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Chasing Cheap Michelin Stars in Tokyo - JAL Business and First Class

Chasing Cheap Michelin Stars in Tokyo - JAL Business and First Class

Old Dec 11, 19, 10:48 pm
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Chasing Cheap Michelin Stars in Tokyo - JAL Business and First Class

Hello all! We're back on the road for a week in Tokyo this time. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for those who can't stand scrolling through the masses of pictures), I'm a bit burnt out after recently finishing the last report from the summer. On top of having a fever, sore throat, and chills, this will be a much lighter report in terms of content and pictures.

If you enjoy this report, here are some of my previous trips that I've posted:

Good Things Come in 3s - Emirates, Qatar, and Singapore First Class
Czeching In and Jetting Out - LH F/J, FR Y, and BA F
Spring, Fall, and Hopefully Sakura in CX F, SQ NEW and Old Suites, CZ J, and OZ J/F
3 for the price of 2? RTW Babymoon to Japan, Maldives, UK (JL/EY/LH J/F/Apartment)
Slummin' it to Spain - BCN, PMI for some Park Hyatt, and MAD
The Journey is Half the Fun; RTW in SQ Suites/CX F/JL J/EK F/EY Apartment/AA F
Christmas in Vienna with a Splash of Porsche and FCT - LX/OS Y, OS J, LH F
Escaping to the Southern Hemisphere: A Bora Bora Getaway
Honeymoon In Europe (UK, France, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, etc.) - AA/LH/EK F


Itinerary
LAX-NRT on JL J (777)
Conrad Tokyo
Courtyard Tokyo Station
NRT-LAX on JL F (777)


We arrived at LAX during the Thanksgiving rush and it took about 30 minutes from exiting the 105 until we got to the front doors of TBIT. It was a short walk to the JL counters where we checked in and were assigned row 5, which is the mini-cabin just behind the second row of F. With all the traffic on the airport loop, there was significantly less people inside the terminal than I expected. It was a bit subdued, surprisingly, with no line for clearing security. Once through, we head towards the One World business lounge













We found the kids area and hung out there until it was time to go to the gate



Leaving the lounge



Some plane spotting





We were able to pre-board and get situated early. I took some time to get settled and snapped a few pictures of my seat for the next 10 hours. It's an odd complaint, but after being lucky enough to fly so many legs in F, the first thing I noticed this flight was that there were a lot less cubbies and random storage areas for me to put things like my phone, amenity kit, or other miscellaneous items. First world problems, but the J seat was plenty comfortable









Amenity kit



Planned flight



Menu







I opted for the Japanese menu, which was ok, but not great. It also didn't help that my throat hurt significantly when I tried to swallow









After making my bed, I tried, but could not fall asleep. My fever was still hanging around and I wanted to try to rest and recover, but it was not happening. The cabin was also set to a very warm temperature and I was sweating/burning up. I usually don't mention anything to the flight crew, but I rang the FA call button and asked them to lower the temperature since I was so uncomfortable. After tossing and turning some more, I gave up and ended up ordering the short rib rice bowl for a snack



And observed the atypical path we were flying, presumably due to the strong headwinds? From the IFE, they were consistently over 100 MPH



With the strong headwinds, we arrived at NRT about 30 minutes behind schedule. We took the NEX to Tokyo station, where we followed the Maranouchi signs to exit and hopped into a taxi. It was about 7:30 PM by now and I had a dinner reservation for 8:00 PM in Ginza. We were dropped off at the Conrad Tokyo, and I determined I had enough time to get checked in before I split off from the family for dinner. The lovely lobby with the high ceilings always captivates me when I step foot into this hotel





I headed back downstairs, hopped in another taxi, and arrived at Shima Steak at 8:05 PM, ready to chow down on some wagyu despite my throat's objections
Oven for cooking the steaks







Shima is known for their steak sandwich, and it did not disappoint



Layered with a tomato spread



"Scraps" divvied into piles and then seasoned for cooking





Sandwich packed to go



I skipped out on checking out Ginza and head straight to the hotel



Picture of the room taken the following day, but finally we got an upgrade to the bay view!









Eating the steak sandwich once we woke up in the early hours of the morning



The first day, we had breakfast in the executive lounge on the 37th floor. The options are more limited than the full breakfast at the restaurant downstairs in the lobby, but it still has a decent selection and was rather empty when we arrived















After returning to the room and a short nap later, we left the hotel to Nakiryu, a Michelin starred ramen restaurant that I've been trying to get to since 2016, but never got around to. There was a slight drizzle, and we didn't arrive as early as I wanted, but the wait was worth it





Shoyu ramen



Tantanmen. This was flavorful, complex, and downright delicious. I don't take spice well, but the amount of heat was perfect to give a slight kick that enhanced the flavor of the broth. In fact, I wanted to head back later in the week for a second serving, but plans changed



In the evening, I had booked a yakiniku restaurant for dinner, as it was Thanksgiving. Time to chow down on some more marbled meat







Calling it a night as we walked the streets of Shibuya



Our next morning got off to a rough start as we decided to go to Tsuta rather than the planned Konjiki Hototogisu for ramen. Tsuta uses a ticketing system, so you want to show up early in the morning to reserve a place in line, and come back for your bowl of delicious noodles later. Apparently, they had updated the address from their Sugamo location already, but we didn't know it yet and did not see the signage expected. So when we arrived at their new location near the Yoyogi-Uehara metro stop, there was no line or restaurant to be seen. The following morning we found out that they had closed the Sugamo location since November 20th to move, and thus Google Maps was partially correct that this was Tsuta, but the new, yet to open location



Some Boss coffee as a consolation prize



Anyhow, we decided to instead stick to the original plan, so we went back into the station for the Chiyoda line. There were multiple markings on the platform that I didn't understand, but after observing a few rounds of people make their way onto the trains, the yellow lines were for those waiting for a "fresh" train with no passengers. The ones standing in the blue line board the trains that are already quite packed with people. Now this usually went without any issue until we were ready to stand in the yellow line since we had our stroller with us. We were at the very front of the line, and a train for the blue line pulls up. People pack into the car in front of my eyes, but this time a 50 or so year old man is still basically sticking out of the train as the doors try to close. Rather than just step off, he further tries to back his way in as 3 railway attendants arrive to push against his torso and legs to literally stuff the passenger car to the brim. After multiple tries, the doors were able to shut with a few millimeters to spare. The whole time nobody batted an eye and the man had a poker face as he was massaged into the train. I turned to my wife and couldn't even finish whispering what I wanted to say before I had to suppress my laughter to not draw attention to myself. We rode the 2 stops to our transfer station where I got off the train, sat down, and laughed my guts out with tears streaming down my face and incredulously said..."and I thought MY commute was bad!" It would have been entirely inappropriate, but I wished I had recorded the scene. Once I was ready to go again, we found Konjiki Hototogisu, but were a bit too early. A nearby Starbucks helped us burn some time and we arrived back at the restaurant about 40 minutes before opening, as the second party in line.





Shio ramen



Shoyu ramen



I was not a fan of their ramen, but could appreciate their slightly different take on shio and shoyu. The clam based broth just didn't do it for me. On top of that, they essentially rushed us out. Yes I have a kid, but it's not like we're sitting there chatting away without a care in the world. We know how ramen joints work...shut up, eat, and get out. I normally don't care about service, but we were already finishing up and I thought it was rather rude for them to come over and say the next party is waiting (they did the same to the table next to us). Needless to say, we weren't impressed and won't be coming back. Afterwards, I stole an idea from an old friend who was in Tokyo before me and took mini-ChongL to a play place called Asobono



After an hour and a half, we returned to the hotel and fell asleep. We head to the executive lounge to grab a quick bite when we woke up, and promptly fell back asleep. The next morning, we awoke to a beautiful bay view as the sunrise lit up the horizon.



We went to Tsuta early in the morning to try to score some tickets, only to find them closed as I mentioned earlier



We ended up at Tokyo Station, ate at ramen street and did some shopping before returning to the hotel. Not much else that day except I ventured out to Ginza and grabbed a few bottles of Hibiki Blender's Choice for myself and some friends



The following day, we head a little further out to a Liquor Off store in the hopes of getting lucky on an aged bottle of Japanese whisky. There was some Hibiki 21, but at a price higher than I would be willing to pay



A sister store HARD OFF



Then back to Shibuya for some people watching





Lambo sighting



We checked out of the Conrad the next morning and into the Courtyard Tokyo Station. Initially the plan was for the wife and son to be gone and I would be on my own for 2 days. No seats opened up, so they ended up staying one more day and thus had to change hotels with me. Once settled, we head to Ichiran near Shimbashi Station



With stomachs full, we pretty much traced our steps back to the Conrad and hopped on the metro to Roppongi to buy some tea at the Royal Blue Tea boutique. A little bit of Don Quijote shopping was had by the wife who bought some small gifts for coworkers. That night, we ate at the restaurant downstairs, which surprisingly had some hot food offerings for a Courtyard

Fish and chips



Chicken wings



The breakfast spread in the morning was pretty decent too, which was at the other restaurant on the ground floor across the way
Waffles made to order



Buffet offerings













I didn't really bother with pictures of the Conrad buffet spread this time around since I've posted it so many times, but the Courtyard breakfast definitely exceeded expectations. If I didn't need much space and just wanted a quick stay, this is a convenient location that has some pretty good offerings. Once breakfast was done, the wife finished packing and I prepared to send them off at the airport. My wife then asked if there were any seats available on the flight today, and I said there probably are...I ended up checking about 30 seconds later and lo and behold, there was 1 F seat open on the same flight. I decided it wasn't a good idea to rush such a change just 40 minutes or so before heading to the train station. Another 2-3 minutes passed, and I was on the phone making my flight change while my wife stuffed the remainder of my belongings into our bags. We hurried downstairs and checked out, forfeiting the last night, and took a taxi to Tokyo Station to hop on the Narita Express. It was all a blur, and I was still expecting something to go wrong at this point

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Last edited by chongl; Dec 12, 19 at 9:57 am
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Old Dec 11, 19, 10:49 pm
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Checking in







Nobody in the dedicated security line



Duty free yielded no bottles of whisky at T2, so to the newly remodeled lounge we went





Dining area



Afuri ramen...I liked the slight zest from the yuzu in this bowl



Sushi offerings





Some of the other food available



With a little time to spare, I went downstairs to the bar to get a pour of Blender's Choice



I polished off the glass, and it was off to gate 61 for flight JL62. Once I was actually on the plane, my worries of getting screwed somehow began to subside







Middle seats for wife and son in row 1



The menu that I had already perused online

































I thoroughly enjoyed the Salon 2007 prior to takeoff. I was 2G, and to my right I met a fellow AV enthusiast on his way around the world, or rather finishing his trip through FRA, BKK, NRT, and LAX. He was on his way home as well, and we shared a few stories of our travels. Awesome guy to chat with who shared many of the same interests, so it was great to connect. Once the flight took off, the wife and I put our toddler to sleep and were able to enjoy dinner together



Queen of Blue tea



and more Salon!



I opted for the Japanese meal again, and although not a fair comparison of the J version ex-LAX versus F version ex-NRT, this meal was downright amazing and is one of the better culinary experiences I've had in the air





Eating the pregnant wife's caviar







Wife's chicken entree



My main



Lovely dessert to finish it all off





I retired to my seat and had my bed made with the harder padding to get in a few hours of sleep. The cabin was a comfortable temperature this time, and the new PJs that JAL has are extremely comfortable. My Emirates PJs used to be the clear favorite, but I think that these JL ones have taken the crown





Waking up off the west coast



I did sort of get a taste of Tsuta after all with them being on the JAL snack menu, but I'll still make the trek to the new shop next time we're around





Upon landing, my new travel acquaintance mentioned that we had an amazing toddler who slept most of the way and stayed nice and quiet. He theorized that starting them early allows them to adapt better to traveling, and I wholeheartedly agree. An older gentleman in 1G who initially had an apprehensive look at the beginning of the flight also looked over at my son and smiled after seeing that he wasn't a bother. All in all, another great flight for mini-ChongL, and another flight in F that he won't remember. We were eager to disembark with all the tea gone (I had the final pour), and we were finally home. Once off the plane, we passed through a mostly empty border entry, and then stayed to complete our Global Entry renewal interviews before heading home sweet home. Thanks for reading!
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Old Dec 12, 19, 1:00 am
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Great TR. lovely food pictures - I would love to visit Tokyo and to enjoy their cuisine but for now I’ll just enjoy Japanese food in San Francisco plus many great shops with Japanese whiskey / liquor (nisha coffey et al).

that train story is fun to read and I couldn’t try it!!

once my son and I sat in F on UAL 763 plane (saver mileage award was cheaper than C) so I empathize with your child in TPAC F. Agreed that he May not remember but with your pictures and stories, he will remember what you tell him about your journeys. As long as he knows that he can trust your anecdotes, then he will be happy with his memories of what you’ve told him. Keep enjoying these trips.

and omg beautiful toddler pictures :-)
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Old Dec 12, 19, 3:37 am
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Thank you for your trip report. We will also be staying at the Conrad when we visit Tokyo this summer. Can you share the name or location of the yakiniku restaurant you visited? That looked great!! Also, do you have any hints or tips on booking 3 people in the same cabin on JL (assuming you didn’t buy J or F tickets outright). We are currently booked on 2 separate flights, but we’d like to get on the same flights if possible. We’ve been looking for the past ~4 months but nothing has opened up.
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Old Dec 12, 19, 3:43 am
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Just took the NRT-JFK flight on JL 4 with same menu. Incredible service. And I agree with others . The SALON champagne had a taste that was like no others. Indescribable. Food was excellent. I had the red crab dish . JAL truly has , in my opinion, the best first class food in the air. Thanks for the great report
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Old Dec 12, 19, 5:27 am
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Thanks for the report - especially the part about Nakiryu! I'll be in Tokyo over Christmas so am aiming to give this a go. Tantanmen for Y850 in a Michelin starred restaurant is a bargain.
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Old Dec 12, 19, 8:36 am
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This is amazing, thank you!
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Old Dec 12, 19, 10:08 am
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Originally Posted by gaobest View Post
Great TR. lovely food pictures - I would love to visit Tokyo and to enjoy their cuisine but for now I’ll just enjoy Japanese food in San Francisco plus many great shops with Japanese whiskey / liquor (nisha coffey et al).

that train story is fun to read and I couldn’t try it!!

once my son and I sat in F on UAL 763 plane (saver mileage award was cheaper than C) so I empathize with your child in TPAC F. Agreed that he May not remember but with your pictures and stories, he will remember what you tell him about your journeys. As long as he knows that he can trust your anecdotes, then he will be happy with his memories of what you’ve told him. Keep enjoying these trips.

and omg beautiful toddler pictures :-)
Thank you for the kind comments, gaobest

Originally Posted by TravelLawyer View Post
Thank you for your trip report. We will also be staying at the Conrad when we visit Tokyo this summer. Can you share the name or location of the yakiniku restaurant you visited? That looked great!! Also, do you have any hints or tips on booking 3 people in the same cabin on JL (assuming you didn’t buy J or F tickets outright). We are currently booked on 2 separate flights, but we’d like to get on the same flights if possible. We’ve been looking for the past ~4 months but nothing has opened up.
The restaurant is located in Shibuya. Not sure why a few sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor have it listed as Korean BBQ when it's not, but it's called Han no Daidokoro Bettei. You can email the Conrad to make reservations if you so desire

For seats, I didn't start looking until close in. The 3 J seats we were really lucky to get at just a little over 1 month out. I was prepared to fly back separately on the return leg, but another seat opened up. I can say that starting at T-14, I was checking a few times a day as availability seemed to change often within that window.

Originally Posted by RTW4 View Post
Just took the NRT-JFK flight on JL 4 with same menu. Incredible service. And I agree with others . The SALON champagne had a taste that was like no others. Indescribable. Food was excellent. I had the red crab dish . JAL truly has , in my opinion, the best first class food in the air. Thanks for the great report
Thank you for reading, RTW4

Originally Posted by rosensfole View Post
Thanks for the report - especially the part about Nakiryu! I'll be in Tokyo over Christmas so am aiming to give this a go. Tantanmen for Y850 in a Michelin starred restaurant is a bargain.
If Nakiryu didn't limit you to one bowl, I'd ask you to polish off a 2nd serving in my place . I'm still thinking about that bowl of ramen, but luckily I'm heading to San Diego this weekend where Menya Ultra also has a very good tantanmen

Originally Posted by somemale View Post
This is amazing, thank you!
Thank you, somemale
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Old Dec 12, 19, 10:20 am
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I just did JAL F LHR-HND last summer and it was fantastic, best flight of my life. Your post brought back some great memories, thank you for the great report.
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Old Dec 12, 19, 4:03 pm
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Chongi, I always enjoy your TRs - with the excellent food and car photos. And mini Chongi is quite the extra cute, well-travelled kid.
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Old Dec 12, 19, 5:25 pm
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What a wonderful way to celebrate another Lewis Hamilton world championship title

Seriously, great trip report! Thank you for sharing.........and don't EVER tell my son life gets better than coach on American Airlines, OK? Thank you!
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Old Dec 13, 19, 9:08 am
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Now that I've had to go through your awesome TR for a second time, I keep forgetting that you are the OP that inspired me to go to Dons De La Nature, and to seek out a bottle of Royal Blue Tea in Hong Kong. Seriously, thanks again!

What is the name of the Yakiniku restaurant you went to? Would you go back?

As much as I love Ramen, it's still hard for me to justify waiting more than an hour in line for anything. The last time I waited close to that time was at Mugito Mensuke in Osaka (waited around 40mins), which was worth it yes. But more than an hour, I don't know...

Usually when I'm in Tokyo, the 30minute wait for Rokurinsha @ Tokyo Station is about as long as I can do. There's just too much to do and see!
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Old Dec 13, 19, 10:35 am
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miniChongL is still precious. Hope you are feeling better.
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Old Dec 13, 19, 12:01 pm
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Originally Posted by chongl View Post

The restaurant is located in Shibuya. Not sure why a few sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor have it listed as Korean BBQ when it's not, but it's called Han no Daidokoro Bettei. You can email the Conrad to make reservations if you so desire
Out of curiosity, how much did you your meal cost at this restaurant?
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Old Dec 14, 19, 6:48 am
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yakiniku

Originally Posted by anaggie View Post
Out of curiosity, how much did you your meal cost at this restaurant?
Yakiniku is a a Japanese interpretation of a Korean bbq restaurant. Tabletop meat grilling with with typical Korean marinades and kimchi/banchan side dishes.
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