Yonpachi Gyojo

Woot! I just back from Japan a couple days ago after a week-long trip. It’s been kind of an exhausting trek, what with flight cancellations and delays and the overall fatigue of hauling yourself around on foot for miles and miles. I should’ve taken a pedometer with me to accurately record just how much distance I covered and how many calories that would’ve burned. (My brother’s girlfriend had a very handy Fitbit that did just that, and I’m thinking of getting one…) I made the mistake of wearing thin-soled shoes for the first few days, which was excruciating, but I bought a pair of Sketchers flats that solved everything about mid-way through.

I’m not sure why people feel like vacations have to be packed with things to do every single day. I suppose if your destination isn’t a beautiful beach, you do end up feeling like you’ve wasted time if you’re doing “nothing.” But honestly, next time I’m on vacation – even if it’s in the middle of a teeming metropolis – I’m taking a full day off and do nothing but chillax at a salon and get pampered. It’s too draining to spend every minute of every day on the go. And I don’t think it’s a waste if you come out of it feeling refreshed, and with a colorful manicure to show for it.

My trip didn’t start well. I was literally driving up to the airport in Baltimore when American Airlines kindly notified me that my flight was cancelled and that the next available one that would get me to my connection to Tokyo wasn’t leaving until the following morning. That would get me one full day later into Japan, causing me to miss my reservation at Sukiyabashi Jiro (Jiro’s son’s restaurant) in Roppongi. Needless to say, I was very vexed. I got up at 3am to catch my next flight, which was delayed, making me miss my connection at Dallas Fort Worth. Thankfully, I only had to wait 3 hours this time for the next flight. AA, by the way, didn’t even apologize or offer any amends for causing such an inconvenience. Thanks for nothing, guys! :)

I took some grainy photos with my iPhone of the food on AA, but I’m not going to bother posting them…it was very bad, anyway.

I sailed through immigration and customs at Narita (barely a line at all) and picked up my JR Pass (Green car! A nice little splurge for first class) and hopped onto the Narita Express train to Shinagawa. Finding the hotel from the station was an adventure in itself. Every hotel in the area (and there are many of them) all have the name “Prince” in it for some bizarro reason. I stumbled into the room at 7pm. I checked in with my dad, brother and his girlfriend, who had all arrived the day before. It sounded like the day had wiped them out, so only my dad was ready to keep me company. We headed down to the neighborhood around the Shinagawa Station for dinner.

After ambling around the area for a few minutes, we settled on Yonpachi Gyojo, a chain of izakaya restaurants that specializes in seafood, all of which they source directly from local sustainable fisheries. The interior was nice and cozy, with a low wrap around bar and some tables. The chefs worked behind the bar in full view, so you can see what’s going on if you like. My only gripe with the place was that it was full smoking everywhere. (Or maybe they had a small non-smoking section somewhere, but I didn’t see one). I really REALLY don’t understand people who smoke while eating. First of all, it’s disgusting. But secondly, why in the world would you eat while simultaneously destroying your tastebuds? You might as well smoke while chewing bits of cardboard, for all the good the food would do you. It’s an insult to the food and the chefs who prepared it. Not to mention a nuisance to the people around you. I can’t wait until Japan finally catches up to the United States on smoking bans.


Pictured above is the sashimi platter, and it was excellent! The rest after the jump:

Menu with specials! There was another menu with pictures, too.

A little description of the fisheries they source their ingredients from.

There was a grill on the table when we sat down, and it turned out that it’s used for the complimentary appetizer course of roasted seaweed. They give you a bowl of the stuff raw, and you cook it over the grill until it turns into an almost neon green. There was a ponzu dipping sauce that came with it, which was quite good. The texture was firm and gummy. I would’ve eaten more of it, but I needed to save room for the meal.

First up was the Satsuma-age fishcake patties, which were like little fish meatballs or burgers. They also came with a dipping sauce, and a sliver a lemon. There was a nice crisp on the outside, and a juicy finish on the inside. Probably my favorite dish, after the sashimi.

Then came the niku jyaga, or Japanese style meat and potatoes. I think this is the perfect comfort food to order after a long and tiresome trek across the globe. It’ll warm you up and tastes nice and familiar. Everything was cooked through nicely with the broth seeping through with its flavor.

I was stuffed by this point, but my dad insisted on getting this ochazuke dish that featured “kibinago” – a kind of small fish that you apparently can’t get back in the states. It came with a pot of very deep green opaque tea that you pour over and eat like a soup. It was okay, but I was so full that I couldn’t really appreciate flavors by then.

They gave us some kind of takeaway item – a pungent fish paste, which I presume you use for making broth? It was unfortunate that I had to throw it away…

In all, a great foodie start to the trip!

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