A recent trend with Japanese beer companies is to produce a high-end brew for their portfolio. Suntory’s newest product to this category is Master’s Dream. This is a rich, aromatic beer with a nice balance of bitter and sweet notes. It is made with a traditional “diamond” malt, European hops, and spring water. I also love the packaging. It is in a glass bottle and what looks like a cap on top, but it is actually a plastic replica that doesn’t need a bottle opener.
Food Sake Tokyo Updates 20150105. Please print and bring with a copy of Food Sake Tokyo.
Current as of 5 January 2015.
The Yaechika mall in the basement of Tokyo Station is busy during the day, but at seven in the morning it is eerily quiet. The exit out of Tokyo Station’s basement into the Yaechika mall was closed until 7 a.m. When the gates were rolled open I followed some salarymen who were walking in the same direction and came across Yaesu Hatsufuji. I was surprised to see that minutes after opening, the shop was already starting to fill up.
I joined the line in front of the vending machine and picked a very traditional breakfast of salted and grilled salmon, pickles, simmered daikon and carrots, miso soup, seasoned nori, and rice. Service is quick and efficient and most diners here do not linger. This big breakfast is cheaper than McDonald’s, costing only 570 JPY. So cheap that I splurged and added a bowl of nattō, fermented soybeans.
Diners are asked to share tables. Most of the customers were male and the few women were escorted into booths.
Other main dish options include meat and tofu (nikudōfu), pork miso soup (tonjiru), ginger pork (shōgayaki), and some egg dishes.
I will be back. This is my new breakfast spot near Tokyo Station.
Yaesu Hatsufuji やえす初藤
Chuo-ku, Yaesu 2-1, Yaesu Chika Kita #1
Coffee is hot, hot, hot in Tokyo. San Francisco’s Blue Bottle recently opened in Kiyosumi Shirakawa and lines have been very long. Throughout the city it is becoming easier to find a great cup of coffee. I am thrilled as my own ‘hood, Kokubunji, has its first third-wave coffee shop, Cribe. The owner, Yoshida-san is super friendly and the coffee is the best I can find on this part of the Chuo line.
Cribe opens at 7:30 a.m. and is open until 9:00 p.m. There is beer for late night visitors. The shop is small and has some benches along the wall and a small seating area in the back of the shop. Yoshida-san is serving sandwiches and doughnuts from a local shop.
I asked him how he picked Kokubunji to open a coffee shop and he said that he went to university in the area. I am thrilled.
This is an original coffee drink called Betty. It is a generous pour of cold milk topped with espresso. Can you see Yoshida-san’s reflection on the espresso machine? Great smile. And his Betty puts a smile on my face. Cribe Coffee – worth the trip.
Kokubunji-shi, Honcho 3-5-5
Open 7 days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
FoodEx Japan started today and runs through Friday. It is held at Makuhari Messe in Chiba. A few highlights included tasting through Finland’s Kyro Distillery’s portfolio. I had never tried a single malt rye whisky that had not been aged in a barrel yet, the Juuri. Lacking the tannins from the barrel it was brighter than I anticipated. Likewise, I had never tried a gin that had been aged in a barrel, Koskue, which was more complex than most gins. However, the barrel aging was only three months so the toasty notes were light and didn’t overpower the botanicals in the gin.
The Verso rye is aged in small American barrels for six months and is well-balanced. A little spicy and sweet and not too overpowering. The Napue gin (not aged in a barrel) was soft and fragrant. Very approachable and while lovely on its own, I imagine it would be seductive in a martini. The gin is made with 16 botanicals, 12 dried and 4 fresh. The barrels used are made with American oak and are smaller barrels, 32 or 64 liters.
I love the packaging and design and imagine that this brand could do well in Japan. I am told it will be sold at Hasegawa Liquors. I will update this post when I hear where it is sold retail in Tokyo. I met Mikael, Mikko, and Miika at the stand. If you go by, ask for Mi-kun (as all of their names start with Mi-), and tell them Yukari sent you. The distillery is brand new, only ten months’ old. I see the future as very good for them.
Kyro Distillery Company
Kitayatsu Ham from Nagano was another highlight. The cured ham, sausage, and pates were all lovely. The Nagano Antenna Shop has recently opened in Ginza and I am told that their products are sold there, so will look for it there.
These konnyaku chips were great and only have the calories of the seasonings as konnyaku has zero calories. Flavors are pepper, chili pepper, oden, and ume (tart apricot). Okabayashi Shokuhin also had a thin sliced konnyaku that was nice when cooked up with soy sauce.
The event hall is huge and there is more than one can see in a day. I wish I had more time to visit the sake, shochu, and other importers. There are some great speakers in the upcoming days including Kumiko Ninomiya Sensei of Ajinomoto, chef Nozaki of Waketokuyama, and chef Kondo of Koenji Sanukiya.
Our tours of Tsukiji Market are very popular at the moment. Especially as it has been officially announced that the jōnai, wholesale seafood market, will move to Toyosu in November of 2016. Many of our customers are sushi aficionados and are intimately familiar with seasonal sushi. They not only know the names of Japanese seafood, but also can recognize it in the market as we walk through. There is a bookstore at Tsukiji Market that sells food magazines and a variety of cookbooks and books on sushi. A handful of them are in English, including my book, Food Sake Tokyo, published by The Little Bookroom.
A popular sushi book with our clients is the bilingual edition of Sushi, by chef Kazuo Nagayama of Daisan Harumi Sushi 第三春美鮨 in Shinbashi. The book is a reference tool for seasonal sushi.
The book is divided into the four seasons and seasonal seafood is shown as nigiri-zushi on the left page. The right page has a sketch of the seafood as well as a well-written description in English on everything from the flavor, how it is prepared, aging, and much more. As it is also written in Japanese, it is a great guide to bring to the sushi counter when dining out as the sushi chef or staff at the restaurant can also read from the same guide.
Even for readers who will not make it to Japan, this is a fun armchair reading as the descriptions are very detailed and informative. Particular bays of water are mentioned, something any sushi chef would be impressed by. The book also talks about the liver, ovaries, and other parts of the seafood that can be consumed at the sushi counter.
Here is an excerpt from hirame (olive flounder):
“A light sprinkling of salt and kombu curing allows sushi fans to savor the delectable taste and texture sensation of nigir made from hirame prepared using this technique long integral to the Edo-mae sushi chef’s job.”
The photography and design of the book is lovely. This photo shows the filets of summer seafood. On the upper right corner you have iwashi (sardine), noted for its row of dots. To the left of it is aji (Japanese jack mackerel per the book).
On this page you have the nigiri-zushi of the filets from above. The iwashi and aji are the two fish on the bottom right.
Each chapter begins with an essay on the season and what to look for when visiting the sushi counter that time of year.
From the winter fish section:
“Many winter species are prized for their fatty quality, in contrast to summer fish characterized by subtle flavor.”
The last section in the book is dedicated to maki-mono (rolls). Sushi will be a welcome addition to any bookshelf. At 2,000 JPY, the 207-page book is a good value.
Published by PIE International
ISBN 978-4-7562-41344-4 C0072
The culinary event of the century. Chef Rene Redzepi and his team in Japan. 60,000, yes, sixty-thousand people, on the waiting list. I was lucky as I was contacted by someone in New Zealand who had a lunch reservation but could not make it. I didn’t believe that I was actually going until we checked in for lunch. It was all very crazy. E-mails back and forth to a stranger in the Southern Hemisphere. PayPal payments as well as some confirmation e-mails from Noma and a phone call to the hotel as well to confirm the guy who said he had a reservation actually did. Just the night before I was contacted about the chance to go I was having dinner with Ivan Orkin who had lunch at Noma on the first day of the five-week pop-up at the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo. Ivan was sharing photos and I refused to look at any of them. I also tried to tune him out as I was hoping that at some point I would get the opportunity to attend and wanted my meal to be experienced at the table and without any expectations. I am glad I avoided all social media about this meal as it was very refreshing. I have not been to Denmark and was a Noma virgin. No longer. On a side note, I should add that many of my friends are coming over for this meal. Editors and writers for food magazines as well as clients of our Food Sake Tokyo tours. I am thrilled beyond belief that so many friends are coming to Tokyo. So arigato chef Rene for coming here, as you have brought many of my friends here as well.
Lovely floral arrangement at the entrance. Noma has taken over the kitchen and dining room of Signature, a lovely French restaurant under the helm of chef Nicolas Boujema (who makes a killer black truffle waffle). I understand that some of the staff of Signature, both front- and back-of-the-house are working side-by-side with team Noma. Having been at Signature before it was interesting to see the change. Even the lobby of the Mandarin Oriental has changed. When I first got off of the elevator I thought I was on the wrong floor.
Botan ebi, so fresh that it was still wiggling. The Japanese diner next to met let out a big scream when the botan ebi jumped off of the ice onto her lap. Chef Rene came to see what was the matter and just reminded her that it was that fresh. The ants are harvested from the Nagano forests. I had my first ant at chef Zaiyu Hasegawa’s Den. The Mandarin Bar just adjacent to Noma also serves regional specialities. Most recently, four types of insects from Nagano.
I am allergic to shrimp and was served this dish. Chef Rene served the first course to us. I offered him a copy of my book, Food Sake Tokyo, but he said that he had bought ten copies of it for his staff. Woo-hoo! He also said that is why they selected this first dish for me, because of the sake kasu under the unripened strawberry. I asked if he had a hard time finding a farmer to harvest strawberries before they fully ripened and he said that it took three months to find someone who would do it for him. He did say that now that farmer has introduced this concept to other chefs who are now also using it. Very cool to see Rene leaving his footprint in Japan.
This was one of my favorites. Four types of citrus (mikan, kabosu, buntan, and hassaku) with sansho leaves, long pepper, and an intense Rishiri kombu oil. An unusual flavor combination, but in a very cool way.
My husband is a fishmonger and we eat a lot of ankimo (monkfish liver) at home. Rene’s version was chilled and then shaved. The cold texture was unexpected and fun at the same time.
Another seafood dish that we often eat at home, shiokara, or squid and fermented squid guts. Noma’s twist on it was to serve it like soba with a broth made from pine needles and garnished with fresh rose petals.
This was my favorite of the whole meal, Æbleskiver, which looked like takoyaki to me, but I was told it was a play on a traditional Danish sweet. It was stuffed with steamed mustard leaf greens and garnished with flowers pickled in apple vinegar – a nod to the traditional dish which is usually made with apples.
Shijimi is a fresh water clam that we use at home for making miso soup. It’s very interesting as we never eat the meat of the clam, we just boil it to make a broth and then add miso to it. We only slurp the broth, never dig into the shells. Which is what made this all the more special, the time and attention to detail for it to be made so beautifully. The crust was made with Rausu kombu and flour.
The freshly made tofu topped with shaved, wild walnuts. Delicious tofu – and impressive as making tofu is very hard to do. Kudos to Team Noma.
Another cold dish – which again, was unexpected and fun, made from scallops and beechnuts. The texture reminded me of Aero candy, light and airy.
Hokkaido pumpkin marinated in cherry blossom tree oil garnished with salted cherry blossoms and roasted kelp strips. This is a lovely reflection of how Rene has incorporated Japan into one dish with flavors from the land and sea.
Fermented black garlic is all over the markets in Japan. Here it is made into a leather and folded like origami into a leaf. Once the leaf is turned over the Nagano ants come back for an encore appearance.
This dish reminded me of Japanese New Year’s as we use many of the same vegetables in our osechi ryori, like the renkon and kuwai.
Wild duck glazed in fermented rye.
Carved in the kitchen and then served to the table.
Kabu (turnip) is a classic winter vegetable for soups in Japan. Noma cooks the turnip in a mushroom broth and then garnishes it with a roasted yeast and parsley oil.
The rice course is always the last savory course in traditional Japanese kaiseki cuisine. Here the rice is hidden underneath milk crisps, milk and sake ice cream and sake kasu. A sorrel sauce brought it all together.
This sweet potato cooked all day in raw sugar reminded me of Den as chef Hasegawa also has a dessert made with a similar sugar concentrate. Rene and chef Hasegawa are friends and so perhaps this is chef Hasegawa’s influence?
The meal ends with this fun presentation of cinnamon roots and chocolate-covered fermented cepes. We ordered coffee and tea to finish the meal as we hear it is the only thing that was brought from Denmark. As a Noma virgin it was great fun to have my first be here at home in Tokyo. While I am familiar with many of the ingredients, it was a pleasure to introduced to things I did not know are in Japan, like sorrel. Many of the dishes are unusual, but in a good way. The flavor profile was very different from what I am used to. There was no soy sauce, for example. A great reminder that there are other flavors yet to explore in Japan. The General Manager of the Mandarin Oriental, Anthony Costa, has said that in bringing Noma over he didn’t want it to be a short pop-up, which is the case with most guest chef appearances at Tokyo hotels. He also said that Rene and his team really threw themselves into this project by coming over so many times in the last year. I am already looking forward to seeing who Costa-san brings in next. :-) Arigato to Rene and his team for coming to Japan. Otsukaresama desu.
Over the winter break it was announced that Tsukiji Inner Market (Tsukiji Jonai) will be moving to its new home in November of 2016. We have been very busy with our Food Sake Tokyo tours as customers are wanting to see the historic market before then. I have written about Toritoh in the Tsukiji Outer Market (Tsukiji Jogai) in the past:
Today I would like to introduce to Toritoh in the inner market. The same shop, just a different location, and more importantly, a completely different menu.
Mizutaki is a classic chicken soup often found in Kyushu in Southern Japan. The version at Toritoh has a rich stock and chicken still on the bone, making it a bit challenging to eat, but worth the effort. The chicken is rough chopped and there are some bits of bones in the soup, not for delicate eaters. This dish is rich in umami and will have you smacking your lips even after you have left the shop.
I loved the first bit of the Singapore chicken as it reminded me of when we lived in Singapore. But after a while I realized the water the chicken was cooked in was over salted on this day, and the sweet soy sauce they had was not authentic. The rice was cooked in a chicken stock which was nicely done.
I was enjoying my chicken breakfasts so much that I went back once more for the kara-agé (fried chicken). This was by far my favorite. The chicken is juicy and served hot, just out of the frying pan. As we are in the middle of winter, I will be going back soon. It’s too cold to have sushi first thing in the morning.
One of the other pleasures of passing time here is the lovely, low voice of one of the older cooks in the kitchen. His voice is one of a fishmonger, deep and resonant. Just listening to him repeat orders or call out thank-you to customers as they left the restaurant was a pleasure.
The oyako-don, mother-and-child dish of eggs and chicken over rice is also a popular item at Toritoh. There is a small take-out window in front and many of the tourists over the three days were buying chicken dishes to take home. Most of the customers were fishmongers coming in for a quick meal after their work in the market. These guys would open the door and call out their order and pre-pay for the meal as soon as they were seated. The tourists, myself included, would carefully peruse the menu and see what others were eating before ordering, and then would pay when we were done eating. It’s fun to eat elbow-to-elbow with the fishmongers. I am sure this will change when the market moves to the new location in Toyosu.
鳥めし 鳥藤場内店 （とりめし とりとうじょうないてん）
Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1, Building #8
Hours 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Starting January 7 and running through March 8 adjacent to the Diner’s Club Ice Rink in Roppongi, chef Yoshihiro Narisawa is serving cuisine from his first Kitchen Car. I much prefer the name the Japanese have given to food trucks, kitchen cars. If you are at all familiar with chef Narisawa’s gorgeous and spacious kitchen at his restaurant, you can understand the big change it is for him.
The menu at last night’s press event included grilled Hiroshima oysters, soups, and sandwiches. The soups are classic regional styles from the north to the south.
– Hokkaido’s Ishikari Nabe is made with salmon, vegetables, and miso – a staple for Hokkaido winters.
– Kyoto’s Shiro Miso Ozoni combines grilled rice cakes with a sweet, white miso.
– Hakata Motsu Nikomi is wagyu offal simmered in a spicy miso soup.
The sandwiches are made with an 18-grain flour and are filled with pork, chicken, or vegetables.
The menu will be changing throughout the 61 days of the event, encouraging diners to come back.
Most impressive was the list of farmers and producers who are collaborating with Chef Narisawa for this event including some of my favorites like Okui kombu from Fukui, Hida Gyu from Gifu, and Sanshu Mikawa mirin from Aichi. It’s a long list and there is a map in front of the kitchen car highlighting where the different ingredients are procured from.
There was sake as well last night, including Fukushima’s Daishichi Kimoto, a nice partner to the motsu nabe.
Even if you are not an ice skater, a visit to Roppongi Midtown is a great excuse to check out the great food shops on the first floor. Narisawa’s Kitchen Car is just across the street from the food court.
Narisawa Kitchen Car – One of Japan
Minato-ku, Akasaka 9-7-1, Tokyo Midtown, Diner’s Club Ice Rink (across the street from the Ritz-Carlton
Now through March 8th. Hours are 11 a.m. to about 9 p.m.
Tsukiji Market breakfast options abound and oyster ramen (1,200 JPY) is one can only be had this time of year. Creamy oysters are a unique topping for ramen and are served with nira (garlic chives), onions, bamboo shoots, and fresh wood-ear mushrooms. The noodles are straight and thin, a nice contrast to the large oysters. It’s a large bowl and very filling so come hungry, and come while oysters are in season.
Most of the diners at Yajima are fishmongers from the inner market. Many of them were ordering fried rice or shio (salt) ramen and a half order of shumai (steamed pork dumplings). They are in and out quickly and pay when they order. It was the tourists (myself included) who ordered the oyster ramen (kaki ra-men) and paid after eating.
Plenty of other restaurants serving fried oysters at Tsukiji Market including:
Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1 Bldg. 8