The show ‘Gaki no Tsukai Ya Arahende!’ TV show and comedian act Downtown is very well known throughout Japan for their improvised group comedy and daring shows. The group (formed of 5 members) present different shows, including pranks, talk shows, cooking and tasting contests and batsu games. One of my favourite shows of theirs is the ‘Foodie Report’ show where the members of the group compete with each other for the title of the best reviewer of unusual restaurants in Tokyo.
If you would like to watch it, it is in two parts on YouTube. To watch it, please click here for part 1 and here for part 2. Although these are in Japanese, it might be interesting to watch them anyway as it would be easier to find the locations of the restaurants if you are ever in Tokyo and they also show what all the dishes served on the show look like.
Many small Japanese businesses are helped through celebrity endorsements on shows like this, so the show is a good way to promote new local places to eat that may be otherwise unknown. Usually, the restaurants serve unique dishes to make them stand out from the competition. This was the part I enjoyed most as it is very cool to see Japanese chefs putting so much creativity into their food! Here are some reviews of two of the locations the reviewers went to during the ‘Foodie Report’ show- ‘Bondy Curry’, presented by Matsumoto Hitoshi of Downtown, and ‘Taiyou no Tomato Men’, presented by Endo Shozo of Cocorico.
Bondy Curry, Jimbocho
The first on the list was Bondy’s Curry, located near Jimbocho and Meiji University. It was quite difficult to find! Many of the good Japanese restaurants are still placed in an obscure office or domestic buildings, which is also the case here with Bondy Curry. Sharing a hallway with a small bookshop, the line in the waiting area is full of people waiting to be seated even before the restaurant opens. A waitress with a menu takes your order before you come in, and then you wait in line until you are called into the restaurant.
Bondy’s Curry has a lot of curry options- from mild to hot currys, the choices are varied. There is an option of different meats for the curry, or fish, or vegetables or tofu, so you certainly won’t be stranded with no choice. Their beef curry is their most popular one, so we went for it being at a loss with the menu already. After only waiting ten minutes, we were called into the restaurant and seated at our table. Once we had sat down, the standard water/hand-towel/cutlery set was brought to our table. No longer than 10 minutes after that, the curry came, accompanied by rice with grated cheese on top, a gravy boat full of curry and boiled potatoes on a separate plate, presented with butter.
Although the presentation may be unorthodox (the potatoes placed separately from the curry are an unusual choice), the curry looked delicious on the show and did not disappoint in person. During the episode, the manager of the restaurant mentions to Matsumoto Hitoshi that the potatoes on the side are something that he invented, as he wanted to preserve the potatoes whole to keep them from going soggy in the curry. This is the main reason for what makes Bondy Curry stand out from the rest! I am not sure if I agree with the manager as I don’t think the curry affects the texture of the potatoes enough for them to be omitted from the dish and placed separately. In any case, this is an interesting curio about Bondy Curry and it truly is delicious enough to go there for the curry.
The medium curry is still very spicy so I would recommend the mild as standard. The lack of potatoes and carrots in the curry was a little disappointing, but the meal really was very good- the meat was very tender, so cooked for a long time for sure, and the curry spices were very vibrant. The meal was also greatly improved by an unsuspected dessert choice, as the restaurant also makes its own Japanese-style pudding (à la crème caramel). This was truly wonderful, with a fabulously creamy custard and a hard burnt sugar crust and syrup, making for a perfect finish to the meal!
Here are some photos of the location and a link to the Tabelog website, where there is a specific map for the restaurant and reviews from previous diners.
I would highly recommend the restaurant for a taste of Japanese curry that steps away from the standard of a Go-go curry chain. This is really a very refined Japanese curry experience!
‘Taiyou no Tomato Men’ Restaurant, (‘The Sun’s Tomato Noodle Restaurant)
This restaurant was presented by Endo Shozo in the same Gaki no Tsukai restaurant review episode, and for me, it was very surprising to see a tomato ramen in the first place! Ramen is a Japanese soup with homemade long noodles that are characteristically slurped by business men eating their favourite comfort food before going home. It usually consists of a pork or seafood broth, and vegetable based ones are very unusual, although even Tokyo is seeing a rise in vegetarian customers who are unable to eat the Japanese staple as a result. Recently, however, more varied and daring styles of ramen have been getting a lot of attention, including ones that take a step away from tradition.
‘Taiyou No Tomatomen’ is one of these unorthodox restaurants, as they serve their signature ramen with a tomato base soup (hence the name of the restaurant) and even more daringly, with cheese on top! Having never had a tomato ramen before I didn’t know what to expect, but I was hoping it would take the best aspects of western tomato soup and fuse that together with some amazing Japanese noodles. The ramen came within 5 minutes of ordering, so upside for the quick service! They do also offer a wide variety of other tomato-based ramen, including a seafood ramen and a spicy ramen for those willing to take a walk on the wild side. They also present special seasonal ramen flavours, so make sure to check out their Japanese website to see what they are offering in season before you go.
Each of their ramen soups can be eaten with their signature risotto with homemade furikake and softened up with some of the tomato soup left over from the ramen.The soup was surprisingly light (for a tomato based soup), and yet it still had a wonderful warming quality that would be perfect for a cold Japanese day. Trust me, it gets very cold in Japan in late December and January. Although I ate it at the peak of summer due to some unfortunate planning, I really can confirm it is delicious even then! The noodles were quite thin, and there were slices of soft pork and chicken in the ramen as well as spinach and garlic for colour, adding flavour and substance to the dish. The cheese on top is a welcome addition that makes it taste quite unlike the typical student food of ‘ramen and cheese’. This dish has a richness and savoriness that defies any instant ramen!
After eating at the restaurant I had some time to look around inside, and I was very interested in some of the photos they had from various TV appearances. The vast majority of celebrity-endorsed restaurants I have been to in Japan make a point of showing which Japanese TV program they had appeared on, and it was exactly the same here! Their appearance on the Foodie Report Gaki no Tsukai episode was collated onto the wall, with photos of Endo Shozo presenting their tomato-rich ramen.
I truly love watching Japanese TV and especially cooking or food-related shows. The Foodie Report is always a good episode of Gaki no Tsukai as the comedians have very little previous experience of food reviewing and the techniques that TV food reviewers have in Japan are very specific and the comedians didn’t know many of them! This was actually my favourite part of the show, as Endo was definitely the best presenter out of the comedians and the ramen looked the best out of all the food they had to review. The other three comedians on the show- Hamada Masatoshi, Tanaka Naoki and Hosei Tsukite (formerly Hosei Yamasaki) all presented other restaurants, but unfortunately I couldn’t visit them all! If you would like to visit all the restaurants featured on the show, I have attached links below to their Tabelog pages, where you can find directions and reviews from other reviewers in Japan. I usually use Google Translate to find out what the reviewers say about each place.
Tanaka Naoki visited the Aoyama Karasutei omurice restaurant, Hamada Masatoshi visited the Akasaka Sumiyaki Kuni steak restaurant, and Hosei Tsukite visited the Ichigaya Mojihei okonomiyaki restaurant.
I hope you like my post about the Foodie Report episode of Gaki no Tsukai and if you are in Japan I would highly recommend both of the restaurants I visited as great places to grab some unconventional Japanese food!