Tonkatsu and Zakuro Shabu Shabu

We have been staying at Tokyo Park Hotel which is around a 10 min walk from Shimbashi station (JR line). Every day when we walk to the station, we saw this shop underneath the Shimbashi station complex. They sell onigiris and rice soup. It’s designed for a quick eat going to and fro work. There is a vending machine and you choose your meal and they ask whether you want a big rice or small rice. We just wanted to share this rice with some salmon and seaweed. It’s a nice breakfast.

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Rice Soup with Salmon and Seaweed

It was a shopping day today, so we went to Shinjuku and checked out some of the department stores. IK wanted to eat Tonkatsu, so we ventured up Takashimaya department store to Katsukura. We ordered a Rosu Cut Tonkatsu set. Rosu is the more fattier cut, whilst HI RE is the leaner cut. Obviously tastes better when its fat. There’s a few appetisers included in the set. Some veges to start.

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Appetisers

IK wanted the tofu.

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Tofu Appetiser

all these Tonkatsu restaurants usually comes with a Tonkatsu sauce and sesame that you grind first and dip in. Also is a ponzu sauce for the sliced cabbage. (I can eat a kilo of this I reckon)

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Condiments

You can see the fat lining one side of the pork. It was divine. Crunchy on the outside, the fat rendering gives that juice and makes the pork much more moist.

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Rosu Tonkatsu

It was a rainy day so there wasn’t much excitement. We were meeting up with my host family which I was quite excited about. They took us to have Shabu Shabu in Nihonbashi station called Zakuro. It was quite hidden, you had to walk down some stairs to get to this place. I knew it was going to be an expensive place as the staff come and greet you and take your belongings to store. It’s a place where lots of businessmen take their clients and do some PRing.

Started off with some sesame Tofu.

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Sesame Tofu

Some more fish testicles…. Shirako with lemon. Love this stuff. Just love fish balls.

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Shirako (Fish Milt)

Now I have totally forgotten what I ate here. It was a savoury jelly. I couldn’t remember what was in it though…

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Jelly appetiser.

Check out these big pots where you shabu shabu in them. Host family told us its called shabu shabu because it mimics the sound when you move the meat around the hot pot.

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Shabu Shabu Pot

Lady pouring some more hot water in.

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Lady pouring more hot water in.

Just love the shabu pot.

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Shabu Shabu pot

Comes with a few sauces when you have the wagyu meat. The sesame or the ponzu sauce. Both were nice.

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Sauces that come with it

Look at the warble of the meat. Snow in meat.

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Marbling

And more just for you.

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More marbling

I really don’t know how this gadget works but it is just fascinating. The water has to be boiling hot.

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Looks like a little chimney

Had some noodles as well to finish off. this was cooked in the shabu shabu pot after we finished our meat.

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Egg noodles

Some pickles with the noodles.

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Pickles

Dessert to finish off. Red bean with mochi.

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Red bean with mochi

Group shot!Oh yes, we had aprons as well!

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I’ve been to better shabu shabu places, but it was nice to have a meal and catch up with your loved ones. My host brother hasn’t changed too much, still really couldn’t understand his english at times!

Next up we’re going back to Hongkers! JAL first class lounge review and Cathay 777 First Class review.

Tokyo Sky Tree and Bistro Bizen

We wanted to check out the new Tokyo Sky Tree Tower which was quite close to Asakusa. We took the train and got off at Oshiage station and walked the Tokyo sky tree.

How to get there…

to climb this beast.

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Tokyo Sky Tree
Floor guide…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our friend who has been working in Sapporo until recently has never been, so we went together. The queue was crazy, it was like a maze of humans and one of our other friends told us he waited 3 hours last time! My god… Luckily we waited maybe 30 mins. So theres 2 observation decks. The first one goes up to 350m (Tembo Sky deck) and then you pay to go further up to 450m (Tembo Galleria). Galleria was smaller, also had 360 degree views but was less crowded.

 

 

 

 

But look at the night views you can get once you’re up there… You just wonder how friggin big Tokyo is.

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View from Tokyo Sky Tree

The views are just spectacular.

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Another view

Just thinking this can never happen in Australia…

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Another shot from the observation deck

There are quite a few interactive screens as well to learn more about Tokyo.

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Interactive screens

We managed to get a shot of santa up there as well.

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Santa shot
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Level
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Shot going up the elevator
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Night View
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Another board showing the landmarks

The views up Tokyo Sky tree are amazing. There were a lot of people so be warned. After checking out sky tree, the boys took us to a French / Japanese restaurant called Bistro Bizen. Bizen is the Japanese pottery. So every dish etc is made out of porcelin or Bizen as they call it.

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Bistro Bizen

We were a bit early by 30 mins or so and they wouldn’t let us in… So typical of Japanese, you have to come back at the RIGHT time. Anyway we felt like a beer and snack so we went to the Izakaya next door to have some skewers and izakaya food.

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Bistro Bizen Entrance
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Izakaya Menu

Fancy some offal? pretty damn good izakaya. One thing I didn’t like is that people can still smoke in restaurants etc.

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Offal Dish

We went back after 30 mins or so and were welcomed by some friendly Japanese staff. It’s only a very small restaurant, maybe 10-12 tables at most. So we sat down and were given the menu. Apparently there were a few items on the menu you MUST have. You choose i think 3 dishes you want to have and thats pretty much it. Our friend on the left is pretty enthusiastic about food so he was explaining each dish.

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Pondering what to have…

Ever had French food with chopsticks? Well you do at Bistro Bizen… Everything is Bizen, even the little vase is made from bizen.

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Pretty flowers in bizen
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Chopsticks… I think the chopsticks holder is bizen

The cutlery are so perfectly arranged. On the right is the menu. There were a few specials

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Cutlery at Bistro Bizen
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Bistro Bizen Menu

The flower arrangement was pretty impressive. A few Chandeliers and a cosy restaurant.

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Flower arrangement in Bistro Bizen
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Mini Flower Arrangement

We were offered some champagne to start. We ordered a bottle and IK ordered pear juice.

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Champagne
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Pear Juice

You’d think these were white chocolate balls. WRONG – butter to start of course. Bread was warm and crispy.

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Bizen butter
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Bread

First up was our entrees. IK had some sashimi with radishes and salmon roe. I had some lobster i think with fresh fruit!

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Sashimi – French style
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Lobster with fresh fruit

Don’t forget the cork.

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Cork

The mains or in between mains and entrees were amazing too. How about froe grois with rice ? Or fancy some abalone? These were french inspired but had this Japanese influence in these dishes. I think they marry quite well. The froe grois was rich and creamy and the creaminess is nullified by the rice.

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Abalone
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Froe Grois with rice

Next was some soup

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The mains didn’t disappoint as well. Lobster and beef. Again Japanese inspired dressings but beautifully cooked.

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Lobster
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Beef

Had to have some dessert as well. We had a mix of a few cakes, truffles, and a little surprise from the restaurant. Even had our faces on it!

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Dessert Platter
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Nice touch from Bistro Bizen
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Truffles

Overall, Bistro Bizen was truely a different perspective of French cuisine. The mains and entrees were excellent and the service typical of Japanese. IK was quite suprised about the crowd in the restuarant. We were the only younger ones, and were wearing just normal casual clothes. The table next to us had 2 couples and IK was suprised how upright the Japanese women sat. They laughed covering their mouths and she felt they were a bit fake. Our friends said, once they get home they don’t act like that. I guess its quite important in Japanese culture they impress and do what the norm does. But i guess having that culture, they seem to perfect everything and this restaurant is no different.

Bistro Bizen 

Address

4-3 Kandasurugadai, Chiyoda 101-0062, Tokyo Prefecture

Rating 16/20

Dish of the day – Froe Grois with rice

Next up : Tsukiji Market kaisen don again!

Sapporo Otaru Kuramure Ryokan Review

We were meant to stay in another ryokan in Otaru for the night called Kourakuen. Unfortunately, IK found out a week before it got burnt down! She asked me whats the place we were meant to stay in again? I told her and I was like oh no…. Anyway, had no choice but to book into kuramure.

After a bit over an hours drive in the snow, we got to kuramure. The GPS system in Japan are fantastic. Many other countries should learn from them. I mean, all you required to do is punch in the phone number and off you go. Don’t need to punch in the destination, suburb, post code etc. Talk about convenience! Most of the roads were covered in snow, the freeway wasn’t too bad. But once we got out of the freeway and got onto the laneway where Kuramure was it was just all covered in snow. We got there like around 6pm and it was pitched black. Actually, when we took off from the airport, it was already pretty dark despite being only 4pm. Guess it’s winter after all.

We just parked our car, and some hotel staff walked out straight away to help us with the luggage. Talk about service. We sat at the lobby and they offered some macha and biscuit.

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Macha and Biscuit

 

After some paperwork we were led to our room. The attendant showed us around the loft, downstairs being the living area, upstairs the bedroom and bathroom. I think you can sleep up to 4 people in these rooms. They are fairly big. Saw some of these mochi cakes on the table so we gobbled them up.

Japanese Mochi
Japanese Mochi

Heres the tatami living area. I wanted the Japanese experience, but I think IK would rather a nice night’s sleep so we slept upstairs.

Tatami Room
Tatami Room

Here are the bedroom upstairs.

Bedroom upstairs
Bedroom upstairs

Heres the bathroom with all the amenities. It was just amazing. Shampoo, conditioner etc, but also packets for you to take home as well.

The Bathroom
The Bathroom

Also given some pyjamas and yukata to wear in the ryokan.

Pyjamas and Yukata
Pyjamas and Yukata

Lots of little Japanese decorations, boxes scattered around the room.

Japanese boxes and Decorations
Japanese boxes and Decorations

Now the beauty about this place is, all the DRINKS i mean ALL including alcohol is FREE. Well not quite free, we did pay a premium for this place. There was a small fridge in the room and had a few cans of these and a sparkling wine. Sapporo Classic – you can only have it in Sapporo! Probably the best beer IMO.

Sapporo Classic
Sapporo Classic

Love these little touches to the room. Modern but Japanesy.

Japanese Incense
Japanese Incense

Little mirror and sewing kit if required.

Mirror and sewing kit
Mirror and sewing kit

Can even make your own tea!

Japanese tea set
Japanese tea set

I did mention tall the alcohol was free right? Well this bar here applies as well. You can order ANYTHING you want. Cocktails, whiskys, shochus etc. If you have a few mates, its unbeatable really.

Kuramure Bar
Kuramure Bar

Lots of little antique items on at the bar.

Antique items at Kuramure bar
Antique items at Kuramure bar

Fancy little painting

Painting at Kuramure
Painting at Kuramure

Little antique tea cups

Antique tea cups
Antique tea cups

So here we are after the bar. We were asked what time we wanted to have our dinner. So they picked us up at 7pm and led us to our dining area. All the dining areas are private rooms, so it is really special. Here it is, the first course already placed on the table. I was really suprised how good the waiter’s english was. I think they’re slowly getting better now. Look how immaculate the presentation is.

Kaiseki Dinner in a private dining room
Kaiseki Dinner in a private dining room

Hokkaido CRAB… So looking forward to eating seafood in Japan. They way they cut the shells perfectly for you so you don’t have to use your teeth or tools is just so Japanesy.

First Course - Oysters from Akkeshi, baked Red king crab, Boron Potatoes broiled in oil
First Course – Oysters from Akkeshi, baked Red king crab, Boron Potatoes broiled in oil

Look at these oysters.

Oysters
Oysters

Salmon roe was next. You know the moment when it squirts and explodes in your mouth. Just heaven really.

Salmon roe marinated with soy sauce
Salmon roe marinated with soy sauce

Heres the menu! There was also an english menu for us as well.

Kuramure Japanese Menu
Kuramure Japanese Menu

Buzzer if you want to call the staff. Don’t really need to, they come in every few mins anyway!

Buzzer
Buzzer

The sashimi was very fresh. Had some chu-toro which is so so good.

Medium fatty tuna, gread amberjack, whelk
Medium fatty tuna, gread amberjack, whelk

The waiter said, all the drinks are free. They kept saying this all the time. Really drilled it in my head. Had to go for the most expensive drink I reckon. Daijinjyo i went for. Even came in a flask around 250ml. Think I ordered 2 of these.

Daijingyo
Daijingyo

Next we had a steamed dish mushimono. This is a monkfish liver steamed with egg. The liver is so rich but so good.

Monkfish liver cooked by steaming
Monkfish liver cooked by steaming

I think this is one of my favourite dishes. Foie Gras wrapped Japanese-Black Beef Sukiyaki. This was like rare and you dip it in the hot sauce to cook it and it was just so damn good.

Froe Gras wrapped Japnese black beef sukiyaki
Froe Gras wrapped Japnese black beef sukiyaki

I just love Japanese cutlery and the items they use.

Japanese chopsticks
Japanese chopsticks

Next was some herb-flavoured grilled scallop with brown butter. They cut the scallops in half but not fully opened and lathered the sauce over the top. Fresh and yummy.

Herb Flavoured grilled scallops with brown butter
Herb Flavoured grilled scallops with brown butter

Felt like a beer next, so i tried a local brew. Otaru beer! On the tap as well!

Otaru Beer
Otaru Beer

Another angle.

Otaru Beer
Otaru Beer

Next was tofu of crab miso and uchiko. We love tofu, but to make it well can be hard. This was perfect.

Tofu of Crab miso with Uchiko
Tofu of Crab miso with Uchiko

They have surely used different techniques to cook their foods, this time a fried dish Globefish taste dried mullet roe

Globefish taste Dried mullet roe
Globefish taste Dried mullet roe

Then came the “mains” you can call it. (Hachimori) a fish called saury

The Main dish with rice
The Main dish with rice

Heres is the fish. Theres alot of bones, but theres alot of oils as well in the fish which is excellent.

Saury
Saury

Some Japanese pickles

Konomono
Konomono

Yuba Miso Soup. So different to the ones you get in packets and cheapo Jap restaurants.

Yuba Miso Soup
Yuba Miso Soup

Nanatsuboshi. Organic white rice from Niki township. Local rice is always good. I’m a big fan of Japanese rice.

Nanatsuboshi. Organic White rice from Niki
Nanatsuboshi. Organic White rice from Niki

Onto dessert now! Pumpkin ice-cream. Hows that little pumpkin for size! I would rather a dessert which required some more work, i mean its easy to serve this, but what the hell, i’ll have anything.

Pumpkin Ice-cream
Pumpkin Ice-cream

Decorations in the private dining area.

Japanese decorations
Japanese decorations

Little courtyard area in the ryokan. The snow is so beautiful around this time of the year.

Courtyard at Kuramure
Courtyard at Kuramure

theres also a library where you can relax have a drink and read some books.

Kuramure Library
Kuramure Library

View from the room in the morning. Stunning…

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Morning scenery

Again, we were picked up for breakfast and were led into another side of the private dining area. The breakfast this time all setup and ready.

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Kuramure Breakfast

A typical Japanese breakfast, I’ll go through each one in a minute. This time theres no menu. Just another all you can drink menu.

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Japanese Breakfast

There were five main dishes in a clover arrangement.

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Love how they used a clover flower dish

Rice is a must in Japanese breakfasts.

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Rice

Some pickles to start.

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Japanese pickled vegetables

Egg is another must in Japanese cuisine. Along with ume.

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Japanese egg and ume

Japanese breakfasts usually comes with a fish dish. We had salmon

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Salmon

Had a dish of bean curd skin with whatever it was inside.

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Bean curd skin with…

Another fish with a picked vegetable on top.

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Japanese fish

Some crab meat with salad.

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Crab meat with salad

Chawanmushi for breakfast.

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Chawanmushi

Miso soup again.

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Miso soup

Testing the weathers outside. around -5 degrees. no problems!

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Courtyard outside

Fancy another drink at the bar? This time non-alcoholic.

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Arrangement of liquours

We were ready for a coffee craving. This massive cup of coffee.. Milk was good (came from Hokkaido) but… still not the same as a latte back home.

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Cafe au Lait with Hokkaido Milk

I felt like a pink lemonade.

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pink lemonade

some brown sugar

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Sugar

Another pic of the outside. This weather is incredible.

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We left around 11am, the staff helped us with the luggage again and helped us scrape off some ice off the windscreen as well. He stood in the cold waving as we drove down the road. HE was still waving like 300m away…

Theres also some souvenirs which is branded Kuramure as well for sale.

Overall

  • Kuramure was an amazing experience, pricey but well worth it.
  • I didn’t take any photos of the Onsen as well, it was just divine.
  • The food was amazing, and the all you can drink was my highlight.
  • Service as usual was excellent and you can really relax here
  • I would like to try kourakuen next time once it gets built again. Feel really sorry for them. But this was a modern feel to a Japanese ryokan.

Next up … Visiting the Otaru town and heading to back to Sapporo!

Address :

Otaru Ryotei Kuramure

2 Chome-685 Asarigawaonsen, Otaru, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan

Booked through Rakuten Travel