after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Triumphant Return to Tokyo

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t says:  Gawd we love the shinkansen.  If we had to retire, we’d move to Tokyo and g would have a part time gig doing the voice-acting for the overhead announcements: “Welcome to the Shin-Kan-Sen”.  The ride is punctual, smooth, and offers carts of snacks that make the rounds every so often.  Plenty of leg room, seats that recline so much that I couldn’t go full-recline and still work, and electric outlets!  It really is just so civilized.    And the safety record is sick: over 50 years with 10 billion passengers, there have been no derailment/collision-related fatalities (source: wikipedia).

Ok – enough about trains … on to food …

I made a bit of a scheduling error for our first night back in Tokyo.  We arrived at the hotel at 6:35pm.  Our tonkatsu reservation (not to be confused with tonkotsu, a style of ramen), which I thought I had scheduled the following night, was actually that night at 7pm.  The directions clearly said: anyone showing up more than 15 minutes late will have their reservations cancelled.  Yikes.  Ok.  Time to get a move on.  We rushed through the hotel check-in process, found an ATM, and caught a cab.  We literally arrived at 7:14pm.  We were rewarded with this:

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Butagumi is a pork specialist.  They have maybe 4 types of tenderloin and 4 types of sirloin at any given time (their menu is something like up to 15 of each), ranging from European pork (see the Iberico, above) to Japanese pork (including some highly sought after cows).  We tried to order three dishes but was politely warned by our server: “it is very big”.  On one hand, we were lied to – they weren’t “big”, rather extraordinarily appropriate.  Between the pork, the rice, the slaw, and the best miso soup I ever had (there were little tiny clam/cockel shells in it! g interjects: I thought the one at Sushi bun was better – it had a whole head-on prawn in it! t compromises: maybe we’ll have to go back and try that one again.), we were stuffed.  Another order of pork would have definitely resulted in leftovers.  As far as the pork choices, g and I disagree on which one was better.  I liked mine, she liked hers.  Mine, the sirloin, with its nice band of fat, was very very tasty.  Quite possibly the best cooked and best tasting pork I’ve ever had.  g liked her tenderloin, which was the leaner, but softer, more delicate tasting meat.   Even the wine was good – the house white was some kind of German gruner I’m guessing – bright and mouth-watering – just what the pork needed.  g proclaims: this was the best meal we had thus far.  t takes the mic back: I’d agree.  On one hand, yes, it was a lot of $$$ for some pork.  But on the other, it was wonderful – and I’d gladly go again just to taste some of the cheaper cuts to see if I could taste the difference!

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After recovering from our pork comas (i.e. sleeping overnight), we got right back on the saddle and sought ought tsukemmen.  Rokurinsha ramen (our fourth ramen stop thus far) was our destination.  It turns out that it was in Tokyo station … as in: it was in the station we first arrived at in Tokyo … as in: we should have eaten here instead of the hotel’s restaurant (not that it was bad – but not as good as this!  This tsukemmen was fantastic.  Don’t let the pictures fool you – there were a LOT of noodles.  You dip the noodles into the concentrated pork broth (I got the “special” that had some extra minced meat, g got the “spicy” with a shrimpy-spice condiment on the side) and then put them in your mouth.  Holy crap it was good.  That broth was like a delicious porky-sweet-salty bolognese.  g and I demolished it.  Even the slices of pork that were in it were perfect – super tender and very flavorful!  (n.b. you do have to be ok with eating cool noodles and warm dipping sauce – so the end result is never piping hot like classic ramen – so if you need it steaming, then this tsukemmen will not be your cup of tea.)

And as we walked away, looking back at the ginormous line that had formed we agreed: totally worth it.  If you’re stopping in Tokyo Station (e.g. arriving from Narita), ditch your bags in some pay lockers and get in line to eat here – don’t bother going anywhere else.  Just do it!  Advice on location (because Tokyo Station is large and disorienting): walk through Tokyo station’s ground floor (“1F”) to the Yaesu South Exit and then take the stairs down to the “shops” on 1BF below (aka “ramen street”).  And it’s the first ramen shop you see.  It’ll undoubtedly have a line that wraps around the corner – and look for the red honeycomb shape in the logo (below photo stolen from someone else’s site).

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The line moves fast (there are indicators on the ground to tell you an approximate wait time)!  With so few tourists, the locals jump in, eat, and leave.  You do have to use the machine when you get to the front of the line, and there’s a lot of peer pressure because there’s a large line behind you and the host doesn’t speak English (and the machine has no English setting), so study the online menus/pictures closely so you’re ready to pick when you get up there.

We finished off our day of sighseeing (we saw Hamarikyu Gardens and the Imperial Palace Gardens) with a chocolate reward:

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This place was awesome.  I was expecting it to be more like Naked Chocolate in Philly (RIP).  But it was actually so much better!  They offered 56 difference pieces of chocolate with a tasting sheet that explained the characteristics, origin, etc!  (I walked away with two pieces that used different kinds of Japanese sugar as sweeteners … how awesome is that?!).  While you’re there, take a load off and choose from their assortment of interesting pastries (all with chocolate), and, more importantly, a hot chocolate flight:

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The one from Ghana was classic thick, rich, hot chocolate.  Smooth and effortless to drink.  Classic.  And then 15 gave some additional fruity/sour notes on the finish.  It was interesting, but not my fave.  And then 17 tasted like straight up whisky on the finish.  It was so weird.  I checked the description twice just to make sure it wasn’t spiked, and it wasn’t.  But it had that smokey, peaty flavor that reminded me of an American whisky.  Crazy!  Wish we had one of these in SF!

More to come – stay tuned!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

18 October 2017 at 8:44pm

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