Octopus Cuisine

Octopus from Tokyo Bay

Boiled Octopus

Shinji’s father has a boat on Tokyo Bay and he often goes fishing. Recently he came home with an octopus. Shinji set to work preparing the octopus by first massaging it in grated daikon. It was then boiled and here is the boiled octopus.

tako sashimi

Octopus Sashimi

Octopus, tako in Japanese, is one of my favorite seafood. It’s meaty, has a great texture, and is not very fishy. That’s important for this Japanese-American girl who was raised in Minnesota. When it is cut as sashimi it is not simply sliced, but cut with a up and down motion creating a wave-like design on the flesh. This helps to pick up the soy sauce. How brilliant are the Japanese to think about this?

deep-fried octopus

Octopus Fritters

Battered and deep-fried octopus were amazing, especially with ice cold beer. Just season with salt and pop into your mouth. Yum. I bet these would be a big hit at the Minnesota State Fair, where I first came to experience deep-fried cheese curds.

Octopus and Rice Donabe

Octopus Rice in a Donabe

We love cooking rice in a donabe pot. Shinji marinated raw octopus with soy sauce, mirin, and saké  and then added to the donabe with rice with dashi. After the rice was cooked it was garnished with julienned ginger. He made a large batch as this can be molded into small rice balls and put into the freezer. It is easy to zap in the microwave.

Octopus Rice

Octopus Rice

New York Grill Lunch at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

Park Hyatt Tokyo

New York Grill buffet

One of my favorite lunch spots in Tokyo is at the New York Grill in the Park Hyatt Tokyo. The view at 52 floors above Tokyo is amazing, even when it is overcast and lightly raining. The lunch starts at 5,000 JPY and includes a gorgeous buffet of appetizers. Customers choose a main course and then dive into the buffet again for dessert.

Appetizers include flatbreads, salads, sliced meats, and much more. It’s hard not to stuff yourself with only appetizers, but make sure to make room for the main course.

We asked for seats at the kitchen counter so that we could talk with chef Federico Heinzmann. He was very gracious to talk to us about the different dishes and answer our many questions. Sitting here is also fun as we can watch all of the customers come in. It’s such an amazing spot that it is great to watch the faces of guests as they look into the open kitchen, as they check out the view, and as they walk into the main dining room. On this day it was cloudy and I expected the restaurant to be quiet, but even on this day it was busy.

Park Hyatt Tokyo

Chef Federico Heinzmann’s Chicken

Argentinian chef Federico recommended the chicken as it “is the most Latin”. The chicken is marinated in orange juice, grilled and topped with a fresh salsa and served with a corn cake. Living in Tokyo the flavors are so exotic and I quickly said that I would not be sharing this with Shinji.

Park Hyatt Tokyo

Australian Lamb and Romesco Sauce

Shinji was fine not sharing as he loved the lamb, which we don’t eat very often. The sauce was made with bell peppers and hazelnuts. Chef told us about how in Spain this is used as a dipping sauce for whole leeks that have been charred and peeled. it sounds like an amazing dish. The hazelnuts makes it a very meat, albeit, vegetarian sauce. Chef Federico was kind enough to share the recipes for the sauces for both dishes, so we will try to recreate some of these at home.

The wine list is rich in American wines, mainly from California. There are always interesting offerings by the glass, perfect for lunch.

Park Hyatt Tokyo

Dessert Buffet at New York Grill

This is only half of the dessert buffet. There is something here for everyone, including ice cream and several sauces and toppings as well as a simple fruit salad with mango and pineapple, and key lime pie. Coffee and dessert is usually taken in the New York Bar so diners get another magnificent view of the city. Fans of Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation will remember this space as it has a starring role in the movie.

Service is always impeccable here. If you are looking for a special lunch spot, the New York Grill, never disappoints. I have come in the past with girlfriends and we still reminisce about our lunch here, years later. The view, the cuisine, and the service makes this a memorable meal.

New York Grill at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 3-7-1-2

03-5323-3458

Shinjuku Station Berg

Shinjuku Station Berg

Berg Morning Plate

I love that Tokyo is so big and filled with so many restaurants that new gems keep presenting themselves. On a recent television program Berg in Shinjuku Station came up as a great B Gourmet restaurant, cheap and delicious. It is open from 7 a.m. and stays open until late at night. It is located just outside of the Shinjuku JR Station’s Higashi-Guchi. Take a left and walk about 15 seconds and it is on your left.

This morning at 7:05 a.m. the shop already had about five tables of customers and there was a line at the counter. I placed an order for the Morning Plate which comes with coffee and was just under 500 JPY. Can’t beat this.

The shop also has many hot dogs and beer on tap. There is a menu of side dishes that includes a cheese plate and other beer-friendly plates. I was so happy to see a poster for Baird Beer’s Rising Sun Pale Ale as the featured Japanese craft beer. Was tickled when a guy who had just finished his breakfast go back to order the Baird beer. If I weren’t off to Tsukiji Market for a tour I would have joined him.

Shinjuku Station Berg

Shinjuku Station Berg

Behind the counter were seven staff, all donning denim aprons with BERG stitched onto it and wearing colorful bandannas on their heads. For the life of me I can’t figure what seven people would be doing there. They were all busy and seemed to have some task.

A dozen kegs of beer were set off to one corner. A sign that this shop goes through a lot of beer. I will be back, later in the day next time. I hope the Baird Beer will still be the featured beer. I have walked by this shop for years and never bothered stopping by. Glad it’s finally on my radar.

Berg

Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-38-1, Lumine EST B1

Simple map:

http://www.berg.jp/map/map.html

 

Roppongi Butagumi Shokudō 六本木豚組食堂

Roppongi Butagumi

Butagumi Tonkatsu

Butagumi Shokudō is located in the basement of the Roppongi Hills North Tower. There are about a dozen counter seats and several tables in back at this popular tonkatsu spot. Take-away bento and tonkatsu sandwiches are also available, but the best tonkatsu is eaten right away as it comes out of the deep-fryer. At the counter you can watch as a chef trims away fat from big slabs of pork. The frying is done in the back of the house.

One of the pork used at Butagumi is the Tsubaki Sangenton (椿三元豚) from Chiba. It is a tender, light pork. The aka (dark red) miso soup comes with slippery nameko mushrooms. The salad can be topped with a refreshing yuzu ginger dressing.

The main branch, Butagumi, is in Nishi-Azabu and has a long list of pork to choose from. Consider Butagumi Shokudō (dining hall) the café branch of the honten for an abbreviated menu and a quick meal. The music on a recent day was hits from the 80s from Bruce Springstein and Michael Jackson, which made the meal all the more comfortable.

Butagumi Shokudō 豚組食堂

Minato-ku, Roppongi 6-2-31, Roppongi Hills North Tower B1

港区六本木6-2-31、六本木ヒルズノースタワーB1

https://www.facebook.com/butagumi.shokudo

 

Aoyama Farmer’s Market

Food Sake Tokyo is delighted to host guest blogger Janice Espa. Janice is passionate about food and Japan. She is a great photographer and all of the photos here are from Janice. Janice’s most recent guest post on the Best of Japan Tour now being offered at Coredo Muromachi in Nihonbashi, is very popular and some followers of Food Sake Tokyo have since taken the tour and loved it. Here is Janice on Aoyama Farmer’s Market. Arigato, Janice!

Espa - Market vibe

Market Vibe – Janice Espa

I thoroughly enjoy learning about the story behind things. The food we come across and the people who put it together to make a livelihood out of it. The effort that goes into cultivating crops, the detail and care with which coffee is grown and roasted. The significance behind passing down a recipe from generation to generation in order to make cookies ‘just like grandma used to make’, or the finesse with which dishes are conceptualized and presented.

Espa - Father daughter and amazing mushrooms

Father and daughter’s Amazing Mushrooms and dashi packs – Janice Espa

 This aspect of food and travel is a deeply gratifying cultural experience, and it’s readily accessible too. Farmer’s markets are the perfect place to begin.

Flowers - Janice Espa

Flowers – Janice Espa

In Tokyo, Aoyama Farmer’s Market is a great weekend destination. Every Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the forecourt of the United Nations University becomes a lively bazaar. The market is buzzing from start to finish, but getting there before noon will ensure you don’t miss out on buying any of the fruit, vegetables, breads, pastries, or flowers you’re after.

Fresh from the farm - Janice Espa

Fresh from the farm – Janice Espa

I’d suggest making a morning of it, browsing the stalls, talking to the producers, and then having a brunch in the courtside area – or head to a nearby park for a picnic, because you’ll pick up many tasty things along the way.

On my visit, I was enamoured by the tomatoes, many shapes and sizes, beautifully plump with bright colors. The stalls have clever and cute names. I sampled juicy strawberries that were just in season, as well as surprisingly flavorsome, and healthful, soy yogurt smoothies. My jaw dropped when I counted the number of mushrooms for sale from one of the vendors, and I giggled in excitement as the lady selling sesame paste and sesame seed products freshly ground some seeds for me to take home.   “If possible, all the way to Machu Picchu”, she said.

Kawaii strawberries - Janice Espa

Kawaii strawberries – Janice Espa

This one-on-one interaction, taking all the smells in, the sight of people sharing who they are and where they come from, producers eager to have a chat and tell you their story, and then the surprises and treats that may come from this sense of community, is priceless.

Fresh ginger and yuzu vinegar - Janice Espa

Fresh ginger and yuzu vinegar – Janice Espa

Aside from fresh produce, there are handmade bags and accessories and a selection of breads. Pastry stands offer kinako (toasted soybean flour) shortbread cookies, miso-based sweets, and fresh bagels. There’s also a takoyaki (octopus cooked in a savory batter) stand, a cart selling Spanish sangria, a curry rice vendor, Indian dosa made-to-order, and some German sausages for sale.

Cool Mobile Coffee - Janice Espa

Cool Mobile Coffee – Janice Espa

Aoyama Farmer’s Market, located in a relatively quiet section between Omotesando and Shibuya, is the perfect way to spend a few unscheduled hours in Tokyo. I thoroughly encourage you to check it out and find for yourself the taste of the season. You may bump into some of Tokyo’s famous chefs like Shinobu Namae of  L’Effervescence who often shops here.

Arrive by bike - Janice Espa

Arrive by bike – Janice Espa

AOYAMA FARMER’S MARKET

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-53-70, United Nations University Plaza 渋谷区神宮前5-53-70国際連合大学前

Nearest station: Omotesando (Ginza, Chiyoda and Hanzomon lines)

farmersmarkets.jp

 

If you liked this post, please check out Janice’s other post about Kyoto.

Nishiki Market and Kyoto Uzuki Cooking School

Sake Tasting with JD Kai

 

Janice Espa photoJanice Espa

Janice Espa is a Spanish-Peruvian food enthusiast; an avid traveller and inquisitive taster who explores culture through cuisine.  Janice lives in Sydney where she writes and styles food. Her days are spent visiting grower’s markets, checking out restaurants, and shopping at specialty stores to discover goods from every corner of the world.

Feel free to email suggestions and travel tips, or to contact Janice for her own recommendations, whether you’re visiting Peru, trekking South America or doing a road trip along the east coast of Australia.

Email:  janicespa at gmail.com

Roppongi Tsurutontan Udon

Tsurutontan tomato udon

Tomato udon with tomato sorbet at Tsurutontan

In summer at home we often make chilled somen noodles, sometimes topped with tomatoes. It’s a breeze to whip together, especially if you have tsuyu, the soy-based sauce noodles. Udon specialty restaurant Tsurutonten in Roppongi has a chilled tomato udon that is served with tomato sorbet. This is a great dish on a hot summer day, rich in umami. It is presented in a massive red bowl. Had the bowl been smaller I would have picked it up to slurp up what little broth was left in the bowl. Diners have the option of thin or regular udon noodles. In the photo above are the thin noodles. The seasonal menu is big and the next one on my list to try is the grilled corn udon. Our server said the summer menu will run through September 20th.

Tsurutonten also has branches in Shinjuku (Kabukicho 2-26-3), Marunouchi (Marunouchi 2-7-3, Tokia Bldg. B1), and at Haneda Airport.

 

Tsurutonten つるとんたん

Minato-ku, Roppongi 3-14-12

Nakameguro da Isa

Da Isa pizza spicy salami

Nakameguro da Isa spicy salami pizza

Many friends tell me that they love the pizza at da Isa in Nakameguro. The shop is very famous and is often featured in magazines and on television for its pizza. Whenever I come to this part of town though I usually make a beeline for Seirinkan. At lunchtime at da Isa there is a great special of about six different pizzas for only 1,000 JPY. A bargain as many of these pizzas are almost about twice that price. When we were seated a little after noon we were given the lunch menu and told that two were already sold out for the lunch offer. We took this spicy salami pizza off the regular menu, it was about 2,000 JPY. It was good although we picked it because it said it had taleggio cheese and instead we got blue cheese. My girlfriend and I were too busy chatting that we didn’t comment on it until we had already eaten most of the pizza, too late to ask for it to be remade. :-)

Da Isa pizza mushrooms

Nakameguro da Isa lunch funghi pizza

The lunch menu included this funghi pizza which is a great bargain at 1,000 JPY. The crust was charred and there is a generous amount of toppings. These are great pizzas and you could imagine yourself in Italy. There is a long list of pizzas so something for everyone, but it is the lunch special that is worth making a trip across town for. It’s about a five-minute walk from Nakameguro station along the main street. When you exit the station (there is only one exit) cross the street and take a left. Walk about five minutes and da Isa is on your right.

The pizzaolo, Hisanori Yamamoto, is very nice on the eyes. He is behind the counter in front of the wood-fired oven. He is known for winning the World Pizza Cup in Naples, which is no surprise.

Just be sure not to come on a Monday as they are closed. I have done this in the past. Also, don’t come on a Tuesday if Monday is a national holiday. Da Isa will be open for the national holiday on the Monday, but will then close on Tuesday. I have also come on a Tuesday after a national holiday. Luckily, Seirinkan down the street, was open.

da Isa

Meguro-ku, Aobada 1-28-9, 目黒区青葉台1-28-9

Summer Lunch at Nihonbashi Yukari

Nihonbashi Yukari - summer lunch

Iron Chef Kimio Nonaga of Nihonbashi Yukari

On a recent afternoon we found ourselves in Nihonbashi a little after noon. Just around the corner was one of our favorite restaurants in the city, Nihonbashi Yukari. Nihonbashi Yukari is a kaiseki/kappō restaurant. Behind the counter on most days is the third-generation chef, Kimio Nonaga. We actually tried coming in last week but when we called to make our reservations Nonaga-san said that he was going to be at NHK that day filming for a television program. When Nonaga-san is not in the house his father, the second-generation chef, fills in.

We were thrilled when we opened the door to see Nonaga-san behind the counter. We had just seen several people leaving the restaurant so our timing was perfect. The counter was just being cleared and we were seated just in front of the former Iron Chef champion at the best seats in the house.

Usually we pre-order our lunch, the Yukari lunch box which is like a mini-kaiseki meal and a great bargain at 3,500 JPY. Today as we were walk-ins it was our first time to order lunch off of the menu. There is a wide variety of dishes to choose from including tempura, grilled fish, simmered pork, sashimi platter, and much more.

Nihonbashi Yukari - summer lunch sashimi

Summer sashimi course on Edo Kiriko plate

We are big fans of a special nattō taré (sauce) that was created by Nonaga-san. This sashimi course was in addition to the regular lunch. Three types of sashimi, seared scallops, katsuo (skipjack tuna), and kanpachi (yellowtail) is topped with julienned daikon, shiso, myoga, onion, kaiwaré (daikon sprouts), and baby shiso. The dressing is a blend of the fermented soybean dressing which adds a rich umami and deep flavor to the dish. Anago bones are deep-fried and pulverized and sprinkled on which adds an unexpected and welcome crunch to the dish. The dish is a beautiful dish for summer, Edo Kiriko.

Nihonbashi Yukari summer lunch - anago

Anago Jyubako

Anago is sea eel and is often seen at the traditional sushi counter in Japan. At Nihonbashi Yukari the anago is simmered until tender and then served over rice in a lacquer box, jyubako. The anago is so soft that it melts in your mouth. The sauce is ever-so-sweet, not cloying as is often the case with unagi (fresh water eel).

Nihonbashi Yukari - summer lunch simmered meitagarei

Simmered meitagarei (fine-spotted flounder)

There were a few offerings for simmered fish this day. Shinji went with meitagarei which is a type of flounder. The simmering sauce is not made fresh each day but is passed on day after day over the years. It has a deep flavor from it. Nonaga-san said that many different types of fish are simmered in this sauce, hence the depth of flavor. This is something that would be hard to recreate at home, we pondered aloud. Nonaga-san suggested we try it. He said to save the broth and to put it in the fridge. I love his positive and encouraging attitude. The rice served with the simmered fish has julienned fresh ginger and abura-agé (deep-fried tofu) in it. Refreshing for the summer, and we find inspiration in another dish we will try at home.

Nihonbashi Yukari is just minutes from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu Guchi. It is possible to walk-in, but we recommend reservations. Within about ten minutes of being seated the counter filled up again and most of the tables in the restaurant were also full.

Nihonbashi Yukari

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-2-14

Dakshin “Truly South Indian” Near Tokyo Station

Curry and naan at Dakshin Yaesu

Curry and naan at Dakshin Yaesu

The Kyobashi side of Tokyo Station outside of the Yaesu exit has many restaurants hidden away down narrow streets or in the basement of boring buildings. Dakshin is one of these spots that is worth seeking out. I only happened upon it as my regular Indian spots for dosa, Dhaba, had a long line out the door. I had come too late in the day, it was just 12 noon and I knew better. Dhaba was not so popular ten years ago. I headed towards Tokyo Station and saw the menu and sign for Dakshin on the street level. “Truly South Indian” caught my attention. I went down the stairs and Dakshin too had a line out the door, but I made a mental note to come back, and am glad that I did.

The shop opens at 11 a.m. and I came at about 11:15 a.m. expecting it to be quiet. Was surprised to see the shop already about 1/3 full, and not all the customers were Japanese. While there is dosa on the menu at Dakshin, everyone in the restaurant was eating naan so I followed their lead. I was seated at the counter facing the open kitchen where the naan oven is. I was given the last seat at the counter which happened to be right in front of the oven for baking naan. At first I was excited as it is always fun to see the naan being stretched out, slapped into the oven, only to be later plied out by a long steel tool. But when my neighbors left I asked if I could be reseated away from the oven as it was getting hot. The restaurant filled up quickly after I was seated and by the time I left there was a line out the door.

The three curries today were a mutton, lentil, and shrimp. Instead of the shrimp curry I tried a side dish that sounded like onion tempura, I wish I hadn’t. It is best to leave the deep-frying to the tempura masters. The naan was excellent and served hot out of the oven and the curries also did not seem to be tempered for the Japanese palate. The businessman next to me kept wiping the sweat off of his face with his handkerchief.

Dakshin

Chuo-ku, Yaesu 2-5-12, Prairie Bldg. B1 中央区八重洲2-5-12プレリービル B1F

Tsukiji Market’s Take no Shokudo 多け乃食堂

Take no Shokudo - yaki kamasu

Grilled barracuda at Take no Shokudo

It is said that there are 500 shops and restaurants at Tsukiji Market’s outer market. Finding a particular one can be a challenge. A friend had told me that I had to check out Take no Shokudo. “It is just down one of those narrow streets just before the stoplight”, he had advised. Problem is that there are three narrow streets. We snaked our way up and down and were relieved to find it, just as our search was coming to an end. The noren, cloth banner that marks the entrance, was pushed together so the kanji was hard to decipher, but we had arrived.

Sliding open the door we asked if there were seats available. The three tables were full but we could be seated at the counter, which we preferred so we could look into the open kitchen. A cutting board was filled with boiled potatoes, which was made into potato salad, a classic izakaya side dish.

The lunch menu included tuna sashimi, seafood fried as tempura or breaded with panko and deep-fried, called “furai” in japanese, grilled fish and arani, simmered fish heads. We asked what fish they recommended for grilling and were advised either the collar of salmon which was very fatty, or kamasu, barracuda. I ordered the kamasu (1,100 JPY) and was surprised at how bit it was. It comes with some grated daikon. Pour some soy sauce onto the daikon and eat with the grilled fish. Great garnish to the simple dish.

Takeno Shokudo - arani

Fish heads simmered in soy at Take no Shokudo

Shinji, the fishmonger, ordered the arani (1,300 JPY), which was four different types of fish heads simmered in an intense sweet soy broth. The fish heads included salmon, yellowtail, and two smaller fish. Eating this dish requires dexterity with your chopsticks and lots of sucking bits and pieces from the bones. Diners must also be very careful as there are many small bones in the dish so eat with caution.

Take no Shokudo menu

Take no Shokudo menu

The meals were rounded out with a small dish of pickled cabbage and carrots, rice, and miso soup made with clams. I hear this spot is a great spot for drinking at night as there are many small plates to be ordered, mostly made with Tsukiji seafood. A shokudō is a cafeteria and often serves up home-style dishes. The walls of the shop are lined with signs listing many seafood dishes. It would be great fun to carefully peruse the selections over a beer and order dish after dish. In order to survive in a restaurant like this you not only need to be able to read Japanese, you need to know about a wide variety of seasonal Japanese seafood. Oh the fun. :-)

Absolutely no English here, so come with a Japanese speaker. Take no Shokudo is not open for breakfast, just lunch and dinner.

Take no Shokudo

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 6-21-2