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Kobayashi Soba – Matsumoto

Best soba in the world?

Kobayashi Soba has been around for over 100 years and is currently ranked as the number one restaurant in Matsumoto on TripAdvisor. Its soba is so famous that even the imperial family have tried it. You could say Kobayashi Soba sells the best soba in Japan.

T & I were the first customers as we arrived a tad too early. Before we ordered, the owner brought some complimentary buckwheat tea to our table. The tea had a delicate flavour with a sweet aroma.

Once you’ve ordered, you’ll be given a small plate with fresh wasabi, spring onion, radish and a grater. Grate the fresh wasabi and add it to your dipping sauce.

The real star of my meal was the wasabi. Most of the wasabi we eat in Australia is actually a mix of horseradish and green food colouring, which is why it tastes so strong and often ends with people in tears if they are not careful.

REAL wasabi is sweet and fragrant. Did I mention Matsumoto has the world’s largest wasabi farm? That’s right I was about to have the best soba and the best wasabi in the world.

My tempura soba set was priced at ¥1,728 and it was worth every cent! The noodles, which are traditionally made by the owner, have an incredible texture to them. The crispy tempura provides a nice contrast to the soba.

To finish the meal, the owner will bring a red pot to your table. The pot is filled with soba-yu, which is the hot water that the soba was cooked in. Add the soba-yu to the remaining dipping sauce and you have a flavourful soup to wash down your meal!

For more information about Kobayashi Soba head to the TripAdvisor listing.

Japan Travel

Japan Day 3 – Tokyo

We started our last day in Tokyo with another convenience store breakfast, I went with my usual canned coffee and sandwich from 7-11. The plan for today was to visit the Tokyo National Museum, Edo-Tokyo Museum and the giant Gundam in Odaiba.

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Japan Travel

Genki Sushi – Tokyo

If you’ve been following my Japan trip blog posts, you would know that I had an incredible sushi experience at Tsukiji Fish Markets on my first day. For my last dinner in Tokyo, I decided to go in the opposite direction. We’re talking about cheap, fast sushi trains.

There’s several different sushi train franchises but I chose Genki Sushi because of their unique train system.

There are 3 separate train tracks at Genki Sushi, which means your sushi arrives right in front of you. The system uses a touch screen, once you’ve ordered the sushi is placed on a train which hurtles towards your seat and stops right in front of it. You then take your plate and hit a button (with an angry face) to send the train back to the kitchen!
The cheapest yellow plate starts at ¥129, with more expensive dishes priced at ¥205 and ¥259. 
After I filled my free green tea and had a quick swipe through the menu, it was game time. 
My first order of the night was tuna. I didn’t expect good quality to be honest. For the low price point of ¥129, it was actually decent! 

The squid nigiri was fresh and the shio leaf was a nice touch.

Mentaiko sushi was overflowing with mentaiko! If you’ve never heard of mentaiko, it’s spicy cod roe. You’ll find it a number Japanese food such as rice balls and pasta.

The Bonito Sushi was interesting as it was the first time I had tried bonito. It’s an oily fish that is similar to tuna.

I ended up eating 12 plates which meant by total bill was only ¥1548! What a bargain, when most sushi train restaurants in Australia charge around $3.
If you plan on visiting a cheap, no frills sushi train restaurant in Tokyo, I’d recommend Genki Sushi. 
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Japan Day 2 – Tokyo

Day 2 started with a can of hot coffee and a salmon onigiri from Family Mart! After our quick breakfast, T and I headed to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Why you might be wondering? Because it has some spectacular views that are free to visitors! The 243 meter tall building has 2 observatories that offer a panoramic view of Tokyo.

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Japan Travel

Rokurinsha – Tokyo


Out of all the restaurants I visited in Japan, Rokurinsha had the longest line. Why? Because it was the most famous tsukemen store. Tsukemen is a type of ramen that serves the noodles separately from the broth. The ramen is dipped into the soup and then eaten. 

The hour long wait was making me starving, so I decided to order the the large serving for ¥100 more. Rokurinsha uses the typical ticket vending machine, so pop in your Yen and click the button with the ramen you want. 


Large Tsukemen ¥1,050



From my counter seat, I can see the chef masterfully heating the stock and draining the ramen noodles. While I watched the waitress deliver the ramen to other customers, I realised just how big the normal size serving was. When my large was placed in front of me, I was in shock.  



The soup was served in an average sized bowl but the noodles was contained in a massive white bowl the size of my head. I knew finishing this ramen would be a challenge. 


The soup was full of umami, perfect for dipping the chewy and fresh ramen noodles into.



About devouring half of the noodles, I hit the food wall. For those of you unfamiliar with the food wall, you should watch an episode of Man vs Food. 


After a quick breather, I ploughed through the remaining noodles by using a continuous dipping and sipping routine. 

Will I Return?
Yes. I’m now a convert to tsukemen, there’s such a satisfying feeling from dipping and sipping noodles!

QOTD
What is your favourite type of ramen? Let me know in the comments below!
Japan Travel

Marion Crepes – Tokyo

Although crepes originated in France, it’s a popular dessert in Japan, especially in Harajuku. In fact there’s 2 famous crepe stores that face each other in the middle of busy Takeshita Street. One is Angels Heart and the other is Marion Crepes, T & I lined up at the later.

Marion Crepes has a big shelf filled with plastic models of the most popular crepes, perfect for tourists with like myself! During our wait in the line, my eyes darted around the display until I decided to stick to the OG No.1 Crepe. What’s in the No.1 Crepe? Custard, whipped cream and vanilla ice cream. That’s right basically cream in 3 different forms! 
Ordering is very simple and easy: say the number of your crepe, pay, take your receipt and wait for your order to be called.
No. 1 Crepe ¥470

The first thing I noticed when I received my crepe was the size. This thing is massive! Luckily you are provided with a spoon to help you tackle the toppings that are balanced precariously. The actual crepe is cooked just right. Toppings somehow work harmoniously and is surprisingly not too sweet.

Will I Return?

Yes! If I visit Harajuku again, I’ll wait in line and get myself a crepe.
QOTD 
Have you tried Japanese crepes? Let me know in the comments below!
Japan Tokyo Travel

Funabashiya Honten – Tokyo

Funabashiya Honten is a famous tempura restaurant in Tokyo that has been around for over 100 years. That’s right 100 years. T had come across the restaurant while researching for things to eat. Getting to Funabashiya Honten is not easy but luckily we had directions from a food blog called Picrumb! As with any popular restaurant a line of customers had formed before the restaurant was even open. 

After a 15 minute wait, we were seated at the counter with a clear view of the tempura master who was preparing to cook our meal. T and I opted for a set menu (¥1,875) that came with rice, miso, two kinds of fish, sweet potato, capsicum, eggplant, a prawn and a ball of shrimps. There’s also complimentary unlimited green tea.

The chefs masterfully prepare each item individually with great care – serving each item one at a time. 

Each item in the set menu is coated in golden, crisp batter. The skilful cooking of the chefs has allowed the inside to remain soft. There’s not a single trace of oiliness.

One of the more unique items is this ball of shrimps and vegetables coated in batter. 

We finish our meals, full and satisfied. The service is impeccable, the food carefully executed and the price reasonable. 
Will I Return?
No. Once is enough for me.
QOTD: What’s your favourite type of tempura? Let me know in the comments below!
Japan Tokyo Travel

Ichiran Ramen – Tokyo

Ichiran Ramen is a chain of restaurants famous for its tonkatsu ramen and secret red sauce. For me, it’s one of the best ramen I’ve had. There are several branches in Japan as well as in one in Hong Kong.

Once it’s your turn to enter the restaurant, you’ll be greeted by the sight of a ticket machine. Put your Yen into the machine and select which ramen you want. The machine will spit out your tickets, which you will exchange later at your seats.



At Ichiran Ramen, you won’t find your typical restaurant seats. Instead, everyone has their own little partitioned cubicle. There’s even a chart that shows you which seats are being occupied and which are available.



While you’re waiting, make sure you fill out the preference form for your ramen. You can customise the strength of the soup, amount of ingredients you want and the texture of your noodles.



Now that you’ve sat down at your allocated seat. Press the red button in front of you and place your tickets on top of it. A waiter will take your tickets from the other side and pull down the blinds. There’s a tap for free water if you’re thirsty.


Ichiran Tonkatsu Ramen ¥790 & Boiled Egg ¥100

After a short wait, the blinds will rise, the waiter or waitress bows and your ramen is placed on your table.


The tonkatsu broth is rich but not heavy. The red sauce adds a slight kick to the dish. The home made ramen noodles were shiko, shiko and tsuru, tsuru! Which roughly translated into English mean chewy and smooth. The slices of pork were tender and cooked just right.


Chow Tips: Make sure you slurp your ramen! In other societies, slurping your food is frowned upon. But in Japan, it’s not only polite. It’s the proper way to enjoy ramen.



Finding the Shibuya branch of Ichiran isn’t hard but still will require some navigation. From the station, head to the Zara store and continuing walking past OIOIJAM department store. And then you will see the bright red light – a shining beacon calling out to you. Go down the stairs and you have arrived at ramen heaven. Before you know it, you’ll be slurping some of the best ramen you will eat.  


Will I Return?
Yes. No brainer. I hope they open Ichiran Ramen in Sydney someday. 

QOTD: What’s your favourite ramen restaurant? Let me know in the comments below!

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Sushi Zanmai – Tokyo

My first meal in Japan was one of my best. After hours of research in Australia, I finally settled on Sushi Zanmai in the Tsukiji Fish Market as the place to try Otoro. Although there are more famous restaurants like Daiwa and Sushi Dai, the ridiculous waiting times of 2+ hours were too long for me.  
Sushi Zanmai still had a line but the wait was around 20 minutes. They carry an extensive menu of all kinds of Sushi and Sashimi for a very reasonable price. 

If you can opt for a seat at the counter, which T and I did. From the counter, you’re able to watch the sushi chef work his magic, his quick hands forming little works of edible art.

After a quick look over the menu I settled on the Tuna Special (¥1,180), which had 5 pieces of sushi with varying types of tuna, and a Kaisen Don (¥1,480), which is rice topped with a variety of fresh fish and seafood. Like in most Japanese restaurants, there’s free delicious green tea!

After a brief wait, the sushi presented to me an incredible plate of sushi. Starting from the left we have the Tuna Gunkan-maki, which is chopped tuna wrapped around by seaweed. Next we have a seared akami sushi followed by the chūtoro and finally the luxurious ōtoro. I started with the ōtoro because I couldn’t wait to try this renowned cut of tuna. Now, I’ve eaten a lot of different types of food but nothing, absolutely nothing compares to ōtoro. It was MIND BLOWING. When people say the fat melts, it seriously melts like butter. You will never forget the first time you have ōtoro because all other sushi you have from then on pales in comparison. My tongue was dancing from the incredible texture and flavour. After my food-gasm, I moved on to the chūtoro, which was less fatty but still incredibly rich. The next three pieces were all fresh and delicious. 

While I was busy having an out of the world tuna experience, the sushi chef was diligently making my Kaisen Don. A huge bowl of sushi rice was topped with a dozen different ingredients including tuna, salmon, prawns, eel, kingfish, egg, squid, salmon roe topped by some chopped okra. Every piece of seafood was exceptionally fresh, which meant the dish required no seasoning at all. The Kaisen Don also comes with a huge bowl of miso soup!

Have you had ōtoro before?
Let me know in the comments below!

Will I Return?
YES! Without a doubt.

Tripadvisorhttp://bit.ly/1ytUo1K