Japanese style curry at Curry House CoCo Ichibanya in Shinjuku

One of the days in Tokyo we had been walking for ages in the rain. We were cranky, tired and hungry. That is usually not an ideal situation to start discussing where to eat. We stood outside the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building when it struck me; “Curry, I want Japanese curry”. After a quick look at Google maps, it was almost to good to be true, we were a block from one of the higher ranked curry places in Tokyo, the interestingly named “Curry House CoCo Ichibanya” which is part of a chain with the same name. After a approximately 30 second walk, we found ourselves in a small curry smelling paradise.

Japanese curry is a gravy like sauce flavoured with curry, served on top of rice and usually paired with some kind of deep-fried protein. We opted for deep-fried chicken with our curry which came with pickles, rice and mentioned curry sauce. The food was hot, savoury, crunchy, salty and just plain delicious. Price was really good too, and we left a lot happier.

Price ($) and website
I honestly can’t remember more than it was very affordable. They have an English website with a menu that you can find here. We had lunch at their Shinjuku location close to Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (that by the way has free entry) and the Park Hyatt Hotel. Shinjuku station’s main hall is a 5-10 minute walk away.

Two really good tonkatsu restaurants we visited in Japan

One of my favourite Japanese dishes is tonkatsu. Tonkatsu or panko crusted deep-fried pork cutlets is a dish similar to a schnitzel with juicy pork covered by a crunchy panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) crust. 

During our recent trip to Japan, we had tonkatsu twice; once at Wako, where we went last time in Tokyo, and once at Maisen, a place I’ve been reading about a lot and what usually show up when you google “Tokyo’s best tonkatsu”.

Wako tonkatsu in Kyoto Station
We went to Wako in Kyoto Station, situated on the upper floors of the Isetan department store inside the station. Bonus trivia is that you can go outside from the restaurant floor where Wako is and up a couple of stairs/escalators to reach a nice rooftop area with views over Kyoto, although with a wall in the way of proper photos.

At Wako we opted to try one of the more expensive premium versions of pork for our tonkatsu. I believe the cost was around 1800 jpy, meaning roughly $16. According to the staff, it was juicier with a higher fat content and hence slightly more expensive. After a round of frosty beer mugs, our tonkatsu arrived. Since the tonkatsu came as a set meal, which it usually does in Japan, we also got rice, pickles, cabbage slaw and grated daikon radish. The tonkatsu pork cutlet was, just as advertised, nicely fatty and soft, as well as the breading crunchy. A nice thing with tonkatsu is that it, when done properly, lacks almost any excess oil. So given the relative healthiness of the sides, it doesn’t feel that bad to eat. Despite being a couple of hundred grams of deep-fried fatty pork. Wako’s tonkatsu is a really nice one and in my mind well worth a visit.

Price ($$) and website
We paid roughly 2500 yen a person with premium pork tonkatsu set meals and a beer. Website with sample menu in English (scroll down to Kyoto and then Wako JR Isetan for address): click here.


Next place to enjoy tonkatsu was, as mentioned above, the legendary Maisen or Mai-Sen. We went to their outlet close to Tokyo Station in Daimaru shopping mall, located on the 12th floor. Bonus trivia for this place is that the view from the restaurant floor’s restrooms is quite spectacular. We went quite late, so we could snap a few sneaky restroom pictures since no one else was there.

Bathroom views from the restaurant floor of Tokyo Daimaru shopping mall.

Anyway, the food. As per usual, we ordered a round of beers and a set meal each, opposed to Wako, this time with fillet instead of loin, meaning slightly less fatty meat and also a slightly smaller amount. I think it was 100 grams of fillet instead of 150 grams of loin, for the same price. The tonkatsu was served with rice, miso soup and cabbage slaw with a tasty lemony yuzu dressing. Once again, the breaded pork was not at all oily from the deep-frying. The meat was slightly less juicy compared to Wako, but that did not really matter as the crust was so crunchy and delicious. It actually felt more balanced than with the premium high fat content-pork tonkatsu at Wako, since it was almost overwhelming with both fatty pork and being deep-fried.



Katsusando from Maisen. Tonkatsu in white toast bread. Good stuff.

Maisen’s katsusando – tonkatsu sandwich at Tokyo Foodshow
Another thing we tried and that you probably should too if you like tonkatsu is Maisen’s katsusando. Katsusando is a tonkatsu sandwich, which means sliced cold tonkatsu in a white bread sandwich with some tonkatsu sauce spread on. We had Maisen’s katsusando that we bought at Tokyo Foodshow in Shibuya, a whole floor of food where different outlets sell their different types of food and where you can both pick up take-away as well as dine in at a couple of communal stand up tables.

Price ($$+) and website
Maisen is slightly more expensive that for instance Wako, and we paid about 1600 yen a person for one of the cheaper set meals on the menu. Maisen’s website, only in Japanese. Address (google maps link).

B-Mobile visitor sim card


I used B-Mobile’s Visitor sim card for surfing on the go while in Japan recently. Conveniently you can pick it up as you arrive in Japan, or order it to your hotel so it’s waiting for you when you check in (as I did).

Just a note, this is not sponsored in any way. We just very much enjoyed the easiness to order and pay the sim card online, to have it delivered to our hotel, and that it worked really well during the trip. 🙂

Usually when I travel, I try to find a way to have internet on the move. Since about 7-8 years back I’ve been purchasing local sim cards where possible, to avoid expensive roaming and to only be able to surf the web without wifi access. I want to be able to use maps, google restaurants I’m outside to see if they’re good, or just translate stuff. Or maybe post a picture or two on Instagram. 🙂

B-Mobile Visitor Sim Card
Anyway, before leaving Japan I googled how to solve this usual travel problem of mine and found B-mobile and their “b-mobile VISITOR SIM, 5GB, 21days”. We were in Japan for 19 days, so 21 days sounded like a good amount of days, and 5 GB like it would probably last if combined with a bit of wifi-surfing.

Price
The price is 3480 yen, something like $30, which I found reasonable.

Convenient pick up
The nicest thing is that you can order it free of charge to the accomodation of your choice. You can also pick it up in the airport, but that did not work for us since they had limited opening hours and there was an extra charge for airport pick ups. We opted to have our delivered to our hotel, which it was.

We picked it up on check in, installed it in our phones (it took a little bit of work, but there were good instructions with the card) and that was it. We were connected, and both of us had remaining credit when we departed Japan 19 days later.

Here is a link to their website where you can order the sim card (nope, no comission for me 🙂 )

Kobe beef dinner at Gyu-an Ginza


One of the best meals of the trip, and probably one of my best meals ever was enjoyed at Gyu-An in Ginza, Tokyo. Gyu-An specialise in meat, as in good quality stuff, such as wagyu beef and the world famous kobe beef. After quite thorough research we decided that Gyu-An felt most bang for the buck for our relatively tiny kobe beef budgets and we managed to score a reservation with the help of our hotel concierge a few days later.

As we arrived Gyu-an, after a stroll through the neon lit Ginza district of Tokyo, they couldn’t find our reservation, and I had a few seconds of panic, before they found us a table, and my greatly anticipated steak dinner was, fortunately, a go. While prices are decent given what you get, there is still a considerable price for a meal, depending how you look at it. To have some reference, and to save some money, the two of us decided to share a slightly less pricey wagyu steak set menu as well as the swankiest of the kobe sets which meant you got 200 grams, 100 grams each of kobe fillet and kobe sirloin. Included was a couple of starters, a tiny dessert (below) as well as coffee or tea. Drinks were extra but was relatively decently priced.


We had a couple of starters, but the only really exciting one was this incredibly delicious beef sushi with a thin, fatty piece of beef covering the rice. A great bite that like the beef was washed down with house red.


The matsusaka wagyu beef was just a tad less delicious than the kobe beef. Hadn’t I had the kobe beef, this would’ve been the best steak I’ve ever had. Extremely flavourful and tasty with a great tender texture.

The steak of steaks. Kobe beef fillet and sirloin. Not really sure which one I liked the best. The fillet was of course a bit leaner and softer than the sirloin, but that was barely noticeable given how tender both were. The fat in the kobe beef is not at all chewy, but rather melts in your mouth. The best comparisson I’ve been able to make is, to think of how you bite into a ripe mandarin orange and how it kind of bursts with fruit juice when you bite into it. This was like that, only that the fruit juice was kobe beef fat. It was incredibly good. It was also incredibly rich, and it was almost a struggle to eat everything given the two starters, rice, soup and salad that you are also served. No doubt this was the best steak I have ever had. My expectations were really high. I’ve been eating some really good meat the last years, churrasco in Brazil, grilled bife de chorizo in Argentina and great French steak au poivre. But this beat them all, easily.


For dessert we were served three perfect strawberries. Although it is almost insulting calling this a dessert in normal cases, we were so full that we did not really mind. And the strawberries were in fact extraordinarily tasty.

Price and location
We paid roughly $280 for our two steak meals (one wagyu at 8500 jpy, one kobe combo at 15500 jpy), a caraff of red wine, and water. The restaurant is located in Ginza, easily accessible with a couple of subway lines.

Delicious sushi at Musashi kaiten sushi in Kyoto


The best sushi, and unfortunately one of the only times we had any during the trip, was at Musashi Sushi in Kyoto. The sushi is served kaiten style, which means the chefs make sushi and then put it on a conveyor belt which diners are conveniently placed around, and then you make your pick as it passes by you.

At Musashi, you can also ask the chefs to make you special ones if your favourite is constantly taken by the couple just before you. I’m not saying that this in fact did happen, just that it could have. 🙂


We sampled lots of different sushi at Musashi, for instance ones with roasted beef, melt-in-your-mouth fatty tuna belly, lobster in mayo, tuna and quail egg yolks and grilled unagi eel sushi. Everything was really delicious, the beer was as always served ice cold in iced beer mugs and the prices were quite good too. Your check is calculated by the number of plates of a certain colour you have on your table.


Lobster salad sushi.

Steak sushi.


Grilled sweetish unagi eel sushi.

Great ramen at Kairikiya in Kyoto

After finding our Air Bnb accomodation, food was on our minds. After some searching, our first meal in Kyoto was a delicious bowl of ramen at Kairikiya in central Kyoto. The place is part of a chain spread over Japan. We had a bowl of miso ramen, karaage (Japanese fried chicken) and fried gyoza (dumplings). Everything was very delicious and was celebratory washed down with an ice cold glass of Japanese beer. A very nice thing in Japan is that the beer always during our trip came in frosted glasses.


Delicious gyoza served on the side.
Miso ramen with pork, green onion and perfectly cooked creamy eggs. Delicious.

Kairikiya’s ramen was maybe not the best I’ve ever had (I will post about that one soon), but nevertheless a really tasty ramen. We went for lunch, and the place was almost full so we were not alone in enjoying the place.

Price and place
Located in central Kyoto. Prices were quite low. Around 1000 jpy per person for a ramen bowl, a couple of shared sidedishes and a beer.
Click here for website with menu (in English).

 

With the Hikari Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto


After a first night in Tokyo, during my recent Japan trip, we took the Shinkansen bullet train to our next destination Kyoto.

The distance between the two cities is approximately 450 kilometers. With the high speed Shinkansen trains however, the trip is quite a breeze. We reserved our tickets the night before departure at one of the JR offices in Tokyo Station. We got issued a small paper ticket each that we together with our rail passes showed to staff at the station before departure next day. We went to the platform about 15 minutes before departure. No check in procedure was needed.

The Japan Rail Pass
Before we left for Japan, we purchased Japan Rail Passes. The rail pass can usually only be bought before arriving in Japan, but as we arrived they’re running a trial in which you during a limited time can buy the pass on arrival at some points of arrival in Japan. You could for instance do it at the Japan Rail (JR) office at Haneda Airport where we picked up our pre-booked passes.

Anyway, the pass can be bought for one, two, or three consecutive weeks and means you can travel freely on most JR trains, buses and ferries. There are a few exclusions such as the super fast shinkansen bullet trains Nozomi and Mizuho. The slightly slower (stops at a few more stations) such as Hikari, that we used, and Kodama Shinkansen bullet trains are included in the pass.

Why a Japan Rail Pass
If you’re only planning on only staying in for instance Tokyo, a JR pass is probably not worth it. Our first time in Japan we only went to Mount Fuji once besides hanging out in Tokyo, where the transport is mainly by subway and where many lines are run by other operators than JR, and hence we skipped the JR pass that trip.

This time however, we were to visit Kyoto where my brother lived. That meant either a looong bus trip, a flight to Osaka and train from there, or a 2,5 hour bullet train trip from Tokyo. Since a one-way trip with the Shinkansen is about $150 or 1400 sek, just our return trip Tokyo-Kyoto would be the same price as a one week JR rail pass (priced 29000 yen when we bought it in 2017), that we also used for several other short trips in both Kyoto, Osaka and Kyoto (such as on the Haneda Airport monorail and Shinkansen from Kyoto to Osaka).


Train travel in Japan is not painful at all, rather it’s a quite pleasant experience. The train runs smooth, there’s rarely a delay, and the train stations are packed with great food outlets meant for taking onboard the train. No one bothers either if you bring your own beer for instance, as several of my Japanese co-travelers did. Had beer onboard that is. And it’s quiet, oh so quiet. If someone needs to receive or make a call. They leave the seating area and stand outside the restrooms where no one is bothered.


For me the Japan Rail Pass was definitely worth it. Train travel in Japan is in my experience very convenient, easy and comfortable. Next time I’ll probably go for a two or three week pass to fully explore all of Japan. I might sound enthusiastic about this, so I should probably note that I paid for the pass myself. 🙂

Back to Japan!

8 years ago, I first visited Japan, and immediately loved it. I’ve been wanting to go back ever since, but it took that my brother moved to Kyoto to force me to lift my butt, enter R2D2 and bring myself to the land of riding suns, fantastic food and great people.

The trip started with a short but decently nice flight with Lufthansa from Stockholm to Munich. At Lufthafen Münich, aka Munich Airport, we had to visit Airbräu in Terminal 2, the world’s only airport brewery. Delicious weiß (wheat) bier und a pretty good veal schnitzel with German potato salad were enjoyed.

Then it was time to board R2D2. All Nippon Airways has somekind of a deal with the Starwars franchise, meaning a couple of their planes are Starwars painted. 

The onboard experience in Ana’s economy was decent enough. We flew the semi-new Boeing 787 Dreamliner which had onboard wifi (I paid 22 usd for wifi use for the duration of the flight. There were a couple of less expensive options too), a decent personal screen with eg. live tv (for instance with CNN and Japanese NHK premium). Leg room was also fine, and the food decent. Above is dinner, I chose the ‘Western’ option which was a beef curry with steamed rice. Everyone had the same starters which was cold soba noodles, pasta salad with parmesan, bread and a small mixed leaves salad. Food was quite good, given being on a plane of course. All drinks and food were complimentary.

Then, touchdown in the greatest city on earth, Tokyo! It was cold, rainy, dark, and beautiful, in a blade runner kind of way. We checked in to our tiny 9 square meter room at Sotetsu Frésa Inn and went out for food.

The first place we ran into on the street outside our hotel, Yotteba, advertised great chicken wings and beer. Cold as we were, that sounded too appealing to resist.

Edamame, served cold by unknown reason.

Spicy, quite delicious lightly fried chicken wings.

 

Delicious gyoza!

Stay tuned for more delicious Japanese food adventures and travel. Make sure to also follow me on Instagram for the latest updates. Arigato gozaimasu!

Dinner at Gaggan Bangkok

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Gaggan Anand is an Indian native that established Gaggan restaurant in Bangkok in 2010. The restaurant serves molecular style food based to a large extent on Indian cuisine. It has been named the best restaurant in Thailand as well as in all of Asia. 

We went to Gaggan restaurant in Bangkok last year (and Nahm which I’m hoping to write about too) and it was spectacular. Given the low price compared to a similar (probably less good) experience  in say Europe, Gaggan is almost a must if visiting Bangkok and enjoying (amazing) food. Gaggan was an experience in both terms of food and fun. Clever and creative dishes mixed with some good old tastiness made our dinner there one of the best I’ve ever experienced.


Indian street food bites. For instance you ate the whole bag, plastic and all, of nuts. Then you realised that it wasn’t actual plastic even though the first bite made you think and feel so. Instead the “plastic” evaporated in our mouths and elevated the spiced nuts. So good, and so clever.

 

“Say cheese”: Hot soufflé of cheese and crispy rice cereals, green chilly oil. Probably my least favourite dish of the night. Still good though.

Sandwich: Foié gras mousse, onion water baguette, onion chutney and hazelnut candy.

Keema Pao sliders.

Down to Earth: Summer vegetables (asparagus, morels, mushrooms, artichokes) with a 62C egg yolk and truffle chilli.

 

Charcoal: “Be surprised! We wont tell you what it is.” (It was seabass)

River king: fresh water prawns grilled in the tandoor with  curry leaf infusion and mango chutney. This dish was great, despite that the manager came and fed me a part of the prawn that I’d missed. Shame on me, I guess.

Angry bird: slow cooked country Thai native chicken in an Indian style curry. Maybe the most ‘ordinary’ dish of the night. But still so good.

Made in Japan: Matcha tea cake with wasabi.

“Magnum”: homemade icecream cake pops.

And of course, no “coffee candy” without dry ice show off when at a fancy ‘molecular’ restaurant.

All in all as mentioned above, a really fantastic experience. Well worth a visit in my mind. Visit Gaggan’s website for reservations and menus.

Larb gai recipe


Last year I visited Thailand, and for the first time I tried the dish larb, something I’ve been wanting to try for a long time. Larb is a salad common in Northern Thailand as well as in Laos. It contains ground toasted rice and herbs and can be made with several proteins. Some use raw beef, some use pork mince, I had it with guinea fowl in a spectacular version at Nahm in Bangkok, and you could also, like me, use chicken for this fresh tasting flavour explosion of a dish. A salad in my taste.

What you need
Minced chicken/chicken chopped finely
Fresh mint leaves
Fresh coriander/cilantro
1 Green chilli (or use chilli flakes – or like I did, both)
3 stalks of spring onion (the green stuff)
2 shallots
3 deciliter of jasmine rice (get Thai long grain if possible)

For Thai salad dressing
2 limes
2-3 tablespoons of Thai fish sauce
1-2 teaspoons of caster sugar

How to cook it
1. Start with the salad dressing. Roll the whole limes for a bit against the table, this will make it easier to squeeze out the juice. Then cut limes in half and press the juice into a bowl. Add fish sauce and caster sugar. Stirr with a spoon until the sugar has dissolved.

2. Time to toast the rice. Toast a deciliter of rice in a dry pan until it’s is quite brown but not burnt. When it smells toasty it’s probably about done. Ground the rice in a blender or by using a mortal and pestle.

3. Continue with the chicken. Fry the mince or the chopped chicken until done. Set aside.

4. Roughly chop mint leaves, coriander and spring onion stalks. Finely slice the green chilli if you’re using one. Then mix everything together and pour over the dressing. Let rest for a while and then served together with steamed rice and possibly a cold beer.