Picking up where I left off, I woke up after a great Easter with family and friends to…room service! I had a list of food I wanted to eat while in Japan and the New Sanno Japanese breakfast tray was on it- salmon, rice, miso, tamago (egg), pickles, and green tea. It’s delicious! In case you are interested, other items on my to-eat list included onigiri (rice balls). Actually, that’s about it for specifics- New Sanno breakfast and onigiri. Of course I had other general ideas (yakitori, sushi, ramen, pickled veg) but I only had two specific things I had to get.
After breakfast, I headed to Shibuya and the Hatchiko statue to meet up with Hillary and her Mom. It was time for a day of shopping! Our first stop was Ginza so we got back on the metro. Ginza has a lot of high end shops and cool architecture, similar to Omotesandō. I had a specific destination in mind though- Dover Street Market Ginza. It is a multi-level high-end store that is a shop/temple/museum to high fashion. It is super cool. The displays themselves are very high-concept and arty, some incorporating the clothes and some there for art’s sake alone.
We took the escalator to the top and worked our way down through the levels. I thought the clothes by Sacai were really cool but alas, I am not the size for haute couture in Japan. So, we went next door- to Uniqlo, where all the poor fatties can buy clothes. Hooray!
After Ginza shopping, I decided to change it up so we took the train to Naka-Meguro, with its beautiful canals, small boutiques, and little cafes. We walked into a few shops. I bought a hat that I really like. We went to a small cafe named Mother Esta, which featured a lot of produce on the menu. We each ordered different sets- salad, curry, and fish. Each was plated beautifully and everyone agreed the food was delicious.
We headed back to Shibuya to get Hillary and Barbara back to their hotel, but of course I pushed the agenda a bit and took them to Loft. It is a wonderful store and a highly recommend a stop. The stationary/pens, beauty department, and kitchen gadgets are extra binge-worthy. I think both of them were a little jet-lagged by the end but we had a great day and it was so fun to see a college friend in a completely new setting.
I headed back to the New Sanno and met up with Brady. We decided to head to Shinjuku to try a Yakitori place I follow on Instagram and to try and find the sake bar recommended by my Kyoto bar friends. I am so glad we went to Shinjuku! I had only been once before when I was making a beeline for the Robot Restaurant. This time, we had different destinations in mind and, at a slower pace, got to appreciate how cool the place is.
I am still old-school in that I like reading blogs and articles while trip-planing but Instagram can be helpful, too. Not so much for primary research but more for onesie-twosie things that pop up. Right before the Japan trip, I had somehow come across Garakuta-na, Nishi Shinjuku on Instagram (@garakuta_nishisinjuku) and started following them. There is an energetic, enthusiastic vibe to the page so I thought it would be a fun place to go.
Well, thank goodness for Instagram because I never would have made it to the place otherwise. The building was easy to find and the restaurant was located on 4F. The elevator opens straight into the restaurant and on the way up, fliers for restaurants on the different floors are on the wall. Both the 3F and 4F restaurants mentioned their English menus but I think the vertical stacking of restaurants is still very intimidating. It prevents a person from being able to scope out the scene from street level. Instead, you’re just deposited into the middle of the action. I realize that this is just how it is in Japan and it’s something to take in stride- it’s definitely out of my comfort zone though!
The staff was really nice and we were seated right away. There was a foodie tour group at a community table for a little while, but it was otherwise filled with Japanese people. The English menu was very good, but we ordered using our limited Japanese and pointing. I tried showing the Instagram to a few of the waiters but they look confused. I wonder if the page just exists for marketing rather than something all the staff follow and post to? Or maybe my attempts at showing that I was an avid fan of their establishment were not very clear? This seems somewhat-to-very likely.
We ordered several yakitori. My go-to’s are the chicken thigh with leek and the tsukune (chicken meatball). There are a LOT of organ meats and cartilage so this is one menu that I try to order off of rather than say “Surprise me/Give me your recommendation” (or “Osusume” in Japanese). There’s also the funny “Mother-child” dish that features chicken and an egg. Ricardo joined us for awhile and then Brady and I split off to find Moto, the standup sake bar that had come so highly recommended.
Moto was challenging to find, mostly because our Maps program was one building off. Then, when it was on the right building, it was opposite of where the entrance was. Honestly, I think I just overcomplicated it (whhaattt?) because I had been told it was really hard to find. We eventually found it on the BF1 level.
Also, quick note on what I learned about the Golden Gai. I had thought it was a different place entirely because there are several stations along the Yamanote line that have an alley of bars underneath the elevated tracks. It has a gritty, get-it-done feel towards drinking with fairly bare bone establishments. When I learned the actual Golden Gai was in Shinjuku, I wanted to walk by it. Honest opinion? While it is cool with its compact, vibrant bar scene, it felt a little over-touristy, aka, really high cover charges (Y600-Y700 so really, not that bad but a little opportunistic). Many bars in Tokyo have cover charges, but tend to be a little cheaper unless the establishment is really nice.
Ok, back to Moto. Brady and I showed up and while it looked full, the patrons moved a little closer together and voila, room for two more! It was a tiny stand-up establishment with a U-shaped bar enclosing the bartenders and sake bottles in the middle. There was a Y300 cover charge and, as a “complimentary” treat, an onion salad. I liked it, Brady only liked it in a small quantity. There was an English menu and one bartender whose English was quite good. We each tried two different sakes during our time there, which was limited by the fact that they were closing. It was a weekday, which means a lot of places seem to close in coordination with the train schedules, which allows people a better chance of catching the last train home. I highly recommend Moto as the patrons were welcoming, the different sakes were great, the bartenders knowledgeable, and the onion salad to die for. Haha, the last one is a joke.