Category Archives: Ikebukuro

You can dress her up but you can’t take her out

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Chabuya

When my favorite neighborhood ramen shop closed to open a bigger, fancier restaurant in Omotesando Hills, I nearly cried. Chabuya had operated two separate shops in Gokokuji, a dimly lit, shio-ramen shop that seated about eight, and a brighter, larger miso-ramen shop with glass windows to the kitchen to watch the noodles being made. Shio-ramen has always been my personal favorite, and I frequented the smaller Chabuya, buying a meal ticket from the machine at the door and sitting down to the stylish long black stone table, so uncharacteristic of the usual utilitarian ramen shop design. The ramen was beautifully presented, and the chashu (pork) was sliced paper-thin; the best I had tasted.

After successfully opening Mist in Omotesando Hills, Chabuya is back in Gokokuji, with a few changes. Sadly, the smaller shop has not re-opened, but I have now made a few trips to the remaining Gokokuji Chabuya. Still brightly lit, the meal ticket machine has been replaced by a suited host, who walks you the three feet to your seat at the counter, and hands you a menu. The new menu now offers both the miso and shio varieties, and the broth is just as rich and satisfying as I remembered. Extra pork can still be added, and I definitely recommend it.

The feeling of the shop has changed, however. On more than one occasion, I have been left to wait for my waiter to order. Candles now on the tables are out of place and combined with the waiter/host, they give the feeling of a restaurant trying to dress up as more than it is. What was once a refreshingly simple ramen shop is now a pretentious one, but the ramen will keep me coming back.
http://www.chabuya.com/

Where NOT to eat before the Tokyo Marathon

If you walk out of this restaurant, and you haven’t loosened your belt, you haven’t truly had a Shamaim experience. Meaning “from the sky” in Hebrew, Tokyo’s premier Israeli restaurant serves up nonstop rich flavorful plates of everything from the familiar falafel, breaded steak, fried chicken and hummus to the rarer spicy carrots, garlicy tahini, tomato soup and basmati rice with lentils. Their all-you-can-eat set is incredible and diverse and even my friends who are *gasp* picky eaters, still find enough to satiate even their most tumultuous hunger.

Years ago, as legend goes, when Shamaim was merely an Israeli bar, the owner made falafel once a week. The demands for his falafel were so frequent that eventually the logical thing to do was open a full restaurant. The only complaint I could ever have with Shamaim is that the food is heavy, so heavy; walking home from Ekoda after a Shamaim visit is like lugging a suitcase through Shinjuku during rush hour. But alas, this is perhaps my own fault. An added treat for when you need some non-Japanese food and culture, is the bellydancing performances on Friday nights. Sure to bring out the hava-negila in your tastebuds.

Ekoda station on the Seibu Ikebukuro line.

Exit and turn right, pass McDonalds, then turn right at the T in the road. It’ll be 10 seconds down on your left. Second Floor.