Before I leave for my next trip, I should get this blog post out first.
My apologies for my vague recollections and lack of photos from my Singapore trip. It was a birthday surprise and I was just happy to see friends there, so we just drank a lot and took a lot of photos of ourselves rather than the food, like the narcissists that we are.
Anyway, here are some random recommendations for Singapore and Tokyo.
- Was Lok at the Carlton Hotel for dimsum. Reservations recommended.
- Bar-A-Thym - A friend did all the ordering and I remember most of it as being very good. When I was eating, that is. I may have been drinking more... Here's a review that might help. Reservations recommended.
- Kwee-Zeen at the Sofitel Sentosa - Go for Sunday champagne brunch. One of the best buffets I've been to. The selection may not be as extensive as other hotels, but the quality is excellent. Reservations recommended.
- Pure Yoga - SG$50 for a class. Ouch. But we enjoyed it. We went for the Hot Vinyasa.
- Butagumi - Recommended by San Francisco-based BFF, Alan Montelibano. When I read the menu, I never felt so understood in my life. There was a different selection of pork, ranked according to fattiness. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. If you love tonkatsu, this is where you want to be. There's so sure of their pork's quality, that they recommend trying it without the sauce, and just adding a bit of rock salt. I swooned with every bite.
Pork, pork fat, battered, deep-fried. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. It could only be more perfect if it had cheese in it and came wrapped in bacon with an optional chili-dark chocolate dipping sauce. Yes, I am quite mad. But you already knew that.
- Tsukiji Itadori Uogashi Senryo - On my way to Tsukiji Market, the taxi driver recommended a restaurant. He had a photo of it on his phone and insisted that I take a photo of it. Here is that photo:
Which turned out to be this:
And because I couldn't help myself, I ate all my food as soon as it arrived. But this is what I had:
I just googled the restaurant and, apparently, there is a certain way to eat it, apart from shovelling it in one's mouth. Oops!
- Tsurutontan - If you like udon and you're in Roponggi, you have to check this place out. I'm not sure if they accept reservations, but be prepared to queue during peak hours. I confess that I'm not a big fan of udon so I had no idea what to order. I was about to order anything that was laden with pork, when I thought to ask my waiter for his recommendation. He recommended this:
Which is why I am still not an udon fan. I mean, sure, it was tasty, and it came in a bowl bigger than my head - and I've already got a pretty big head...
... but it seriously lacked some piece of dead flesh in there.
But this starter was really good:
There is no English sign outside, so if the plastic displays of bowls of udon outside aren't a dead giveaway, you might want to look for this sign:
- Gonpachi - Better known as the "Kill Bill" restaurant. Even if the food were shit, I'd still go. Thank goodness, it serves decent fare. (We ordered the lunch menu.) Although the choice of house music for Sunday lunch was kinda off... We didn't make reservations but we were there when it opened so we were able to get a table. The restaurant filled up later though so it might be best to make reservations.
- Ippudo Ramen - I know they've got them all over the world, but it's still damned good. Go for the Shiromaru Classic, with an extra order of soft-boiled egg.
- Yakitori Hachi-Bei - If you like yakitori, head to Hachi-Bei in Roponggi. Order the pork belly, the enoki mushroom wrapped in pork belly, and the chicken thighs.
- Himawari Sushi - Nicolas and I randomly wandered into Himawari Sushi in Shinjuku - our first sushi train in Tokyo! - and we were pleasantly surprised to find that the quality of the sushi was excellent. We were so happy with our experience that we went to another sushi train joint the next day, only to find out that not all sushi train joints are created equal. At the end of your meal, try the sake cake. Nicolas liked it so much, he brought two back to the Philippines.
- Other random restaurants that we cannot name. It's almost impossible to have a bad meal in Tokyo. Here are other places we ventured into and had some good meals:
This place near our apartment in Shinjuku...
... only serves this...
It even looked exactly like the picture:
The owner has another restaurant next door (to the left of it, on the corner) that does more elaborate food, but we never got to try it.
At this place in Ginza, near Star Bar...
... they mash your potatoes at the table. With cucumbers and onions and I forget what else.
The beef tempura wasn't bad either...
And neither was the fried chicken...
- Croquant Chou Zakuzaku - I first saw this chain from Hokkaido in Harajuku last year, and there was a long queue in front of it. By the time I made up my mind to join the queue, they were closing. So, on this trip, I got there early and joined the crowd. If you like cream puffs, this one is really good. Yes, it's even better than Beard Papa.
- Warayakiya Roponggi - I loved this izakaya tucked away on a side street in Roponggi. I managed to snag one of the last seats at the bar where I got to watch the chef grilling food using straw instead of charcoal, a cooking method from Kochi Prefecture in Shikoku.
When I saw those flames, I thought, holy shit, surely he had burned my dinner! Yet, amazingly, the bonito that I ordered (which was highly recommended by the wait staff) was perfectly seared. Which, of course, I washed down with some sake.
- The Bar Codename Mixology - Nicolas and I tried both Star Bar and Mixology, and we both thought Mixology in Akasaka was the better bar. Star Bar had no menu and we had to rely on the suggestions of the bartender (which were the Sidecar and Moscow Mule). Mixology, on the other hand, has the most inventive cocktails we had ever tasted! They were so good that, on a previous visit, I made friends with the other patrons at the bar so that we could try everything on the menu. Some of the more notable cocktails were the following:
Redefining (and complicating) the frozen mojito: They froze the mojito with liquid nitrogen and served it with soda water. You're supposed to scoop the mojito into your mouth then take a sip of the soda water so that it will turn to a proper mojito in your mouth.
Le Perryche: Black pepper-infused bourbon / Apple / Vanilla syrup / Lemon /Foie gras ice cream They had me at foie gras ice cream. It was brilliant. One of the regulars later recommended a drink that wasn't on the menu that had truffle-infused vodka in it. When I returned with Nicolas, I asked for the truffle-infused vodka with the foie gras ice cream. I forgot to ask for the dehydrated apple. That would have completed the drink.
Now for... WHAT YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO IN TOKYO:
I normally don't do this, but I wish someone had told me this before so, now, I feel duty-bound to tell you: Unless you are fully into Japanese kitsch, or have nothing better to do with your life and can't think of anything else to do with US$80 then, by all means, go and see the Robot Show at the Robot Restaurant.
The only way I think it would have been worth it for me was if I were absolutely shit-faced, but getting to that level of absolute shit-facedness might also require having to spend a good amount of time in jail. Was the show worth that? I don't think so.
It's a good thing I didn't insist on having dinner there, because I didn't see any actual restaurant and the only food that I saw was being sold was popcorn and some assorted junk food.
There are three shows per night. Reservations are recommended. And if you absolutely insist on seeing the show, look through magazines like Metropolis or even those ones advertising where to go in Shibuya or Shinjuku, and you'll find that the ads for the Robot Show offer a 2000 yen discount. That's about US$20. You'll need one ad per person. Tickets go on sale only about an hour before the show.
Nicolas and I went to the last show of the evening. When they let us in, we were led into this room to wait:
There were no waiters. Just a bar at the far corner, with a long queue in front of it, and some guy on a stage dressed as a robot playing 80s songs.
When it was time to be seated, we were ushered through a back exit, down numerous flights of steps to the basement.
The left photo is of the steps and, on the right, are the walls going down to the basement. Total sensory overload.
They were selling more drinks and snacks at the basement but, once the show started, everyone had to be off the floor and in their seats. No getting up to the get a drink or go to the bathroom, except during breaks.
And then the show started.
It felt like some surreal variety show, with some lame background story of a robot world being threatened by some evil entity that, somehow, included dancers in glow-in-the-dark costumes performing to a medley of Michael Jackson songs, which actually was one of the best bits of the show.
The show was okay, but I wouldn't rush out to tell you to buy tickets and give it the rave reviews you'll find all over the web.
For me, it had "tourist trap" written all over it (it certainly felt that way in that small, packed basement), as well as "Emperor's (Not So) New Clothes". "Different strokes for different folks", I guess.
I would post videos but I don't know how to embed videos on here.