Takashimaya Patissieria Sweets Counter

Shinjuku Takashimaya

Takashimaya Patissieria

If you have a sweet tooth be sure to visit Shinjuku Takashimaya’s Patissieria in the depachika. The concept is brilliant, over a hundred signature sweets from patisseries throughout Tokyo all displayed together. Carefully peruse the sweets and upon selecting one, or two if you like, take a seat at the counter and order a coffee and enjoy.

Shinjuku Takashimaya

Takashimaya Patissieria

Even on days when I don’t have time to sit down, I do try and glance through the display case as the offerings are constantly changing. As can be expected, aside from the classics, many are influenced by the seasonal ingredients.

Takashimaya Patissieria Mont Blanc

Takashimaya Patissieria

My view from the counter with a Mont Blanc. Shinjuku Takashimaya is located just outside of Shinjuku JR Station. Take the Shin-Minami-Guchi, New South Exit, take a left and you will walk into Takashimaya in one minute. Follow the escalators down to the basement.

Takashimaya Patissieria

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

Chef Federico Heinzmann at the Park Hyatt Tokyo’s New York Grill & Bar

Federico Heinzmann

Octopus Tiradito – photo by Park Hyatt Tokyo

The Park Hyatt Tokyo is celebrating its 20th anniversary this summer. Earlier this year the New York Grill and Bar welcomed a new chef, Argentinian Federico Heinzmann. His last name is a nod to his Swiss and German heritage. My interview with chef Federico is in Metropolis magazine. Chef Federico’s style and philosophy is already taking shape in the menu with simple and focused flavors.

The New York Grill and Bar is one restaurant and bar that I recommend everyone visit while in Tokyo. The bar is featured in Sofia Coppola’s movie Lost in Translation. The views are stunning, service is exquisite, cocktails are memorable, and the cuisine amazing.

Chef Federico is very passionate about history and cuisine and our interview was filled with facts and tidbits. Including that tiradito is seafood cut into thin slices and that ceviche is made from diced seafood. The octopus tiradito was a brilliant start to the dinner, like a party in your mouth. The aroma of the passion fruit was refreshing, fresh, and bright. The chili and onions add crunch and a bite to the dish. All coming together with the meaty octopus. I will try to start home parties with a tiradito, especially if I can find an aromatic fruit like passionfruit.

Prior to coming to Tokyo chef Federico was in Korea where he learned a lot about seafood. While as an Argentinian, meat is in his genes, I am sure he will be exploring much more seafood in Japan.

Federico Heinzmann

Foie Gras with Cacao Dirt – photo by Park Hyatt Tokyo

The foie gras dish incorporates a Japanese orange-like citrus called dekopon. Chef Federico garnishes it with a crunchy cacao dirt that is a nice contrast to the foie gras mousse.

Federico Heinzmann

Cod and Scallops – photo by Park Hyatt Tokyo

A black olive powder is used in lieu of salt as it offers a “deeper flavor” and is a nice contrast to the smokey and creamy cauliflower puree.

Federico Heinzmann

Wagyū Steak – photo by Yukari

As an Argentinian, chef Federico is a master at cooking meat. He is enjoying exploring Japanese wagyū. Carrots are cooked in carrot juice, an intense puree that partners well with the wagyū steak. The sauce is made with a black garlic, beef stock, and olive oil. It reminds me of during the interview when he said, “if I can surprise you with a leek, cauliflower, or carrot” as that take more of an effort.

It was interesting to hear his thoughts on Japanese wagyū as it is so different from the lean meat of Argentina. He commented that “fat is taste and you need to manage the taste” and that in Argentina meat is often slow-cooked over a fire to get caramelization on the outside and to leave the inside pink.

Here you can see the tall ceilings of the New York Grill. The city lights sparkle from below as the restaurant is on the 52nd floor of the hotel. There are no tall building nearby so the views are magnificent.

The wine list at the New York Grill is mostly from California. These wines do great with chef Federico’s cuisine. The New York Grill and Bar offers some of the most spectacular views of Tokyo with cuisine and wine to match.

Some good advice from chef, “Construct your food from what you have, not what you want”.

 

 

New York Grill and Bar at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 3-7-1-2

03-5323-3458

Why You Should be Eating Italian in Tokyo

Tacubo

Hokkaido Winter Potato Vichyssoise with Virgin Oyster

A good chef friend was visiting from NYC. He’s lived in Tokyo for years and knows that Italian done by Japanese chefs is one of Tokyo’s greatest culinary treats. I was thrilled to hear we were going for Italian and that a food editor was picking our lunch spot. A tiny Hiroshima virgin oyster in the chilled soup was rich in umami. The skin of the potato was grated and used in the Parmigiano-Reggiano crisp, a brilliant Japanese concept of using every part of the product.

Tacubo

Karatsu Sazae with Aonori Butter

Sazae, turban-wreath shell, is a tiny conch-shaped shellfish. Here it is sautéed in an aonori (laver) butter sauce and seasoned with some garlic chips. Some warm bread came just in time to soak up the butter sauce.

Tacubo

Fresh Shirasu and Karasumi Pasta

Chef Tacubo excels in pasta and meat dishes. The pasta in this dish was well-seasoned as he seasons it with asari (littleneck clams) jus before plating. It is topped with fresh shirasu (tiny sardines) and karasumi (bottarga roe) and dill. A great fusion dish of East meets West.

Tacubo

Orecchiette and Sausage

Another brilliant dish.

Tacubo

Aomori Pork and Wild Asparagus

The pork from Aomori was well-balanced with the wild asparagus and edamame. The African salt pearls, I believe from Djibouti, are like large grains of sand. Sadly I had to head home early so I missed the dessert which was lemon-based.

Aria di Tacubo is a short walk from Ebisu station. It is a tiny, well-lit spot at lunch. Only a few tables, about 16 seats, so reservations are required. We sat down to an empty restaurant at 12:30 p.m. and by 1 p.m. it was full. Chef Tacubo has a strong following so be sure to plan ahead. Lunch starts at 2,900 JPY for 3 courses with one pasta, but you’ll want to be sure to have at least two pasta, so starting at 4,900 JPY. Dinner starts at 8,500 JPY. The wine list is not exclusive to Italy and we enjoyed a few wines with our meal. The sommelier was very helpful in helping us pair wines with the menu.

Come here to see the sophisticated work of a Japanese chef who knows Japanese ingredients well and can assemble them into Italian cuisine. My NYC chef friend is right when he says that tourists to Japan are missing out on a big part of the food scene here by limiting themselves to Japanese cuisine. It is a great idea to have one Italian meal while in Tokyo, and Aria di Tacubo should be near the top of that list.

Perhaps the greatest pleasure is experiencing the seasonal ingredients, this time of year includes the nama-shirasu and sazae. Bravissimo, chef Tacubo!

Aria di Tacubo

Shibuya-ku, Ebisu-Nishi 1-12-11, Bios Bldg. 4F

Aria di Tacubo Facebook

Nihonbashi Yukari 日本橋ゆかり – August Bento Lunch

My favorite restaurant in Tokyo is Nihonbashi Yukari. Third-generation chef Kimio Nonaga is the 2002 Iron Chef champion. The food is amazing and I most of all I appreciate chef Nonaga’s passion for sharing Japanese cuisine. He graciously answers all of our questions about the ingredients, where it was sourced, and preparation. He also shares with us current projects that he is working on.

On this hot August day we start off with a cold beer as we watch chef Nonaga preparing dishes.

Eggplant chawanmushi. Chilled Kyoto eggplant soup over chawanmushi. Topped with eggplant skin sauce, rice arare, and shiso no hana hojiso. Nonaga-san says that the skin which is often discarded has color and flavor. Lovely flavor of eggplants which are at the peak of their seasonality.

Yukari bento is much more than a bento. To me it’s like a mini kaiseki meal as it includes many different preparations incorporating seasonal ingredients that are artistically displayed. The lunch bento needs to be ordered ahead of time when making your reservation.

On the left: A tender pork kakuni  with a sauce of Hatcho miso and kurozato (brown sugar). Chef Nonaga said the whole process to make the pork takes three days to make and that one of his key points was to steam the pork. It is served with fresh awafu, sato imo, and okra.

On the right:  Katsuramuki daikon wrapped around smoked salmon, toriniku dango, shrimp and ikura, sweet potato, grilled chicken Nambanzuke, sawara Saikyo-yaki, Tokyo tamagoyaki, grated yamaimo topped with house-cured karasumi (bottarga).

On the left: Banno natto made with kuromame (black bean) natto from Hitachi, Ibaraki. Include link. Otsukuri (sashimi) of shima-aji, mizudako, and meji maguro. Garnish with daikon, kaiware, onions, shiso, benidate.

The banno natto is a dressing that chef Nonaga makes in house. He says that it is good with noodles, seafood, salad, or as a dressing as aemono.

On the right: Tempura eggplant, shishito, and kakiage melange of eggplant, shako, sayori, ika, kobashira, and sakura ebi. Chiayu fish rolled in rice arare then deep-fried. The colorful red is momiji oroshi for the dipping sauce.

On the left: Rice topped with yukari (dried, red, shiso). Today’s pickles include wasabi zuke made with shoyu kasu and katsuobushi.

In the middle: the dipping sauce for the tempura.

On the right: Akadashi miso soup with fu, mozuku sea vegetables, mitsuba, and a hint of kona zansho.

Chef Nonaga’s signature kinako ice cream studded with black beans. Topped with kuromitsu (brown sugar syrup) and puffed rice. Heaven in a cup.

The toothpicks are from a historic shop Saruya.

As we went to Nihonbashi Yukari during Obon holidays in August we were curious where he got his seafood as it was very fresh. He said that on days that Tsukiji Market is closed he procures his seafood from the Kyoto Market.

I’ve walked in front of Nihonbashi Yukari for years and this is the first time that I have seen these gorgeous chochin paper lanterns. It gives a festive ambience to the entrance.

Lunch was very busy, especially considering it was during Obon holidays. Diners were a mix of young and old, men and women. If you come with a large group you can request one of the private rooms in the basement. Nihonbashi Yukari is conveniently located just minutes from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu Exit and around the corner from Nihonbashi Takashimaya. If you go, tell him Yukari sent you.

Nihonbashi Yukari

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-2-14

Kozue at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

Kozue at the Park Hyatt Tokyo under the helm of talented chef Kenichiro Ooe is a wonderful traditional Japanese restaurant with amazing views of Mount Fuji on a clear day. Lunch was a gorgeous affair filled with seasonal spring May seafood and vegetables.

First course – Yomogi (mugwort) tofu garnished with shirasu, umeboshi neriume, gomadare (sesame sauce), and wasabi – loved the lacquer spoon at the bottom of the photo.

First course close-up. The yomogi is an earthy green which was a nice contrast to the sesame dressing. The tart umeboshi brightened up the palate and the shirasu added a nice texture and contrast to the dish.

Second course – Ainame (greenling) with itawarabi (gelatin-like sheets made from bracken – this can only be made in the spring), and wakame soup with ki no me (tender leaves from Japanese prickly ash sansho).

One of the pleasures of Japanese cuisine is that even after years of experiencing the cuisine, I am constantly learning about new ingredients. Today’s surprise was the itawarabi. It had a delicate, jelly-like texture. I thought it was a thin sheet of konnyaku. Chef Oe explained that it was itawarabi and something that is only made in spring when warabi are harvested from the mountains.

Third course – Sashimi course of tairagai (pen shell), katsuo with pickled rakkyo over grated daikon oroshi, ika (squid), and namanori (fresh nori), and julienned daikon.

A famous chef from the US highly recommended Kozue to me. He said the cuisine was exquisite, but he was also taken with the presentation of the food and the serving vessels. I understood when this sashimi course was presented in this large ceramic filled with crushed ice. The kimono-clad waitress then plated the seafood and garnishes onto serving dishes. A feast for the eyes indeed. See for yourself the difference from the above photo to the one below.

Third course – after arranged by waitress. My favorite was the tairagai which I don’t see much outside of Japan, notably sashimi grade tairagai.

Fourth course – Again a beautiful presentation under fresh wasabi leaves.

Fourth course  uncovered – Spanish mackerel with eggs, hotaruika (firefly squid), kani  (crab) potato croquette.

Fifth course – Tai zushi under a sakura leaf

Sixth course – Takenoko (bamboo shoots) pork and cabbage (home-style rolled cabbage). This is a dish I will try to make at home. I love rolled cabbage but can’t be bothered with making the dish more than once a year. Here, chef Ooe stuffs the ground pork mixture into layers of cabbage that are then cooked. Brilliant idea. And, delicious.

Seventh course – Asari gohan with pickles and fuki (butterbur) miso soup. Asari clams cooked with the rice. A nice way to end the savory dishes with.

Eighth course – Yamabudo (mountain grapes) with ichigo strawberries and biwa (loquat) jelly and creme sauce and berry sauce. I love these large glass dishes. I have seen it used for both savory and sweet courses and it’s always a treat. This course was a nice, light finish to the many dishes.

We had tea with our meal and I feel as though we were served at least two if not three types of tea throughout the meal. Service was lovely. And even though I speak Japanese it was nice to hear the staff explain each dish in English. They could answer all my questions which was also very impressive.

While my eyes are mostly on the food, between courses looking over the room the high ceilings are impressive. The windows face West. So if the skies are clear Mount Fuji is just in front of you. On this weekday lunch the restaurant was very busy. A few tourists, several business lunches, and some ladies-who-lunch types.

One option at lunch is to take your dessert at the Peak Bar & Lounge which is a restaurant on a different floor, also with high ceilings and great views, including a wall that overlooks Mount Fuji. I will do this next time I eat at Kozue.

Chef Ooe came out and talked about the dishes, ingredients, and about Japanese food in general. He said that he is from Yamagata, which is also where my mother is from. Now that I see his photo, I think we could be long-lost relatives. We could be second or third cousins. He reminds me of some of my first cousins so you never know. :-)

Kozue at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

click on the link above and another link will appear for the menu

Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 3-7-1-2

03.5323.3460

Lunch: Daily – 11:30 am to 2:30 pm
Dinner: Daily – 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm

What and Where to Eat in Tokyo

Iron Chef Kimio Nonaga at Nihonbashi Yukari

Iron Chef Kimio Nonaga at Nihonbashi Yukari

I often am asked for restaurant suggestions in Tokyo. Wow. Where does one begin? The food is amazing, from the high end kaiseki restaurants and sushi counters to the neighborhood ramen shop or izakaya. Even on a budget it is very easy to eat well in Tokyo.

Let me put here just some of my recommendations of restaurants based on the types of food one should try when visiting. Also, one should consider location as the city is so big and there are so many great restaurants, it may not be necessary to traverse the metropolis.

Sushi – Ginza Harutaka or Kyubey for high end. Both are in Ginza.

Low end sushi – Tsukiji Market outer market. I like Nakaya for their donburi.

Tonkatsu – Maisen (Omotesando) or Katsukura (Shinjuku)

Soba – Yabu Soba (Kanda) NOTE Yabu Soba suffered from extensive fire damage on 2/19/2013 and is temporarily closed, Kanda Matsuya (Kanda), or Narutomi (Ginza)

Tempura – Kondo (Ginza), Zezankyo (Monzennakacho), or Tenko (Kagurazaka)

low end tempura – Tenmatsu (Nihonbashi)

Tofu – Tofuya Ukai (Shiba Koen)

Pickles – Kintame (Tokyo Station or Monzennakacho)

Meat – Ukaitei teppanyaki (Ginza or Omotesando) or New York Bar and Grill (Shinjuku)

Izakaya – Yamariki (Morishita) or Saiseisakaba (Shinjuku or Monzennakacho)

Kaiseki – Nihonbashi Yukari  (Nihonbashi) or Waketokuyama (Hiroo)

Ramen – Ivan Ramen or Ippudo (Ueno) or Kyushu Jangara (Nihonbashi or Harajuku)

Unagi – Nodaiwa (Higashi Azabu)

Monjayaki – Okame Hyottoko Ten (Tsukishima)

Yakitori – Birdland (Ginza) or Isehiro (Kyobashi)

Oden – Otafuku (Asakusa) or Ogura (Ginza)

My short list of where to drink in Tokyo.

A similar list of culinary highlights in Tokyo from Indagare.

And, now that Tokyo Sky Tree has opened up, here is my shortlist of shops in the Solamachi Mall at the base of the Sky Tree.

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.

Ivan Ramen

Ivan Orkin

Ivan Orkin

Ivan Ramen

Ivan Ramen

Dreams can come true. In the cold winter months, perhaps the most satisfying dish to be had in Japan is ramen. With almost 9,000 ramen shops in Tokyo, it is not hard to find one, but rare is the one where the noodles are handmade from scratch and where the chef is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.

Ivan Orkin, a native New Yorker, honed his culinary skills with some of America’s top chefs, including Andre Soltner who founded Lutece and celebrity chef Bobby Flay of Bolo, both famed New York restaurants. With an impressive resume like this, one has high expectations and Ivan does not disappoint.

Before opening his ten-seat ramen shop Ivan ate his way through hundreds of bowls of ramen, taking careful note along the way. Ivan Ramen opened in 2007 and ramen junkies touted his shio (salt) ramen. Soon thereafter bloggers touted his shoyu (soy sauce) ramen. And, recently, after participating in a tsukemen event with the city’s top ramen chefs, diners are coming in asking for the noodles to be dipped in broth.

Ivan also serves a unique mazemen with a base of soy milk, slow-roasted vegetables including tomatoes and garlic with chicken soup that is served with whole wheat noodles.

His standard ramen noodles are made on the second floor of the shop along with some non-traditional flour, as well as whole-wheat, and rye noodles. Ivan’s basic stock in his restaurant is made from chicken stock and a rich, fish-based dashi made from kelp, bonito, and dried sardines.

Aside from the fact that Ivan is the first Westerner to break the ramen glass ceiling in Japan, his restaurant stands apart from the others as it is brightly-lit, family-friendly, and boasts some menu items that stray from your typical noodle shop. The slow-cooked pork and roasted tomatoes over rice will have you swooning and for those with a sweet tooth, Ivan makes ice cream.

Sunkus, the convenience store, has sold instant ramen made by Ivan, selling 600,000 bowls, as well as his original onigiri and pork bowls.

As of this writing, Ivan was serving up a limited edition Mexican mazemen of noodles topped with black bean chili, onions, guajillo chilis, dried tomatoes, lettuce, Monterey jack cheese, with a chipotle chili broth. A great combination of flavors found in his native America and his new home, Japan.

The ever-curious chef is constantly tweaking his art through reading cookbooks, and challenging himself with new gentei (limited edition) noodles.

A bowl of Ivan’s ramen will open your mind to the possibilities that exist with ramen. He brings a unique perspective and culinary skills to the world of ramen. We, the diners, reap the rewards of his creativity and constant honing of his art.

Ivan Ramen, 3-24-7 Minami Karasuyama, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, tel: 03-6750-5540, www.ivanramen.com 

This article first appeared in the American Chamber of Commerce Journal:

http://accjjournal.com/ivan-ramen/

Since then Ivan has opened his second ramen shop, Ivan Ramen Plus. Check out his website above for more deatils. Ivan also answered questions for us here.

Ivan’s newest shop is reviewed here by Robbie Swinnerton in The Japan Times.

Two Rooms

Two Rooms

Two Rooms

Two Rooms near Omotesando has one of Tokyo’s best dream teams at the helm of the restaurant. In the kitchen, chef Matthew Crabbe’s impressive resume includes the New York Bar and Grill at the Park Hyatt and Kyoto’s Hyatt Regency. Eddie Baffoe was the popular bar manager at the Oak Door at the Grand Hyatt. Rounding out the team, Nathan Smith’s most recent position was as the Food and Beverage Director at the Park Hyatt. The stellar trio bring to the table enough experience between them that expectations are high, and they do not disappoint.

Two Rooms consists of a dining room, complete with counter seats overlooking the open kitchen, communal tables and booths along one wall. The other room consists of a bar overlooking a well stocked wine cellar. One of the central highlights of the space is the open-air terrace. The ideal late afternoon cocktail can be enjoyed on the outdoor patio, and the evening brings a cool and lively vibe to the bar area.

There is a great list of cocktails including mojitos based on fresh fruit juice like passion fruit and mango. The 1,800 bottle wine list is one of the better ones to be found in Tokyo. Mostly filled with new world wines, regions like Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. are well represented. Classic wines from Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, and a handful of Italians round out the line-up.

The Two Rooms Caesar salad is a well-seasoned delight and the fresh local fruit tomatoes are sweet and juicy, served with Italian buffalo mozzarella. Well-selected meats are simply seasoned and grilled. Options include pork from Iwate, Fukushima chicken, and marbled wagyu beef from the Hida Takayama area. If you prefer meatier steaks, you might want to lean towards the Australian cuts from Rangers Valley. Popular sides include the fried fat cut potatoes and the mushrooms sautéed with hazelnuts.

Two Rooms excels at using local ingredients, and this continues with the dessert menu. Amaou strawberries bursting with flavor and aroma are served as a bavrois with lemon meringue. The crème brulee is based on Shizuoka matcha green tea and is paired with kinako (roasted soybean powder) ice cream and Okinawa brown sugar.

The bar menu includes a popular Two Rooms burger as well as prime steak on ciabatta. Sunday brunch tempts diners with Kyoto carrot cake loaf, rum raisin banana French toast, and eggs Benedict.

The dining room is filled with a fair mix of locals and foreigners. Service is professional while maintaining a casual air that evokes the charm of a high-end Western concern. The best part of Two Rooms is the feeling that you are welcome and that this is somewhere one can easily call home. Regardless of the occasion or the time of day, Two Rooms is a great place for food or drinks.

Two Rooms, 5F AO Building 3-11-7 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku, tel: 03-3498-0002

This first appeared in the American Chamber of Commerce Journal.

http://accjjournal.com/two-rooms/