Culinary journeys have to come to an end - and so do travel posts. A final farewell to the Tokyo leg of my Asia travels, featuring ramen, katsu and social faux pas concerning table-moving. Next up: China.
HAYASHI RAMEN | SHIBUYA
Hayashi Ramen embodies all you might expect from the classic 'hidden gem' restaurant. A grand total of 3 items on the menu, a tiny interior housing 10 people at best and a long queue outside. With the most exclusive opening hours I've seen from a restaurant - 11AM to 3:30PM - this is strictly a lunch fare.
The ramen ticks all the boxes - vividly flavoured miso-based soup, firm noodles and full of flavour - your classic 'fast food'. The yakibuta (grilled pork) ramen gives you a generous helping of pork with a good balance of fat and lean meat. It's actually cold but quickly heated as you dunk it in the soup and very filling. The egg yolk was cooked really well for those who enjoy their egg that way ('googy', as Sherrie would put it). This is a kind of place where you won't be judged if you can't finish your meal but you push yourself to do so, just so the elderly waitress can leave with an empty bowl.
TONKATSU WAKO | AKIHABARA
We waited an ungodly amount of time to be seated because there were three sets of single tables (meant for 2 people) and the couple at the middle table had just started eating when the couples on either side left. So we technically could have sat down more than 15min earlier if only the couple in the middle had shifted over, leaving us free to piece the two adjacent tables together for the three of us. Question: is that a social faux pas?
We were too tired and hungry to try another shop so we just waited (as a line slowly formed behind us) and debated the ethics of the above question while watching everyone eat and time slowed to a crawl - but finally, we were seated at a booth.
Personally, I would absolutely not mind shifting over if I were the dining couple, especially if I had just started my meal. One thing's almost certain: Japanese waiters are never going to ask you to do this of their own volition - politeness almost always trumps practicality, which is fine...as long as you're not losing out from the lack of practicality.
This was pretty great katsu - crunchy, not too oily, tenderly cooked meat inside. Nothing imaginative but a solid place to lunch. We ordered the pork fillet and pork loin... to be honest, I couldn't taste much of a difference; the pork fillet was slightly more tender, perhaps? Rice and shredded cabbage refills are free for the big eaters out there or for those who want to convince themselves the meal is at least somewhat healthy. Yours truly may or may not have been a part of that.