NY Croissant Donut at Mr. Donut

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So Mr. Donut Japan has brought its version of the Cronut to Japan, the Mr. Croissant Donut. It’s not as good as the cinnamon-dusted New York Rings at the Roastery in Omotesando, but a huge improvement over the version made by Banderole. It is crispy and flakey and the whipped cream was pretty skimpy. It is definitely not worth standing in a long queue for hours for. Japanese consumers love trying new food products, so it was no surprise that the two people in front of me both were buying the Mr. Croissant Donut. On my way out of the shopping mall I saw three other customers holding the specially designed bag for the Mr. Croissant Donut. I won’t be going back for a second.Croissant Donut2

The Mr. Croissant Donut comes in three flavors and is about $2. As in the photo above, from left to right:

1. Chocolate with whipped custard

2. White chocolate with whipped caramel

3. Maple with angel whip (whipped cream)

If you like croissants and sweets, then make a beeline to the Croissant Taiyaki shop.

Nuts and Nori

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Nuts and sea vegetables are a new snack for me. The idea was introduced to me by chef friend of mine. My friend was in Tokyo and while here she was on the hunt for a special type of aonori. We looked throughout Tsukiji Market and finally came across what she was looking for. She said she wanted to bring some home to make this dish with nuts.

This is a simple dish to whip together. Take some raw nuts, fry in oil at low heat. Take the nuts out of the oil and then I quickly fry the aonori in the oil and then add to the nuts and season with salt. This dish above is with cashew nuts.

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Walnuts and aonori.

Nori Peanuts

Peanuts and aonori.

Aonori

This is the aonori that we used for the nuts and nori. I blogged about it in January as the aonori is also nice in dashimakitamago. These nuts and nori goes well with saké as well as wine, both red and white, and beer.

The Future of Tsukiji Market – Tokyo Ichiba Project

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It is no news that Tsukiji Market’s Inner Market, Tsukiji Jōnai Ichiba,  will be moving in the next few years. While the government is saying 2016, our friends who work in the market are telling us it is more likely to be 2017. For sure the market must move by 2018 so that preparations for the 2020 Olympic Games can start. Last I heard the media center would be stationed here. The media center then would be taken down after the Paralympic Games and high-rise condominiums will be built here. As for the Outer Market, Tsukiji Jōgai Ichiba, it will stay as it is. The Outer Market is always open to the general public. It is the Inner Market where the wholesale seafood is, as well as the famous tuna auction.

What is up with the future market? To get a better idea, be sure to stop by the Tokyo Ichiba Project museum which is located inside of the market. The museum has pictures of the future market as well as a three-dimensional models.

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Here is an overview of what the Toyosu Market will look like. One of the attendants in the museum said that the market name will change from Tsukiji to Toyosu once it moves. Perhaps the current Outer Market will continue to be called Tsukiji. It is very interesting as the models also show how the new market will be broken up into three different complexes with each building having a few floors. The monorail is also shown so that visitors will have an idea of how to access the Toyosu Market.

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A photo of the tuna auction at Toyosu. Visitors will be able to view from a second floor viewing platform and from side windows.

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The brand new facilities will be temperature controlled.

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There will be many restaurants for visitors.

What is not shown at the museum, but what has been shown on television is that a hotel will also be built here. There will also be a hot springs at the hotel with an outdoor onsen on the rooftop that will overlook Tokyo Bay. It is slightly more convenient for the delivery trucks to access, especially for those that make the trip to Narita airport. This PDF has a map of the new facility compared to the current location.

* The new market is only 2.3 kilometers from the current location.

* Toyosu Market will be accessible by the Yurikamome monorail.

* The stop for the Toyosu Market is called “Ichiba Mae”.

Tokyo Ichiba Project Museum

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1

open from 9 a.m. to about 2 p.m.

Rocco’s New York-Style Pizza

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Rocco’s New York-Style Pizza has been on my radar for a long time. We have great pizza in Tokyo, like the classic Italian Neopolitan style, cooked in wood-burning ovens, as can be found at the famous Nakameguro Seirinkan. What is harder to find is the New York-style, baked in a deck oven, and sold by the slice. Toppings are what I often crave like pepperoni, Italian sausage, and olives, items that aren’t traditionally put on the Neopolitan pizzas.

Rocco’s is just a short walk from Oji station, an area that is not part of my regular routine. I am thrilled to have finally made it as Rocco’s pizza reminds me of my years in New York City. Big slices that fall over the paper plates that are right out of the oven. The tables are lined with red-and-white checker cloth. Grated cheese, chili flakes, and powdered garlic condiments are also on the table, another nod to New York. There is a full menu, including calzones, Buffalo wings, and New York cheesecake. We didn’t have much time this day but will definitely go back to try more of the menu.

The owner, Dan, is from New York, and I was thrilled to be able to catch part of a New York Yankee’s game on the big-screen television. The sports schedule is listed on their website. While Oji was not an area I went to often the past, I see that changing. This pizza is worth a journey.

Rocco’s New York-Style Pizza

Kita-ku, Oji-honcho 1-1-24

03-3906-9710

http://www.roccosnewyorkstylepizza.com

Monzennakacho Monz Cafe

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Monzennakacho is a very cool neighborhood that is close to the heart of Tokyo. Accessible via the Tozai or Oedo subway lines. Part of the area abuts the Sumidagawa River and there is a river that runs through it that offers boat rides under the cherry blossoms in spring.  I lived here for a few years and love this area very much. There are a few temples in the area including the Tomioka Hachimangu and Fukagawa Fudosan, as well as a big festival every three years in the summer. My favorite pickle restaurant in Tokyo, Kintame, has a shop just in front of the Fukagawa Fudosan.

A new addition to the area is Monz Cafe, hip cafe on the old street that leads from the Tozai station exit to the Fukagawa Fudosan temple. On this spring day the windows and doors are wide open. Two young girls are behind the counter. Inside is tight seating for 18. There is a small glass case with some baked goods like pound and chiffon cakes. The limited food menu includes panini and Eggs Benedict. My “flat white” is like a cappuccino, but with more milk. The coffee is rich, but not too bitter or dark. The cafe has a light and refreshing feel to it. A great spot to grab coffee with a friend, or perhaps a coffee after a pickle lunch at Kintame.

I asked one of the girls behind the counter what this was prior and she said it used to be an amazaké shop. She pointed to the space above the door and they have retained the old sign. A small gesture, but one that is perfect for this neighborhood, which still retains the feel of shitamachi, the heart of old Tokyo.

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Monz Cafe

Koto-ku, Tomioka 1-14-5

03-6873-0835

Monday – Friday 8:00-19:00

Weekends and holidays 9:00-18:00

One minute from Tozai exit #1.

Tsukiji Market Breakfast – Onigiriya Marutoyo おにぎり屋 丸豊

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Onigiri or omusubi is the quintessential comfort food in Japan. A ball of rice that is stuffed with savory fillings. I grew up eating this and it makes for the perfect quick bite. Onigiri-ya Murotoyo is a famous shop in Tsukiji Market known for its handmade onigiri. A television show recently featured this shop and my curiosity was piqued. Marutoyo is just a few shops down from our favorite knife shop, Tsukiji Masamoto.

The selection to choose from is surprisingly rich. I stood there for minutes as I couldn’t decide. The signs are in Japanese so best to ask for your favorites like:

sake - salmon

umeboshi – pickled apricot

ikura – marinated salmon roe

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There is a small seating area around the corner to the right of the shop. A tiny table and a few chairs where you can rest your feet. Marutoyo also servse miso soup and small side dishes if you want to round out the meal. There are also sushi rolls and chirashi-zushi, but it is the onigiri that makes this shop famous.

I went with the bakudan which is stuffed with a soft-boiled egg and a seasonal one of tempura of bamboo shoots. The rice balls are a bit on the pricey side, about twice what you pay for at the convenience stores, and worth the mark-up. My only gripe is that it was under seasoned. I would have liked a bit more salt on the outside of the omusubi. I will be back, and next time I will order an item that is naturally salty, like ikura or pickled greens like takana or the classic umeboshi.

Onigiri-ya Marutoyo

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-9-9

The shop opens early in the morning, around 3 a.m. according to one website, and is open until about 2 p.m.

Baked Kit Kats

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Japanese food companies are brilliant at marketing their products. Kit Kat has teamed up with a famous pastry chef, Yasumasa Takagi, of Le Patissier Takagi. The latest product to hit the supermarket shelves is Kit Kat that is meant to be baked in the toaster oven. The television commercial shows chef Takagi baking the Kit Kats until golden brown. Currently there are two flavors, chocolate and pudding.

So, it was fun to put the Kit Kat in the toaster oven and watch it toast. The results were not mind-blowing. You do have to let it cool down once it comes out of the oven as it is too hot to eat. The wafers still remain crispy and I guess the only addition is a slightly toasty flavor from the baking. It’s more about being unique and about putting Kit Kat in a new context.

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This is what the packaging looks like. I am curious to see if this trend continues and if the company introduces new flavors in the future. These are sold at local supermarkets.

FYI, the video says to put the Kit Kats in the refrigerator before baking in the toaster oven for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes.

If you are looking for the regional flavored Kit Kats, check out my Foodies Gifts article in Metropolis for details on where to find a big selection in Tokyo.

Omotesando Koffee

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Omotesando Koffee, while known for its good coffee, it is perhaps more famous for its “ko-hi- kashi” or coffee sweet. Kunitomo-san at the shop said it is a baked purin, which is like a creme custard, but that flour is added to the mixture. It has a crispy crust and is soft and eggy inside. Dangerous if you come hungry as one could easily go through several of these.

The quality of the coffee is excellent here. My girlfriend’s latte had a nice proportion of milk to espresso. I indulged and got a Bailey’s espresso. The aroma of the Baileys reminded the both of us of our days at Midwestern liberal arts colleges. Amazing how just smelling the Baileys brought back memories from 25 years ago. Next time I will get the Baileys with some milk.

The shop card are coffee filters that are also used for serving the ko-hi- kashi. Brilliant. I teased him asking if I could recycle these at home as coffee filters and he said we could.

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Here is the exterior of the shop. It is on the first floor of a residential home, which could explain why the shop does not open until 10 a.m. We got there a bit early and it was fun to watch the rituals of preparing the small garden in front of the shop before opening the gate.

The handsome Kunitomo-san in a light blue lab coat is very friendly. We spoke only in Japanese but on our way out some Americans came in and we could hear him speaking English. It was raining this morning so we stood inside and had our coffee tachi-nomi style. If the weather is good there are two small benches in the narrow garden in front of the shop. But, this is not a place you want to linger for long at.

Omotesando Koffee

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 4-15-3

03-5413-9422

10:00 – 19:00 daily

* Omotesando Koffee is right behind Maisen tonkatsu. The perfect spot for a coffee after tonkatsu.

Tokyo’s Best Banh Mi

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Thanks to a tip from JapanEats I finally found what I believe to be the best banh mi in Tokyo at Banh Mi Sandwich. The bun has a nice crust but is chewy inside. The pate and ham banh mi (550 JPY) remind me of what I had in Chinatown in NYC and there is a generous serving of pickled carrots and daikon. I splurged an extra 50 JPY for extra cilantro. The shop is only a minute from Takadanobaba station and is a tiny shop. Only one person can fit inside at a time to use the vending machine to place your order. There are two narrow seats in front of the shop, but it was busy with diners waiting for their orders to be filled. Consider this a take-away shop. I am already trying to figure out in my calendar when I can go back.

For a city with some of the world’s greatest food, there are some things that just are not easily available, like banh mi. I am still on the hunt for Korean fried chicken, like Bon Chon in NYC. If anyone can help me, please let me know.

Banh Mi Sandwich (seriously, that is the name of the restaurant)

Shinjuku-ku, Takadanobaba 4-9-18

Japanese Fried Chicken at iro-kara

Irokara1

 

I have been craving Korean-style fried chicken ever since listening to Rick Bayless talk about it on The Feed Podcast. When I lived in New York City and Singapore I could get my fix. For some reason, Tokyo, which has amazing kara-agé (deep-fried, seasoned, boneless cuts of chicken) hasn’t caught on to it. And, there is a big difference. I believe the Korean chicken is fried twice. It has a sweet and spicy sauce that will have you licking your fingers after you have gnawed off all the meat that you can get off of the bone.

I went to Shin-Okubo, the Korean part of Tokyo and tried two restaurants, both disappointing. A dear friend suggested iro-kara near Omotesando. The kara-agé here was delicious but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I will be back as it was a nice, quick lunch. The chicken is fried after the order is placed and there is al fresco seating on the rooftop. The donburi is a generous serving of rice topped with the fried chicken, katsuobushi, leeks, and pickled ginger. A mash-up of kara-agé and takoyaki toppings.

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There are several flavors, such as basil, curry, yuzu kosho, and ume shiso. We tried a few but nothing outstanding. Best to stick with the basic kara-agé.

Brimmer Beer is next doors, but not open at lunch time. There is also a curry stand next door. Could be fun to order a curry and top it with the fried chicken.

iro-kara

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 3-8-34

www.iro-kara.net