Food & Cooking · Reviews · Seen/Heard/Tried · Tried

Tsuta Ramen: the first ever ramen shop to receive a Michelin Star

Ever since we heard the news about Tsuta Ramen shop receiving a Michelin Star, we knew we had to give it a try. Our first attempt was one Friday after work, when we learned that the shop closes at 4:00 PM. Yeah, what? Chad called to confirm the shop was really already closed for the night to learn that not only are the hours incredibly limited (11:00 AM-4:00 PM), but that you have to get a placeholder ticket by 10:30 or 11:00 in the morning in order to get a bowl as well.
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Last Monday, Chad decided to take off the upcoming Wednesday from work to surprise me and go with me to Tsuta during the limited open hours. Much to our dismay, after getting the day-off request approved, he discovered Tsuta is closed on Wednesdays! Strike two!
IMG_3995Fortunately for us, now Chad is on vacation, so yesterday (Tuesday) we were able to scurry down toward Sugamo Station to get a ticket from Tsuta. We got there around 10:15, and were able to get tickets to reserve a spot for eating around 3:00. Unfortunately, all that was on offer for the day was Tsuta’s miso ramen, which I was especially bummed about because I tend to go for shoyu (soy based) or shio (salt based) ramen. Of course, that didn’t change our minds about giving the shop a try!
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Approaching the shop, you are greeted with several signs explaining the placeholder tickets. The tickets are color-coded, and the time you arrive to get a ticket determines the time you can come back to eat.
IMG_3999If you’re on a Tsuta ramen mission, don’t go sit in line to get your placeholder ticket! Open the door to talk to someone–if there is a line of people outside, they are already waiting for their dining time slot!
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You are advised to arrive a half an hour or so before your time slot, and if you miss your time or lose your ticket, you forfeit the 1000 yen deposit you give for your placeholder ticket.
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Once we got our placeholder tickets, we had to decide how to spend the next several hours. We came up with a few really nice ideas, which I’ll share in a future post. For now, the important thing to know is that if you’re in town to try Tsuta ramen, you really have to plan a day around it. We recommend going to the shop for a placeholder ticket around 7:30 or 8:00 AM to ensure you can have a bigger selection of ramen dishes, and so that you can get a more convenient time than we did.       IMG_4053Around 2:15 or so we came back to Tsuta Ramen and joined a line of several other customers. We slowly moved forward in the queue until we were welcomed inside and given our deposits back so we could chose our ramen. We had three choices: normal miso ramen, miso ramen with egg, and miso ramen with extra chicken. We chose the latter two options (which came to exactly 2000 yen total), and then continued to wait in the indoor line for seats to open up. IMG_4054We were pretty excited when our ramen was served. We were ready for new flavors–we’d never had chickpeas, sliced onions or chicken in our ramen before. IMG_4055 IMG_4056A good egg is usually a huge indication of my overall rating when it comes to ramen: it shouldn’t be completely hard boiled, but the yolk should be slightly cooked. My egg was spot-on. I liked the noodles, too, but sometimes the texture was a little grainy for me. I couldn’t tell whether that sensation was from the soba noodles themselves, or from the noodles being coated in miso broth. The ramen didn’t disappoint, but I would personally like to go back and try a bowl of the shoyu ramen. IMG_4057
Tsuta’s miso ramen is not my favorite ramen in Japan, but that could just be due to my lack of enthusiasm for miso based-ramen. Chad was quite impressed, so we’ll have to do some future investigation next time we can plan around Tsuta’s rather inconvenient hours. Either way, I’m glad we got a chance to try it! For information on hours and days in which Tsuta is open, click here.

Take care!
xx Caitlyn

Around Town · Food & Cooking

Around Town: Gotoo Restaurant in Otsuka

Yesterday, as you may have seen on instagram, we decided to hike Mt. Takao. After a long but fun day out of the city, we were very ready to eat when we got back to Tokyo. We decided to revisit a restaurant we tried for the first time a couple of weeks ago called Gotoo.
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Gotoo is about a two minute walk from Otsuka station, has a review of 4 out of 5 stars on yelp, and always has a line when we walk by. Despite the small size of the restaurant, the wait usually isn’t much longer than 15 minutes, and the friendly staff take your order while you’re waiting so that your meal is ready close to the time you sit down.Photo 11-7-15, 7 01 33 PMYesterday we were seated at the bar, where you can see two to three chefs working away, usually smiling while they’re doing it! Photo 11-7-15, 7 01 38 PM
I ordered the same meal I got the last time I went because it was fantastic: the Combination B Set of ebi (shrimp) fries, kani cream korrokke (crab cream croquette), cabbage, noodle salad, rice and miso soup.
Photo 11-7-15, 7 04 57 PMChad chose a Japanese-style hamburger set, which he said wasn’t as good as the ginger pork he got the last time. He still liked it well enough to eat every last bit, though!Photo 11-7-15, 7 01 43 PM(1)Tired boy after our hike…! Photo 11-7-15, 7 04 26 PM Anyway, let’s get back to my meal, which was amazing, in case you forgot already. Look at that bite out of my first ebi fry–see how big and beautiful the shrimp is? And despite being fried, the ebi fries at Gotoo taste light with a very nice crunch. Something that really adds to the flavor is the tartar sauce. Unlike tartar sauces I am used to with pickles and mayonnaise, this tartar sauce has no pickles at all. Instead, it includes ingredients like cabbage and green onion. The tartar sauce is seriously delicious, and I am on the lookout for a recipe for a similar sauce.Photo 11-7-15, 7 07 44 PM The next important part of the meal is the crab cream croquette. It is so easy for crab cream croquettes to be too fishy tasting, or too mayonnaise-filled, but this crab cream croquette is the best I’ve ever had. The balance is perfect, and I could eat ten of them. Right now. And this isn’t pregnancy talking. (I think?)

If you’re in the Tokyo area and you’re looking for a new restaurant to try, I would recommend giving Gotoo a try. It can be a little pricey (my meal was 1200 yen), but if you are into ebi fries and croquettes, the money is totally worth it. If you’re NOT in the Tokyo area, consider checking out some recipes for croquettes! I never had them before living in Japan and they are one of my favorite foods (on the less healthy spectrum 😉 ).

Have a great start to your week!
xxCaitlyn

Seen/Heard/Tried · Summer Bucket List · Travel · Tried

Summer Bucket List recap

Now that we’re several days into fall I think it’s time for an update/recap on my Summer Bucket List for this year!

  1. Read at least three books [√] — Check out this Bookspiration post to learn more!
  2. Do yoga at least 4 times a week [X] —  I thought I was going to be one of those glowing, energetic pregnant women–HA! But I have been walking every day, and I try and squeeze in yoga and other exercise when I’m not dead from work.
  3.  Celebrate our 7th anniversary [√] — We went to Hakone and really enjoyed the Open Air Museum (read more here).
  4. Try paper quilling [√] — I made a pretty sunflower card and really enjoyed the craft (see my card here)!
  5. Eat s’mores [X] — You know, I didn’t get around to s’mores this summer. I did, however, enjoy a lot of early-released fall treats, so I think I made up for it!
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    Left: sweet potato Kit Kats and chestnut flavored taiyaki; Right: chestnut flavored soft oreos, pumpkin flavored Kit Kats, and sweet potato chips. You can heat up both the types of kit kats. I didn’t try them warm, but they were yummy as is!
  6. Go swimming [√] — I was lucky to go swimming in a hotel pool during our Thailand trip, and then again at Shirahama Beach with Chad and his brother Quint.
    IMG_2974Chad and Quint running into the gorgeous water.
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    Beautiful mermen!
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    Baby bump at 22 weeks (about two weeks ago, and already looking small to me!)
  7. Make a hot air balloon craft [X] — I had all the best intentions, really. But I’ll be working on an easy one this week.
  8. Try kirigami [X] — Once again, good intentions on this one. It’s been moved to my Fall Bucket List, though!
  9. Go to Studio Ghibli [X] — Oh my goodness you guys. It is impossible to get tickets on weekends or on any other days we have off. I will keep trying again and again until we leave Tokyo!
  10. Enjoy kakigori (Japanese shaved ice) [√] — I had some lovely strawberry milk kakigori after visiting Sandanbeki Caves with Chad and Quint.
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                                           Above: One view from the caves.
    The “milk” was actually sweetened condensed milk. Mmmmmmm….!
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    I also tried a totally different version of shaved ice in Thailand called “Ruam-mit.” My Thai friend says that means “mixing everything together.” Below you can see the stand with choices you can make for your own bowl, and then the four different bowls we sampled with our friends. We liked the ones with coconut milk the best!IMG_2769
  11. Go on a picnic [√] — we went on several 🙂
  12. Have a fancy night dressed up around town [√] — Um, do you remember when we went to Chez Olivier? We actually went back again when Quint was here, too. Still drooling at the thought of both visits….
  13. Do at least 3 Writing Prompts [X] — I did one writing prompt, and really didn’t like it. Time got in the way of trying for another two.
  14. See fireworks [√/X] — So I didn’t actually see live fireworks, but I did do a really cool craft with my students. Here’s the link on pinterest!
  15. Do pirikura [√] — As you know from my last post, I totally got down with this one and used it as a baby announcement!

All in all I’d say I gave this year’s bucket list a pretty good go, especially considering I was primarily in my first trimester for a good chunk of it! My fall bucket list is ready now, too, so I’ll be sharing that soon!

What are some fun things you did this summer?
xxCaitlyn

Uncategorized

My week in pictures (mostly)

We’ve had a pretty full schedule since last Saturday, enjoying festivals, good food, and a visit from an old friend. We also had training at work, and I’m happy to say I am now Medic First Aid Certified in the PediatricsPlus Program! I feel like I have a lot to share in general between this week, our time in Thailand a couple weeks ago, and more, but I suppose this is a good start! IMG_2616This was taken at the Otsuka Bon Odori Festival last Saturday. Below are a couple of videos I took that night. (If you’re interested, you can see another short video on my instagram.)

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On Sunday we went to Harajuku to try out Max Brenner, the famed chocolate restaurant. We had a nice time together, but the price was expensive and our desserts really didn’t blow our minds. Lesson learned, I suppose!
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Despite our rather mediocre experience at Max Brenner, the next day we more than made up for it when we went to Tsukiji and tried Chuka Soba Inoue ramen. Chad read that the ramen is well-known for being really delicious, and there was a good sized queue to get a bowl. Only one type was offered, but that all that’s necessary because it is oh-so-good.
IMG_2665After our ramen, we went to Kappabashi Dori, a street named after the fabled kappa that sells loads of kitchen goods. I had fun spotting different kappa up and down the road in between looking at the different kitchen supply stores. IMG_2667See the Tokyo Sky Tree in the background?  IMG_2670                                                             I made a friend.IMG_2676 IMG_2683This picture was taken before we went to a really great yakiniku restaurant Thursday with our old friend from Mie. (The restaurant, by the way, is called Kazu, and I highly recommend it if you’re in the Bunkyo area of Tokyo! Make sure you get a reservation.)
IMG_2757Today we tried a new (to us) Italian restaurant called Heinz Beck. The creme brulee dessert and cappuccino were lovely and everything else was well-presented, but the restaurant didn’t do much for me overall. (I’d much rather go to Chez Olivier again and try out their lunch special!)IMG_2717This was taken today outside the Imperial Palace Gardens, a great place for a walk even with the drizzling rain.IMG_2732
Imperial Palace Gardens
Excuse my wild hair (I told you it was a bit rainy!) 😉 IMG_2738After our walk we stopped for Starbucks and then headed back to Tokyo station to head home. (I think this side of Tokyo station is really cool.)

That brings us to this evening! I hope you enjoyed getting a peek at my week. I’ll be ready to share more soon, but in the meantime, what sorts of things have YOU been up to? I’d love to hear about your week in the comments.

xx Caitlyn

Seen/Heard/Tried · Travel

Weekend Trip to Hakone

Last weekend for our anniversary we decided to visit Hakone, an area known for hot springs and its active volcano (which will possibly erupt any day now…). I know that may same like a strange choice of local, but Chad loves hot springs and I was ready to have a getaway with pretty scenery. Little did I know that I was in for some serious uphill climbing before the relaxing part would come!IMG_2213 IMG_2218Lunch after arriving in Hakone: Tempura Soba Set IMG_2227So in the above picture, you can see a cable car that could take you up the mountain to your hotel or ryokan (Japanese style inn) of choice. Chad mistakenly thought taking the cable car was expensive, so we proceeded on foot. Later, after I almost died from climbing, we found out that the cable car was only around 170 yen… I handled this very gracefully because I am perfect. (I actually almost cried haha.) IMG_2229This was taken about a quarter of the way up, before I realized that we were only a quarter of the way upIMG_2230Finally, we arrived at our ryokan. It was pretty creepy to be honest, but the room was nice enough. We were able to relax and be together, and that was the most important thing. Well, besides dinner. Dinner, dinner, dinner. Where could we find dinner? IMG_2232It turned out that nearly the entire area around us had absolutely no restaurants or shops or anything. We found one place that was expensive, and several others that were closed, so we decided to go all the way back down to the station to see if any restaurants were open down there. I was super tired, but I tried to be positive and happy (and that part really is true). When we got to the station, everything that had been open earlier had closed. The time being only 7:00, we started to feel a bit defeated. Fortunately, we were able to make the last cable car of the day (which was at 7:05!), and we headed back up to the one expensive restaurant we had seen that was thankfully still open. IMG_2242I ordered a tempura set (I know, second one of the day! But it looked better than the other options). Above were some of the sides: delicious tofu, gel fish (which I thought had a strange texture and passed along to Chad), and tsukemono (pickled vegetables).  IMG_2243                                                   Chad ordered a steak meal.IMG_2244Here’s my tempura set. It was really nice. Once our bellies were full, we headed back to the hotel where Chad enjoyed the hot springs while I relaxed in our room before bed.IMG_2248The next day, we woke up for our breakfast at our hotel. Above you can see dried horse mackerel being reheated on a little grill.  IMG_2249 IMG_2250Here is the list of everything included in our breakfast. IMG_2253This is our hotel from the outside. IMG_2254I don’t know if this gives you a clear enough idea of how steep our climb up was, but I get sore just looking at it. After descending the mountain again, we headed to the Hakone Open Air Museum, which was my favorite part of our trip. There are loads of sculptures outside, as well as a few inside exhibits. IMG_2262 This exhibit showed music through bamboo. It was really neat.IMG_2265 Light, shadows and sound.IMG_2268From the other side… IMG_2269 IMG_2277A labyrinth! IMG_2281I really enjoyed the indoor Picasso exhibit–it reminded me of when we went to the Picasso museum in Barcelona years ago. Picasso had a really interesting life! IMG_2290Fortunately there was a foot bath located about halfway through the museum.IMG_2298This was a Symphony of Glass tower. I wasn’t super psyched to climb it, but it was really pretty in the end.  IMG_2291 IMG_2292The view from the top of the tower. IMG_2295 IMG_2296Pretty glass inside.  IMG_2305
Chad and I both really loved the Open Air Museum. We had a convenient store lunch afterwards on a bench outside, hopped on a train, and headed home to relax some more. The entire time, no matter how physically tired I got, I felt immensely thankful that I was able to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary together. There is no one for me like my Chad, who lifts me up and loves me always.

I hope you enjoyed seeing pictures from our little weekend getaway, and that you’ve been able to get some relaxing in yourself!

xx Caitlyn

Seen/Heard/Tried · Spring Bucket List

Spring Bucket List Update!

As of a few days ago, summer has officially arrived! I figure that means this is a good time to update you on how my Spring Bucket List went, and to get started on a new one for summer! (You can find my original list here!)

1. Start running at least 1 mile every weekday √ I’m going to give this one a check because I did it for nearly two months, and for the majority of the days I did it, I ran 1.5 miles to 5K each time. Some health stuff (nothing to worry about!) got in the way of me completing the goal all the way through, but I’m still pretty proud of what I did do!

2. Go to Studio Ghibli – We didn’t get a chance to go to the Ghibli museum yet (something to move onto my Summer Bucket List!), but we did go to another museum called the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum. The museum itself was pretty cool–most of it featured art deco-inspired design, and it also had a pretty garden outside. We went to see an exhibit about masks around the world, and were disappointed to find very little English, but on the bright side we were able to take a couple fun pictures at the end! IMG_2057 IMG_20583. Find an oven and start baking again – still on the search, unfortunately!!

4. Try chocolate matcha fondue √ did it! I even made a video for the Epicurean Baristas, but I never got around to editing it. Here is some photographic evidence, though!
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The set came with ice cream, puff pastry squares, mochi, a few slices of strawberry, and some unusual jello konnyaku type things. The set cost nearly 1000 yen, and honestly wasn’t that great. But, I’m still glad I tried it!!

5. Find Japanese Lessons – Everywhere I’ve looked so far for lessons has been really expensive, and I haven’t been able to find volunteer lessons that take place outside of my working hours. Don’t know if this one will be getting checked off while we’re in Tokyo!

6. Make one creative project a week (in addition to art journaling) √ Sometimes my projects tied in with #9 on my list, but sometimes they were just chance (like when we painted our pretty little totes at the Hydrangea Festival).

7. Read 3 Books √ I read Land of Love and Drowning, Yes Please, and Lucky Us. I liked Yes Please by Amy Poehler the most because it made me laugh and had a lot of quotable sections I want to remember.

8. Try 3 New Cafes – I tried Bear Pond Espresso, which was amazing (read about my experience here), and Streamer Coffee Co., which was also amazing. I was so close to checking off this one, but to be honest, the two new cafes I did visit were so fabulous I have no regrets!

9. Decorate our kitchen √ I made an easy and fun Photo Garland, as well as a little Wall Art.

10. Start Montessori Certification – This one is still in the works! We’ve had a bit of money transferring hoopaloo to get through, so I’m just trying to be a patient peach!

11. Write more – Um…to be honest…I don’t think I really did this one at all! Something to consider working on in the coming months!

12. Try new cocktails/wine – Can you believe I didn’t get around to checking this off? I guess beer is just what always seemed to be happening for me!

13. Go on at least one picnic √ We had several, including the ones at Koishikawa Botanical Garden and Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.

14. Try at least two new recipes √ I tried several new recipes, one of which was Rice Cooker Spanish Rice, a kitchen experiment that turned out super yummy!

15. Have a Ladies Night √ One night after helping set up a new campus for our school I went out with a few girls for dinner, but I’d really like to do more in the future!

We had a lot of fun in the spring months, and I enjoyed checking things off my first ever Spring Bucket List. I’ll get hopping on my Summer Bucket List for 2015 for you soon, but in the meantime I’d love to hear about some fun things you did this past spring! Tell me in the comments below 🙂

xx Caitlyn

 

Seen/Heard/Tried · Travel

Misaki Port & Jogushima Island

It’s rainy season in Japan, so amidst being quite busy at work, we’ve had a lot of cloudy, gloomy weather that sometimes makes us feel like…well…like we need to ESCAPE!!!! Especially living in Tokyo, which often feels kind of imposing with building after building after building. So, we decided to take a day trip using the Misaki Maguro Kippu, a day pass that provides 1) Transportation to & from Shinagawa and Misaki Port, as well as around Misaki Port and Jogushima Island, 2) a free activity for the day, and 3) a free meal at one of the many restaurants that specialize in tuna.IMG_2063 IMG_2067 IMG_2069 IMG_2073The entire area is famous for tuna, and the locals claim their tuna is better than even Tsukiji‘s! A big fish market there sold toroman, which is like nikuman but with tuna, and we decided to split one as a mid-morning snack. It was kind of weird, but that could be because we were just expecting normal nikkuman flavor. IMG_2075 IMG_2076 IMG_2077 IMG_2082
For our meal, we decided to go to Kurobatei, a restaurant made famous by the show Bizarre Foods (click to see the episode), that mostly sells really delicious, normal food.IMG_2081 In Bizarre Foods, the host orders the tuna head, which apparently needs to be requested 3 days in advance, and is oven cooked for at least four hours before serving. Needless to say, this is not the dish we tried.
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                                        A little truck outside the restaurantIMG_2086
                                                      Parts of the tunaIMG_2089Chad ordered a sashimi boat that came with rice and miso soup. IMG_2090There was a crazy fish head looking at him throughout the meal… IMG_2091I ordered the tempura set, which also came with some sashimi in the bowl (and of course, miso soup!). Everything was really delicious, and the staff were incredibly friendly. We were so glad we tried Kurobatei, a place we never would have gone if it weren’t for our Misaki Maguro Kippu! IMG_2095 IMG_2098 IMG_2101
After lunch I chose to go to a glass shop to use my activity ticket. I made a little jar with a kitty cat and Mount Fuji resting on some layered sand (picture on instagram soon!). Then we grabbed a couple donuts from Misaki Donuts and took the bus to the very beautiful Jogashima.IMG_2110 IMG_2111
The donuts had a really nice mochi mochi texture. This was a berry donut.IMG_2112On Jogashima, everywhere you walked you saw beautiful nature. The entire little island is just so refreshing and relaxing. *sighs* IMG_2115
Can you see the old, broken down shrine in the cave back there?IMG_2117 IMG_2118We hiked all over the island. (Pardon my crazy hair–there was a nice breeze all day!)  IMG_2122 IMG_2133
The water was so clear! From the picture it may look like just a bunch of shells, but actually, the whole area was bustling with hermit crabs and other crabs alike! They were really fun to watch (until Chad starting chasing a crab toward me and I thought I might break my ankle running away 😉 ).IMG_2134 IMG_2137 IMG_2138IMG_2144 IMG_2143
Our trip ended with Chad using his activity ticket to go to an onsen (hot spring) while I soaked my feet in a little foot bath and watched the sunset. We had such a nice day trip, and plan to try and go on more little weekend adventures in the future!

Where is a place you’ve gone on a day trip recently, or a place you’d like to go? Our trip was quite spontaneous, so perhaps you’ll be on your next day trip sooner than you think, too!

xx Caitlyn

P.S. If you’re living in the Tokyo area and you’re wondering about the Misaki Maguro Kippu, it can be purchased at most Keikyu stations (we got ours when we transferred at Shinagawa) for around 3000 yen. This turns out to be quite a good deal, saving you about 2000 yen on average.