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last-minute trip to Tokyo, avid eater with food allergies, need expert help!

Thanks! We didn't have the 3000 yen version, but I'll definitely do it if I get to go again.

Sep 19, 2012
spotcleanfood in Japan

last-minute trip to Tokyo, avid eater with food allergies, need expert help!

Back from Tokyo. Generally a success, considering my limitations. My local guides were awesome. Even though they're not food experts per se, they went out of their way to help. If anyone is interested:

Rie from The Backstreet Guides, www.thebackstreetguides.com
Yasuko M. from Tours by Locals, www.ToursByLocals.com

Most awesome, and most unexpected, was that I was able to book Shinji Nohara at the very last minute. He has been mentioned on the boards before, and I would describe the experience as *superlative*. Plus, he's a really nice guy with a curator's eye for Japanese culture. If you love food, he is the best. www.tokyofixer.com

So, the highlights:

With my local guides:
chazuke at Kiname: The staff was incredibly helpful, discussing the menu in great detail. And 2 80+ grannies joined in the conversation--it turned out one had severe food allergies as a child. The chazuke, with its array of condiments, was alternately comforting and surprising. I'm definitely going to try to recreate this at home.

kaiseki-ryōri at Nada-man: The chef and my guide were very conscientious with the entire menu, providing printed notes with every course. My guide sometimes found the allergy-free substitutions surprising but not unpleasant. The highlight was the yakimono course which the chef slow simmered on a piece of kobu ahead of time in place of shoyu.

fruit at Takano: They happened to have some slightly blemished fruit on sale at a deep discount. Possibly the best peach I've ever had.

With Shinji:
Sushi Ichi: I think Shinji might have chosen this with a wink to the fact that I live in Singapore. Nonetheless, the food was outstanding, each presentation perfect in its own way. We had a great view of the chef's knife skills and plenty of opportunity to discuss the finer points of sushi and sashimi, as well as seasonal produce (including a raw, young eggplant that tasted like the essence of fresh fig). The chef also very kindly used the amaranth-based "shoyu" Shinji had brought for me.

Shima: First, that copper bincho oven belongs in a museum. Second, my 6oz sirloin was by far the best steak I have ever had. Third, Chef Oshima and his wife are so charming, I was tempted to ask them to adopt me. Absolute highpoint of my trip.

On my own:
a511: This restaurant takes it's kobe very seriously. The steak was very good, and suffered only in comparison to the masterpiece at Shima. I highly recommend the beef sushi--the chuck cut tasted like the beef stew my mom would make for me as a kid when I had a cold. Also, we walked in without reservations and they were totally accommodating.

yakitori at Hayashi: highly entertaining if you're up for something tourist-y. (Unfortunately, I didn't make it to Yakitori Banchou because CH was down for maintenance and I didn't have the foresight to write it down.) I wouldn't say it is safe-for-celiacs with the cross-contamination on the grill, but the ingredients were fresh and the presentation was lovely. Plus the staff, at least that night, was entirely older women so it did have the feeling of going to gran's for Sunday supper.

Les Créations de Narisawa: I must say that the chef was working within my food limitations, for which I am grateful. I also appreciated the effort to present a Japan terroir, but overall the meal seemed inconsistent. High-point: I would bathe in the chicken-pork broth if I could. Mid-point: a capsicum brunoise overpowered an otherwise beautifully presented uni. Low-point: the oyster. It was the Summer menu, so I'm curious how the other seasons would compare, but not before trying to get into some of the other highly recommended restaurants first.

So really a great first trip to Japan overall. It was not perfect, allergy-wise. I did have one forced down day, even with medications (think John Hurt in Alien, and the hotel was compensated accordingly). I can't say it was one specific trigger, more of a cumulative effect and taking some chances I probably shouldn't have. But I'll know better next time and have some recs for other eaters like me.

Thanks again for everyone's advice. I know I dropped in out of the blue. Thanks for taking it seriously and sharing what you could.

Sep 17, 2012
spotcleanfood in Japan

last-minute trip to Tokyo, avid eater with food allergies, need expert help!

Thank you, prasantrin. Not negative nelly--sound advice for certain. I don't require an epi-pen fortunately, but I did bring a good supply of anti-spasm medication which has indeed been useful.

Sep 13, 2012
spotcleanfood in Japan

last-minute trip to Tokyo, avid eater with food allergies, need expert help!

My sincere gratitude to all for the advice, and the lively debate. When I googled "food allergy Tokyo" I got 3 pages of Disney with a few Denny's in between. I agree that you cannot walk into any resto and throw down an allergy card. However, it has been extremely helpful to have specific suggestions in combination with a communication tool. For example, I had shabu-shabu and having some Japanese helped me explain that I was not being rude by refusing the shoyu-ponzu and goma sauces. Instead I had daikon with hot pepper, garlic oil, and salt--and it was awesome.

Sep 12, 2012
spotcleanfood in Japan

last-minute trip to Tokyo, avid eater with food allergies, need expert help!

Thanks, Ninisix! I needed a yakitori place for Friday night :)

Sep 12, 2012
spotcleanfood in Japan

last-minute trip to Tokyo, avid eater with food allergies, need expert help!

Thank you, chartreauxx! I appreciate any help :)

Sep 12, 2012
spotcleanfood in Japan

last-minute trip to Tokyo, avid eater with food allergies, need expert help!

Thank you! I only just learned that you can get yakitori shio, and I was kindly given a bottle of shiitake shoyu for sushi. I'll have to look for kanidouraku--I love crab :) in the meantime, I'm picking up ume onigiri, candied kobu, and lots of gorgeous fruit for snacks.

Sep 11, 2012
spotcleanfood in Japan

last-minute trip to Tokyo, avid eater with food allergies, need expert help!

Oh dear, skipping Japan entirely is not an option. The allergy would include shoyu, for both wheat and gluten.

Thanks for the warning though. The high end restos, even Japanese, have been very accommodating, at least at reservation time. We'll see how it goes.

I can't eat top-bill for 7 days though. Hopefully my local guides will help with some creative options.

Sep 07, 2012
spotcleanfood in Japan

last-minute trip to Tokyo, avid eater with food allergies, need expert help!

My husband and I have booked a very last-minute trip to Tokyo, my first time. I've been reading the many, many great CH posts, but I'm left at a bit of a loss (and more than a little jealous).

Here's the catch: for medical reasons, I cannot have wheat (IgE-mediated allergy) or soy (migraines). Seriously.

Our hotel got us a reservation at Narisawa (Takazawa is on holiday and Ryugin is fully booked) and I have booked local guides for 2 days to help me hunt down the Tokyo delicacies I can eat, but I thought it could ask the CH experts for your advice.

Please note, I am a very adventurous and appreciative eater, and will pretty much each anything that won't kill me. High- or low-brow, doesn't matter.

I read through Shizuo Tsuji"s Japanese Cooking and came up with a very preliminary list of foods I can eat:

Konbu Dashi, probably the only broth I could have
Su-age Agemono
Kara-age Agemono, if cornstarch or kuzu are used instead of flour. Marinades could be a problem though.
Shabu-shabu, if we are able to avoid tofu and wheat gluten cakes
Tsukemono, I love pickles of any kind and, odd as it may sound, often use umeboshi vinegar in place of shoyu. No nukamiso-zuke though.
Fruit, especially if there are any local ones coming into season

Other ideas:
Satsuma-imo, are there still street vendors?
Onigiri, depending on the preparation
Nameshi
plain Mochi
Shira-gayu, okayu--actually, I may *really* need to know where to get this if I end up eating something I shouldn't have :)

(I can have sushi and sashimi as well, but there are so many great recs already, I think I'm covered)

Thoughts? Any suggestions, regardless of location or price, will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance,
scf

Sep 06, 2012
spotcleanfood in Japan