Another type of breakfast (aka not sushi) at Tsukiji Fish Market


One of the most understated but wonderful things to do at Tsukiji Fish Market is not actually eating sushi. This world famous market is known for its tuna auction in the wee hours of the morning, busy and bustling wholesale fish market, and restaurants in the outer market area where people stand in line even before the sun comes up for some very affordably priced but excellent sushi for breakfast. Aside from what the market is known among curious visitors, Tsukiji Fish Market is an actual business establishment where serious and important fish business take place everyday. With the hundreds of workers at the market everyday, it's also a place for them and other locals to grab breakfast or lunch before and after work. These Japanese workers and other locals at the market don't survive on sushi everyday. Among the popular sushi restaurants that most non-Japanese visitors are only there for, there are also many other family-operated and generation-owned establishments in the same area that are worth experiencing for a true authentic atmosphere which thrive from mainly local patrons.


On a return trip to Tsukiji Fish Market for breakfast, we decide to forgo sushi this time (been there, done that!) and walk into a restaurant that only served hot food from the kitchen. We slide the glass door open into the expected tightly-spaced 8-10 seater establishment and found ourselves two seats at the counter. An elder couple- presumably husband and wife, are in the kitchen while a young man takes orders from and serves the customers. English is not spoken here and that's where the fun comes with pointing and T's basic and useful Japanese phrases he learnt. Some of the items are pictured on the wall as well.

When it comes to breakfast food, eating dishes with rice is not at all atypical in Japan. We notice that every patron there, man and woman, each has a large bowl of rice to his or herself. We opt for a small bowl of rice instead. We scarf down our bowl of rice with Hijiki seaweed, mentaiko (cod roe), stew of pig stomach with jellyfish, and another stew of thinly sliced beef with a whole block of tofu. The pig stomach is absolutely tender and not chewy and the jellyfish is soft. The breakfast is pure homely and comfort food. It is not fancy and does not have to be. We finish up with a bowl of asari miso soup that are made with the tiniest and cutest clams. Other items available include fish braised with shoyu and fried whole fish. We already have plans to be back.


Udon at Mentsudan


Sanuki udon has become the type of udon to have a frenzy on. Originally from the Kagawa Prefecture in Japan, you can find sanuki udon in Tokyo today and the udon shop, Mentsudan, is allegedly responsible for triggering the popularity of this thick and smooth udon in Tokyo. Mentsudan is a relatively spacious udon shop for Tokyo standards considering that tight  8-10 seater noodle shops are the norm in Tokyo.

We walk inside the shop and the chef who prepares the udon is right by the entrance and behind the counter with the steam wafting around him. After quickly perusing the laminated menu with cold and hot options for the udon preparation, we place our orders from him: udon with natto (fermented soy beans) and raw egg, and udon with tarako (cod roe). Both are bowls of cold udon without broth. After the chef hands us our bowls of udon, it's time to spruce up the meal. We walk over to the section with a great selection of tempura to go as side items with the noodles. The tempura is self-serve and we pick as many or as few pieces of tempura we want. Some of the selections include fishcake, octopus, assorted vegetables, small whole whitefish, shrimp, and croquette. In addition, other non-tempura sides are available such as onigiri (rice balls), grated daikon, and scallions.

The sanuki udon is every bit tasty and delicious even though prepared and served without broth. In fact, I'd go as far to say that the noodles are tastier than those we've had with broth. When noodles are served with broth, the flavor has to come from the broth itself. Here, when the sanuki udon is served dry, the dressing and sauce that accompany the noodles has to shine. We mix and toss together our udon with the sauce and dressing that is prepared with the noodles. We slurp them up, a few strands at a time. The sanuki udon is fat and thick, perfectly chewy and firm to bite with an excellent al dente texture to it, while combined with the noodles' slippery and smooth texture that makes the slurping process easier. Or, maybe we've just become a tad better at slurping our noodles like the Japanese...

Daikan Plaza Business Kiyoda Buiding 1F 
7-9-15 Nishi-Shinjuku
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
3-min walk from JR Shinjuku Station

Peninsula Tokyo


With its white gloved valet and bellhop welcoming every guest that arrives at the Peninsula Tokyo, service and luxury begins at the doorstep. We go through the revolving doors and at once are escorted to the check-in desk. The Peninsula brand has definitely made its name from their excellent hospitality and service, but the Peninsula Tokyo takes on an innovative approach to stand out from other luxury hotels in the area. Aligned with the Japanese fascination of technology, the Peninsula Tokyo embraces this very character in the guest rooms. The room has every touch of high tech and luxury amenities that make our stay very special.

The walk-in closet is spacious especially by Tokyo standards. Any hotel that adds in important details, however seemingly trivial, for female guests has a special place in my heart. At the dresser in front of the mirror is a cushioned seat for makeup application. An in-built nail dryer is also present at the side for her to paint her nails before a night out in town. As if not not pampering enough, there is also an in-built radio controls at the dresser for me to select my entertainment while I apply my makeup. Listening to a mix of J-pop and American music before a night out at Ginza- I think that's a win situation. In the closet drawer is a set of comfortable yukata (Japanese robe) for us to change into once we're back in the hotel and want to get out of our clothes.


In the morning, we open our valet box to retrieve the newspapers delivered to our room, an accompaniment for our Lavazza espresso made from the machine in the room. There's a 2-seater dining table already laid with silverware and plates that we sit at every morning.


The room, bathroom, and bathtub have in-built electric controls in the wall for lights, radio, and TV. In the shower, we have both rain shower and handheld shower. When the toilet bowl is not used after awhile, the seat cover automatically comes down to cover the seat. As someone approaches the toilet bowl, the sensor senses it and the seat cover automatically comes up. As part of the toilet bowl controls, one can choose if the seat itself be lifted up with the seat cover or not, once again taking into consideration if the user is female or male. There's always a fascination among T and I with how even toilet functions embrace the Japanese' love of technology. The Peninsula Tokyo takes the technology and combines it with luxury that is offered to its guests.

Our bed area and sitting room are spacious for a deluxe room. The light switch on the wall illuminates when we approach so that we can actually see the switch itself when it's dark or dim. At night, the alarm and light switch on the bedside table also illuminate with dim glow when we touch the table or put something on the table. Every evening when we return to our room, we are welcomed by the already completed turn down service with bedroom slippers and bottled water on each side of the bed.

The hotel is directly connected to the Hibiya metro station via Exit 6A and 7A, hence there is no need to go outdoors to and from the train on a cold day. The JR Yurakucho train tracks are only a 2-3 minute walk away and under the train tracks are countless of izakayas, eating and drinking establishments that are popular among salarymen. The running route around the perimeter of the Imperial Palace that is popular among local runners or joggers is literally across the street from the hotel. When we want to splurge on style and fashion, it's just a short walk away to the Ginza shopping area.

Peninsula Tokyo
1-8-1 Yurakucho
Chiyoda, Tokyo


Matsuzakagyu Yakiniku

If Kobe keef is king, then Matsuzaka beef is the supreme king with its finest quality. The general impression of people outside of Japan is that Kobe beef is the best meat from cattle. Matsuzaka beef is not exported out of Japan and thus becoming a well kept gem unbeknownst to many. People outside of Japan also very probably have not heard of Matsuzaka beef and hence, Kobe beef instead becomes the center of talk among people wanting to consume fine beef. The Matsuzaka cattle are gently massaged and beer-fed during its life. They are reared to live a longer than other breeds in order to develop a fuller texture and flavor.

"Have you heard of Matsuzaka beef?", our server asks us proudly. "Well, you know Kobe beef? Matsuzaka beef is a grade higher and better." T and I are seated in a small private room (though it is more accurately an alcove) that comfortably seats 2 people. The menu comprises of dinner seats and ala carte. We decide on the latter option in order to try other non meat-ish items as well. In the menu, there are 4 categories of meat according to the levels of leanness and marbling. Within each category are 4 types of cuts.


A cube of beef fat is provided to oil the grill before cooking the meat ourselves. A side of seasoned salt, sweet sauce, and wasabi with soy sauce are provided for dipping. The ohtoro karubi which is described as the best quality for Kalbi beef (rib) has the most marbling in the rib area. At each bite, this texture is tender and smooth like butter thanks to the rich marbling. It melts in the mouth. Due to its high quality, the ohtoro doesn't leave you with a heavy feeling. The maboroshi no misuji cut is from the shoulder area and has a rich flavor to it. A little leaner than the ohtoro, the maboroshi is also well marbled and very tender with a beefier flavor.

Other not quite meat-ish items offered include horumon (intestines) and gyutan (beef tongue). The beef gristles soup is an interesting offering that is prepared with collagen. For those not keen on collagen, the seaweed soup is a pleaser as well.

Note: Matsuzakagyu Yakiniku has 2 locations about a 3-min walk a apart. This location along Hozenji Yokocho has private rooms only; the other location is a dining room.

Matsuzakagyu Yakiniku
1-1-19, Namba
Chuo-ku, Osaka


Off Dotonbori, a quieter Osaka

Dotonbori may symbolize what Osaka is all about in its extremities of visual appeal with colorful and neon lit 3D signboards of restaurants and stores along the street. If this colorful and animated madness ever gets too much for your mind to process, veer off Dotonbori even if literally for a few steps and you will find yourself in a vastly different atmosphere. Narrow brick-lined alleys with traditional Japanese restaurants and food shops give an olden days especially along Hozenji Yokocho. Here is Hozenji Temple, that offers a serene reflection where people occasionally stop by to pay homage and make prayer offerings.

Osakan regional specialties


When in Osaka, live like the Osakans do. Eat yourselves to financial ruins, is the translation of kuidaore, a term many that many Osakans live by. Here's a list of some of the regional specialty:

These octopus-filled balls are almost ubiquituous along Dotonbori at many yatai (street stalls).

A cross between a savory pancake and pizza, one of the most popular places for okonomiyaki is at Mizuno, just off Dotonbori.

Prepared like a crepe, the squid-filled crepe is folded and eaten as a street snack. The most famous place to get it among locals is at the basement level of Hanshin Department Store located just south of Osaka Station.

Deep fried skewered meats are the perfect complement with biru (beer). In Osaka, kushikatsu is made with beef. In Tokyo, it's made with pork. Daruma (several locations) is a popular choice.

Udon suki
The noodles are cooked in nabe, a form of Japanese hot pot. Udon suki originated at Mimiu Honten, a family establishment for over 200 years and running.  Another form of udon variation that is also an Osakan specialty is kitsune udon (literally translated as "fox udon"), served with thin pieces of fried tofu.

Other Osakan regional specialties include:
Hakozushi (box-pressed sushi)



Going to Mizuno during an off-peak time at 3pm means we have the luxury of not having to wait in line for okonomiyaki, an Osakan specialty that is not quite a Japanese pancake nor is it quite a pizza. Okonomiyaki can be found in many places in Osaka (it's a regional specialty, after all) and this family establishment of over 65 years and running provides some sentimental value which also makes it one of the more popular places. During our later conversations with the St Regis bartender and a taxi driver, we learn that they are familiar with Mizuno among many other okonomiyaki restaurants in Osaka. 

We slide open the door and step into Mizuno. Instantly, we smell the savory aroma that is wafting throughout the entire restaurant. The space is small, just like other Japanese restaurants, and Mizuno only seats 9 people at a time at the counter. Despite it being an off-peak time, the seats are filled the entire time with guests leaving and coming. Seating is directly facing and along the elongated flat top grill. On the other side of the grill are two men preparing okonomiyaki right in front of the guests as they put in their orders. 

We start with the famed yamaimo-yaki prepared with their popular yam flour. As our choice of protein, we pick ika (squid). Other protein options include pork loin, pork slice, scallop, and ebi (prawn). The chef first grills the strips of ika, separately mixes the batter of yam flour in a bowl, and then pours the mixture over the ika. A handful of bonito flakes is scattered on top of the batter and then covered with a lid. The final steps include smearing the top with sweet sauce and Japanese mayo. The yamaimo-yaki is the perfect amalgamation of savory and sweet from the yam flour, squid, and dressing. Okonomiyaki is served right on the grill itself. Each person gets his or her own metal spatula and dishes out the okonomiyaki bit by bit onto his or her own plate.



Other popular items include maze-yaki (regular batter with noodle and egg), miduno-yaki (also regular batter with pork and eggs), and kimchi-yaki (made with kimchi).

1-4-15 Dotonbori
Chuo-ku, Osaka