Archive for the Meguro Category

Tokyo – Eating well in Nakameguro

Posted in Japan, Kanto, Meguro, Nakameguro, Tokyo with tags , , , , on January 8, 2019 by gannet39

Nakameguro is another Meguro train station on the private Tōyoko Line which can take you directly to Tsukiji going north or Yokohama going south (see later posts). The station can get quite busy at rush hour as you can see from this video.

The cluster of eateries and shops around Nakameguro station seem a bit cooler and more upmarket than the businesses around Meguro JR. My AirBnB was halfway between both stations so I got the best of both worlds. Here’s my Google map.

I went to four restaurants in Nakameguro, two low end and two high end, all of them good in different ways. Two of them were Izakayas which are the nearest equivalent to a British pub in the sense that they are communal places where Japanese people go to socialise. The main difference is that they serve a wide range of food. Whereas other eateries tend to specialise in one culinary genre, izakayas tend to be generalists and serve a little bit of everything. My reviews are in no particular order:

Tatemichiya (Intermediate B), 〒150-0033 Tokyo, 渋谷区Sarugakucho, 30−8

Tatemichiya is a punk izakaya. The walls are covered with music posters and the pierced and bleached staff look like they’ve been dragged backwards through a hedge. The food is fine if not the greatest (B) but what’s important is the attitude and the atmosphere. It’s somewhere you can relax and make as much noise as you like. All of which made it the perfect spot to meet up with my old crew (from my left; Ken, Yuko, Peko, Shinsaku, Yuji and Uga).

We stayed for hours and ate and drank to the max. As a result most of my photos are quite blurry but here’s a selection that came out okay.

The highlight for me was the izakaya classic Eihire Yaki, grilled skate fins served with Kewpie mayonnaise. So crispy, so good!

Other pics show Sashimi (raw seafood; octopus, tuna and seabass), grilled Eringi mushrooms and steamed rice with Furikake (a dried mixed seasoning). Click the pics to expand.

Kan (High Intermediate A), 2 Chome-1-1 Higashiyama, Meguro-ku, Tōkyō-to 153-0043

Kan is an upmarket Izakaya at the opposite end of the spectrum. The décor is sleek and modern and the food is excellent but not particularly cheap. I came on my very first night in Tokyo and didn’t have a reservation so I couldn’t sit at the bar and watch the chefs as I would have liked to. I didn’t mind too much though as I was just happy to get in.

I had the tasting menu, about ten dishes, with a couple of beers and four glasses of Shochu (Japanese ‘vodka’ typically distilled from rice), for Y11,200 (about £80). Everything was top notch and the experience of eating such good Japanese food filled me with happiness after going without for so many years.

I can’t remember what all the dishes were but they include Figs with Fish Tempura and Squid Negiri (raw seafood on a rice ball), Sashimi (raw fish, seabass and tuna I think), Shochu, Mushroom soup (including Shitake, Enokitake and I think Maitake), Wagyu beef, Hiyayakko (cold tofu served here with Bonito tuna flakes and Negi spring onions), Saba (grilled mackerel with grated giant radish), Tempura (prawn and squid) and Uni Temaki (sea urchin hand roll).

There was a lot more but due to the low lighting, a lot of my pictures came out blurred so I haven’t included them. Everything was great though!

Higashi-Yama (Advanced A), 1 Chome-21-25 Higashiyama, Meguro-ku, Tōkyō-to 153-0043, 11.30am-2pm Tue-Sat 6pm-1am Monday-Saturday, higashiyama-tokyo.jp

This modern Japanese restaurant is a bit hard to find as it’s hidden up a side street but there’s a map on the website. I recommend booking ahead.

The décor is very modern and minimalist. I was seated at the bar around the open kitchen so I could observe all the goings on and talk to the chefs, one of whom could speak pretty good English. He gave me some good tips for buying Japanese knives (see Kappabashi post).

All the food was presented on beautiful ceramics as is the Japanese way. I’ve put a dozen or so ceramic shops on my Google map if that’s something you’re interested in.

I had the tasting menu for around ¥8200 (£60) as I recall. From what I can remember here we have Kaki (deep fried oysters), fish in soy based sauce, Wagyu beef and Udon noodles but there were many more dishes and some photos that didn’t come out. Please click on them to enlarge.

After dinner I stayed on in their basement lounge for a few more Umeshus.

Kushiwakamaru (Intermediate B+), 1 Chome-19-2 Kamimeguro, 目黒区 Meguro-ku, Tōkyō-to 153-0051, Open Mon-Fri 5.30pm-midnight, Sat-Sun 5pm-midnight

‘The Stick Factory’ is a Yakitori bar, a small restaurant serving bite-sized chunks of chicken and vegetables that have been skewered on wooden sticks, grilled and seasoned with salt or soy sauce. The food is classic ‘salaryman’ (office worker) fare; cheap, cheerful, affordable and good for washing down with copious amounts of lager, sake or shochu.

Typically these casual establishments specialise in chicken offal (put ‘yakitori’ into the search box of my Google map and click on the place marks and you’ll see). However Kushiwakamaru also sells more elegant yakitori like smoked duck breast and quail eggs.

The skewers are grilled over charcoal and tended by a chef who constantly fans the embers. This job can be a bit dangerous as the traditional fans can easily catch alight! I bought myself a modern fireproof one for fanning my BBQ at home (see Kappabashi post).

On average the Yakitori are between £1.10 to £1.80 a stick which is fair given the quality. I had Neginiku (chicken leg and leek), Tsukune (balls of minced chicken) Shitake (mushroom) and Gyu-kushiyaki (beef).

Other commonly available chicken yakitori include Shishito-niku (breast meat with small green peppers), Seseriyaki (neck), Tebasaki (wings), Sunagimo (gizzard), Tori-reba (liver), Tori-motsu (giblets), Hingagawa (skin), Bonbochi (tail), Hatsu (heart), Torinankotsu (soft cartilage) and Kashiwa (plain chicken meat). You might come across seafood and other meat options as well.

So that concludes my experiences of Meguro. Off into town next!

Tokyo – Eating Ramen and Tonkatsu in Meguro

Posted in Japan, Kanto, Meguro, Tokyo with tags , , , , on January 7, 2019 by gannet39

It’s all about the ramen noodles and pork cutlets in this post.
For more food in Meguro see the next post on restaurants and yakitori in Nakameguro.
All these places are on this map.

Another reason I chose my AirBnB was that it was right next door to this branch of a famous ramen chain…

Ramen Jiro (Elementary B+), 3 Chome-7-2 Meguro, Meguro-ku, Tōkyō-to 153-0063

As Jiro opens at midday I thought that I’d be straight in if I arrived at 12.30. No such luck as all the seats were full and a dozen or more people (all blokes; students and workers) were waiting patiently in a line outside.

This seemed to be the case whenever I walked past, whatever time of day or night it was.

It’s definitely a good sign because it means the ramen is worth waiting for. Unlike European diners, Japanese ramen-ya customers will quickly eat and go, so you won’t be hanging around for too long, which is a good job as there are only seven seats in Jiro.

I was surprised by how much spoken Japanese I had remembered after so many years without using it but I’d virtually forgotten how to read. This meant I couldn’t understand the buttons on the vending machine or work out what the six varieties on offer actually were. Most times, if you press the first button it will most likely be the most popular one. However if there’s no machine, just say ‘osusume?’ to the chef which politely means ‘recommend’).

I watched a few other customers making their choices and went with the most popular button. After putting my 500 yen coin in the slot I got a blue plastic token in return. When it was finally my turn to squeeze onto a stool at the cramped counter, I handed the token over to the chef without a word being exchanged.

The ramen was fantastic; big chunky bread flour noodles swimming in a powerful pork and soya sauce stock, topped with two hefty slabs of cha siu pork, pork fat, cabbage, bean sprouts and two big dollops of raw garlic.

The preparation and presentation was very rustic with zero finesse, but it packed a powerful punch and was heaven in a bowl as far as I was concerned.

Extra toppings are free but it was a hefty enough portion for me.

Mouko Tanmen Nakamoto Meguro (Elementary B+), 〒141-0021 Tōkyō-to, Shinagawa-ku, Kamiōsaki, 2 Chome−13−45 トラストリンク第3ビル1F moukotanmen-nakamoto.com

Another famous ramen shop, in a side street near the Meguro JR station. The fiery red shopfront serves as a warning as Mouko Tanmen Nakamoto is famous for its hot spicy ramen.

Nakamoto is the name of the original owner who retired and sold the business to a regular who had been a faithful customer for twenty years. With the shop came the secret recipe for Nakamoto’s spicy ramen.

The vending machine has heaps of options but fortunately they have English menus here as well.

I had the Gomoku Mouko Tanmen ramen; a miso (bean paste) tanmen (chicken) broth served with cabbage, carrot, scallions, beansprouts, Chinese mushrooms, tofu, boiled eggs, negi (Japanese leek) and plenty of Chinese chilli. It was by no means the hottest (the Hokkyoku ramen is the shop’s most fiery bowl) but it was still pretty feisty.

I went for the ‘kaedama’ option; an extra portion of noodles to add to the remaining broth when you’ve finished the first lot. I love spicy ramen (if it’s avaialbe, my usual order is ramen with extra kimchi; fermented Korean chilli cabbage) so this went down very well with me (B+).

Tonki (Intermediate A), 1 Chome-1-2 Shimomeguro, Meguro, open 4pm-10.45pm, closed Tuesday and third Monday of the month

This shop is one of the best places in Tokyo to eat Tonkatsu, a breaded cutlet similar to Wiener Schnitzel or Cotoleta Milanese except that it uses pork rather than veal which is a rare meat In Japan (and not to be confused with Tonkotsu, a type of ramen broth).

Customers eat at the long bar which surrounds the pristine open plan kitchen. Chefs in white wellies expertly perform their stage of the production process in full view of the diners.

I had the tonkatsu served as part of Teishoku, that is as a set meal with the holy trinity of sides; boiled rice, miso soup and pickles (cucumber and giant radish). Teishoku began at Zen Buddhist temples and slowly spread to the restaurant industry.

There are two options on the menu; ‘rosu’ (fatty belly meat) or ‘hire’ (lean loin). Trying to be health conscious I went for the loin which I regretted as it didn’t have quite as much flavour as I was hoping for. It was still very good though (B+).

The best accompaniment for me is a cold bottle of Sapporo beer.

More food in Nakameguro next!

Tokyo – Meguro – Walking Around

Posted in Japan, Kanto, Meguro, Tokyo with tags , , , on January 6, 2019 by gannet39

Back in the early 90s I lived in Japan for three years working as an English teacher in the Tokyo area. I had a fantastic time and made lots of friends and had many formative experiences. So imagine how excited I was about coming back twenty years later! And this time I was going to do all the things that I didn’t have the time or the money to do when I was younger.

Tokyo is a huge city and travel times can be long despite the highly efficient public transport system. If you’re visiting the best thing you could do is to stay somewhere near a Yamanote line station (the green metro line pictured above). Similar to London’s Circle line, except much busier, the Yamanote follows a circular route through all the central Tokyo districts, so you can access many of the main sights in the most travel efficient way.

For the first week I rented an AirBnB in Meguro, a fashionable residential neighbourhood in the southern part of the Yamanote loop. The flat was about fifteen/twenty minutes’ walk from Meguro Yamanote Line station which is fairly standard.

I chose to stay in Meguro because I could easily take the Yamanote line to nearby entertainment districts like Ginza to the east and Shibuya to the west (see later posts), and because there was a concentration of places I wanted to see (this post) and things I wanted to eat (next post) in the local area. You can see all these places on my rather intense Google map here and read a guide about the central neighbourhoods here.

The Meguro river is a famous place for Hanami, the famous Japanese tradition of cherry blossom viewing. Click here to see what it can look like.

The best time to experience this is mid March to early April but you need to keep an eye on the blossom forecasts as it varies each year.

I did harbour illusions of jogging down the riverside each morning but I was there in December when it didn’t look so inviting.

In terms of architecture, Meguro has this gem…

Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, 5 Chome-21-9 Shirokanedai, Minato-ku, Tōkyō-to 108-0071, www.teien-art-museum.ne.jp

This art museum is housed in one of Tokyo’s only Art Deco buildings, the former residence of Prince and Princess Asaka. The art gallery only takes up a couple of rooms and the rest of the house is still pretty much as it was when the royal couple lived here. The rooms still retain all their original furniture and fittings which were designed in a collaboration between Japanese aritsans and European artists. If like me you love Art Deco, it’s definitely worth a visit. The garden in its autumnal finery was lovely too. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Can’t remember where it was but I stumbled across this small temple somewhere near the station. Click to enlarge.

Other interesting buildings I noticed when I was walking around Meguro was this incredibly thin apartment block.

Generally residential architecture in Tokyo is really bland but this unusual block near the river stood out.

This was another intriguing place in Meguro, although the weak of stomach might want to stop reading here…

Meguro Parasite Museum, Chome-1-1 Shimomeguro, Meguro-ku, Tōkyō-to 153-0064, www.kiseichu.org

Yup, you read right, a parasite museum. Granted this is not to everyone’s taste but it was better than walking home in the rain one day, and it is quite fascinating in a gruesome way. The 300 hundred specimens are part of a collection of around 45,000 which was put together by Kamegai Satoru, a Japanese doctor in the second world war. Damien Hirst has nothing on him.

The star exhibit is this tape worm which is nearly nine metres long! It came from the stomach of a forty year old man.

There is plenty of other spooky stuff. Again, click to enlarge.

Hopefully that hasn’t put you off looking at my next post about food!

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