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Thursday, May 30, 2013

My Very First Shabu Shabu

What the hell is a Shabu Shabu?!?!

It's actually NOT a German dog, but a kind of Japanese dining experience where you cook thinly sliced meat in a hot pot on the table in front of you!

We found a place in Tokyo called Kisoji, located in Shinjuku. The women were dressed in traditional kimonos and were painfully polite. Our waitress could tell that we were first-timers, and tried to guide our round eyes through the process. We pointed to the pretty pictures on the menu that looked like ribbons of delicious marbled beef, and it appeared just like that on a plate at our table. The hot pot of water was boiling with vegetables inside. Our waitress showed us how to cook the beef by giving each slice a quick swirl in the pot for a very rare result. The meat was insanely good, it melted in my mouth. We were given two dipping sauces. One was a type of soy sauce mixture, and the other was a sesame sauce. The sesame sauce was rich and DIVINE. However, it got old fast after a few heavy dunks. The rest of the vegetables, tofu, and glass noodles were tossed in after our sweet waitress skimmed the pot for floating fat residue polluting the water. Presentation is very important in Japan, and even your hot pot should look pretty. Finally, she empties the leftover vegetables and uses the broth to cook ramen noodles. When cooked, she prepares us each a teacup filled with ramen and leaves us to garnish it with hot pepper oil, ginger shavings, and cucumber. By this point I was blacking out into a genuine food coma. But first, dessert. I'm still learning to appreciate Japanese desserts for what they are: gelatinous, bland, etc. (Just my silly American opinion). HOWEVER, the mochi with sesame powder and syrup was insane. The best. I washed the whole meal down with a glass of green tea to trick myself into thinking at least something I consumed was relatively healthy today. If you go to Tokyo, PLEASE, for me, have dinner at Kisoji.

Where To Stay: Tokyo

Hilton Tokyo

I lucked out and got a great deal when I booked online using a travel industry rate on my company's site. It was $130/night, a 50% off discount. The Hilton is a trusted hotel centrally located in Shinjuku, with decent sized rooms and an accommodating staff.

After our first few nights, we decided to stay longer but the industry rate no longer was valid (hello, weekend). They moved our room to a newly renovated floor and the little touches made it noticeably better! Robes and slippers, a warmed toilet seat, outlets on the nightstands, controlled lighting. They even left a box of chocolates with a card on our desk the afternoon of my moms birthday!

Wifi was free in the lobby, but the surcharge for wifi in the room was over $10/day. Restaurant options within the hotel were very pricey, however we weren't looking to eat there anyway. The bar had nightly live music by a Portuguese man named Bruno on the piano. It was our last stop of the night, every night.

I would stay here again if I could get the room for $130! The location alone is worth it.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

"Lost In Translation" Tour of Tokyo

Why do we love the movie "Lost In Translation" so much? The Japanese setting? Maybe. Bill Murray? Absolutely! There's something about it that makes each viewing better than the last. I knew that if I ever made it back to Tokyo, it would be my duty to recreate my favorite scenes from one of best films out there (in my amateur opinion)! The only thing I missed out on was ordering black toe sushi.

Toto Washlet

First of all, the Japanese toilet is a legend on its own. With warm seats and a built in bidet, why leave the bathroom? I could literally fall asleep on the toilet. But that's another story.

Shabu Shabu

We went to a traditional restaurant in Shinjuku where sweet little ladies in kimonos served us. They didn't speak a word of English but helped us set up our hot pot. We did as Bill Murray and pointed to the menu photo of a plate of raw meat. We tapped the menu with two fingers and said "two of these".

Suntory Time

We went to the New York Bar located on the 52nd floor in the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku for the best view of Tokyo. Live jazz bands perform nightly (like Sausalito) in this swanky lounge. We drank a glass of Suntory while overlooking the clear skyline of Tokyo at night. We left after one drink because we don't have a Bill Murray budget ($22 cover when the jazz band comes on).

Karaoke Kan

The only thing we were missing were pink wigs! We sang "Brass in Pocket" just like Charlotte. Then we went through singing some of the top requests such as "Call Me Maybe" followed by Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, Whitney Houston, and Michael Jackson. The building that Karaoke Kan is in is pretty tall, so each room has windows overlooking the city. After sake and plenty of water (for the vocals) we dropped the mic and stumbled home.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Apotheke NYC

A pharmacy-themed bar?! How appropriate for my family! No, they are not a pill-popping bunch. Rather, pharmacists. Apotheke is hidden behind the door at 9 Doyers Street in Chinatown. With a menu of different prescriptions, you can choose from stress relievers, aphrodisiacs, pain killers, etc. The drinks are innovative with ingredients like smoked pineapple, rose water, and beet-cognac reduction, so don't you dare order a rum and coke here! We stopped in for a round, as that was all we could afford on our poor-mans budget. Each drink was strong enough to feel a nice sense of healing, and I left there feeling nicely medicated.