Cheap Eats · Comfort food · Deli · Restaurants · Tokyo

Tokyo – Ootoya Ikebukuro

Before L and I leave for dinner, we would usually have a drink in our room. When L first came to Japan a decade and a half ago, there was only Asahi, Kirin and Sapporo. The beer scene has really taken off and craft beer in Japan is booming.

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Now when we visit an upscale grocery store, there’s a half-dozen options. Each can is between 300 to 500 Yen, depending on the brewery. I prefer Alberta’s craft beer because of its greater complexity. I find Japanese beers one-dimensional.

ipa

Ootoya was a restaurant I found on Yelp that L and I both would not bother returning. It had all the makings of a good restaurant. The interior is pleasant and clean. Service was prompt. Prices were excellent and the presentation of the food was nice. The only thing missing was taste. For this blog posting, I’m going to play some music you’d probably hear at a restaurant in Tokyo.

It’s cheaper to eat at this pleasant canteen than a combo meal at McDonalds in Calgary. Most dishes were around 1000 Yen. We picked a chicken dish and breaded pork in curry with an egg. Both entrees came with rice and vegetable side dishes.

chicken

See how good this chicken looks? Well, there wasn’t much flavour. On the plus side, no flavour usually means it’s not drenched in sugary or buttery sauces. The portions are generous, more geared to Westerners. We were both too full after eating our meal.

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L ordered breaded pork cutlet in curry. The batter was soggy and all the vegetables were overcooked. It’s pretty rare we try a restaurant in Japan and wouldn’t return. The only other place is a noodle house right by west side of Ikebukuro station exit – Tachi Kui Soba Kimidzuka. L hates this place. Whenever we walk by, which is at least twice a day, I make a joke about eating here.

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This stand room only shop sells udon and soba for cheap. Despite its prime location, it’s only busy around lunch time. Most of the customers are business men in a rush to get in and out.

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In 2017, I wanted to try it. We saw another person order zaru soba (cold buckwheat noodles). I know we are supposed to order by number but the zaru soba wasn’t on the menu. L said excuse me in Japanese and pointed to what a customer was eating. The man in charge in the kitchen shouted at L to order by number. I said “Zaru soba” and then showed two fingers. I wanted to add tempura at the last moment and that infuriated the man even more. He slammed the food down on the counter and gave L a dirty look. He didn’t gave L his change back either. There’s no tipping in Japan, so this was a big affront.

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L said it’s a huge insult for a local to not give you your change back. It wasn’t busy inside either. It takes a lot to get L mad, but oh boy, when he does get riled up, watch out. I told L that it was clear that the man wasn’t living the high life and to let it go.

noodles again

How was the food? I’ve had better instant noodles in Japan. Having said that, some of the instant noodles in Japan are better than the ramen I’ve had in restaurants in Calgary. L didn’t eat his food. I thought it was a bit tasteless, the service and the soba. If anyone tells you that you can’t get a bad meal in Japan, just send them to Tachi Kui Soba Kimidzuka and tell them to special order something ;-).

Deli · Japanese · Restaurants · Sushi

Zipang Sushi Bar

I’ve been helping out a new colleague at work – Cayenne. She wanted to take me out for lunch as a thank you. I told her it was unnecessary but she insisted. Cayenne picked one of her favourite restaurants – Sushi Bar Zipang. For this post, let’s play something that suits this extreme cold weather. What will it be? Coldplay? Vanilla Ice? Nope, I pick Ice Cube You Can Do It (Put your back into it). 

Warning – vulgar language. 

Originally Cayenne reserved a table but when we arrived, we saw it was right next to the door. The owner/chef saw Cayenne, came out and immediately gave us a better table. Throughout our meal, extra special attention was paid to her. Damn girl! I had no idea you were a VIP.

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Cayenne ordered the tempura and sushi lunch special ($16.99). Ayecaramba ordered ebi fry and a California roll ($16.99). I picked the sushi lunch special ($18.99), which included a tuna maki roll, two pieces of ebi, tuna and salmon nigiri.  All lunch specials include miso soup, salad or rice.

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My miso soup was full of salty goodness. There were lots of tiny cubes of tofu and seaweed floating around.

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The salad was not your standard greens with a splash of dressing. We received baby corn and all the vegetables were fresh and crunchy.

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I was so intent on taking pictures of everyone else’s food, I forgot to take a picture of my own. Cayenne’s tempura was light and crispy. She oohed and ahhed over it and told us this is one dish she always orders at Zipang. Nice portion size too, she received two pieces of shrimp and three vegetables.

sushi.jpgThe sushi tasted fresh. I thought the rice was good, sticky in texture, the grains were firm, and the amount of vinegar and sugar in the rice was in my opinion, a taste bud pleasing balance.  Out of all the sushi, the salmon was my favourite, buttery and cool.

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Ayecaramba enjoyed her ebi and California rolls. I noticed she didn’t eat her potato salad. Tsk tsk. The Japanese make the best potato salad.

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After lunch, I bumped into Karplop at a meeting. She told me she stopped going to Zipang because she found the food inconsistent. After she heard about my experience she said she would try Zipang again. Her go-to spot is Roku in Royal Oak. I told her I found the food at Roku inconsistent. Ha. We can talk this forever, comparing notes on our experiences and inside tidbits.

 

Sushi Bar Zipang Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Deli · Italian

Italian Supermarket

I overheard my work buddies saying they were going to eat at the Italian Supermarket for lunch. I asked Cindy if there was room for me in her SUV. She granted me access and vroom vroom, we were off!

front

I love the Italian Supermarket. It’s the sort of place my father Ludwig  and I would frequent in Vancouver. Ludwig grew up in a predominately Italian neighbourhood and he would often reminisce about the spaghetti, ribs and veal at Nick’s Spaghetti House, one of the oldest Italian restaurants in the city. His own mother could speak Italian and he always felt it was a privilege to grow up in the Italian district.

cutlet

To honour my father, I ordered what he would have picked. Veal Parmigiana with Vegetable Linguine ($11.99). Damn this was good! The breaded cutlet was still crispy despite the soft cheese layer and zesty tomato sauce. I could detect lemon in the veal, which help cut into the richness of the dish.

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The pasta was soft and slippery. The marinated zucchini and eggplant was surprisingly flavourful, in a subdued way. Delicious.

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Next time I want to try the pizza. The dough is prepared once you order. The crust is thin, so it takes no time to bake in the oven.

pizza oven

After lunch I strolled around and picked up extra virgin olive oil ($25.99); ladyfingers ($3.99); parmesan cheese ($12.00); brie ($4.00); fresh buffalo mozzarella ($8:00); dried lasagna noodles; dried pasta; pesto; sun dried tomatoes; fresh bread, anchovy paste and candy for my co-worker M.

anchove

bread

lady fingers

sundried

olive oil

parm

pastadried

pesto

I left $100.00 lighter but a whole lot happier. I found a great store with quality products from Italy at excellent prices. Better yet, I can get a taste of home and tell my father all about it. He’ll be happy to hear I found an Italian supermarket that serves up food even better than what we could find on the Drive.
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Cheap Eats · Deli · Fast Food

SAIT Culinary Campus

My co-worker M wanted to walk down Stephen Avenue for lunch. We convinced our counterpart R to join us. We hemmed and hawed until I made the decision to pick something up at SAIT Culinary Campus.

flank steak

I poked around and looked at the cold sandwiches and salads. The hot food appealed to me as everything looked fresh. There were several stations serving up Perogies ($10), Pad Thai ($10), Pappardelle with Pork Ragu ($8.99), Flank Steak ($9) and Prime Rib ($9).

prime rib

The Chopped Salad ($6.50) was a good deal. Unlike most to-go salads, this one wasn’t mostly lettuce, but filled with bright red tomatoes and peppers, cucumbers and pumpkin seeds.

chop salad
salad

The Italian sandwich ($6.50) was light and fresh despite the heavy filling. The sandwich was filled with proscuitto, salami, capicola and provolone cheese.

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The prime rib sandwich was basic but I thought its simplicity let the quality ingredients shine. The beef was thinly sliced and still warm. The meat was soft and tender with a nice marbling of fat while the bread was dry was crusty. The sea salt and olive oil flavours really came through.

beef andwich

I like SAIT and I would go back again. The food is well-priced and there is a great variety of sandwiches, salads, and dessert. I’d compare it to the food at Whole Foods, but SAIT seems fresher with fancier ingredients and some of the hot dishes are prepared individually and just for you. FYI – SAIT is only open at breakfast and lunch during the week days.

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