It sounds kind of touristy, but you might have fun at the Cup Noodles Museum in Yokohama if you have the time. Many of my friends have been through this attraction, and it is actually pretty interesting if you look at the history of the company and how it’s evolved. Go on a weekday if you can to avoid the crowds. (I went on my own as Deb went to the International Manga Festa.)
Outside the Cup Noodles Museum with their Hawaiian Host fruit bites (from left) Amy Setsuko Hanashiro, Sayoko Takeuchi, Inoue san, Deanne Matsushima (in a photo!) and Kurt Saito. Amy, Deanne and Kurt are all originally from Hawaii.
The mascot is a cute chick, since their signature dish is chicken ramen. This was Cup Noodle’s first creation back in 1958. If you can speak Japanese and make a reservation well in advance, you can take a class with your kids that shows you the basics of making chicken ramen noodles. And yes, you can keep that bandanna.
The big attraction for me was the Noodle Bazaar, which is basically a food court that showcases all the different noodles of the world. They’re smart — each bowl is not too big, and only costs 300 yen, so you can easily sample many kinds of noodles in one sitting.
Cold Korean arrowroot noodles. This was very popular.
Spicy (not too spicy) Chinese beef noodles. This was actually really good.
Mongolian noodles with a bit of lamb. This didn’t look so good, but it was surprisingly tasty.
Singaporean laksa. Not as good as the real thing, but surprisingly pretty close (without being too spicy).
Vietnamese pho. Not anywhere as good as Pig & The Lady, but a good intro.
Indonesian mi goreng, which was one of my favorites for some reason. I think I liked the shoyu flavor, like a comfort food.
You can also get one or all of the Cup Noodle ramen, which are served in smaller bowls so you can sample more. Overall, I was expecting the food court to be a lot of really crappy food that you can only serve to kids, but was really surprised to find the noodles all made a nice lunch for foodies, too.
Lunching with Ryuji Shimoda, who drove us around that day; Kurt, Inoue san, and Sayoko.
Many of the stalls had some kind of dessert, but we opted for shave ice, of course! This was like Taiwanese shave ice, where the flavor is in the ice: Mango, vanilla with blueberry sauce, and matcha with azuki.
For 300 yen, you walk through a process of making your own cup of noodle. First, you design your container…
Then you crank it through the assembly line to drop noodles into the cup…
Then you can choose a dried soup base and any four dried toppings to put into your cup. I wonder if there are any combinations that have been really bad? Most of the items seem to go together.
Voila! Ready for sealing.
Service with a smile!
I forgot to get a photo of the balloon bag it eventually gets wrapped in. It’s a ridiculous, huge pillow that is meant to protect your cup of noodles. Clever gimmick!
Cup Noodles Museum
〒231-0001 Kanagawa Prefecture, Yokohama, Naka Ward, Shinko, 2−3−4
Ryuji drove us to wherever we wanted, so we asked him to take us to Shimokitazawa. But first! He drove up with a box of Leonard’s malasadas. Since Leonard’s on Kapahulu changed their recipe and Yokohama stuck to the original, you pretty much get a better product in Japan.
Now, Shimokitazawa is a kind of hip, trendy neighborhood, full of coffee shops and Western-style boutiques that make it look like the Japanese version of Hayes Valley in San Francisco. If I had more time and room in my suitcase, I might want to go back to explore it a little more, but on this night I was interested in getting natto donuts from Sendaiya, a natto specialty company.
Even if you go there after hours, you can always get natto from the vending machine outside.
They’re best known for their natto donuts. Do you love the Engrish sign?
Chocolate, kinako, banana and vanilla natto donuts.
And then, the moment of truth! The donuts were just like the sign said: No natto smell or taste, light, and moist. You can enjoy the health benefits of natto without the slime, smell, or taste. I’m pretty sure these have no preservatives, otherwise I would have brought some home. These were great with coffee, by the way.
〒154-0001 Tokyo, Setagaya 池尻３丁目２０−３ 柳盛堂ビル
We went down the street to a very narrow coffee shop to enjoy our natto donuts with coffee. There were many coffee shops, but this one was ideally set up so no one would bust us for bringing our own food in!
Our day ended with dinner at Akasaka Tsutsui, a shokudo (casual restaurant) in a classy setting. It’s a little pricier than a super casual restaurant, but fairly reasonable nonetheless.
Amy said that the restaurant attracts a wide range of clientele, from salary men to ladies who lunch to young hipsters.
The corn soup is one of their signature dishes here. It was really creamy! I could use some more corn kernels, though.
Deanne and I weren’t hungry, so we split a set (about $35) and that worked out fine. The items we got were comforting and delicious. I love that the sauces are all home made, so you can taste everything that goes into it.
If you get nothing else, get the wagyu donburi. This bowl was part of the set, so it was a little small. The meat melts in your mouth like the butter it’s topped with, like a meaty little cloud. You hardly even have to chew … but you will, just to prolong the experience. The flavor of the sauce is just perfectly savory without covering the taste of the wagyu. On one hand, we were sad because the bowl was so small, but on the other hand, we knew we were too full to have eaten a whole one.
Izumi-Akasaka Bldg, 2-22-24
Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Another filling day in the books! Up next: Deb and I go off to Kobuchizawa to tour the Hakushu whisky distillery!
To see more of my photos from this trip, click here.