Sometimes I feel like quite an unlikely candidate for my relatively adventurous life of packing up and moving to new countries and taking exciting city breaks galore: almost every kind of transport makes me feel sick, travelling makes me very anxious, and I’m a creature of habit and comforts. The adventures always make it worthwhile though, don’t they? Still, when we finally landed in Tokyo after a long journey in the beginning of July, all I wanted was a bit of comfort food.
We were staying in Shinjuku, for proximity to the train station and some good vegan spots, so it was only a ten minute walk to our first eatery, Ain.Soph Ripple. Of course it would have been fun to have some Japanese food right away, but we’d been travelling for so long and were so overwhelmed, it had to be burgers!
This place was a small, predominantly takeaway place with one big communal table, a nice relaxed atmosphere, and an excellent Aimee Mann soundtrack. The menu consisted of four different burgers, one salad, a burrito and burrito bowl, and a few side dishes. I can rarely resist mock chicken, so I opted for the crispy chicken burger. It did not disappoint! The patty had great texture and taste, and was really juicy and delicious, except for getting a bit lost under all that tartare sauce.
Dr HH got the messiest burger he could, as usual. This was the ripple cheese burger, which he described as extremely slippery and impractical, but very tasty. It featured a beef patty, some avo, cheese, and fried onions: all the good stuff, basically.
We also had a good salty hit of fries, which were pretty standard fast food fare and hit the spot.
After so much travelling, of course we needed a dessert too! They offered waffles and French toast, and we decided to share the latter – we weren’t really hungry at this point, we just wanted the first sweet treat of the holiday. Due to something of a miscommunication with the server, we ended up with a little pot of sour cream on the side. Dr HH was bold enough to assume that the Japanese had discovered a delicacy that the rest of us have overlooked by pairing French toast with sour cream…alas, they have not. It was not a good combo. Fortunately, the toast on its own was excellent: super soft inside, with lovely flavours of coconut and maple.
As we were paying up, we also snaffled a packet of cookies to take home for breakfast the next day (cookies are an acceptable holiday breakfast, as far as I’m concerned). They were crunchy and delicious!
There are two other Ain.Soph branches in Tokyo, which we hadn’t planned to visit. That plan was scuppered somewhat when one of our other eateries turned us away because they were too full, so we soon found ourselves at the fancier Shinjuku branch, Ain.Soph Journey. Dr HH and I arrived here with extremely different appetites and took wildly opposing attitudes to ordering. I went for a plate of karaage, which quickly became my favourite dish in Japan: basically, fried chicken. This was sublime, so juicy and tender. I thought it might come with chips, but I didn’t complain (too much).
Dr HH, on the other hand, ordered the Everything Course, a set menu including a little bit of everything from the menu (well, not quite everything, but a lot!). Unfortunately, most of the dishes were a bit underwhelming. The salad parfait sounded exciting but it was just a salad in a glass – though the dressing was reportedly very tasty. The tomato soup was a bit uninspired. On the main plate, the karaage was the highlight (good to know I’d picked a winner!), the Spanish omelette was good but not groundbreaking, and the wrap was very leafy but still flavoursome.
His dessert plate was also a bit underwhelming: there was some fruit (yawn), a strawberry cake with cream on top, and some rum and raisin ice cream. They were all good but not overwhelmingly so. My dessert, on the other hand…
…will go down in history as one of the all time greats. The creme brulee was so delicious! It was smooth and creamy, with a perfectly caramelised top. Also, bonus points for how massive it was! Dr HH was extremely jealous that the two dishes I chose were so exquisitely superior to his.
But he didn’t have to miss out for long! We couldn’t resist visiting Ain.Soph Journey Kyoto at the halfway point of our trip, largely so he could have a full portion of this masterpiece and not just a few spoonfuls of mine.
They had burgers on their menu, unlike the Tokyo branch of the same name – I stuck with my chicken one, and Dr HH went one better with the cutlet burger, which had quite a hammy texture and taste, and a sauce that perfectly balanced the sweet and savoury. It was one of the all time great burgers!
And he got the creme brulee for dessert, while I tried the chocolate gateau, which was insanely rich and chocolatey – very good indeed, but possibly a bit much after a big dinner.
And on our last night in Japan we decided to return to Ain.Soph Journey Tokyo to revisit some of our favourite dishes: we shared a plate of delicious karaage, along with these cutlets, which were the same ones Dr HH had in his burger in Kyoto. Then we split a couple of desserts: the creme brulee, one last time (who knows when we’ll have a dessert that good again?!), and the heavenly pancakes, which seems to be something of a speciality. They were very plump, cakey pancakes, so I was a big fan – they were not as good as the creme brulee, but were still a great dessert.
I know nobody really wants to be that tourist who visits a country with amazing local dishes and just eats burgers…but Japan was quite an overwhelming country to visit, and we found these comfort food options to be very much a necessity from time to time. And while there were many surprising things about Japan, the fact that I found one of the all time great creme brulees there is perhaps the biggest surprise of all!