Saturday July 4th, Lunch, Yamahan Udon

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More noodles for lunch again in Azabu-Juban, there are different types of noodles in Japan and quite often restaurants will specialize in one type. Lunch was in a restaurant called Yamahan and their  speciality  is Udon which is a thick noodle made of white flour. It can be served hot or cold and with a variety of toppings.

Here you can see two dishes, the top is a hot version served in a broth made from Dashi (fish broth) which is then mixed with Shoyu and possibly Mirin. I ate the dish below so I am speculating to as to what was in the broth but have listed those typically used. On the side is that particular restaurant’s take on Kakiage which is a fritter of sorts made from Tempura batter.

I tried the Tororo Udon set which came with rice as well, mine was served cold. Tororo is a sticky white food made from grating a yam and is then flavoured to taste with dashi which was served in the pot at the bottom right of the picture. It’s then mixed and eaten with the noodles. It’s not something that you find it England so easily so that was part of my reasoning for trying it. I actually quite enjoyed it but did make a mistake of pouring all the dashi on in one go, I now have the impression that to add it incrementally or when needed be better.

I would have liked to return to try other dishes or even the same without the ‘all in one go’ mistake but somehow never did get round to it.

Saturday July 4th, Tokyo, Mori Art Museum

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I suppose in some respects I am an art tourist as it is one of the things that I do research before traveling or look up when i arrive in a place and it does occasionally dictate why I would travel to certain cities. A good example is Bilbao where I went because I wanted to see the Richard Serra pieces.

A valuable resource for finding out what is on in terms of art in Tokyo is the website for Tokyo Art Beat.

Azabu-Juban and Roppongi’s skyline is dominated by the Mori Tower at Roppongi Hills which stands at 238m and is one of the tallest buildings in the city. The first few floors are home to numerous shops and restaurants which in all honesty I have not really looked at or eaten in as the majority from window glances seem to be high end European fashion labels or European style food.

The reason that I do go to the building however is for the Mori Art Museum as well as the City View, there is also an open-air rooftop deck which I haven’t been to so can’t vouch for that experience. The photograph at the top is from the city view which is indoors. The museum’s design shop is also pretty good.

In Japan, they like to produce A4 size information sheets for exhibitions which are found all over the place as well as the more conventional advertising of posters. So combined with the afore mentioned website and spying a poster somewhere I had seen that an exhibition called “Simple Forms – Contemplating Beauty” was coming to an end at the museum and so wanted to see it.

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It was an exhibition that spanned a wide variety of time and cultures and brought together work that was not just classed as fine art but also items that might be considered to be craft items. So brought together were Japanese teacups to Brancusi sculptures as well as paintings and photographs.

Interestingly as I was to notice more frequently over the next month or so in various museums, is the adherence to “No Photography” in most museums by visitors, which is perhaps a good thing as sometimes we spend too long trying to get a good photograph of an object rather than actually looking at the object while we are there. That said Japanese museums do select one or two pieces where photography is allowed.

One of which was “Liminal Air Space-Time” by Shinji Ohmaki.

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This was a very effective piece and brilliant in its apparent simplicity, no doubt helped as well by having the vista of Tokyo behind it. The cloth is supported if I remember correctly by fishing line and suspended, the square areas below house fans which direct air from below to create the undulating forms.

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Yes, there was the briefest respite from the rain while I was there which allowed for the pictures on this entry.

Then it was onto visit my uncle in the evening via a neighbourhood that has been transforming itself into a place for young couples to bring to their families. While on the train there, I spotted that the light was doing strange things to the surface of the water turning it into a mirror like effect. I still don’t know what the people down there were actually doing.

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Ramen, Friday July 3rd, Tokyo, Japan

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That evening I had my first bowl of Ramen in Japan in a restaurant called Manrikiya in Azabu-Juban, the interior along with its owner seemed slightly overdone almost theatrical in how hard it was trying to be macho. I can almost imagine the owner going to work and stepping into character then changing into street clothes at going home time and being a very quiet person. That’s by the by though, the food, let’s talk about ramen.

What is ramen? it is essentially a soup based dish served with Chinese style wheat noodles, there are regional variations of what the soup base is made from as well as toppings and noodle type from thin to thick to straight to crinkly. It is then topped with various toppings as per the restaurant menu. Generally most restaurants will offer a Chashu (Sliced Pork) with spring onions, nori, menma (bamboo shoot) and sometimes a hard boiled egg as the entry level dish, you can then ask for extra beansprouts, spring onion and so on. It is also one the dishes that you can slurp as you eat.

The white and pink slice you can see in my photo of my dinner is a thin slice of fishcake, there was also some fried garli and black pepper in there already, all there to give me some ‘power’! 😉

The soup base I had was a shoyu (soy sauce) one but it isn’t always and you can find shops specializing in one type of soup like shio (salt) or miso (fermenting soy beans) as well as  tonkotsu (pork bone).

A reader from London could be forgiven for believing that ramen is only served with tonkotsu given the propensity of restaurants springing up serving it only that way in the capital. While I understand rents are costly in London and they are cooking a food that requires to an extent certain specialty ingredients, I am still somewhat put off by the cost of ramen  in London with it being almost double that of Japan but I digress.

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Accompanying my ramen, I ordered some gyoza, which is a fried dumpling of a very thin pastry filled more often than not with minced meat, chives, spring onions, garlic and sometimes cabbage or other chopped vegetables. It is eaten with soy sauce mixed with vinegar and chilli oil. I haven’t as yet seen these long gyoza in London yet but it’s probably only a matter of time.

The salad in the background was a mizuna leaf salad which actually now in retrospect adds to my feeling that the restaurant and it’s interior is all put on to be how a macho restaurant should be, in reality salad probably wouldn’t be available in a macho restaurant. 😉 (I wish they’d sell salad bags of mizuna leaves in the UK, you occasionally find the odd leaf in a mixed bag of leaves, remember you read it here first when it becomes trendy!)

As to the ramen, I did enjoy it and wondered as to why there isn’t more variation of ramen in London.

A quick note on food, I didn’t always take pictures of my food sometimes because I honestly forgot to because I was hungry. There are no breakfast pictures which was either a buffet style breakfast of Japanese items (Rice, miso soup, fish) or Western style and in some places where there was no breakfast option just a bread roll from a bakery or convenience store.