Taco Rico

Taco Rico

Taco Rico

I don’t remember when I was so excited about a new restaurant. Taco Rico is in the Ark Hills complex in Roppongi. There are a handful of tables in the brightly lit restaurant, but most of the diners over the busy lunch hour were taking their lunches to go. The shop reminds me of Chipotle with the ingredients on display and diners asking for which items to be included on their tacos or burritos. However, it still has it Japanese touches in service, the staff welcomed guests with a genki, “hola, irasshaimase”. While one of the cooks was warming up the flour tortillas for burritos she would count “uno, dos” and the rest of the staff cheerily joined in for a “tres”.

Thankfully the cuisine does not seem altered for the Japanese palate, but tastes like the tacos I am used to in the US. Someday I hope to experience tacos in Mexico.

I had a quick chat with one of the managers (perhaps the owner?). He said that the tortillas are made fresh every morning in house. I asked him when he would be opening along the Chuo line and he said that the shop has only been open for two months. Here’s hoping they open up around the city soon.

Taco Rico

Minato-ku, Akasaka 1-12-32, Ark Mori Bldg. 2F

www.tacorico.jp/

Tokyo Station Sushi Sei

Sushi Sei salmon and ikura

Sushi Sei salmon and ikura

Sushi Sei is a popular sushi shop at Tsukiji Market that has a branch inside of Tokyo Station. There is often a line of salarymen outside of the shop before it opens at 7 a.m. The breakfast options include sashimi or donburi (sashimi over a large bowl of rice). There are also two versions of ochazuke. Ochazuke is a bowl of rice with toppings such as seafood or pickles that is then drenched with tea or a mix of dashi and tea. Sushi Sei has sea bream in a creamy sesame dressing or salmon belly with ikura. Above is the salmon and ikura set as it is presented.

Sushi Sei ochazuke

Sushi Sei ochazuke

The diner assembles the toppings to the rice and then pours the savory tea broth over the bowl. This breakfast is only 670 JPY. At current exchange rates I think it is about $5 USD. It is garnished with mizuna greens and arare, colorful rice crackers.

There are seats at the sushi counter, but this early in the morning the counter is not filled with seafood yet. It was busy recently on a weekday morning, and I was happy to see that most of the customers were ordering the ochazuke. It is a popular comfort food dish. I usually drink it as a last dish at an izakaya after a night out of drinking, but it is also an excellent way to start the day.

Sushi Sei first opened 120 years ago, in the original fish market, before it moved to Tsukiji.

Tsukiji Sushi Sei 築地寿司清

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-9-1, Tokyo Station GranSta Dining 1st Floor

www.tsukijisushisay.co.jp/store/tokyo.html

Ikinari Steak

Ikinari Steak

Ikinari Steak with garlic fried rice

Where to go for steak in Tokyo? If our clients ask I suggest great steakhouses like the New York Grill at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. Especially now as an Argentine executive chef, Federico Heinzmann, is overseeing the kitchen. Ukai-tei in Ginza or Omotesando also is a crowd-pleaser. These are restaurants that we save for a special occasion and not spots we can pop into when we are craving a juicy steak.

Tachigui - stand and eat

Tachigui – stand and eat

Ikinari is a fun Japanese word that means all of the sudden or out of the blue. Ikinari Steak is a chain of tachigui, restaurants without chairs, yes, stand and eat restaurants. These are often casual spots where diners pop in for a quick and affordable meal. At meal times, usually around noon for lunch and about six p.m. for dinner, Ikinari Steak often has a line of customers waiting to get in.

Ikinari scale

Ikinari scale

The menu offers a variety of steak cuts such as filet, rib roast, or sirloin. The beef is Japan as well as the US. Diners go to the kitchen and specify which cut and which type of beef they want and then the chef puts the steak on the cutting board and asks you how thick you want the slice to be. After he cuts the meat is weighed and diners pay per gram. The steak is then grilled over charcoal and then the staff will bring the steak and any side dishes to your counter. Silverware and condiments are on the counter.

See the menu on the link below.

http://ikinaristeak.com/menu/ 

Ikinari Steak exteriorOf course this steak can’t compare to the best steakhouses in Tokyo. It does hit the spot when the craving comes for a juicy steak. It is a very casual environment and great for solo diners. This shop was in Shinbashi but there are branches throughout the city, including Ginza, Shinjuku, and Shibuya. I believe the company is expanding and the market seems to be hungry for it.

A list of their shops:

http://ikinaristeak.com/shopinfo/

Ikinari Steak

Minato-ku, Shinbashi 3-14-1

Onigirazu – Rice Sandwiches

Family Mart Sando Omusubi

Family Mart Sando Omusubi

Onigiri or omusubi are savory stuffed rice balls that are often wrapped in nori. The shape is traditionally a triangle. Onigiri is something we eat at least once a week. These are perfect for picnics, hiking, as a quick meal or snack. But the onigiri is not perfect. The stuffings are concentrated in the center and the edges are not as flavorful as the middle.

The onigirazu, or sandwich omusubi, takes care of that. With the new and very popular onigirazu, every bite will include some of the stuffing. Better yet, if you are making these at home, it simply requires a folding technique. No fancy squeezing and molding to get the triangle shape.

Onigirazu, which actually means onigiri without forming or molding. Brilliant name for something that I wish I would have thought of long ago.

Sando Omusubi

Sando Omusubi

Cookbook shelves have about a half dozen books on the topic. Today I found a “Sando Omusubi” (sandwich omusubi) at Family Mart, a popular convenience store. It was almost twice as expensive as the regular onigiri, I guess as there is more rice and stuffings. Usually the rice balls start at about 100 JPY, but this was for almost 200 JPY.

This is the sando omusubi out of the package.

Tuna and Cheese

Tuna and Cheese

Tuna mayo, canned tuna and mayonnaise, is a popular flavor. Here you can see how the generous stuffing goes all the way to the edges.

Now that these are being sold at convenience stores we know that it is no longer a trend among mothers making these for their kids, but that it has reached the mainstream market.

Please let me know if you try these and how you think they compare to the traditional ones. I am a big fan of the new and improved omusubi/onigiri.

Waseda Rakkyo Brothers Soup Curry

Soup Curry

Soup Curry

Soup Curry is a Hokkaido dish that is a great twist on the regular Japanese curry that we find throughout most of Tokyo. Japanese curry is made with a roux, the flour makes the curry quite thick. The Hokkaido soup version of curry is a soup, without the roux, that is filled with large cuts of vegetables and meat. The first time I was served this was at a girlfriend’s home. I thought she didn’t know how to properly make curry. She explained that this is how the soup curry dish is supposed to be made. It was a nice change to regular curry, that we often make at home.

Near Waseda University is a branch of the Sapporo Rakkyo soup curry shop. The soup curry is not very spicy, but you can request to have it made hotter. It is served with rice on the side. Traditionally thick curry and rice are served in the same bowl. If you like curry, then be sure to try Hokkaido’s soup curry.

Rakkyo Brothers Soup Curry

Shinjuku-ku, Babashitacho 61-9, Yamaguchi Building

新宿区馬場下町61-9山口ビル1F

03-5941-8455

http://www.spicegogo.com/shop05.html

Shibuya Murgi Curry 印度料理ムルギー

Murgi Curry

Murgi Tamago-Iri Curry

Murugi has been on my Go List for about twenty-five years now. Famous for its curry, and the unusual presentation of the tall rice behind the curry. The popular dish is the tamago-iri curry, curry with a hard-boiled egg (1,050 JPY). It is served with a small portion of a fruit paste, to be mixed into the curry to add sweetness. There are no chunks of vegetables in the curry, just a thick black curry with a strong flavor of ginger. I believe the meat is ground chicken, but it is hard to tell. The curry is served with two jars of pickles, red ginger and yellow daikon, both are a nice accent to the curry. The curry is not that spicy and diners can ask for it to be made hotter for a small charge.

Murgi exterior

Murgi exterior

Opened in 1951, the shop is nestled amongst the Love Hotels of Dogenzaka. The brick exterior of the door surrounds the sign which uses the kanji for India, 印度, instead of katakana which we see more often these days, インド (both pronounced Indo). The shop opened in 1951 and is included on many round-ups of curry restaurants in Tokyo. The interior is dim and dark wood fills much of the shop. The diners are a mix of young and old. Next to me is a table of salarymen, also first-timers, and like me excited to finally have made it to a shop that they have heard so much of.

A CD player to the side of the room with CDs lined up against the wall provide the music. Today it is Lionel Ritchie, a nod back to about 30 years ago, when Murugi was first put on my radar. I am glad I finally made it, and look forward to going back.

Murugi 印度料理ムルギー

Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 2-19-2

渋谷区道玄坂2-19-2

Saturday – Thursday; 11:30 – 15:00 (lunch only)

closed Fridays

Tsukiji Toritoh

Toritoh Mizutaki

Toritoh Mizutaki

Over the winter break it was announced that Tsukiji Inner Market (Tsukiji Jonai) will be moving to its new home in November of 2016. We have been very busy with our Food Sake Tokyo tours as customers are wanting to see the historic market before then. I have written about Toritoh in the Tsukiji Outer Market (Tsukiji Jogai) in the past:

http://foodsaketokyo.com/2014/10/25/tsukiji-market-toritoh-鳥藤/

http://foodsaketokyo.com/2012/12/18/tsukiji-market-cheap-eats-toritoh-chicken/

Today I would like to introduce to Toritoh in the inner market. The same shop, just a different location, and more importantly, a completely different menu.

Mizutaki is a classic chicken soup often found in Kyushu in Southern Japan. The version at Toritoh has a rich stock and chicken still on the bone, making it a bit challenging to eat, but worth the effort. The chicken is rough chopped and there are some bits of bones in the soup, not for delicate eaters. This dish is rich in umami and will have you smacking your lips even after you have left the shop.

Toritoh Singapore Chicken

Toritoh Singapore Chicken

I loved the first bit of the Singapore chicken as it reminded me of when we lived in Singapore. But after a while I realized the water the chicken was cooked in was over salted on this day, and the sweet soy sauce they had was not authentic. The rice was cooked in a chicken stock which was nicely done.

Toritoh Kara-age

Toritoh Kara-age

I was enjoying my chicken breakfasts so much that I went back once more for the kara-agé (fried chicken). This was by far my favorite. The chicken is juicy and served hot, just out of the frying pan. As we are in the middle of winter, I will be going back soon. It’s too cold to have sushi first thing in the morning.

One of the other pleasures of passing time here is the lovely, low voice of one of the older cooks in the kitchen. His voice is one of a fishmonger, deep and resonant. Just listening to him repeat orders or call out thank-you to customers as they left the restaurant was a pleasure.

Toritoh Exterior

Toritoh Exterior

The oyako-don, mother-and-child dish of eggs and chicken over rice is also a popular item at Toritoh. There is a small take-out window in front and many of the tourists over the three days were buying chicken dishes to take home. Most of the customers were fishmongers coming in for a quick meal after their work in the market. These guys would open the door and call out their order and pre-pay for the meal as soon as they were seated. The tourists, myself included, would carefully peruse the menu and see what others were eating before ordering, and then would pay when we were done eating. It’s fun to eat elbow-to-elbow with the fishmongers. I am sure this will change when the market moves to the new location in Toyosu.

Toritoh at Tsukiji Inner Market

鳥めし 鳥藤場内店 (とりめし とりとうじょうないてん)

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1, Building #8

Hours 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Oyster Ramen at Tsukiji Yajima 築地やじ満

Tsukiji Yajima oyster ramen

Tsukiji Yajima oyster ramen

Tsukiji Market breakfast options abound and oyster ramen (1,200 JPY) is one can only be had this time of year. Creamy oysters are a unique topping for ramen and are served with nira (garlic chives), onions, bamboo shoots, and fresh wood-ear mushrooms. The noodles are straight and thin, a nice contrast to the large oysters. It’s a large bowl and very filling so come hungry, and come while oysters are in season.

Most of the diners at Yajima are fishmongers from the inner market. Many of them were ordering fried rice or shio (salt) ramen and a half order of shumai (steamed pork dumplings). They are in and out quickly and pay when they order. It was the tourists (myself included) who ordered the oyster ramen (kaki ra-men) and paid after eating.

Tsukiji Yajima exterior

Tsukiji Yajima exterior

Plenty of other restaurants serving fried oysters at Tsukiji Market including:

http://foodsaketokyo.com/2014/07/28/deep-fried-oysters-at-tsukiji-markets-odayasu/

http://www.chowzter.com/fast-feasts/asia-pacific/Tsukiji?rest_id=5111&rest_name=Toyo-chan%20(Tsukiji%20Market)&item_id=5144

Yajima やじ満

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1 Bldg. 8

http://www.tsukijigourmet.or.jp/29_yajiman/index.htm

Tsukiji Market Toritoh 鳥藤

Tsukiji Toritoh

Tsukiji Market Toritoh

While many people coming to Tsukiji Market are dining on raw fish for breakfast I usually beeline it to the non-sushi and donburi restaurants as I get enough of it at home. Toritoh is a chicken retail shop that also has a restaurant around the corner from the main shop. The restaurant’s signature dish is oyakodonburi, a mixture of soft scrambled eggs and chicken, called parent and child.

This day I had asked for the yakitori donburi but was told that the retail shop didn’t send any yakitori over so the restaurant would not be serving it for the whole day. I then ordered this donburi that is topped with ground chicken seasoned with a sweet soy sauce and ginger, teriyaki chicken, liver, gizzard, and egg yolk. Chicken broth is served in a tea cup which is done at many yakitori restaurants in the city.

I did ask for a smaller serving of rice (gohan o sukuname o kudasai) and am glad I did as this smaller portion was just the right size.

Toritoh is often busy but on this rainy day I lucked out.

Highly recommended and I will be back for this dish.

For more details on the restaurant, see this earlier post on Toritoh.

Toritoh 鳥藤

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-8-6 中央区築地4-8-6

03-3543-6525

7:30 – 14:30

Vegetarian Ramen in Tokyo Station – T’s Tan Tan Restaurant

ramen - vegetarian T's at Tokyo Station

Tokyo Station Vegetarian Ramen at T’s Tan Tan Restaurant

I have a new friend in town who is a vegetarian. A while back when we got together for lunch I told her I would love to find a spot that we could have for lunch near her office. It was so frustrating to find someplace that was 100% vegetarian. While Japan has a rich variety of vegetables, many times it is cooked in a dashi broth which is usually made with kombu (kelp, a type of sea vegetable) and katsuobushi (smoked skipjack tuna flakes). I spent a long time searching and finally told her I couldn’t find anything that looked appetizing. There were a few places, but the cuisine just didn’t look appealing.

Now I understand the frustrations that vegetarians go through when visiting Tokyo.

Which is why I was so excited to happen upon a vegetarian restaurant inside of Tokyo Station that serves ramen along with many other dishes. The sign outside said no meat, no fish, no egg, no milk. But the photos of the ramen looked appealing. I sat down and confirmed with my waitress and she said it is 100% vegetarian. I ordered T’s tantan men, which seems to be a signature dish.

The noodles were skinny and straight, as I like them. The broth was rich in miso but also full of umami. I added some of the condiment of red chili peppers and sesame seeds, although the broth on its own was a bit spicy.

ramen - vegetarian T's interior

T’s Tan Tan Restaurant in Tokyo Station

The location is inside of Tokyo Station on the first floor in a section called Keio Street. It opens at 7 a.m., which is when I went. After opening the shop the store filled up with a half-dozen diners. I will be back to try the vegetable curry which also looks good, but is not served at breakfast. The shop is brightly lit and the menu is filled with photos of the dishes, so ordering is easy for non-Japanese speakers.

T’s Restaurant

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-9-1, Keio Street 1st floor (inside Tokyo Station closest to the Yaesu Minami South Exit)

http://ts-restaurant.jp/english/

 

The main shop is in Jiyugaoka at Meguyo-ku, Jiyugaoka 2-9-6, Luz Jiyugaoka B1

〒152-0035東京都目黒区自由が丘2-9-6Luz自由が丘 B1F