Strange is Delicious: Rocket Chicken

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I wonder what the trigger was for putting pieces of fried chicken on a stick. Was it perhaps the famous way of presenting onion rings at American bars? It really doesn’t matter. This new plating innovation is called “Rocket Chicken” and it taste as good, if not even better, than it looks. The chicken is beer battered which gives each piece a super crispy skin while keeping it juicy. The store has a “Make Your Own” Tartar sauce policy, they have different sauces, garlic paste, ginger… that you can mix and match to create your own special sauce. Highly recommended, if the picture didn’t already make you want to try it!!

India On my mind: Shiva Curry Wara

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There is no doubt that the two guys at Shiva Curry Wara are the curry rockstars of Tokyo. The moment you walk inside, seeing them standing behind the counter, you know they’re not messing around. I’ve been going back and forth to this place, every time waiting as much as 1h and a half and as little as 20mins. Every time I show up, I leave with a full belly and a big smile. This is hands down one of the best curry joints in the Tokyo area.The lineup has between 3-4 curries that change depending on the day as well. Go in for lunch or dinner and sample some of the other menu items, such as Shish kebab and Tandoori meats. I can’t stress enough how worth a while a trip to this joint is.

Tokyo Sandwich: Kuumba Du Falafel

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Kuumba Du Falafel just makes amazing falafel pitas. The menu is limited to the sandwich and the plate version. This monster is so big, it literally comes with a fork to help you finish it off. The pita is made in house and comes out hot from the oven. Aside from the falafel, it comes with fried eggplants and a mix of fresh vegetables. Their homemade spicy sauce is packed of flavor, but quiet hot so use it with caution. Kuumba is a long way from shibuya station, and it is literally in the middle of nowhere. Is it worth a visit? There is no doubt about it.

Tokyo Sandwich: Thao’s Bahn Mi

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Tucked away behind the train lines at Motosumiyoshi is Thao’s Bahn Mi. The specialty is Vietnamese style sandwiches or “Bahn Mi”. Courtesy to the french colonial times, this sandwich uses baguette for bread. However, the balance between the pickled vegetables (Primarly carrots and radish) and the meat is what makes it so special. The lineup includes everything from the classic Vietnamese ham and pate to some more adventurous combinations such a Japanese curry chicken sub. Thao’s operates on a vending machine ticket system. Insert your money, pick your sandwich and hand the ticket to the cashier. Sandwiches come in two different sizes and I highly recommend getting more than one. Did I mention that their coffee is amazing too?

Flapper: A Surprise Tale

I believe that anyone who knows even just a little about Japan has seen pictures of old, ridiculously small bars in a website or two. These a usually referred to as “Shot Bars”. In a cluster of small alleys behind the Hanazono shrine in Shinjuku live around 250 watering holes. Each one of these is more surprising than the other. Last night’s story, however, revolves around a special hidden gem “Flapper.”

Our night began by strolling around Golden Gai’s tiny alleys. We were immediately mesmerized by the variety and uniqueness of each shot bar. after walking down every single alley, we felt very reluctant to enter any of the bars. After all, we both had limited Japanese skills, and we are talking about bars with a max of 8 seats each. The tension was high, but when we walked in front of Flapper, we noticed a foreign couple and decided to give it a try.

We felt nervous going in, and did not know what to expect. The interior was very special, all the walls were covered in artwork. It was not until later that night that we learned that the owner “Hiroko-san” paints and does collage as well. Heck, she speaks french pretty well!

Looking at the menus, we noticed that the cover charge was 1000 yen. This did not include drinks, which started from 800 yen. At first look, that was a turn off. Usually bars like this would charge you about 500 yen… but later, we realized that it was totally worth it.
Upon ordering our drinks, we were presented with bowls of Japanese snacks . I’d like to mention that these bowls were refilled every time!
Anyway the highlights of Flapper are not the drinks, or the food…. It was the amazing atmosphere: Live Performance, Unique decor, The best host. 

  1. Thirty minutes in, the bartender grabs a guitar and a harmonica and this happens:
  2. Unique decor: This place is filled with artwork all produced by the owner. If you are lucky enough to run into her on a Friday night, Hiroko-san will gladly take you around for a tour and tell you about her inspirations.

    There is also a tiny area upstairs where some of her friends exhibit some of their manga inspired art.

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  3. The best host: Hiroko-san spent as much time with us as she did with the other customers, but it felt like she was only talking to us the whole time. Her attention to details and affection made us feel at ease. She even talked to my friend, despite language barriers and introduced him to some of the young female customers in the bar.

I strongly recommend Flapper to any traveler interested in Golden Gai. And if you’re in Tokyo and haven’t put Golden Gai on your list, DO IT !!! It’s now or never!

Flapper Bar: Shinjuku, Tokyo

 

Curry Chronicles: Naga

A mix of fragrant spices, a bowl of heat packed sauces and a shy soccer loving kid lurking around. Apparently the best ingredients to forget a night of empty glasses and put the smile right back on your face.

have always been fascinated by curry and how complex and unique it can taste from one place to another. I love Indian curry, Thai curry, Japanese curry and curry of any sort for that matter. But I moved to Japan, I developed a big interest in their own “almost hipster” like version of this magical dish.

My first time trying to find this hidden gem was a complete failure. I woke up too late and head to Tenma armed with my Google maps enabled Iphone, but I only stumbled upon a closed Korean BBQ restaurant where presumably Naga was located. It was in my second try that I realized what went wrong. Naga is actually located in the BBQ restaurant. In other words, the owners set shop from lunch time until they sell out (Which happens very very fast). If you walk by and see this sign outside, you’re in for a treat! If not, try waking up a bit earlier next time.

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had the Naga plate which I think is what you should order here. It had a Chicken Keema curry and a coconut cod curry. It also came with a spicy boiled egg, a cream stew, saffron rice and a small spicy salad. Notice that the curry menu changes frequently, so you are in for some good surprises. And it’s only a 1000 yen.

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Naga Curry: Tenma, Osaka

Beer, Food and Company: Mecca

What makes you come back to a restaurant after the first time? How do you describe your ideal “eat out” experience? For me, it doesn’t take much, a good combination of good food and good service would do. But at Mecca, I was not just treated as a Customer, I was treated as a Friend.

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First of all, this is not just another post about a Tachinomi place that serves Yakitori. As the name indicates, this is the “Mecca” of beer and food that tastes goes well with many many pints. This one counter space in Juso Osaka is one of the few places where you can get Minoh beer for as cheap as 650 yen. They also have a long long list of bottled beer from around the world. And if you think you know enough about Beer you still have to learn some more from Yugo and Ken. The two dudes standing behind the counter are not joking around when it comes to that magical elixir we love so much.

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Minoh: Brown Ale, Pilsner, Dark IPA

The food at Mecca cannot be overlooked either. They have a killer Kawa (Chicken Skin) kushi made with a tangy soy based sauce (Tare). They also have an amazing Karaage served with a pickle sauce, one of the best I have ever had. I was told that it’s made with a stout batter.


Mecca makes delicious duck (kamo) dishes as well. I feasted on their Kamo Negima and it was amazing. But the highlight was Kamo Tsukune (Duck burger). This is made daily with a blend of spices that Marco Polo might’ve encountered along the silk road. After mixing it with a raw egg, it is just a flavor explosion. And if you don’t like raw eggs, force yourself!!

I finished my night with another order of appetizers in the form of deep fried eggplants and Korean seaweed. So much to help me finish the beer in front of me and the others lined up in my head.

Throughout the whole night spent at Mecca I couldn’t be happier. They way Yugo and Ken treated me, and the kindness I received from the other fellow customers was incomparable. I thought that it couldn’t get any better. Upon leaving the place, Ken chased me and gave me one of their beer coasters, the one I used that night. I was speechless, I walked out that night with a free ticket to an art show a coaster and 3 newly found friends. Mecca treated me as a friend I’ve known for ages, this puts basic customer service to shame, shame, shame…. Also, It’s very affordable (4000 yen for a good night)

焼き鳥 x Beer Stand “Mecca”: Juso, Osaka