Higashiya Ginza

Higashiya Ginza

Higashiya Ginza

For traditional Japanese confectionaries there is Toraya, which is one of Japan’s most famous shops with locations around Tokyo. A modern confectionary shop that I love is Higashiya in Ginza. I first met the folks from Higashiya at a food event where I was pouring dessert wine from Coco Farm and Winery. The Higashiya team were serving wagashi with shochu. I knew immediately that they were worth exploring and I have always been delighted with the sweets from Higashiya.

The Ginza shop is conveniently located in the heart of the shopping district, so a good excuse to rest your feet here and to rejuvenate over some sweets, either traditional or modern. Check out the mattcha blanc manger or the houjicha pudding or for something more classic, the monaka or yokan.

Higashiya Ginza

Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-7-7, Pola Ginza 2F

03- 3538-3230

 

Shochu 焼酎 – Futan 風憚

Fuutan

Fuutan

My favorite type of shochu is an imojochu, or sweet potato shochu. It comes in a wide variety of aromas and flavors. Some can be really funky and others very smooth. Fuutan is on the easy-drinking and light side. This is a great starter shochu if you are interested in sweet potato shochu but are not too adventurous. Fuutan can be had on the rocks or with hot water (oyuwari), so a good shochu to have anytime of the year.

What makes Fuutan unique is that it uses a sweet potato called kurikogane. Most sweet potato shochu is made from a variety called koganesengan. Kurikogane is a unique sweet potato, not often found.

Fuutan

25 degrees alcohol

base ingredient – kurikogane sweet potato

koji – kuro koji (black koji)

Fuutan Genshu

Fuutan Genshu

Fuutan Genshu is the undiluted version (most shochu is diluted with water to bring the alcohol down). At 36 degrees it is on the high side for shochu. I don’t come across this as often and would have this one on the rocks. If shopping for this, look for the kanji for genshu on the label. 原酒

Fuutan also ages a small amount of bottles, either three or five years. I haven’t had the pleasure of trying these, but typically as time passes the shochu becomes softer and more gentle on the palate. These bottles are numbered on the label.

Fuutan is made by Fukiage Shochu in Minami Satsuma, Kagoshima.

Japanese Pastry Chefs Worth Checking Out

Patissier Jun Honma

Patissier Jun Honma

The December 2011 issue of Cuisine Kingdom (料理王国) lists some Japanese patissiers and chocolatiers worth getting to know. I am listing them here. On a side note, it also includes a friend of ours, Shinji Oyama, who is in charge of all of the public relations for the Tsuji Chori Gakko.

Susumu Koyama 小山進

Patissier Es Koyama in Hyogo prefecture

Tadashi Yanagi 柳正司

Patisserie Tadashi Yanagi

Meguro-ku, Yakumo 2-8-11

03-5731-9477

Koji Tsuchiya 土屋公二

Theobroma

Shibuya-ku, Tomigaya 1-14-9, Green Core L Shibuya

03-5790-2181

www.grand-patissier.info/TadashiYanagi/index.html

Miya and Toshimi Fujimoto 藤本美弥 智美

Patisserie Etienne in Kawasaki-shi, Kanagawa prefecture

Shinpei Asada 朝田晋平

Patisserie Aplanos in Saitama-shi, Saitama prefecture

Jun Honma 本間淳

Patissier Jun Honma

Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Honcho 3-4-11

0422-27-5444

Chika Tamehiro (Tillman)

Chikalicious NY Amarige

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-10-1, Gyre Bldg. 4F

03-6418-8015

Reiko Imou 芋生玲子

Atessouhaits

Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Higashi-cho 3-8-8, Kasa Kichijoji II

0422-29-0888

Kazuya Morita 森田一頼

Libertable

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 5-2-11, R2-A Blgd. B1

03-6427-3229

Fumiyuki Kanai 金井 史章

Benoit

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-51-8, La Porto Aoyama 10F

03-6419-4181

Naoki Miura 三浦直樹

Bulgari Il Cioccolato

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-10-1, Gyre Bldg. 2F

03-6362-0500

Autumn Lunch at Nihonbashi Yukari 日本橋ゆかり

Iron Chef Kimio Nonaga

Iron Chef Kimio Nonaga

Nihonbashi Yukari is just a few minutes’ walk from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu exit. This third generation restaurant is one of my favorites in Japan for many reasons. For the quality of food it is a great bargain. The Yukari bento lunch here is about 3,675 JPY. A kaiseki multi-course dinner starts at 10,500 JPY. At this price it is amazing.

Second, the chef, 2002 Iron Chef champion, Kimio Nonaga, is very passionate about Japanese food and sharing it with anyone who is curious. No matter how many questions I ask about ingredients or preparation, he is always full of passion in teaching me.

Third, the atmosphere is very friendly. Some kaiseki or sushi restaurants feel like a temple and diners may feel awkward even if they sneeze. Here, diners are warmly welcomed and the whole dining experience is pleasant.

Finally, the location can not be beat. Very close to Tokyo station, and a good excuse to stop by Nihonbashi Takashimaya which is just a few blocks away.

Here is a recent Yukari bento lunch, featuring autumn seafood and vegetables. This has to be ordered in advance as only a limited amount are made daily.

If you do go here, please tell him that Yukari sent you. And, when making the reservation, request to sit at the counter so you can watch chef Nonaga at work.

Nihonbashi Yukari

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi  3-2-14

03-3271-3436

www.nihonbashi-yukari.com

Anago Chawan Mushi 穴子茶碗蒸し

Anago Chawan Mushi 穴子茶碗蒸し

It was a very cold and rainy day that we went so the first course was a warm, savory egg custard with tender anago. A great way to warm up and to start the meal.

Nihonbashi Yukari Bento 日本橋ゆかり弁当

Nihonbashi Yukari Bento 日本橋ゆかり弁当

While this is given the humble name of a bento, it is quite an elaborate meal as you can see. It is also a lot of food. If you are looking for a more simple meal, there is also an a la carte menu. Our neighbors had a nice simmered tai head with gobo that looked very appetizing. The a la carte menu for lunch starts at 2,100 JPY.

Autumn at Nihonbashi Yukari

Autumn at Nihonbashi Yukari

Inside of the bento are these four lovely dishes.

Otsukuri お造り

Otsukuri お造り

The sashimi course was katsuo, hotate, and tako tataki with oroshi ponzu. Over the sashimi was julienned vegetables of daikon, carrots, myoga, kaiware (daikon sprouts), kikuna (chrysanthemum flowers), and baby shiso leaves. What really makes this dish special is Nonaga-san’s unique oroshi ponzu. Typically this is grated daikon with a ponzu dressing but the Iron Chef takes 30 different vegetables, grates them, squeezes out the excess juice and then adds the ponzu. It really elevates the dish to a new level.

Tempura 天ぷら

Tempura 天ぷら

Everything at Nihonbashi Yukari is made from scratch, including the yuba in this tempura course. Today’s tempura was of wakasagi (smelt), shishitou, shiitake, and yuba surrounding a hotate shinjo served with a momiji oroshi (grated daikon with togarashi pepper) and a dipping sauce.

Simmered Pork 豚の角煮

Simmered Pork 豚の角煮

The pork was simmered with kurozato (brown sugar) and Mercian kouso wine. It is served with simmered daikon, snap peas and a lovely nama awafu that has a great mochi mochi texture.

Autumn 秋の旬

Autumn 秋の旬

Here is the artistry of an Iron Chef. Grilled kuri (chestnut), grilled ginnan (ginkgo nuts), shrimp stuffed with ikura (salmon roe), salmon wrapped in thin layers of daikon, ground duck meatball,  dashimaki tamago (Japanese omelet), grated yamaimo topped with karasumi, and grilled sawara (Japanese Spanish mackerel) marinated in Saikyo miso.

Kuri Gohan 栗ごはん

Kuri Gohan 栗ごはん

The rice course was one of Shinji’s favorite, kuri (chestnut) gohan served with nuka kabu pickles. Shinji got a second serving of the rice.

Mozuku Miso Soup

Mozuku Miso Soup

The miso soup had mozuku (a type of sea vegetable), mitsuba, and futama (wheat gluten).

Kinako Ice Cream きな粉アイス

Kinako Ice Cream きな粉アイス

Very rarely will you find a Western-style dessert at a kaiseki restaurant like Nihonbashi Yukari. Nonaga-san makes my favorite dessert in Japan. Kinako (roasted soybean powder) ice cream studded with Kyoto Tanba Kuromame (black beans), topped with kuromitsu (brown sugar syrup) and puffed rice. It is not too sweet and has great texture – mochi mochi beans and kari kari from the puffed rice. The perfect end to an amazing meal.

International Supermarkets in Tokyo

Nissin - photo by Steve Trautlein

Nissin - photo by Steve Trautlein

There is a great article in today’s Japan Times by my former editor at Metropolis, Steve Trautlein. It outlines some of the best supermarkets that offer a wide variety of international products. Some of my personal favorites in this list include Nissin (see photo above), Seijo Ishii, Kaldi, and Eataly.

Click here for Steve’s article.

Click here for my blog on where Tokyoite’s shop for food.