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

Viron Boulangerie

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My go-to lunch when on a run is a sandwich from Viron. Excellent baguettes with a chewy crumb that can stand up to the crispy exterior. The sandwiches are classic French-style including pate de campagne, rillettes, and jambon.

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The large window display case in the front of the store has a dizzying array of sandwiches and pastries.

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The breads are authentic and take me back to France. The baguette is my favorite, but also excellent kouign amann and fougasse as well. Of course, much more than you would pay for in France, but it is a treat to have such great bread in Tokyo. Flour is brought in from France to make Viron’s signature retrador baguette and other breads. There is also a brasserie at each location. Viron has a branch at Marunouchi in front of Tokyo Station and in Shibuya. Now, if they would only expand and open more branches around the city.

Viron Marunouchi

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 2-7-3, TOKIA Bldg. 1st floor

03-5220-7289

Viron Shibuya

Shibuya-ku, Udagawacho 33-8, Tsukuda Bldg.

03-5458-1770

Could This Be Tokyo’s Best Coffee? Chatei Hatou

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One of the great pleasures of giving food tours in Tokyo is meeting passionate people who introduce me to spots in Tokyo. The metropolis is so big that it is impossible to make it to every shop that you want to go to. Sometimes it takes someone to put a shop back on your radar. This was the case with Chatei Hatou. I first came across in it Oliver Strand’s piece in the New York Times Magazine. It’s in Shibuya, an area that I often go to. However, it is in a part of Shibuya that I rarely get to. So, it was on my Go List, but not high on the list. Until a great client who knows his coffee told me that I absolutely must go and check it out. He warned me that a cup of coffee would set me back $15. He also mentioned that while there were a variety of cups behind the counter, that customers did not select one, but that the master would size me up and choose one for me.

I finally found myself in the back streets of Shibuya. Walking in the area I realized I must be somewhere in the vicinity of Chatei Hatou and I pulled out my Go List and made a beeline for the shop. Well, beeline is a stretch, as I did get lost once. That’s good for a city where most streets do not have a name.

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Just down a side street off of a major street and up a few meters from the Lacoste. The narrow shopfront sticks out on the street. It has charm and character and could have been modeled after a ski house in Europe.  The interior is dark and there is a lot of bric-a-brac on the walls on tables. I am guessing accumulated over the years as it opened in 1989. Walking in I knew I was back in Japan as it did smell of tobacco smoke. Bummer, but it wasn’t too smoky and I had to try what my friend said was one of the best coffees in the city.

I was seated at the counter, just in front of the master. I ordered a demitasse of “old beans” as it appears on the menu (900 JPY). I was told it would be bitter and he pointed to the demitasse cups. I nodded in approval and the dance began. The beans were grounded, put into a sock, and then the master used a small, flat wooden spatula and shaped the ground beans in the sock into a mountain shape. He then started to slowly and purposefully pour hot water onto the grounds. What I was amazed at was that he did not put the sock over a coffee pot or cup. He continued to pour water and the grounds started to expand and soak up the hot water. After pouring for a while he finally put the sock over a small glass carafe to capture the coffee. I was mesmerized at his attention to each detail. Hot water was poured into my demitasse as he finished up the coffee. He put the carafe down behind the counter. I am not sure if he was heating it up or what. But after about a minute of my cup being warmed he poured the coffee into the cup and presented it to me. Quite the ceremony. And, a very good cup of coffee. Dark, yet smooth, and only slightly bitter.

The other customers were a mishmash of chatty housewives, single people reading books, a group of guys holding a business meeting. It was surprisingly full at 5 p.m. on a Tuesday night. If it were smoke-free I would plan on going back soon. Am glad I took the advice of my friend. It is a unique look into the coffee culture in Tokyo.

Chatei Hatou 茶亭 羽當

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 1-15-19

03-3400-9088

11:00 – 23:00

no holidays, even open on Sundays

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

Den29

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.

Ikeda

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

Gontran Cherrier Tokyo Boulangerie in Shibuya

Fourth-generation baker Gontran Cherrier (BC Salon, 1-14-11 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku; www.gontran-cherrier.jp) enjoys a rock-star following among foodies in Paris. After a successful boulangerie opening in Singapore, the first Japan outlet has opened near Shibuya station. Signature selections include a delicately layered artisanal pain au chocolat and pain melon. The baker has a talent for incorporating local ingredients into traditional French recipes—be sure to try the squid-ink or curry baguettes, hearty bread made with red miso, or the yuzu cheesecake. There is a small eat-in area on the first floor and a café on the second.

From Metropolis issue #968 on October 5th.

Having studied bread baking at the French Culinary Institute, I am very particular about my bread. Gontran Cherrier is very creative with using local ingredients and I am particularly fond of this squid ink baguette. The red miso is also a hearty, dense bread that I like for sandwiches. Do make a point of visiting his shop if you are in Shibuya.

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Updated on 21 June 2013:

Gontran Cherrier recently opened his third Tokyo location at Shinjuku Station’s Minami Guchi (South Exit) at the Southern Terrace. Long lines to be expected the first few weeks as the Japanese love going to newest shops. Best news, is that the bakery opens at a proper French time, first thing in the morning, at 7:30 a.m.

Shibuya-ku, Yoyogi 2-2-1, Shinjuku Southern Terrace

03-5302-2282

Gontran Cherrier Bakery in Tokyo

Gontran Cherrier’s Tiong Bahru Bakery in Singapore

Boulanger Gontran Cherrier‘s Singapore outpost is very popular. As a baker I find his offerings very interesting. A dense red miso bread  and an intense squid ink baguette (see photo below). I love his croissant with visible, crispy layers. I would show a photo but I can never hold myself back from digging in as soon as I get it.

His Singapore outpost has some indoor and outdoor seating and is often full. He’s known for creating unique breads so I am very curious to see what he will make once he starts working with Japanese ingredients.

The media in Singapore has been covering his store here and several have reported that a Tokyo outpost will be opening in August. I hear that it will be near Shibuya station but this has yet to be confirmed.

 

 

Shibuya Hikarie

Shibuya’s newest addition to the skyline is Hikarie. The restaurants are on floors six and seven. Lots of interesting spots including Umauma Ramen from Hakata serving hitoguchi (bite-size) gyoza and skewered and grilled chicken skin alongside ramen. Kashiwa for okonomiyaki and teppanyaki. Sendai’s famous Rikyu for grilled gyutan (beef tongue), Maisen tonkatsu, and much more. With over two dozen restaurants there is something for everyone.

Top Ten Depachika in Tokyo 東京のデパ地下

Working at the sake section of the depachika in  Nihonbashi Takashimaya was loads of fun. As a sommelier it was my job to sell wine but my responsibilities also included selling sake, shochu, and other spirits. Who wouldn’t love to be surrounded by amazing food all day long? My breaks were spent carefully perusing the floor for new items. I would plot all morning what to have for lunch that day. The food was constantly changing and Takashimaya often held special food events on the top floor of the department store. Here I would learn about regional food, sake and shochu, and meet the purveyors who enthusiastically shared cooking suggestions and what makes their products unique.

Here are my favorite depachika in the city. It is best to pick a location based on what is convenient for you. Most of the depachika are similar. However, if I have to pick some favorites they would be Nihonbashi Takashimaya, Shinjuku Takashimaya, Shinjuku Isetan, Ginza Mitsukoshi, and Ikebukuro Tobu.

Inquire at the concierge if there are any special food events going on in the store as they may be held on an upper floor and not in the basement.

Shinjuku Takashimaya

Shinjuku Takashimaya

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

The restaurant floor here is great – several floors of tempting restaurants. I love Katsukura for tonkatsu. Better yet, pick up a bento and a beer in the depachika and head to the rooftop picnic area. Next door to Takashimaya is a huge Tokyu Hands for great shopping for kitchenware, tableware, stationary, and much, much more.

Nihonbashi Takashimaya

Nihonbashi Takashimaya

2. Nihonbashi Takashimaya, Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 2-4-1

There is a branch of Taiwan’s Din Tai Fun in the basement 2 and the sake department often does weekly tastings of small sake and shochu producers from around Japan. The rooftop garden is a great place to have a bento. Also, do not miss the white-gloved elevator girls (rarely seen now) and the historic elevators.

3. Shinjuku Isetan, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-14-1

Aged sake (koshu) in a special cellar and a manicured rooftop garden for enjoying your bento. Pierre Herme and Jean-Paul Hevin are popular with the locals but I love the wagashi (Japanese confectionaries).

4. Ginza Mitsukoshi, Chuo-ku, Ginza 4-6-16

A recent renovation has made this a depachika you don’t want to miss. The restaurant floor includes a branch of the famous Hakone Akatsukian soba shop, formerly in Hiroo. Time it right and watch as the soba noodles are rolled out into thin sheets and cut with the large soba bocho (soba knife).

5. Ikebukuro Tobu, Toshima-ku, Nishi-Ikebukuro 1-1-25

Japan’s largest depachika. Spend hours here and still not see it all. Also, several restaurants on the restaurant floors including a branch of Chinese iron chef, Chin Kenichi.

6. Ginza Matsuya, Chuo-ku, Ginza 3-8-1

The French bakery Maison Kayser is here.

7. Shibuya Tokyu Toyoko-ten, Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 2-24-1

Located just under the Shibuya station I love the affordable sushi at Uoriki, a sushi counter located near the fresh seafood section. The sake department here also does interesting tastings of small sake and shochu brands.

8. Shinjuku Odakyu, Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 1-1-3

Divided up between two buildings it may be tricky to see all of it but worth checking out. The breads at the Trois Gros bakery are tempting. There is also a Bic Camera for electronics located above the Odakyu annex.

9. Shinjuku Keio, Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku, 1-1-4

A branch of the French bakery Paul is here and the store often does interesting food shows on the upper floor with themes such as ekiben (famous bento boxes from local train stations around Japan) and regional food promotions.

10. Ikebukuro Seibu, Toshima-ku, Minami-Ikebukuro 1-28-1

In the Seibu department store is a branch of Loft, a shop filled with housewares.

OK, 11 best depachika in Tokyo!

11. Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi, Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-4-1

Roma Pizza in Tokyo

Napoletana pizza are not the only type of pizzas tempting diners in Tokyo. Roma pizzas, with a thinner and thus crispier crust, are also popular and authentic versions too are available in the city.

Pizzeria Romana Gianicolo

Pizzeria Romana Gianicolo

Pizzeria Romana Gianicolo

Minato-ku, Azabu Juban 2-8-8, Watanabe Bldg. B1

03-6435-2080

11:30 – 14:30; 18:00 – 22:30

closed Monday

http://www.gianicolo.jp/

Pizzeria Romana Bernini

Pizzeria Romana Bernini

Pizzeria Romana Bernini

Chuo-ku, Ginza 2-11-13

03-6228-4774

11:45 – 14:00; 18:00 – 23:00

no holidays

http://www.bernini.jp/pizzeria/

Pizzeria Sabatini Aoyama

Pizzeria Sabatini Aoyama

Pizzeria Sabatini Aoyama

Minato-ku, Kita Aoyama 2-13-5, Suncrest Bldg B1

03-3402-2027

11:30 – 14:30; 17:30 – 22:30

no holidays

http://www.sabatini.co.jp/pizzeria_aoyama/index.html

Il Pentito

Il Pentito

Il Pentito

Shibuya-ku, Yoyogi 3-1-3, AXIS 1F

03-3320-5699

19:00 – 22:00

closed Sunday and holidays

http://www.meridionale.com/index.html

bigote

bigote

bigote

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Honcho 4-7-4

03-5203-1919

12:00 – 16:00; 18:30 – 22:30

closed Saturday, Sunday, and holidays

Napoletana pizza in Tokyo.