if there’s one thing we’ve gotten down to a science so far this trip it’s that we’re proactive when it comes time to plan for our stomachs. we were halfway through our drinks at craft beer bar ibrew when the grumbles started. since we had a full day metro pass, we decided to take a train out to tsukishima for some monja!
tsukushima’s a man-made island made of reclaimed land and it is just over 120 years old though you wouldn’t be able to tell by walking around. there’s a half-circle of high rises and nestled inside them are a few eating streets serving up their local speciality, monjayaki. it’s similar to okonomiyaki but in a more watery, gummy and crispy consistency which i believe is caused by the batter being watered down, sometimes with more dashi. we got our first taste of monja in sapporo… fugetsu is a well known okonomiyaki chain and because of the similarity, were serving up do-it-yourself monja as well.
there’s a street that literally has restaurant after restaurant for multiple blocks serving up the same thing.
we did see a couple that had lines forming outside and patrons sitting outside on stools with blankets. we’re still monja newbies and i’m not sure how much different cabbage can taste, nor can i order anything remotely expensive without the threat of stabbing myself with an epipen so we picked one that had a few tables taken but not packed to the hilt.
the first lesson of monja dining is to keep your clothes safe. most places give you a bag to wrap your jackets with. we got the bench stash.
our order: corn, mochi and pork with a side order of tontoro. now, tontoro (fatty pork) at izakayas back home would run about $7 for about 6 pieces, each smaller than two fingers and sliced thin. for 700yen, we got 5 huge chunks. yusss.
maybe it’s because the restaurant wasn’t packed or maybe they could tell we were stupid gaijin who would probably screw up the cooking process but the lady who was serving us did all the grunt work. job well done ma’am.
eating right off the griddle with spatulas mmmmm. the threat of burnt lips is real.
the tontoro was amazing. juicy, caramelized, fatty goodness. being a carnivore has never felt as right as this.
and i can’t forget about the little leftover bits of batter that bubble up until they turn into a crisp
tsukishimi is a really cool area. it’s relatively quiet compared to the hustle and bustle of shinjuku & shibuya and even with side by side restaurant-lined streets, there were still little residential alleys squished between them. on our way back to the station we passed by the lone bakery that was still open at almost 10pm. fresh baked melon pan! we thought there would only be some old leftover stock but he had just brought out a fresh tray of melon pans so we walked right up and picked one up to go. “one?” he confirmed? hai, i replied. 180yen and we were on our way to the station.
then we each took a bite. crunchy on the outside with a light dusting of sugar. warm, slightly sweet and moist on the inside. holy crapballs. we turned around and now there was a lineup of drunk salarymen. we luck out and a new tray comes out after the businessmen get their orders. the guy behind the counter does a double take when he see me again and then gives me that “i knew you’d be back” grin before giving me what i went back for. 180yen goes from my pocket into his and then we’re off to the metro, fresh melon pan in hand.