It's amazing what wonderful meals you can get from just walking in random doorways in Tokyo.
Last Tuesday, after taking a much needed beating at the gym, we strolled out of our hotel in search for a quick lunch. We were thinking sushi but were lured into this doorway by the sight of people contentedly slurping up ramen. The ordering and paying process in this joint is pretty cool. You "order" your ramen by putting money into this vending machine and selecting your desired ramen. The descriptions were in Japanese but it's fairly easy to make a selection based on the pictures. We had some help from a very patient waitress who did her best to explain to us in limited English what the difference between the soups were. I picked a soy-based soup while Mika picked a miso-based soup. I think mine was better *evil grin* The ramen was pretty good, we thought. The noodles were al dente and pleasantly chewy, the soup brimming with flavor, and the pork tender enough that it would flake off with a nudge of a chopstick. We should've shared one bowl since it was really more than enough for both of us. And a bowl of ramen is just about 9000 yen (approximately $9) and way better than David Chang's—take that Momofuku Noodle Bar!
That night, we were roaming the streets of Roppongi after having dropped a small fortune for a couple of glasses of wine at the Hyatt (yes, we have our moments as suckers too). Again, we were searching for sushi but ended up instead at this place where all sorts of yumminess are served up from the grill. Everyone inside was Japanese (always a great sign) but thankfully they were able to scrounge up an English menu for us. We ordered scallops, black cod and chicken drumsticks. I thought it was pretty cool to see how they cooked the scallops.
But it was even cooler, of course, to actually eat the scallops. The scallops were cut into thin slices, with each one perfectly tender and flaky, and having that delicious, light sweetness you get when scallops are cooked just right. I'm not sure what exactly was in that soup but it was slightly buttery and delicious enough that we didn't spare a single drop of it. Next we got the chicken drumsticks, which there was surprisingly quite a lot of. The meat was coated in that delectable sweet yakitori sauce and grilled the perfect amount so that the chicken remained juicy. Chicken in Japan, just like every other ingredient, is incredibly fresh and that much more tasty. Then, the piece de resistance was laid in front of us: the black cod. Our eyes gaped in amazement when we took our first bites. The cod was cooked perfectly, of course, so that the succulent flakes effortlessly slid off each other. The meat had that rich, sweet taste and the texture was just unbelievably moist and velvety. "Nobu Next Door has nothing on this cod," I kept repeating. Well ok, maybe Nobu Next Door can one-up them with Sarah Jessica Parker sightings while you have your cod, but as far as just the food goes, this place wins hands down. After we polished off the cod, we still had some Kirin and sake left so Mika ordered clams cooked in sake. Of course, they were yummy too.
The most amazing part was that the entire meal, drinks included, cost exactly as much as our two glasses of wine at the Hyatt! So it definitely pays to wander out of the hotel and into random nooks and crannies in search for good (and inexpensive) food.