Spoiler alert! This was by far the best beef we had during our entire trip in Japan. Starting with a pretty major statement but I truly mean it! If you are going to only eat wagyu beef once, eat it at Tsurugyu!
Now let me introduce you to the place itself, Tsurugyu is a Kobe beef restaurant just outside Osaka city centre. From the street it doesn’t look like anything special, and the avenue it is on is actually dead quiet during the day which makes it a bit difficult to find at first.
Get inside and you are entering a dark and elegant little cocoon. The place feels special with all tables sheltered by curtains giving it a lot of privacy. George Clooney could be at the table next to you and you wouldn’t even know it.
It is good to note that you will need a reservation to eat at Tsurugyu. It is a very popular place. Not speaking Japanese? Don’t worry, just swing by and ask if they can book a table for you. We went one morning there and asked if they had availability on the same evening, which luckily they did!
Our waiter deserves a special mention too. He was hilariously patronising but in the nicest possible way. He must have thought “Those Europeans have absolutely no clue what they are doing!” and spent most of the evening showing us how to eat each ingredient properly. We felt like primary school students but also learned a lot about Japanese table manners.
Now let’s talk about the best part – the food! I could literally just tell you that it was epic and leave it there with a few snaps, but it was such an excellent meal that it deserves a few more words before I leave you drooling at the pictures (well except if you are vegetarian, look away now).
Once sat at the table, the waiter got the grill ready while we were deciding which cut of beef to go for. We ordered two different types of beef, both not too fatty as I am more of a lean cut type of person.
With the meat, we ordered a side of kimchi, which I am completely obsessed about by the way, since I learned that it is good for your guts health.
We also ordered the cold noodles as per our waiter recommendation. I would describe it as a very cold and very light ramen. Worth a try!
We then got busy cooking and grilling!
And following our teacher… I mean, our waiter’s instructions we dressed our plates as Japanese people would do. Meat at the bottom and the various sauces and salts at the top but never mixed together!
There is not much more I can say than: “YOU NEEEEEEEED TO GO EAT AT TSURUGYU!”
On our first night in Kyoto we headed for dinner at Gogyo Ramen. The restaurant is in Kyoto’s city centre right behind Nishiki Market.
You will know you are in the right place when you will see the queue in front of the restaurant and flames coming out of the kitchen. “Flames you said?” Yes I did! Gogyo’s signature dish is ‘burnt’ ramen, so to prepare it they literally have to burn it!
After queuing for a good while, we finally made it in and sat at the bar in front of the kitchen. Great way to have dinner while watching a pyrotechnics show!
One big big BIG highlight of our dinner at Gogyo was the staff! They were the nicest waiters we could have wished for! They helped us with our bibs (I told I am not good with chopsticks!) and when I said I had never tried plum wine they immediately offered me a glass of it ‘on the house’. By the way if you have never tried plum wine, make sure you do, it is delicious!
Genuinely friendly is the best way to describe the staff there!
Now to the food! Ramen can be extremely filling so we didn’t go too crazy with our order to make sure we could finish our dish (I hate wasting food!). We ordered fried gyozas as a stater, which we shared. They were really good and one plate was enough between the two of us, knowing what was coming next…
For mains we both went for the signature dish, the burnt ramen. Andrew went for a version with more toppings, I went for the regular one.
The taste is a lot stronger than a normal ramen. It is very smokey and it does have a burnt after taste so I am not sure everyone would like it. I found the texture to be oilier too but overall we did very much enjoy it.
As long as you are not expecting a classic ramen like at Ichiran, and that you are open to try new flavours, you will love the burnt ramen of Gogyo!
Also, if you are going, make sure to say ‘hi!’ to the lovely staff for us!
It is not all about sushi in Japan, far from it! I would almost compare Japanese cuisine to French cuisine, there is so much diversity! Meat dishes, fish dishes, pastries, Japanese food is varied and you won’t get bored while eating there.
Now it can be a little overwhelming and intimidating to order in a Japanese restaurant. What does that mean? What should I try? Is that even fish?
If you are planning to visit Japan and are a bit of a foodie like me, keep reading! I listed below the 14 Japanese foods you have to try. Some you will be familiar with, some you may never have heard of, all are delicious!
***FYI, the list below is not a ranking, it is simply in the alphabetical order***
Now are you hungry? Good, keep reading!
Yes, you read that right, curry is one of the most popular dish in Japan. You will find curry houses at every street corner. Coco Ichibanya is one of the most popular rice curry restaurant chain. The most famous type of curry is the katsu curry which is made of rice, curry sauce and breaded meat, usually pork.
Also known as breaded and deep-fried pork cutlets, it doesn’t sound very healthy but it is absolutely delicious! It is a popular lunch option served with rice, miso soup and shredded cabbage. The best tonkatsu we had was at Katsukura in Kyoto train station!
Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course meal. You know those delicate little eatable pieces of art you see in any guide about Japan? That’s kaiseki!
The first time we had it was for breakfast in Kyoto in our riokan, and we felt a little overwhelmed as to what should be eaten first on the tray. Luckily we then had lunch and kaiseki again with one of my Japanese friends in Tokyo, she explained to us that there is no formal order, you eat from the little plates as you wish!
Matcha tea may only be a recent trend in the western world but it is a very traditional ingredient in Japan. You can drink matcha tea of course, but you can also have matcha sundae, matcha cakes, matcha mochi, matcha ice cream, the list goes on and on and on!
One of my favourite snack in Japan. It’s sweet, filling and has the weirdest chewy texture, I love it! Made of a mochi, a rice paste and stuffed with various fillings, it is the perfect mid-afternoon sweet treat when walking around Japanese cities.
My favourite? The mochi and red bean paste daifuku. Soooo good!
A savoury pancake/omelette, is the best way I would describe Okonomiyaki. It is a traditional dish from Hiroshima, so if you are in the area make sure to have one! It is extremely filling so it worth coming to the restaurant with an empty stomach for this one.
Our favourite on-the-go lunch option while in Japan! It is super filling, tasty AND low on calories. I developed an addiction for the tuna and mayo one, I also promise to learn to make them at home as soon as we were back from Japan. The later has still not happened…
After spending two weeks in Japan, I have honestly no idea how Japanese people remain so thin. The food is rich and there is an endless variety of pastries. Rice base, wheat base, banana cream filling, red beans paste, name it and it probably exists in Japan!
The dish that doesn’t need more introduction and a very popular meal in Japan. It is delicious an there is a surprising amount of variety! We loved Ichiran’s classic ramen and the ‘burnt’ one from Kyoto Gogyo Ramen.
Red bean everything
Similar to matcha, red beans seem to be a go-to ingredient in desserts. I had mochi and red bean paste, red bean milkshake, pudding, etc.
Now if you think of red beans you may not think of delicious sweet treats, but don’t be deceived by the look and the name! It is delicious and the taste is similar to candied chestnuts. Hmmmmmmm….
Surprisingly a lot less popular than we thought it would be! Sushis are eaten by Japanese people but probably not as much as ramen or any rice dish. The best place to get some is at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo.
Tempura is originally a Portuguese dish, not a Japanese one (thanks Wikipedia!). However, the battered and fried dish has been made very popular by Japan after the recipe was imported there. Fish, vegetables, everything can be ‘Tempura-ed’. It’s also a great way to try new things, for instance, this is how I tried eel for the first time (picture below), and I loved it!
Now when talking about beef in Japan, we are talking about an ingredient more than an actual dish. There are plenty of ways to eat wagyu beef, it can be prepared as a grilled steak, a sashimi, sukiyaki and many other ways!
Flavoursome and melting in the mouth, the quantities are usually small but the quality is incomparable!
Last but not least, Yakitori, a grilled skewered meat dish. It is commonly served with a miso soup, soy sauce and some rice. It is also one of the more accessible Japanese dish for westerners who are new to Japanese cuisine. If you are around Shibuya in Tokyo, make sure to have some yakitori at Toritake!
Here you go, you have your food menu for your trip to Japan! Now buy that plane ticket, a bib and cutlery (if like me you are not very good with chopsticks) and go discover Japanese cuisine!
I am still working through all the pictures and videos I made in Japan, and I finally had a few hours free to edit the footage of our 2 days spent in Hiroshima! A city which surprised us with its modernity and busy nightlife.
We spent a day exploring the city centre and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The museum is beautifully done and the whole area shows you the impact of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in August 1945. An emotional visit yes, but an important one. It is hard to comprehend the level of destruction the local community experienced at the time when you walk in the streets of the lively city Hiroshima has now become.
On the second day, we headed to Miyajima island to visit the famous Shrines and see the world-famous floating Torii. It seems that 99% of all postcards of Japan must have been photographed there. It was one of the most beautiful places we visited during our entire trip! We also made a few furry friends on the way as you will see in the video below!
That’s it folks, the nights are getting longer, the days are getting colder and the trees are turning redder – autumn is here!
Which means that it is time to book a nice autumnal getaway, and if you are in England, I just know the place!
On a cold autumnal weekend, Andrew and I decided to head to the beautiful Bath for a little bit of exploring. It is a three-hour drive from London so it worth planning to leave a little early if you want to make the most of your Friday evening, and beat the traffic. The train is also a great way to get there as it is only 90 minutes and leave from Paddington Station.
At the time, I had never been to Bath and I was expecting it to be the ultimate charming and elegant British destination – and it was!
Bath is a city out of a Jane Austen book! There is even a Jane Austen Museum if you are a fan. We didn’t venture in though, we kept our visit outdoor as it was a crisp but very sunny day.
We bundled up as it was fairly cold and started our visit in the city centre at the Abbey, which definitely worth a peek inside.
We had a little wander around the Roman Baths, and then headed to Pulteney Bridge to have a look at the famous Pulteney Weir.
The golden light of the Autumn combined with the beautiful Georgian architecture and the red foliage made Bath breathtakingly beautiful!
Having worked an appetite we headed to The Bath Bun, a charming little tea shop which serves simple sandwiches and warming beverages.
After our lunch and in major need of walking off the giant baps we ate, we headed for a walk along the River Avon. It is a great way to get off the beaten track and to take a moment to appreciate the warming sun on a bench and people watch, of course.
After a fair amount of walking we headed to the world famous Royal Crescent. It features in most Jane Austen movies so you will definitely have a sense of déjà vu when walking along the grand Georgian houses.
The place I am sharing with you today is truly special. A very unique experience, outstanding food and a real insight into Japanese culture. Ready? Let’s go!
Imahan specialities are sukiyaki and shabushabu. Both cooking methods involve preparing the food at the table. Sukiyaki means that the food is fried in a pan, and shabushabu is when the food is cook in a hot pot.
Now to find Imahan you will have to go underground. You read that right! In Japan, shops and restaurant are spread over multiple levels and in Shinjuku, Tokyo there is an entire other city underground. Imahan is in the underground area right next to the Hilton and the Hyatt.
Once you found it you will enter another world. Shinjuku is very modern, Imahan is very traditional. The waitresses wear elegant kimonos and the decor is the reflection of a traditional Japanese home. You can immediately feel that you are somewhere special where people whisper and guests are kings.
Once seated, we were offered a cup of green tea and a hot towel to wash our hands. We looked at the menu and settled for the sukiyaki ‘course’ option, which includes starters (with an S and you will see why in a minute), the beef, sides and desert. A real fest!
You can see on the picture that prices are quite steep, Imahan Sukiyaki is definitely not a cheap eatery. The experience is so special though that we were happy to spend that money on a memory we would cherish for ever.
Now let’s talk about the waitresses, as I mentioned earlier they are all wearing the most elegant kimonos, they will also spend the entire meal at your table! Yep, that’s the thing that took us the most by surprise. We thought we would be given the pots and the ingredients and cook ourselves, but instead we had a waitress dedicated to our table, who cooked for us the entire time, and in front of whom I embarrassed myself with my lack of chopstick skills.
The entire dinner was a ceremony and we were treated to so many dishes I lost count after 3, luckily I took pictures! So let’s go through it together!
First, the waitress set up the pot.
We then got served our first starter, which was made of many things I didn’t know or couldn’t recognised, it was also the most beautiful thing I had ever seen!
It was followed by a miso soup.
Which was followed by beef sushis (soooooooo good).
Still hungry? Good, because that was only the appetisers. Now the serious things started! The waitress brought the beef and multiple sides.
We got served a first bowl of beef in egg. Raw eggs are often served with rice and meat in Japan, it is a little weird at the beginning, but you get used to it!
We then got a second serving of beef with vegetables.
At that point I started to feel SERIOUSLY full, so I turned around expecting to see almost empty plates… Nope, another mountain of meat and vegetables was waiting for us. I HAVE NO IDEA how Japanese people stay so skinny!
Everything was so good though that I just kept eating. Luckily it was getting ‘lighter’ with mainly vegetables and tofu being served at that point.
The waitress looked at us with a gentle smile, turned off the gas and took away the pot. I was happy to see that we were close to the end with only dessert remaining as I was completely stuffed! But.. Oh wait! There was more! The waitress came back with another soup.
Served with pickled vegetables.
And a last serving of eggs with rice!
My stomach was hurting at that point, but finally I saw the light at the end of tunnel with dessert being served. Small and refreshing, perfect after such a filling meal!
Our meal at Imahan was amazing, the food was delicious and the plates stunning to look at. My only advice though, don’t eat AT ALL before to go there!
A stone’s throw from the busy and world-famous Shibuya crossing, Toritake is a perfect place for a lunch break. Their speciality? Yakitori !
Yakitori is a cooking technique used in Japanese cuisine in which meat is skewered and grilled on charcoal fire. Fun fact, yakitori in Japanese means ‘burned chicken’.
From the outside you wouldn’t even notice Toritake. It is in a quiet street right off Shibuya train station, but don’t be deceived by the small door. Once inside you will realise that you are in one popular place! The restaurant is usually packed! You may need to wait for a table but rest assured that it will worth it. When we visited the place there was only one other tourist couple, every one else was Japanese!
It is good to note that the waiters do not speak English but they do have an English menu and a little bit of pointing and smiling should do the trick!
Once you ordered, you will be given a warm wet towel to wash your hand (common practice in all restaurants in Japan) and you will be served a glass of green tea (once again applicable in almost all restaurants we visited in Japan).
We both went for the chicken menu, I ordered the 3-skewers option, Andrew went for 5 or 6. The chicken is served with a side salad, pickled vegetables, rice and a miso soup. A delicious and filling lunch to keep you going all afternoon.
It is also good to know that Toritake is ridiculously good value for money! It was one of our cheapest meal, yet it was delicious and the quantities were very generous! If chicken isn’t your thing they do other type of meat and yakitori fish. Look no further if you are having lunch in Shibuya, Toritake is the place you want to try!
Our first ramen experience in Japan was at Ichiran in Tokyo. We went to their Shinjuku branch as it was the closest to our hotel. I call it an ‘experience’ as it couldn’t have been further away to any restaurant experiences you may have in the western world.
In the centre of the vibrant Shinjuku neighborhood, just east of the train station, you will find Ichiran-Shinjuku. It is easy to identify it as, chances are, there will be a very long queue at the front. One very very popular place! Forbes actually goes as far as calling it the best ramen in the WORLD!
Eating at Ichiran is a step process! Step 1, queue. Step 2, order from the very confusing, all-in-japanese machine. It took us a few trials and errors to get our orders right, and, to be honest, we still got some extra sides we didn’t even know we had ordered once we sat. The idea is that you select your ramen base and then all the toppings you want as well as the drinks.
You are then handed a piece of paper where you can select how you want your noodles cooked (soft, medium, hard, etc) and so on, my favourite option is hard noodles!
Once you have ordered, step 3 is to queue, again, to be seated. You will be waiting in front of the galley kitchen where you can see the cooks preparing the orders extremely efficiently. In Japan, the objective of the restaurants is to feed you quickly and efficiently. Forget about a 2-hours French style dinner and banter.
Step 4, take a sit! This is when it gets even more exotic for westerners. There are no tables in Ichiran, you will be seated at a bar with dividers between you an your neighbours. A great way to eat quietly and be left alone. That made for one very anti-social meal with my husband, but it was such an amazing experience that we just embraced it!
Last step, food time! Little hands will appear from behind the curtain in front of you and will serve you drinks, the ramen and its toppings. Now, be quiet and eat that delicious ramen!
Ichiran food was delicious, it is such a surreal and oh-so very Japanese experience that I would recommend going 100%! You will definitely feel lost in translation there.
***Warning – long post ahead so grab a drink and a biscuit!***
We left not so bright and not so early on the day we were supposed to go to Florence, and with a fair amount of driving to do to get there we arrived around 11am in the city.
Once the car parked, we headed straight into the the city centre looking for an early lunch. First stop was Mercato di San Lorenzo, a covered market where the locals do their grocery shopping.
Don’t get tricked by the market rustic feel at the entrance! Head toward the middle of the building and upstairs and you will find a very trendy indoor food market where you can order from various market stalls and sit down to enjoy your pick. That was lunch sorted for us!
Once done with our respective panini and pizza, we headed out toward the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. One of the most famous sights in Florence.
The facade of the cathedral will probably remind you of Siena’s cathedral. White and dark marble covers the outside walls. A true architectural wonder!
Make sure to also visit the inside which is as impressive as the outside with its ceiling frescos.
Here is a little tip for the best view of Florence cathedral! Walk to the back of the Cathedral and head toward the Biblioteca delle Oblate (the public library), enter the library, go to the top floor and tadaaaaah! One of the best view of the cathedral! It’s our little secret now, don’t tell anyone!
Back in the street we headed to our next stop, to the famous Gilli on Piazza della Repubblica for a coffee break.
Well caffeinated, we started our walk through Florence streets and markets and walked to the Palazzo Vecchio.
On the outside you will find an ‘outdoor’ museum (the Loggia) with multiple statues displayed, some very famous such as David’s statue.
As we were running a little bit late that day, we decided not to visit the museum, however I visited it before and if you have time it ABSOLUTELY worth it!
We quickly swung by Piazza di Santa Croce to have a look at the Basilica of Santa Croce.
Our next stop, Ponte Vecchio of course! If you have only seen one picture of Florence ever, chances are it is one of the Ponte Vecchio.
Now, let’s be real here, it is PACKED with tourists so being on the bridge itself isn’t that pleasant. So make sure to dedicate plenty of time to take pictures of the bridge rather then on it.
The bridge is famously covered with houses and shops, almost all of them are jewellery stores! Unsurprisingly, you will see women stopping a lot and men pulling them away from the shops’ windows (guilty!).
Once on the other side, we took a moment to appreciate the views of the Corridoio Vasariano and the river Arno, before heading toward Piazzale Michelangelo.
We climbed, and climbed, and climbed, and started to have a glimpse of the breathtaking view that was Waiting for us at the top.
Make sure to reach Piazzale Michelangelo for the sunset. You will be in for a treat of a lifetime!
We took a few pictures, but it was getting so busy that we decided to look for a quieter spot and to climb even higher to Abbazia di San Miniato al Monte.
We visited the hilltop church which is tiny so it only takes 10 minutes and then sat to look at the sunset.
Once the sun was fully gone for the day, we headed back down looking for a nice spot for dinner and ended at Trattoria Cammillo which I highly recommend.
Here you go! If you have a day in Florence, follow our steps and you won’t be disappointed!
If you are travelling to Tuscany chances are you will arrive and leave from Pisa airport (this is where most EasyJet and Ryanair flights land). It was the case for us and as our flight was in the evening we decided to spend our last afternoon in Tuscany, in Pisa.
People may not think of Pisa when thinking of Tuscany but it is one of the biggest cities in the region, and with its very famous sights it does worth stopping there for a few hours.
It is good to note that parking in Pisa can be a little bit of a nightmare so plan a good 30 minutes just in case it takes some time to find a spot to park.
Pisa city centre is quite condensed and everything is walking distance. Start your visit with, of course, the very famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Take a few cliche pictures, then take pictures of the people taking some cheesy pictures!
Once you filled up your SD card with pictures of your blurry hand and the tower, head toward the Cattedrale di Pisa and the Piazza del Duomo. The entire area is just stunning and the architectural details of the buildings worth taking a moment to appreciate.
We didn’t have time for it, as our flight was that night, but if you have an extra hour you can purchase some tickets to visit the local museum, the Cathedral and climb the Tower.
After wandering around the Tower area we headed to the city centre. It seems most tourists don’t adventure much beyond the main sights so Pisa centre is actually fairly quiet and very charming.
We grabbed one last gelato and then headed to the airport, our heads full of Tuscanian dreams, our bellies full of Italian food.