January 11, 2018
I got to Tokyo Station early for my train ride to Osaka, so I decided to have lunch at one of the restaurants on "Ramen Street" one level below the main concourse. I picked this place, I wish it had a sign in English, based on the tsukemen noodles they have on the menu. Tsukemen noodles are served at room temperature, and you dip them in a brown sauce made of pork broth. The noodles came with thinly-sliced, heavily marinated pork belly...bacon, pretty much.
The gyoza I ordered to start the meal were OK, but pretty high in non-meat fillers. The tsukemen noodles were very good, though the pork belly was overly seasoned, almost too salty. The pork broth was delish, though. I'm glad I was able to try this noodle dish as a nice alternative to the ubiquitous ramen.
Noodle joint in Tokyo Station
Steamed rice w/egg & pickled veggies:
Shitake (portabello) mushrooms & liver:
I stumbled upon the Tenjinbashi Market near my hotel completely by accident, as I was fully intending on ducking into the subway to head to Osaka's Namba district which is loaded with shopping and places to eat. Tenjinbashi is 1.5 miles long and runs north and south. Completely by luck, I chose to head south to that end of the market, and that must've been half a mile. Anyhow, half a block beyond the covered portion of the market is where I ran into the wonderful mom-and-pop yakitori joint. I don't know if it's actually called "Sumibi Yakitori" or that's merely a particular style. Regardless, the small store had a great vibe going as soon as I walked in; there was chatter and smoking in good amounts. I was given a spot at the eight-seat bar immediately by "mom," and it was a prime location to see the grilling in action.
"Pop" was very friendly and communicated to me as best he could in English. It was a lot of "thank you very much" and "ah, New York?!" What was so awesome was that he had been partaking in sake with this group of four, also at the bar, and laughter abounded. And while I couldn't understand what he was saying to his wife, you could tell from her inflection that she was ticked at him for getting all the orders wrong; she handled the skewers more and more as the evening went on. "Pop" even broke into a couple of lines of "I Should Have Known Better" by the Beatles. It's nice to see how food, drink and popular Western music are almost a universal language of their own...along with a translator app.
The skewers, both chicken parts and vegetables, were very good. Things were marinated in just the right amount, and unlike what I'd had early in my visit in Tokyo, these took several minutes to cook and serve. I finished my food within say, 30 minutes, but not long after that, they continued to serve me and the other bar customers with additional skewers and bowls of veggies, and at the end of the evening, they even dished out bowls of steamed rice each with an organic egg broken into them. I should also mention "pop" was pouring wonderful, wonderful sake to anyone with a glass. Heck, who am I to refuse? After maybe two hours, I headed out saying I'd return tomorrow night.
Sorry, I probably mentioned a lot of this already in the corresponding Travel section. Anyhow, the food was very strong!
Sumibi Yakitori at Tenjinbashi Market
Omelette w/bonito flakes:
As I stumbled out of Sumibi Yakitori and headed north along the market, in just a few of minutes, I happened across another yakitori joint, one of the few restaurants still open by 10:30 PM, on the 2nd FL of one of the storefronts. So, I headed up to check it out. It was a huge store, by comparison to the first yakitori place, which only had three tables, and the crowd at this second place was filled with 20-something's. I sat at the bar, again right in front of the grill, and ordered a few more dishes. The menu here might've been a little larger; the food was as good, though the house sake wasn't.
Another yakitori joint near southern end of Tenjinbashi Market
First up was an omelette with mayonnaise and a generous helping of bonito flakes. This dish absolutely had "hangover food" written all over it! Yeah, it was very good...what's not to like?
Steamed rice w/grilled chicken:
Next was a wonderful dish of steamed rice and grilled chicken served with nori (dried seaweed) slivers and pickled veggies. The topper, literally, was a sunny side up egg whose yolk bound everything together. Again, there's nothing not to like here with the nori adding wonderful savory elements to the dish while the pickles added their usual crunch.
The skewers here were tender and juicy, but I did notice they were a little heavy on the soy sauce and salt.
January 11, 2018