Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Your Guide to Japanese Noodle Restaurants

Konnichiwa! Genki Desuka? Hi fellas! How are you?

Geez! It’s been exactly 2 months since the day I left Japan and came back to Indonesia :( . Yes, I have been terribly sad and I am still wishing that someday something could bring me back to this country, where I’ve left part of my heart (or may be almost whole of it). Okay, I start to be over-exaggerating but I can’t lie to myself that I miss miss miss Japan so so so much! The fresh air, the hectic trains, the amazing queue, the extremely nice people, everything. And most importantly, the scrumptious foods, which always come with stunning presentation.

I have been waiting for this time to come, the time when I can start writing my Japan food and travel guide for all of you who have been asking me to make this for tons of time. So here it is, my very first Japan food guide and as the very first one, I pick Japan’s most wanted traditional dishes (well, according to me they are for most of the tourists), Japanese noodles! I’ll share with you the list of all Ramen, Soba, and Udon restaurants I’ve ever been in Tokyo and its surroundings. They’re somehow different one to another as you know that Japan has several styles of noodles, such as Ramen, Soba, and Udon. Moreover, for each of them, the dish itself might be various, depending on the origin or the prefecture where it comes from. Please note that the order is just random, but don’t worry as I’ll definitely tell you if they are on my must-try list!

1.    Mutekiya Ikebukuro
1-17-1 Minamiikebukuro, Tokyo
Mon – Sun 10.30am – 4.00pm

My most recommended dish here is their signature, Nikutamamen (¥1,050). This Hakata style ramen, which is pork-based broth, is the best ramen I’ve ever tried in my whole life! So if you say you’ve tried the best ramen ever, please think twice if you haven’t tried Mutekiya. This is definitely a must-must try! The ramen is served with sliced roasted pork, flavored egg, bamboo shots, and seaweed with Mutekiya name printed on it. The best parts of this Nikutamamen are the extremely tender pork and the super rich broth. Trust me, you don’t even want to leave any single drop of the broth in your bowl. Warning, please expect approximately 30-minute queue, especially if you come during weekend or lunch time.

2.    Gogyo Nishiazabu
1-4-36 Nishiazabu, Tokyo
Mon – Fri 11.30am – 4.00pm, 5.00pm – 3.00am; Sun 11.30am – 4.00pm, 5.00pm – 12.00am

My most favorite dish from Gogyo is their Burnt Miso Ramen (¥880). Yes, the color is black and it’s literally burnt. You can see the big fire in the kitchen when you’re dining in the restaurant. That burnt yet tasty broth is basically the distinctive point from Gogyo Ramen.

3.    Yoroiya Ramen
1-36-7 Asakusa, Tokyo
Mon – Sun 11.00am – 8.30pm

Yoroiya serves shoyu (soy sauce) based ramen with clear broth. I tried this ramen stall when I visited Asakusa, the place where the famous Sensoji temple’s located. The queue was quite long as it’s been known as one of the oldest ramen stall. I had their Tamago Ramen (¥880), which was served with the double-yolk egg, their point-of-selling. However, personally I don’t think there’s something special with the taste and it’s just okay for me.

4.    Kagari Ginza
4-4-1 Ginza, Tokyo
Mon – Fri 11.00am – 3.30pm, 5.30pm – 10.30pm; Sat 11.00am – 3.30pm, 5.30pm – 9.00pm

If most ramen in Japan is served with sliced pork and having pork-based soup, Kagari is the solution for you who doesn’t eat pork. Yes, they do sell sliced pork as the toppings, but their signature dish is their Tori Paitan (¥980), ramen with chicken-based soup and chicken toppings. If I nominate Mutekiya as the best pork ramen I’ve ever had, then Kagari’s Tori Paitan is the best for chicken one. I’ve never eaten boiled chicken as tender and juicy as theirs. It was perfectly cooked, which you might see from its pinkish color. The condiments were also unique, as you would get salmon roe and mushrooms. For mine, I also added sliced beef as I was so tempted looking at those pinkish medium-well beef as well, which were proven so yummy. Same as Mutekiya, you have to queue here and it’s even crazier as it might take more than 1 hour since the stall can only occupy around 8-10 people.

5.    Ichiran
3-34-11 Shinjuku, 4-11-11 Roppongi, 7-1-1 Ueno, 6-5-6 Jingumae, 1-39-11 Higashiikebukuro, 2-8-8 Azabujuban, 2-14-10 Sangenjaya, 6-19-11 Haramachida, 1-3-3 Nishikicho, 13-7 Udagawacho, 3-12-22 Sakae (Tokyo)
Mostly opened for 24 hours

For those who have been to Japan, you must have known Ichiran as it’s probably the most famous ramen chain among tourists. First time coming to Japan, the only ramen stall I know was Ichiran as so many people were talking about it. Additionally, it’s available at almost every areas in Tokyo (they even have 3 stalls in Shibuya!) and most of the stalls open for 24 hours. If you’re a tourist just like me, you might find this ramen stall quite unique as there are walls between each guest, making you feel like you’re eating by yourself in a private room. Just like other chain restaurants in Japan, you just need to order your dish through the vending machine provided in front of the stall. However, you needn’t worry as you can request for additional order later.

Cut the story short, I finally try their Classic Tonkotsu ramen (¥790). I personally think the sliced pork were too thin and I needed to order more slices as I were not satisfied enough with the default one, which came with 3 slices of roasted pork and condiments. The broth was quite good, but to be honest it didn’t impress me that much. For me, it was delicious but not to crave for.

6.    New Tantanmen Noppo Ingen
1-1-7 Nishikanagawa, Yokohama

Another variant of ramen is served here, it’s the Tantanmen, the spicy ramen with chili and garlic-based soup mixed with eggs and diced pork. They basically serve only one type of ramen, but you can adjust almost everything; the spiciness level, the garlic amount, the eggs amount, and even the diced pork amount. I go for its level 4 and yes, it’s so spicy, even for Indonesian taste bud who usually can stand quite high spiciness level like me. It somehow looks simple, but the taste is actually awesome. It’s just different style to enjoy your bowl of ramen! One note, beware of the garlicky smell which might come out from your mouth after having this. My Japanese friend even told me that people usually want to have this at Saturday as they’ll just stay at home and meet no one at Sunday.  

7.    Yamatoten Abura Soba
1-5-1 Shinjuku Nishiguchi MB 3F, Tokyo
Mon – Sun 11.00am – 12.00am

Just couple of weeks after I arrived for the first time in Japan, Yamatoten Abura Soba established their very first brand in Pantai Indah Kapuk, Jakarta. I was so curious to try as they claimed themselves as Tokyo’s best Abura Soba. I tried to ask my Japanese friends, but surprisingly only some of them know Abura Soba and they do say it’s not that common in Tokyo. I then tried to find out where the original one’s actually located and luckily I managed to go there. For you who don’t know what Abura Soba is, it’s basically boiled thick noodle with specially made sauce, served with roasted pork. People sometimes call it as soupless soba as well. When you want to eat it, you have to mix it with the special oils provided with the amount recommended. I tried their Half-boiled Egg Abura Soba (¥750), and my tummy was pampered right at the first spoon. That’s my first time trying Abura Soba and it immediately became one of my most favorite Japanese noodle! Even when I went back to Jakarta, it’s one of my top-priorities to try.

8.    Nishiesyouten
Aqua City 5th Floor, Odaiba, Tokyo
Mon – Sun 11.00am – 11.00pm

Located at the Ramen Village at Aqua City Odaiba, this ramen stall is just one of the many ramen stalls available there, each of which sell their own specialty ramen. Nishiesyouten captured my interest as they served Abura Soba (¥700). Different from Yamatoten, this one’s richer in terms of toppings and condiments, and all of them perfectly suited my palate. The taste was pretty different from Yamatoten but I did like this one so much! So for you who have tried Yamatoten and want to have different version of Abura Soba, this could be your perfect choice. Besides, you can enjoy the beautiful view of Odaiba while having your delightful bowl of soba.

9.    Kazuga Tei
2-6-12, Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo or 7-10-14 Shinjuku, Tokyo

Another option for Abura Soba is Kazuga Tei, whose stalls are available in Tokyo’s 2 most famous places, Shibuya and Shinjuku. In terms of toppings and condiments, their signature Abura Soba is quite similar to Yamatoten as it’s not that much. However, the sauce is totally different. It somehow looks like cheese but please note that it’s not cheese. For you who love noodle with creamy sauce, this can be one of your to-have list. It’s quite hard to explain how the taste is because I can’t find any other food with similar taste, but simply said, it’s luscious.

10. Tsurutontan
3-14-12, Roppongi, Tokyo or 2-26-3 Kabukicho B1F, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Mon – Sun 11.00am – 5.30am

Different from the previous 9 restaurants, Tsurutontan is famous for their udon and highly well-known for their giant portion. Even the normal one is far bigger than your face. Actually they do serve other types of noodles like Ramen, but their udon is highly recommended. I tried their Tsuruton Zanmai (¥1890), which from the picture only you could tell that it must be super good. It’s clear soup based udon, served with beef, egg, prawn tempura and veggies tempura. You needn’t worry to be deceived by the photo as in Japan, the actual one is either same or even better than the photo. Don’t think that it’s overprice before you try it yourself. Looking at the super generous portion and abundant toppings, you’ll definitely think the price really worth the quality and taste. The udon has perfect texture and all the toppings come as flawless companion. One thing to note, they require each guest to order minimum 1 food/beverage. As the portion is so huge, I recommend you to share one for two and order only light bites or beverage for your sharing partner.

I still can’t believe that I finally finish writing my very first Japan food guide. Please be patient to wait for the next series as I have been extremely busy these days and it takes quite long time to make this type of guide as I want to make each of them as complete as possible. In case that you have any questions, feel free to drop me email and I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible. I’m always excited every time I talk about Japan, especially all its foods! I really hope it can help you exploring Japan :).

Thanks for Reading! :)

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tribute to Batik at Dapuraya Pasaraya

As an Indonesian, I'm very proud of Batik as I think it is one of the inventions made by the Indonesians, which is highly acknowledged by the whole world. Last week, together with my fellow foodies friends, I visited Dapuraya, the long-time existing food court of Pasaraya which is located at Kemang. In this October month, they were having the event called "Tribute to Batik", in which the management provide free spaces for the batik sellers, coming from all over Indonesia, to sell their products and encourage more Indonesians to wear Batik. They want to educate the people various types of Batik produced in Indonesia and provide the opportunity for the Batik lovers to add their collection as well as for the non Batik lovers to start wearing Batik.

There are quite many sellers participating in the event, and they mostly come from cities located in Java, such as Pekalongan, Solo, Yogyakarta, and others. The products offered are not limited to shirts and pants, as they do offer ties, shoes, sarongs, handkerchiefs, and even tablewares and room decorations. Types of batik provided also range from the printed one until the written one.

As I mentioned before, the location is at a food court, so you might wonder about the foods provided there. You don't need to worry as I will definitely share with you about it. Remember, I'm still a food-blogger so foods definitely come as one of my most effective incentives. First time coming to this food court, I was really surprised by its size as it's so huge and it sells so many varieties of Indonesian traditional dishes coming from almost all areas in Indonesia. You can find Soto Ayam, Nasi Liwet, Gudeg, Gado-gado, whatever you name it! If I might say, they simply provide almost everything! Not only the main courses, they do serve Indonesian appetizers, snacks, desserts, and beverages. Some of the sellers are even the ones, which have been well-known for long long time.

To buy the food here, you need to buy the food court card in prior and put balance into it. It basically becomes your money here and you need to maintain minimum balance of IDR 5,000. At that time, I was lucky that I went there with my friends so we could order various dishes and tried each other's. I had Nasi Gudeg Komplit from Bu Yu Jum, Selat Solo from Solo Baru, and Sup Ikan Salmon. For desserts, I opted for my all-time favorite, Serabi Solo with chocolate and cheese toppings. Actually, they still have some other recommended dishes like Burung Dara, Nasi Liwet, Sate, Pempek, and others but we're already too full! Overall, the foods were quite nice although the price were not as affordable as the traditional Indonesian foods you bought at depots/warung. However, it could always be an option when you want to have Indonesian foods with cozy yet still traditional ambience. Additionally, the service was quite fast and the waiter/waitress were highly responsive. The most important point, you can get the chance to visit their Batik shops right after you enjoy your meals. So why don't you give it a try? You'd better be hurry before October ends :)

Taste: 7.5/10
Place: 8/10
Service: 8/10
Price: 7/10

Thanks for Reading! :)

Dapuraya at Pasaraya
Address: Pasaraya Grande Blok M LG Jalan Sultan Iskandarsyah 2
Phone: (021) 7207 201
Opening Hours: Mon - Sun 10am - 10pm

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Classy Brunch at Lareia Cafe

I always feel super excited everytime I can find spare time to update my blog and share with all of you about places I visited. I've been extremely busy lately that it's so hard to even have 7-hour sleep :(.

Okay cut the story short, I felt quite lucky that there's national holiday on Thursday last 2 weeks. Coincidentally, I had to attend the wedding of my friend's sister at Saturday the same week, at Surabaya. Of course I didn't waste the opportunity to visit this city after almost 1 year not going there.

So there I was, taking advantage of my short sweet escape in Surabaya and maximizing the opportunity to try as many restaurants as possible. One of the most wanted places for me was Lareia Cafe. I have been waiting for this time long long time ago. As the result, it's the first place I visited in the trip!

First time stepping into the cafe, I was quite surprised that the design even looked way more beautiful than the gorgeous pictures posted by so many people. Mainly-themed with white, it immediately stole my heart with its classy and elegant ambience. It simply made me feel so 'princessy' dining in there, especially with the nice and speedy service offered by the waiters and waitresses.

Choosing what to order, I was drowned in confusion as I just wanted to order every single thing displayed at the showcase. Yes, I'm a dessert freak and all the cakes were just too tempting to be true! Being in the dilemma for quite some time, I then picked 2 savoury dishes and 2 cakes to try.

Hawaiian Soka Crab Burger (IDR 80k)

This dish was surely the winner for presentation. It looked so engaging that I was so excited to taste it, especially because I loved Soka crab so much. Great news, it didn't only have gorgeous look, but also tasted awesome. The soka crab was perfectly cooked and generously given, and the portion was highly satisfying. Not to forget, the french fries did come as perfect companion.

Burmese Red Pork (IDR 85k)
If you're typical Indonesian who always think that you haven't eaten without having rice, you needn't worry as they do serve rice. My choice went to this pork, served with butter rice. I personally didn't really fancy rice, but this one was surely an exception. The texture was flawless and the seasoning was not over powering. I really loved the pork as well as it's tender, not greasy, and the spicy taste perfectly suited my palate.
Cappuccino (IDR 34k)
For this one, I wouldn't give much comment as I was indeed not too peeky when having coffee. As long as it's not too acid, it was always a nice cup for me.

Strawberry Lassi (IDR 36k)
This was actually my friend's so I only had a sip of it. Healthier choice and definitely a good substitute to your caffein intake. However, it might be quite heavy if you're taking it with full course. 

Chocolate Souffle Cake (IDR 44k)
Now it came to dessert, the part which was able to drive my excitement the most. First trial went to this 'happening' cake, posted by almost everyone on my instagram timeline. The gooey salted caramel had always made me drool and once I had the very first spoon, it's exactly the moment of truth! You might think I was over-exaggerating, but trust me, I had no single doubt that any chocolate lover would fall for this. Not much sayings, it's just soooooo chocolate! 

Lychee Watermelon Cake (IDR 46k)

180-degree different to the previous cake, this one came in very light texture and refreshing taste. This would be the best choice for you who loved something fresh to end your course. It's not too sweet, and the combination of lychee and watermelon were simply enjoyable.
It was unfortunate that I got so full and could only try 2 of the cakes. I would surely go back some time (I hope) real soon. One important note, the price is quite affordable as well considering the huge portion of the foods served, especially the savory ones. For you who happened to visit Surabaya or stay in Surabaya, Lareia Cafe is doubtlessly a must-try!
Taste: 9/10
Place: 9/10
Service: 8.5/10
Price: 8.5/10
Thanks for Reading! :)
Adress: Ciputra World Surabaya, 3rd Floor
Phone: (031) 5120 0196
Opening hours: Mon - Sun 10am - 10pm
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