Omotesando Koffee

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Omotesando Koffee, while known for its good coffee, it is perhaps more famous for its “ko-hi- kashi” or coffee sweet. Kunitomo-san at the shop said it is a baked purin, which is like a creme custard, but that flour is added to the mixture. It has a crispy crust and is soft and eggy inside. Dangerous if you come hungry as one could easily go through several of these.

The quality of the coffee is excellent here. My girlfriend’s latte had a nice proportion of milk to espresso. I indulged and got a Bailey’s espresso. The aroma of the Baileys reminded the both of us of our days at Midwestern liberal arts colleges. Amazing how just smelling the Baileys brought back memories from 25 years ago. Next time I will get the Baileys with some milk.

The shop card are coffee filters that are also used for serving the ko-hi- kashi. Brilliant. I teased him asking if I could recycle these at home as coffee filters and he said we could.

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Here is the exterior of the shop. It is on the first floor of a residential home, which could explain why the shop does not open until 10 a.m. We got there a bit early and it was fun to watch the rituals of preparing the small garden in front of the shop before opening the gate.

The handsome Kunitomo-san in a light blue lab coat is very friendly. We spoke only in Japanese but on our way out some Americans came in and we could hear him speaking English. It was raining this morning so we stood inside and had our coffee tachi-nomi style. If the weather is good there are two small benches in the narrow garden in front of the shop. But, this is not a place you want to linger for long at.

Omotesando Koffee

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 4-15-3

03-5413-9422

10:00 – 19:00 daily

* Omotesando Koffee is right behind Maisen tonkatsu. The perfect spot for a coffee after tonkatsu.

Japanese Fried Chicken at iro-kara

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I have been craving Korean-style fried chicken ever since listening to Rick Bayless talk about it on The Feed Podcast. When I lived in New York City and Singapore I could get my fix. For some reason, Tokyo, which has amazing kara-agé (deep-fried, seasoned, boneless cuts of chicken) hasn’t caught on to it. And, there is a big difference. I believe the Korean chicken is fried twice. It has a sweet and spicy sauce that will have you licking your fingers after you have gnawed off all the meat that you can get off of the bone.

I went to Shin-Okubo, the Korean part of Tokyo and tried two restaurants, both disappointing. A dear friend suggested iro-kara near Omotesando. The kara-agé here was delicious but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I will be back as it was a nice, quick lunch. The chicken is fried after the order is placed and there is al fresco seating on the rooftop. The donburi is a generous serving of rice topped with the fried chicken, katsuobushi, leeks, and pickled ginger. A mash-up of kara-agé and takoyaki toppings.

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There are several flavors, such as basil, curry, yuzu kosho, and ume shiso. We tried a few but nothing outstanding. Best to stick with the basic kara-agé.

Brimmer Beer is next doors, but not open at lunch time. There is also a curry stand next door. Could be fun to order a curry and top it with the fried chicken.

iro-kara

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 3-8-34

www.iro-kara.net

 

 

3rd Burger

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3rd Burger recently opened in the Ark Hills South Tower. I thought it was a new restaurant to Tokyo until I came across a second shop in the Aoyama/Omotesando area. The clientele in Aoyama is young and hip. Diners are given a buzzer after placing their order. Not exactly fast food, but the food does comes about five minutes during the busy lunch hour. The meaty burger is juicy and the fries are excellent. Burger options include avocado wasabi and basil and tomato. Burgers are served with fresh lettuce and tomatoes.  The only downside was that ketchup is given in small packets. Burgers start at about 400 JPY and fries at 300 JPY. 3rd Burger has a variety of smoothies in flavors like carrot, banana, and fresh tomatoes. The Aoyama shop is brightly lit and there is a communal table at the front of the shop. Now, if they would only open a shop on the Chuo Line.

3rd Burger

Minato-ku, Roppongi 1-4-5, Ark Hills South Tower B1

OR

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 5-11-2

Beacon Brunch

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Brunch at Beacon is a taste of America in Tokyo. David Chiddo works his magic at this urban chophouse located between Shibuya and Omotesando. I picked Beacon for Sunday brunch thinking I would go for a burger and martini. But, once I took a look at the menu the huevos rancheros jumped out of the menu and I am so glad I got it. I loved the green rice and beans. I was sad when the plate was empty. And, I could see that many others in the restaurant were enjoying the burger.

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Portions are generous, another nod to American brunches. The brunch menu includes a selection from the bread basket, fruit, and coffee, tea, or espresso drinks. My girlfriend who studied at university in Minnesota also felt right at home with this hearty plate of eggs Florentine. Many of our fellow diners were talking in English, something that I am not used to, so I totally felt like I was back in the USA. Staff are attentive and there is a great buzz in the restaurant. Diners are here to relax and be taken care of.

There is a counter if you are dining solo. Beacon’s a great spot for meeting friends at. It’s popular so reservations are highly recommended. If you are from America, you will feel right back at home. Other brunch menu highlights include Belgian waffles and fried chicken, steak and eggs, and almond French toast made with brioche.

One of Tokyo’s best brunches.

Beacon

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 1-2-5

03-6418-0077

Gotta Go – Utsuwa Kenshin

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Asato Ikeda-san’s gorgeous pottery. I first came across these at Den in Jimbocho.

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Saké tastes better when served in something this beautiful.

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Bob Tobin and Hitoshi Ohashi of the Tobin Ohashi Gallery first introduced me to Kenshin Sato-san of Kenshin Utsuwa. When I asked chef Zaiyu Hasegawa-san of Den about these cups he too said that Kenshin Utsuwa would have these. I have been following Kenshin Utsuwa on Facebook as he  hosts many special events around the city. I contacted Sato-san and placed an order for the cups. Here I am picking up the cups and pourer. What I am holding is not what I bought, but a piece he had in his gallery.Image

Kenshin Utsuwa is a small, but well-stocked gallery in between Shibuya and Omotesando. I got lost finding it, so be sure to have a good map. This day there were several gorgeous pieces from a potter in Hokkaido.

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If you want to invest in some handcrafted pottery, be sure to visit Kenshin Utsuwa while in Tokyo. First though, call ahead and make sure the shop is open. As he hosts special showings throughout the city he often closes the gallery. The Kenshin Utsuwa Facebook page always is updated with his current shows.

Utsuwa Kenshin

http://www.utsuwa-kenshin.com

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 2-3-4, Star Building 2F

Phone and Fax: 03-6427-9782

Facebook page

Art on the Table by Asato Ikeda

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It was the first time in my life that I held a cup in my hand and immediately fell in love with it. The light sky blue color, the rough and smooth texture that my fingers fell into, and the taste of the saké while holding something so beautiful. I couldn’t put it down.

I first held Asato Ikeda’s ceramic cup at Den in Jimbocho, chef Zaiyu Hasegawa’s brilliant restaurant. I thought someday I would invest in some of Ikeda-san’s pieces for myself. Even took a picture of the cup (photo above) so that I could remember it. And then, a few months later, Ikeda-san and his works were on television. Once more my heartstrings were pulled and my motivation to bring his craftsmanship into our home became a priority.

I did some searching online in Japanese and quickly lost hope. What few sites that did come up with his pieces were all sold out. I then reached out to Kenshin Sato of Kenshin Utsuwa. Bob Tobin and Hitoshi Ohashi of the Tobin Ohashi Gallery first introduced me to Sato-san last spring. I went to one of his special events at Ginza Mitsukoshi and we exchanged business cards.

This summer, while at Den, chef Hasegawa told me that Kenshin Utsuwa sells many pieces that are used at his restaurant, including Ikeda-san’s. I follow Kenshin Utsuwa on Facebook and reached out to him in Japanese in December. I sent him the photo of the cup from Den and asked him if he could find me some pieces. Just last week I got the e-mail telling me that I could stop by his shop this week. It’s a beautiful shop that is worth visiting if you are in Shibuya or Omotesando as it is just between the two. Just call ahead as he closes the shop if does special events around the city.

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Welcome home! My birthday present from me to me.

Two small guinomi and a tokkuri with a lip for pouring sake or shochu.

Ikeda1We christened the cups with Shichihonyari which we bought at our new favorite sake shop in town, Oboro Saketen in Shinbashi.

The owner of Oboro Saketen, Okuma-san, studied at university for two years in Minnesota and speaks English.

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We love these nori cups for bite-size sushi that we picked up at Tsukiji Market. A small celebration to welcome these pieces to our home. I am already looking forward to using these tomorrow. I have enjoyed the journey. Holding something and wanting it, thinking of someday owning a piece of Ikeda-san’s artwork, and the help of friends to help make my little dream come true.

Kenshin Utsuwa

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 2-3-4

Urban BBQ Smokehouse by TY Harbor

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 BBQ and sauces

Chef David Chiddo of the TY Harbor group has several successful restaurants in the city including Cicada and Beacon. His most recent shop, Smokehouse, is an urban barbecue with a great list of craft beers, both domestic and from the USA, as well as one of the city’s best selection of American spirits. Smokehouse is conveniently located near Omotesando. It’s a casual place and great for meeting friends for a drink and good food. The store is kid-friendly and has a kids’ menu if you ask for it. Here is my review of Smokehouse in Metropolis magazine. Here I share some photos of the food and scene at Smokehouse.

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House BBQ sauces

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Smokehouse interior

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Chicken fingers kids’ lunch

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Smoked wings

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Iceberg wedge with blue cheese dressing

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Macaroni and cheese, okra, and creamed spinach sides

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Burger and onion rings
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Yamagata sausage and fries

Smokehouse

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-17-13

03-6450-5855

Smokehouse opened in October of 2013

New York Rings at The Roastery

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I finally scored a New York Ring from The Roastery. Somewhat similar to Dominique Ansel’s famous cronut, it is a doughnut made from croissant dough. While I hear that the cronut is filled with flavored creams, this is simply seasoned with a cinnamon sugar. It’s very rich and filling. And, like the cronut, not the easiest to get your hands on. The first time I went, early in the morning, soon after the store opened, I was told that the NY Rings are not brought to the store until 11 a.m. And, I was warned that they do sell out quickly and another batch comes around 1 p.m. It’s good. Just time your visit around the delivery times, if you want to guarantee you get one. The shop also had a bacon scone that looked good – will save that for a future visit.

The Roastery by Nozy Coffee

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-17-13

8:00 – 20:00

03-6450-5755

The New York Ring was much, much better than the copycat version made by Banderole.

Tokyo’s Best Mamé Daifuku

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Wagashi, traditional Japanese confectionaries, are often made with azuki, tiny red beans, and mochi, sticky rice pounded until its like a taffy. While I grew up eating some of these, I was never a big fan until I tried the mamé daifuku from Mizuho in Harajuku.

The smooth azuki paste is not too sweet. But what makes this sweet, about the size of my fist, are the ever-so-lightly salted black beans that are in the mochi. It is often listed in magazines and television programs as one of the best mamé daifuku in the city, and for good reasons.

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Mizuho is located on one of the narrow streets off of Omotesando. The shop opens at 8:30 a.m. and closes when it sells out. It is closed on Sundays.

If you are not a fan of wagashi, try Mizuho. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Mizuho 瑞穂

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 6-8-7

Le Pain Quotidien

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For one year I lived in Brussels. Just down the street from my apartment was a Le Pain Quotidien. I went about two to three times a week. Some nights for a baguette to have with wine and cheese. Mornings I could pop in and pick up a croissant. There was a small garden in the back with some tables and inside a large communal table. On the table were jars of confitures and chocolate-hazelnut spread. It was a popular shop and I loved seeing what the customers were dining on. Usually the signature open-faced tartines or salads.

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I then moved back to New York City and couldn’t be any happier when Le Pain Quotidien opened in Manhattan. The branch I went to the most was in Soho, just down the street from the French Culinary Institute where I took both the bread and culinary programs. The ambience was a bit different in NYC, but the bread was just as good. Here we could order wine by the carafe and some cheese to enjoy with our bread.

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And, now Le Pain Quotidien has followed me to Tokyo. I believe the first location opened near Shiba Koen which is an area I hardly ever get to. And, as there are so many great boulangeries in the city there is no need to make a special trip. The shop in Omotesando is just around the corner from where my cousin lives. She has a young boy and this is a kid-friendly shop so we came for lunch.Pain4

I was excited to see the breads I love so much, a communal table, and the familiar menu. This Mediterranean platter has hummous, tahini, and tabbouleh. The only thing that really changed from the other restaurants I’ve been to in the past is that there is a mini-buffet where the complimentary spreads are congregated. While there is a communal table, everyone this day was sitting at the tables.

It’s perfect for the solo diner or if you want to come with friends. The menu has frittatas, salads, and tartines. A great spot to keep on your radar when in Omotesando and vegetarian-friendly.

And, as one would expect of a European bakery, it is open bright and early in the morning, starting at 7:30 a.m. Some great bakeries in this city that don’t open until 10 a.m. or even later. This and Gontran Cherrier are an exception.

Pain5Le Pain Quotidien Omotesando

Minato-ku, Kita-Aoyama 3-5-15

03-6721-1173

7:30 a.m. – 23:00 (last order at 22:00)

Other branches at Shiba Koen 3-3-1, and Opera City in Nishi-Shinjuku.