Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Nearby the Tokyo Hilton: Shinjuku, Kabukicho, Menya Musashi Ramen and Mentsudan Udon

Staying at the Hilton Tokyo means you're right at the doorstep of one of Tokyo's busiest wards - Shinjuku. The hotel is in the quieter western area with government office buildings and skyscrapers but is only ten minutes walk away from shopping and dining options galore.

Maria na Klaibaan (a Thai photographer-blogger) and I could not resist the lure of Shinjuku at night. We were only staying at the Hilton for one evening, so we had to make the most of what we had. So even at 11:30pm, we snuck out to see the nightlife.

Shinjuku at night
I love this intersection leading up to the Shinjuku station, especially the train bridge.

Shinjuku at night
Kabukicho, the entertainment district, is as vibrant as ever.

Yasukuni Dori at Shinjuku
This is all on Yasukuni Dori, which is probably the most photographed street in Shinjuku. Lining the north side of the street is Kabukicho in all its neon splendour. Further down there are department stores and malls.

Shinjuku at night
It's well past midnight now but this part of town never sleeps. I bet that McD is 24 hours. I didn't go near it to find out.

Kabukicho has lots of eateries
There are so many eateries in Kabukicho.

Kombini Onigiri!
But we were already very full from the amazing dinner at the Hilton's Musashino, so we just had a little onigiri midnight snack. I love the convenience stores. Although I have to say, sometimes the pakcaged food quality is a bit more erratic these days.

Homeless under the bridge
Sleeping under that train bridge, a homeless man, it seems, with all his belongings.

Uncharacteristic mist and rain this time of year
The next day we got to go out and explore Shinjuku in the daytime.

It was uncharacteristically wet and rainy this time of year. The world's weather isn't what it used to be. Autumn leaves are late too. But the rain is very light, so it didn't hamper our exploration.

We were heading to the famous Menya Musashi for ramen, one of the hotel's recommendations. But as we had time before the shop opened, we each went about exploring the vicinity.

This fruits and veg store has been around at least 10 years
A charming little fruits and vegetables grocery shop - this has been around for 10 years or so. I used to use it as a landmark in my previous trips.

Futher down the street from that grocery store near Nishi Shinjuku Hotel is this Mentsu-dan self-service udon shop which I once loved. I just had to come and see it again. They are from Kagawa where sanuki udon originated. Mmmh, yes, their udon are springy chewy noodles unlike the limp doughy kind we commonly get.

They now have an English menu
Looks like they have an English menu now. Hmm, means the tourists have discovered this place.

Fried toppings
After you make your order, you can select the toppings you want. If yours is a hot soup udon, there's a hot broth dispenser further down the line. Help yourself to refills too.

My hot udon with selected tempura
Well, I have to say that it was still delicious but not as nice as I remember. One big letdown - the cold tempura. It was still early in the day, around 11am, so I'm not sure if these have been pre-fried much earlier and sitting in the cold. Oh well, for a bowl of just udon alone from 310 yen (about US$3), it's still a good deal.

Menya Musashi in Shinjuku
This is Menya Musashi (麺屋武蔵), just a couple of streets away on the other side of the main road (〒 160-0023 Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Nishi 7-2-6 K-1 Building 1F, tel: +81-3-3363-4634). Addresses in Japan are notoriously hard to fathom, so here's a map.

Musashi refers to the famed warrior Miyamoto Musashi, a master of the double sword style. Yes, he wields two blades. So the broth here is a mix of two powerhouses - pork bone and fish (saury).

Menya Musashi has an energetic vibe
Once inside you'll be taken in by the energetic vibe of the staff making the noodles with dramatic flair and enthusiastic chants. Almost like warriors swishing blades about, as they boil and strain the noodles, before finally delivering it to the bowl with a flourish. My dining companions also noted that the staff are interestingly all fairly good-looking. Hmm, eye candy to go with your ramen?

Choose your ramen by vending machine
Like many other eateries in Japan, you make your order and payment via a vending machine. There are really only three choices - regular Musashi, two kinds of miso and tsukemen (noodles for dipping into a thick sauce).

Regular Ramen
This is the regular bowl - comes with two hefty pieces of buta kakuni (stewed pork belly). The other toppings you can choose as indicated on the vending machine too, but the server will check with you if you want double portion of noodles, strength of broth and noodle texture.

Miso Ramen
This is the miso, which I picked just out of curiosity (and also because almost everyone else was having the regular). Comes with cha-shu slices and buta kakuni. The broth is really thick bodied and unctuous (god, I hate that word, but it's so apt in this case, because the stock is just so rich). The miso was strong but not overpowering. It did set itself apart from the regular broth.

This is the tsukemen. I didn't try this but seems it was pretty decent too.

Yes, we have Menya Musashi in Singapore too, but judging from what we had, they might as well be unrelated. The red, white and black broths in Singapore are nothing like this. I'm not saying one is better than the other, but they are so different.

Candid shot at Shinjuku crossing
Random candid shot, at the same Shinjuku junction.

I love this train bridge
Did I tell you I love the train bridge?

There are regular shuttle buses to the Hilton Tokyo from Shinjuku
It's really easy to get to and from central Shinjuku if you're staying at the Hilton. Regular buses come to a special bus stop near the train station. As you can see, the shuttle is very modern, clean and comfortable.

We would next to go the Conrad Tokyo (also under the same hotel group) and stay a couple of nights there. It's also amazingly spacious and awesome. The photos are gonna take a long time (I have over a thousand!) so bear with me while I coddle them together into a post.


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