Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Best Tonkatsu of My Life: Maisen (Harajuku/Omotesando, Tokyo, Japan)

Honestly, by the second day of my Tokyo trip I knew that my touring plan and my eating plan were quite unrealistic. I definitely underestimated how much we would walk and how tiring it would be... The usual Helen would make it a point to still hit up every single restaurant that was originally planned, no matter how inconvenient it was. But, the new "vacation" Helen decided to take this trip as a big learning experience and enjoy the trip for what it was: a wonderful week of exploring the beautiful city with my awesome bf.

I say all this because this post is exactly about that.

Before my trip, I had this very detailed and quite pretty looking itinerary sheet done on excel that laid out every little thing we were going to be doing each day. However, this was the day that excel sheet became nothing more than a scrap piece of paper. Okay, I exaggerate... It wasn't scrap, but so many things got switched and changed around, I just stared at that sheet with loathsome longing. I hated how it looked now... folded, marked on and just... different.

This was the day I realized I paid more attention to this piece of paper than my actual experience. I will not be a control freak... I will not be a control freak... So, J and I decided to just head to Harajuku and take it from there. The whole point of going on vacation is getting lost and then finding yourself, right? (I swear I don't mean to be corny...)




     



We took the JR train to the busy Harajuku station and walked over to the not as busy Yoyogi Park. I was expecting all these crazy people inside this park, but once we went in, I felt a little underwhelmed. I mean, we were in Harajuku and I read that Yoyogi Park was filled with interesting people. However, the scene was pretty tame. Most of the action was outside the park's entrance; we saw a group of dancers pop lockin' and another group of teens rehearsing a battle scene on our way out.

After Yoyogi Park, we then went on this quest to find a Samurai Gallery that J had read in our tour guide book (borrowed from our friend, Ryo - Thanks Ryo!). This gallery was pretty far (well, at least that's what my feet thought), so we walked and walked and walked. Of course, we stopped by a few stores and took pictures and all that fascinating touristy stuff, but mostly, we just walked. Holy mother of baby Jesus, we walked a lot.

side note: the stores in Harajuku are ridiculously cute. I wanted to buy everything in every single store!

We finally, sort of, get near this gallery... You see, it's really difficult to navigate around Tokyo with just an address because the numbers in front of the address are not numbered by sequence. No, they refer to what district or neighborhood and in what order the building was built on that block. (-_-) So, we finally find the building, but we can't find the gallery. Or we did find it, but it just so happened that it turned into a bar/restaurant instead... Maybe the ways of the Samurai were not for us...

As soon as we gave up on the gallery, my feet decided to give up on me. They were pulsing and aching - practically yelling all kinds of curses with each pulse (of course, this was me cursing at myself for wearing my not-so-comfy, but oh-so-cute boots). Good thing I remembered reading about a famous tonkatsu place called Maisen in Harajuku. I already had a tonkatsu place picked out for us to eat (NOT in Harajuku), but what can you do when you are hungry and in desperate need of a chair?

You walk some more to find that chair.


green tea and daikon

We arrived at Maisen about ten minutes later and we were immediately seated. Fabulous. The green tea and daikon were brought out and I kid you not, I was so tempted to slurp the entire dish of daikon down. But, of course I didn't. I'm a lady...


potato salad

I had to order a side of potato salad, since I am obsessed with them, especially the ones from Asian restaurants (usually Korean or Japanese). This was probably the best potato salad I've ever had. I loved the flavors and the crunch of the cucumbers - it was perfect.





soba and katsu combination meal

J wanted something light and refreshing so he opted for the soba and katsu combination meal. The combo came with shrimp katsu and something else that I cannot remember, as well as pickled vegetables. The soba noodles were nice and chewey, perfect for slurping. After a full day of walking around and shopping, the cold noodles with the pickled vegetables were very refreshing.







kurobuta tonkatsu meal

While J's soba noodles were nice, I wanted to EAT. I ordered the kurobuta tonkatsu meal not really realizing what a treat I was in for. The price tag was pretty steep for tonkatsu (Y2,995), so I had to see what this kurobuta pork was all about. When you order the kurobuta tonkatsu meal, they give you this amazing special tonkatsu sauce to go with the cutlet. The sauce is indescribable... just plain delicious with so much flavor. The fatty $35 kurobuta pork, was... heavenly. It was so fatty and juicy, something I've never experienced before with tonkatsu. I've always had good, but mostly dry pork cutlets and this, by far, was the best tonkatsu of my life. The sweetness from the sauce held up well against the fattiness of the pork. It was just plain amazing. How I'll ever go back to regular pork cutlets, I do not know...

sorbet

Since the combo meals came with dessert, we were served a sorbet at the end of our meal. I think it was a mango sorbet, but I could be wrong. Nonetheless, it was sweet and tart, great way to cleanse my palate after the fatty kurobuta tonkatsu.







With our feet rested and our stomachs full, we headed back out for some more walking and shopping. Like I said before, there are so many cute stores and clothes in Harajuku! It was bittersweet... I was loving all the shops, but I was hating the fact that I couldn't shop. I'm on a budget, yo... Seeing the pain in my face, J bought me a pair of really cute capri pants with suspenders. Told ya he was awesome. Besides all the cute clothing stores, there was this great jewelry store right in front of the Harajuku station with a lot of cute items. So, if you're ever there, check it out!

Even though the day did not go according to my plan, it was fun and eventful. When I look back at it now, I'm even glad we walked forever in search of the non-existent Samurai Gallery. We were tired, but it was something we did together.
But, damn, this post is making me want to spend $30 on a pork cutlet and SHOP TIL I DROP. See everyone at the Thanksgiving sales!!!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

gobble gobble, kids....


Maisen
4-85 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
81-3-3470-0071
http://www.mai-sen.com/
Nearest Station: Omotesando

10 comments:

Justin Mandel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justin Mandel said...

Son of a b. If only I knew that was there I would've totally gone instead of randomly going into rando American stores. Sigh. Looks SUPER GOOD

Anonymous said...

WOW :) I wish I could eat that donkatsuuuuu :(

Joseph Mallozzi said...

How far did you walk to the non-existent Samurai museum - considering Maisen is only a couple of blocks from Harajuku?

Was the friendly, bald parking lot attendant outside Maisen? The first time I went, two years ago, he was very kind and helped me with directions. The last time I went, last year, he instructed me on the complexities of the umbrella sheathe.
Nikko-san: http://josephmallozzi.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/dsc00827.jpg

Did you hit Butagumi? If so, how did it compare to Maisen?

nelehelen said...

justin - there's always next time, right? hahah

joe - we walked FAR... way past ometosando station and had to walk BACK to Maisen - haha. Butagumi is the place I had originally planned on going, but ended up at Maisen instead. I'm going to definitely hit up Butagumi on my next trip. I can't wait to read about it on your blog!

bagnatic said...

i'm loving your stories girl. you totally eat like a champ. that's awesome.

have a wonderful thanksgiving!

streetgourmetla said...

Hey Helen, I'm with you on the potato salad.No shot of the cute boots? I'm loving these posts, keep 'em coming.

Cafe Pasadena said...

My feet ached just reading this Japanese recap!
Serioulsy though, I've always thot if we want some rest & relaxation then DON'T go on a "vacation!!" Stay home, sleep late, and get familiar with your own area instead. Afterall, tourism is California's #1 industry!

nelehelen said...

bill - haha next time i'll make sure to take pics of my shoes! you know me and my aching feet.. the price you pay for fashion!

CP - I need to go to a tropical place for my next "vacation." I assume I won't be doing much walking then, just a lot of laying out and tanning!

TagoFabic said...

Maisen's tonkatsu indeed was amazing! The meat was cooked right and the sauce was perfect, right?!

We also got the sherbet, and I was thinking it was orange flavored.

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