Appetizer at Hamadaya
Appetizer at Hamadaya

Sashimi and Hamadaya
Sashimi and Hamadaya

Jessica distracted from her soup
Jessica distracted from her soup

Butagumi
Butagumi

Iberico pork tonkatsu
Iberico pork tonkatsu

The famed Roppongi Hills giant spider
The famed Roppongi Hills giant spider

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The view #2
The view #2

A very orchid Christmas
A very orchid Christmas

The sky deck
The sky deck

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Sadaharu Aoki's incredible matcha opera cake
Sadaharu Aoki's incredible matcha opera cake

Lulu's long distance love connection?
Lulu's long distance love connection?

Tokyo's infamous Christmas cows
Tokyo's infamous Christmas cows

Hop into a taxi in Tokyo and you’re in for a wild ride because it’s pretty much a given that your driver will have no idea where he’s going. Chalk it up to the city’s antiquated address system, its winding side streets, or its crisscrossing thoroughfares – whatever the reason, cabbies seem to be veritable tourists in their own hometown. Thank God for nav systems. Last night, for instance, my driver had one eye on the road, the other on his dashboard map, zipping through the congested labyrinth, turning up a side street and then down an empty alleyway, stopping in front of what looked like somebody’s garage. Surely he was mistaken. This couldn’t be Hamadaya, one of the restaurants Michelin had recently awarded an astounding 3 stars? Could it?

Well, once I stepped inside, it was as if I’d been transported far from the city to a ryokan in the Kyoto countryside. The place looked like something out of an Edo period sword and sandals epic. I was escorted into the tea room and there met my internet pal and new food buddy Jessica, a Houston native who is in Japan teaching English to kindergarteners. Following some preliminary introductions (“I’m a television producer, I have four dogs and a wife, and my favorite cereal mascot is the Trix rabbit.”) we were invited upstairs to our private tatami room. Of course, as expected, we had to remove our shoes. And, of course, despite my best efforts to ensure I’d packed my best pairs, one of my socks developed a hole. Fortunately, it was on the bottom of my right foot and I don’t think anyone noticed.

Anyway, we settled into our private room and then proceeded on to our kaiseki feast. For those of you who don’t know, kaiseki is a traditional Japanese multi-course meal with an emphasis on seasonal local ingredients, taste, texture, and appearance. We started with an amuse, a cornet fish seasoned with kelp, and daikon radish and carrot marinated in vinegar, then were presented with the appetizer, a colorful selection made up of shrimp, mushroom omelet, angler liver, pickled squid served with a sauce of salted and fermented bonito guts. All of the flavors were crisp and distinct, and while I can’t say I was a huge fan of the bonito guts, I did enjoy everything. Our next course was soup with steamed seas breem, deep fried tofu and greens. Again, simple, clean flavors. Very nice. The same can be said for the ensuing sashimi dish – super-fresh tuna, flat fish, and halfbeak served with wasabi. For our next dish, we were served grilled beef filet with Japanese pepper served atop some steamed rice with wasabi stem and greens. Another artful preparation. We followed with grilled harvest fish with white miso, asparagus and crown daisy, and dried sea cucumber dressed with vinegar and then some steamed tilefish and turnip with kudz sauce. Deep fried prawn with grated daikon sauce and then, to round out the meal, some rice, simmered sea eel, a wonderfully rich dark brown miso soup, and pickles. Finally, we closed things out with some melon, strawberry, and hot sweet red bean soup. All I can say is Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a better-looking meal.

By the time I got in, I was exhausted and went right to bed. Then, this morning, I got up, got in a work-out, then headed out to Minato-ku where I had lunch at Butagumi, a restaurant that specializes in tonkatsu – deep fried pork (by the way, kudos to my cab driver who ended up negotiating an impossibly narrow side street to get me there). The menu consists of some 20 different varieties of pork, each with its own little write-up. For instance, there’s the Nakijin-Agoo-buta from Okinawa that was at one time an endangered species, the Eishow-ton fromm Kanagawa in central Japan whose ancestry can be traced back to China and is 80% sweet fat, and, of course, the Bimei-ton which is described as light-tasting. But I was there for the heavy hitter, Spain’s famed Iberico pork. Like Kobe beef, the meat practically melted in my mouth. Of course, like Kobe beef, the meat was incredibly well-marbled.

Figuring I could use the exercise, I decided to skip the taxi and walk the neighborhood. The neighborhood, it turns out, was Roppongi and the walk eventually took me to the Roppongi Hills shopping complex where I went up to the 52nd floor and checked out the glass-walled observatory. Whereas most everyone else had their faces practically pressed up against the glass, I was barely skirting the central shops, staying as far away from the vertigo-inducing view as possible. Still, I did manage to snap a few pics before making my way over to the Mori Art Museum where I took in two exhibitions, one on gold, the other on contemporary Indian Art. The former was fine, more field trip material for students, while the latter offered works that ranged from the silly and suspect to the downright fascinating. My favorite was the room dedicated to the interactive video that would capture your shadow as your stepped inside. Then, shadowed objects would drop down from the sky and stick to you – broken mannequins, cylinders, toasters. The longer you stood in the room, the more objects would come done until your shadow was completely encapsulated within a shell of junk that would bob and shudder with your every step, occasionally detaching from you and attaching onto whatever fellow museum patron you happen to cross paths with.

Suitably edified, I headed out, strolled through a park, and eventually landed in the Tokyo Midtown Shopping Complex where I dropped by Toraya, a maker of traditional Japanese confectionary that goes as far back as the 1600’s. The wagashi are little works of art, fashioned out of red and white adzuki beans, kanten (a seaweed-derived gelatin), and wasambonto (a unique, powdery domestic sugar). I picked up a few, then happened across a shop selling Noka, the world’s most expensive chocolate. But is it the world’s best chocolate? I’ll tell you tomorrow once I’ve sampled the four pieces I picked up.

I had lunch at the food court, some cold soba noodles (I didn’t realize they’d be served cold when I ordered them), then made my way over to Sadaharu Aoki Patisserie where I ordered the chocolate parfait and a perrier. My waitress suggested that if I wanted to order a cake or pastry as well, I should feel free to select something from the nearby display. A cake or pastry in addition to my chocolate parfait? What a brilliant idea. I ended up ordering the matcha opera cake. And it’s a good thing I did because, while the chocolate parfait was fine (cookies, vanilla and chocolate ice cream, and whipped cream), that match opera cake was outfreakingstanding! Layers of green tea genoise, green tea butter cream, and chocolate ganache deliver a sublime bittersweet rhapsody of flavors. This was soooooo good that I’m already planning a return visit.

On my way out, I stopped by a shop called the Pet Shop, sort of a pet store, vet, and doggy daycare in one, and met an adorable Frenchie named Gutsu (perhaps named after the lead character from Berserk?). As I snapped some pics of the little guy, I realized how much I miss my gang back home. They, in turn, are no doubt anxiously awaiting my return.

Well, another successful day which I intend to cap off with another decadent dinner. Tonight, it’s another Michelin 3-star selection: L’Osier.

And speaking of 3-star selections, check out today’s Weird Food Purchase of the Day: Japan Edition in which I sample some decidedly off-the-wall ice cream flavors…

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Anton

I kind of want some “salt” ice cream now. Maybe Dracula was a brand name?

Luis
Luis

Was that Sticky Rice in Jessica’s bowl?

riley

Oh, Joe! You are my hero! Eating squid ice cream purely so I can laugh at you … You’re a special guy.

I’m intrigued, though, about that salty one. And the cheese one! I only have yummy ginger ice cream in my freezer, though.

Ben

Those spiders are everywhere! This one, of course, in downtown Ottawa: http://www.flickr.com/photos/myutopian/498112903/. It won’t be there much longer, however….

Narelle from Aus

I’m still seeing neat suits!
Do they always combine sweet and savoury in their ice-creams? I noticed you didn’t pick up any Whale flavour ice-cream left over from all that scientific research they are doing.

Is there anything you won’t try? The fermented bonito guts thought had me almost experiencing my dinner twice.

I like your personal “elevator pitch”. What did the others say for their quick introductions?

Joe said:

a restaurant that specializes in tomcats

Are we talking the kitty cat kind? Actor leftovers from the movie? Jet fighters?

Have a good night!

Becka

Dracula = Garlic, I can’t believe you didn’t get that one Joe! You horror fan you. See the little symbol on the front, it looks like garlic clove. hehehe Nice that it actually tasted like cardboard. Ewwwww, I have had many things in my day taste like cardboard too, did you ever notice that when they package things. Ugh, nice it taste just like the package.

Thanks so much Joe for the weird food video, I so missed them.

Have a great time, sounds like you are, stay safe! Thanks for blogging the trip too, really enjoying the read.

Anais33

Coucou Joseph!! Sa va ? moi oui, j’ai passer une trés bonne journée, vous aussi on dirait^^!!!
Trés sympas ces photos! Vos chiens doivent vous manquez non?

Les Frenchie sont toujours adorable^^!!

Ahhhhhhhhh, j’adore vous voir sur les video!! c’est trés drole de voir tout ces éxpressions sur votre visage on comprend trés vite votre opinion sur le produit^^!!!

Passer encore une trés bonne journée!*
Bisou a demain!!!

Anais33

Coucou Joseph!! Sa va ? moi oui, j’ai passer une trés bonne journée, vous aussi on dirait^^!!!
Trés sympas ces photos! Vos chiens doivent vous manquez non?

Les Frenchie sont toujours adorable^^!!

Ahhhhhhhhh, j’adore vous voir sur les video!! c’est trés drole de voir tout ces éxpressions sur votre visage on comprend trés vite votre opinion sur le produit^^!!!

Passer encore une trés bonne journée!*
Bisou a demain!!!

drldeboer
drldeboer

Glad you’re having a gastronomically great time. I love that cartoon Eiffel.

Holiday time here, hope everyone who celebrates it has a lovely, safe and relaxing Thanksgiving. even in the worst times there’s always something to be thankful for.

Brain Storm = Emotional cyclone. Best thing and what I anticipated most about this episode was Dave F, Bill Nye and Neil, they didn’t disappoint, I loved their performances. I loved Ronon’s comment at the beginning. I woulda loved Rodney in this- without Jennifer. Didn’t like end scene. I’m glad she’s become more assertive but not where Rodney’s concerned, can we say “hen pecked”? That’s what her behavior towards him comes off as to me (when she’s not being sexually aggressive), and it will get old fast. Won’t be long before Sheppard says something to McKay about either hecking pens or how’s Jen in the sack. Wait, it will be long because of no s6. Ah well there’s always fanfic which changes everything.
DD

Rebecca T

I was barely skirting the central shops, staying as far away from the vertigo-inducing view as possible. I do exactly the same thing at the top of the Eiffel Tower *shudders*

As for the ice creams, I’ve always enjoyed eating something salty after eating something sweet, so having them both at the same time is an interesting and probably good concept for an ice cream. As for the Dracula ice cream, maybe the Japanese think that Vampires think that humans taste like cardboard. That’d be a bit boring, wouldn’t it?

heartsmeneko
heartsmeneko

LMAO! eeeeeeeew squid. Awesome vid arigatou!

Jinx

I think I need to start planning my own trip to Japan…you are just having too much fun (& too much good food) for me to stand!

My favorite gelato flavor is Black Pepper & Olive Oil, so I probably would have gone with the Salt ice cream as well. Not sure what would even possess someone to combine squid & ice cream. *shiver*

wonderingbrit

I laughed outloud when you said “Double Cheese”.
3 questions for you; 1, would it be better to take a sip of water between each thing to get a better taste of each flavour? (that said, after seeing the squid thing – maybe not).
2. Have you ever eaten anything that the moment you put it your mouth you had to spit it back out?
3. Just how many clothes did you take with you? that appears like a lot of jackets and shirts.

Amanda Engle

Hello Joseph!
I had gotten an email once from my sister about food in China… they serve like dog and horse stew and dung beetles. Just, please, ask what it is before you buy it, I’d hate to think of someone eating horse or worse yet… a bug!

I had an idea the other day and wanted to throw it at you since you are, after all, the man… on dgeek.com (David’s place) there’s a forum thread called squirrels diet post and this is a reply I made…

Too bad we can’t make a video of empty Atlantis halls going by… with the cast walking by from time to time, waving or something.
We could all put our bikes or treadmills in front of the tv and pretend we’re walking, running, or biking through Atlantis!

Wonder if we could talk The Flan into making an excercize video for treadmills and another for bikes. For the treadmill, he could start at level one, walking through Atlantis, the camera could be like ‘us’ following him, and he’d turn and say encouraging things like ‘you’re doing great, just a little further’.
Level two could be him jogging and from time to time, rather than the you’re doing great type things he usually says, he could give us a gentle kick in the pants… ‘Come on, you’re not tired yet, we just got started. Buck up.’
Level three could be running… not as fast as he did in conversion though. At that point the kick in the pants may need to be a little tougher to keep us all motivated.
But I would totally follow John around Atlantis(That way I could lie and say the panting I was doing was from the running ;D )!

OH! We could get a whole line of Atlantis work out videos! Just think of what Rachel could teach us as Teyla… we could lose weight AND learn to kick some major butt! Who needs self defence classes when you have Teyla on your side?!
Hmmm, I move we talk the cast into doing work out videos… I bet they’d sell like hot cakes! I know I’d by them!!

Anyway, You have access to the cast, and since you’ll all be getting together soon for the movie… might be worth talking about. A good way to please the fans AND get a little more cash from Atlantis.
Thanks for your time Joseph! Hope you’re having fun and not eating anything that will scar your tastebuds for life.

Michelle Lunsford

Am enjoying reading of your Tokyo travel adventures. Sounds like you’re having a good time. I admit to getting a chuckle out of your description of the trip up to the 52nd floor of Roppongi Hills as this is how I typically respond in similar vertigo-inducing situations. ; )

And that matcha opera cake sounds absolutely divine! Looked pretty scrumptious too.

susanthetartanturtle

I think that I will stick to Vanilla ice cream.

Hope you have been speaking to your loving hounds via sub-space or something whilst you are away. You can be certain that they will miss you much more than Fondy will.

smile

Hayloh
Hayloh

Loving the written tour. Thanks!

Rose
Rose

Joe,

But. But what about the toilet??

; )

Rose

Karen
Karen

Squid ice cream…. ick, Joe, didn’t you sample a kettle corn cheese ice cream a while ago back home??? If I remember correctly that was a winner for you too. I can see how that sweet/ salt taste combo would be appealing.

That’s so nice of you to entertain us while you are vacationing.
Thanks

dasNdanger
dasNdanger

Giant. Spider. shock

Gee, THANKS, Joe.

razz

das

JES
JES

I also saw the garlic symbol on the Dracula ice cream and I’m wondering why Japanese garlic tastes like cardboard, at least in ice cream.
Questions for Martin Gero:
I’m assuming that the scenes in the control room and flooded hallway were shot in a refrigerated location, given the frosty breath of the actors. Where were the scenes shot? If they were shot in a refrigerated trailer, how did you make the control room look so large/roomy?

Sherry
Sherry

Hmm…The squid one said “tako” on it and I’ve always been under the impression that tako is octopus… Not that that would have made it any better but still, octopus is a bit cooler than squid.

DJ
DJ

Hiya Joe!
I’ve been enjoying the Japan tour by proxy. Thanks so much for sharing pictures and your food experiences too. I LOVED the photo of the Orchid Christmas tree. The mechanics of putting that together have boggled my mind.

Perragrin

“But I would totally follow John around Atlantis(That way I could lie and say the panting I was doing was from the running ;D )!”

I so read that wrong..

Joe: Instead of using all your energies trying to pitch pilots and horror films, why don’t you invest in doing a Joe’s Gourmet Tour of the World? That way, we get funny, witty, downright snarky, scientific, drama and horror all wrapped up in the one show. Not to mention the environmental aspect of meet and greet with your food before it’s whisked off to be throttled and tossed into a pan. I’d watch, though maybe not quite pre-watershed mark and certainly not whilst i’m toying with my own dinner.

Das: Whilst my love of Rugby is based purely on the game itself, I have to admit there’s something delightfully entertaining about watching two teams of exceptionally well-built guys trying to de-robe one another on the pitch. Tackles, rucks.. you name it, clothes are gonna get shredded everywhere. It’s all a part of the match.

And a 10 lb Haggis?

At least they managed to kick the leather. England were apparently wearing mittens on their feet when playing S. Africa razz

Timothy
Timothy

You mean this NOKA?
http://tinyurl.com/ynfup6