Where to get the best ramen in Tokyo

Best ramen shop. Tokyo, Japan.

Best ramen shop. Tokyo, Japan.

Ceddy’s flight to Seoul left earlier than mine did, so I decided to hunt for ramen in Setagaya. I don’t even know the name of this restaurant because there was no English translation on any of the signs. The menu didn’t have any English translations, either.

Tokyo, Japan.

Tokyo, Japan.

The restaurant was tiny — there were ten stools (if that many) at the counter. The owner didn’t speak English, so she had me point to what I wanted to order from the menu with photos outside. I decided on the tonkatsu ramen.

I will never get over this ramen. Tokyo, Japan.

I will never get over this tonkatsu ramen. Tokyo, Japan.

It. Was. Incredible. It had a rich pork broth with soft-boiled eggs, pork belly, mushrooms, scallions, a sliced naruto fish cake, bean sprouts, menma bamboo shoots, and thin egg noodles. The price was great, too — the giant, filling bowl of tonkatsu ramen and an iced coffee were 600 Japanese yen (not even $6).

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Lovel Dining – a hidden gem in Setagaya

Lovel Dining. Tokyo, Japan.

Lovel Dining. Tokyo, Japan.

Since my flight arrived earlier than Ceddy’s, I chatted with our host before she left for a weekend in the countryside. She recommended that we go to Lovel Dining, a restaurant that was a couple of blocks from her apartment.

We met up in Shibuya and returned to Setagaya famished. I forgot to take photos of the restaurant in our haste to be seated. (The photos of the exterior are from the afternoon before we left.)

We almost missed it because it’s on a random side street in Setagaya. It was a small restaurant with a several tables and bar. If you think that gourmet food couldn’t come from a place that encourages patrons to throw peanut shells on the floor, you’d be wrong.

Lovel Dining. Tokyo, Japan.

Lovel Dining. Tokyo, Japan.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos of our meal. (We ate it too quickly.) After munching on peanuts (and throwing the shells on the floor as Hiroki, the owner, insisted), we ordered. We sipped shots of shochu, a seemingly innocuous but potent Japanese liquor. For our appetizer, we had a mixed salad that had bell peppers, potatoes, and eggs in a citrus mayonnaise dressing, accompanied by spicy pickles on the side.

For our main course, we split a steak and frites. The steak was cooked medium rare in a tangy marinade and the frites were crispy on the outside, yet fluffy on the inside. Ceddy said that the potatoes reminded him of the potatoes in Côte d’Ivoire.

Our dinner and drinks were around $40. We chatted with Hiroki, thanking him for his hospitality and a fantastic meal. He agreed to take a photo with me and gave us his business card.

Hiroki Paulo Yoshimi, owner of Lovel Dining, and me. Tokyo, Japan.

Hiroki Paulo Yoshimi, owner of Lovel Dining, and me. Tokyo, Japan.

If you’re looking for a chill restaurant with excellent food and drinks in Setagaya, you should definitely grab dinner at Lovel Dining.

Shibuya: one of Tokyo’s busiest shopping districts

The bustling streets of Shibuya. Tokyo, Japan.

The bustling streets of Shibuya. Tokyo, Japan.

I arrived in Tokyo mid-afternoon, while Ceddy arrived later in the evening. Since I had some time, I was able to explore Shibuya, the neighborhood we designated as our meeting place.

Shibuya was a combination of New York’s Union Square (because of its shopping choices) and Times Square (because of the number of people jostling each other on the street).

Shibuya 109. Tokyo, Japan.

Shibuya 109. Tokyo, Japan.

Tokyo, Japan.

Tokyo, Japan.

Shibuya Crossing is the main intersection that shoppers, diners, and commuters use to go their respective ways. I took this photo before the late night crowd arrived.

Shibuya Crossing. Tokyo, Japan.

Shibuya Crossing. Tokyo, Japan.

One of the most impressive department stores was Shibuya 109. It has eight floors of women’s boutiques.

Shibuya 109. Tokyo, Japan.

Shibuya 109. Tokyo, Japan.

And a gold staircase by its entrance.

Shibuya 109. Tokyo, Japan.

Shibuya 109. Tokyo, Japan.

Though there was a variety of boutiques, most of the mannequins (and salesgirls) rocked this look — brownish long hair curled at the ends and demure outfits (not pictured: crazy tall heels).

Mannequins in a Shibuya 109 boutique. Tokyo, Japan.

Mannequins in a Shibuya 109 boutique. Tokyo, Japan.

The colors and styling used in store windows (and interiors) were awesome.

Tokyo, Japan.

Tokyo, Japan.

Tokyo, Japan.

Tokyo, Japan.

Once Ceddy and I met up at Starbucks, we walked around in hopes of finding somewhere to eat. We found a lot of Italian, French, and American restaurants. The non-chain sushi restaurants weren’t open late. We ruled out going to Outback Steakhouse (though theirs looked posh), since we never go there when we’re home.

Tokyo, Japan.

Tokyo, Japan.

We decided to return to Setagaya to find a late night bite, instead.

Carrot Tower

Carrot Tower. Tokyo, Japan.

Carrot Tower. Tokyo, Japan.

Carrot Tower is a skyscraper with an observation deck on the 26th floor.

Inside Carrot Tower. Tokyo, Japan.

Inside Carrot Tower. Tokyo, Japan.

The other floors in Carrot Tower. Tokyo, Japan.

The other floors in Carrot Tower. Tokyo, Japan.

In the 26th floor lobby. Carrot Tower. Tokyo, Japan.

In the 26th floor lobby. Carrot Tower. Tokyo, Japan.

View from the observation deck of Carrot Tower. Tokyo, Japan.

View from the observation deck of Carrot Tower. Tokyo, Japan.

Another view from the observation deck of Carrot Tower. Tokyo, Japan.

Another view from the observation deck of Carrot Tower. Tokyo, Japan.

And another view from the observation deck of Carrot Tower. Tokyo, Japan.

And another view from the observation deck of Carrot Tower. Tokyo, Japan.

One last view from the observation deck of Carrot Tower. Tokyo, Japan.

One last view from the observation deck of Carrot Tower. Tokyo, Japan.

In addition to the observation deck, there’s also a (slightly overpriced) café on the 26th floor.

Setagaya: a posh neighborhood in Tokyo

Setagaya is the lovely area where Ceddy and I stayed for our weekend in Tokyo. It’s an upscale neighborhood with some of the most expensive real estate in Tokyo. We rented our host’s apartment through AirBnB. If you haven’t used AirBnB, you should. It’s cheaper than renting a hotel and you get tips from a local host for places to eat and sightsee that aren’t the usual tourist traps. We rented a whole apartment, but you can rent a room in a host’s place, as well.

Though it isn’t known for its shopping malls, there were still plenty of stores in Setagaya.

Storefronts. Tokyo, Japan.

Storefronts. Tokyo, Japan.

Most people rode bikes or walked and took the metro.

Bike parking lot. Tokyo, Japan.

Bike parking lot. Tokyo, Japan.

The apartment we rented was a ten minute walk from the Sangenjaya metro station.

Fountain outside the Sangenjaya metro station. Tokyo, Japan.

Fountain outside the Sangenjaya metro station. Tokyo, Japan.

It was really easy to get around the city using the metro since everything was translated in English.

Helpful metro signs, if you don't read Japanese. Tokyo, Japan.

Helpful metro signs, if you don’t read Japanese. Tokyo, Japan.

Unlike Atlanta’s MARTA trains which arrive every 15 to 20 minutes, Tokyo’s metro trains arrive every three to five minutes.

Inside the Sangenjaya metro station. Tokyo, Japan.

Inside the Sangenjaya metro station. Tokyo, Japan.

The platforms are always packed. (This is not the largest number of people that tried to cram into the same train.)

Crowd at the Sangenjaya metro station. Tokyo, Japan.

Crowd at the Sangenjaya metro station. Tokyo, Japan.

The signs with directions to landmarks were extremely helpful.

Signs to landmarks. Tokyo, Japan.

Signs to landmarks. Tokyo, Japan.

I’ll be writing about Carrot Tower, one of Setagaya’s most famous landmarks, in my next post.