Travel to Japan without leaving Europe
Did you know that Little Tokyo district of Düsseldorf is certainly the closest you can get to Japan without leaving Europe?
Since the 50s the Japanese settled in Düsseldorf for supplies of materials and machinery for rebuilding their country after World War II. Today, with more than 450 Japanese companies and 11,000 people, it is the third largest Japanese community in Europe. This has made the city a must-visit destination for all lovers of Japanese culture and cuisine.
If you feel like making a quantum leap and landing in Japan without leaving Europe I suggest the following gastronomic route. As an anecdote I will tell you that in all places I can deal with Japanese without having to use English or German, and for a moment I forget that I was in Germany.
Located at the heart of Little Tokyo, this superior 4 star hotel belongs to a prestigious Japanese hotel group. The Torii Bar in the hotel lobby is now a classic as a meeting point for the Japanese community in the city, because in the same building it is located the German-Japanese Centre. In the hotel itself is also found Benkay Restaurant, highly acclaimed by all as the best teppanyaki in town, and the sushi bar Fish Corner run by the cheff Hisato Mochizuki. It is to highlight a careful selection of sakes, where you can staste such delights as Dassai 23, the more refined sake that is produced, or Shimeharitsuru “Jun” of Niigata prefecture .
Takumi Takumi and 2nd
Just opposite Nikko Hotel is located Takumi, a unique ramen bar where you can try 100% vegetarian ramen broth noodles. Possibly it is one of the only places in the world where you can taste ramen sitting on a terrace. A few meters away it is Takumi 2nd (Ostrasse 51), from the same owners, where you can also try tonkotsu miso ramen made with pork broth and miso or their delicious homemade gyoza dumplings.
Another ramen bar, with a far more extensive menu where you should not miss Chashu Tokusei miso ramen or ramen “de lux” with miso and marinated pork slices. To round it up, you can ask them to add some wantan in the same bowl. Other curiosities include Chanpon, a bowl of noodles with crispy vegetables, typical of Nagasaki, or Tantan Men, spicy noodles that you must taste. On the opposite sidewalk is Naniwa Sushi & More, which, as its name suggests, you can order sushi and some other dish.
A simple restaurant, where many Japanese families get together to eat all kinds of authentic dishes such as Takosu or viengar-seasoned octopus; beef tongue grilled or Gyutan, a typical dish from Sendai; tebasaki fried chicken wings, or Kushikatsu breaded kebabs, very typical dish in Japanese taverns because it is very easy to share, where the kebabs are immersed in a communal tonkatsu sauce jar. Unwritten rule is that you may only dip once into the sauce before a bite.
I must confess I do not have time to try this establishment but I was totally delighted by its spacious sushi bar made of wood and its design. Definitive proof was it was full of Japanese customers. Later on, the Bon owners, a Japanese bookstore located at Marienstrasse 41, confirmed it was one of the latest restaurants they just opened in the neighborhood and it was a very successful one. Another place I reserved for my next visit was Kagaya tavern (Potsdamer 60), an authentic izakaya where you can taste some of the best sakes with a ramen bowl or some other dish.
The only Japanese restaurant with a Michelin star in Germany. The Japanese cuisine in combination with traditional European dishes and sushi are a must for all of these who consider themselves a gourmet. A few meters away is Soba-an (Klosterstrasse 68), run by Reiko Miyashita and her husband, who makes her own handmade soba noodles. An alternative to fast food that should not be missed.
If you are still hungry and you want to take a piece of Japan in your hand luggage, you can approach Shochiku supermarket (Immermannstrasse 15), where you will find all kind of tools and products such as sauces, dressings, Japanese curries and even a fish market where they prepare specific fish pieces to make sushi at home.
By Roger Ortuño
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