Gotta Get – Deep-fried Chicken Skin

Deep-fried chicken skin

Deep-fried chicken skin

God bless the person who thought about deep-frying chicken skin. These crunchy bits are seasoned with aonori, sea vegetable flakes, and salt. It is sold at one of my favorite depachika in Tokyo, at Shinjuku Takashimaya. The yakitori stall, Toriyoshi, is filled with skewered chicken parts that are grilled and seasoned with salt or a sweet soy-based sauce. There is also boneless fried chicken nuggets and chicken wings. But it is the cup of deep-fried chicken skin that I am addicted to.

Note that it is not always in stock. Don’t go right away when the shop opens at 10 a.m. I think it is put out around 11:00 a.m. or even later. But, don’t go too late in the day as it often sells out. A big cup of chicken skin sells for about 350 JPY. The perfect snack for an ice cold beer, saké, or shochu on the rocks, if it lasts until you get home. I often dip into the cup on the train ride home and it often disappears in no time.

Toriyoshi at Shinjuku Takashimaya

Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-24-2, B1

Closest station is JR Shinjuku Shin-Minamiguchi (New South Exit)

 

Tenfufan’s Bottomless Bowl of Dumplings 天府舫

Suigyoza at Tenfufan

Suigyoza at Tenfufan

The heat and humidity is starting to become unbearable in Tokyo. One way to survive is to eat hot and spicy food as it induces sweat which helps cool you down. I was meeting a Japanese girlfriend for lunch in Shinjuku and we agreed on Shisen cuisine. Tenfufan in Nishi-Shinjuku has been on my radar for a while because it has an all-you-can-eat suigyōza (boiled dumplings) offer with its set lunch, a bargain as most lunches are under 1,000 JPY.

An online website (not the restaurant’s) said the restaurant opened at 11 a.m. We showed up at 11:15 a.m. and were surprised to see a sign on the outside of the shop that said lunch starts at 11:30 a.m. I pushed open the door and the kind owner said that they do not open until 11:30 a.m. but as it was so hot outside that we could be seated early. A pot of iced tea and two cups were set on the table and we started to peruse the menu.

The owner said that all set lunches come with the boiled dumplings. He pointed to a small table set off to the side and said that once service starts the dumplings would be there. “Self-service” he added. There is something about growing up in America, at least in the Midwest, that inspires me at a buffet to dig into as much as I can. I was so surprised to see the tables of salarymen near us taking only a few dumplings and not going back for seconds. I stopped after my second visit, but I am sure that had I gone with an American we would have gone back for thirds. The dumplings are stuffed with meat, the skins seem to be made from scratch, and the spicy dipping sauce hits the spot. Don’t bother with the soy-seasoned eggs that are also on the buffet.

Shirunashi Tantanmen at Tenfufan

Shirunashi Tantanmen at Tenfufan

The shiru-nashi tan tan men is one of their signature dishes, along with the suigyōza. Shiru-nashi means without soup. Underneath the ramen noodles were some peanuts and a hot sauce that comes and catches you by surprise after the fact. It’s not too spicy and is rich in umami. The side dishes included a bland fried rice, an unmemorable egg-drop soup, and some bean sprouts with carrots. But who cares when the dumplings and ramen were exactly what we had come for, spicy, delicious, and rich in umami.

Shortly before noon the shop was filled. Mostly salarymen who must be working in the area as the shop is on a side street. When we left there was a line out the door. 80% of the diners were having either this dish or the mabo dofu. This meal came to 880 JPY, including the dumplings. I will be back.

Tenfufan 天府舫

Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 7-4-9

 

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

Arms Burger in Shinjuku

Arms Burger

Avocado Burger at Arms Burger

While I was born in Tokyo I grew up in Minnesota. Even though my husband is a fishmonger and I love sashimi, I am a meat and potatoes girl. There is just something about a juicy hamburger and a side of fries or onion rings. Finding a good burger in Tokyo is getting better, but it’s not as great as one would expect. Thanks to food photos on Facebook I have been tracking down burgers around Tokyo that friends of mine approve of. Arms Burger is one restaurant that a friend recommends. He was at the main shop in Yoyogi. I visited the Arms Picnic shop in the B2 floor of Shinjuku’s Lumine Building #1. The location is convenient if you are traveling through Shinjuku station as it is a few minutes from the South exit.

The shop, in the basement (B2) of Lumine, a department store at Shinjuku station. On this lunch day the small shop, with only 16 seats, was filled with nine girls, all dining solo, and a skinny salaryman. There are bags under the tables so that diners can store their shopping without putting it directly on the floor. A nice touch that should be exported overseas.

The lunch menu has an avocado burger that comes with fries and a drink for 1,000 JPY. The burger was a bit on the skimpy side, but was good and 100% beef. That’s worth mentioning as many burgers in Japan are beef mixed with bread crumbs, egg, and other stuff that just doesn’t belong there. The serving of vegetables with the burger, it was so generous that I had to check and see if there was a hamburger hidden underneath it. It’s a messy burger to eat, which does remind me of America. The fries are great and the staff were accommodating to include some mayonnaise, a habit I picked up when I lived in Brussels.

A nice burger that is conveniently located near Shinjuku Station. I will be back.

Arms Burger

Shinjuku Lumine B2 at the Shinjuku Minami Guchi (South Exit)

Other burger shops I like in Tokyo include:

Martiniburger in Kagurazaka

Takano Fruit Shop – Melon Juice

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The hundred dollar muskmelon. Yes, it exists. Most of the cost of the melon, I have been told by a fruit store executive, is for the air-conditioning of the greenhouses in summer or for the heaters in winter. The muskmelon juice at Takano fruit café in Shinjuku Takashimaya is a nice alternative. The shop also has fruit parfaits and sandwiches of whipped cream and fresh fruit.

The café is located on the fifth floor of Shinjuku Takashimaya. The brightly lit restaurant is furnished in white and the windows overlook Shinjuku station. It is an ideal spot to meet with a friend and catch up, or to refresh after some power shopping at Takashimaya and Tokyu Hands which is next door. Takano Fruits main shop is in Shinjuku and has a bigger menu.

Some depachika will have a small counter in the fruit specialty shop. When I worked at Nihonbashi Takashimaya I was surprised to see how popular these counters can be. Not only with older clientele but also with younger couples with their children.

It’s a luxurious treat and something that can only be experienced in Japan.

Takano Fruit

Shinjuku Takashimaya, 5th floor

Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-24-2

The Delicatessen at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

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The set lunch at the Delicatessen at the Park Hyatt Tokyo is worth the short walk from Shinjuku station. I was surprised to see how reasonably priced it is. For 1,000 JPY diners can select from a large selection of sandwiches, including croque monsieur, croissants with ham, and pita overflowing with vegetables. With the sandwich comes a salad or soup of the day and dessert. For an extra 200 JPY   a beverage.

The focaccia was irresistible. This one with smoked salmon, artichokes, and pine nuts is generous with the toppings.

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Here is the 1,000 JPY set. The sandwich and focaccia sizes are generous and today’s soup was a creamy kabocha. The fig cake was the perfect small bite to end the meal.

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I adore breads, but have a soft spot particularly for focaccia. The bread was just as it should be, very light and airy, and crispy on the bottom. When I saw that this was made with gorgonzola I had to try it. The lardons and mushrooms matched the rich cheese, and again, was generous with the toppings. The salads today included a Cobb salad and the New York Grill’s famous Caesar salad. The salads are 750 JPY and are a nice size.

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There are seats inside the Delicatessen, as well as some outdoor seating. When I came in there were several diners outside.

In the month of December, through December 25th, the Delicatessen is also doing a special promotion of Hot Christmas Drinks, including a hot Caipirinha and a hot chocolate Submarino.

Park Hyatt Tokyo Delicatessen

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

03-5323-3635

Shinjuku Gontran Cherrier

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We are so spoiled in Tokyo with amazing bakeries transplanted from France. While living in Singapore one of the popular bakeries was Gontran Cherrier’s Tiong Bahru Bakery. Local Singaporeans as well as Japanese expat wives filled the seats of the shop in the afternoon. One afternoon Cherrier was in town and it was great fun listening to everyone swoon about how sexy he is with his long hair. Regardless of his appearance, I do find his breads very appealing. The signature croissant here is very rustic and it is tempting to pull it apart layer by layer.

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One of my new favorites is this tarte flambée. A speciality of the Alsace region of France across the river from Germany. I traveled a few times to Alsace while living in Brussels and tarte flambée was one of my favorite culinary discoveries that year, along with Belgian french fries served with mayonnaise. Cherrier’s tarte flambée is on a puff pastry crust so it’s crispy and delicate. There is a tart white sauce generously covered with lardons and caramelized onions. These were yakitate, hot out of the oven. I only regret not buying the whole tray. Tarte flambée is a dish I’ve tried a few times making at home, but it’s never as satisfying as this. Next time I buy this I will be sure to drink an Alsatian riesling along with it.

 

 

GC3Cherrier’s creativity is reflected in his use of local ingredients. In Singapore some of his breads are served with curry. Here he does a mattcha croissant.

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Cherrier’s newest shop in Shinjuku has just opened and it’s already very popular. The shop used to be the Hiroshima antenna shop, which moved to Ginza.

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The second floor of the shop is a brightly lit space with plenty of seating. It overlooks Shinjuku’s south exit and the Southern Terrace. It is popular and often hard to find a seat at peak meal times.

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This day I was in the mood for cheese and meat. Far right is the tarte flambée. Above is a croque monsieur croissant which was covered with a handful of cheese and stuffed with ham before being put back in the oven. A meal in a sandwich. The bottom left is a cheese and prunes stuffed into a chewy dough.

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In the entrance the store posts the bakery schedule for baguettes, croissants and the croissant mattcha citron.

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Here is the curry baguette with grains and the squid ink baguette with cumin. I’ve had both of these in Singapore. Everyone is always curious to try the black ink baguette, which I like slicing thin and using for open-faced sandwiches. Topped with ham or smoked salmon. I also love his red miso bread which is dense and rich with umami.

The location is just outside of the Shinjuku Shin-Minami Guchi (New South Exit). Best of all, it is open from 7:30 a.m. as a proper bakery should be. This can not be said for most bakeries in Japan. His other location is in Shibuya, also close to the station.

Gontran Cherrier

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

03-5302-2282

7:30 – 22:00

 

 

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

Sushi on Sunday in Tokyo

As Tsukiji Market is closed on Sundays many sushi restaurants also take the opportunity to give the staff a day off. That doesn’t mean that sushi isn’t eaten on Sundays in Tokyo.

There are several places to look to for sushi on Sunday and national holidays. Check out hotels, department stores, and large train stations. Here is a shortlist of where to go on Sunday for sushi in Tokyo.

すきやばし次郎 Sukiyabashi Jiro at Nihonbashi Takashimaya is a branch of the famous Michelin 3-star Sukiyabashi Jiro in Ginza. Nigiri or chirashi sets start at 3,150 JPY – a bargain compared to what you will pay in Ginza.

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 2-4-1, Nihonbashi Takashimaya Honkan (Main Bldg.) 4F

03-3211-4111

11:00 – 19:00 (last order at 18:30)

Sukiyabashi Jiro is also at Roppongi Hills.

築地青空三代目 Tsukiji Aozora Sandaime at Ginza Mitsukoshi is a branch of a third generation restaurant from Tsukiji’s outer market.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 4-6-16, Ginza Mitsukoshi 11F

03-3561-7021

11:00 – 23:00 (last order 22:30)

魯山 Rozan at Shinjuku Isetan

Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-14-1, Shinjuku Isetan 7F

03-3226-0115

11:00 – 16:00; 17:00 – 22:00 (last order 21:15)

魚力海鮮寿司 Uoriki Kaisen Sushi at Atre Meguro Station offers value for the price. Uoriki is not only a sushi restaurant but also a retail shop, and therefore purchasing a lot of seafood from Tsukiji Market. Expect good quality for a great price. The popular “ichiba sushi” offers 10 pieces of seasonal seafood with chawanmushi and miso soup for 1,980 JPY.

Shinagawa-ku, Kami-Oosaki 2-16-9, Atre Meguro 1A Bldg. 5F

03-6408-8378

11:00 – 23:00 (last order 22:00)