The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Tom Yum & Thai @ Tinun, Tokyo

I don't profess to be a fan of Thai food, nor did I eat at the many Thai restaurants available in Perth when we were still living there. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I dislike Thai food - Thai cuisine shares similarity to some of the Malaysian dishes, but I consider Thai food to be the inferior cousin of the two (for many reasons not worth going into right now). I do like Tom Yum Noodles (characteristically spicy and sour), which originally came from Thailand but is quite readily available in Penang and Langkawi and consequently in many Malaysian restaurants (in other countries) specialising in Penang-style food. Thai restaurants are quite prolific in Japan, and it seems that the sweetness and mildness of many Thai dishes are quite popular with the Japanese. Unfortunately, Malaysian restaurants are a rarity even in a big city like Tokyo, and occassionally I have to resort to satisfying my cravings for Malaysian food in a Thai restaurant. Usually I'm disappointed because the dishes are too sweet, too mild, or just doesn't satisfy my tastebuds which desires something more robust and spicy. (Chao Thai in Shibuya is one example of a disappointing Thai dining experience. A second visit there a few months later only further soured my opinion of that place.)

Tinun Noodle House in Ikebukuro is a casual dining place located on the restaurant (7th) floor of the Metropolitan Plaza, and the place sits only about 30 so it gets packed full during the peak lunch and dinner time. Some of the waitstaff are Thai, and most of the staff speaks English. The menu is not only limited to noodles, and includes Thai, Vietnamese, rice (e.g Chicken Rice) and even some pasta dishes. Not exactly an authentic Thai-only diner, but they do serve pretty good Tom Yum noodles, for which you can choose three types of noodles: the yellow ramen-style noodles, the thin rice noodles used for Vietnamese Phở noodles (not to be confused with rice vermicelli) and the wide rice noodles similar to Kuey Teow which is also used in the popular Thai noodle dish, Pad Thai. If you order noodles, you're handed a paper 'bib' to wear so that you won't get noodle broth all over your clothes when you eat (the same one my dad wore when we went to an udon place in Kyoto on their visit to Japan last March). You kinda feel silly wearing the bib until you look around and see the stylishly-dressed young women eating noodles also wearing them, then you don't feel so bad. The noodle servings are huge and I cannot finish a bowl on my own - I'd needed help with finishing my order of noodles on two occassions.

I've visited Tinun in Ikebukuro three times over the past six months and I'm quite satisfied with the Tom Yum noodles which I think has the right balance of spicy and sour. My friend Toni (also my Lifegroup leader) who introduced me to the place said that this is her favourite noodle place in Tokyo. She always orders the Phở at every visit, which she tells me is almost every week when she comes here on date night with her fiance. When Kim came to Tokyo for a visit during spring vacation last month, I brought her to Tinun since she is a huge fan of Thai food. I love eating out with her because unlike me, she is an easy-to-please foodie, and she loved the Thai noodles and other dishes we ordered. The photos presented here were taken then with Kim's keitai (mobile phone) as I didn't have my camera with me. She kindly emailed the photos to me last week for me to use in my online journal. For starters, we had Nama Harumaki (fresh springrolls). At the time I suffered from occasional nausea from the so-called morning sickness (such a misnomer because it strikes at any time of the day!), and being cautious with what I ate to avoid triggering the nausea, I went for something mild and ordered Chicken Phở. Kim ordered the Prawn Tom Yum Noodles, and we shared a plate of Cellophane Noodle Salad. Everything was pretty good, and Kim was a very happy girl. We also had some Yam Pudding with Coconut Ice Cream for dessert which I forgot to take a shot of.

Nama Harumaki (fresh springrolls):

Chicken Pho and Prawn Tom Yum Noodles:

Noodle Salad:

On Saturday, since we had to be in Ikebukuro for some errands, Rob and I ate lunch at Tinun. We ordered some Nama Harumaki for ~600yen (~AU$6), which contained fresh vegetables and came with two dipping sauces: sweet chilli sauce and a peanut sauce (Rob said the peanut sauce tasted pineapple-y). I ordered the Deluxe Tom Yum (~1000yen or AU$10) with the kuey teow noodles, and it came with all the toppings available (a slice of roast pork, a couple of wonton dumplings, a prawn and an egg). It was pretty good, and a good value considering that the noodles with only one topping costs about 800yen (I know for a fact that the tom yum with prawn comes with only one prawn). The Tom Yum this time had a pretty spicy kick, much to the delight of my tastebuds. Rob's order was the Thai Green Curry (~1000yen) which had chicken and zucchini pieces in it and came with a serve of long-grain jasmine rice. Seeing long-grain jasmine rice in Japan is a rare sight indeed and Rob just had to taste some of the plain rice on its own before putting the curry on it. The curry was very mild (as green curries usually are), coconut-y and a touch sweet. It was tasty but I do prefer my curries very spicy and very savoury. Rob is more familiar with the taste of Thai green curries, and he liked this one very much. No photos since I already had taken photos of the food previously.

This is a good casual place to have some tasty and oh-so-filling noodles. And it's so good to be eating out again after that awful encounter with the gastro bug.

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