Sunday, October 11, 2015

Tokyo Eats - Roppongi area

When hubby and I were living in Japan last, we were in Yokohama, and Tokyo was a bit of hike for us, a 1hr+ train ride with transfers, depends on destination. Needless to say we felt like outsiders the entire time and we sort of were (still are...). Whenever we went to Tokyo to hangout, dine out, or to be with friends, there was always that train ride back to dread (drunk salarymen, anyone?) and the last train to watch out for (packed-sardines with drunk salarymen, anyone?).

Now that we actually live in the heart of Tokyo, the game changed drastically. We go out so often now I'm running a few thousand photos behind, which means the back log for this blog is hitting a growth spurt and I'm marathoning to keep up. That's to say I'm going to follow my Taipei model and do group food reviews by the areas I frequent most, just to keep things simple and save time.

The first area that's racking up photos is Roppongi. We used to loath this area. Being an expat haunt, Roppongi had a bad rep, you see. Ten years ago when I was still in business school, a frat-boy classmate bragged about spending his summers in luxury high-rises, interning for Goldman Sachs in Roppongi, and this was Business Ethics class, mind you (proving Goldman Sachs' pervasive tone-deaf problem, from executives to interns). Five years ago when we were in Yokohama, hubby went to several school and work events in Roppongi and always came home sick and disgusted, having met some world-class a-holes, some of whom are diplomats (oh, the irony...). So earlier this year when an offer came in to work in Roppongi, our response was, "If and only if we don't have to live there."

Thankfully, it seems Roppongi has changed a bit and it doesn't feel too sleazy. Sure, there still are sketchy parts of town we avoid, and we're not nightclubbing, party folks anyway, so we're making do OK living a few train stops away. With hubby working in Roppongi, I go there at least twice a week to have lunch with him and then wander around for errands, etc. So that list of unsorted photos just grows and grows and grows.

I had tea here at the Fiorentina inside the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, Roppongi, Tokyo the first week of our arrival into Tokyo. Hubby had a meeting nearby that ran overtime, and so I spent a couple of hours here while waiting for him, so we could go on with our afternoon afterwards. It was okay. Both the pastries and teas were alright, and you sure pay for them. I ordered 2 sweets and a pot of tea and that set me back about 3,200yen (~$26), with the tea itself being 1,200yen (~$10). So I probably won't go back, because I've had better elsewhere, and for a more reasonable price too. And I'm not one to dine for prestige, that's for sure.

The next week, hubby's boss took the small office of 6 (plus spouses) out to dinner at Kushinobo on the 5th floor of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower (photo above). There were different courses, but we went for the Omakase course for 5,000yen/person. Basically, you just eat whatever the chef gives you, and according to the store most people last only through 15-16 skewers, which was what happened to me and hubby. I feel it was kind of "cheating," because despite being on skewers everything was breaded and deep fried, and that filled us up pretty quickly. Only a couple of his colleagues were able to keep going.

But otherwise the set up was interesting. We had a sauce tray with several different sauces and seasonings. In the middle was the restaurant's signature sauce that was Worcestershire sauce-based, at bottom left was ponzu, middle was sesame sauce, and top left was a slice of lemon. At bottom right was a dollop of mustard, and above that was a pinch of salt.

The decor was also interesting. There was a glass of water with fresh scallions in it, and we were told we could just pick one and eat it out of the glass, which hubby and a few others did. As for me, raw scallion? Ick, no way. In the right photo I was holding a skewer with bacon wrapped crab meat.

Ham-wrapped potato at left and something else I don't remember.

Shiso-wrapped shrimp.

King oyster mushroom and squid.

Beef, which wasn't marinated because you were supposed to dip it, but I would have preferred it marinated.

A stick of asparagus and corn.

Something meaty with cheese.

White fish.

Ground beef and something. And dessert of brown sugar jelly, which was delicious!

Ippudo (一風堂) is actually a pretty well-known ramen shop and there's even a branch in NYC! I can totally see why too, because it's delicious! Funny enough, I like their side dishes better than their ramen, and I've been there several times now. Next time, I think I'm going to just get the gyoza and the bowl of rice with caramelized pork belly, a half-boiled egg, and a dollop of mentaiko.

I actually haven't eaten at this Wendy's location, but it looked interesting so I'm including it here. One of these days when I'm desperate enough for a small taste of home (or just plain craving salt...), I might just go in and try a bite. And also it was a double-take moment to see that they serve pasta O.o 

This Kakigori Cafe & Bar Yelo (shaved ice) was a recommendation from Timeout Tokyo. It had a Korean vibe to it, probably because whenever I was there, there was always a hip Korean gal hanging around. For shaved ice it was pricey, starting at 900-1,200yen ($7-10) for a basic item before the toppings (an additional 100yen each).

This Annin (almond) Chia Seed was yummy. It reminded me of the almond milk shaved ice at Yu's Almond Tofu in Ximending, although nowhere as creamy and satisfying. For now, I'll settle for this, but only because, well, Ximending's a bit far away for shaved ice ^.^"

Also had this caramel flavor and didn't like it at all. First off it was way too sweet, nothing like the Annin Chia Seed above that was only mildly sweet. And it tasted like "fake" caramel and was inauthentic. I'm a caramel lover and have had some damn tasty caramel, so I'm picky.

In the basement of the North Tower, there's this Dashi Chazuke En where I've met hubby for lunch several times now. May be this is an indication of my age, but I find myself loving ochazuke these days. I don't know about hubby, but I just can't have enough of this stuff. It's just so mild and gentle, and it doesn't leave me feeling gross or overstuffed. A lunch set is 1,000yen or less, and it comes with the main entree, plus a side of raw tofu, pickles, and a pot of dashi we can fill our bowls with. We always add a side of fried chicken, because I love fried chicken (hubby says in my past life, I was a fried chicken wing...).

Finally, I have a pet peeve about "ethnic food." I've had really good Thai, Indian, Korean, Tex-Mex, etc. in Tokyo, but so far, all the so-called Vietnamese food offering has been pretty appalling. May be I'm over-generalizing and there are good Vietnamese joints out there, but the below is what I've encountered, and they make me roll my eyes every time. 


iris said...

I used to live in Roppongi and also briefly for a year in AzabuJuban, as my office was there! So I have great nostalgia for the place, especially the Matsumoto Kiyoshi at the traffic intersection where I picked up thousands of items for CPs back in those days :) I was never the partying sort as well so I spent most of my time at the eateries in Roppongi Hills and many late nights at the Tsutaya nearby. Not sure if there is still a Lush store there but it always smelled fantastic. You are so lucky to be in the heart of Tokyo! I keep trying to visit but our last visit fell through when my son suddenly fell ill. Looking forward to reading more of your posts!

Julia said...

Roppongi... Boyfriend and I had our first date there (lovely vegetarian Taiwanese place!), but I wouldn't want to live there either.

I also work with diplomats and the stories I could tell...

D. said...

Hi Iris,

I think I know which Matsumoto Kiyoshi you're talking about--is it a few doors down from the Azabu Police Station? If so, I also go there all the time ^.^ And are you talking about the Tsutaya with a super nice organic-ish grocery store next door (I forgot the name)? Not too long ago there was a massive street festival that began from that Tsutaya all the way down at least 10 blocks, and I could have sworn every Tokyoites and their sisters and brothers were there!

But you're absolutely right that I should make the most of my time here. If you do visit, I would love to grab coffee or tea and hear more stories from you :)


P.S. If you have any recommendations at all, I'm all ears! Where do you go for your supply of Lunasol and Suqqu?

D. said...


Vegetarian Taiwanese? What and where? Please do tell! ^.^

You know what, that's what I just don't understand. One would think diplomats are, you know, diplomatic. I've also met a couple of publicists who were just... I have no words for them. Ha.


Julia said...

I wish I remembered the name - boyfriend picked it out and of course forgot it!

Well, if you ask me, they're called diplomats because YOU have to be super diplomatic to work with them! Although some are not too bad, just wishy-washy.

D. said...

Julia -- LOL!!! True that. True that.

Well, if you do remember the name of that vegetarian Taiwanese place, let me know. Hubby would be really impressed with me were I to surprise him with it ^.^

Julia said...

Found it!

D. said...

You're amazing!!! Thank you thank you thank you!

Citrine said...

Oh, the NYC Ippu-Do is on 51th...I can totally stop by before my concert-binging!

D. said...

Nice, Citrine!! Let me know if that branch is any good!

Haru said...

Sorry for the delayed reply! I haven't been in Tokyo for 4 years so I'm wary of giving recommendations that may be outdated. I get my Lunasol from Singapore and Suqqu usually from Selfridges in the UK, which ships internationally and stocks the older generation quads that Japan no longer sells. I also used for CPs of holiday sets like those by Addiction. But since getting pregnant again, I haven't been wearing makeup so my purchases have reduced drastically.

If you like ochazuke, my husband and I used to frequent this small stall in the basement of Shinjuku Lumine. Not sure if it's still there but we dream of going back all the time! I also love the tempura store opposite LaFloret in Harajuku (part of a chain). So cheap but good. I've had much more expensive tempura before but this is still my favourite. And Jangara ramen (also in Harajuku) is where I would always bring my friends.

D. said...

Hi Iris,

Don't be sorry! Thank you for coming back to my blog and taking the time to leave a note.

I hope I read your comment correctly, and if so, おめでとうございます!!! I do look at your photos via the Snapwidget and your little one is adorable with his chubby cheeks ^.^

And thank you for telling me about Selfridges UK. I took a peek and indeed saw some Suqqu palettes that are no longer available in Japan so I'm super thrilled about that! I'll look forward to finding the ochazuke, tempura, and ramen places you mention. Will definitely try those place when I find them!


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