Hokkaido Food Festival at Odakyu in Shinjuku

Hokkaido Chirashi Eat-In

Hokkaido Chirashi Eat-In

Hokkaido Chirashi Take-Away

Hokkaido Chirashi Take-Away

Starting today through Tuesday, September 13th, Odakyu at Shinjuku station (nishi guchi or west exit) will host a food festival highlighting the food of Japan’s northernmost prefecture, Hokkaido. As a two-week event, vendors will change on the second week starting on Wednesday, September 7th, giving customers a chance to come back next week for new stuff.

My favorite part of any Hokkaido food festival is the abundance of seafood, in particular, uni, ikura, and kani (crab). I always pick up a chirashizushi of the previous three seafood at these events. Hokkaido is also rich with dairy products so be sure to check out the sweets. Kombu is harvested in Hokkaido and usually there is a booth with top quality kombu for making dashi at home. If you are a ramen fan, be sure to come hungry and have a bowl of ramen here.

Odakyu Shinjuku 11th floor

10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

on the 6th and the 13th the event space closes at 5 p.m.

Click here for Odakyu’s promotional information for this event.

August Seasonal Japanese Seafood

Karei

Karei

Look for these seafood when eating out in Japan or in the supermarkets or at your fishmonger. Most of the seafood listed here you can enjoy as sushi or sashimi. At home we like to have tachiuo as sashimi with a bit of sesame oil and sea salt. Karei we like either simmered in a delicate dashi with some soy sauce and mirin or cooked in butter and lemon meuniere-style. Ayu is best salted and grilled. And while we don’t cook hamo at home we look forward to having it out at restaurants, especially with a bainiku (umeboshi) dressing. We had katsuo over the weekend at a restaurant. The chef seared the outside (tataki), sliced it, and served it over a bowl of rice with grated nagaimo.

Aka isaki 赤伊佐幾 Schlegel’s red bass (Caprodon schlegelii)

Ayu 鮎  sweetfish (Plecoglossus altivelis altivelis)

Hamo   pike eel or pike conger (Muraenesox cinereus)

Hoya  ほや sea squirt(Halocynthia roretzi)

Inada 鰍 young amberjack (or yellowtail) (Seriola quinqueradiata)

Stages of buri: wakashi, inada, warasa, buri

Isaki 伊佐幾 chicken grunt (Parapristipoma trilineatum)

Kanpachi  間八 amberjack or yellowtail (Seriola dumerili)

Karei 鰈 right-eye flounder (Pleuronectes herzensteini)

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

Kensaki ika 剣先烏賊 swordtip squid (Loligo edulis)

Kijihata (Akahata) 雉羽太 red-spotted grouper (Epinephelus akaara)

Ko yari ika槍烏賊  baby spear squid (Loligo bleekeri)

Maiwashi 真鰯  Japanese sardine (Sardinops melanostictus)

Matsubu (Ezobora) まつぶ(えぞぼら Japanese neptune or whelk (Neptunea polycostata)

Mehikari  目光 greeneyes (Chlorophthalmus borealis)

Saba 鯖  Japanese mackerel (Scomber japonicus)

Saragai  皿貝 Northern great telling (Megangulus venulosa)

Shiira  しいら 鱪 dorado or mahi-mahi (Coryphaena hippurus)

Shima aji  島鯵 striped jack or white trevally (Pseudocaranx dentex)

Shinko (Konoshiro) 鰶 dotted gizzard shad (Konosirus punctatus)

Surumei ika 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)

Tachiuo 太刀魚  cutlassfish (Trichiurus lepturus)

Tobiuo 飛魚  flying fish (Cypselurus agoo)

August Seasonal Japanese Vegetables

Edamame

Edamame

August is when the gardens are overflowing. Look for these vegetables when dining out. Edamame at beer gardens, vegetables in bento at depachika, and in the supermarket. One of my favorite shops at depachika for inspiration on Japanese vegetables is RF1. It is located in most depachika and is a deli with a wide variety of dishes that incorporate a cornucopia of vegetables.

Edamame 枝豆

Tomato トマト

Nasu 茄子 eggplant

Shin shouga 新しょうが new ginger

Papurika パプリカ bell pepper

Pi-man ピーマン Japanese green bell pepper

Tougarashi 唐辛子 green pepper

Zucchini ズッキニ

Chingensai ちんげん菜 bok choy

Kyuuri きゅうり cucumber

Saya ingen さやいんげん green beans

Tougan 冬瓜 winter squash

Kinshi uri 金糸瓜 spaghetti squash

Nigauri にがうり bitter melon

Okra オクラ

Tsuru murasaki つるむらさき Malabar spinach

Zuiki ズイキ taro stems

Myoga みょうが

Tomorokoshi ともろこし corn

Ninniku にんにく garlic

Takahara Kyabettsu 高原キャベッツ Takahara cabbage

Top Ten Depachika in Tokyo 東京のデパ地下

Working at the sake section of the depachika in  Nihonbashi Takashimaya was loads of fun. As a sommelier it was my job to sell wine but my responsibilities also included selling sake, shochu, and other spirits. Who wouldn’t love to be surrounded by amazing food all day long? My breaks were spent carefully perusing the floor for new items. I would plot all morning what to have for lunch that day. The food was constantly changing and Takashimaya often held special food events on the top floor of the department store. Here I would learn about regional food, sake and shochu, and meet the purveyors who enthusiastically shared cooking suggestions and what makes their products unique.

Here are my favorite depachika in the city. It is best to pick a location based on what is convenient for you. Most of the depachika are similar. However, if I have to pick some favorites they would be Nihonbashi Takashimaya, Shinjuku Takashimaya, Shinjuku Isetan, Ginza Mitsukoshi, and Ikebukuro Tobu.

Inquire at the concierge if there are any special food events going on in the store as they may be held on an upper floor and not in the basement.

Shinjuku Takashimaya

Shinjuku Takashimaya

1. Shinjuku Takashimaya, Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-24-2

The restaurant floor here is great – several floors of tempting restaurants. I love Katsukura for tonkatsu. Better yet, pick up a bento and a beer in the depachika and head to the rooftop picnic area. Next door to Takashimaya is a huge Tokyu Hands for great shopping for kitchenware, tableware, stationary, and much, much more.

Nihonbashi Takashimaya

Nihonbashi Takashimaya

2. Nihonbashi Takashimaya, Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 2-4-1

There is a branch of Taiwan’s Din Tai Fun in the basement 2 and the sake department often does weekly tastings of small sake and shochu producers from around Japan. The rooftop garden is a great place to have a bento. Also, do not miss the white-gloved elevator girls (rarely seen now) and the historic elevators.

3. Shinjuku Isetan, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-14-1

Aged sake (koshu) in a special cellar and a manicured rooftop garden for enjoying your bento. Pierre Herme and Jean-Paul Hevin are popular with the locals but I love the wagashi (Japanese confectionaries).

4. Ginza Mitsukoshi, Chuo-ku, Ginza 4-6-16

A recent renovation has made this a depachika you don’t want to miss. The restaurant floor includes a branch of the famous Hakone Akatsukian soba shop, formerly in Hiroo. Time it right and watch as the soba noodles are rolled out into thin sheets and cut with the large soba bocho (soba knife).

5. Ikebukuro Tobu, Toshima-ku, Nishi-Ikebukuro 1-1-25

Japan’s largest depachika. Spend hours here and still not see it all. Also, several restaurants on the restaurant floors including a branch of Chinese iron chef, Chin Kenichi.

6. Ginza Matsuya, Chuo-ku, Ginza 3-8-1

The French bakery Maison Kayser is here.

7. Shibuya Tokyu Toyoko-ten, Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 2-24-1

Located just under the Shibuya station I love the affordable sushi at Uoriki, a sushi counter located near the fresh seafood section. The sake department here also does interesting tastings of small sake and shochu brands.

8. Shinjuku Odakyu, Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 1-1-3

Divided up between two buildings it may be tricky to see all of it but worth checking out. The breads at the Trois Gros bakery are tempting. There is also a Bic Camera for electronics located above the Odakyu annex.

9. Shinjuku Keio, Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku, 1-1-4

A branch of the French bakery Paul is here and the store often does interesting food shows on the upper floor with themes such as ekiben (famous bento boxes from local train stations around Japan) and regional food promotions.

10. Ikebukuro Seibu, Toshima-ku, Minami-Ikebukuro 1-28-1

In the Seibu department store is a branch of Loft, a shop filled with housewares.

OK, 11 best depachika in Tokyo!

11. Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi, Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-4-1

Shochu 焼酎 – Tantakatan 鍛高譚

Tantakatan

Tantakatan

As a shochu advisor I wanted to share with readers shochu that are worth checking out. The first shochu I will introduce is very interesting. My first day at work at Nihonbashi Takashimaya in the sake department some of my colleagues took me out for drinks. They asked me to pick something from the store to take along for the group to drink. At the time I didn’t know too much about shochu but was definitely curious so I asked my colleague to select a unique shochu. She selected Tantakatan, a shochu made from shiso. I was definitely curious, not only from the base ingredient, but also what a great name. It rolls off the tongue – Tantakatan.

The aroma of the shiso is present, but not too overbearing. However, once on your palate, it is obvious that this is made from shiso. It’s a great starter shochu for someone curious about this distilled spirit. The alcohol percentage is low, only 20 percent, and as it’s usually combined with water and ice the percentage drops to 10 percent, or less than most wine.

Tantakatan  鍛高譚

made in Asahikawa, Hokkaido

Shiso shochu

20% alcohol

Tantakatan is made with a blend of juice from red shiso leaves, dates, and white liquor (or korui shochu), so this is a unique type of shochu referred to as “konwa shochu“.

Cocktail suggestions:

I prefer this on the rocks with water but other options include:

Including a smashed umeboshi with water (or soda).

Having it with cranberry juice, ginger ale or tonic water.

Garnish with fresh shiso leaves.

Update – Fukumitsuya in Ginza has closed


Fukumitsuya Ginza

Fukumitsuya Ginza

In Food Sake Tokyo on page 182 I have listed Ginza Fukumitsuya (Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-5-8) as a sake shop worth checking out. Unfortunately they have closed their doors as of July 31, 2011.

It is so sad to see special shops like this shut their doors.

FYI, the other shop listed in Food Sake Tokyo that has also closed since going to print is Nebariya (Shibuya-ku, Hatagaya 2-48-2), a restaurant specializing in natto on page 75.