Ramen for Breakfast
We were craving ramen again and we really wanted to try Ichiran Ramen this trip, so we figured that having this first thing in the morning was a good idea. There is usually a long line for this famous chain, by going first thing in the morning, we were able to get seats for the 4 of us quite easily. Ordering was simple, you can order your ramen at the vending machine and then bring your tickets to your assigned cubicle. This is a meal for one, so expect to focus on your food instead of socializing with others. In front of you will be a piece of paper where you can personalize your order. For me, I went right down the middle with: medium dashi, medium richness, medium garlic, with green onion and chashu, medium spice and medium noodle texture. Aaron was looking for stronger flavours so he picked: strong dashi, rich broth, 2x spicy and firm noodles. We passed this sheet to the mysterious server behind the booth and then we waited. We also ordered the onsen egg in advance at the vending machine. You can also order it now. You just need to pay with cash for this side order. Within a few minutes, our orders arrived! The curtain was closed in front of you, so you can eat and enjoy in complete privacy. We first had a few sips of the broth by itself and Aaron’s rich and strong dashi broth definitely won. It was rich and flavourful but not overwhelmingly so. Then, we mixed in the spicy seasoning and it definitely did have a kick, even with my medium spice one. We then peeled our onsen egg to add to the mix and it was very nicely cooked as expected. Probably not as perfect at the Tsuta ones but still better than anything I’ve had in Canada. If at anytime, you feel like you need to add more to your meal, you can. There are options for additional pork, for example. All you have to do is to circle the option on the side order sheet, then put down the appropriate amount of cash. Ring the bell, then the nice server behind the booth will open the curtain, count your coins, then check off your selection. Within another few minutes, the pork appeared. Since this was breakfast, we did not want to overdo it. Otherwise, there was an option to order a noodle refill (kae-dama) as well. Overall impression: it definitely met my expectations. I really enjoyed the broth and I actually think this is my preferred ramen meal out of the 3 we had during this trip.
A Museum I Actually Enjoy
After a satisfying breakfast, we head over to Odaiba to visit their TeamLab Art Museum. We took a bit of detour because we accidentally took the train which decided to change directions a few stops into our trip. Because we were expecting an ~1 hour trip, we immediately all buried our heads in our e-readers and phones only to realize this a few stops into the detour. Nonetheless, we eventually switched to the correct train and got to Odaiba. If you had made online reservations ahead of time, you can easily enter the museum. Otherwise, you would have to return at 5pm to hopefully get same-day tickets. Before the exhibit, there was a short introductory video. We were told to proceed cautiously because it was very dark in there. We were hit with sensory overload as soon as we entered with colourful lights projected throughout the room – on the walls and floors. There were a few special exhibits and the first one we entered was the crystal room. We downloaded the app ahead of time (there were QR codes to be scanned at the entrance) and you can apparently use the app to interact with the exhibit. I wasn’t too sure if it worked for me but I think it was supposed to change the colours of the LED lights around you. Next, we lined up (for a very long time) for an exhibit where you would lay down on a net and watch a projected show on the ceiling. My favourite exhibit of the day had to be the lantern room, filled with beautiful hanging lanterns, which slowly changed colours. Then we walked through the lily pads exhibit, where it looks like others are walking in the water amidst floating lily pads. It was very gorgeous if you look at it at the right angle. Overall, I really enjoyed this museum a lot (and this is coming from someone who generally does not enjoy museum). The waits for the special exhibits can be very long, but I definitely thought it was worth it to see the lantern room. It was difficult to photograph the exhibits and I think the experience in real life definitely beats any photos taken, so I suggest you take a few photos but don’t forget to put down that camera and enjoy the exhibits with your naked eye as well.
While in Odaiba, we also walked over the large Gundam in front of DiverCity before leaving this exciting island.
Tsukiji Market Fail
Our plan was to check out Tsukiji Market next. The inner market has already moved to their new location, which it did not matter too much for us because we really only wanted to sample the food of the outer market. Our morning lasted longer than expected and it was nearly 4pm already when we arrived at the market. To our disappointment, most of the market stalls have closed. We found a kaisen don (seafood rice bowl) place which was closing soon but were willing to take us as their last customers. We had to panic order a few bowls. I had their tuna galore bowl with various types of tuna, including ground tuna with green onion. I was not too blown away but this bowl. Aaron had their marinated salmon bowl, which he felt was pretty standard. We also ordered some unagi (eel) skewers and again it was nothing special.
Coffee Break in Muji
By this time, I was getting pretty tired so we took a coffee break at the Muji cafe where they had various simple food items and drinks. I had their matcha latte which was not bad. I wish in Canada, coffee shops would also serve their matcha latte unsweetened/lightly sweetened. It is usually way too sweet. I also had a sip of the yuzu citron drink, which was quite lovely. I feel like it is something that would be great for when one feels under the weather. I was obviously not satisfied with lunch, so I had slice of cheesecake, which was not bad.
Some of us decided to go shopping around Ginza, while I retired back to the Airbnb to take a much needed break.
All-You-Can-Eat x All-You-Can-Drink
It was a nice break and soon, it was time for dinner. We decided to head to On-Yasai for all-you-can-eat (AYCE) shabu shabu. We also selected the all-you-can-drink option for 1500 yen per person. This neighbourhood (Takadanobaba) is apparently populated with students so this would understandably be a popular hang out place for them. We ordered the beef tongue AYCE menu with the yuzu broth and the wagyu broth. The yuzu broth was so fragrant and very pleasant. Some tororo (grated mountain yam) was also given to pour into the yuzu broth. It definitely added some texture to the broth. For starters, we were given a plate of beef tongue, some pork kalbi, and vegetables. We quickly finished this and then put in many more orders of beef tongue and pork kalbi. We also tried the beef kalbi and beef slices but preferred the beef tongue and pork kalbi more.
As for the all-you-can drink, don’t expect high quality drinks. They definitely tasted more diluted compared to the other establishments. To Aaron’s disappointment, they did not really have good sake – only gimmicky sparkling sake with gold flakes. Their whiskey is also from a pump bottle so we figured the quality wouldn’t be good either. I would say that their beer would be a safe choice for something with standard quality.
For desserts, we tired the tiramisu and frozen daifuku. I liked the daifuku. The tiramisu was very strange and full of ice.
Overall, a fun experience. The service was definitely very different from the usual Japanese hospitality I’m used to though. It was very difficult to get their attention to order more food. And once you get their attention, they were quick to leave so you really had to order swiftly. Fortunately, Bear Woman was here to order in Japanese for us. If we came alone and with a language barrier on top of this stressful ordering situation, I’m not sure if I would enjoy the experience.