About Madison S
Lives in London, United Kingdom
Since Sep 2014
Hello! I'm Maddie- a native NYer whose Wanderlust has taken her abroad again and again. Having lived in six countries, and visiting others for school, work, leisure, and sport, I've adopted many localities, and am an admirer of a great many more. An avid scholar of language and culture, I hope to keep expanding my travel repertoire, and sharing great stories with the rest of the travel community. To give you some background on my travels, I spent months each year since childhood in Old Montreal, where part of my family lives. Summers were spent visiting folks in Ft. Lauderdale and L.A. My first big trip outside of the US on my own was to Australia & New Zealand at 12- I caught the bug early! I then moved to Japan where I studied for part of high school & uni. I am very familiar with Japanese cities, Sapporo and Osaka especially. Some of my favourite travel destinations include Goreme, Dubai, Marrakech, and Queenstown. (Plans for 2015 include China & Uganda!) Nice to meet you!
Points of Interest & Landmarks
Historic Walking Areas, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Bars & Clubs
Sushi is the undisputed King of Japanese foods, and Tokyo has a long and proud history of it. First gaining popularity on the streets of 19th century Tokyo, where food vendors slid fish over mounds of pickled rice to feed the masses, today sushi has been elevated to an art form, and nowhere is this more clear than at Jiro Ono's Sukiyabashi Jiro. You go to this restaurant, rated with a stunning 3 Michelin stars, and inspiring the documentary 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi,' if you want a top-notch Japanese sushi-ya experience. In a locale seating only ten, unique fish selections and the absolute freshest cuts are presented as a form of art, over 80 years in the making. With an obvious dedication to taste, the sushi at Sukiyabashi Jiro isn't over-worked, or too creative: it's small plate after small plate of simple, traditional flavors, served at the exact right temperature (sushi should be eaten within seconds of being served!), with the exact right combination of ingredients to make the mouth water and the stomach fall in love. Jiro likely won't greet you, and isn't a big conversationalist - but he respects food in a way that can make even the pickiest fish fan happy they came.
If you're in the mood for fish but don't fancy the cool, quiet presentation and fast pace of Jiro's Michelin star restaurants, try the Tuskiji Fish Market. Tsujiki is the biggest seafood wholesale market in the world, catering to restauranteurs and chefs alike, but has plenty to interest hungry visitors, too. You'll get a meal and a show if you go during the early morning bustle of activity, when the inner market is reserved for a live auction of some of the fattiest cuts of giant deep-sea fish. The outer market caters to retail tastes: everything from cutting knives to sushi-themed knick-knacks are on sale, alongside fresh vegetables, spices, and more. Of course, there's also a trove of restaurants and stalls, brilliantly located next to Tokyo's It-Spot for buying the best fish. Grab sushi at Daiwa or Sushi Dai, and chirashi (bowls of varied fish cuts served over vinegar rice) at Yamazaki or Sushi Sei. If you want a heartier meal, venture to a street stall or sit down spot for warm ramen - perfect for chilly mornings. Shellfish, roe, caviar, and more are enough to qualify as sightseeing fuel for the rest of your day.
Traditional Tokyo-style ramen combines a salty shoyu-flavored chicken broth with crimped noodles, scallions, and dashi. While fantastic ramen can be found all over the Ebisu district, AFURI restaurant serves some of the best, with each dish a delightful combination of flavors that leaves guests stuffed and satisfied. Presented in a traditional setting, bowls come adorned with butter-soft slices of pork, menma, egg, kamaboko, and seaweed, just to name a few possible toppings.
Asakusa, a historic district of Tokyo that seems preserved in time, offers visitors a smorgasbord of dining options in one of the metropolis' most atmospheric locations. Sitting in the shadow of the impressive Sensō-ji temple and studded with Edo-period remnants entwined with the modern cafes and trendy shops of Nakamise street, this is where locals and visitors alike come to indulge in crispy tempura and delicious cold soba noodles. With over seventy restaurants to choose from, it can be difficult to choose just one palette-pleaser. However, there are a few winners that really stick out. Visit Asakusa Imahan for hot-pot served by waitresses in kimono, or Hitsumabushi for flaky eel on rice, Daikokuya for tempura in served alongside a Meiji-Era aesthetic, or Namiki Yabusoba for traditional soba noodles with a one-of-a-kind flavor. Yakisoba, Okonomiyaki, Sushi ... as if the area didn't have enough to choose from, on certain days the Sensō-ji temple area even plays host to a number of street stalls! So come hungry!
The Chūō ward of Tokyo contains some of the city's trendiest, most up-market shopping areas. It also happens to be home to just as many wonderful cake and sweet shops. If after indulging in fish and noodles you need to compliment all that salt with a little sugar, head here. Be aware that while Japan has a long history of delicious desserts - from bread filled with red bean adzuki paste to delicate wagashi - pastry chefs in Tokyo have also mastered the art of bringing a definitive Japanese taste to traditional French treats. Chūō city's best spots especially excel at this: millefeuille resplendent with jellied strawberries, houjicha roll cakes with chantilly cream, matcha green tea croissants, and selections of cakes and breads that have been subtly altered to be less sweet and dense than those in Paris, but just as flavorful. Some of the best locations (and their menu highlights!) below.
While Chūō City might be the place for dessert, a single street within Chūō's Ginza district takes the cake, so to speak. Tree-lined Marunouchi is known, in addition to the haute pastries and fusion desserts for which the area is famed, for its traditionally Japanese treats. Located in the heart of Tokyo's luxury shopping district, the lavish shops offer both cafe seating and takeaway options. Enjoy treats made of seasonal fruits, milky puddings, and spiced juices at Mikimoto Lounge; grab soft daifuku rice cakes pancake dorayaki at Ginza Kanra; or fruity anmitsu, silky sweet oshiruko soup, or shaved ice with syrup at Ginza Kanoko. Really step back into traditional Tokyo at TORAYA, which has been serving high-grade bean paste desserts for over five-hundred years (delicate wagashi, rice flour confections, monaka, ginger pancakes, and its famous adzuki and cocoa fondant.) The area also has spots for yōkan jellied puddings and manjū dough buns, so keep an eye out and explore!
If you want to eat udon that's approved by the locals, brave the fast-moving line at Maruka. Most popular are its flat-edged Sanuki udon noodles flavored by dashi (fish and kelp soup stock) and served with delectable toppings, from fresh vegetables to tempura. Celebrated for clear flavors and freshness, the light meals at Maruka include both refreshing cold dishes for summer and curried dishes that offer a winter warm-up - you won't go wrong!
If you're tired of sitting down to eat and you'd like a little adventure served up as a side dish, get your plastic fork ready and put your walking shoes on! Omoide Yokocho is a street food paradise. A packed, tiny lane is host to a handful of restaurants and stalls that locals favor, despite the gritty appearance and it's incongruous nickname: 'Piss Alley.' It takes a bold heart (and stomach!) to overcome that, but believe me, it's worth the courage. Here, the soul and root of everyday, hearty Japanese cuisine come together, and the Alley's popularity is a sign of its triumph. Fill up on yakitori skewers, bowls of hot oden or ramen, fried offal, and fried vegetable balls in slick broth ('kakiage'), then wash it down with a cold, dry local beer.
While in Japan, you might want to try its celebrated drink of origin, the fermented rice wine, sake. Meishu Center sake tasting bar offers guests the opportunity to try the brands from various breweries throughout Japan in manageable portions and at reasonable cost. With over 100 different bottles to choose from, hailing from nearly fifty estates, the Meishu Center makes tasting your way through the best of it simple for novices and seasoned sippers alike. Set menus offer eight different tasting options (in English and in Japanese), but the staff is happy to accommodate guest preference. You can build your own flight, or allow staff to guide and suggest, based on your tastes. Drinks come with tasting notes and information on the regions and origin stories. (And in case sake isn't quite your cup of tea, other liqueurs and drinks are on offer to toast 'kanpai!' with.)
Admittedly, some of Tokyo's charm is in its strangeness. From Ice Bars to Alice in Wonderland-themed cafes, there are a few eateries whose decor strays far from normal. If you're looking for an experience while you dine (and not necessarily a gourmet experience) in this Michelin-studded city, why not check into Alcatraz E.R.? The admittedly gimmicky restaurant has a waitstaff decked out as doctors and nurses, and 'patients' are handed their food behind bars, the meals served in sterile metallic dishes and the drinks presented in test tubes and beakers that allow you to create your own 'medicine.' While a menu of chicken fingers and dyed curries don't make this a particularly exciting culinary night out, it's all about presentation. Drinks with risqué titles are presented with full sets of dialogue by your 'doctor' or 'nurse,' 'prison breaks' occur once a night, and each cell has its own horror-movie decor, straight from out of a Rob Zombie film. Great for some interesting photos, and a little bit of indulgence in the Shibuya district's unique flair for dramatics, pushing the limit, playing dressing up, and creating a one-of-a-kind nightlife destination.
Izakaya are a staple of Japanese life, fashioned as 'all you can eat/all you can drink' locations that charge by the hour. Teyandei takes this nationwide favorite and gives it its own flare. Armed with a cheerful staff and enough menu specials to excite the pickiest eater, Teyandei can offer visitors a sampler of food from across the nation at a very reasonable purse price. Avocado salads, deep fried yams, honeyed nut clusters, and thin strips of meat take your tongue across a range of flavors. Lauded for its adventurous menu (horse sashimi, anyone...?) and its talented chef, Teyandei tops the izakaya charts, no matter what taste you're after.
Fugu, or 'Japanese puffer fish,' has become a household name - mostly because it's a food that can kill you! Before you panic, the head chef at Usuki Fugu Yamadaya was trained for over three years before receiving a licence to serve fugu, and trained for an additional ten years to perfect the careful preparation it takes to render the poisonous fugu fish harmlessly tasty. If you're willing to take the risk (the Japanese consume over 10,000 tons of the stuff per year) at Usuki, a Michelin honored restaurant, then prepare to be wowed by the stellar presentation and side-dishes that accompany the translucent slices of Fugu sashimi. Dip the slices into ponzu vinegar, and enjoy a portion served fried and in a hot pot style. Finish off with a taste of fruit, and voila. You'll have had a great meal, and earned bragging rights to boot!