Japan Trip 07 of 10: Cheap eats

Beef bowls at Matsuya and Sukiya

I was looking for a beef bowl. And I knew that Yoshinoya was available in California so I didn’t want to get that. (Similar reason for not going to an Ippudo.) We had just finished at Nishiki Market and getting some yakitori in Pontocho Alley. We wanted a little bit more food so we wandered around trying to find shaved ice. We had a place in mind but didn’t have our compasses straight so we got turned around a few times. And we realized we still wanted something savory. That’s when we ran into a Matsuya.

It doesn’t have english signage like you’d find at Yoshinoya or Sukiya. You order from a vending machine. All these places have beef bowls, but it seems like the other choices are where things get different. Matsuya had Dan Dan Noodles on the menu. I’ve had cheap Dan Dan noodles before that weren’t great. These weren’t that. These noodles were delicious. It’s one of my favorite dishes because my parents call my brother Dan Dan.

Takoyaki at various places

Takoyaki are octopus balls. They seem to be served super hot. In most cases, you order them either at an outdoor stand or through a store window. We tried them in Akihabara, Osaka, and in Tokyo. They’re not deep fried but that might be amazing. Instead, they start with a griddle with a bunch of golf ball sized holes1. They drop a few cubed pieces of octopus in and then fill it with batter. Then they just go down each column turning the balls until they’re cooked through.

It’s covered with sauce and bonito flakes.

Curry at CoCo Curry

We had curry a few times. They’re all over the place. And plates of curry with pork or chicken cutlets are only 600 or 700 yen. It’s great. I really love curry. Major comfort food vibes. I think I’ve said that I could eat curry every day in the past. I had it probably three times in a week and have changed my mind. I still love the stuff. But it’s so heavy. I had it on the plane and one morning in Tokyo before heading to Muji (which was huge and I’d also like to write about in some way).

This curry was better than what we got on the plane. I can get about the same in New York, but for a few more dollars. That’s how I felt about a lot of the cheaper eats. If you’re sticking to the main portion of the menu, you can get something similar in America for a little more money.

Mister Donut

Oh boy. My friend recommended Mister Donut. It was one of the places we seeked out on the first morning. Then it was available in Kyoto Station and we dropped by every day. Then the streak became a thing and there was one near our second Tokyo hotel so we kept going. There were still plenty of donuts with green or in shapes that didn’t seem like things we’d see in America so we kept going.

Their signature donut is this thing that looks like it could be one of Akuma’s bracelets. The normal one is glazed or frosted. The real champ here is the matcha one where each sphere is cream-filled.

There were matcha cake donuts half dipped in chocolate. And chocolate cake donuts with some kind of matcha glaze.

There was a round donut but instead of being jelly-filled, it had red bean, some kind of matcha2 cream, and a small square of mochi. I hope they call it Mister’s Matcha Mochi.

There was a French cruller half-dipped in chocolate that I couldn’t get enough of3.

  1. Somewhere, there’s a manufacturing belt with a bunch of molds in it then that belt turns reaches a fork and the molds go on separate tracks. One gets filled with molten iron and then other gets dimpled then the tracks come back together onto the same belt where they’re eventually sprayed alternately “golf ball molds” and “takoyaki griddles”.

  2. For all these matcha-optioned donuts, there was no matcha latte. That said, having I really enjoyed having an iced cafe au lait with all the matcha flavored donuts.

  3. As I’m writing more, I’m getting a better sense of when a footnote seems appropriate. I don’t currently have the posts dated. And if I’m writing something very time specific, then it might be better in a footnote. For instance: I’m currently writing this on a plane. And I bought a cruller at Dunkin’ Donuts in the airport before this flight but it just wasn’t the same. Now, I’m not giving up completely, because the flavor was there. It was missing the crisp outside and soft inside. I think this might have had more to do with the ‘in the airport’ part of that sentence rather than the ‘Dunkin Donuts’ part of that sentence.