Thursday, April 3, 2014

Maui Mike's - Hakusan, Tokyo

Tokyo, despite its reputation of having more starred restaurants than Paris according to the Michelin guidebook series, tends to lack a few foods which are commonplace in the United States. Things like turkey, bacon that crisps when cooked, hummus, good cheese, whole grain bread, sour cream, pastrami, corned beef (not canned), Philly cheeseteaks, etc. This is not a complete list, and depending on where one might be, they might have access to these rare foods if they're willing to pay the price. I remember when I made corned beef (yes canned) hash and the recipe called for sour cream; I found it but I think it was 300 yen (~$3.00) for what might have been 1/2 a cup. Save yourself the trouble and just use plain yogurt if a recipe calls for sour cream and you're in Japan.

Another food which belongs on the list of things as rare as a Yeti riding a unicorn while holding a basket full of four leaf clovers if your'e in Tokyo would be roasted or grilled chicken. I realize how spoiled I was back in Hawaii where just about every supermarket would have rows of roasted whole chickens by the deli counter. As if that wasn't enough, it was commonplace to have grills set up in the parking lots of those supermarkets where huli-huli chicken would be on sale as well. One would think that in a place where ovens, much less ovens large enough to roast a chicken, are rare that there would be a market for pre-cooked chickens. But if there's no market for chicken, then who am I to condemn thousands of innocent chickens to die every day just for my selfish desire?

Getting to the point of this post, I was in the Hongo area running an errand and had not eaten anything since early in the morning. I knew of several good places near Hongo-Sanchome, Todaimae and Yushima stations but, I was in the mood to go somewhere I have never been before. Having seen this article which kind of skimmed over some of the more authentic non-pancake based Hawaiian restaurants in Tokyo, I decided to take the 1.5 km (less than 1 mile) walk to Hakusan to check out Maui Mike's and get some "fire roasted chicken", That was a decision which I questioned the entire time as I walked up and down the many foothills of Bunkyo ward with the rain steadily falling on me and the puddles soaking into my allegedly water-resistant Nike Lunarglide +5 Shield running shoes.

Although I have never gone to the original location of Maui Mike's located in Wahiawa on the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii, I have eaten my fair share of roasted and grilled chickens in my life. It seems as if they have a pretty decent reputation on Yelp, which is probably something I should have checked BEFORE I decided to check them out. Most other Hawaiian-themed restaurants that I have seen in Tokyo are in places with more foot traffic like Shibuya (L&L BBQ, Kua Aina, Aloha Table), Harajuku (Eggs 'n Things, Cinnamon's, Cafe Kaila, Teddy's Bigger Burger), or even Akasaka (Ogo Ono Loa Hawaii) so I was puzzled as to how it was decided that Hakusan was to be the location of Maui Mike's second location. Is this to mean that Hakusan is Tokyo's Wahiawa? Even though Wahiawa is far from Honolulu, there are several other popular attractions on the North Shore (Sunset Beach, Matsumoto Shave Ice, Ted's Bakery, Dole Plantation, all those Kahuku shrimp trucks/shacks, etc.) that make it worth the drive. In all fairness to Hakusan, it had that nostalgic "real Japan" feeling as many of the shita-machi (下町, "low city", more traditional working-class neighborhoods) do even though Bunkyo ward is not a particularly cheap place to live.

It was unsurprisingly empty due to the chilly rain, which had been falling since the night before and there was not a single customer on the first floor. I later found out when I went to wash my hands that the second floor is much nicer with a coffee shop-like atmosphere. After some deliberation and exchanging several awkward glances with the very enthusiastic and friendly (or he was just restless because there were no customers?) manager, I ordered half a chicken with onion rings and an oolong tea. The chicken comes with one of 7 different dipping sauces, two if you order half a chicken, so I picked the yuzu pepper and chili.

This is what it looks like if you order half a chicken with onion rings and chili and yuzu pepper dipping sauce. The chicken was roasted well and the meat was almost "fall off the bone" tender. I know that some people in Japan like to use forks and knives to eat things like burgers and even pizza (!), but I am not that sophisticated. I just grabbed the thigh and started tearing that chicken apart with my hands. If you are the kind of person who also eats chicken like this, then this is not an ideal place for a first date. At first the sauce worked well with the chicken, but I found it to increasingly taste saltier and saltier as I continued to eat. A lot of restaurants tend to localize their menus to better suit the foreign markets they expand into, but perhaps Maui Mike's has not done that yet? Perhaps I have been in Japan so long that extremely salty food (salt stimulates appetite and thirst) which is more common in the US no longer agrees with me? Next time I go I'll try a different combination of sauces, even though I didn't really think that the chicken needed any. The onion rings were a bit of a disappointment, so I'll try the fries next time.'s short review mentioned "a surprisingly big cocktail menu in addition to budget wines and Hawaiian beers" but I do not recall seeing a drink menu. In a country where one can get a drink practically anywhere, a restaurant not having alcohol seemed strange. It would have probably been better if there had been a Kona Brewing Company Firerock Pale Ale or Longboard lager to go with the chicken. At the very least, they had a nice mix of authentic-sounding Hawaiian music playing during the entire time I was there. If chicken sales aren't bringing in enough profits, expanding the menu to include more cafe-like offerings might help bring in more customers, especially since it's right near a train station.

Knowing nothing of how the original Maui Mike's roasted chicken tastes like and based only on the flavor of the chicken in the Tokyo location, I would have few reservations about recommending this place to anyone looking to get their chicken fix. Is it worth walking 1.5 km in the rain with a leaky umbrella and wet shoes just to eat there? Probably not, especially when there are a lot of cheaper chicken options to be had in Tokyo. If you NEED to have some rotisserie chicken, then as far as I know, this is the place.

One thing that has definitely changed from the Wahiawa location is the price. Everything seems to be around twice as much as one would pay at the Hawaii location but, fresh all-natural free range chickens must be more expensive to raise in Japan? KFC isn't that cheap in Japan and no one really knows where those chickens come from.

Maui Mike's is located 1 minute from Exit A3 of Hakusan station on the Toei Mita line. If you take the elevator, simply turn left and walk straight ahead and it will be on the left. If you take the stairs or escalator, make a right handed U-turn after going down the stairs and go straight ahead. Hon-Komagome station on the Tokyo Metro Nanboku line is also close enough to make walking from there an option. Take Exit 1, turn right onto Hongo Dori, turn right at the intersection, walk until the next intersection, take a left at the supermarket, walk straight, turn right before Hakusan station, take the first right, walk straight and it will be on the left.

Maui Mike's
Hakusan 5-32-13
Everyday: 11am-10pm

US website
Japanese website (where nothing seems to be working as of 2014.04.03)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Banh Mi Sandwich - Takadanobaba, Tokyo

Sometimes when one has been away from their home country for an extended period of time, missing the little things start to pile up. Being from Hawaii, there are the obvious ones: being able to get to the beach in 20-30 minutes depending on traffic, Portuguese sausage at McDonald's, poke on sale in EVERY supermarket, Zippy's chili, powdery shaved ice, not having to wait in line for two hours for decent Western breakfast food. Maybe those were not so obvious, but they are a few of the things I wish I could get more often. Sorry.

One of the things that may not be so obvious is the banh mi, a Vietnamese sandwich which was one of the few amazing things to come out of the French colonizing Vietnam in the 19th-20th century. It's a toasted baguette filled with pickled carrots and daikon julienne, coriander and various meats and vegetables. One of my earliest experiences with the banh mi had to be from when I would be sick at home and my father would bring them home from Ba-le (a chain of Vietnamese sandwich shop/bakeries throughout Hawaii) during his lunch breaks when we used to live in the middle of Honolulu. This was not necessarily something I fell in love with immediately because, let's be honest, a sandwich with pickled carrots and daikon in it sounds a bit unusual. Having had quite a few of them with liver paste in them did not help either, but it is an acquired taste.

Sometimes when you least expect it, the memories associated with certain foods pop back into one's mind and there is nothing else that can be done except to make an effort to satisfy them. Which lead me to the discovery of Banh Mi Sandwich in the Tokyo neighborhood of Takadanobaba.

There is no shortage of Vietnamese restaurants in Tokyo, but they usually have stuff like pho, curry, or spring rolls. It isn't a bad thing, but if you HAVE TO have a banh mi, it's kind of looking for a breakfast place with crispy bacon or Scottish Bangers and only finding endless streets of "Hawaiian pancakes" smothered in whipped cream and fruit.

Banh Mi is a tiny shop with two benches out in front for maybe 5-6 customers to sit on while eating their sandwiches. What it may lack in atmosphere, it more than makes up for in taste and freshness.

Ordering is done by using a ticket vending machine located to the right of the counter. The menu with pictures and the names of the sandwiches in English helps for those who can't read Japanese, but I think the buttons on the machine were only in Japanese. In that case that one is unable to read Japanese, please try your best to match up the Japanese next to the sandwich you want and the characters on the buttons. Since all the sandwiches are 500 yen for a regular and 300 yen for a small (seriously, if you think you need to order a small, go with a friend and share!), you can probably explain which sandwich you meant to order if you get the wrong ticket?

I have never ordered the small, so I cannot comment on how big or small it is. Perhaps it's my American nature to get the biggest size (within reason), since it wouldn't make sense to me to pay 3/5ths the price for a sandwich which might be 1/2 as large.
Here is a picture of the menu outside the store, which should be easier to read than the one by the ticket vending machine. I recommend the "Vietnam ham & liver paste", but as I mentioned before, it's a bit of an acquired taste. There's also a shrimp and avocado as well as a vegetable and cheese option. Maybe if you ask them to take out the cheese, it could count as vegan? I've never been (nor probably never will be) a vegan so I cannot be 100% sure. Sorry.

This is what the "Vietnam ham and liver paste" looks like, if you unwrapped it and took a picture of it with your phone while trying to balance it on your lap. The bread was super flaky and sprayed crumbs everywhere with each bite, but that is EXACTLY what I was hoping for! Combined with the crunchy pickled daikon and carrots, creamy liver paste and ham, and sprig of cilantro, it was as if all my problems vanished. Was that too much?

Banh Mi: the cure for the common sandwich!

Part of me felt sorry that there were so many people nearby who were probably at a Lawson or Family Mart, right at the very same moment, buying a ham and cheese sandwich on white bread (why did I need to specify what kind of bread it is? ALL the convenience store sandwiches use white bread!). I even felt sorry for people who were fortunate enough to be at Natural Lawson and could be getting a fancy healthy sandwich on wheat bread. Yes, even the people having their sandwiches custom made by a Sandwich Artist at Subway, I felt bad for them as well.

Since it had been so long since I had a banh mi, I immediately stood up, sending bread crumbs flying everywhere, and went back in to order another sandwich. I got a roast pork, maybe to continue with the pork theme? I don't remember what my thought process was aside from "eat another sandwich!".

I really wish I could explain more about how the roast pork sandwich tasted, but I'll be honest; it was a few months ago, so I forgot. I'll edit this post after I go back, sometime next week or so. Sorry.

Update: So I went back last week after two unsuccessful attempts in the previous weeks. The first failure was because it was holiday and they closed at 5pm (I got there around 6pm) and the second was because I showed up around 5pm and they had already sold out of all the sandwiches. I rode my bike there and was starving, only to find two university students (that had obviously never been there before and were quite indecisive) in front of me. After waiting what seemed like a short eternity, I marched straight to the machine and ordered a full-sized Vietnamese Ham and Liver Paste and devoured it in short order. That was when I learned that one should not lean back or even try to sit straight up when eating the sandwich because the liquid from the vegetables has a tendency to drip out of the paper that it's wrapped in.

As it had been several months since I last had a banh mi, I decided to get some for dinner and breakfast the next day. I heard one of the workers say that they only had 7 sandwiches left, so I ducked back into the store and ordered a roast beef and a roast chicken. Sandwiches safely acquired, I jumped back on my bike and rode home. Meanwhile, the two university students that had arrived before me were still eating the one small size sandwich that they were sharing.

It's kind of difficult to tell how much roast beef there was in the sandwich based on this picture, but believe me (some random person writing about stuff on the Internet), there was lots of peppery deliciousness underneath all that daikon and carrots. Unfortunately, the roast chicken that I saved for the next morning did not handle being refrigerated and then microwaved several hours later particularly well. The bread was still chewy but no longer flaky and crunchy. The daikon and carrots were soft and limp, drained of their former crispness. The lesson to take away from my error in judgement is to avoid microwaving food that only maintains maximum flavor for a few minutes after it is made. Have you ever tried to microwave McDonald's french fries before? It was pretty much like that.

Banh Mi is located about a 5-minute walk from Takadanobaba Station Exit 1 (Tokyo Metro) or JR/Seibu Waseda exit. Once you leave the station, take your first right, go right, take two lefts, and it should be on your right. Perhaps, I will try to get tech and add a Google Maps thing later?

Banh Mi Sandwich
Takadanobaba 4-9-18
Tuesday-Friday: 11am-7pm
Saturday: 11am-6pm
Holidays: 11am-5pm
Closed: Sunday & Monday

Friday, August 16, 2013

Afro Nest - Naha, Okinawa

Located off the main street of Kokusai-Dori in downtown Naha, Afro Nest is not your usual bar. First of all, all the workers are really friendly and they have AFROS! While there are wigs provided for customers who want to join in on the fun, the staff spare no expense (a quick search reveals that an afro perm costs around 10,000yen) to metamorphose their manes into flocculent 'fros (was it too much to try for the alliteration?). For a reason unexplained (because I didn't ask or remember?), they also all wear orange/red overalls, which thinking about it now, reminds me of Super Mario.

Secondly, they have (at least they did in 2012) a 3-hour all-you-can drink (nomihoudai) option for the fiscally irresponsible price of 2000yen! I was told that every drink marked with a star was eligible, which seemed like half the drink menu! Afro Nest is located in a basement floor so you need to keep your eyes at street level while wandering the back alleys for the sign pictured below. The picture next to it is of the staff members: I did not ask why they put a picture of Leonardo DiCaprio. Sorry.

Pictured below is the Jerk Chicken which as you can see, has white wine poured on it and set ablaze BEFORE you eat it. Since this was the first time I had jerk chicken, I was not sure if this was customary or something they do for dramatic effect. If nothing else, it made for a good picture. What little I do know about jerk chicken is that it is spicy, and while it was not dangerously spicy, it was still quite good. As much as restaurants in Japan succeed at the presentation of food, it seems that food that is actually spicy, save for wasabi, is not remotely spicy. Someone with more experience (a seasoned veteran perhaps?) with jerk chicken may have a different opinion of Afro Nest's particular version, but I had no complaints because honestly, it's tasty chicken and they set it on fire. 

The second time I went back, I ordered the Afro Rice, which is their fancy version of one of my favorite Okinawan-American fusion foods, taco rice. It is what it sounds like: the fillings of a taco on top of rice instead of inside a tortilla. This version is an upgrade to usual taco rice, not just because they went and made it into a tower of rice, ground beef, salsa, and cheese, but they added a fried egg, which transforms it into some kind of loco moco-taco rice hybrid! Compared to some of the horrific attempts at making something resembling a loco moco that I have seen in Japan, I was surprised that I have never seen this variant before because it's brilliant!

Aside from the food and drinks, the atmosphere of Afro Nest is light and friendly as well as full of heart. One of the nights I was there, some of the customers were having a birthday party which featured the manager playing "Happy Birthday" on the melodica while the cake was brought out, followed by another staff member reading a sentimental letter written by the guest of honor's friends while the quintessentially sentimental Oda Kazumasa's 言葉にできない (Kotoba ni dekinai) played softly in the background. The one who read the letter, the youngest staff member (I think he was 19 at the time), "Anakin", also claimed to be good at monomane (imitation) as shown in the pictures below where he does his best 魔貫光殺砲 (makankosappo), literally translated as Demonic Piercing Light Murder Gun or "Special Beam Cannon" as performed by Piccolo in Dragon Ball.

I regret that it took long for me to start blogging as over a year has passed since I have been to Okinawa and many of the details of my visits to Afro Nest are not as clear as they used to but hopefully, I was able to convey some small part of how much I like and must recommend it. I will try to edit this post as I get more information and/or remember more (or when I go back again).There are a few tables but, unless you're with a large group or having a special event, sit at the counter to get the full experience and faster service.

 沖縄県那覇市久茂地3-9-11 アーバンビルB1   050-5796-3326
Okinawa-ken Naha-shi Kumoji 3-9-11 A-ban Building B1 050-5796-3326
19:00 - 5:00 (7pm - 5am)

Afro Nest's Facebook page

Friday, August 9, 2013

Soybean Farm - Kichijoji, Tokyo

I was in Kichijoji earlier today and decided I wanted to try somewhere different and ended up checking out Soybean Farm, which is a stylish little place on the north side of Kichijoji station (JR Chuo-Sobu, Tokyo Metro Tozai, and Keio Inkashira lines). Unlike previous entries, I was not so particular in detailing how I got there, but I will provide the address at the end so you can use your smartphone's map app to find it. Even if not, it's pretty much a straight line from Penny Lane, one of the named shopping alleys off of Sun Road (the main shotengai). Below is a picture and if I had gone during the day, the sign would probably be easier to see (and I would have been melting in the summer heat as well).

From what I had heard about this place, Soybean Farm is a miso soup place and right when you enter, there are several barrels of miso for sale. For those of you from Hawaii or other places where crack seed (話梅) is sold, the front of the shop looks kind of similar to one of those places. Perhaps next time I will check them out more carefully and buy some since it seems like every time I buy miso from the supermarket, I end up using only a tiny amount and throwing away the rest months later. Maybe if I raise the stakes and buy some fancy miso from a faraway land, I will be more inclined to cook things with it? Maybe not.

So I couldn't decide what to get, and citing the fact that I barely ate anything all day, I went with the omakase dinner. It's considerably more than what I would spend for dinner but I justified it because I have definitely spent more than 2800円 before on drinks alone and also because I've decided to try and be one of those "food blogger people". With exception of the after-dinner drink, I went with everything on the left side of the menu. I completely forgot to take a picture of this menu while I was trying to decide what to get so I ended up taking it right before I went to go pay.

First up was the 牛舌みそ漬けサラダ (gyuu tan miso zuke sarada) or "pickled beef tongue salad". I get that some people might be kind of grossed out about eating the tongue of a cow (I know, I have seen an entire beef tongue in my freezer before; it's gigantic!), but it is by far one of the best parts in my opinion. In this case, the beef is an almost beef jerky, or pipikaula (Hawaiian beef dish) sort of consistency. It's served on top of a few leaved of lettuce on top of shoestring-sliced (julienned?) radish and cucumber and a single baby tomato on the side. The dressing seemed to be made of some kind of sesame and miso and was semi-sweet. It almost did not feel like a salad because there was so much beef, but I wasn't complaining.

 Next was the ゴマクリームソースロールキャベツ(goma kuriimu sousu rouru kyabetsu) or "sesame cream sauce rolled cabbage" and the rice. I don't really eat rolled cabbage that often, but it is something that is fairly common in Japan, so much so that it has been used to describe men that seem to be passive (sōshoku danshi) on the outside but are actually aggressive (nikushoku danshi) because it's meat wrapped in vegetables. The opposite of a "rolled-cabbage man" would be a "bacon asparagus man" since it's a vegetable wrapped in meat. Anyway, click the links and learn more on your own time. 

While the rolled cabbage was quite good, I have no idea what kind of meat they put inside it, and I did not even ask (typical man?). The sauce was creamy sesame (and probably miso) based and went well with the rice which I dipped in it. The problem with that was that the rice was not quite as sticky as I am used to and fell apart so I used a spoon to scoop up the remaining grains (for 2800円 I wasn't going to leave any food to waste if I could help it!). I was surprised to see that the rice was not just a scoop on a place as I have been used to getting at other places and was wrapped in nori with a dollop of tart miso paste (it reminded me of Gohan desu yo!, what is the Japanese word for that stuff anyway?). Due to the aforementioned issue with the rice, I had to use the chopsticks and/or the spoon to get it completely on the rice.

The ポトフ(potofu) or pot-au-feu, French for "pot on the fire", literally a beef stew (my aren't they fancy with their fusion French-Japanese food?) was dominated by three large slices of simmered daikon that were firm yet soft with a few Japanese mushrooms (which I see all the time but have no idea what they are called), carrot and onion slices, a lone floret of broccoli, wedge of potato, and two chunks of stewed beef. There was a tiny scoop of dijon mustard which lent an almost corned beef and cabbage flavor to the dish. I wish I was more knowledgable about cooking soup so I could better explain the flavor of the broth, but for now I will settle for describing it as "light and refreshing" or "humble and unpretentious". In less ridiculous terms, it tasted like most Japanese soup broth taste but not quite so familiar. The beef was slightly juice and broke apart as slow-cooked meat should in the mouth.

The name of this dish is (in Japanese): ことこと煮こんだ牛肉と大根 (kotokoto nikonda gyuuniku to daikon), and literally translated into English as: "simmering (noise) cooked beef and radish", but I could be mistaken. "Menu Japanese" still presents a problem since the only time I see it is when I am looking at a menu. At the very least, "menu Japanese" tends to have a few more familiar characters in the names of things, but if all else fails, one can just point to it right?

For the プチデザート (puchi dezaato), "tiny dessert", I picked the 西京みそチーズケーキ (saikyou miso cheesecake) which apparently has as one of the ingredients, a special Kyoto-style white miso known for its sweetness. That is not a giant fork, the slice of cheesecake was bite-sized, but after having had everything else that came before it, I wasn't exactly craving something that looked like it came from The Cheesecake Factory. I did not take a picture of the iced tea that came with it because, in all honesty, how exciting is a glass of tea really?

In conclusion, Soybean Farm is a nice place with a relaxing atmosphere, polite staff, and good food even if it is not the kind of place that I would find myself frequenting. It might be because of the atmosphere of the place made me feel like I should be on an awkward lunch date with a Japanese girl who typically wears those semi-translucent smock-like loose fitting collared shirts buttoned all the way up over a black camisole, shorts or skirts that are baggy enough to leave everything to the imagination, and some kind of boot-like high heeled shoes. I am at a loss for a term to describe this look but there has to be one with all the young women I see wearing it in Tokyo. Perhaps I will edit this entry when I figure out the term for this kind of fashion is? The point is, Soybean Farm is a nice place, but it might be a little too "proper" for my liking. The entire time I was there, there were only women customers. Maybe this is a similar feeling that women get when they go to a ramen or gyudon place alone? Maybe it was all the estrogen in the soy getting to me? Maybe I'm just rambling because it's almost 3:30am?

Soybean Farm
Kichijoji Honcho 2-15-2. Open 11:30am-2:30, 5:30-9:30pm (LO)     0422-21-0272
吉祥寺本町2-15-2 11時30分ー14時30分, 17時30分ー9時30分

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Chili Parlor 9 - Kudanshita, Tokyo

I do not claim to be any sort of expert on chili, but having grown up in Hawaii and having eaten Zippy's chili since "hanabata days" (Hawaiian Pidgin English for "since I was a wee lad"), it's definitely on my list of comfort foods. As good and affordable as Japanese food is in a city like Tokyo, occasionally those cravings for something familiar start appearing from out of the shadows. For example, I don't really eat Mexican food that often when I'm stateside, but after a few months of eating stuff like gyudon, curry, and kaisendon on a daily basis, I start hearing "yo quiero Taco Bell" in my head. However, that is a story for another blog entry to be written in the near future, today's entry is about chili.

I saw a review for this place Chili Parlor 9 pop up on, which is a site I use often when looking for new places to check out in Tokyo. The only gripe I have with the site is that most of the places I find myself in often (Hongo and Mitaka) don't seem to have a lot of places listed, but maybe that's because they don't really have that many?'s review claims that this place is "Tokyo's only specialty chili restaurant" and so I had to go check it out. Because they're only open from 8am-8pm Monday through Friday, I gave up trying to go there at 7pm a few days earlier. The fact that they are located squarely in the middle of three different train stations did not help either. Google maps does not compensate walking time for traffic, hills, stairs or crowds when estimating walking times.

When I finally decided to go, I walked from Ichigaya station (JR Sobu, Tokyo Metro Yurakucho, Tokyo Metro Nanboku, or Toei Shinjuku lines) but it is also accessible from Iidabashi station (JR Sobu, Tokyo Metro Yurakucho, Tokyo Metro Nanboku, Tokyo Metro Tozai, and Toei Shinjuku lines) and Kudanshita station (Tokyo Metro Hanzomon, Tokyo Metro Tozai, and Toei Shinjuku lines). Regardless of which station you might be coming from, prepare to walk for about 1km (a little over half a mile for Americans). Chili Parlor 9 is located across the street from the South entrance of Yasukuni Shrine and right down the street from the Budokan, so you can add sightseeing to the agenda, instead of just making it a "food mission" as I did. I would have done more sightseeing but when it's sunny, 33°C (92°F) and over 70% humidity outside, the feelings of "I'll check it out next time" or "I'll just Google what it looks like later" outweigh any feelings of wanderlust.
Chili Parlor 9 as seen from the street corner 

South entrance of Yasukuni shrine

Lunch menu
As seen on the menu, chili comes with either rice, bread or a bread bowl and the option of either cheddar cheese of sour cream. There is also vegetarian chili and a "chili of the day" (which got cut off at the bottom of the picture). Looking at the picture of the menu again, I am kicking myself for not getting the Chili with hot dog or sandwich (hummus sandwich!) set or trying the Sanktgallen microbrew ale. Looks like I need to go back again "for further research" in the near future. I ordered the "Standard Beef Chili" (Large) in a bread bowl with cheddar cheese and an "onsen (poached) egg" (1000円). While the idea of chili with bread instead of rice seemed bizarre to me, how often does one get to eat something in a bread bowl aside from clam chowder in San Francisco?
In addition to the chili, there is a small salad and a bowl of cole slaw, which is also in a jar on the counter next to another jar filled with what appears to be homemade pickled vegetables. Which means, "all you can eat cole slaw and pickles! The pickles were good; as a guest on a variety show might say, "it makes you want some white rice to go with it" but the cole slaw might have been too fancy for my liking. But then again, if anyone out there really likes cole slaw, please direct me to some good stuff. If it's any consolation, this stuff was "streets ahead" of the mysterious green slop that KFC passes off as cole slaw. While not as meaty or spicy as I would have liked, at least there were 3 different hot sauces available to add some heat. The main problem was trying to figure out which one was the hottest since all the labels had the word "mellow" on them. Next time I will take pictures of the sauces as well as not wait until I am starving to go there so I can pay more attention. Adding chopped onions and cilantro to the chili made it seem fancier than other chilis I have had before, but at the same time, it's like adding avocados to poke

Aside from the guy a few seats over at the counter sighing as if he was having the worst day of his life, atmosphere was nice. As an American-themed restaurant, I was pleasantly surprised to not hear a single familiar song playing in the background the entire time I was there. No rare feat since the music sounded like it came from an oldies station playlist and I spent many many hours in Honolulu traffic listening to the local oldies station when every other station seemed to play the same terrible songs every hour on the hour. But the state of radio in Hawaii is a topic for another time (and maybe another blogger who actually listens to the radio in Hawaii). In closing, I will be going back to Chili Parlor 9, perhaps when the weather is not trying to melt my face, perhaps earlier in the day to see what their breakfast menu looks like.

P.S. Why is it Chili Parlor 9? Are there 8 other locations? If not, what happened to them? Is this some arbitrary "add a number" naming ploy? Why is the K-pop group named 4 Minute when there are 5 members?

Kudan-Minami 3-7-12. Open 8am-8pm. Closed Sundays. 03-3234-2309
東京都千代田区九段南3-7-12 営業 8時ー20時 休業日曜日 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Kohrinbo 香林坊 - Nakano, Tokyo

I was going to try writing a review/entry about places that I go to often, but I got a bit pressured out and decided to instead, write about a place I have only been to once. 

 Located on the second floor of the Nakano Broadway shopping center at the end of Nakano Sun Plaza shopping street, Kohrinbo 香林坊 caught my eye as I was looking for places to eat located along the JR Chuo line. It's a small place run by a nice Taiwanese woman and with the exception of eggs, the food is meat-free. I'm by no means a vegetarian, but I have noticed that it seems to be pretty difficult to get vegetarian food, or even a decent salad that isn't 90% shredded cabbage in Tokyo.

Even though I was trying to be healthy, I was not sure what to get and settled on the "Adherence to a Vegetarian Diet Cutlet Set" (精進カツ定食, shoujin katsu teishoku, it really loses something in translation doesn't it?)for 1000円 and was pretty pleased with what I received.

It comes with two slices of pickled daikon, pickled eggplant, a nut (not sure what kind) omelette, a konbu soup and a bowl of rice (which you can apparently get a refill for free). The soup was light and refreshing in comparison to miso soup that tends to come with most food in Japan. The pickled eggplant was slightly tart and there was nothing particularly outstanding about the daikon (I usually don't expect much since I figure a lot of places just use the kind that comes in a jar from the supermarket). The omelette was nice, but with my terrible chopstick skills, it was a bit difficult to cut into bite-sized pieces. The imitation pork cutlet was not oily and with exception of the small pieces of carrot, didn't taste that much different than pork although it was a bit drier. It didn't really need any tonkatsu sauce as it was fine by itself, and even if it wasn't, the sauce dispenser seemed to be quite stubborn, not yielding any more than a thin ribbon of sauce despite my efforts.

Kohrinbo is open every day except Sunday 11:30am-3pm and 5-8pm. You can get there by taking either the Tokyo Metro Tozai Line (light blue) or JR Chuo/Sobu to Nakano Station and taking the North Exit. Walk across the street to Nakano Sun Plaza until you get to Nakano Broadway, turn right and take the stairs to the second floor (the escalator goes straight to the third floor), turn right at Madarake and Kohrinbo is at the end of the hallway.

Anyway, this was my first attempt at writing a food blog entry. I hope it gets better as I keep doing it. I will either edit this entry or add another when I go back to Kohrinbo and try something else.

Nakano 5-52-15, Nakano Broadway 2F. Open 11:30am-3:30, 5-8pm. Closed Sundays.  03-3385-7005
中野 5-52-15、中野ブロードウェイ 2F 11時30分ー15時30分, 17時-20時、休業日曜日

Food Photography Leads to Food Blogging? 2013.07.30

 Anyone who follows me on Instagram (@sneakermania) knows that I take a lot of pictures of food and after receiving several "where is that?" comments, I have decided that maybe now is the time to move beyond simply taking pictures. Another reason for this is because, in the aftermath of my Master's thesis, I have decided that I should be writing more and more often, since writing is not something that someone is simply good at, that can be brought out and used as needed.

 As they say, "if you don't use it, you lose it", and I feel this is particularly true as communication online has become increasingly truncated due to micro-blogs and other social media platform usage. For a while, I was more on the side of thinking that having communication limited to 140 characters or a simple picture/video/link with a caption was a good thing because it freed people from from having to make such a big deal of what they post online, unlike a blog. I even thought of blogs as a sort of relic of Web 1.0, but perhaps I was just trying to ignore the degradation of my own writing skills?

 Anyways, it's been a while since I updated this blog and it's been even longer since I can remember having to write on a regular basis. I don't expect to have any brilliant writing in the beginning (or ever?) but at the very least, I have pictures that need words to go with them, and it would probably help to have more than a geotag or caption for future reference. There may eventually be a benefit to people who bother to read this blog, but for now the motivation is purely selfish. Sorry.