Friday, March 23, 2007


I WOKE up early; much, much earlier than my alarm clock, which was set at 8am. The only time I happily and willingly wake up before an alarm clock (or before noon, for that matter) is when I'm travelling. I'm just too excited to sleep. My normally sleep-addicted body knows when it's in another place. My heart races, my brain explodes with plans and ideas, my tummy demands to be fed with everything delicious, exotic, and local.

FIRST stop was the basement grocery of the Odakyu Department Store. Not very big as far as basement groceries go, but filled to the brim with diverse products like raw fish and seafood, fish roe, pickled fish, ginger, turnip and various other vegetables, all the chicken parts you can imagine (wings, breast, thigh, gizzard, skin, heart and liver, hmmm, come to think of it I didn't see chicken feet) grilled on skewers or deep fried, bento boxes in all assortments, colors and sizes, tempura prawn, vegetables, tonkatsu pork, platters heaping with Western and Japanese salads, sushi and sashimi, onigiri (wrapped Japanese rice with various fillings in triangle, square or oblong shapes, which salarymen eat like Westerners would sandwiches or Mexicans burritos), gyoza, Western pastries and cakes adorned with the largest, freshest, most vibrantly hued fruits I have ever seen, Japanese-style mochi and wafers, bread, fresh fruits, and other delicacies known only to Japan. Looking around made the glutton in me come to life. My eyes were treated to a visual gastronomic spectacle unlike anything I have ever seen. Mouths watering, hubby and I sampled almost everything we saw. I was in foodie heaven. Unfortunately, they are quite strict when it comes to taking pictures, so I quickly snapped these when the vendor was busy...

"sandwiches" made of a batter with egg, flour and chopped cabbage (which tasted like coleslaw) filled with either shrimp or scallops

they looked like english muffin to me. the taste was interesting, like eating a vegatble patty. i found their seafood portions generous.

AFTER this feast we headed out to Yamanote to attend Mass. I must give special mention to the wafer-like host they offered at Mass. It was light, crispy and sweet. In other words, it was yummy! Like eating merienda biscuits! Goodness, hubby and I were startled by the taste and crunch. Who says spiritual nourishment has to be bland?

WE met up with fellow Pinoys after Mass and decided to have lunch at an eat-all-you-can Yakiniku place near Ginza. While walking towards the station we saw parked vans outside the Church and tables set up with Filipino food like kakanins, hotdog on sticks and pork barbeque. Seems like Sunday Mass is also an occasion to treat oneself to sorely-missed homemade Pinoy foodstuff. I even spied a Caucasian couple greedily eating their steaming hot arroz caldo from styrofoan bowls!

at the restaurant we piled our plates high with thinly-sliced raw meat, cuttlefish, chicken teriyaki skewers, fresh fruits, Japanese curry, stir-fried noodles, peanut noodles, udon, gyoza and salad. softdrinks were bottomless too. you grill everything and dip it in the special yakiniku sauce -sweetish and tangy. eat to your heart's content for the next 2 hours then off you go! each table is timed by the waitstaff so stuff your mouth while there's still time!

AFTER walking off that heavy meal around the prestigious, flamboyant area of Ginza, where we met a Mario brother standing outside a toy store and I spent a good 20 minutes salivating outside a French pastry shop, we headed to Odaiba. It's a waterfront area with shopping centers, amusement zones, a huge Ferris Wheel, the futuristic Fuji TV Headquarters, the Museum of Maritime Sciences housed in a massive vessel and Odaiba Marine Park. It also offers a stunning view of Rainbow Bridge (which looks like the Golden Gate Bridge). There's even a miniature Statue of Liberty. In the distance you can see Tokyo Tower (Japan's Eiffel). We took a scenic train to get there and spent some time in Aqua City and VenusFort. We visited a cavernous Toyota showroom, a Roman-themed mall, a vintage car museum, an arcade where little boy got to ride Thomas and of course, we relaxed in Starbucks.

i love their hot matcha tea. the white milky foam against the bright green tea against the black tray- lovely. and it sure helped beat the shivers.

jet-black chocolate marshmallow cookie. dense, sticky and decadent. lemon bar with a caramel coating. tart, not-too-sweet, soft and crumbly.

sakura chiffon cake. light pink, fluffy, with a touch of berry tartness.

a tonkatsu resto called Wako served this up to our group of ravenous tourists. the Japanese have mastered the art of frying, according to Jeffrey Steingarten my favorite food writer, and he's right! crisp on the outside, fork-tender and juicy on the inside with no trace of greasiness. the tonkatsu sauce, which is like their catsup, is just the right blend of sweet and pucker-up sour for me, with spice notes (from laurel, cinammon, cloves) thrown in. the shredded cabbage, steamed rice and miso soup with tiny clams the size of one's fingernails are bottomless. there's no sesame-seed grinding ceremony or seaweed and citrus salad dressing though unike in Tonkichi in HongKong (more about this on a later blog). i didn't even know there was a king of tonkatsu pork and that's the roundish fillet, which is pinkish in the center and melts in your mouth, until i ate at Tonkichi. the long pork strips i've known my entire life no longer have a hold on me. they are the jesters, not worthy of the tonkatsu throne.

fusion Japanese: chicken tonkatsu roulade with seaweed and cheese. very much like Chicken Cordon Bleu.

DAY 3, coming up soon, is street food and grocery shopping day. I am longing for Japan as I write this blog.

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