For this trip to Tokyo we avoided the touristy places. So there would be no monuments, temples, landmarks on this trip. We have documented our Tokyo trip in two parts. In this first part, we record our adventures in Akasaka, Ginza, Shinjuku and Ochanomizu Guitar Street.
Our base of operations for this trip was the Hotel New Otani. We like its old world charm and its large rooms in the main wing. It is not close to any tourist attraction but is 400m away from Akasaka Mitsuke subway station which has a few lines including the very useful Marunouchi and Ginza lines. There are more than 20 restaurants in the hotel but the only meals we had at the hotel was breakfast for which there were four choices of restaurants. The Nadaman restaurant (above pictures) was the best of the three that we tried. Very tranquil and the Japanese breakfast very good.
The Garden Lounge (below) is a huge and beautiful restaurant that offers a vista of their sprawling Japanese garden. The food was however quite ordinary, the usual hotel buffet items. The excellent ambience however made up for it. Eating regular sausages and eggs tasted much better with classical music in the background and looking at the waterfall and koi pond.
The other restaurant serving regular buffet breakfast was the TOP restaurant perched on the 40th floor. of the Garden Wing The view from there was fantastic. We could even see a distant mountain (Mt Fuji?). But it was the most disappointing restaurant as the exhausted dishes were not replenished.
Surrounding the Akasaka Mitsuke subway station is a neighbourhood of shops, and restaurants. It reminded us of Holland Village. We like to eat here when staying at New Otani.
We tried the Kondate Izakaya for the first time. We were attracted by the dark mysterious entrance and decor. Their specialty was beef hot-pot, but that was expensive, starting at 5,800 Yen per person. We preferred to try their other dishes. The stewed pork (1,350 Yen) and rice in soup (780 Yen) were the highlights.
An An Izakaya (below) is another restaurant near Akasaka Mitsuke we have tried before and this was our second visit. You can read about the details in our earlier post. The sashimi and beancurd were the highlights. Our meal for two with other items like gyoza, grilled fish and sake costs less than S$100.
Another restaurant that we made a repeat visit to was Ore-no French & Italian Restaurant. Taking a break from Japanese food, this place serves “Western food”. There was always a queue at meal times. The food was of high quality and prices reasonable. Grilled lobster costs 1,980 Yen, the eggplant risotto 780 Yen and the superb lamb chops 1,480 Yen. The catch? – Crammed space and a time limit of 2 hours to finish the meal. The last time we were there, it was standing room only but prices seemed lower. Read our previous review here.
There are also many little shops selling noodles, coffee and desserts etc. This one caught our eye as it looked like a shop that had been here forever. The elderly staff were extremely polite and it was a pleasure buying from them The mochi balls that we bought were very good The skins were delicate, translucent and chewy and had two types red bean fillings.
Even the convenience shops like 7-Eleven serves interesting food like oden. The bread that they sell there were also very good. Individually wrapped and perfect as a portable snack.
Ginza is a beautiful shopping street, but we did not spend much time on the main thoroughfare there as the stores were mostly high-end branded stuff that we were not really interested in. Wandering around the less glitzy area of Ginza revealed a less commercial side of Tokyo.
We saw this quaint looking restaurant under a flyover on one of the lanes off the main Ginza area and decided to eat there. The interior was totally different from the drab exterior. It was decorated with brightly coloured walls with rooster paintings. The Okayo don (590 Yen) and the boiled gyoza with chilli oil (499 Yen) were simple but delicious.
Ochanomizu (御茶ノ水) Guitar Street
Ochanomizu is a small town in north-east Tokyo but it has one of the highest concentration of guitar stores in the world. The street near the Ochanomizu station has guitar and other musical stores lining the sides.
We stopped to check out this basement Trattoria along the street. It looked quaint and there were office workers going in. They served mainly pasta and pizzas. The pasta with carbonara sauce with toppings of bacon and fish roe that we ended up ordering were not the best we have eaten, but was good value at around 1,200 Yen each.
The enjoyable part about Ochanomizu was not just the large variety of shops and guitar merchandise available, but the friendliness of the people in the stores here. The most memorable store here was the one with a large Paul Reed Smith collection. Santana wannabes will be happy here. The store manager encouraged us to try some of the better ones even though it was clear that we could not afford one. They also sell ESP guitars that could be custom-made either in the factory or in the workshop upstairs.
There were other music related shops such as Disk Union that had a big collection of CDs and vinyl records.
Shinjuku is a well known place in Tokyo. At the heart of Shinjuku are large department stores, government offices and the world’s busiest train station, in other words, a very crowded place. We started our visit from the outskirts of Shinjuku, alighting two stops earlier at Shinjuku-Gyoemmae Station. It was a pleasant walk through a residential neighbourhood with small shops. We chanced upon a familiar name – Actus furniture which had an outlet in Singapore many years ago.
As we got closer to Shinjuku, we saw this cute puppy in a pet shop. The animals in Tokyo pet shops look very young.
We had lunch at Rosan sushi restaurant in Isetan Department Store. There were two floors of restaurants in this store. We decided on this restaurant as it seemed like a very popular place. It was a good thing we were early as the queue when we left was really long. We had two types of sushi platters that cost 2,000 and 5,000 Yen respectively. The more expensive one had more exotic pieces such as tuna belly and sea urchin. We also tried grilled sea eel (1.620 Yen). Everything was very good, as you would expect. The eel was the highlight – it had a clean taste and was not smothered by the usual sweet sauces. Seems like there is a big difference between sea eels and the regular freshwater ones.
For dessert we adjourned to the attractive cafe on the 3rd floor – Raika. We were attracted by the beautiful photographs in the dessert menu. The robot-like item (1,250 Yen) tasted like cream puff and was really delicious. The strawberry parfait (1,750 Yen) tasted essentially of strawberries but looked very attractive.
This is the end of Part 1. We go to Shibuya, Akihabara, Ikebukuro in Part 2. Please tune in to Ordinary Patrons tomorrow.