Besides missing the sights, sounds, people, and atmosphere in Japan, I believe food is what I’ll miss the most. During my two-week stay in Japan, there was never a bad meal from the cities I’ve visited (Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka). Every meal, from the expensive marbled steaks and sushi, to the cheap convenience store sandwiches and even American hamburgers, was delicious and satisfying. As someone once said “a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” I can easily say food in Japan has definitely found my heart. These series of articles will highlight some of the foods I’ve eaten in Japan.
Japan is well known for its iconic foods such as, sushi, ramen, takoyaki, but who would’ve thought that a big juicy steak in Japan can be very delicious too, even at a reasonable or affordable price! I wanted to deviate away from the traditional foods in Japan, just to have some diversity in what I ate there. So instead of sticking to iconic foods, I decided it’s sometimes nice to be lost and see what's out there. Here are some random restaurants that I found quite satisfying.
Tucano’s Grill Akihabara
Address: 3 Chome-4-16 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 101-0021, Japan
While adventuring through the streets of anime town Akihabara, my brother was in the mood for steak, so we got lost and found Tucano’s grill. It’s a small to medium sized restaurant located in the back side of Akihabara, with a menu suited for carnivores (yum).
You can get your choice of protein, or choose from combo items that offer different kinds of meat. Ironically, their largest menu item, containing 3140 grams (7 pounds) of pure protein is called PETA (which made me laugh). We decided on the “GIGA” plate, containing 830 grams (about 2 pounds) of meat for the price of ¥2400.
The GIGA plate according to the menu had beef rump, fat-marbled beef, a whole chicken leg, slices of pork, hamburger steak, and linguica, a Brazilian style sausage. Sides included rice, corn, and bean sprouts. This plate is massive! But for ¥2400, I’m not complaining. Overall every cut of meat was cooked to perfection, arriving at the table sizzling on a cast iron pan. There is bottomless rice bowls available, and you can ask the waiter to reheat your pan to keep the food nice and hot. If you’re a carnivore eater like I am, check this place out!
I know curry is also an iconic food in Japan, but this one was a random encounter so I included it in this article. Just south of Kyoto’s Saga-Arashiyama station, this true mom and pop shop has some delicious curry. The owners are extremely nice but the gentleman who owns the shop can be intimidating at first. My guess is that he’s used to seeing foreigners/tourists so often who lack a sense of respect in his restaurant that he tends to be a little strict initially. But for my group, he was very nice to us and told us about places to check out in Kyoto. Showing respect wherever I go especially since I don’t live in Japan has been a part of me growing up, just be mindful!
I ordered Tonkatsu curry (fried pork curry), which was flavorful and satisfying as the fried pork was crunchy bite for bite even as it soaked in the curry. As we left the place, the owners bowed to us and told us to enjoy Kyoto, very sweet of them. If you want to try curry, this is good place to eat in Kyoto.
Address: 4 Chome-8-11 Tenjinbashi, Kita-ku, Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 530-0041, Japan
Before heading out to the shopping district in Osaka, we came upon this steakhouse by coincidence and immediately walked in because the menu displayed outside persuaded us. If I recall this is the famous chain restaurant which I didn’t know at the time where you eat your steak standing up, to increase the flow of customers in and out.
I believe I ordered the angus steak which was about ¥2400 for a 300-gram slice, but they have many cuts of steak ranging from Wagyu (Kobe) beef, to USDA cuts. Each order is served as soon as it’s finished, which was surprising to me at first, since I’m used to having a group order served all at once. But I applauded the fact that my medium-rare steak was actually medium-rare. The steak comes a with a side of corn and onions, on a hot iron pan. Rice is included with the meal.
A plus here is they accept credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard, and Discover, so it’s a plus if your card doesn’t have international fees.
Coming back from Osaka, I told my Thai friend who lives in Japan we were hungry and she said “I’ll take you to go eat.” Not knowing where we’re going, and having her leading us, we ended up in this Yakitori bar in Akasaka. This bar is north of the main station, right in the heart of the district. This is a busy bar, with many of the local salarymen and women coming here after a hard days of work. It’s the first time I got to experience the “happy hour” life of Japanese people. Many of the salarymen and women were laughing, drinking endless amounts of beer, neckties now as bandanas, smoking, you name it. It was fun to sit around the locals and feel like I also worked a long day and just came here to eat and relax.
The menu items are mainly “kebab” style foods, for those who don’t know much about yakitori, along with various fried noodles, and salads. There’s a lot to choose from, and some that you might not think as appetizing. Along with the purchase of pork belly and many standard cuts of meat, I ended up ordering organs such as pork heart, tongue, and liver. I’m used to eating “exotic” parts of pork so it’s not new to me to order some organs. The prices here are very cheap, with a skewer of meat being about ¥100-200 each. It’s a great place to relax and snack on foods, and of course, drink lots of beer!
Go and Explore!
While I believe that it's a must to plan what you're doing and where you're going in Japan, it's also as important to get lost and explore. These places we went to were all by coincidence by walking through the streets of Japan. A true adventure awaits when you don't know where you're going!
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