Hanlleyu. I knew why I came up this way, and for none other reason than the food, and maybe to bask in the nausea of Korean romanticist who steal Japanese Jukujo's souls. But honestly, I like spicy food and stews and pickled vegetables that challenge my taste buds. I also love the little funky cafes that line the main thoroughfares and alley ways, each with their own little eclectic menus and interior decor. This place is Korea.
Shin-Okuba represents more than just a place to relish in Korean culinary delights and K-pop culture, but a place where Koreans can express themselves through their culture. You can feel the local vibe in the air as you're walking down narrow walkways and footpaths. I have personally been to mainland Korea six times, so a lot of the nostalgia was there for me. Not that I missed it, but I clearly remember the vibe the Korean shopkeepers gave off. I was able to pick up on their Korean accents as they butchered the Japanese language, like they were proud of it, and how they hid behind a veneer of kindness while price gouging you at every end. It's just like I remember it both in Korea and in Los Angeles.
For the dreamers and the hopeless romantics this place is heaven, and I can see why. Shin-Okuba offers a convenient escape from the real Japan. The one redeeming quality of this area though were the seemingly thousands of Jukujo. I must've stopped have a dozen gorgeous Japanese Jukujo and interviewed a small group while my J-Mother was browsing around in one of the shops. The one with the big tits told me that she had no interest in the Korean boom, and that she was there with her friend. I immediately picked up on her the moment I laid eyes on her and motioned her over to me. I am shameless, you know. She was also the hottest looking in the group, but wasn't able to seize the moment with the contact information. She came down from Chiba just to spend a lazy afternoon with her friends. I was reassured at that moment that she kept her senses and didn't get swept away Korea fever. I loved her instantly and her jovial nature and hearty smile. Then my J-mom came out of the store and there I was.
Amazing how close Shinjuku is, and how the two cities contrast each other. Shin-Okubo is a good place to walk around if you want to get a better context of the layout of central Tokyo. There are so many streets that connect you to just about everywhere, and every other station. You could easily spend a whole afternoon here.
Okubo Dori(street) looks a little like Olympus Street in Koreatown Los Angeles. The K-Plaza is very similar to some of the buildings in L.A., which have all Korean owned businesses.
And then of course the Korean signs written on every single building. That's the same things you see in Los Angeles. And then there're K-pop Mom & Pop shops next to every single Cafe and restaurant you walk by. Talk about city planning. Everywhere you go the shops are strategically placed to keep your eyes affixed on something related to both food and K-Pop! Here in Japan, bored J-housewives love to spend time with friends over extravagant lunches and hopeless romanticism, it's almost as of Shin-Okuba was designed just for the Japanese Jukujo, so that she stays dreamy that way the Koreans restaurateurs and love peddlers can take all of their money and keep them dreamy eyed and coming back for more.
Shops even have colorful chairs in the lines now with a menu affixed to a placard, and right next to that is a Korean K-Pop shop. You don't even have to stand up and wait, just sit down and wait, and then they play Korean drama songs through the shop's speakers while you're waiting.
Again, everything is catered to the Jukujo so that their eyes are constantly arrested by food and love.
The one thing that unites us all is food, at least it's the only thing that most people can agree on and one Koreans do very well. These little hot cakes are stuffed with red beans, some with honey, others with some sweet jelly or fruits. Hot and sweet with a crispy outside. You can find these anywhere in Shin-Okubo, and all of them taste about the same.
If you love Korean BBQ then just about everywhere you go here you can enjoy pig done up right, Korean style, which is usually over a hot brisket and grill. Flame kissed cow ass and pork belly is awesome with some cold beer and yaki-babimba ( mixed vegetables with lightly crispy rice). But we didn't eat here. Instead, we headed to a place called Taishikan, which came highly recommended by Tune In Tokyo
The appeal of this restaurant is the national flag on the outside and the traditional Korean(ness) of the whole place. When we entered they gave us a large jug of Korean Oolong tea, which tasted exactly like I had remembered it. Very refreshing with a strong barley taste.
For starters, we had Korean style pancakes to the left which were stuffed with green onions and octopus. Crispy outside. Salad with some sort of tangy dressing, kimchi, and veggies at the bottom and seaweed soup. The pricing is skewed towards two people minimum on course menus, in other words, we can not order different course sets. If your partner chooses course A, then the both of you have to order the same course, you do not have the option of choosing course B. One course per pair. That's how we both understood it and we didn't like that part.
This hot bowl was very hot and is what charred the rice slightly, which I love by the way. The rice and vegetables were perfect. Absolutely my favorite Korean food.
This was the main dish, boiled chicken in a broth with vegetables. The chicken was excellent as it was tender and juicy and went very well with rice. Overall we were both satisfied with everything.
Afterwards we walked it off as there were plenty of the same idol worship to see. My overall impressions of Shin-Okubo were OK. I do see myself coming back for the food and sweet cakes. Compared to Seoul, Shin-Okubo is very clean and the people, for the most part are friendly and try their best to imitate Japanese hospitality. I highly recommend coming on a weekday in order to avoid the crowds. The cafes are also quite chic if you want something strange and out of the ordinary.