Kintame Kyoto Pickles Restaurant 近為

Kintame Bubuchazuke

Kintame Bubuchazuke

One of the great delights of dining in Japan is the cornucopia of restaurants that specialize in one type of cuisine, as in the recent reviews of ramen at Ivan Ramen.

Another unique dining experience is a meal based on pickles. Kintame, a store based in Kyoto, has two restaurants in Tokyo where diners can indulge in a colorful variety of salty, tart, piquant, and sweet pickles.

This type of restaurant is more commonly found in Kyoto, which is renowned for its pickles. So the opportunity to have this in Tokyo is a fun treat.

Pickles find their way to most Japanese meals. At curry shops the fukujinzuke of seven different pickled vegetables often accompanies the dish.

Yakisoba is garnished with bright red pickled ginger, benishouga. Sushi is served with thin sliced ginger, gari, as a palate cleanser between bites.

What makes Kintame worth the trip? It is the opportunity to try so many different pickles at the same time. There are a variety of pickling methods that include salt (shiozuke), vinegar (suzuke), miso (misozuke), soy sauce (shouyuzuke), and nuka (nukazuke).

Regionality also plays a role. Narazuke, or pickles originating from Nara, are melons and gourds that have been pickled for two to three years in sake lees (sake kasu) and are quite heady. Kyozuke, the pickles from Kyoto, are often delicate and refreshing.

Kintame’s most central location is at Daimaru department store’s restaurant floor (12th floor) at Tokyo station’s Yaesu exit.

The menu is limited, and the suggested dish to order is the bubuchazuke. Select a fish that is marinated in miso or sake lees; it is then grilled and will accompany an impressive variety of pickles, usually over a dozen.

The meal ends with ochazuke (rice with green tea). Come on an empty stomach and delight as you nibble your way through seasonal vegetables that may include eggplant, daikon, cucumber, bamboo shoots, gourd, melon, radish, and ginger, just to name a few.

If there are any in particular that you like, be sure to ask your server who will write down the name. On your way out of the restaurant prepackaged pickles are sold to take home.

Kintame is good for groups but is also great for the solo diner looking to have a nourishing, contemplative meal.

The Monzennakacho location is very popular on weekends and there is usually a line. Also, the schedule changes depending on if there is a holiday, so it is best to call ahead if you are making a special trip.

A meal at Kintame is one that you will remember for a long time. And, if you are lucky, you may be introduced to some new pickles to incorporate into your meals at home.

Kintame at Daimaru
1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku,
tel: 03-6895-2887
www.kintame.co.jp

This article first appeared in the American Chamber of Commerce Journal:

http://accjjournal.com/kintame/

My personal favorite location of Kintame in Tokyo is at Monzennakacho.

Koto-ku, Tomioka 1-14-3

03-3641-4561

Seirinkan

Seirinkan

Seirinkan

Photo by Chuck Tanaka Peterson

As a New Yorker who visited Japan often in the early ‘70s as a child, I have ingrained in my memory a pizza that was topped with squid legs. I remember the disappointment of the tentacles peeking out from under the cheese almost taunting me. For the longest time I avoided pizza in Japan. Besides, there are so many great things to get here like tempura, tonkatsu, and ramen, why bother with mediocre pizza? GQ contributor, Alan Richman—the “most decorated food writer in history”—encouraged me to check out Seirinkan in Nakameguro. I went, albeit with little confidence that I would be satisfied or satiated.

The first good sign, Seirinkan is easy to find: Just a few minutes walk from Nakameguro station. The restaurant is spread over three floors and a narrow, spiral staircase connects the floors. The owner, Susumu Kakinuma, has an affinity for military souvenirs.

Restaurants like Seirinkan that focus on their craft often have limited menus. Seirinkan’s menu offers simple ingredients like cheese and tomato sauce on handmade dough, heated in a wood-burning oven until crispy and piping hot. You can select from either a Margherita of tomato and buffalo mozzarella or a marinara of tomato and garlic. Pizzas this simple insist upon quality ingredients. Cooked to exactly the perfect moment, the middle ingredients melt together and the outside crust is puffy, scorched, and crispy.

The side dishes round out the menu with salads such as Caprese, or ruccola and Parmigiano, sliced prosciutto, and broccoli in a garlic olive oil sauce. The staff suggested that we save the garlic infused olive oil to dip the pizza crust into. Brilliant advice and it has become a regular part of every visit since.

Service is simple as is the menu. My only complaint is that the staff opened the wine before bringing it to the table. My three thirsty friends looked at me disappointingly when the server presented an opened half bottle. I wanted to refuse the bottle but my Japanese companions were too embarrassed.

Seirinkan is open for lunch and is often on the quiet side. Dinners can be very busy. Note that Seirinkan’s website advises diners that the restaurant will close early if they run out of pizza. While my craving for pizza no longer exists, the search for an authentic bagel continues.

Seirinkan
Meguro-ku, Kamimeguro 2-6-4
Tokyo, tel: 03-3714-5160, Web: www.seirinkan.jp 

This first appeared in the American Chamber of Commerce Journal:

http://accjjournal.com/seirinkan/

Ivan Ramen

Ivan Orkin

Ivan Orkin

Ivan Ramen

Ivan Ramen

Dreams can come true. In the cold winter months, perhaps the most satisfying dish to be had in Japan is ramen. With almost 9,000 ramen shops in Tokyo, it is not hard to find one, but rare is the one where the noodles are handmade from scratch and where the chef is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.

Ivan Orkin, a native New Yorker, honed his culinary skills with some of America’s top chefs, including Andre Soltner who founded Lutece and celebrity chef Bobby Flay of Bolo, both famed New York restaurants. With an impressive resume like this, one has high expectations and Ivan does not disappoint.

Before opening his ten-seat ramen shop Ivan ate his way through hundreds of bowls of ramen, taking careful note along the way. Ivan Ramen opened in 2007 and ramen junkies touted his shio (salt) ramen. Soon thereafter bloggers touted his shoyu (soy sauce) ramen. And, recently, after participating in a tsukemen event with the city’s top ramen chefs, diners are coming in asking for the noodles to be dipped in broth.

Ivan also serves a unique mazemen with a base of soy milk, slow-roasted vegetables including tomatoes and garlic with chicken soup that is served with whole wheat noodles.

His standard ramen noodles are made on the second floor of the shop along with some non-traditional flour, as well as whole-wheat, and rye noodles. Ivan’s basic stock in his restaurant is made from chicken stock and a rich, fish-based dashi made from kelp, bonito, and dried sardines.

Aside from the fact that Ivan is the first Westerner to break the ramen glass ceiling in Japan, his restaurant stands apart from the others as it is brightly-lit, family-friendly, and boasts some menu items that stray from your typical noodle shop. The slow-cooked pork and roasted tomatoes over rice will have you swooning and for those with a sweet tooth, Ivan makes ice cream.

Sunkus, the convenience store, has sold instant ramen made by Ivan, selling 600,000 bowls, as well as his original onigiri and pork bowls.

As of this writing, Ivan was serving up a limited edition Mexican mazemen of noodles topped with black bean chili, onions, guajillo chilis, dried tomatoes, lettuce, Monterey jack cheese, with a chipotle chili broth. A great combination of flavors found in his native America and his new home, Japan.

The ever-curious chef is constantly tweaking his art through reading cookbooks, and challenging himself with new gentei (limited edition) noodles.

A bowl of Ivan’s ramen will open your mind to the possibilities that exist with ramen. He brings a unique perspective and culinary skills to the world of ramen. We, the diners, reap the rewards of his creativity and constant honing of his art.

Ivan Ramen, 3-24-7 Minami Karasuyama, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, tel: 03-6750-5540, www.ivanramen.com 

This article first appeared in the American Chamber of Commerce Journal:

http://accjjournal.com/ivan-ramen/

Since then Ivan has opened his second ramen shop, Ivan Ramen Plus. Check out his website above for more deatils. Ivan also answered questions for us here.

Ivan’s newest shop is reviewed here by Robbie Swinnerton in The Japan Times.

Two Rooms

Two Rooms

Two Rooms

Two Rooms near Omotesando has one of Tokyo’s best dream teams at the helm of the restaurant. In the kitchen, chef Matthew Crabbe’s impressive resume includes the New York Bar and Grill at the Park Hyatt and Kyoto’s Hyatt Regency. Eddie Baffoe was the popular bar manager at the Oak Door at the Grand Hyatt. Rounding out the team, Nathan Smith’s most recent position was as the Food and Beverage Director at the Park Hyatt. The stellar trio bring to the table enough experience between them that expectations are high, and they do not disappoint.

Two Rooms consists of a dining room, complete with counter seats overlooking the open kitchen, communal tables and booths along one wall. The other room consists of a bar overlooking a well stocked wine cellar. One of the central highlights of the space is the open-air terrace. The ideal late afternoon cocktail can be enjoyed on the outdoor patio, and the evening brings a cool and lively vibe to the bar area.

There is a great list of cocktails including mojitos based on fresh fruit juice like passion fruit and mango. The 1,800 bottle wine list is one of the better ones to be found in Tokyo. Mostly filled with new world wines, regions like Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. are well represented. Classic wines from Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, and a handful of Italians round out the line-up.

The Two Rooms Caesar salad is a well-seasoned delight and the fresh local fruit tomatoes are sweet and juicy, served with Italian buffalo mozzarella. Well-selected meats are simply seasoned and grilled. Options include pork from Iwate, Fukushima chicken, and marbled wagyu beef from the Hida Takayama area. If you prefer meatier steaks, you might want to lean towards the Australian cuts from Rangers Valley. Popular sides include the fried fat cut potatoes and the mushrooms sautéed with hazelnuts.

Two Rooms excels at using local ingredients, and this continues with the dessert menu. Amaou strawberries bursting with flavor and aroma are served as a bavrois with lemon meringue. The crème brulee is based on Shizuoka matcha green tea and is paired with kinako (roasted soybean powder) ice cream and Okinawa brown sugar.

The bar menu includes a popular Two Rooms burger as well as prime steak on ciabatta. Sunday brunch tempts diners with Kyoto carrot cake loaf, rum raisin banana French toast, and eggs Benedict.

The dining room is filled with a fair mix of locals and foreigners. Service is professional while maintaining a casual air that evokes the charm of a high-end Western concern. The best part of Two Rooms is the feeling that you are welcome and that this is somewhere one can easily call home. Regardless of the occasion or the time of day, Two Rooms is a great place for food or drinks.

Two Rooms, 5F AO Building 3-11-7 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku, tel: 03-3498-0002

This first appeared in the American Chamber of Commerce Journal.

http://accjjournal.com/two-rooms/

Les Saisons in the Imperial Hotel

Les Saisons

Les Saisons

Tokyoites are generally spoiled by the wealth of so many outstanding French restaurants available. Many Michelin-starred chefs from France have outlets in Tokyo; Joel Robuchon, Pierre Gagnaire, and Michel Troisgros, to name but a few. Included with this group is chef Thierry Voisin, who came to The Imperial Hotel to run the kitchen at Les Saisons. Chef Voisin had a successful career at the lauded Les Crayeres in Reims. He recently celebrated five years in Tokyo.

Les Saisons is up the grand staircase on the hotel’s mezzanine level and a warm welcome awaits guests as they are escorted to the peaceful sanctuary. The dining room, refurbished five years ago, is spacious, and comfortable. The legendary hotel, opened in 1890, has a history of first class service and this shines through in the restaurant as well. The staff all speak English (as well as French), and they’re attentive without hovering. Les Saisons’ clientele includes Japanese executives (often in a private salon), well-coiffed ladies who lunch, couples celebrating special occasions, as well as seasoned gourmands.

The menu is filled with French classics like Filet of Beef Rossini—Japanese beef filet topped with foie gras and black truffles, and sautéed sweet langoustines garnished with French morel mushrooms. Chef Voisin’s use of local ingredients are often showcased in his offerings which include trout from the pristine waters near Mount Fuji served with yuzu, Hamanako fresh water eel that is smoked and served with foie gras on a puree of celery and a fruit vinaigrette, and a confit of Japanese oxtail with beef tongue, marrow, and mushrooms.

Les Saisons has one of the best cheese carts in the city, so remember to save room for the cheese course. The wine cellar as well is very impressive with a vast collection of wines, including older vintages. The course menus offer the best value for price. Lunch starts at 6,800 yen for three courses or 8,000 yen for four courses and dinner starts at 16,800 yen for five courses. A la carte menus are available also.

Les Saisons, The Imperial Hotel, Uchisaiwaicho 1-1-1, Chiyoda-ku
Tel: 03-3539-8087
Web: www.imperialhotel.co.jp/e/

 

This first appeared in the American Chamber of Commerce Journal.

 

 

Chef Seiji Yamamoto of Ryugin

Chef Seiji Yamamoto

Chef Seiji Yamamoto

Ryugin Dessert

Ryugin Dessert

This article first appeared in The Japan Times in January of 2008. Since then I would have to say that chef Seiji Yamamoto’s cuisine has returned to more traditional Japanese techniques. But the article is still worth reading to understand chef Yamamoto’s background.

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fg20080111a1.html (text follows)

Nothing turns a woman on more than a room full of excited men. No, this was not the Super Bowl, but the International Chefs Congress, a “show and tell” held last September in New York City by some of the world’s most influential chefs. The display of techniques and trends was impressive, with a roster that included such stars as three-Michelin-star chef Joel Robuchon and Bruno Goussault, the pioneer of the sous-vide (under vacuum) technique, where food is wrapped in plastic and cooked at a low temperature, which is changing how food is cooked in many high-end kitchens around the world.

During chef Seiji Yamamoto’s presentation you could hear a pin drop. The audience of chefs gasped as he silk-screened a QR bar-code onto a plate (the secret is squid ink). Behind me, men were awe-struck as he rolled video of a super-refrigerator that makes “liquid ice.”

The titillation was too much to bear.

Back in Tokyo, Yamamoto’s restaurant Nihonryori Ryugin is turning heads with its molecular cuisine, an almost space-age application of food-science techniques, and this caliber of creative Japanese cuisine can only be experienced here. In fact, Michelin’s recent Tokyo restaurant guide awarded it two stars — prestigious acclaim indeed.

Yamamoto is trained in traditional Japanese cookery with 11 years at the renowned — and very traditional — Japanese restaurant Aoyagi, and a trained sommelier. He refers to his cuisine as “creative Japanese food” that is “technology-driven.” He is humble when talking about himself, which is a surprise after witnessing the public displays of affection showered on him by revered chefs from around the world.

Nihonryori Ryugin is a culinary temple. A beet-red wall greets diners at an entrance adorned with a small pile of salt and freshly sprinkled water in Japanese style. The walk down the narrow hallway reveals glossy food-porn photos of signature dishes. Inside the intimate Western-style dining room, with only 18 seats, it’s impossible to ignore the conversation at neighboring tables.

The evening begins with two bite-size courses presented on one spoon each — the TBS television show “One Spoon” has influenced many restaurants around the city with this quirky method of presentation. The first is a croquette of okra and truffle, a warm and earthy amuse bouche. The smoked shirako (fish sperm) and oyster is an ocean-full of flavor, as the citrus gelee cuts through the smokiness and the creamy texture.

A sweet and crunchy foie gras is presented with fresh fig, wasanbonsugar, cognac and a vintage port; the addition of myoga, in the ginger family, adds a contrasting heat to the sweetness that balances the dish. Other highlights for the evening include the owan (soup) course of hamo (sea eel), matsutake and cabbage in a hamo consomme.

The ever-curious Yamamoto has gone to great lengths to discover how best to tenderize hamo. The fish is infamous for its fine bones that are impossible to fully extricate, and Kyoto chefs have established a complex technique of cutting through these bones. Eschewing this received wisdom, Yamamoto and his team took a hamo to a research hospital, where scientists put it under a CT-scan so that they could get a microscopic look at this stubborn skeleton and determine for themselves how to deal with the bones. The resulting soup renders a tender hamo and is a delicate vehicle for the pine-scented matsutake.

The meal follows the traditional kaiseki course service, starting with a raw fish course and grilled, fried and simmered dishes of seasonal ingredients exquisitely presented. A favorite reinterpretation is theunagi-don (eel on rice). This is not the traditional delicate unagi; Ryugin’s has a sweet, toffeelike crunch to it — unexpected but very welcome.

Dessert is a playground of dishes from the CO² Grape, which explodes in your mouth, to the Minus-196° Candy Apple, an outer shell of toffee filled with nitrogen-frozen ice cream. But by this point in the course meal, it really does seem like too much food.

The dishes are complex and pair well with wine, shochu or sake — and of course champagne. The Bruno Paillard is elegant and well-balanced with a hint of hazelnuts that stands up to the rich layers of the food.

The restaurant’s service is attentive and any of the knowledgeable staff can answer questions regarding the composition of the dishes. Their pride in their establishment is obvious.

Innovation doesn’t come cheap, and a visit to Nihonryori Ryugin will set you back ¥15,750 for the short course or ¥21,000/¥26,250 for the two “Gastronomy” courses. For those who aren’t millionaires, an a-la-carte menu is presented after 8:30 p.m. — rare for this type of place.

Chefs and gourmands from around the world make pilgrimages to Nihonryori Ryugin to pay their respects to the shrine of molecular cuisine in Japan. Yamamoto is an integral member of a modern “Brat Pack,” alongside international jet-setters such as Ferran Adria of El Bulli, a restaurant in the Catalan resort of Roses in Spain; Wylie Dufresne of WD50 in New York City; and Jose Andres of Cafe Atlantico in Washington D.C. Perhaps he’s the samurai chef of these boys with toys.

Nihonryori Ryugin, 7-17-24 Roppongi Minato-ku, Tokyo; (03) 3423-8006; www.nihonryori-ryugin.com. Nearest station: Roppongi (Hibiya and Oedo lines). Open 6 p.m.-2 a.m.; closed Sundays and holidays

Alan Richman in GQ on how Food is Made Better in Japan

I had the great pleasure of spending some time with journalist Alan Richman as he tested a theory that food is better in Japan. Why is it that French, Italian, or Chinese food is so good in Japan? Read as he eats his way through Tokyo testing this theory. The story opens up in what may be Tokyo’s best pizzeria, Seirinkan in Nakameguro.

http://www.gq.com/blogs/the-q/2008/02/made-better-in-japan.html

Gotta Get – What to Get at Japanese Supermarkets

Kizami Yuzu

Kizami Yuzu

For those visiting Japan wanting to stock up their suitcase for foodie items that are hard to find outside of Japan I have come up with my list of “gotta gets”. When I have lived outside of Japan I also make a stop at the 100 (or 99) yen shop and stock up on cheap and light things to stock up my pantry.

The first list below is for items most commonly found at 100 yen shops. The second list is for your supermarket shopping. If you are limited on time then just go straight to the supermarket as most items at 100 yen shops are also sold at grocery stores.

 

Goma – toasted black (kuro) and white (shiro) sesame seeds. Crush the seeds and add sugar and soy sauce for a dressing for cooked vegetables. Try crushed black sesame seeds with sugar over ice cream.

Hashi – long cooking chopsticks and regular chopsticks

Hashioki  - chopstick rests available in seasonal designs

Ichimi – crushed, dried red chili pepper

Kinako – flour made from roasted soybeans, a great topping for ice cream, or mixed into a cold glass of milk.

Kushi – long bamboo skewers for grilling, also great for appetizers and hors d’eourves

Makisu – rolling mat for making sushi rolls at home.

Misoshiru gu – if you like to make miso soup at home, these packs of dried ingredients like wakame, fu, just need to be tossed into the soup.

Neriume – tube of umeboshi paste. Some are mixed with shiso leaves (shiso iri). Use to mix into salad dressings or for rolled sushi.

Ochoko and tokkuri – if you are a casual drinker of sake, then these cups are perfect as they are sturdy and can be thrown into the dishwasher. Tokkuri are like small carafes for sake in lieu of wine, and ochoko are the small cups.

Shamoji – rice paddles, the Japanese version are plastic and studded and easy to use as rice does not stick to them.

Shichimi – seven spice mix to top miso soups or noodle bowls.

Yukari – packets of dried purple shiso leaves. Use for making rice balls.

Yuzu kosho – yuzu and salt in a paste. Try mixing it with mayonnaise to spice up sandwiches or as a dip for crudités.

 

Items to pick up at supermarkets:

Cha – different varieties of tea including sencha, genmaicha, and houjicha.

Katakuriko – a thickening agent

Katsuobushi – dried, smoked flakes of katsuo, an essential for making dashi.

Kokuto  - black sugar from Okinawa and nearby islands.

Kombu – if you cook at home you will want to stock your pantry with kombu, the base for making any dashi.

Kuzu – a trendy ingredient with top chefs throughout the world. It is used as a thickening agent.

Mattcha powder – traditional mattcha is expensive and can be hard to work with in the kitchen. You can find instant versions to make mattcha lattes at home or to mix into vanilla ice cream for mattcha ice cream.

Miso koshi – strainer for incorporating miso into stock for miso soup.

Strainers – Japanese fine-meshed strainers are excellent for straining soup stocks. There is also a special strainer used for getting tofu out of hot broths.

Umeboshi – if you love the salty, tart taste of these pickled apricots.

Wasabi – tubes of wasabi. Ask for “hon wasabi” or “nama wasabi” for 100% wasabi. Much of what is served outside of Japan is actually horseradish paste mixed with food coloring.

Yuzu – look for dried yuzu citrus peels (kizami yuzu by S&B is a popular brand at most retail shops) if you like to make homemade pickles.

Yuzu kosho – a salty and citrusy condiment (good quality yuzu kosho is very different from the kind at 100 yen shops. There are two types, green or red.)

 

Here is my post on where to go shopping in Tokyo.

Where do Tokyoites Shop for Food?

So where do Tokyoites do their grocery shopping? There are large supermarkets, like Ito Yokado, Daiei, or Seiyu (a subsidiary of Walmart) but these require a lot of space so are usually found a bit out of the city. There is an Ito Yokado a few stops from Tokyo station on the Tozai line at Kiba, definitely worth visiting if you are curious about a large Japanese supermarket. In the city there are smaller supermarket chains like Akafudado, Inageya or Queens Isetan. As well, there are discount supermarkets, my particular favorite is called OK. It is like a regular supermarket, just cheaper. These three types of supermarkets are good for one-stop shopping. I go to these shops when I am limited on time.

I round out my shopping at 100 (or 99) yen shops like Daiso or Lawson 100. Here I pick up sundries like dried shiso (yukari) and kitchen or tableware. These shops are everywhere (we live on top of one) so I usually end up going in at least once a day for one thing or another. Something to drink, an onigiri between meals, or some chips, these shops have a wide variety of products.

If time permits, I prefer shopping at shotengai, or shopping arcades. Small specialty shops for items like tofu, rice, seafood, produce, or tea. Here you’ll find freshly made tofu or you can have the fishmonger help you select seasonal seafood and have him filet it for you. I wrote a piece on shotengai for Metropolis magazine.

When I lived in Monzennakacho, very close to the city center I did most of my shopping at Ito Yokado and Akafudado. Not only a supermarket Ito Yokado sells almost anything else you would need for your home, similar to a Super Target in the USA. Akafudado is a smaller supermarket, but the shop in Monzennakacho also sold other items for home, etc. on the upper floors.

On Saturday mornings I would take my scooter a few minutes to Tsukiji Market and shop in the outer market. Tsukiji is ideal if looking for good quality kombu, katsuobushi, pickles, tea, and much more. If I am hosting a dinner party, Yamaya is good for getting wine and Hanamasa is great for discounted meat and vegetables.

For nihonshu and shochu there are several options including depachika or specialty shops like Hasegawa Saketen for nihonshu or Shochu Authority for shochu.

Our home near Kokubunji, in the Western suburbs of Tokyo, is close to a great discount supermarket called OK. Most of our shopping is done here because it is minutes from our home and the prices just can’t be beat. Shinji buys a lot of our seafood at Uoriki as he used to be a buyer for them.

I also love to shop at depachika, especially for prepared foods. I don’t like to fry at home so if I wanted to have some tempura with soba noodles I would pick up the tempura at depachika. Top quality seafood, meat, and produce are also available at depachika. While it can be expensive, some items will go on sale later in the day so if time permits, I like to poke my head into depachika before dinner. My favorite depachika are Isetan and Takashimaya.

There are many small chain supermarkets that vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. Names to look out for include Peacock, Tobu, or Tokyu. There are too many to list. Here is a list of supermarkets in Tokyo.

When I get a craving for Western products I usually go to Nissin (pronounced nishin) or Meidi-ya (pronounced meijiya).

If you are visiting Tokyo and would like to visit a large supermarket I suggest Ito Yokado near Kiba station on the Tozai line. Koto-ku, Kiba 1-5-30.

Here is a list of popular shotengai (shopping arcades) in Tokyo.

Here is my list of “gotta gets” at the supermarkets.

Here is Steve Trautlein’s article on International Supermarkets in Tokyo.

 

If you are living in Tokyo and would like a supermarket tour, please contact us. Supermarket tours are usually held in your local supermarket. It helps you to demystify main ingredients for cooking at home. Our contact information is here.

Indagare Interview – Culinary Tokyo: Restaurants Not To Miss

Isetan depachika (photo by Takuya Suzuki)

Isetan depachika (photo by Takuya Suzuki)

This interview appeared a while back but I wanted to share it for its information on some of my top recommendations for foodies visiting Tokyo.

Born in Japan and raised in the United States, Yukari Pratt Sakamoto, the author of the soon-to-be-released Food Sake Tokyo (Little Bookroom, $29.95), is a true Tokyo food insider. Here, she shares her favorite restaurants, bars and gourmet shops in the Japanese capital.

What are some Tokyo restaurants you would recommend for the following types of meals?

A traditional Japanese dining experience: Tofuya Ukai, one of the most unique dining experiences in the city. It specializes in tofu and soy products, but also serves seafood and meat. The menu is kaiseki style with several courses. For an authentic local experience, I would recommend Yamariki. And if you’re looking for a high-end dining experience with a big-name chef, there’s Nihonbashi Yukari with Iron Chef 2002 winner, Kimio Nonaga.

What are some restaurants you would suggest for families traveling with kids and why?

Tofuya Ukai is nice, as each group gets their own private dining room. Ivan Ramen is a child-friendly ramen shop run by a native of Long Island, Ivan Orkin. And also try going to a kaitenzushi shop, the sushi shops with a conveyor belt. These are made for families. A popular shop is Magurobito (Roppongi; 81-3-3405-5466) that does a very nice job with good seafood. Ask for any “shun” or seasonal seafood that may be off the menu. Another very good option for children are restaurant floors located in department stores. Here you will find a variety of restaurants (sushi, tempura, tonkatsu, etc.) and these shops are accustomed to families.

What are the types of food not to miss trying while in Tokyo?

Seafood-based food like sushi, tempura, and unagi (eel). Noodles like soba and ramen. And of course, kaiseki (Nihonbashi Yukari is one of my favorites). Also, the wagashi(traditional Japanese confectionaries) should be experienced. Good stores for wagashiinclude Toraya or Kano Shojuan. Hormone ryori (innards) are very popular at the moment. Try Saiseisakaba or Yamariki. An ideal eating trip to Tokyo would be to visit different shops that specialize in one type of food. Birdland (Ginza; 81-3-6269-9825; http://ginza-birdland.sakura.ne.jp/ for yakitori, Kondo (Ginza; 83-3-5568-0923) for tempura,Kyubey (Ginza; 81-3-3571-6523; www.kyubey.jp) for sushi, Tamai (Nihonbashi; 81-3-3272-3227) for anago (eel), sukiyaki (hot pot), soba, ramen, etc.

What are some tips to navigate the incredible food floors in the department stores in Tokyo, and which ones would you recommend for a first-time visitor?

There is usually a concierge on the first floor by the main entrance of each department store. Inquire if there is any special food events taking place, these are often on an event floor. Often there are maps of the food floors, these are good as some are so big you can get lost. The best one to visit is Isetan (Shinjuku; 81-3-3352-0909;http://www.isetan.co.jp) in Shinjuku.

What are some of your favorite Tokyo bars (both classics and new ones)?

The hotel bars are great. Park Hyatt Tokyo’s New York Bar & Grill

What are the main culinary items visitors should buy in Tokyo?

Knives at Kiya (Chuo-Ku; 81-3-3241-0110; www.kiya-himono.co.jp) in Nihonbashi. Lacquer at Kuroeya (Chuo-Ku; 81-3-3272-0948; www.kuroeya.com) in Nihonbashi.

If a traveler only has one day and night in Tokyo, which are the places you would suggest to get a good taste of the city (lunch, dinner, drinks)?

Have lunch at Kyubey Sushi in Ginza; dinner at Nihonbashi Yukari, and finish your night with drinks at the Park Hyatt’s New York Bar & Grill in Shinjuku.

What are some of your favorite spots in the city that are not food-related?

AsakusaMeiji Jingu Shrine, Monzennakacho. A very short trip out of the city, but still a part of Tokyo is Mount Takao.

http://www.indagare.com/passions/4/departments/172/8166 (text above)

http://www.indagare.com/passions/4/departments/173/8165 (on Food Sake Tokyo)