Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday September 16, 7:20 p.m.
Monday was a bit of rest for the two of us since I had to work. But on Tuesday, I found out from the bossman that my lone student of that day had pulled a dotakyan, so I ended up taking The Egg to another favorite foodie place...The Gyoza Stadium in the Sunshine 60 Building in Ikebukuro.
Created several years ago, it's still going strong since the gyoza (meat-and-garlic filled dumplings) are firmly esconced within the Japanese mentality as a much-beloved side dish. This is the gate in front of the exhibition of representative gyoza restaurants from the country.

And these are the banners showing the prize dishes by the serious and stern chefs who create them. From left to right are two Tokyo establishments, an Utsunomiya restaurant (the city is widely known as the national home for gyoza) and the one on the right is a restaurant from Hokkaido. They're all good.

Nice use of my sparkly feature on my digital. This is apparently a sign for a Chinese gyoza shop, the place that I ultimately got my lunch from.

Again, one of the features on my camera was responsible for giving the dining area in The Gyoza Stadium somewhat more of an atmospheric glow. Although all of the restaurants have their own seating spaces, there is this large general seating area for everyone to munch on their dumplings.

Ah, my contribution to the gyoza festivities. The three on the top there are the usual pork-filled goodies while the bottom three are filled with ground shrimp.

These ones were bought by The Egg. I can't say where they come from, but I can say that they were plenty delish!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Friday September 16, 2:33 p.m.
On Sunday, after my lesson with Yajima in Den'en-Chofu, I met up with The Egg in Akiba and then got him over to the apartment to dump his luggage off since he would be staying with me until Wednesday morning while his wife was off to her hometown of Sendai. We had a tonkatsu lunch at Tonki right under my station.
Afterwards, we went down to Shibuya and checked out the CD shops such as Tower Records and RecoFan. Tokyo is probably one of the (if not the last) bastion of CDs on the planet. The Egg told me that it was getting very difficult to find some of the old discs and that one of his missions in Tokyo was to find some of those obscure albums since everyone seemed to be just downloading directly to the iPod back in North America now. He did paydirt with some old remastered Queen albums but couldn't quite find that Ratt disc. Despite the heat and humidity, we walked the 10 minutes through the NHK grounds up to Harajuku, specifically Takeshita Avenue, the core for all those teen fashion items. As you can see, Sunday is definitely a popular day there.

This was taken at the Western end of Takeshita Avenue across from JR Harajuku. You can see some examples of 21st-century Japanese teen staples such as the kitsch wearing of yukata by a couple of girls and the presence of a McDonalds.

Once we got out of Takeshita Avenue, we got onto the main street of Omotesando. Strangely, it was pretty quiet at about 6 p.m. To the left is the shopping mall, Omotesando Hills. I'm sure a lot of critics have been bemoaning the fact that the mall took over the historic Dojunkai Apartments.

Yeah, got kinda pretentious here with this shot of Aoyama during the last part of dusk. I think this was just north of Aoyama Gakuin University.

Although the place is no longer called as such, this was known as Cafe Comme Ca in Aoyama. It's famous for its display case of decoration pies and flans, including this peach pie for which an entire peach tree was probably sacrificed....perhaps Greenpeace should be contacted.

Yes, all you Vancouverites, there is an indeed a Blenz in Tokyo. There are actually a few of them and this one is in Aoyama. The Egg and I enjoyed an hour of iced coffee there before heading off for home. I guess Sunday nights are probably the best time to get a seat for coffee. Anytime before that, you may as well just grab a couple of cans from a vending shade and look for a shady tree.

Friday September 16, 2:21 p.m.

Now, back to the culinary voyage of The Egg in Tokyo. Last Saturday, I took him and his wife to my favorite ramen shop, Foo Foo, just outside of JR Shinjuku's West Gate and plied him with the pai ko tan tan men. That's it right there to the right of you. Noodles, ground beef, nuts and a slab of deep-fried pork in a spicy, hearty broth. Can't be beat even during the heights of summer.

And of course, after a brief walk through the hotel-laden neighbourhood of West Shinjuku, we stopped off at The Tokyo Hilton for dessert. I ended up with Strawberry Shortcake and coffee. At this point, your heart is probably stopping right now.

Now, The Bohemian didn't join us for that night...because I made it a point NOT to invite him. The previous night at Watamin-chi in Akiba, The Bohemian took advantage of (abused?) the all-you-can-drink option and downed four bottles of beer and became a rather sad drunk, bemoaning the fact that I was going to Canada forever. After we saw The Eggs off at the Hotel Remm, the two of us had a rather awkward but brief ride to Iidabashi Station where he just quietly commiserated about the fact that I was going to be gone from this side of the planet. I reminded him that he (I think) still has other friends but he hinted that he probably doesn't. In any case, I decided that The Bohemian was someone I could take in small doses only.

Friday September 16, 2:14 p.m.

Ah...the culinary choices one has to make in this country. Well, I really don't have to at this moment. I came across this thumbnail picture of unaju (eel on rice in a lacquered box) so I juxtaposed it with this upcoming Burger King XT Steakhouse Burger which is promising (threatening?) to arrive on these shores at the end of the month. Kinda wonder which is the more dangerous item. Skippy informed me about it on Facebook. If anything is to shatter the myth that the Japanese eat healthy, it would be the arrival of this behemoth. I mean, how many calves did BK kill to get this on the menu? Still, I'm intrigued.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thursday September 15, 1:26 p.m.

When I met The Egg and his wife at JR Akihabara's Electric Town Exit, The Bohemian also joined us with a coupon for all-you-can-drink at a nearby izakaya called Watamin-chi. So, the hard work was already completed. It was a Friday so 7 p.m. meant a long wait at the izakaya until an available table was ready for us.

I've heard that even my hometown of Toronto has gotten in on the izakaya boom. Still, I have a feeling that the Canadian versions will have to work mighty hard to achieve the culinary delights of the homegrown stuff. Amongst our choices, we had nabe with all the trimmings of tofu, green onions, sprouts and meat. A bit unusual to have hot pot on a very hot day but The Egg can't come over to Japan all that often for the good stuff.

Of course, just about every izakaya has to have a mix of Japanese and Western fare. So, of course, Marguerita Pizza is on the menu.

Along with the de rigueur edamame, there was also a bowl of chicken nanban...a faintly Southeast Asian dish of chicken marinated in spices and oils with shaved sprigs of onions placed on top. Also, we had these sticks of deep-fried pork, although initially I'd thought I'd bitten into some very al dente salmon.

As I said, Westen stuff can be ordered in izakaya. So, there were the fries and shrimp crackers as well.

Thursday September 15, 1:18 p.m. Still steamy out there in The Big Sushi. And it's been a while. I've been rather busy with lessons and with showing The Egg around. He and his wife will be flying out tomorrow back to The Great White North. However, last Friday, I managed to see them at their hotel in Akiba. Yep, the former geek hangout has become legit over the past few years, and now bars, fancy restaurants and even hotels that don't require outdoor curtains to hide the identities of customers are now popping up.

This is where the happy couple stayed for a few nights. It's called Remm (again, I can never completely fathom Japanese nomenclature) and hovers above Akihabara Station. I couldn't even see it until I finally looked up. I would never have imagined such a modern hotel in this area up to 3 years ago. The entrance down on ground level looks like the entry to a dance club...which goes to show how much Akiba has changed.