Book Review – Japanese Kitchen Knives

Japanese Kitchen Knives

Japanese Kitchen Knives by Hiromitsu Nozaki with Kate Klippensteen, Kodansha International, 2009, 160 pp.

Revered chef Hiromitsu Nozaki’s cookbooks in Japanese are rich with classic recipes and techniques. Finally, his first book in English and it does not disappoint. Japanese knives are revered around the world and chef Nozaki clearly defines why in this handsome book. He starts off not with knives, but with cutting posture, the proper stance and even at what angle to face the cutting board. We tried this at home and realized quickly what a revelation this small change made in the kitchen.

While there are many Japanese knives Nozaki focuses on the main three that most chefs work with daily, usuba, deba, and yanagiba. Photos and clear directions guide readers through each step on working with these knives. Classic cutting techniques covered include katsuramuki for paper thin rolls of daikon, sasagaki for thin vegetable slivers, and sanmai oroshi for filleting fish. The tutorials on cutting sashimi are worth the price of the book alone. Easy and delicious recipes are included so that you can put to practice these newly acquired skills.

Finally, essential information on caring and sharpening your knives round out this book which will become a reference book that you will go back to many times.

Maizuru in Kappabashi for Plastic Food Samples

Maizuru

Maizuru

Most visitors to Kappabashi expect to find several shops selling plastic food samples including key chains, clocks, magnets, cell phone straps, and full size samples. There are only a handful of shops but they will not disappoint. This one in the photo above is one of Maizuru’s shops (there are two).

Maiduru Honten まいづる本店

Taito-ku, Nishi-Asakusa 1-5-17

Phone: 03-3843-1686

www.maiduru.co.jp/ (Japanese)

Realistic plastic fish.

Realistic plastic fish.

Plastic fish filets.

Plastic fish filets.

Plastic sushi and sashimi.

Plastic sushi and sashimi.

Sushi refrigerator magnets.

Sushi refrigerator magnets.

Sweets, crepes, donburi, sashimi, and sushi.

Sweets, crepes, donburi, sashimi, and sushi.

Ice cold beer with a thick head of foam.

Ice cold beer with a thick head of foam.

Food & Wine Go List 2009 for Tokyo

Nihonbashi Yukari

Nihonbashi Yukari

I am often asked for my recommendations for my favorite restaurants in the city. Here is my contribution to Food & Wine’s 2009 Go List for Tokyo.

Japanese chefs are dictating the world’s dining trends with their fierce devotion to seasonality and respect for aesthetics. For more great restaurants, check out our guide to the world’s best places to eat.

Restaurants:

GINZA HARUTAKA

Chuo-ku, Ginza 8-5-8, Kawabata Bldg. 3F

03-3573-1144

Chef Harutaka Takahashi may have a Michelin-starred resume, but he isn’t showy. He turns exceptional seafood into perfect sashimi and sushi in a simple space down the street from Tsukiji Market.
We loved: Anago (eel) broiled in a sweet soy-based sauce.

IVAN RAMEN

Setagaya-ku, Minamikarasuyama 3-24-7

03-6750-5540

http://www.ivanramen.com/

Native New Yorker Ivan Orkin faced skeptics when he opened a 10-seat ramen counter in the Setagaya neighborhood almost two years ago. But now, ramen connoisseurs make pilgrimages to eat his homemade noodles doused in a chicken-and-seafood broth and topped with luxurious slabs of roast pork or nests of pickled bamboo shoots.
We loved: Whole wheat noodles with slow-cooked charred pork topped with a spicy sesame-and-peanut salad.
Insider tip: Ask for the gentei, or daily special.

KONDO

Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-5-13, Sakaguchi Bldg. 9th fl.

03-5568-0923

At this tiny tempura temple, baskets of seasonal vegetables sit on the counter waiting to be battered, deep-fried and served right out of the bubbling oil. Chef Fumio Kondo carefully monitors the temperature of the oil and the cooking time to create a delicate, crisp shell. He serves sweet soy tsuyu dipping sauce on the side, but purists stick to salt.
We loved: Lacy nests of julienned carrots and Satsumaimo sweet potato.

TOFUYA UKAI

Minato-ku, Shiba Koen 4-4-13
03-3436-1028

At this 100-year-old reconstructed sake brewery, the classic kaiseki courses, like seasonal sashimi and seared wagyu, are delicious. The highlight is soy in several forms, including decadent twice-cooked tofu and freshly made tofu simmering in a hot pot of creamy soy milk.
We loved: Deep-fried tofu spread with dengaku miso.
Insider tip: The gift shop sells jars of the sweet dengaku miso.

WAKETOKUYAMA

Minato-ku, Minami-Azabu 5-1-5

03-5789-3838

Revered chef Hiromitsu Nozaki owns several other places in Tokyo, but he likes to hang out behind the counter at his little kappo restaurant (a relaxed relative of kaiseki) in upscale Hiroo. Nozaki preaches the philosophy of shun, or seasonality, as he assembles gorgeous dishes like uni topped shimeji mushrooms.
We loved: Abalone with kimo (liver) sauce and toasted nori.

Hot Food Zone: Kagurazaka

Once renowned for its geisha houses, this area near Iidabashi Station is now called “Petit France” for its many brasseries, bistros and wine bars. Also here are some of the best places to eat nearly every style of Japanese cuisine, like steamed dumplings at 50 Ban (Kagurazaka 3-2), tempura at geisha house–turned–restaurant Tenko (Kagurazaka 3-1) and traditional sweets at Baikatei (Kagurazaka 6-15).

Where to Eat Near: Omotesando’s Shops

MAISEN TONKATSU

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 4-8-5

03-3470-0071

Hidden behind the Omotesando Hills shopping complex, this is a classic spot for humble tonkatsu: fried panko-breaded pork cutlets made from prized regional breeds like Okinawa’s red benibuta hog.

OMOTESANDO UKAI-TEI

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-10-1, Gyre Bldg. 5th fl.

03-5467-5252

At this luxe new teppanyaki restaurant, Venetian glass and European art set a fancy stage for chefs grilling extraordinary seafood, vegetables and marbled beef.

YANMO

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 5-5-25, T Place Bldg. B1

03-5466-0636

Seafood from the Izu Peninsula, brought in daily, elevates the reasonably priced lunch specials at this excellent restaurant on a side street behind Comme des Garçons.

Okuda Shouten Shiten in Kappabashi for Bamboo Products

Okuda Shouten Shiten

Okuda Shouten Shiten

This shop features bamboo products. Strainers, steamers, bamboo baskets for soba, tempura, or for large strainers, chopsticks, handai for making sushi rice, bento boxes, bowls for miso soup. I have picked up many items here including long cooking chopsticks, otoshibuta (wooden drop lids for pots), and a large, bamboo basket that I take to the market. The basket is square shaped and can be filled with many items. This is one of my favorite shops on the Kappabashi Street.

Okuda Shouten Shiten オクダ商店支店

Taito-ku, Nishi-Asakusa 1-5-10

Phone: 03-3844-4511

www.kappabashi.or.jp/shops/32.html (Japanese)

Takahashi Souhonten in Kappabashi for Pottery and Ceramics

Noren (banner) at Takahashi Souhonten

Noren (banner) at Takahashi Souhonten

Takahashi Souhonten in Kappabashi

Takahashi Souhonten in Kappabashi

Takahashi has a wide selection of pottery including ramen bowls, teapots, teacups nabe hot pots, and plates and bowls.

Takahashi Souhonten 高橋総本店

Taito-ku, Nishi-Asakusa 1-5-10

Phone: 03-3845-1163

www.takaso.jp/contents/store/ceramic.html (Japanese)

Machikan Knife Shop in Kawagoe, Saitama

Historic Kawagoe north of Tokyo

Historic Kawagoe north of Tokyo

Kawagoe in Saitama is a short train ride just north of Tokyo. This historic city is charming and a great day trip. The downtown “kurazukuri” area is filled with old, wooden buildings and this tall bell tower.

Machikan Knife Store in Kawagoe

Machikan Knife Store in Kawagoe

Shinji and I came to Kawagoe to purchase knives for each other. Machikan is on the main street in downtown Kawagoe and I believe is a seventh generation shop.

Machikan Knife Shop in Kawagoe

Machikan Knife Shop in Kawagoe

Here is the noren (banner) in front of Machikan.

Machikan Knives

Machikan Knives

Shinji’s knife is the long, yanagibocho, for cutting fish into sashimi slices. I chose a small debabocho.

Shinji slicing hirame with his yanagibocho

Shinji slicing hirame with his yanagibocho

Shinji’s first fish with his new knife was a gorgeous winter hirame, rich with fat.

Machikan Knife Shop

Saitama-ken, Kawagoe-shi, Saiwaicho 7-3

049-222-1516

www.oakv.co.jp/sylvan/0801/index.html

Check out the website for gorgeous photos of the interior of the shop.

Izumiya for Sembei in Asakusa

Izumiya Sembei Shop #2 in Asakusa

Izumiya Sembei Shop #2 in Asakusa

Izumiya 和泉屋

Taito-ku, Asakusa 1-1-4

Tel. 03-3841-5501

10:30 – 19:30 (closed Thursdays)

www.asakusa.gr.jp/nakama/izumiya/ (Japanese)

This quaint sembei shop presents the rice crackers in glass jars with tin lids. A wide variety of flavors include both sweet and savory like shiso, zarame (rock sugar), and a very spicy dried red pepper covered ookara. The very delicate and thin usuyaki, nori wrapped, and an unusual type, an extra hard genkotsu. There is also a shop in the Nakamise Dori, but this selection is much bigger. These two shops are across the street from each other. These are not on the Nakamise Dori.

Izumiya Sembei Shop in Asakusa

Izumiya Sembei Shop in Asakusa

Kappabashi – Getting There

The Kappabashi area is packed with shops for chefs and restaurateurs and a great area to explore for any foodie. It is a short walk from the historic Asakusa temple area. Getting there is easy. Below are the photos that will help you get there from Tawaramachi train station on the Ginza line.

Exit #3 of Tawaramachi station on the Ginza line

Exit #3 of Tawaramachi station on the Ginza line

Take exit number three at Tawaramachi station on the Ginza line. It is the second to last stop before Asakusa.

Shop at the top of the stairs of exit number three.

Shop at the top of the stairs of exit number three.

When you exit the station you are standing in front of this interesting shop selling altars for the home. It stands on the corner. Walk around the corner and start walking down the street on your right.

Japanese post office

Japanese post office

You will see a post office to your right. Continue walking past the post office and go straight. You will pass on your right a local supermarket, called Akafudado. It is worth poking your head in and walking through to see where the locals shop. There is a small deli section in back with bento boxes – a good option for lunch as there are few restaurants at Kappabashi.

Chef mascot of Kappabashi

Chef mascot of Kappabashi

Walk about three blocks until you arrive at this giant chef on top of the building to your right. You have arrived to the main street of Kappabashi!

Nihonbashi Yukari 日本橋ゆかり

Chef Kimio Nonaga

Chef Kimio Nonaga

One of my favorite restaurants in Tokyo is Nihonbashi Yukari. It is just a coincidence that it is called Yukari. It is not a coincidence that I worked at Takashimaya in Nihonbashi, just a few blocks from this oasis. Nihonbashi Yukari is a kaiseki restaurant serving seasonal cuisine. Chef Nonaga was the 2002 Iron Chef Winner, you can see the trophy when you walk into the restaurant.

Bento Lunch Box

Bento Lunch Box

If you are going for lunch, call ahead and order the Yukari Bento box. (3,675 JPY last time I had it, or about $35 USD.) It is a gorgeous presentation including tempura, sashimi, and usually something simmered and grilled.

Dinner here is reasonable for the several courses. I believe it starts around 10,000 JPY or about $100 USD. Ask to sit at the counter so that you can watch Chef Nonaga behind the counter as he works with the seafood for sashimi. The hot dishes are prepared by his team in the kitchen.

If you go, tell him New York Yukari sent you there.

Nihonbashi Yukari

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-2-14

Phone: 03-3271-3436

http://www.nihonbashi-yukari.com

closest station is Tokyo station’s Yaesu guchi (exit) or Nihonbashi.

Miyazaki Kan Konne Antenna Shop

Regional foods are celebrated in Japan and the best place to explore these in Tokyo are at “antenna shops”. At these shops you will find artisan sake and shochu (distilled spirit), miso, pickles, sweets, crackers, and at some shops, seafood and meat products. Near Shinjuku station is the Miyazaki prefecture antenna shop. The shops are right next to each other at the South exit (Shinjuku Minami Guchi). Antenna shops also carry tourist brochures so if you plan on traveling to a certain prefecture, check out the antenna shop before you go to do some research on the area.

Miyazaki Kan Konne Antenna Shop

Miyazaki Kan Konne Antenna Shop

Shinjuku Miyazaki Kan Konne 新宿みやざき館KONNE

Shibuya-ku, Yoyogi 2-2-1, Shinjuku Sazan Terrace

03-5333-7764

11:00 – 21:00, no holidays

Station: Shinjuku JR Station’s Minami Guchi (South Exit)

www.konne.jp/ (Japanese)

This is one of my favorite antenna shops in the city for its shochu (distilled spirits) on the second floor. If you come at the beginning of the month the shop is allocated limited edition shochu from Miyazaki.