Have dinner at a local’s home when traveling – EatWith Review

A few months back I read an article by Becky from The Girl and Globe about a service called EatWith, which is a website that connects travelers with local hosts in order to meet at their home and share a meal, great conversation, and experience a country’s culture from a local’s point of view. I had never heard of the site before, but I loved the idea so much, I jumped on it right away and decided to try it.

EatWithWe flew last month to Tokyo on vacation on Singapore Airlines Suites, and I have always been fascinated with Japanese cuisine, so what better opportunity to check this out for myself?

The site has chefs in over 150 cities around the world, although the standards are supposedly very strict to become a certified chef and host guests. For instance, in Tokyo there are only two hosts listed at the present time, and we decided to book a lunch with Shino, who has a lovely traditional Japanese style home and had excellent reviews. Using the site, you can browse available dates when your host can welcome you, or you can propose specific dates, which is what we did, since I wanted to book well in advance and her schedule wasn’t open for our dates yet. As I mentioned, you can read reviews, as well as see event prices, which they do charge for to cover the cost of the food and likely a small profit for their time.

Our event:

Our event was extra special, because the hosts I’ve seen at other cities just have you come to their house and share dinner with them. However, Shino offers what I consider a more exciting experience. She offered a tour of the world famous Tsukiji Fish Market, which is the biggest seafood market in the world, and then a sushi-making class at her home, which she would teach us how to prepare before all sitting down together to have lunch. The entire tour and class would take about 5 hours.

Tsukiji Fish Market tour:

Shino’s cooking partner, Misa, picked us up at our hotel lobby at 8:00 a.m. sharp (I love, love LOVE the Japanese on-time culture!) and then we all walked to the subway (picking up a second couple along the way) and headed for the fish market, which was a great experience in itself.

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We picked up some additional tuna on the way to Shino's home

We picked up some additional tuna on the way to Shino’s home

Picked up some wasabi for lunch prep too

Picked up some wasabi for lunch prep too

On the way to Shino’s home, we walked by Sushi Dai with its traditional several hours-long line to get in. I wasn’t sorry we were meeting our own private chef/host instead of standing in line for a few hours.

Sushi Dai line - no thank you.

Sushi Dai line – no, thank you

Shino’s home:

When we arrived, Shino was waiting for us outside, and welcomed us into her home and showed us around her entire house and then we all settled into the kitchen and dining room area, where she walked us through what we would be preparing.

The first order of business was putting a lot of muscle on grating the wasabi, which took a lot of elbow grease, but we loved seeing the finished product. Then it came time to lay down all the ingredients on the seaweed, roll it up, and cut up the rolls into bite size pieces.

Then came the hardest part, which was to fillet all the fish. Shino had tuna, salmon and mackerel (and yellow fin tuna if I remember correctly). Shino showed us the technique to follow when cutting up the fish to make the nigiri.

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Shino showing my wife how to cut the fish

Shino showing my wife how to cut the fish

We then all spent quite a bit of time prepping the nigiri with the rice and wasabi, and creating Gunkan Ships, with Shino encouraging us to get creative, since sushi is not only about flavor, but presentation is also very important.

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EatWithEatWithThere was a ton of food. A lot more than what we all could eat. Before having lunch, we all sat back for a couple of minutes and proudly admired what we had all made. After that, it was time to dig in, and it was fantastic. Great quality food at a new friend’s home, and awesome company and conversation. Shino had even suggested some sake options in advance of our visit, and was gracious enough to purchase my selection in advance and have it chilled before our visit; Dassai sake, which is a pretty rare sake, but not expensive. It was excellent.

Dassai sake

Dassai sake

Then it came the dessert, which Shino had pre-made from scratch, and I actually forgot what was called. The other couple joked that it was called “Concrete”, and we all had a good laugh, but while it looked like concrete, it tasted great and was what a true dessert is supposed to be like: a light touch of sweetness, and not the big box of refined carbs that we’re all accustomed to.

The final touch was a birthday cake that Shino had baked for my wife as a surprise, since the day we visited was her birthday, which I had mentioned to Shino in advance. The cake was made out of boniato, a starchy root that is similar to sweet potato, with a homemade marmalade that was delicious. We all sang happy birthday and then enjoyed both desserts together.

Boniato dessert

Boniato dessert

The "concrete"

The “concrete”. Very good!

After lunch we chatted for a bit, took pictures of the whole group, and Shino gave us detailed directions on how to get back to our hotel via subway, and then we all parted ways. We looked forward to the walk ahead back to the subway station, as we were all very very full!

Overall impression:

We really loved this unique experience, and I strongly recommend you try it if you ever get the chance, and see if it is offered in the city you are visiting. We loved the chance to talk to a local, get tips on things to do and see, learn about the Japanese culture, and make a new friend.

If you don’t have an EatWith account, you can get a $10 credit when you first sign up for the service if you’re referred by someone who is a current member. If you’d like to use my referral link, send us an email to michael AT freetravelguys Dot com and I’ll be happy to send you one (we both get a $10 credit).

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