It might not be hard to find great sushi in Tokyo, or a gem of a saki bar, but where would you go for the best okonomiyaki pancakes, takoyaki octopus balls, gold ice-cream or udon noodles?
Winning tip: Takoyaki, Nishiki Market, Kyoto
Ive eaten the most rarefied meals of my life in Japan, but its hard to beat the charms of a 2 portion of takoyaki fluffy balls of eggy batter studded with boiled octopus, ginger and spring onion in a polystyrene tray. These are anointed with takoyaki sauce (Japans answer to HP) and mayonnaise, then sprinkled with dried pink bonito (skipjack tuna) flakes, which writhe in the heat emanating from the molten core. You spear each ball with a notched cocktail stick and nibble while trying to avoid singing your lips. Its like eating mouthfuls of octopus-flavoured cloud. Osaka invented them, but you can find them pretty much everywhere in Japan. Among the best are the ones served in Kyotos Nishiki Market, where you buy a ticket from a vending machine before placing your order with the cook juggling the golden balls.