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What’s better than sushi? Your own children making you sushi! (Especially when under the tutelage of a master sushi chef.)
What’s better than sushi? Your own children making you sushi! (Especially when under the tutelage of a master sushi chef.)

A Culinary Crawl in Japan!

Rainbow grilled cheeses, life-affirming sushi and mochi we made ourselves

Neil Patrick Harris is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Wondercade. In his spare time he also acts — fairly well, too, as his Tony and Emmy Awards can attest.

February 14, 2024 2:20 pm

 In Partnership with Japan National Tourism Organization

Neil, David and the kids went to JAPAN! This article highlights some of the spectacular food they had there, as well as the country’s food and cooking culture. Click here for another article about the adventurous, well, adventures they got into in Japan; click here to be inspired by what they learned about the country’s rich culture, long history and time-honored traditions.

The food in Japan… The. Food. The. Food!

Fresh? Impeccably. Presentation? Gorgeous. Quality? Top-tier. Flavor? Transcendent. One thing that David noticed was how much Japanese cuisine celebrates all four seasons. In fact, we learned that Japan has microseasons — some say as many as 72, so you’re basically guaranteed seasonal food that’s at its absolute peak quality any time of year. During our visit, there was a small, bitter-tasting fish that we kept running into (well, eating), and tons of Japanese eggplant. This is true all over the country, from Kanazawa to Kyoto.

Actually, speaking of Kyoto, we were lucky to make some food ourselves. In Kyoto, we went to a mochi-making class, where we pounded the bejeezus out of sweet glutinous rice with a wooden mallet, and then ate our freshly-made cakes with toppings like a paste that tasted like peanut butter, soy sauce and brown sugar. Deelish.

The key to making mochi: Don’t be nice with the rice. Pound the hell out of it.

As we explored Tokyo, we went to Kappabashi Kitchen Town, which, as the name implies, is a cluster of over 150 shops that sell kitchen supplies and culinary accouterments to restaurant professionals and serious hobbyists. David, being a trained chef, was absolutely giddy and bought a bunch of gadgets. Dude was like a kid in a candy shop. As were our actual kids, who loved (and successfully begged us to buy a few of) those fabulously photorealistic fake food displays you often see in Japanese restaurant windows. We also picked up a few beautiful chopstick sets as keepsakes — now stored at home in a Japan-themed cabinet, where we also keep sake. (See what I did there? Keepsake? Keep sake? You’re welcome. Wocka wocka.)

And then? And THEN…L’EffervescenceMmmm. A three Michelin-starred French-Japanese restaurant I simply can’t recommend enough. Not only was the food life-changing, but so was the service…which, frankly, is the case all over this country, from convenience stores to clothing shops. Each course was flawless, like works of art. Risotto with lobster and sea urchin, a salad with 58 vegetables (!), a perfectly prepared turnip (who knew?), delicate duck ravioli floating in broth. Just…wow. After our meal, the remarkable staff walked us out and were still bowing, even as the car turned the corner.

Intricate, creative and nothing short of sublime, our meal at L’Effervescence was a culinary highlight

Another day, After a lunch of ricotta pancakes and even more sugary snacking in Harajuku (rainbow-colored grilled cheeses may or may not have been involved), we, shockingly, had room for dinner at the amazing Sushi Shin. It was here where I believe I witnessed David’s soul leave his body in rapture. And after a couple bites, mine wasn’t far behind. And then the kids’. There was lots of moaning. Good times. Omakase perfection, one delicious dish after another: crab with edamame, seared octopus, tuna with ponzu and onions, raw beef with egg. The nigiri sushi was just set on the counter one piece at a time: shrimp, mackerel, sea bream….it was heaven.

I am not one of those people who takes food pics, but COME ON. Also, I don’t want to make you jealous, but it tasted even better than it looks.

The next day was another bright and early one: a 6:30 a.m. wakeup for an 8 a.m. stop at Tsukiji Market, one of the world’s biggest fish markets, for a tour and cooking class. We sauntered around, nibbling on all sorts of seafood (and some mochi) until our tour guide Yoshi brought us back to his own small restaurant — aptly named Sushi Yoshi — and taught us the proper way to prepare sushi. (Did you know pouring a bit of hot water on fish makes it easier to remove the skin? Well, neither did I. How Wondercational!)

Given that they grew up snacking on Doritos and Reese’s (sorry David, that’s on me), Gideon and Harper were amazingly game to eat anything and everything

Finally, it was off to Shinjuku to experience the bar-hopper’s paradise that is Golden Gai: roughly 300 tiny bars packed into a single block. Since we didn’t leave the kids at the hotel, we’ll have to indulge there on another adventure.

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