Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Tokyo by Night: Japanese Food Tour

I love a good food tour but I wasn't going to "plan" any eating for our week in Tokyo (as addresses are difficult to navigate so I wanted to just go-with-the-flow for the sake of my mental health). That said, when I stumbled across this food tour I just had to book it.  It seemed like the perfect way to try some great Japanese food whilst being led around Tokyo at night.

We met our guide, Meg (a Brazilian who'd lived in Tokyo for the last six years) outside Yūrakuchō (有楽町) Station on a freezing cold night. We quickly introduce ourselves to the others on the tour and then get a hustle on to the first place on our eating-tour, a great GREAT Yakitori place. I have NO idea of the name but The Boy and I had no trouble navigating our way back there for a second meal later in the week.

This area intrigued me as there are many restaurants located in the spaces under the train tracks of Tokyo's JR Yamanote Line. Whilst spaces like this mostly go unused in Australia in Tokyo every nook and cranny is up for the taking and it's great. 

The Boy and I start our night off with a cold sake. Whilst it's cold outside nearly everywhere indoor area in Tokyo is heated to almost tropical temperatures so a cold drink is just the ticket.

We here to indulge in some delicious Yakitori (also known as Kushiyaki) whereby food is skewered and then grilled. The grilling over charcoal gives the food a magnificent smokey flavour that is irresistible. The grill used in this place can get as hot as 1000C so it's no wonder our chef quickly works up a sweat (maybe he'd like some cold sake too)?

We get to enjoy a range of "things on skewers" - each one more delicious than the last. I LOVED the grilled tofu (as did The Boy), as well as the little grilled green peppers and the salty chicken wings. 

After dinner #1 we hop back on the train and head over to Tsukishima's Monjya Street - the home of Tokyo style pancakes called Monjayaki.

This is the interactive part of the evening as we get to cook our own Monjayaki over a steaming hot grill. I quickly overheat and the restaurant turn on the air-conditioning for me as one of the waitstaff rushes our of the kitchen to fan me with a menu. Sad, but true.

Our Monjayaki comes with all the ingredients assembled in a bowl for us with the dry ingredients sitting atop the batter. Everything is cooked on the grill first and then the batter poured into the ingredients which have been formed into a ring. It's a pretty...unattractive looking dish (think snot with lumpy bits) but it tastes fantastic!  You eat it straight off the grill - scraping it up with specially designed tiny Monjayaki spatulas.

Next up we make-our-own Okonomiyaki which is a thicker style pancake hailing from Osaka. This would be the style of Japanese pancake that we find here in Australia.

Both styles are easy to cook and it is a lot of fun. Meg tells us that many Tokyo-ites live quite far from the city as employers must pay for their travel to/from work. As such they often live a LONG way out of the city and restaurants such as these are great for getting together with your friends -- dinner parties "at home" aren't that common in Tokyo (amongst younger people anyway) as everyone tends to live so far from each other.

We also had a few dessert pancakes but by this stage I was so full I couldn't lift my arms to use my camera anymore!

It's back on the train to our starting point of Yūrakuchō and the end of the tour. Prior to our trip to Pancake Town we stopped by a little vendor selling Taiyaki - a Japanese fish-shaped cake like a waffle - so we had dessert ready to go.

The most common filling is red-bean paste but we can also choose from a myriad of other flavours including chocolate, caramel, cream cheese (yum) and custard.

Whilst we didn't visit any"street vendors" on this tour (which I was hoping for) I had a great time. It felt a lot like a progressive dinner party and I liked that we got to spend a good amount of time at each of the two restaurants, nothing felt "rushed".  If you're in Tokyo and not sure about the local food or areas I'd highly recommend this.


  1. Looks like a decent tour you went on. Pity there were no street vendors on it, but I'm sure you got your fill on those on other days.

  2. Awesome adventure, Mel!

  3. There's not a lot of street food around that we saw - a few things here and there. Eating whilst walking (or in public) is frowned upon in Japan so it kinda makes sense. Ergo, the crepe stands we saw all around the place DIDN'T make any sense as you have to eat them on the go???

  4. mel @ crunchytigerMarch 5, 2014 at 6:29 PM

    Wow the kushiage place looks amazing! What a fun tour!

  5. Sherrie @ Crystal NoirMarch 5, 2014 at 11:50 PM

    Ahhhh I miss the food in Japan! How awesome is the okonomiyaki? :D

  6. Sara (Belly Rumbles)March 6, 2014 at 12:21 AM

    Yep, not a lot of street food type vendors that are typical with other parts of Asia. Though, get out of the city, and you find the odd surprise. There is lots of food to go though.

  7. Sara (Belly Rumbles)March 6, 2014 at 12:21 AM

    Sounds like you had a ball Mel, looking forward to reading more.

  8. so much good food! i miss japan!

  9. thats a good idea going on a food tour! im thinking of doing the same because im only there for a couple of days argh

  10. Mmm, looks yum! I've always done the "wander around and see what there is to eat" vacation, as I'm terrible for searching out specific places - but a food tour looks like a good way of getting a quick introduction to the local food scene.

  11. Love your snot description and the photo full of steam. I haven't been to Japan but I suspect it will be my favourite food destination.

  12. ow - makin' me hungry ! We had something like this - flat plate, snot spread, scrape/eat with tiny spatulas - in Osaka just off the the central canal area - very satisifying - dammit - now I want some more ! Oh well - will plan another trip to sumimasen-land soon ...

  13. It totally looks like cooking snot right? I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks so!

  14. Do you remember the name of that yakotori place?

  15. I believe it's Teppei. It's almost across the road from the restaurant with the illuminated pig in one of my top photos. Enjoy.


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