Had a great time eating our way through Japan, wanted to share our dining experiences that were worth mentioning. There are so many choices, its hard to decide and obviously not everyone can do all Michelin for every meal, so here are choices in all ranges. Sorry this is long.
Tsukiji fish market: We attempted to attend the tuna auction but missed it b/c we had no idea where it was! But we unofficially marched our way through the fish market in the thick of the morning and it was AMAZING. We did have donburi at a random sushi stall which was cheap and so fresh and some ramen at Inoue 井の上.
Ginza Okuda: Kaiseki lunch on Saturday, cost 11500 yen per person. Took this recommendation from CHer’s. Chef Koju Okuda cooks at both Ginza Okuda and Kojyu for dinner so I figured opt for the cheaper option of similar execution! We were served by his capable sous-chef, Shun Miyahara who’s english is better than he lets on. Service here was top notch and amazing. The bar serves probably around 8 or 9 and I believe there are private tables hidden elsewhere as well. The meal was obviously seafood heavy with fish rounding out the heavier courses. An excellent meal and what I can presume is a great value (albiet still expensive). Highly recommended. Reservations were easily made by calling our hotel concierge ahead of our visit. We made reservations about 6 weeks prior.
Uogashi Nihonichi, Standing Sushi Bar: I was stumbling around Shibuya people watching on a Saturday evening, when I stumbled upon this sushi bar. I recognized it as the sushi spot from “Jiro, Dreams of Sushi”, where the narrator of the movie was eating at the beginning of the movie. I really really wish there were cool concepts that people would frequent like this in the US. So the concept is you stand to eat, the pace is lightening quick and the prices are CHEAP. And of course the sushi is fresh. All orders come in 2 pieces and pieces range from 75-300 yen with many great selections available in the 75 yen price. Our favs were squid scorched with mayo, negi-toro handroll (if only nori was this good in the states), ikura and uni. Most people came in alone, stopped in for 6-8 pieces and were out in a jiffy. Fun experience. There are locations throughout tokyo, even one in tokyo station.
Sawada: Omakase dinner on Saturday, 35000 yen per person excluding alcohol. Reservations more difficult to obtain due to his strict policy. Reservations for non-japanese guests must be made by your hotel concierge which must include a faxed copy of a credit card number to hold the reservation. But YES ITS WORTH IT! I debated a lot amongst the choices of high end sushi omakase, with obvious choices like sushi mizutani and jiro, but ended up with Sawada because of the unique personalized service with 6 bar seats and Sawada-san + his wife. I can see why Michelin has yet to award the 3rd star.. because its a two person show and in Michelin eyes, they probably want an entourage to wait on each personal guest hand and foot, who knows. What I do know is my experience here is unparallelled and once in a lifetime. There are the dining moments I live for! Every cut, every motion, every intention that exudes from this genius was magical! He embodies that perfectionism that exists in the nature of all Japanese and he exemplifies it to the max. Google for pictures of the dining experience, it is amazing. Definitely can not be missed! My personal highlights were grilled chutoro that reminded me of eating Kobe in Kobe, chu-otoro, bonito (before it became flakes), aki stuffed with rice and nori, and uni from hokkaido.
Omen: Another great lunch spot, right walking distance from Ginkaku-ji temple (which was one of my favorites). Bowl of noodles + tempura runs 1200 yen. To call this udon would be underplaying it. Its a special udon preparation where the udon is served to be eaten like tsukemen and it’s accompanied with a plate of several different fresh vegetables that you can add to your soup to your preference. Overall, it was a solid udon experience, nothing to make a trip out of or run to, but if you’re in the Ginkaku-ji area and want some lunch, this is a viable option. It was pretty popular during lunch, so may be a wait.
Kyoto Station Ramen Alley: Located on the 10th floor of the Isetan building, this place is a gold mine! I had a bowl at Hakata Ikkousha (博多一幸舎). This was my most favorite ramen bowl I had in Japan. Shared with a plate of karaage and fried rice, I was in heaven. If you’re on the move and have a short layover in Kyoto station, please swing by the ramen alley.
Thanks for reading. Japan is a food-lover’s dream and I hope my specific experiences can help you sort out some choices amongst a myriad of food choices!!
Researching for Tokyo is very challenging for me b/c of the language barrier and the massive amount of choices in all price ranges. Most CHer's talk a lot about the michelin *'d spots, but was hoping for suggestions in low to mid level priced spots, especially where we'll be staying late Jan.
I found a lot of stuff around Tsukiji fish market although sounds like it maybe be a bit "tourist trappy"
We'll be staying at the Sheraton Miyako Hotel in Minato, off the Mita and Nanboku lines.
Interested more in yakitori, soba, ramen, unagi and mid-level tempura. planned sawada for dinner and ginza okuda for a lunch already.
THANKS FOR YOUR HELP!!
Portland has a very laid back food scene which is refreshing in its own way, price point is great! Thanks for all the help with research on chowhound.
Cliff's notes: Best things I ate in Portland
Ha & VL (Thurs/Sat lunch): Tried the snail vermicelli and shredded chicken vermicelli. Found this spot and was excited because it sounded so similar to a concept at the “lunch lady” in Saigon, Vietnam – special soups each day of the week and they sell until they sell out. Overall it was promising but being Vietnamese, I would run here quickly if you're looking for great Vietnamese. The snail/shrimp balls were tasty. We also came back on Saturday morning for the Bun Bo Hue (spicy beef vermicelli) which I felt was much better than the Thursday offerings. They are a bit skimpy on the side greens (which was mostly iceburg lettuce which doesn't even exist in Vietnam). Also tried the meatball banh mi which I do recommend trying. Overall just okay.
Salt & Straw: Amazing! Such creative ice cream flavors, very gourmet. I was addicted to the sea salt + caramel, ADDICTED. A must try.
The Box Social (happy hour): Great neighborhood spot for drinks, filled up quickly by 5pm. HH from 4-6, good cocktails overall although one person got a cocktail very full of Sage which was off-putting. Parmesan popcorn for $2? Yes please.
Toro Bravo (Thurs dinner): Got there at 6:30pm and waited about 30 mins for a table for 6. Went upstairs to “the secret society” for cocktails and they had this lovely 1920's band playing which was really fun. Dinner was good, but can't say I was blown away. Mainly because everything was just over the top rich and salty. One or two dishes like this works well but a whole meal of 10 small plates like that just makes me feels icky afterwards. Highlights included: sauteed chanterelles, squid ink fideo with seafood, and a seasonal squash dish. So-so dishes: oxtail croquettes, cauliflower (greasy), pork rillette (bread so greasy!)
What's the Scoop: Nice addition to the neighborhood, standard flavors, tried the brittle ice cream and I got the bottom so was rewarded with a huge chunk of brittle on top – cone not as tasty as S&S.
Nuvrie Bakery (breakfast): Lovely storefront, ordered a croissant + bagel/cream cheese and it took 20 minutes! I caught the early lunch crowd, but I think the counter is very disorganized (maybe its a Portland thing?). Overall the pastries were just okay, wouldn't come back if I lived there – ugh.
Pok Pok (Friday lunch): Got there at 1pm on Friday and sat outside with no wait for 4. Totally loved this meal. Must try. I've had thai all over, even in most asian-centric cities and this place is the real deal. Highlights include: Boat Noodles which are only served for lunch so get them! Amazingly flavored, spicy YUM. Beef salad, papaya salad and of course the wings which are salty but so galicky and delish. Must try for sure.
Smallwares (Friday dinner): Came at 8:30pm waited 20 mins for a table for 6. Newish spot I believe and overall I felt the food was good but nothing I would rush back to. Southeast Asian inspired food. Tried a good sampling of food. Space I felt was awkward b/c the bar and the restaurant side were complete opposites but you could be seated on either side. Should try: kimchi trio was surprisingly very good, fried kale was crispy and salty, chicken lollipops are expected but tasty. Pass on the eggplant, mapo, hanger steak.
Aviary (Friday 2nd dinner): Oddly located in almost like a shopping center, space is open, small bar out back. Food here was actually very conceptual and interesting layers and flavors. Would recommend trying this spot out if you like trying something outside the box, asian flavors. Highlights: sweet potato with trout roe dish was so so conceptual and had so many components that when eaten together was really great. Crispy pig ear with coconut rice was SO out there but again all the many components came together really well. A should try (esp if you live in Portland).
Interurban (Sat lunch): Great drinking spot! Very rustic and homey. Service was awesome. Great if you're in the neighborhood and want to grab a drink with tasty upscaled bar eats. Highlights: the wings! Ask for the buffalo and ranch on the side. The huge corndog with 5 mustards. Grilled brocollini! Good if in neighborhood
Beast (Sat night): Made reservations 2 months out, so not sure how hard it was to get a reservation, but I figure it fills up quickly b/c they have 2 seatings per night, 6pm and 8:45. This was my “fine dining” experience in Portland which was great b/c it was a great homey space. Communal dining. Fixed price dinner, meat-centric (no vegetarian accomodations). Soup course was standard, charcuterie course was good but I had higher expectations – faves were foie and chicken liver mousse. 3rd meat course, beef cheeks was worth the whole dinner – AMAZING. Smoked trout with trout roe was oddly coursed b/c it was mostly cold but well done, all smoked in house I believe. Cheese course was tasty. Chocolate dessert was a great end, cinnamon ice cream was delectable. I would say a must try for the ambiance and the beef cheeks :) Wine pairing was worth it and well done overall.
Ristretto Roasters (coffee): Solid caffeine fix, toast + jam for 25 cents!
Tasty n' Sons (Sunday brunch): Got there at 9:30am and waited 1 hour for 6 people. Kind of regretted this because I did have dinner at Toro Bravo, but overall I felt it was pretty good. Solid brunch in an open space, but the wait, PHEW! Highlights: biscuits + venison gravy (very small portion), large biscuit + egg/ham, potatos bravas + egg (best thing I ate here)
Brass Tacks: Locally sourced and organic everything sandwich shop. Wish I had tried the vegan offerings but tried the turkey sandwich. Could tell the ingredients were top notch and great choice for lunch in the neighborhood
Little big burger (snack): Probably along the lines of 5 guys burger, highlight I felt was the truffle fries and the KETCHUP. The ketchup was amazingly memorable. Good snack spot.
Thanks chowhounders for all of the recommendations :)
What an amazing experience... and I have Chowhound to thank for it (this is where I read about it).
Definitely our best dining experience in our Pacific Northwest tour (San Juans, Seattle, Portland) and worthy of anyone who loves food, specifically fine dining food experiences.
People who stay a night at the Inn get priority for a reservation.
One of the reasons why the dining experience is so amazing is because of the surroundings is so remote, so serene and the food is a mirror image of being on this amazing ecosystem. Its like taking local-vore cuisine and being so truly dedicated to this concept. Majority of the protein and vegetables come from the island (Nettle's Farm) or the surrounding waters.
Won't really go into the menu because it does change and want to let the experience speak for itself but of note, Blaine Wetzel and his team LOVE to smoke anything. I would say at least half or not more of the meal had a smokey overtone which was great because as we drove up, we saw several of the chefs smoking in the little house to the side of the kitchen. Spot prawn season is in the summer and we were bummed we missed that. We met Blaine Wetzel after dinner although he does walk out and serve throughout the meal. He's the nicest guy, super down to earth, which made the meal that much cooler!
Breakfast at the Willows Inn was AMAZING! I think its funny when people want to compare the breakfast with the preceding dinner... they are such different meals and breakfast is definitely above average when it comes to bed and breakfast quality breakfasts.. ingredients fresh, had some lovely local apple cider and fresh pomegranate granola with yogurt.
Do it! Come to Lummi Island and get on this amazing dining experience. Dinner in 10/2012 was $150/pp excluding tax/tip.
Just came back recently and would recommend trying to hit up Pok Pok for lunch (boat noodles, do it!) and consideration for Beast for dinner.
Visited Seattle last weekend in Nov. Had a nice time, wanted to report back considering how much research I did on here!
Cliff's notes – best things I ate:
Walrus & Carpenter (pre-dinner snack): We got there at 4:45pm on a Friday and waited 10 mins for a table... I think we got there just in time because I noticed several parties waiting when we left. Conveniently, there is a cute bike shop nearly attached which serves wine, beer, coffee if you'd rather wait there. Because it was a pre-dinner snack, we ate lightly. Tried each raw oyster available, very fresh, a great accompanying minionette. Also tried the fried oysters which were AMAZING, hit of the meal! Batter was perfectly salty and a great alternative to the raw-aversed, although why would you come here? Lastly tried the fried anchovies which were accompanied by a very tasty pesto topping. Overall I would say a good spot for after dinner drinks and snack, menu was small. Space was very lovely.
Book Bindery (dinner): Space is very open, great for a quiet dinner out. Sat in the green house extension room which was nice to see the rain fall but not be in it! Overall, I felt dinner her was good, but coming from chicago, the level of execution and uniqueness was overall subpar to consider it a great dining experience. There were moments that had a lot of potential. Amuse bouche was a seasonal cider/squash soup, a bit too sweet but inviting. Tried the heirloom tomato salad which I felt was my favorite thing (aside from dessert), mainly because I felt there was something daring to be different on the plate. The tomatoes were def from some garden just that day but the horseradish panna cotta on the plate was really amazing! I was afraid it would be too strong but it successfully brought the flavor of horseradish without the burn. For dinner I had a rack of lamb which was cooked well but accompaniments were forgettable. The rest of the table tried items I felt were good but again nothing really great of new or different to literally write home about. For dessert, we tried the pumpkin cheesecake which was simple but really tasty, I ate every bite. I would not return and not sure I would recommend to other visitors because I feel I've eaten at this restaurant in any other great food city.
Revel in Fremont (Brunch): Showed up at 12:45 and waited 5 mins for a table. Space is awesome, open kitchen and smells delish! Best thing I ate in Seattle was the korean marinated short rib over rice, with chimichurri and a fried egg. The meat was just amazing! Tender, perfectly cooked and garnished with some light salt on top. The chimichurri which I believe is house made was just icing on a cake – tasted amazing, I was trying to break down the ingredients to see if I could recreate this. And throw an egg on top and everything is what it should be :) We also tried the crab egg foo young which had nice chunks of likely blue crab, a bit on the salty side. Lastly tried the ramen which was a bit forgettable but not bad. Would def recommend this spot, takes korean food and takes it up a notch.
Theo's Chocolate factory tour: luckily, Theo's was around the corner from Revel and we had made reservations on line ahead of time. Definitely a fun experience!! Tons of tasters throughout, learned a lot about chocolate and seems like they are trying to really do well with the organic/free trade chocolate movement. Would definitely try to go if you're in the neighborhood.
Spinasse (dinner): So I totally expected a fine dining experience but probably should have noticed from the casual menu.. such a homey feeling restaurant, very rustic. Overall I think chowhounder's really talk this restaurant up.. I would say I get it, but perhaps this is the type of cuisine that really defines Seattle cuisine, very homey and very approachable. Amuse bouche was chicken liver mousse on toast which was delish. Our table ordered the tasting of appetizers which I think is a great way to try it all! The proscuitto was aged and saltily amazing. The anchovies were spot on. For dinner I couldn't get away from trying the well talked about Tajarin with ragu. Very delicate pasta coupled with very rich and complex ragu made it a great dish. Also tried a bit of the sage/butter preparation which I liked but glad I didn't get because a whole plate of it would have been too much. We ordered a side of the beets which I felt were just okay. Desserts were very light, order them!
Although not a Seattle food experience, would like to give a shoutout to Seattle visitors to consider driving up 2 hrs north of seattle for dinner on Lummi Island at the Willows Inn – a truly exceptional dining experience and favorite of our trip (which I'll divulge upon in another forum.)
Thanks Chowhounders as always for the great recs!
the one on Lawrence is better IMO, but i'm sure they use the same meats... also prices lower which i guess doesn't matter if its more convenient for you!
I think most places probably use BaLe as their purveyor. My fav Banh Mi spot in Chicago is Nhu Lan Bakery (the original is on Lawrence). Try there and see whatcha think.
In the west loop is Jaipur which is not hole-in-the-wall but prices aren't too out of this world either. They have a GREAT seated lunch buffet (where they serve you at the table, not overheated dry leftovers under a heat lamp) that is a great value and tons of great food for $15, although lunch only.
I went to Due in Aug for lunch and I felt it wasn't as wonderful as my lunch experience at Sogno.. so just personal experience. Either way, the experience (ambiance, space, menu) are the same, but I would prefer to go to the original if I had the choice.
Fun vegan spot is "Handle Bar" which also has a decent beer selection and a bier garden out back. Its in Wicker Park.
For pizza and microbrew, there's Piece in Wicker Park, but its not deep dish. Has tons of TVs for sports watching in between live sports.
As for your "nice meals" options, perhaps narrow down cuisine type, and where you're staying, there are so many nice meal options!! There's Green Zebra in West Town that is majority vegetarian and very good. Recently took visiting vegetarian friend to Vera in West Loop which is spanish small plates + wine bar.
If a short cab ride is not a problem, the West Loop is doing great food right now.. a longer walk would be River North
Anniversary worthy for your price point I would rec: Nellcotte (West loop), Balena (Lincoln Park), Perennial Virant (lincoln park), Vera (west loop) would be a bit more casual, Nightwood in Pilsen may run upper limit of budget.
Second the Piccolo, but the original would be more consistent on Grande (Piccolo Sogno).
Everyone has great recs...
Sixteen I went 3 years ago, chef's have changed, but overall my experience was nice space, fine-dining expensive but food didn't move me as I had wanted especially for the price point. But the views are spectacular and service very good (wouldn't expect otherwise with Trump)
Other considerations would be El Ideas and recently opened Elizabeth (ticketing system) which appear to be similar experiences in that the chef is interactive and the food is locally sourced and lots of passion in the cooking.
I'm getting so much response about which restaurant to go to, I can't decide! The menu at Book Bindery looks really great and there have been many responses about how people have had a great experience there. The Corson Building appears to be a very great experience, almost reminiscent of Ad Hoc type of cuisine in Napa. Staple & Fancy menu looks italian inspired and we're going to Spinasse so gonna pass there. Have been interested in Chef Hine's food, so Tilth perhaps would be a good option but not much is mentioned in the forums about it being a place to try. Thanks again for your thoughts!!
that's the thing about food! everyone loves it for different reasons and different ways. I loved loved Gus's. Def wanna try leonards and interstate!
the chocolate factory sounds awesome, going there! thanks a bunch :)
thanks for your recommendations... seattle is only 2/11 day trip so we won't be staying in seattle for too long.. have been before many years ago and excited to revisit :)
Myself and husband are visiting the northwest for 12 days, done tons of research, would like some tips on my itinerary.
We're staying at the W Seattle downtown near Pike Place Market.
Pre-dinner: The Walrus & the Carpenter for oysters etc. QUESTION, would fitting in the Ballard Locks before or after our meal here make any sense? And if yes, before vs after? Was thinking after so we can place something in between our meals, but I definitely don't want to get to W&C too late and have to wait.
Full Tilt sometime while we're in Ballard
Dinner: Book bindery vs Canlis vs Sitka/Spruce vs other. Wanted to try Tilth b/c of Maria Hines but seems out of the way. Also Corson Building but again a bit out of the way. Thoughts?
After dinner drink options in area?? Perhaps head back to hotel for Spur
Late lunch: Revel. Anything interesting to check out in Fremont neighborhood before or after lunch?
thanks for everyone's help ahead of time!! we can't wait.
Yes, who would of thought one could do a food tour here, but I did it, lived it, to talk about it!
Came here to visit some friends as part of a road trip and here are my thoughts:
Acadia Restaurant: Located in the Hilcrest neighborhood, this lies at the end of a stretch of shops and restaurants. Our friend picked it and overall, for value, it was a good choice. On Mon/Tues, they offer a pre-fixe meal for $25!! Tried a caesar salad (a bit overdressed), tomato basil soup which was very hearty and duck breast with a tasty truffle risotto. Dessert was a berry bread pudding. Overall and solid choice, nothing life changing but a good value esp on Mon/Tues.
The Root Cafe:
Ashley's at the Capital:
Little rock does have some food highlights. Didn't try catfish or any BBQ, but memphis is a mere 2 hour drive away.
The Root Cafe 1500 S Main St Little Rock, AR 72206
Ashley's at the Capital Markham & Louisiana Little Rock, AR 72201
Did a ton of research to find the best spots for BBQ in Memphis. Spent about 24hrs in Memphis and tried 3 spots according to extensive chow/yelp research. Here are my thoughts and my ratings and why.
1) Central's BBQ:
2) Cozy's Corner:
3) B-B-Q shop:
Wanted to try Neely's Interstate, Payne's pulled pork sandwich but no time
ONE THING TO MENTION, everyone must must must stop by Gus's Fried Chicken!! this was the most amazing thing I ate on my trip, I went for dinner one night and again the next day for early lunch and still and dreaming about it. Perfect and I mean PERFECTLY fried chicken that tastes like it's been marinating in spicy salt brine for days, so the chicken meat itself is so so tender and so flavorful. Not to forget the perfectly fried chicken skin and batter which has a perfect spice and crisp that only dreams are made of. There's a location downtown near Beale street.
For coffee, try Bluff City Coffee which was a great surprise. Their coffee strong and delicious, also offers free WIFI.
We also swung by Pearl's Oyster House, definitely wouldn't recommend unless you have a BIG itch for oysters... gulf oysters, poorly shucked with mud and dirt all over the place. Thumbs down.
Take home point: Gus's for fried chicken!
Cozy Corner Restaurant 745 N Pkwy Memphis, TN 38105
B-B-Q Shop 1782 Madison Ave Memphis, TN 38104
Gus's Fried Chicken 310 S Front St Memphis, TN 38103
Bluff City Coffee 505 South Main Street, Memphis, TN
I did take-out at Tim Ho Wan and loved it but hated myself for having to run to the airport... really try your best to eat in-house, IMO.
This review is truly delayed (we went in Sept 2011), but I spent so much time researching on chow hound, I really wanted to return the favor. We went as a postponed honey moon and boy did we eat!! Please PM with any further questions.
Zaragoza: This was a pit-stop on the way to Logrono. it was sunday and there were thousands of locals in the streets that night for what we weren't sure... but we found this cute/homey spot close to the hotel that was worthy of mentioning. Ana Saz is owned by husband/wife couple, at 9pm was completely deserted and we asked if we could be seated and he said well... all tables were reserved.. at 9pm and empty! we were seated and 30 mins later, restaurant - packed. solid local cuisine, but nothing to write home about further than this.
La Rioja wine region:
-Calle de Laurel in Logrono: this is an absolute must go if you're even remotely nearby. the street comes alive after dusk and there are probably a hundred small pintoxo bars. you stroll along, looking for what fancies your taste buds. each bar has its "specialty" pinxto, some serve just 1 type. our favorites were the papa bravas pintxo bar and the champinion (mushroom) bar. such a great experience of the local culture and amazing food to boot.
-Asador Etxebarri in Atxondo. So no one really would venture out this way if not for this restaurant. The drive from La Rioja was absolutely breath taking and we would do that again, hands down. We arrived at 2pm in time for lunch. We enjoyed a 9 course tour of the grill expert of the world. The food was ALL ABOUT THE INGREDIENT. no bells, no whistles. just you and the best ingredient spain has to offer. we got to meet the sous chef after the meal who gave us a tour of the kitchen, which like the food was very simple.
Thanks for reading. Please PM with any questions!
Check out Mirabel's guide on La Rioja because she lists several bodega's that serve lunch. I went on Sunday/Monday and none of them were open.
Thanks for your recommendations. We're so excited for our trip!
Making a trip to Spain in early Sept. Had a few inquiries I haven't seen much about on the board.
1) Best seafood restaurants in Barcelona. Can be super casual, or even a good sit down place. I've seen La Paradeta which looks awesome. Or can I assume ALL places serve good fresh seafood?
2) Food recommendations in Zaragoza. We're driving from Barcelona to La Rioja and want to make a stop in Zaragoza for a night. Is there other towns on the way that would be more food driven?