Tokyo Cheap Eats – Tsukiji Market’s Tomiena トミーナ

Tomiena

Tomiena

Tsukiji Market feeds many of the workers (said to up to 30,000 workers come here) and naturally they are not going to want to eat sushi everyday. Tomiena is a seafood restaurant known for its pasta with topped with fresh seafood.

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1, Building #1

Phone: 03-5565-3737

http://gourmet.livedoor.com/restaurant/18312/ (in Japanese)

Tokyo Cheap Eats – Tsukiji Market’s Yoshinoya

Yoshinoya

Yoshinoya

Yoshinoya is a popular fast-food chain famous for its gyudon, thin slices of beef cooked with onions and a sweet soy sauce are ladled over a bowl of rice. A branch of Yoshinoya is in New York City on 42nd Street. The first shop in the chain dates back to 1899 and was located near Nihonbashi. It moved here to Tsukiji with the move of the market.

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1 Building #1

Phone: 03-5550-8504

www.yoshinoya.com/shop/tsukiji/index.html (Japanese)

Kawagoe – A Day Trip from Tokyo to Little Edo

Kawagoe Clock Tower

Kawagoe Clock Tower

Ken Belson in the New York Times pens a great article on the city of Kawagoe which is just about an hour north of Tokyo. This is a great day trip and my favorite shop in the city is a knife shop, Machikan. I believe it is a seventh generation shop. We have a few knives which we have purchased here and are thrilled with them.

http://travel.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/travel/06dayout.html

Tokyo Cheap Eats – Oedo Kaitenzushi 大江戸回転寿し

Ooedo Kaitenzushi

Ooedo Kaitenzushi

Ooedo Kaitenzushi

Ooedo Kaitenzushi

As a fishmonger, Shinji is always craving sushi. There are many ranks of restaurants, even within the kaitenzushi (revolving sushi). Ooedo Kaitenzushi came highly recommended for its variety of fresh fish at a reasonable price. Ooedo has several locations throughout the city. This one is near Okachimashi, just south of Ueno station and near the boisterous Ameyoko market.

Shirako

Shirako

Assorted Sushi

Assorted Sushi

Assorted Sushi

Assorted Sushi

Ooedo Kaitenzushi – Okachimachi Kitaguchi Ten

Taito-ku, Ueno 6-2-1

Phone: 03-5812-2097

http://www.ooedo.co.jp

Osechi Ryori – Japanese New Year’s Day Cuisine おせち料理

osechi

Homemade osechi ryori

I made this osechi ryori set the first year I was married for my Japanese husband’s family. It took about a week in total (not all day but using parts of each day) of menu planning, shopping, and assembling each dish. Only the kamaboko and black beans were purchased.

Top left box: datémaki egg and fish cake rolled omelet, kamaboko (fish cakes), black beans, tazukuri or gomamé, kuri kinton (chestnuts in a sweet potato mash).

Top right box: nimono of chicken, carrots, renkon, gobo, konnyaku, and pea pods.

Bottom box: kazunoko (herring roe), namasu (pickled julienned carrots & daikon), sesame dressed gobo, kuwai, kobumaki (herring wrapped in kombu), and pickled renkon.

This article first appeared in Metropolis magazine.

Trying to find somewhere open on and after January 1, when the New Year holidays have shut doors all around Japan, can be trying. Hence the tradition of osechi ryori, or seasonal food, dishes targeted at providing sustenance over the laidback days at home. Most can be prepared ahead of time, lasting for days when kept in a cool environment.

Like everything else in Japan, osechi ryori can be bought packaged exquisitely in deluxe boxes called jubako. At department stores such as Takashimaya, late October sees the spectacle of the first day of pre-order, when lined-up customers stampede inside to snap up the coveted limited-edition boxes. These tend to include offerings from Michelin-grade and other award-winning chefs, top-class hotels, and famous ryotei (luxurious Japanese restaurants)—and can fetch up to ¥200,000 per box. For those without a six-figure salary however, local supermarkets and conbini also sell—more affordable—box sets. Some mix in Chinese and Western elements, while others highlight regional cuisine.

Every year has its trends, and 2012 is no different. Look out for a proliferation of low-calorie options, and “yawaraka osechi”— soft foods for elderly customers.

COMMON COMPONENTS

  • Tazukuri—Candied dried sardines, formerly used as fertilizer in rice paddies, hence their other name gomame (“50,000 grains of rice”)
  • Kazunoko—Herring roe simmered in soy and dashi broth, symbolizing fertility
  • Kuromame—Simmered sweet black beans, a pun on the word “mame” for diligence and hard work in the upcoming year
  • Kohaku namasu—Pickled, red Kyoto carrots and strips of white daikon make up the celebratory colors of red and white
  • Kamaboko—Steamed fish cakes, also in the nationalistic colors
  • Kuri kinton—Mashed sweet potato with sweet chestnut, the kanji is a play on prosperity
  • Yude ebi—Boiled shrimp, whose bent backs refer to having a long life (check out some elderly on the bus for a visual explanation)
  • Kobumaki—Kelp, often wrapped around herring or salmon. A play on the word “yorokobu,” for happiness in the home
  • Tai—Sea bream; a play on the congratulatory greeting “omedetai
  • Sato imo—Taro root, symbolizing a great number of descendents, from the way the little potato-like vegetables proliferate
  • Renkon—Lotus root, the holes of which allow us to see clearly into our future
  • Daidai—Bitter orange, whose name is a homonym for future generations

Look out for spice packets for steeping in sake to make o-toso. The spice pack looks like a tea bag and is filled with herbs including cinnamon and dried sansho berries, and produces a delicious drink for New Year’s Day, thought to stave off illness during the winter season.

ACCJ Journal Restaurant Review – Nihonbashi Yukari

2002 Iron Chef Winner - Kimio Nonaga

2002 Iron Chef Winner - Kimio Nonaga

My first restaurant review for the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan Journal on my favorite kaiseki restaurant, Nihonbashi Yukari.

http://accjjournal.com/nihonbashi-yukari/ (text follows)

If it’s good enough for the emperor, it’s good enough for me. Third generation Kimio Nonaga of Nihonbashi Yukari recently catered an event at the Imperial Palace for a meeting between the emperor and prime minister Yukio Hatoyama. Chef Nonaga captured the attention of foodies in 2002 upon winning the Iron Chef trophy at the tender age of twenty-nine. While he grew up in his family’s restaurant, he trained for seven years in Kyoto’s renowned Kikunoi under the tutelage of Chef Yoshihiro Murata. Murata is the author of the gorgeous book “Kaiseki,” published by Kodansha International.

Nihonbashi Yukari is just minutes from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu exit. The entrance to the restaurant, elegant and simple, is a stark contrast to the cheap restaurants and office buildings that crowd the area. Inside you are warmly greeted by kimono clad waitresses and are transported to an oasis. The inside is the classic sukiya style of wood and paper shoji screens. In the basement are private rooms for intimate dinners and groups. Diners range in age from young to old, and at lunchtime well-heeled ladies populate the space.

The best seats are at the counter, where you can watch the chef create cold dishes. Hot dishes are prepared in the kitchen. And, if you speak Japanese, Chef Nonaga will share with you the seasonal ingredients.

Nihonbashi Yukari is renowned for serving classic kaiseki cuisine composed of seasonal ingredients presented exquisitely over several courses. And great thought is put into pleasing the customer; for example, if it is a cold day your first course will be a warm dish.

ACCJ-Restaurants-chef

The menu changes daily, depending on what Chef Nonaga has picked up that morning at Tsukiji Market. He is also a big proponent of local produce. No two meals are ever the same – and here is the challenge of suggesting favorite dishes.

The sashimi course is always a highlight. Chef Nonaga cuts the fish different in thicknesses or scores the flesh to create the best texture. I still remember fondly a creamy shirako (fish sperm sac) with a ponzu dressing and an owan (soup) dish of seasonal fish dusted with rice flour and deep-fried until crispy and served in a savory, thickened broth.

 

ACCJ-Restaurants-food

Chef Nonaga takes an unusual interest in creating original desserts, often based on Japanese ingredients. Kinako (roasted soybean powder) ice cream studded with black beans, or a cheesecake made with sake lees are just two examples of his creativity. The chef also has an original mugishochu and beer, both that are perfect beverage partners for his cuisine. There is also a nice selection of Japan wines on hand.

One of the great delights of Nihonbashi Yukari is that it is open for lunch, unusual for many kaiseki restaurants. Call ahead and reserve the bento box, as the number prepared each day is limited. For classic Japanese cuisine Nihonbashi Yukari is among the top in the city. If you go, tell him Yukari sent you.

Nihonbashi Yukari

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-2-14

03-3271-3436

http://www.nihonbashi-yukari.com/

closest stations: Nihonbashi and Tokyo station Yaesu exit

closed Sunday and holidays

Tokyo Cheap Eats – Ivan Ramen

Ivan Orkin of Ivan Ramen

Ivan Orkin of Ivan Ramen

There are many great ramen shops in Tokyo, but if I had to pick only one to send my friends to it would be Ivan Ramen. The first Westerner to bravely, and successfully, open a ramen shop in Japan. Ivan, a native New Yorker, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and honed his skills at some of the best restaurants in NYC, including Lutece with master chef Andre Soltner.

Shio (salt) Ramen

Shio (salt) Ramen

The basic ramen has a well-balanced broth made from chicken and dashi stock with hand-made noodles.

Tan Tan Mazemen

Tan Tan Mazemen

Ivan also does original dishes, usually on a seasonal (limited) basis. These “genteihin” are where he shines. This tan tan mazemen was one of my favorites. At the moment he is doing a Mexican tacos mazemen.

If you go, tell him Yukari sent you!

Ivan Ramen

Setagaya-ku, Minamikarasuyama 3-24-7

Phone: 03-6750-5540

www.ivanramen.com

Tokyo Bargain Dining – Nihonbashi Yukari

Iron Chef Kimio Nonaga

Iron Chef Kimio Nonaga

I am often queried for good but affordable restaurants in Tokyo. One of my favorites for lunch is Nihonbashi Yukari with 2002 Iron Chef winner Kimio Nonaga. The basic lunch starts at about 2,000 JPY (around $20 USD). If you want to splurge, the Yukari bento, an uspcale bento, is about 3,675 JPY (about $35 USD).

Yukari Bento

Yukari Bento

Here is the Yukari bento, a large meal, complete with tempura, sashimi, a simmered dish, and more.

Nihonbashi Yukari Lunch

Nihonbashi Yukari Lunch

This is a basic lunch of a grilled fish, side dish, pickles, rice, and miso soup.

Nihonbashi Yukari is a short distance from Tokyo station, and very close to Takashimaya department store. Chef Kimio Nonaga is often behind the counter.

Dinner is also quite reasonable for kaiseki cuisine. I believe it starts at about 10,000 JPY. If you go, tell him Yukari sent you!

Nihonbashi Yukari 日本橋ゆかり

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-2-14 中央区日本橋 3-2-14

03-3271-3436

http://www.nihonbashi-yukari.com/

Kappabashi Gotta Gets

Shochu Cups

Shochu Cups

I love these shochu cups in the winter when I drink shochu with hot water. These have the type of base ingredient written on the cup 芋 for imo jochu (sweet potato shochu) or 黒糖 for kokuto jochu (brown sugar shochu).

Teacups

Teacups

These teacups will get lots of use in any home. The cup on the far right has different types of sushi drawn on the cup. The second from the write, the white cup with blue calligraphy, has the popular types of fish written on it, as could be found at sushi restaurants.

Lacquer Bowls

Lacquer Bowls

These lacquer bowls are most often used for miso soup but we also love them for serving ice cream.

Natto Bowl and Chopsticks

Natto Bowl and Chopsticks

For natto (fermented soybean) lovers this bowl and chopsticks are indispensable. Natto is put into the bowl and stirred up with special chopsticks that bring out the slippery and slimy texture of the natto.

Kappabashi Gotta Gets

Refrigerator Magnets

Refrigerator Sushi Magnets

 

Kappabashi is filled with treasures, gadgets, and tools for anyone passionate about cooking. These refrigerator sushi magnets are always fun gifts.

Iron Tea Pots

Iron Tea Pots

Iron tea pots are said to soften the water that result in tea that is round on the palate. These sturdy pots retain heat and are gorgeous on any table. Some do rust easily so they are a little bit high maintenance but worth it for anyone who drinks a lot of tea.

Ceramic Rice Cookers - Donabe

Ceramic Rice Cookers - Donabe

I love the results of my ceramic rice cooker. The aroma of the rice is better than rice cooked in electric rice cookers. And, the best part is that if cooked properly, there is a lovely “okoge” or charred crust that develops on the bottom of each pot. Before you purchase ask about the sizes. The smallest ones cook two cups of rice which is good for one or two people, but if you are cooking for a larger group you will want to invest in a larger size pot.

Chopstick Rests - Hashioki

Chopstick Rests - Hashioki

These lovely chopstick rests (hashioki) brighten up any table. Sizes and shapes run the spectrum. Best of all, there are seasonal varieties which keep me coming back to see what I can add to my collection.