We, as North Americans, have seen it all when it comes to fast food joints. Looking past the cheap, greasy and artery-clogging goodness, we go time and time again expecting bottom of the barrel quality for a price that can’t be beat. We often loathe the unnecessary damage it does to our waistlines but still go back for the sweet taste of comfort. But eventually, doesn’t the common recipe of beef patties, vegetables and buns becomes a bit tiring? Don’t you wish there was a burger joint that provided a twist on the all common burger?
Mos Burger is a Japanese fast food chain specializing in mostly burgers. Being the second largest fast food franchise after Mcdonalds in Japan, Mos Burger seems to be becoming a growing brand name within Asia and even America with locations from Hong Kong to Hawaii. Their popularity among customers seems to be on the rise and for good reason. After I mentioned to my friend that I’ve heard so much about Mos Burger yet never tried it, he was determined to find one as soon as possible. Luckily, we happen to be in Osaka’s young and happening area of America-Mura; an area filled with various fashion boutiques and restaurants. Within a few minutes of walking around, we came upon this Mos Burger conveniently located on the edge of Amerika-Mura.
Tokyo (Ikebukuro), Japan
Tokyo Toshima-ku East Ikebukuro 1-42-16 Building 1F
When people hear the words “fish” and “poisonous” put together, the first thing in a sane persons mind would be to stay clear. To risk ones life for a culinary experience would be simply senseless…madness even.
Fugu (also known better as Pufferfish) is a potentially lethal fish if ingested due to its high levels of tetrodotoxin contained mostly within the liver, ovaries and the skin. When telling others that you could potentially die from ingesting poison from a fish that typically hospitalizes 32 to 64 victims a year (and is linked up to six deaths a year), there is definitely more to lose than to gain. This means that there are strict regulations regarding Fugu that are put in place to safe-guard the public from dropping dead at every corner. Fugu Chef’s require a grueling two to three year apprenticeship as well as a licensing exam in which only about 35% of potential Fugu Chef’s pass.
Nonetheless, I promised myself that Fugu is a culinary endeavor I must try before I die (and hopefully not the attributing factor into my own death).
Torafugutei is a large Fugu Chain in Japan with multiple locations (primarily located in the Tokyo metropolitan area). After getting lost for an hour or two in Shibuya’s vast amounts of streets and people the day before, I almost gave up in finding Torafugutei’s Shibuya branch. By pure luck while exploring the next day, I was able to find their Ikebukuro branch hidden behind Ikebukuro station.
I’m happy to announce that all the Vancouver Sushi posts that I thought were lost forever, have been found thanks to some archive digging. I’m hoping to get the pictures and posts up in the coming weeks.
For a country which is surrounded by bodies of water, Korea isn’t a country with a shortage of seafood. Walk around the streets and its apparent; seafood is a huge commodity in this country. Ranging from shellfish to fish, eels to “worms”, this country consumes an exorbitant amount of seafood which could easily be compared to the likes of other nations such as Japan, China and Indonesia. With a country like Korea that contains a deep-rooted and rich gastronomic history, it’s no surprise they have adapted foods from other countries and modified them to fit the tastes of the local tongue. With these modifications however, it sometimes feels like the true essence of the food was lost in translation. Luckily, Sushi Shiro stays mostly true to it’s origins without too much divergence.
Tsukemen has been rising in popularity throughout Japan in the past few years despite it’s origins being from as far back as 1951. This was when the originator of Tsukemen, Yamagishi Kazuo, opened the legendary Taishouken which still stands in Higashi Ikebukuro today. Though many purists still visit the original outlet, there has been a fair number of apprentices whom have gone and opened their own branches which still hold the Taishouken names; often or not, these off-shoot branches tend to have slight tweaks to the original recipe.
Tsukemen has always been on my mind ever since first sampling it on my first trip to Japan in 2009. Finding the perfect Tsukemen has been on my mental list of things to do since then. Having since returned to Japan a few times since then, I feel as though Warito may very well be the Shangri-la of Tsukemen for me personally.
It amazes me the amount of restaurants that exist within Tokyo, and even more-so in Japan, is staggering. What’s even more surprising is that most, if not all restaurants I’ve had the pleasure of dining at in Japan have been above average at the very minimum. I will boldly say that I’ve never had a bad meal in Japan. I chalk this up to the immaculate care given to food and the usage of quality ingredients. The Japanese culture seems to be a one which emphasizes the importance of perfection due to their attention to detail. If you’ve been to Japan, you would notice the very detailed fake food displays; most times, the food will look exactly as it is represented outside of the restaurant. In addition to the importance of serving only the best, some restaurants even go further than that as to limit the amount of dishes that will be served for the day to keep their quality control in order.
When you hear Miyazaki, the first literal thought must be of the famous director, animator and producer Hayao Mizayaki of Studio Ghibli. Though the Miyazaki prefecture shares the same name with Mr. Miyazaki, most people don’t know that this region located to the South of Japan on the island of Kyushu has some of the most regionally treasured food. Even though they may lack the worldly reknowed popularity of Kobe Gyu (Kobe Beef), Miyazaki is widely known in Japan for it’s impeccable exports of poultry and cattle; more specifically, Miyazaki Jidokko (often shortened to Jidori) and Miyazaki Gyu. Both these commodoties fetch higher than average prices and for good reason too. They are absolutely delicious.
Miyazaki Jidori is a specially cross-bred, free-range chicken originating from Miyazaki prefecture. Aside from the fact it is raised for 180 days versus standard chickens which are harvested from between 90 to 120 days, they are raised without hormones and antibiotics common to cheaper poultry. Along with that, Miyazaki Jidori are raised, fed and butchered with the upmost care.
Tsukiji is often the place foreigners go for fresh seafood and to peruse the actual market where thousands of transactions happen between seafood buyers and sellers. It’s quite the sight for anyone that hasn’t experienced it; it’s something I’d describe as utterly chaotic but somehow organized at the same time seeing literally hundreds of automated trolley’s shuffling through the traffic with catches of the day.
I’ve visited Tsukiji possibly four or five times now and it’s always a joy for me to stop by. The food is fresh and is typically slightly cheaper than what I’d pay for similar quality in areas like Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ginza. Unfortunately, I find many foreigners overlook the fact that Tsukiji, despite being known for seafood, is home to a lot of great restaurants serving other cuisine as well.
It’s sad to hear the many people still attribute the word Ramen to the pre-packaged and sodium filled varieties you find at the grocery store. Instant Ramen has it’s place in the world and fills a niche; however, nothing compares to a nice bowl of real Ramen on a rainy day or even Hiyashi Chuka (Ramen noodles served cold and usually soupless) on a hot summer day.
Afuri is a medium-sized Ramen restaurant which has branches in Ebisu, Azabu-Juban, Harajuku and Naka-meguro. They serve the regular variants of Ramen that include the typical Shoyu, Shio and Miso offerings along with Tsukemen. However, they have a special Ramen that they given them a bit of notoriety among Ramen lovers, the Yuzu Shio/Shoyu Ramen.
Yuzu is an Asian fruit that resembles and taste similar to a grapefruit and a mandarin orange but at the same time, isn’t usually eaten by itself; rather, it is able to be interchangably used as a zest (such as lemon) that is added to dishes to obtain a slight flavor of citrus that is distinctive from lemons and limes.
Now, the thought of yuzu in Ramen was a bit strange for me at first. I had doubts as to whether it would be too overpowering for the soup or whether the amount of yuzu would be negligible. The only way to find out of course was to make a visit to the location in Ebisu; it was conveniently located just about a 15 minute walk downhill from where I was staying luckily.
If there’s one thing I observed in Japan that is quintessentially Japanese, it’s the fact they love to line up. Maybe they don’t exactly love it but there seems to be a lineup everywhere no matter where you go. I suppose this is what happens when you have such high population density in a small area of land. Whether it be lottery tickets or for food, there is no way to avoid it. However, one such restaurant that is synonymous with lineups is the infamous and very popular Rokurinsha at Tokyo Skytree’s new mall, Tokyo Solomachi. Though this is not the original location located in the residential neighbourhood of Osaki or the second branch at the very busy location at Tokyo station, the core taste of this Tsukemen specialty restaurant stays true to itself despite being a offspring of the original. Regardless of which branch you decide to visit, you will be waiting a minimum of an hour at peak hours and possibly more if it’s a weekend.