Digging into an Ice Cold Kakigori

On summer visits to Japan as a child my favorite sweets were kakigori topped with milk. Only when I grew up did I realize that it wasn’t milk but it was sweetened condensed milk. No better way to cool down in the Tokyo heat than a bowl of shaved ice topped with a sweet syrup. Flavors like mattcha and azuki, mango, or anzu (apricots) will have you smacking your lips. Many kanmidokoro (Japanese cafes with traditional sweets) serve kakigori, but usually only for the summertime so this is the best time to dig in.

Here are a few places to dig into kakigori in the summer. Shops usually put a small flag outside with the kanji for ice on it. 氷

Mihashi

Mihashi

Mihashi’s original shop in Ueno (Taito-ku, Ueno 4-9-7) opened during the Edo period. This location, in the basement of Tokyo station in the area called Ichiban Gai, is more centrally located.

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-9-1, Tokyo Station, Ichiban Gai B1

Morinoen

Morinoen

Walking around the historic Ningyocho district is always fun. Morinoen is a tea shop that specializes in houjicha. Here is their houjicha kakigori. You can smell the houjicha being roasted out on the street. Pick up a bag of the tea while you are here to take home. It’s great both hot or cold.

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Ningyocho 2-4-9

Naniwaya

Naniwaya

Naniwaya in Azabu-Juban is renowned for its taiyaki (fish-shaped pancakes stuffed with azuki).  It’s been grilling taiyaki for over a century. Step inside and grab a seat for an anzu (apricot) kakigori.

Minato-ku, Azabu-Juban 1-8-14

Kinozen

Kinozen

Kagurazaka is also a fabulous place for walking around and Kinozen is my favorite place for a kakigori.

Shinjuku-ku, Kagurazaka 1-12

Toraya

Toraya

Toraya in Ginza serves up a yummy ichigo (strawberries) kakigori.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 7-8-6, 2nd floor

Okinawa Fair at Shinjuku Isetan めんそ〜れ〜大沖縄展

Okinawan Awamori

Okinawan Awamori

Soki Soba

Soki Soba

Shinjuku Isetan will hold a Okinawa Festival, including many local foods and awamori, shochu made from Thai rice, from Wednesday, July 27th to Monday, August 1st. The event closes at 6 p.m. on the final day and is held on the 6th floor of the main building. This is a great opportunity to try Okinawan specialties like soki soba at an eat-in area, sample some awamori and speak to the distillers about their products, and stock up your pantry with the tart shikuwasa (great for cocktails) and kokuto (black sugar).

Click here for more information in Japanese.

Gotta Get: Ra-yu Salmon Flakes

Hakodate Asahi Sake Fure-ku Uma Karai Ra-yu Shitate

Hakodate Asahi Sake Fure-ku Uma Karai Ra-yu Shitate

Salted salmon flakes are a popular topping for a hot bowl of rice. It is sold in a small glass jar and found is most supermarkets. Shinji came home the other day with a new product we had never seen before, ra-yu (chili oil) flavored salmon flakes. Taberu ra-yu is a very popular product still, having seen its boom a while back. So we were not surprised to see that someone had the brilliant idea to combine the spicy chili oil with salmon flakes.

Ra-yu flavored salmon flakes

Ra-yu flavored salmon flakes

It’s a hit in our house and I plan on trying it with fried rice and maybe some angel hair pasta. The flakes are made by the Goshoku Group.

Grazing Tsukiji Market

Yamachou Tamagoyaki

Yamachou Tamagoyaki

Grazing is not really recommended in Japan. Walking while eating can be seen as impolite. But one place where there are lots of small bites for sale is Tsukiji Market. If you do want to graze here my only suggestion is that you step off to the side and eat before you move on. Tsukiji has become so crowded that it is safer to stand off to the side and finish eating. Here are a few places to get a quick bite:

There are a few tamagoyaki (Japanese omelet) shops at Tsukiji Market but this is the only one that I am aware of that sells it on kushi (skewers). There are four flavors: plain, anago (eel), kani (crab), and ebi (shrimp). If you want to try all four ask for the “aji kurabe setto“.

Yamacho 山長

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-16-2

http://www.yamachou-matue.jp/

Tsukiji Yakinosuke

Tsukiji Yakinosuke

Tsukiji Yakinosuke also sells food on skewers – grilled seafood. A variety like hotate (scallops), iidako (octopus), or unagi (eel). Beer is also sold here if you are thirsty.

Tsukiji Yakinosuke 築地焼之介

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-8-7

http://www.tsukiji.or.jp/modules/shoplist/shop_detail.php?shop_id=591

Kibun

Kibun

I have a hard time walking by the large Kibun corner booth without buying some of these deep-fried squid legs (ikageso age). Kibun is famous for the variety of Satsuma-age (deep-fried fish cakes). I usually pick up a pack to make oden at home, and a bag of the squid to graze on right there.

Kibun 紀文

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-13-18

http://www.kibun.co.jp/

Tsukiji Market Cheap Eats

Roma Pizza in Tokyo

Napoletana pizza are not the only type of pizzas tempting diners in Tokyo. Roma pizzas, with a thinner and thus crispier crust, are also popular and authentic versions too are available in the city.

Pizzeria Romana Gianicolo

Pizzeria Romana Gianicolo

Pizzeria Romana Gianicolo

Minato-ku, Azabu Juban 2-8-8, Watanabe Bldg. B1

03-6435-2080

11:30 – 14:30; 18:00 – 22:30

closed Monday

http://www.gianicolo.jp/

Pizzeria Romana Bernini

Pizzeria Romana Bernini

Pizzeria Romana Bernini

Chuo-ku, Ginza 2-11-13

03-6228-4774

11:45 – 14:00; 18:00 – 23:00

no holidays

http://www.bernini.jp/pizzeria/

Pizzeria Sabatini Aoyama

Pizzeria Sabatini Aoyama

Pizzeria Sabatini Aoyama

Minato-ku, Kita Aoyama 2-13-5, Suncrest Bldg B1

03-3402-2027

11:30 – 14:30; 17:30 – 22:30

no holidays

http://www.sabatini.co.jp/pizzeria_aoyama/index.html

Il Pentito

Il Pentito

Il Pentito

Shibuya-ku, Yoyogi 3-1-3, AXIS 1F

03-3320-5699

19:00 – 22:00

closed Sunday and holidays

http://www.meridionale.com/index.html

bigote

bigote

bigote

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Honcho 4-7-4

03-5203-1919

12:00 – 16:00; 18:30 – 22:30

closed Saturday, Sunday, and holidays

Napoletana pizza in Tokyo.

Napoletana Pizza in Tokyo

aogi pizza

aogi pizza

Peppe

Peppe

Perhaps the best place to get a really great pizza outside of Italy is not New York City but in Tokyo. The website for the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana lists thirty-five authentic Napoletana pizzerias in Japan.

Many of the pizzaiolos have apprenticed in Italy, bake their pizzas in wood burning ovens, and do an outstanding job of replicating authentic Italian pizzas. Alan Richman wrote an excellent piece about this (as well as French and Chinese cuisine in Japan) in this piece in GQ magazine. His piece opens up in Nakameguro with Kakinuma-san of Seirinkan, who is one of the most revered pizzaiolos in Japan. There are only two pizzas on his menu, marinara or Margherita as well as some salads, pastas, and other dishes. I always get the broccoli sautéed with garlic and then save the garlic oil to dip the crust of the pizza into later.

Thanks to Tokyo’s pizza boom there are now several more restaurants in the metropolis to satiate your craving for pizza. Here are just some (of many).

Seirinkan

Seirinkan

Seirinkan 聖林館

Meguro-ku, Nakameguro 2-6-4

03-3714-5160

11:30 – sold out; 18:00 – 21:30

no holidays

http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1317/A131701/13003188/

la bicocca

la bicocca

la bicocca

Setagaya-ku, Kamiuma 4-5-1

03-3410-7710

11:30 – 14:00; 17:30 – 22:00

closed Monday

http://www.la-bicocca.jp/

Peppe, at only twenty-six years old, may appear to be young for a pizzaiolo but has said that he has been helping out in pizzerias in his native Naples since he was twelve.

Tarantella da Luigi

Tarantella da Luigi

Tarantella da Luigi

Minato-ku, Shirokane 3-22-2

03-6408-5552

12:00 – 14:00 Saturday and holidays

17:30 – 23:00 Monday – Saturday (until 22:00 on Sunday)

no holidays

http://tarantella-da-luigi.com/

Teratoka-san has apprenticed with seven pizzerias in Naples and has spent more time in Italy making pizza than in Japan.

aogi Soshigaya

aogi Soshigaya

aogi Soshigaya

Setagaya-ku, Soshigaya 2-4-7, Soshigaya Danchi Building #1

03-6411-9676

12:00 – 14:00; 18:00 – 22:30

closed Tuesday

http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1318/A131814/13117590/

Goto-san serves authentic Napolitan pizza as well as a local version which is topped with shirasu (boiled baby anchovies) and nori.

da Isa

Pizzeria e Trattoria da Isa

Pizzeria e Trattoria da Isa

Meguro-ku, Aobadai 1-28-9

03-5768-3739

11:30 – 14:00 (until 14:30 on Saturday and holidays)

17:30 – 22:00

no holidays

http://www.da-isa.jp/

Yamamoto-san prides his pizza on its ingredients. The flour and salt are imported from Italy. The dough is slowly fermented at room temperature for eight to ten hours.

Roma pizza in Tokyo.

Five Questions for Japan’s First Master of Wine Ned Goodwin

Ned Goodwin is Japan’s first Master of Wine. Ned is also one of the most passionate sommeliers in Japan. Ned graciously took me under his wings when I moved to Tokyo to work as a sommelier. His generosity and guidance helped me tremendously. Ned has had a great impact in the wine world in Japan with innovative wine lists and staff training. Here Ned shares with readers some of his favorite places to drink wine in Tokyo and more.
1. Congratulations on becoming the first Master of Wine in Japan. Tell us about the Master of Wine and how it is different from a Master Sommelier. What all did you have to do to become a Master of Wine?

On average the MW demands around a decade of study and is a mutli-disciplined course that examines vineyard work, vinification, marketing / business and contemporary issues such as Global Warming, the rise of China et al.  These sections are woven around four-days of exams that constitute the ‘Theory’ section of the exam. Each day consists of three one hour essays aside from the final and fourth day, which consists of two essays.

In addition, each morning over the first three-days, one sits the ‘Practical’ section of the exam. The ‘Theory’ follows in the afternoon. The ‘Practical’ constitutes a white, red and ‘mixed bag’ (often fortifieds and sparkling, but not necessarily) paper; each 2 1/4 hours long with 12 wines across each discipline.

These two sections are then followed by a 10,000 word dissertation on a subject pertinent to the market that one works in. Diss was on Jap. sommeliers & whether the wine by-the-glass in a tightly defined tier of restaurant chosen by them, had physiological synergies with a tightly defined customer type that both drinks wine and goes to the defined ilk of restaurant. In other words, are sommeliers here giving customers what they like, or do Japanese prefer (possibly) other similarly priced wine by-glass styles, that for some reason or other, are not popular here (Gruner, Rose etc.).

The Master Sommelier is more service-focused without the overall range or discipline across many facets of the wine world, that the MW demands.

2. What are some of your favorite places to drink wine in Tokyo?

Shonzui in Roppongi (Minato-ku, Roppongi 7-10-2)

Buchi at Shinsen kousaten (Shibuya-ku, Shinsen-cho 9-7)

Fiocchi in Soshigaya-Okura (Setagaya-ku, Soshigaya 3-4-9)

Tharros in Shibuya (Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 1-5-2, Shibuya SED Bldg).

3. What are your favorite retail wine shops in Tokyo?

I mostly get my wine directly from producers, wholesalers or importers albeit, if I were to purchase wine at a retail level, Tokyu Honten (Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 2-24-1) is very good.

4. In a Japanese magazine you wrote about pairing rose with yakitori. Any other general recommendations to pair wine with Japanese food?

I think pairing wine with Japanese food is relatively straightforward given that the dominant flavour profiles are sweet/salt, with and subtle textures an important part-at least with traditional Japanese fare. The major stumbling block is the rather ethnocentric and closed mentality of many Japanese chefs and even sommeliers when it comes to matching wine with anything Japanese. True, there is of course beer and Nihon-shu, although wine offers a different and equally fun experience. Izakaya-styled food is particularly good with a slew of rose styles although, perhaps due to their perceived simplicity, rose has not really taken on here as a category. Umami and its yeasty, savouriness lends itself well to wines that have spent time on lees, such as many Chardonnays and bottle-fermented sparkling wines.

5. Any wine trends you see in Tokyo or in Japan?

Recessionary pressures mean less expensive wines and the rise therefore, of imports from places such as Chile. There is an overall lack of dynamism in the market and the power of China, Hong Kong and other SE Asian markets has usurped Japan’s muscle, to a great degree, on the world stage. I believe that many Japanese still want to drink quality at a better price rather than a cheap price, however. Yet because selling in a western sense is foreign to most Japanese and their attention to ‘face’ and ambiguity / lack of direct sales techniques; wines that sell themselves (cheap and/or from mainstream regional brands such as Chianti, Chablis etc.) are relied on instead of sommeliers and salespeople actively suggesting real value across, perhaps, lesser known regions. Salespeople in Japan rarely engage the customer, but play to a love of pomp and aesthetics in terms of sertvice styles. Unfortunately, these approaches often fail to get good wine of value in glasses!

Ned’s links include:

The Institute of Masters of Wine

Asian Correspondent

Twitter

UPDATE as of December 15, 2012:

ned1

ned2

Ned has made two wines under the “Good Wine” label. These Australian wines are perfect for entertaining or for your new house wine. Pinot Grigio and a Cabernet & Shiraz blend. E-mail me for details for delivery in Japan.

Where to Have Sushi at Tsukiji Market

Tsukiji Sushi

Tsukiji Sushi

Daiwa Sushi and Sushi Dai are two of the most commonly heard sushi shop names at Tsukiji Market. The problem is that they are so popular that they have such long lines, some queue for three hours. And yes, the sushi is great here, but is it worth hours standing in line? And for me, I would rather pay the same price, but have a leisurely sushi lunch in Ginza or elsewhere in the city for the same price. However, if you find yourself at Tsukiji and can’t bear to join the long lines at Sushi Dai or Daiwa Sushi, here are some other Tsukiji sushi shops worth checking out.

All of the restaurants serve an “omakase“, usually about eight pieces of sushi that are all served at the same time. But to have a more authentic experience, order piece by piece. Ask for “shun no mono” or seasonal items.

Nakaya 中家

Tsukiji 5-2-1, Building #8

03-3541-0211

http://www.tsukijigourmet.or.jp/46_nakaya/index.htm

Another very satisfying way to satiate that craving for raw fish is to have a donburi, or a large bowl of rice topped with seasonal sashimi. Nakaya has a selection of donburi including an uni don of creamy, sweet uni. For a very over the top bowl, you can get toro (fatty tuna), ikura (salmon roe) and uni.

Iwasa Sushi 岩佐寿し (Note in a comment below that a recent diner did not have a good dining experience here. I have always had good sushi here so not sure if it was a bad day or what.)

Tsukiji 5-2-1, Building #1

03-3544-1755

http://www.tsukijigourmet.or.jp/09_iwasa/index.htm

The seasonal seafood is all wild.

Sushi Maru すしまる

Tsukiji 5-2-1, Building #10

03-3541-8414

http://www.tsukijigourmet.or.jp/45_sushimaru/index.htm

Using wild and top quality seafood. One of their signature dishes is the “aburi jyu”, a chirashizushi of seared fish over rice.

Ichiba Sushi 市場すし

Tsukiji 5-2-1, Building #8

03-3541-1350

http://www.tsukijigourmet.or.jp/40_ichiba/index.htm

It is hard to resist the uni donburi or the uni and ikura donburi (check out the photos at the link above).

A post on Cheap Eats at Tsukiji Market.

Where to go for sushi on Sunday in Tokyo.

November  Seasonal Japanese Seafood (what you should be eating if you come to Tsukiji this month).

An article I wrote for The Japan Times on what to see at Tsukiji. Winter is the tastiest time to visit Tsukiji.

Monjayaki – Okame Hyottoko Ten

Okame Hyottoko Ten

Okame Hyottoko Ten

Mentai Mochi Cheese

Mentai Mochi Cheese

Mentai Mochi Cheese 2

Mentai Mochi Cheese 2

Tsukishima and Tsukuda are on an island in the Sumidagawa River just as it flows into Tokyo Bay. It is very close to Tsukiji Market and offers two local foods of Tokyo, monjayaki  at Tsukishima and Tsukudani at Tsukuda.

Monjayaki is just one of those foods that everyone should try once in their life if they are wanting to experience different types of Japanese cuisine. I love coming here with my girlfriends, drinking cold beers over the hot stove.

The “Monjayaki Association” has a stand near the exit of the subway station and they will give you maps. If you know where you want to go they can show you where it is on the map and how to get there. They are not very good at answering your question about which place is the best.

Tsukishima near Tsukiji is ground zero for monjyayaki. Similar to the more famous okonomiyaki of the Kansai region, monjayaki is made from a thinner base. Instead of a thick, savory pancake, diners eat thin, crispy bits right off of the teppan (iron) grill, using a small, tiny metal spatula. The environment lends itself to drinking beer or other chilled drinks to keep cooled down while eating off of the hot grill. It’s good to try while you are in Tokyo as you won’t see it much outside of the city.

If you like being in the kitchen, then monjayaki is great fun as you cook your own meals on a hot iron grill that diners sit around. Best to have the wait staff make the first one for you, which they will. The base monja mix has many variations. A popular combination is mentaiko (spicy cod roe), mochi (sticky rice taffy), and cheese. An Italian version would be tomatoes, cheese, and pesto, or a Korean version may include kimchi and thin sliced pork. Ask at the shop if they have any original specialties and try them.

The best time to come is in the evening as the main street, Nishi Naka Dori Shoutengai, is closed off to cars making it easy to carefully peruse the shops before deciding on one. Most of the shops have low tables at tatami mats so if you are not flexible, look for a shop with tables and chairs. In selecting a shop, go with the one that gives you a warm welcome.

Okame Hyottoko Ten おかめひょっとこ店

Chuo-ku, Tsukishima 3-8-10

03-5548-1508

11:00 – 22:00, no holidays

http://www.monja.gr.jp/monja/hyottoko/hyottoko.htm (Japanese)

Okame Hyottoko is open for lunch if you come during the day. The friendly staff can help you navigate over 100 options. Okame has two other shops in the area if this one is full ask them to direct you to the other ones.

July Japanese Seasonal Seafood

surumeika

surumeika

Following is a list of seasonal seafood for July. Look for these in the market or if you are going out for sushi. Some of our personal favorites include ayu (salted and grilled), shitabirame (meuniere), shijimi (miso soup), benisake (salted and grilled), and for sashimi – surumeika, kinmedai, takabe, and isaki.

Ayu あゆ 鮎 sweetfish (Plecoglossus altivelis altivelis)

Benisake べにさけ 紅鮭 sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka)

Inada いなだ  鰍 young amberjack (or yellowtail) (Seriola quinqueradiata) wakashi, inada, warasa, buri

Isaki いさき  伊佐幾 chicken grunt (Parapristipoma trilineatum)

Katsuo かつお 鰹 skipjack tuna (or bonito) (Katsuwonus pelamis)

Kinmedai きんめだい 金目鯛 splendid alfonsino (Beryx splendens)

Maaji まあじ 真鯵 Japanese jack mackerel (Trachurus japonicus)

Mejimaguro めじまぐろ young tuna (genusThunnus) if it is a young bluefin tuna it will be called honmeji, if it is a young yellowfin tuna it will be called kinmeji.

Shijimi しじみ 蜆 Corbicula clams (or water clams) (Corbicula japonica)

Shiro ika しろいか 白烏賊 or Kensaki ika swordtip squid (Loligo edulis)

Shitabirame したびらめ 舌平目 (or ushinoshita) four line tongue sole(Arelia bilineat)

Surumeika するめいか 鯣烏賊 Japanese common squid (or flying squid) (Todarodes pacificus)

Suzuki すずき 鱸 Japanese sea bass (Lateolabrax japonicus)

Takabe たかべ yellow-striped butterfish (Labracoglossa argentiventris)