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Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo

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4.07  ·  Rating details ·  1,211 ratings  ·  180 reviews
Everyone knows how to live the good life in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany. Now, Matthew Amster-Burton makes you fall in love with Tokyo. Experience this exciting and misunderstood city through the eyes of three Americans vacationing in a tiny Tokyo apartment. Follow 8-year-old Iris on a solo errand to the world’s greatest supermarket, picnic on the bullet train, and eat a st ...more
Kindle Edition, 266 pages
Published April 8th 2013 by Mamster Books
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Average rating 4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,211 ratings  ·  180 reviews


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Aloke
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Hilarious, informative and comforting. I imagine it wouldn't be everyone's cup of green tea but if you find the jokes funny and are interested in Tokyo's food, language and culture you'll probably like it. It also helps if you like kids because the author's eight year old daughter plays a big part in the book. She's quite a character too, sociable and adventurous although wary of vegetables.

I'm wavering between 4 and 5 stars. There's no deep insights here: just a lot of great food knowledge tuc
...more
Michelle
Apr 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
You don’t have to be a Japanophile to be sucked in to Matthew Amster-Burton’s Pretty Good Number One, but you might become one after you’ve read the book. Each chapter takes you through quintessential Japanese foods and food experiences and leaves you wanting…to book the first plane out for a bowl of ramen, or a crunchy bite of tempura, or a cup of green tea from a café with a floor for matcha and another for sencha.

This is no foodier than thou memoir. He shares stories of regular noodle and oko
...more
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
I live in Tokyo, and had already been here for three years when zany food journalist Matthew Amster-Burton, his 8-year-old daughter Iris and wife Laurie took a one-month food vacation here in the summer of 2012. They lived near Nakano Station during that month, which is a 45-minute walk from me, and where I teach English 2-3 times a week.

With unpretentious charm and goofy humor, Amster-Burton chronicles his culinary escapades. He and Iris are crazy about Japanese food, and pig out at local hole
...more
Susann
Jul 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Covering the Amster-Burton family's month-long stay in Tokyo, Pretty Good Number One is a fun, breezy, and helpful love story with this beautifulugly city.

I'm lucky to have traveled to Japan once before and to have loved everything but the smoking and jet lag. So I spent much of the book smiling whenever I recognized my own experiences (yakitori! onsen! dining in department store basements!) I spent the other time feeling wistful that I've missed out on cat cafes, pan-fried soup dumplings, and
...more
Leigh-Anne
Mar 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
"When you ask for a cake to go on a hot day, they'll ask how soon you intend to eat it, and then pack it for travel with tiny ice packs taped to the inside of the box for temperature control and protection against bumps and bruises."

"Bad service in Tokyo is shockingly rare, and being able to walk into any shop and be treated like a human made me realize how painful it is when you can't depend on such treatment."

This book was great and had me reminiscing about when we lived in Okinawa, Japan for
...more
Melody
Apr 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
One thing I've read over and over is that this is the book that will make you want to go to Tokyo. I don't want to go to Tokyo, however I really enjoyed reading about Amster-Burton's adventures there with his family. He's a funny guy and he has a delightfully unrepentant stance when it comes to food. He's in it for what he likes, what his daughter likes, and to hell with your idea of what's fashionable or acceptable or healthy.

I loved hearing about all the interesting foods they had, but even m
...more
Julie Davis
Jun 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
I've never been that interested in visiting Japan and it says a lot for Matthew Amster-Burton's engaging food/travel memoir that by the end I was wondering if I could have a successful week-long visit without learning to read kanji. I'm already a fan of Amster-Burton's light-hearted style because I listen to Spilled Milk, the podcast that he co-hosts. It transfers fairly successfully to a book style, though I did find myself wishing that he'd have cut out a few extraneous jokes here and there.

P
...more
Ashley
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
While the enthusiasm and anecdotes were enjoyable, what I enjoyed most about this book was the wonderful flood of nostalgia it stirred up: I've had just about all the foods mentioned here.Unfortunately the off-hand generalizations (especially from someone who doesn't speak the language and lived there for just a month and a week) and the goofy tone undermined the good feelings. Multiple times I cringed when a really dumb joke completely ruined an otherwise nice paragraph.

I will say this, though
...more
Whit
Aug 21, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
[DNF]

So painful I finally had to just quit. I hate quitting books, but this was like a bunch of train of thought draft blog posts that accidently got published. And I paid for it. Hungry Monkey was somewhat good and I enjoyed reading it before going to Seattle. Now I am headed to Tokyo and was interested to see that the same author did a book on food in Tokyo. But in Hungry Monkey, he had the expertise of living in Seattle as a food critic. Here, he visited Tokyo for a month and acts like an exp
...more
Courtney McGrale
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. I love travel, I love Japanese food, and I love to read about food and travel. And Matthew Amster-Burton made me laugh and smile.
Colleen
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I felt like I was back in Japan reading this. Great descriptions of everyday things and delicious meals. I enjoyed it so much that I dipped in and read a little at a time, just savoring it.
Marianne McKiernan
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Hilarious and interesting. Tokyo and Its restaurants are now on my bucket list.
Leanne
Jun 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Funny, self effacing, realistic account of a Foodie's short time in Tokyo. He is the poster boy for successful foreign travel, and under no illusions about his fanboy status re: Tokyo.

The book is a little jarring in its progression and it will definitely take you a little more time to read because of all the Japanese words, but it's truly worth it. You will laugh, you will learn.
Jill
Feb 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: food-literature
One of the biggest challenges of reading books like Pretty Good Number One, where the author speaks about their experience of something - food, a place, an experience - is figuring out "do I trust your taste?" "Do I think your opinions are credible?" For instance, I've decided to ignore any opinion offered by the food writer for my local paper because I've figured out over the years that any restaurant that offers fatty cuts of well salted meat and other rich foods pretty much earns a 4 star rev ...more
Maren
Apr 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pop, food
Sometimes reading about the fun things that other people are doing--blog posts or whatever--can be a downer for me. That just comes with the territory of having a chronic illness. But this book I found so refreshing and enjoyable! Do I wish I could go to Tokyo myself now? You bet. But at the same time I feel like I've been there, just a little. This was fun to read and just about as great as mind-travel can get. :) That said, I'd like to put in a request to Matthew: the next place I'd like to tr ...more
Rachel
Sep 10, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food, non-fiction
This is a well-written and witty book by an American man from Seattle who went to Japan for a month with his wife and young daughter with the goal of eating a lot. It's both a travel memoir and a food diary, and while there are a number of inaccuracies, it's still a good read. I wrote an earlier, harsher review before I read Amster-Burton's acknowledgments at the end of the book. He thanks a few people who served as his fact checkers on precisely the inaccuracies that bothered me (regarding lang ...more
Jennifer Shepard
Apr 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I am giving this culinary-based travel narrative 5 stars because I loved the author's voice. For the past few months, I have been listening to the podcast he co-hosts with Molly Wizenburg. He's funny and smart "on air," and that voice was evident on the page, as well. Throughout the book, one of Amster-Burton's constant foodie companions was Shiro Yamaoka, the protagonist of Oishinbo, the seven-volume foodie manga I read a few years ago. Since I picked up Pretty Good Number One, I have been unab ...more
Patrick Collins
Oct 11, 2014 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this author - He is from Seattle. He loves Japan. He loves food. Maybe he is too close to me? Or maybe his jokes are just TERRIBLE. He is like the food maven who nobody really wants to have along on a social evening, but everybody would ask for advice on where to eat and what to order. If you have every enjoyed eating in Japan, you should read this book. If not, don't.
Whitney 'Thompson' Jenkins
May 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really love the way this author writes. In this book, like Hungry Monkey, you get a real feel for the way he and his family interact and the adventures they take together. This is such an easy and interesting read about a subject that most of us would not usually not bother to read about!
Yi-Hsuan
Feb 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed Amster-Burton's writing - very easy to read, and funny. Anyway, the gist of the story is that all food in Tokyo is delicious. I want to eat everything!!
Gonçalo
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Funny and multifaceted report of an American family eating what Tokyo has to offer.
Emily
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Read Harder Challenge #23: A self-published book.

This is a little bit cheating in a way, because I already love Matthew Amster-Burton's writing. His podcasts, especially Look Inside This Book Club, are a highlight of my week. But I hadn't read this book before, so this challenge was the perfect opportunity.

I love reading about food, and this book made me want to eat almost everything Matthew describes. Maybe not natto, or anything else to which the word "mucilaginous" applies, but everything els
...more
Karen
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: includes-review, 2019
4.5 stars

More fun with Matthew and Iris, this time also with Matthew's wife Laurie, when the three of them spent a month in Tokyo, living in a tiny apartment and eating all around Tokyo.

I loved Hungry Monkey and found the father-daughter relationship really charming. Also I have been impressed with Matthew's respect for, and nerdy obsessiveness about Asian foods (yep, he eats all the stuff real Chinese people are happy to eat).

This is basically a sequel to Hungry Monkey. The same charming fathe
...more
Rebekah Yoder
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Funny funny funny, surprise surprise!

Come for the food, stay for the laughs. This guy and his cheerfully unruffled kid are a pair of characters.

I laughed a little too loudly at 2AM and possibly woke up my neighbors. (Sorry, person living in Apt 209.) I got food envy and made improvised ramen out of what was in my pantry. I tried to figure out the pronunciation for words that I don't understand and am definitely still not saying right.

Food aside, the best part of this book is probably eight-year-
...more
Bryn (Plus Others)
Aug 31, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
The very beginning of this book annoyed me so much I thought I was going to give up -- I just could not believe that in 2013 Amster-Burton could write that Westerners have no idea that Tokyo is an exciting travel destination, that they think of Japan as "a nation struggling to right itself after years of economic stagnation capped by a devastating earthquake" and that nobody in the West could name any Tokyo tourist attractions without having to pick up a travel guide. Did he not notice Japanese ...more
Danielle
May 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: asia
I’ve lived in Japan, but I’m not as much a foodie as this author. Reading this book (during social distancing no less) made me want to go back to Tokyo and seek out some of the restaurants and experiences he talked about. It seems he made a real attempt to learn the language (at least to some extent) and to respect the culture and history, which not every American travel writer in Japan does. I’d recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Japan, whether they’re already knowledgeable, in w ...more
Kevin
Jun 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japan
This brought about a good deal of nostalgia for my time living in Japan and my food experiences there. Mister Donut - I miss you. MOS Burger -- oh my, I still dream about your ebi burgers with MOS sauce. Hell ramen in Kazo City -- I wish we could still hang out...

But it isn't just the nostalgia that hit me with this book. It's the desire to travel and eat. It's tough to read a travelogue, especially one focused so heavily on restaurants and food, in the middle of a pandemic. Sure, it's about to
...more
Emily
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and I lived vicariously through it. I have little desire to travel, but Japan is a place I want to visit. In a different life I could see myself living there.

I have been interested in this book for a long time, but I'd put off reading it because of the podcast Matthew co-hosts. I listened for a long time but the more I listened, the more pretentious it got and I finally unsubscribed. When I saw this was on Kindle Unlimited I added it to my library.

That attitude did not come thr
...more
Juliann
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Now I am hungry...

I think Matthew Amster-Burton might be my spirit animal. Certainly Iris is. Reading about their adventures eating their way around Tokyo reminded me of my own first trip to Tokyo: food, food, tiny bits of shopping, a garden, much more food. This book was equal parts entertaining and appetizing and was a perfect main dish for a blustery autumn week in Texas. I’ve added to my list of must-sees for my next trip and I am going to load up Amster-Burton’s next book as soon as I finis
...more
Joanne
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Adventures in Foodie Tokyo.

A charming, laugh out loud tale of an adventurous family eating their way through Tokyo. The wonderful descriptions of izakayas, eel restaurants and the joys of exploring the tiny back streets of Tokyo for the hidden gems will make you want to get on the next flight to Japan. It brought back many wonderful memories of life in Tokyo and the generosity of the residents.
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Matthew Amster-Burton is the author of the YA novel OUR SECRET BETTER LIVES and four nonfiction books, including HUNGRY MONKEY (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009) and PRETTY GOOD NUMBER ONE: AN AMERICAN FAMILY EATS TOKYO (2013), which was a bestseller in Japan and has been optioned for film. He has written for Gourmet, the Wall Street Journal, and the Seattle Times, and has appeared in the BEST FOOD ...more

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