Shibuya Ore no Hamba-gu Yamamoto 俺のハンバーグ山本

Ore no Hamba-gu

Ore no Hamba-gu

There is a chain of restaurants that specialize in a certain cuisine or a dish. The “Ore no” series includes French, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, yakitori, kappō, soba, oden, and yakiniku. There are all in the Oreno Corporation and are casual restaurants, many of them standing only spots, that offer reasonable priced cuisine in a casual environment.

The other day on the bus I passed a restaurant called Ore no Hamba-gu near Shibuya station. I got off the bus and got in line. A good sign that there were people standing in line. Hamba-gu is different from hamburger. Hamba-gu are more like a juicy meatloaf that is served with rice instead of a bun. Hamba-gu is a staple of yōshoku, Western-style cuisine adapted for the Japanese palate. The lunch set is 1,750 JPY and comes with a salad, rice, and miso soup along with the burger.

The Ore no Hamba-gu seems to be not affiliated with the Oreno Corporation, but I could be wrong.

Ore no Hamba-gu has a handful of shops around the city including Ebisu, Kichijōji, and Jiyugaoka. The interior at Shibuya is like being at home with a living room feel in the back of the restaurant.

The menu offers about a dozen different types of toppings for the hamba-gu. I went with the most popular, which was Gorgonzola. The cheese sauce on top was nothing special, but the hamba-gu was stuffed with a rich serving of cheese. The hamba-gu is served in a hot bowl, the type you find at Korean restaurants. The meat is very, very hot. I should have known that looking at the sauce bubbling, but I wish they would have warned me. :-)

The restaurant has its own farm. The small salad that came with the lunch set is made with flavorful vegetables. I can still taste the sweet red bell peppers. I may go back and just ask for a big salad. The lunch set includes a small juice made from seven vegetables and fruit, including cilantro and shikuwasa, a tart citrus.

There is a nice server who speaks English. So even though the menu is in Japanese, there is someone to help you order. I highly recommend a glass of juice and getting a salad along with the hamba-gu.

Ore no Hamba-gu is a great example of a restaurant focusing on one thing, hamba-gu, and doing it very well.

Ore no Hamba-gu Yamamoto 俺のハンバーグ山本

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 3-18-5, Wada Bldg. 1F 渋谷区渋谷3-18-5和田ビル1F

Sushi with Kids

Chiyoda Sushi

Chiyoda Sushi

When I first lived in Japan in the late 80s I would request that the sushi chef not include wasabi on my sushi, “wasabi nuki onegaishimasuI“. At one point an older sushi chef scolded me and told me I was too old to be eating my sushi without wasabi. I can now eat wasabi, but am still not a big fan. You’ll never find me buying wasabi flavored potato chips.

The other day while at our local depachika our son requested sushi for lunch. Chiyoda Sushi is an affordable chain of sushi restaurants with many take-away shops throughout the city. There was a big selection of nigiri, maki, and chirashi-zushi for take-away. The prices are quite affordable starting at a couple hundred yen. He wanted the set that we got above, which included ten pieces of nigiri and four small maki, all for only 498 JPY (less than $5 USD).

Wasabi Nuki - No Wasabi

Wasabi Nuki – No Wasabi

The only problem is that most of the sushi has wasabi on it. I asked if they could make a set without wasabi, wasabi nuki (new-key), and was told it would take about five minutes. We prepaid for the sushi and finished our shopping and then came back.

Sometimes you will find premade wasabi nuki sets at the shops. If not, ask for some to be made for you.

Nakameguro Onigily Cafe

Onigiri and Annin Dofu

Onigiri and Annin Dofu

The Nakameguro area is filled with many great restaurants, including my favorite pizzeria, Seirinkan. Just a short walk from Nakameguro station is Onigily Cafe. Onigiri is perhaps the quintessential comfort food in Japan. Rice stuffed with a savory filling that is often wrapped with nori. I almost didn’t go in as the spelling of onigiri with an l just seemed so wrong, but it was hot and I needed to take a break. From outside I could see the handmade onigiri and they looked to good to resist.

Onigily Cafe interior

Onigily Cafe interior

The interior is also inviting as it is brightly lit and there are a handful of tables and a counter at the window. I had the mentaiko and takana, a great combination of spicy pollack roe with pickled greens. The annin dōfu was the best I have had in Tokyo. I will go back just for the almond custard.

Onigily Cafe Take-Away

Onigily Cafe Take-Away

I was surprised that the onigiri that I was served had just a small piece of nori. But forgot all about that when I bit in. The rice was still warm and was lightly pressed, it was like a pillow.

This is a great spot for vegetarians as there is a good selection of vegetable-only onigiri including yukari (salted red shiso) natto, leek miso with shiso, kombu, umeboshi, soft-boiled egg, and salt. There is also a selection of vegetable side dishes including potato salad, tomato salad, pickled cucumbers, and turnips with kombu.

It was not surprising that there were many people coming for take-away. The prices range from 100 – 200 JPY with most averaging about 155 JPY, which is about the same as you would pay at a convenience store. But these are just so much better.

Onigily Cafe

Meguro-ku, Nakameguro 3-1-4 目黒区中目黒3-1-4

Nihonbashi Soba Yudetaro 日本橋ゆで太郎

Yudetaro Summer Soba

Yudetaro Summer Soba

For the longest time I avoided the tachigui soba shops and other casual dining soba restaurants. Tachigui are restaurants without chairs. Diners order a bowl of noodles and stand and slurp quickly. Tachigui can be near train stations or even on the platforms. When I first lived in Japan in the late 80s I wouldn’t even part the curtains to go in.

But times have changed and if I need a quick meal I seek out these spots. Especially early in the mornings before I take clients to Tsukiji Market. In Nihonbashi on the back streets behind the Mandarin Oriental is a chain called Yudetaro. Taro is a popular boy’s name and it can also be part of a boy’s name like Kentaro. To boil in Japanese is yuderu, so the name Yudetaro is a fun name. Yudetaro is found throughout Japan, so it is a good spot to look for while traveling.

Seasonality is important in Japanese cuisine, even at fast food restaurants. The summer menu at Yudetaro caught my eye with tempura eggplant. I included some sansai, mountain vegetables like nameko mushrooms and ferns and also topped the bowl off with tenkasu. If you don’t know tenkasu, you are missing out. Tenkasu are the bits of tempura that fall off of the items you are deep-frying. At some tempura restaurants bags of tenkasu are given to diners. I take this home for soba, udon, or even as a crouton substitute for salads.

Yudetaro Entrance

Yudetaro Entrance

Yudetaro has chairs and tables. There is a vending machine so diners need to be able to figure out which buttons to push. If you are in luck there will be some plastic food samples in the front window or a menu with some photos. If not, do Russian Roulette with your meal, which some of our clients tell us they have done. If the staff are not too busy, someone may help you figure out what to order. When in doubt, ask them for their osusume, recommendation.

The breakfast menu is a bargain, starting at around 330 JPY and not going over 400 JPY. Lunch is usually only 500 – 600 JPY. There are plenty of optional toppings if you are hungry. Amazing when you consider this is cheaper than McDonald’s and better for you.

Yudetaro ゆで太郎

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Kabuto-cho 14-10 中央区日本橋兜町14-10

Ginza Rose Bakery

Salad Lunch

Salad Lunch

I am a big fan of Rose Bakery. An English bakery that first opened in Paris and is now dotting Tokyo. This casual cafe has a large delicatessen-style refrigerator in each shop that showcases the colorful salads and baked goods. While the cakes and sweets are tempting, I am always come here for the salads.

This Plate of Vegetables is about 1,550 JPY at the Ginza shop and was 100% vegetarian. Six vegetable dishes served with a side of rustic sourdough bread. The Kichijoji branch, which I go to more often, sometimes includes some chicken or anchovies in the Salad Lunch, so be sure to let them know if you prefer all vegetables as I believe they could accommodate your request.

The Kichijoji branch is filled with suburban shoppers and stay-at-home moms, sometimes with their kids in tow. The Ginza shop which is in the fashionable Dover Street Market, was just the opposite. Hip and stylishly dressed diners and shoppers with their shopping bags from high-end designers. I definitely feel more at ease at the Kichijoji shop, which also opens at 8 a.m., while the Ginza branch opens at 11 a.m.

Many times our clients tell us that they are craving vegetables. This is a great spot to get your fill.

Rose Bakery Ginza

Chuo-ku, Ginza 6-9-5, Ginza Komatsu West Wing 7F


Shibuya Uobei Train Sushi

Uobei Sushi

Uobei Sushi

Uobei near Shibuya station is a fun spot for sushi, especially if you are dining out with your kids. This is a new trend in Japan based on the kaiten-zushi, conveyor belt sushimodel. In this new style sushi is only prepared once the customer orders it. So there is zero waste with any sushi being thrown away after a certain amount of time has passed. This is the future of fast food sushi, as new shops opening in the city take on this method.

Uobei is a large restaurant with aisles of seats facing a counter. Diners place an order on a computer screen in front of them. The menu is in English as well and is complete with pictures. Shortly after placing your order a train comes shooting from the kitchen to your spot and stops. Once you have taken off your order you push a button on the screen to send the train back to the kitchen.

Sushi at Your Fingertips

Sushi at Your Fingertips

Placing your order is half of the fun as diners scroll through the screen selecting sushi. It’s very cheap and the quality is fine. It’s not gourmet standards, but it is kid-friendly and a fun meal out with the family or friends.

Uobei is part of the Genki Sushi chain.


Shibuya-ku, Udagawa-cho 24-8, Leisure Plaza Building

渋谷区宇田川町24-8, Leisure Plaza Building

Shibuya Curry House Tiri Tiri

Chili Tiri Curry

Tomato, Spinach, and Garbanzo Beans

It is hot and humid in Tokyo. A great time to have curry as the spices helps you to sweat, cooling you down. Curry House Tiri Tiri is a popular shop in Shibuya, about a five minute walk from the station along Meiji Dori.

While the shop has pork, chicken, or shrimp as options for the curry, I was craving healthful vegetables. This tomato is the chū-kara, medium spicy, curry. If you ask for a small portion of rice you get a 50 JPY discount. The owner’s wife said that a usual serving is a cup and a half of rice so I asked for the small portion, which was perfect.

I was curious to come here as the shop is famous for serving healthful curry. The chef uses little oil and lots of onions. Outside of the shop is a sign in Japanese that says each serving of curry contains about one whole onion. All of the ingredients are natural, no preservatives. It is also known for having some of the best curry in the city.

The menu is simple. Pick your heat, chū-kara or spicy Masala. You can pick chicken, pork, or shrimp, or go vegetarian. Just list up what you want like tomato, spinach, garbanzo beans, lentils, potatoes, cheese, or a raw egg. Also, tell them if you want a little or a lot of rice.

Chili Tiri Storefront

Chili Tiri Storefront

The shop is only open weekdays, 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., or until they run out. Love this. If I were to do a restaurant I would do the same. Even when I got there around 1 p.m., late for lunch in Japan, there was a line. There are 15 seats at a long counter with white tiles. The line does move quickly as the meal is quite fast. If there is a line outside they will come out and take your order to expedite the service. Quite a lot of customers came for take-away.

The only thing they have to drink is ice water. Smart.

I don’t know if they speak English. The wife was very abrupt asking me in Japanese if I spoke Japanese. I don’t know how she would be with a non-Japanese speaker. So go prepared. I felt like I was at Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi.

Curry House Tiri Tiri チリチリ

Shibuya-ku, Higashi 1-27-9

Shibuya Adenia

Adenia burger

Adenia burger

Adenia in Shibuya is home to one of my favorite burgers in Tokyo. Chef Masafumi Irie was the sous chef at the Park Hyatt Tokyo at the same time that I was the sommelier. The bistro is a short walk from Shibuya station. It is on a quiet residential street. The daily lunch menu, reasonably priced between 1,000 and 1,500 JPY, includes a fish, meat, and steak. The burger is a bargain at 1,000 JPY. The burger is meaty and juicy and comes with the essential side dish, French fries.

Adenia steak

Adenia steak

On a recent visit I had the steak frites. The Australia steak is served with a generous salad that has is always well seasoned and has a nice acidity to it. I mention that only because I am often disappointed at how other bistros in the city dress their salads.

Adenia tartare

Adenia tartare

For a supplemental fee an appetizer or dessert can be added to the menu. The steak tartare brings me back to Paris.

Looking over this blogpost I see that it is all meat, but have no fear as the seafood options are always excellent. My dining partners usually get the fish and it is delicious. But for whatever reason, once I get here I always fall for the meaty options.

It is a small bistro, so call ahead for reservations.

Chef Irie has opened a second bistro, Decary, in Kameido which is in Kōtō-ku. The station is on the Sobu line. The menu is simliar to Adenia. Good to keep in mind when you are on that side of the city.


Shibuya-ku, Hachiyama-cho 1-7


Ginza Kagari Ramen 銀座篝中華そば

Kagari Echika Ramen

Kagari Echika Ramen

My favorite ramen at the moment is Kagari in Ginza. The shop does a tori paitan, creamy chicken ramen. This is perfect for those of you who don’t eat pork. :-) I come here mostly for the thick, rich soup made with lots of chicken fat. The noodles are thin, which I prefer.

Recently Kagari has opened a second shop in the Ginza subway station in an area called Echika. It is close to the Marunouchi entrance to the Ginza station. The hours for this shop is 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. However, the staff said that best to come by 10 p.m. or you will be turned away.

The Echika branch has only 8 seats at a long, straight blonde counter. This shop only serves the tori paitan, either a bowl of hot noodles with the soup, or as tsuke-men, where the noodles and soup are served in two different bowls. For optional toppings I included Kyoto bamboo shoots, aji tama seasoned egg, and garlic butter. The garlic butter in this shop was (I think) garlic powder mixed into butter.

I also had a lovely bowl of seasonal vegetables as a side dish. Over a dozen types of seasonal vegetables, some raw some steamed, simple presented together in a bowl. It takes away a bit of the guilt of the hearty ramen when balanced with some vegetables. The vegetables could have been used as a garnish to the ramen, but it was a treat to try each vegetable and enjoy them for their own flavors.

I came for an early lunch and was seated right away. In front of the shop is a waiting area. I would prefer to wait here in the hot summer as it is underground and not nearly as hot as waiting at the main shop.

Kagari Honten Main Shop

Kagari Honten Main Shop

The main shop, honten, in Ginza is very popular. There is usually a long line at this shop. The sign outside of the store says “SOBA”, as the restaurant refers to their ramen as chūka soba, or Chinese noodles. One day while standing in line here a couple thought it was a soba shop and only once they were handed a menu did they realize that it was ramen. The poor woman said she was allergic to gluten but was advised that the ramen of course was made with gluten. They had stood in line so long that they came in anyways and all she could eat with rice with different toppings usually put over the ramen.

The main shop also has only eight seats. The seasoned egg here was cut in half before being placed in the bowl, which makes more sense than serving it whole as they did in the Echika branch. Also, here the garlic is fried before it is added to the butter.

The main shop also serves a niboshi shoyu, dried sardines and soy sauce, ramen. But come here for the tori paitan chicken ramen as this is their specialty.

If you go to the main shop and the line is super long, I suggest heading over to the Echika branch. Also, the Echika branch is open without closing between lunch and dinner but the main shop does close for a few hours.

Kagari Honten (Main Shop)

Chuo-ku, Ginza 4-4-1, Ginza A Building 1F    中央区銀座4-4-1銀座Aビル1F

Kagari Echika

Chuo-ku, Ginza 4-1-2, Echika Fit     中央区銀座4-1-2, Echika Fit

Food Trends – Shio Pan

Vie de France Shio Pan

Vie de France Shio Pan

As it looks like rainy season has come to an end and summer is officially here it has suddenly become hot. Temperatures soared overnight and for this Minnesotan, the heat is unbearable. Increased salt intake is recommended for heat exhaustion or for acclimating to the heat. A baker in Ehime prefecture came up with this concept which is now spreading throughout the country. He adds a bit of butter to the insider of the dough and then sprinkles the outer part with salt. It becomes a mini meal for those who have to eat on the run. Shio means salt and pan is for bread, simply salty bread.

The shio pan from Vie de France is my favorite so far. The inside opens up like a balloon so the outside is slightly crunchy and the inside is slightly chewy. The butter brings it all together. This is only 100 JPY. It can be eaten just as it is as a snack. I think it would also be nice sliced in half and stuffed with ice cream or sorbet.

Pompadour Shio Pan

Pompadour Shio Pan

Pompadour’s version is much more dense. I much prefer the airy version from Vie de France. Pompadour’s is better suited for making into a sandwich, perhaps stuffed with tuna or ham and cheese.

Vie de France and Pompadour are popular chains with branches throughout the city. Ask at your local bakery as many shops are now jumping on the bandwagon. Please let me know if you come across a good one. I’d travel across the city to try one.