Thursday, May 26, 2016

Steak House Ittoya

Location: Steak House Ittoya


Rating: OK
Meal: Lunch
Price: 1674 yen
Payment: Cash only
Dishes:Pieces of steak with an egg, some veg, onion soup and rice
English Menu: No
Smoking: Yes, even if no one is smoking, it's smokey from the cooking steak


Steak House Ittoya is one of those smaller steak places that you find all over Japan.  I don't know, maybe they are someone's passion project after retirement, or a legitimately awesome restaurants.  You just have to try it to find out.

Onion soup

The place smelled a bit funky when I came up, but that appears to be the smell of stale steak cooking smoke combined with stale tobacco smoke.  You get used to it after a while.  Luckily no one lit up while I was there, though when I left people were arriving and asking for ash trays.  They have 3 lunch specials that keep the cost relatively down.  I went for the real meat option as I'm less fond of hamburg.  I also added an extra 50g of meat for a bit more, thus boosting my meal price into a loftier tier for lunch.  I think I wouldn't do that again...it may have been more, but it was pretty minuscule all around honestly.


The onion soup was delicious and prompted some searching on the Internet to see how I can make my own onion soup in a crockpot.  I learned that you can quickly caramelize onions in a crock pot while I was at it!  Oh sorry, about the food.  Eh...I wasn't too impressed.  The meat was pretty chewy, and not very flavorful.  Nothing else was really impressive.  The steak sauce was pretty vinegary and not my favorite style.  So...not bad but not great either.  Maybe if I splurged and bought the specialty meats my impression would change, but I'm not fond of plunking that kind of cash down for meat, especially for lunch.

Honestly my overall impression with the dish I had was that it wasn't much different than what can be had for less at the chain steak restaurants in the local mall, so I really can't give it much more than an Ok.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Takemen

Location: Takemen

Rating: OK
Meal: Lunch for 2
Price: 1800 yen
Payment: Cash only
Dishes: Ramen and tsukemen with toppings
English Menu: No
Smoking: Does not appear to allow smoking



My friend and I finally got to Takemen, an ox-tail broth ramen shop.  It's a bit of a ride from base by bike, but not too bad.  It's very small and opens at 11:30am, there's only one person behind the counter.  So I would recommend getting there early if you don't want to wait too long.


Most ramen broth in this area is made with pork bones, and I like it, but it is always nice to find some thing different.  I happen to love oxtail and oxtail broth, so I was thrilled to hear about this place.  They give you a choice of thick or thin noodles and you can add lots of toppings for about 100 yen each.  I got the ramen, and my friend got the tsukemen.  Both came with a couple slices of beef which was the best part of the dish in my opinion.  It was thin, but super soft and almost pinkish in the middle.


Overall the dish I had was pretty good, but not enough to go up over the Ok mark.  I wanted a bit more body to the broth personally.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Grand Buffet

Location: Grand Buffet
Rating: Not great
Meal: Lunch for 3
Price: 4206 yen
Payment: Credit cards accepted
Dishes: Various dishes
English Menu: Yes
Smoking: No



Although I am pretty much done reviewing restaurants at the Lalaport Toyosu mall where we go to church, I realized there are still one or two that just haven't been on my radar, and we decided clear one of those up last Sunday.  Directly across from the movie theaters is a restaurant called Grand Buffet, and it usually has a huge line outside of it by the time we get out of service.  Today there was no line, so we decided to make an attempt.


We are not big buffet fans really, since the price is usually high, the food quality usually low, and the whole point seems to be stuffing your face.  However, in the interests of completeness, we have eaten at the Grand Buffet...and found it about what we expected.  It was quite crowded, full of families with young children, many of which decided standing in line next to food was a great time to sneeze.  And for some reason Japanese people are not terrible good about covering their mouths when they sneeze or cough in the first place, let alone the young 'uns.  I blame the facemasks....it trains you to just sneeze/cough without using your arm or hand to cover up.


The food was quite meh, with mostly western/chinese food options, and lots and lots of carbs (rice, fried rice, noodles, pasta).  The usual buffet filler food.  There were only a couple of meat options, the best of which was the chinese chicken dish.  My son loved the ramen station, where you take precooked noodles, dip them in the hot water, put them in your bowl, and then ladle ramen broth into your bowl, no pesky vegetables to get in the way.  There was a drink bar and sushi bar that were extra and we did not avail ourselves of.  My wife and son got some dessert, but I passed, again...the lack of hygiene on the part of the children kind of spoiled any appetite I might have had.


We finished up plenty of time before the 90 minute limit and paid up and went on our way.  And we never have to go back there, yay!  The only reason I don't give it a Nasty rating is because at least you are probably going to find *something* edible there, given it's nature as a buffet.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Banzai

Location: Banzai

Rating: OK
Meal: Dinner for 2
Price: 4780 yen
Payment: Credit cards accepted
Dishes: rafute, genghis khan, 3 pcs teriyaki chicken, 3pcs tandoori chicken, 3 pcs some other kind of chicken, small rice, coke, gin and tonic
English Menu: No
Smoking: Partial non-smoking area


Thursday night has become "let's try out a new izakaya night" with my son.  This time it was Banzai, an upscale izakaya that's part of a local chain I believe.  I think I reviewed a different branch the other week (http://jcfoodreviews.blogspot.jp/2016/04/banzai-sakaba.html). The building is older, with lots of brick and weathered wood.  Definitely a funky vibe.  Also oddly for an izakaya, it's not just one big open area, but there are little compartments.  There was a sign at the entrance saying it has "partial non smoking areas" which I take to mean they'll do their best but your mileage may vary.  We had no issues that evening however.

Eggplant

The waiter at the entrance looked a bit wild about us coming in and made clear that there was no English menu, to which I replied that we would be fine and he relented and seated us.  He wasn't unfriendly and seemed eager to try his English skills on us, but there are times I've found with Japanese restaurants where you have to be a bit pushy to force your way in if you are being given the cold shoulder.  And there are times where they just flat out don't want to deal with gaijin and won't budge.  You have to play it by ear really...

Rafute

The menu is definitely difficult to read, even if you read hiragana/katakana, but we found some stuff anyway.  With no chahan (fried rice) to order, my son went with chicken, the teriyaki and tandoori, each of which came with 3 largish pieces.  I ordered him a small bowl of rice and coke too.  For myself, I went with the rafute (okinawan slow cooked pork belly) and genghis khan (lamb and vegetable stir fry).  Not wanting to be left out, I also got a 3 piece chicken dish, but it was all in kanji and I couldn't make sense of what the waiter told me, other than it was "Japanese taste."  I ended up not needing any rice for myself.  I also ordered a gin and tonic as they had a special advertised and I am trying out gin these days.  And they brought an otoshi (mandatory appetizer) which was cooked eggplant with dashi flakes on top.


Genghis Khan

Despite all the food being pretty good, I was a bit disappointed by the quality of the rafute and lamb meat.  Rafute should be melt in your mouth delicious, but this stuff was kind of chewy like it had been recently cooked instead of slow cooked.  The lamb was also a bit chewy and the dish itself wasn't much different from me throwing something together at home.  I should have gone with the goya champuru I guess but I figured I should try something different.  The chicken pieces were all pretty good, and I really liked the eggplant dish.  But overall, for the price, I think I have to rate this place just an Ok.

3 types of chicken

Monday, May 16, 2016

Roastar

Location: Roastar


Rating: OK
Meal: Lunch for 2
Price: 2255 yen
Payment: Cash only
Dishes: 4 sandwiches, 2 nikuman
English Menu: Yes
Smoking: No



On our way to a bible study after church on Sunday we stopped at a sandwich and coffee shop named Roastars to try their sandwiches out.  They are cheap and easy to take out as they offer bags right at the counter if you want to use them.  We got 4 sandwiches as they were small (2 for me, 2 for my wife) and a couple of nikuman (steamed meat buns) for my son.  


We were hopeful this would be an awesome sandwich shop, but I have to say we were a bit disappointed.  The sandwiches were exactly the same except for the major topping, and the rest consisted of shredded carrots and possibly cabbage.  It was light on the sauce, but it was a bit sweet.  The sandwiches were unremarkable and later on I would say they disagreed with me.  Nothing to report about the nikuman, they were no different than any convenience store buns.

At least it was cheap!

Tori Gin

Location: Tori Gin

Rating: Excellent
Meal:  Dinner for 2
Price:  4930 yen
Payment:  Credit cards accepted
Dishes:Yakitori sampler (around 16 sticks including vegetables), chawanmushi, ikura and hotate kamameshi, large roasted onions, bacon wrapped asparagus
English Menu: Yes? Not sure, we didn't ask for one.
Smoking:Yes

I've heard there is an English menu...
Tori Gin is located on the second floor of a complex of several restaurants not far from Yokosuka Chuo station.  I'm told at one time there was a statue of a large frog with lots of smaller frogs on top of it that led the foreigners here to call it the "12 frogs" restaurant.  Apparently, we've been living under a rock, because it took us this long to try the place.  They are most famous for their Ginza location (http://www.torigin-ginza.co.jp/eng/) which handily has an English menu webpage, though the prices and exact dishes may be inaccurate.  At least it helps with ordering.  The specialize in yakitori and kamameshi.  Kamameshi is a small rice hotpot that has toppings on it.

Yakitori variety platter plus asparagus
We decided to get a yakitori sampler to split, and while there were some delicious items in there, there were also some offal sticks (liver and gizzards) that some might find less than appetizing.  I thought the liver was amazing, but the gizzards I could have done without.  The chicken sticks themselves (a couple of varieties) were excellent and the size of the meat pieces was above average (still nothing on Bravo's huge chicken shishkebab!).  There were several sticks of vegetables which ranged from the pleasantly surprising (ginkgo nuts) to delicious (roasted green peppers) to disappointing (the roasted negi was surprisingly tough and fibrous).  We also ordered a seasonal special of bacon wrapped asparagus that was incredible.  Lastly on the roasted things on sticks front, we ordered two large, thick slices of round onion that had been roasted to perfection with salt or soy sauce.  They were so hot that we had to wait a minute for each bite or else the intensely hot insides would destroy our mouths when we bit into it.  These were truly the highlight of the meal!

Chawanmushi in an adorable little clay pot
The kamameshi we ended up ordering was the ikura (salted salmon eggs) and hotate (raw scallops) topped one.  It was really good, especially the ikura and hotate, but only enough for each of us to have one small bowl after we split it.  It seemed common for other patrons to order one per person.  But we were fine as we had plenty of other food.  My wife loves here a chawanmushi (egg custard pudding) so we also ordered one of those.  I could tell the ingredients were excellent, but it was a little bland for my taste and needed some soy sauce.

The Most Amazingly Delicious Thing on the Menu
There were so many other things on the menu that we were eager to try that we began planning our next trip before we were done eating!  Both my wife and I agree that this is an amazing find here in Yokosuka and definitely deserves and Excellent rating.  The one negative would have to be that smoking is permitted, and we had the one guy in the whole restaurant who decided to light up right next to us.  Ugh.  It also can get pretty busy, we had to wait about 15 minutes before being seated and service was a bit slow at first, but it got better.  It isn't super gaijin friendly, but I am told by a friend that it's still pretty popular with that crowd (none there but us last night).  I think the convenience of the table seating is probably a contributor to that.

Ikura and hotate kamameshi

Friday, May 13, 2016

Taco House Yas

Location: Taco House Yas

Rating: Not great
Meal: Dinner for 2
Price: 2080 yen
Payment: Cash only at the moment
Dishes:Soft taco, burrito, taco rice, chicken nuggets, coke
English Menu: Yes
Smoking:No


While I applaud the attempt at novelty, this Japanese Mexican Izakaya is not very good.  Barely open, my son and I stumbled upon it on the way to a different restaurant last night.  I am obliged to try every Mexican(ish) restaurant I see, so we headed down the stairs, which were still lined with the customary opening flowers.


The menu is very simple currently, but the cook (owner?) said (in quite decent English) that he will be expanding menu options in the future.  Usually I can find something my son will like at a Mexican restaurant, but not so here.  I ordered a soft taco and burrito for myself (both pretty cheap) and nuggets because I was curious.  The taco rice was an attempt to find something my son would like.  I should have anticipated the tomatoes (his nemesis) but I forgot.  He only ate a few bites after I scraped it all off and scarfed it myself.  I basically ended up eating all the food (don't worry, he got some yakitori and convenience store rice on the way home).  The nuggets were...pretty terrible grocery store style.  The taco rice was not particularly good either.  The soft taco and burrito were basically the same thing, just one was wrapped up and slightly heated while the other was still floppy.  Ingredients inside (ground meat - no real flavor, lettuce and tomato) were unremarkable, and the burrito shells were the extremely over-processed grocery store type. 
They did have some tequilas but I didn't try any.


Sadly, there is no indication this place is ever going to be any good given what I saw.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Hirahachi

Location: Hirahachi

Rating: Very good
Meal: Lunch
Price:  750 yen
Payment: Cash only
Dishes:Burnt sardine and chicken broth ramen
English Menu: No
Smoking: No (maybe?)


My friend and I finally made it to the ramen shop that I've been trying to get to for a month or so now.  It's far enough away that you have to ride a bike to make it there and back during lunch.  Hirahachi specializes in sardine broth ramen with what appears to be hakata style noodles.  My friend got the straight broth and I got one that turned out to be "burnt" sardine and chicken broth.  I kind of wish I had the straight stuff, it was more pungent.


It's definitely not very foreigner friendly, but the guys at the counter were nice enough, and my friend is fluent in Japanese, so no issues there.  The menu is rather inscrutable, but if you go for the dishes between 750 and 900 yen you won't go wrong.  Apparently they also do miso and salt ramen, but these are not the specialties.   There were also a couple of limited quantity oyster ramen dishes available, but you can't try all of the ramen at once!

Again, very pleased with the different style and I enjoyed it very much.  Two minor quibbles are that I could have done with more broth and the noodles had a bit of a chalky consistency, but no deal breakers.  Oh, I should also mention that for the same base price (750 yen) you can get "more noodles"...kind of a special deal or something?  Anyway...who doesn't want more noodles?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Kintaro

Location: Kintaro

Rating: Very good
Meal: Lunch
Price:  900 yen
Payment: Cash only
Dishes: Shio ramen
English Menu: No
Smoking: No

Top Left: Tsukemen, Top Right: Ramen

Eating at Kintaro today was a fortuitous accident.  I had intended to eat at a different (nearby) ramen shop, but I mistakenly thought Kintaro was the place.  I went today with a friend from work who also has a bike, so we were able to make it there and back inside of an hour easily.


Ramen

Kintaro is a shio (salt) ramen restaurant that has 2 main items on the menu:  Ramen or Tsukemen (dipping noodles).  Again, intended to get the tsukement but accidentally got the ramen, same as my friend, so we didn't get to see each up close.  I added on 100 yen for an egg and 100 yen for menma.  The broth was very clear and not overly salty.  The meat was chicken, one slice of chicken breast, one of thigh.  The noodles looked a bit different so my friend asked about them and turns out they are made of whole wheat, which was an interesting change.  Apparently the tsukemen noodles are thicker and take longer to cook.  There was also a delicious pot of yuzu condiment that gave the whole dish a nice zing.

Overall, this was a very good and different ramen place than I have usually encountered in Yokosuka.  I am very much looking forward to coming back and trying the tsukemen.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Akaoni

Location: Akaoni

Rating: Not great
Meal: Lunch for 3
Price: 3300 yen
Payment: Credit cards accepted
Dishes: Meat, vegetables, rice, etc... (all you can eat for 60 minutes)
English Menu: Yes
Smoking: Maybe?  Not in the restaurant proper, but in the waiting area (which is openly accessible) there are two ash trays that had been used


Dinner prices on top, lunch below
Akaoni (Red Demon) is a popular (with the gaijin crowd) all-you-can-eat yakiniku restaurant located on the 6th floor of the same building that Hamazushi is in.  It's also one of the cheapest yakiniku restaurants we've ever encountered, thus accounting for its popularity I'm sure.  At least, the lunch prices are very cheap, dinner is more of course.


No leftovers allowed!

The setup is that once you pay you take trays and plates and go to these walk up refrigerated shelves that contains various raw meats, vegetables and sundries.  Load up, and go back to grab rice, soup, and water (there's also an all you can drink option that costs more).  At your table you cook your own meat and then rinse/repeat until either your 60 minutes is up or you are stuffed.  60 minutes is less time than you  might think if you are cooking your own food for 3 people.  Nonetheless, we did manage to get quite full.


Pre-cooked food
The ambience of the place leaves much to be desired.  There were tons of people (all gaijin) and it was a big echoey room, and the resultant din was truly deafening.  I had to shout to be heard and had to ask people to repeat themselves constantly.  Also, the decor (or lack thereof) was decidedly uncharming.  It has an institutional feel...like what an old-folks home would look like if it decided to implement yakiniku style meal-times.


Cooking food...
I don't usually care too much about ambience provided the prices are cheap and the food is great.  The food quality, however, is not great.  We tried lots of different meats and ended up preferring the chicken and thicker pork slices.  Everything else was tough or flavorless.  My wife and I both felt rather unpleasant for the rest of the day after eating there (we were *not* sickened though).


And this was in the bathroom...
Our overall impression was quite negative.  I can see why people like it (cheap and convenient), but the negatives overpower the positives in my opinion, and I don't really want to come back if I can avoid it.