Allison Day


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Every Day is a Sushi Day!

Sushiday.com is all about sushi. My recipes vary from the most traditional sushi to the craziest off-the-wall combinations. Every week I will post new sushi recipes that I have made, as well as sushi restaurant reviews, sushi tutorials, and other sushi-related randomness. 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.)


Ramen shop sign

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. :D

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).


Kesennuma Ramen Ushio Aji (Salt)

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.)


Salmon bowl with sesame shoyu

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:


Seafood bento

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.


Seafood bento

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.


Seafood bento

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. :D


Croquettes

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. ;) )


Croquettes

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.


Fish cakes

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.


Fish cakes

Delicious x 6. (Obviously we had to try a little of each, so we could report back to you!)

$2 each.


Sesame makidora

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).


Sesame makidora

Mmmm, yum. I always love Japanese sweets, especially if black sesame is involved. :D

$2 each – they also had red bean, custard, and matcha fillings.


Caramel and custard imagawayaki

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!

Rejoice.


Caramel and custard imagawayaki

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.


Green tea cheesecake

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.


Green tea cheesecake

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. :D

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!

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After spending the morning getting lost and the afternoon satisfying our wanderlust, we were hungry. Time to eat!


Red light district? on the other side of the river

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.)


Large building by the river


Woman in a kimono

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.


Gindaco - takoyaki restaurant


Worker making takoyaki

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.


Takoyaki

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? ^_^


Takoyaki


Takoyaki

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.


All gone!

A little further into the mall, we found a place called Churro Star.


Menu at Churro Star

Sounded interesting, so of course we had to investigate.


Churro Star sign


Mall, near closing


Allison with the churro

We got a churro that came with something called “strawberry milk” – very interesting.


Close-up of the churro and strawberry milk


Dipping the churro in the strawberry milk

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.


Churro with strawberry milk

More wandering…


Shop near Nishiki market

(Even the Subways there are nicer!)


Subway restaurant and cafe


Outdoor street in the mall


Lots of Chopper dolls

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.) ^_^


Socks!!!


Sandwich case at Choco Cro

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.


Pastries at Choco Cro


Matcha Daifuku Croissants at Choco Cro

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.


River at night


Lit-up building in Gion

So we went back to our hotel, stopping at a Family Mart on the way.


Choco Cro

We ate the Choco Cro (chocolate croissant) back at our hotel, and it was delicious.

(Oh hai, Twitter!)


Choco Cro

Ain’t nothin’ wrong with a Family Mart dinner, yo.


Dinner!

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…


Mango ice cream

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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.


Double decker train

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).


Historical building in Gion area

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.


The main street in the Gion area


Street in the Gion area

It’s a busy street, and obviously caters to tourists.


Signs on the main street in the Gion area


Man on a motorbike


Maiko on the main street


Maiko

Eventually we turned down a side street, and just wandered.


Beautiful houses down a side street in the Gion area


Smaller street lined with restaurants in the Gion area


A restaurant in the Gion area

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.


Cars lined up in the street


Lantern

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).


Maiko

It was the time of day when the maiko were beginning to make their way around the area.


Large building next to a theatre


Woman with umbrella and two dogs


Alley in Gion

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).


A geisha getting mobbed by tourists wanting to take her photo

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.


Alley in Gion


Back alley in Gion


Street in Gion

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.


Structure in the middle of the park


Park in Gion

We wandered the temple grounds for a bit, Son taking pictures, me taking pictures of him taking pictures.


My view for most of the trip


A pathway in the park

It was late enough in the afternoon that everything was closed, but it was a beautiful, serene area.


Pathway out of the park


Entrance to a restaurant in Gion


A restaurant in Gion


A cafe


Crossing the river

By that time we were getting pretty hungry, so we headed across the river to try to find somewhere to eat…

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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.


Kyoto street

We started the morning off walking to Kyoto station from our hotel.


Curry pan

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.


Kyoto street


Kyoto alley


River in Kyoto


Kyoto street


Kyoto street


Smaller river in Kyoto

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.


View of Kyoto Tower between two maps

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.


Map

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.


Allison looking at a map

So instead we went to Mister Donut.


Donuts at Mr. 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.


Chocolate pon de ring doughnut

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.


Ginger doughnut


Mugicha

We also had a bottle of mugicha and a tamago onigiri that we had bought at Family Mart earlier that morning.


Tamago onigiri wrapper


Tamago onigiri


Display for the upcoming Tanabata festival


Mister Donut

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.


Chocolates

Instead, we explored the train station, and wandered around the food mall downstairs.


Pastry shop


Tsukemono shop


Mochi shop

We love these food malls (you may remember we were kind of obsessed with the one in Ueno station while we were in Tokyo), because they always have so many delicious things to buy!


Mochi shop


Godiva shop


Grocery store cashier


Fried foods shop


Octopuses


Potatoes and pork


Maki sushi


Maki sushi and inari-zushi


Maki sushi


Inari zushi


Futomaki


Bento shop


Inari sushi shop


Yakitori shop


Yakitori shop


Samples


Salad shop


Taiyaki shop


Worker flipping taiyaki


Tempura shop


Meat shop


Pastry shop


Confectionary shop


Cake shop


Chocolate pudding cups

Son is kind of obsessed with creme bruleé, so we bought one at a fancy dessert shop.


Fruit cups


Confectionary shop


Mochi shop


Lanterns


Confectionary shop


Purse shop


Kyoto tower


Creme brulee box

We headed back out of the station, and sat on a ledge to eat the creme bruleé.


Shattering creme brulee

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.


Creme brulee


A building near Kyoto Station

… and then we got to walk back to our hotel.


River

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…

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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


Chef Statue in Kappabashi


Kakigori (shaved ice) machines


Mini brands for mochi


Rice cookers


An aisle in a cookware shop

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.


Stacks of pans


A street by Kappabashi


Ceramics

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.


Allison and Rachael looking at rice molds


Colorful baskets


Sushi stickers


A fake food store

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.


Fake seafood


Fake sushi

Seriously, though, doesn’t that yakitori look like it should be sizzling, ready to eat?!)


Fake yakitori


Fake food keychains


Sign shop


Aisle in a cookware shop


A man carving wood


Alley near Kappabashi


A view of the Tokyo Skytree through a side alley


Golden statue


Another side street


Lots of dishes

We always say every day is a sushi day, but how about every minute? :D


Sushi clock


A wall of knives


Knife shop


Chef statue outside a shop

After we walked down Kappabashi and back, we took a train to the Ginza area for lunch.


Tall clothing store in Ginza


A map in Ginza

… and promptly got lost.


Allison walking in Ginza


A restaurant in Ginza


Nikon Plaza in Ginza


Allison walking in Ginza


A street in Ginza

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.


Torigin

The entrance to Torigin is in a small alleyway, which is part of why it’s so difficult to find from the larger streets.


Apartments in Ginza

The restaurant is in the basement of the building, so you go down a flight of stairs once you enter the front door.


Allison entering Torigin


Torigin menu

But once you’re there, you can smell the smoke of the yakitori being grilled. Delicious!


Yakitori

Son and I shared two plates of yakitori (and Rachael shared the same two plates with her girls).


Yakitori

There was a huge variety – from grilled peppers to these odd, ball-shaped eggs, meatballs to chicken livers.


Mostly-eaten yakitori

All of it, delicious.


Yakitori


Painting in Torigin


Torigin window display


New Torigin

(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!)


New Torigin


Apartments in Ginza

After we all ate, we got a taxi back to our hotel and said our goodbyes.


Bug giving Son a hug


Both girls giving Son a hug


Skylight in our hotel

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.


Allison in the lobby of our hotel


View of the floors from the lobby


View of the train tracks from the hotel


Beard Papa's

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.


Allison buying cream puffs


Tokyo tower

Then we caught a taxi to Shinagawa station, ate a cream puff while we waited for our train, then it was off to Kyoto!


Speeding past rice paddies in the train


Zooming past small villages


View from the train


View of an empty platform from the train


View of a house from the train


View from the train

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!

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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.


Itch cream

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.


Itch cream

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.


Outside the train station in Shibuya

So off we headed to Shibuya, Rachael’s old stomping grounds.


Walking past the train station in Shibuya


Japanese police car


JR Station in Shibuya


Crossing the street


A canal


Line outside a restaurant


Construction


Combini

We went to a kaiten sushi restaurant (“conveyer belt” sushi) that she liked.


Kaiten sushi


Man cooking the rice


Sushi chef


Sushi chef


Salmon with mayo and lettuce


Maki sushi


Ebi sushi


Salmon nigiri with mayo and lettuce

(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.)


Maguro sushi


Octopus sushi


Ebi sushi


Gunkan maki


Nigiri sushi


Mango pudding


Mango pudding


Stack of plates

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.


Outside of kaiten sushi restaurant

After lunch, we headed back to the other side of the Shibuya JR Station, past the famed Shibuya crossing.


Walking back towards Shibuya Station


Building in Shibuya


Shibuya crossing


Starbucks overlooking 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.


Octopus statue


Japanese clothing


Japanese fans


Leaving Tokyu Hands


Shibuya


Shibuya

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.


Coolish


Shibuya


Shibuya

After that, we took a train to Roppongi Hills, for the second thing we wanted to do that day.


Shibuya JR Station


Train station mosaic


Train tracks


Bakery inside train station


Exiting the train station


Building in Roppongi Hills


Spider statue in Roppongi Hills

It was terribly windy in Roppongi Hills. We nearly got blown away while the girls were running around beneath the spider statue!


Beneath the spider statue


Rachael's girls running around beneath the spider statue


Spider statue


A building in Roppongi Hills


Car demo at Roppongi Hills


Roppongi Hills


A small park in Roppongi Hills


A small park in Roppongi Hills


Roppongi Hills


Roppongi Hills

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.


Starbucks inside the bookstore


Bookstore


Bookstore


Outside the bookstore


Leaving the bookstore

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!


Cookbooks


Allison


Bug with an ant

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.


McDonalds in Roppongi Hills


Roppongi


Roppongi


Tour bus

As Rachael describes it, “the bowls are the size of your head.”


Display bowls of udon


Roppongi


Roppongi


Udon restaurant

The place is called Tsurutontan, and there are apparently several locations around Tokyo.


Display bowls of udon


Menu at udon restaurant


Allison in udon restaurant


Menu at udon restaurant


Menu


Menu


Son's nabeyaki udon

Seriously, Rachael wasn’t kidding about the size of the bowls. I could’ve taken a bath in mine!


Allison with her curry udon


Son taking a picture


Curry udon

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.


Nabeyaki udon


Allison eating


Shrimp tempura in curry udon


Kitchen


Allison outside the curry restaurant

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!


Kajitsu blueberry ice cream

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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.


Walking to the Ueno Zoo

Our seventh day in Japan was a rainy one. Or, more specifically, a typhoon-y one.


Map inside entrance to Ueno Zoo

So of course we decided to go to the zoo.


Sleepy panda bear

We met our newfound best friend Kate at Ueno station, and then headed over to Ueno Park to visit the zoo there.


Thai Pavillion inside Ueno Zoo

(It’s about 600 yen per person to get into the zoo.)


Thai Pavillion inside Ueno Zoo

We had a lot of fun walking through the zoo and seeing all the animals they had there.


Elephant trying to eat the leaves


Elephant


Life-size baby elephant picture


Otter


Seals


Black bear hanging on a tire swing


Snowy owl


Capybaras


Capybara


Building


Prarie dog


Prarie dog


Spider monkeys


Marsh in the zoo

But, like I said, a typhoon was expected that day, so periodically pre-typhoon winds and rains would send us looking for shelter.


Marsh in the zoo


Marsh in the zoo

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.


Pancake box

Kate brought us peanut senbei, which were ridiculously good.


Senbei box


Pancakes

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.


Pancakes

Rachael got each of her girls a karaage (Japanese fried chicken) kids meal.


Bug eating karaage and fries


Blueberry jam container


Squeezing blueberry jam on the pancakes


Pancake with jam on it


Rachael taking a picture, Kate eating


Squirrel eating, Allison smiling

On top of the senbei, Kate also brought us yaki imo that she had baked for us. That’s serious comfort food right there.


Yaki imo

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.)


Energy drink


Map inside the zoo


Peanut senbei


Buildings by the zoo


Marsh inside the zoo


Jackass penguins


Jackass penguins


Kangaroos


Flamingo


Ring-tailed something


Meerkats


Bat


Nocturnal animal with big eyes


Nocturnal animal with big eyes


Zebra


Allison with a penguin picture

On our way out of the zoo, we walked through a little temple known as Fox Temple.


Fox temple


Bread desserts?


Leaving Ueno Park


Alleyway


Candy street

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.


Fruit display on candy street


Candy street


Candy street

We headed back to our hotel to rest a bit before dinner (and eat a little more of a lunch).


Spicy onigiri

Son got a “spicy” onigiri (which he said was hardly spicy at all), and I had coffee and a salad.


Salad


Coffee


Allison with the melon pastry

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.


Melon pastry


Inside of melon pastry

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.


Ginger ale

Keizo took us all to a monjayaki place.


Workers at the monja place

Monja is kind of like okonomiyaki, but with a runnier batter. I believe it’s like the Tokyo version of okonomiyaki.


Monja ingredients

The place where he took us was in the middle of a street that consisted of nothing but monja restaurants.


Corn with butter


Pork


Monja ingredients


Making monja


Making okonomiyaki


Okonomiyaki

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.


One of the employees making the food


Okonomiyaki


Outside of the monja place


An alley near the monja place


The typhoon is coming in

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.


Tsukishima Rock menu


Menu chalkboard inside Tsukishima Rock


Businessman at the bar in Tsukishima Rock


Beer tap


View outside from inside Tsukishima Rock


Tsukemen

Keizo’s friend got the tsukemen.


Tsukemen

Keizo tried their shio ramen.


Shio ramen


Shoyu ramen

And Son got their shoyu ramen.


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!


Typhoon on the news

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