. I could’ve taken a bath in mine!
I got curry udon, and Son got nabeyaki udon. Both were delicious, but I think the consensus was that mine was better. The meal was about $40, but totally worth it.
Happy and full, we wandered Roppongi a bit, stopping in another bookstore for a few minutes on the way to the train station, and then at the magazine stand back in Shiodome where we got a few more cooking magazines.
Then it was back to our hotel room, to pack, rest, and eat vanilla ice cream topped with blueberry sauce. You know, priorities.
Only one more day in Tokyo – stay tuned for our next post, where we visit Kappabashi street, and then head off to Kyoto!
Japan Day 7: Visiting the zoo in the middle of a typhoon!Posted on November 13th, 2012 · No Comments »2012 Japan Trip, Japan
This post was supposed to go up a week or two ago, but then Hurricane Sandy hit. While I’m on the west coast, and not directly affected by the storm, I felt like it would be a bit insensitive to be posting about a fairly minor typhoon in Japan while everyone on the east coast was dealing with the Hurricane.
The TED blog has a great post about ways you can help those who were affected by the hurricane. There are lots of people who still need our help, so if you can, I’m sure they’d appreciate any donation, no matter how little.
Our seventh day in Japan was a rainy one. Or, more specifically, a typhoon-y one.
So of course we decided to go to the zoo.
We met our newfound best friend Kate at Ueno station, and then headed over to Ueno Park to visit the zoo there.
(It’s about 600 yen per person to get into the zoo.)
We had a lot of fun walking through the zoo and seeing all the animals they had there.
But, like I said, a typhoon was expected that day, so periodically pre-typhoon winds and rains would send us looking for shelter.
On one such occasion, we took shelter in a covered eating area, and decided this would be a good time to stop and eat something.
Kate brought us peanut senbei, which were ridiculously good.
Then Son and I shared pancakes that had a maple syrup filling, and came with squeezable blueberry jam. It was really good, for zoo food, and only cost 300 yen.
Rachael got each of her girls a karaage (Japanese fried chicken) kids meal.
On top of the senbei, Kate also brought us yaki imo that she had baked for us. That’s serious comfort food right there.
Son and I also got an energy drink, which was actually pretty darn good (I’m not usually a fan of energy drinks, but the Japanese ones are much better than most that you can find here in the US.)
On our way out of the zoo, we walked through a little temple known as Fox Temple.
We then walked through a street known as Candy Street. Rachael said there used to be a food vendor there that she wanted us to try, but unfortunately she was unable to find it.
We headed back to our hotel to rest a bit before dinner (and eat a little more of a lunch).
Son got a “spicy” onigiri (which he said was hardly spicy at all), and I had coffee and a salad.
We shared a melon-flavored cookie sort of pastry filled with custard. It was pretty good! Son wanted to go right back and get another.
After we rested up, Son and I spent a little time browsing a little bookstore kiosk downstairs in the train station before we were to meet Rachael and her family.
Then we took a train to Tsukishima to meet with Keizo for dinner.
Keizo took us all to a monjayaki place.
Monja is kind of like okonomiyaki, but with a runnier batter. I believe it’s like the Tokyo version of okonomiyaki.
The place where he took us was in the middle of a street that consisted of nothing but monja restaurants.
This place reminded me of a lot of KBBQ places here in LA, in that you have a griddle and cook your own food. However, since my side of the table had no idea what we were doing, the employees and Keizo luckily were happy to help us out.
By the time we got out, the typhoon was definitely getting stronger. Rachael and her family headed back to their hotel (it was getting late), but as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, Son was still hungry.
If you’ve read Keizo’s blog, you’ll know that the guy eats a ridiculous amount of ramen. He had planned to go grab a bowl before going home anyways, so he let us tag along to the nearby Tsukishima Rock.
Keizo’s friend got the tsukemen.
Keizo tried their shio ramen.
And Son got their shoyu ramen.
And then it was a sprint in the strong winds and heavy rain back to the train station, to head back to our hotel and listen to the typhoon come in.
It was supposed to be at its worst around midnight, which meant we didn’t get much sleep that night.. we were too busy listening to our hotel (we were on the 28th floor) creak in the wind and get pounded by rain!
Now that we’ve launched Fridgg, I’m a little more conscious of being on top of holidays before they happen (unlike how I always used to post holiday recipes a week or so after the fact!) For example, I got the Halloween sushi post up a couple of days before Halloween, and here I am with a Thanksgiving post a whole two weeks before Thanksgiving (so long as you don’t count the Canadians)!