All posts filed under: Japan

The Best Restaurants in the World: A Definitive Ranking by Blake MacKay, Master of English Literature and Professional Expert

(JK. But not about the Masters part.) I am on a four-and-a-half month, ’round-the-world “honeymoon” with my wife, hence this very blog. I’ve worked in the restaurant industry in New York City for seven years and when I travel, I care about nothing more than my meals. Below are the top ten restaurants I visited in the first five weeks of my trip (Bangkok street food not included cause that just wouldn’t be fair to anyone). I will update the list about once monthly through the end of the journey. See snapshots at @wearethemacks and @blakewmackay and hit me up at heywearethemacks@gmail.com. 1. Huen Muan Jai (Chiang Mai, Thailand): Everything that is good and right about Northern Thai cooking is housed at Huen Muan Jai, a restaurant from an Iron Chef Thailand contestant housed in a traditional Lanna house/garden setting. The khao soi and Northern Thai pork sausage are beyond, and I will dream about them until we meet again someday. (Spread in photo above.) 2. Nahm (Bangkok, Thailand): Currently the top restaurant in Asia—at …

3/三 from Osaka

Scene-setter: We recently employed a gif of No-Face, but at the risk of being repetitive, Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away dovetails beautifully with roaming through Osaka’s covered arcades. Pound-the-table recommendation: Wasabi, a female-chefed slip of a restaurant that adapts the kushi-katsu (fried skewer) tradition for a more refined audience. It’s a tasting menu, but you just tell them to stop when you’re full and pay accordingly. If you can’t seem to hit the brakes, like us, you’ll rack up a no-joke bill; but if you have some self-control, you could be in and out of Wasabi on virtually any budget. Good luck with that one. Back-pocket fact: Instant ramen was invented in 1958 by Momofuku Ando in a suburb of Osaka. Learn all about it—and customize your own Cup Noodles—at the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum.

MACKS Approved: Ishigaki, Japan

Click through for our Google map. 1. Hotel Cucule: Any hotel that provides cult-chic uniforms for its guests instead of robes is A-OK in our book. 2. Euglena Garden: This cute cafe/bar is a temple to euglena, which Wikipedia appetizingly describes as a “genus of single-celled flagellate protists.” We think it’s sort of like algae? Our euglena slushie was delish, but we opted to skip the euglena Oreo ice cream. 3. Sumibiyakiniku Yamamoto: Beef place #1, charcoal grills. Come early for the best cuts. 4. Kingyu: Beef place #2, gas grills. Not as atmospheric as Sumibiyakiniku, but we preferred the actual meat here. 5. Penguin Shokudo: This adorbs restaurant specializing in noodle and rice bowls is owned by Ishigaki’s culinary power couple, the Penguins. She hails from Tokyo, he from China, and their artisanal, small-batch chili oil is lauded throughout Japan. Seriously, there’s a waiting list. Their story was even made into a biopic a couple of years ago called Penguin Fufu. Cross-cultural love, scrappy entrepreneurship, lots of food porn—this story has everything. 6. Yaeyama …

The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway: Okinawa and Ishigaki

Blue Seal Ice Cream In the 1940’s, the only thing American GIs loved more than hunting Nazis and assaulting strangers was ice cream, and Blue Seal wisely tapped into that market by opening their first shop in Okinawa. Today, their ice cream outposts can be found throughout the island (and the rest of Japan too). This is great news for us since it means we’ve been able to Blue Seal daily. Not an overstatement. The ice cream is dense and rich, and the flavors totally Okinawan. The shiiquasa sherbet, Okinawa salt cookie, sugar cane, and Ryukyu royal milk tea varieties are all A+—though we can’t vouch for the San Francisco mint chocolate, “a mint flavor that is as refreshing as the clear skies of San Francisco.” Like, wha? The stand-out, though, is the soft serve twist that could go toe-to-toe with Tosi. It’s vanilla and beni-imo, Okinawan purple sweet potato, and it’s light and luscious and balanced and addictive. As long as your cone isn’t stale, it’s a handful of perfect frozen food. Mirumiru Atop …

Japanese Beaches, Starring a Young Mayim Bialik

Ishigaki, a wee island closer to Taiwan than mainland Japan, gives off a Hawaiian or Floridian vibe. The downtown is charming and walkable, there’s a Club Med, and there are at least as many novelty t-shirt shops as inhabitants. It’s an accessible semi-tropical destination for tourists, mostly Japanese, but it’s still possible to find a deserted beach, at least in the off-season. If you make the drive to Uganzaki, on the northwestern knob of Ishigaki, it’s either because you’re a surfer or you love lighthouses. We don’t surf and lighthouses, like, they’re fine, but we came in search of a sandy strip of beach. Take the left fork on the road that looks like nothing on the way to the lighthouse (these are not intended to be actual directions), walk down a Jurassic Parkish path… …and you’ll find just that. We had the whole beach to ourselves with the exception of a far-off fisherman, who was doing quite well for himself. We also picked up some sick (read: free) coral chopstick rests, and now our …

3/三 from Ishigaki

Scene-setter: This 1968 cover of the Zombies’ “I Love You” is groovy perfection, and the surf-rocky vibe puts us in an Ishigaki state of mind. Pound-the-table recommendation: If you visit Ishigaki and don’t find the beaches and the beef, that’s on you. But in order to set yourself up for success, lodge in the heinous-from-the-outside, but oh so charming and spare-on-the-inside Hotel Cucule which also happens to be across the street from the airport bus depot. Back-pocket fact: In the 15th century, while Japan was doing their Shogun thing, Okinawa and Ishigaki and the surrounding islands were flourishing under the Ryukyu Kingdom. They had their own language (all but dead now), their own religion (which involved a priestess cult, always a plus), and traded extensively with both China and Japan. Eventually they were brought under Japanese control and forced to assimilate.