As Genki Takahashi and I drove down the Kyushu Expressway, I was reminded of Napa Valley. As in Napa, the highways are lined with fields growing the local specialty in perfectly manicured rows. But the crop here isn't grapes: it's tea. Matcha, specifically, and some of the finest in Japan.
'Japan' on Serious Eats
If you're visiting Tokyo for business or pleasure, there's a good chance you'll be staying in the Shinjuku area. Arrive at night, and you'll feel like an alien (or perhaps a replicant?) amidst all the neon in the Blade Runner-like atmosphere. And while amazing Japanese food surrounds you, that alien feeling may challenge you in navigating the streets (addresses are difficult in Japan), not to mention the menus, and perhaps even the basic how-tos of ordering and etiquette. Read on for a list of essential Japanese dishes to eat in Tokyo and our favorite spots to enjoy them, all right in the Shinjuku area.
Ever wanted a Spam burger for breakfast? Good news (if you live in Japan): Burger King can set you up for ¥260 (about $2.50 US).
Ota is the most unique produce market I have ever visited: few signs, little on display, no crowds of frenzied shoppers, no shouting, no aromas. Like so much in Japan, you need to know where you're going and what you're looking for to have a successful trip. Here's how to make the most out of your visit.
As part of their American Vintage campaign, McDonald's Japan released the Diner Double Beef burger, their image of a 1950s diner steak plate in hamburger form: double 100 percent beef patties with a fried egg, a slice of cheese, onions, Chicago-style steak sauce, and a mashed potato sauce on a classic whole wheat bun.
Instead of tomato, two new burgers from Burger King Japan are sporting grilled apple slices.
Yep, you read that right: chocolate sauce is being used as a burger topping.
Suntory and Nikka remain the sole Japanese distillers exporting their whisky for American consumption, but there are a number of new bottlings on the market in the US.
This vodka from Suntory is made from 100% Japanese rice and water sourced from the island of Kyushu. The rice mash is distilled in small pot stills and clarified through a bamboo filtration process.
Watching top bartenders in Tokyo, I think of the Japanese tea ceremony, with its elaborate details and rules. Both reflect what Japanese call kodawari, which translates roughly to a striving for unreachable perfection achieved through relentless practice, repetition, and extreme attention to detail.
Yakitori, takoyaki, tsukumen, and more: what and where to eat should you find yourself hungry in Tokyo in the wee hours.
As Tokyo's legendary Tsukiji fish market prepares to move in 2015, we pay a visit to the tuna bidders inside and discover some of the lesser-known vendors just outside of the main market. Plus, sushi for breakfast!
I interviewed author Matthew Amster-Burton, one of the funniest writers I know, about his new book, Pretty Good Number One, which details his experiences eating around Tokyo. Plus, a ramen-filled excerpt from the book!
These days, miso-marinated black cod is almost synonymous with Nobu Matsuhisa's New York restaurant, though he by no means invented the dish. It stems from a traditional Japanese preparation called kasuzuke, in which fish and vegetables are marinated in the leftover lees from sake production before being broiled or grilled. This is the fish dish to pull out when you're ready to blow away your spouse or dinner guests, but don't want to put more than five minutes of effort into making dinner. Five minutes. Really.
Until 1994, Japanese tax laws, enacted to protect domestic brewing, set minimum production limits that instead ensured the dominance of the big four breweries Kirin, Asahi, Sapporo and Suntory. However, when those minimums were lowered from two million liters/year to 60,000 liters/year, it opened the door for craft brewing to emerge in the land of the rising sun. Since then, a fledgling, but vibrant scene has developed, and Yo-Ho Brewing in Nagano is a leading player.
Bacon cubes and truffle sauce on a burger? Yep, it's a thing.
Freshness Burger, a Japanese burger restaurant, has invented a new wrapper that lets female customers dig into the largest burger on the menu without fear of judgment.
A new black bunned burger is headed to Burger King Japan. This time, it's topped with a hash brown patty, thick, ham-like bacon, and onion-garlic soy sauce.
At East Side King at Hole in the Wall in Austin, chef/owner Paul Qui, head chef Yoshi Okai, and partner Moto Utsunomiya are known for turning out slightly gonzo, supremely satisfying ramens like beer bacon miso and chicken tortilla ramen. They're also all ramen aficionados in their own right, clocking serious mileage between Texas and Japan to scope out the latest in ramen trends across the country. We talked to the trio about their most memorable bowls of all time, ramen in the US versus ramen in Japan, and more.
With so many quality restaurants serving ramen at reasonable prices (you'll rarely pay more than $10 for a bowl), it's tempting to travel throughout Tokyo tasting bowls of noodles. Here are eight of my favorite bowls.