Viron Boulangerie

Image

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.

Image

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

Image

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

Tokyo Station Car Bento

DSCN6199

I love shopping for bentō boxes. Bentō are convenient meals, be it for a picnic, while traveling on a train, or when I am too rushed to put a meal together. Japanese schools are now on their summer holidays and Tokyo station is busier than usual with travelers. Inside of Tokyo station there are several areas that sell a wide variety of bento boxes, especially in the basement GranSta area. I also like going to Daimaru department store and the basement depachika that is next to Tokyo station. This fun, kids bentō is from Daimaru at a shop called eashion. It was only 600 JPY. The company’s website even gives some basic information about the bentō including ingredients and calories.
DSCN6201

Bentō usually include five different colors: red, green, yellow, black, and white. A colorful meal ensures a healthful meal. And, often the different dishes are cooked in a variety of methods, giving different textures and pleasure to the palate.DSCN6203If you are traveling with your kids through Tokyo station on summer holidays, look out for fun kids’ bentō. I also saw a Hello Kitty bentō and a panda bentō. Some bentō, like this one, can be recycled. We just wash the removable white partitioned plastic interior and the blue car exterior.

eashion also had a great selection of adult bentō as well, so great for one-stop shopping. If you are going to ride on the bullet train, then be sure to stop by the saké department and pick up a beer or a small bottle of saké for the trip. Ask the cashier for small plastic cups.

I stopped by recently to buy a bentō during the week and did not find it. I was told that it is only sold on the weekends.

Bon voyage!

Tokyo Station’s Popular Ekiben 東京駅人気駅弁

Ekiben are literally bento from different eki or stations in Japan. Part of the pleasure of traveling by train in Japan is sampling a variety of local foods sold in bento boxes at major stations throughout the country. A bento from a coastal village most likely will showcase locally harvested seafood while a mountain village may feature vegetables harvested from the region.

At Tokyo Station there is a shop specializing in bento called “Bentoya Matsuri”, or festival of bentos (photo of shop here). The shop just opened this August and is already very popular. It is located on the first floor in the Central Passage (中央通路). It sells 170 different type of ekiben from all over Japan. It sells about 10,000 ekiben each day. Some ekiben are purchased by travelers transiting through Tokyo station while others are bought by Tokyoites bringing them home to enjoy.

Bentoya Matsuri recently announced the top selling ekiben based on the first two months of sales. It is interesting to note that five of the top six hail from the Tohoku region that was affected by the 3/11 triple disaster. Tohoku is renowned for its cuisine but this may also be a sign of consumers showing their support for Tohoku. The top six are here. Click on the bento name to see a photo if it’s not included.

gyuniku domannaka

1. Gyuniku Domannaka from Yonezawa in Yamagata 1,100 yen (Yonezawa beef)

2. Gokusen Sumibiyaki Gyutan Bento from Sendai in Miyagi 1,300 yen (grilled beef tongue)

Yonezawa Gyu

3. Yonezawa Gyu Sumibiyaki Tokucho Karubi Bento from Yonezawa in Yamagata (Yonezawa beef)

Sendai

4. Miyagi Ougonkaidou from Sendai in Miyagi 1,000 yen (anago, uni, scallop, salmon, and ikura)

5. Miyagi Umi no Kagayaki Benijake Harakomeshi from Sendai in Miyagi 1,000 yen (salmon and ikura)

6. Koshu Katsu Sando from Obuchizawa in Yamanashi 600 yen (tonkatsu sandwich – good even at room temperature)

Tokyo Foodie Tips

What can a foodie do to prepare for their trip to Tokyo? I get asked this question often and have put together a list of my recommendations here:

1. Pick up my book, Food Sake Tokyo, published by The Little Bookroom. The first half of the book covers the basics of Japanese food and beverages. From depachika, seasonal seafood, soy products, wagashi, sake, shochu, etiquette, and much more. The second half of the book lists shops and restaurants by major stations in Tokyo like Tsukiji Market, Kappabashi, Ginza, Kagurazaka, Nihonbashi, and more. I also include two itineraries for foodies to make the most of their time in Tokyo covering the popular foodie spots.

2. Refer to this blog. I update changes to the book as well as list current food events in the city and introduce restaurants and shops. I also include food items or beverages you may want to check out while in Tokyo.

3. Metropolis magazine is “Japan’s No. 1 English magazine”. Based in Tokyo it covers the food scene. Lots of restaurant reviews and interesting interviews with chefs and other food and beverage people in Japan.

4. Taste of Culture is Elizabeth Andoh’s great cooking school. I have taken several classes from pickle-making to seafood. I always learn so much and leave her classes more pumped up to study more. Check her calendar to see if she is offering a class during your visit.

5. Sake guru John Gauntner offers sake tasting classes from time to time. Check out his website, Sake World, for more details. There is also great information here about sake and where to go in the city for good sake.

6. My friend, Junko Nakahama, is a food and wine writer. She also does very interesting tours of Yanesen. Yanesen is a hip area with lots of old shops, many of them selling great food. Her site, Omiyage Concierge, gives more details.

7. Ivan Orkin is a Culinary Institute of America trained chef making some of the best ramen in Tokyo according to some of Japan’s toughest ramen judges. He has two shops and if you’re lucky he’ll be there when you visit and he can educate you on ramen. Ivan Ramen.

8. My hands down favorite restaurant for an authentic meal in Tokyo is Nihonbashi Yukari. 2002 Iron Chef champion Kimio Nonaga is behind the counter of the restaurant and loves to talk about Japanese cuisine. He doesn’t speak English so come with a Japanese friend. The evening kaiseki course starts at a reasonable price (10,500 JPY last time I checked). If you are on a budget he does set meals for lunch, or call ahead and order the upscale Yukari bento for 3,675 JPY. (Photo by Dr. Leslie Tay and amazing Singapore food blogger)

9. Depachika are the epicurean basement floors of department stores. I worked at Nihonbashi Takashimaya for two years and still could not stay on top of all of the different food that was sold there. My favorite depachika are listed here.

10. Tsukiji Market, the world’s largest seafood market. My husband was a buyer here. The outer market is open to the public and is filled with great restaurants and shops.

11. Robbie Swinnerton is the restaurant reviewer for The Japan Times. You’ll find his reviews here as well as other great information on food in Japan.

12. Shop at the local Japanese supermarket. Here is my list of local markets in the city. These are not farmer’s markets but local grocery stores. If you are looking for a big market with wide aisles that you can cruise around with a pushcart then head to Kiba to Ito Yokado. It’s a few stops from Tokyo station on the Tozai line.

13. Do a tour of Tokyo with a chef/guide who speaks Japanese and English. If I am not available I can introduce you to friends of mine. Popular areas to cover include Tsukiji Market, depachika, and Kappabashi. Other options include dining and drinking together and learning about sake, shochu, and Japanese cuisine. (photo by Laura O’Dell)

14. Here is a list of what and where to eat which includes the most popular foods and restaurants.

Popular Omiyage – Tokyo Banana 東京ばな奈

Tokyo Banana

Walking through Tokyo Station it is hard to miss the booths selling Tokyo Banana. It’s a very omiyage. I’ve received it as a gift twice in the last few months.

Tokyo Banana

The banana-shaped cakes are individually wrapped.

Tokyo Banana

It’s a soft sponge cake filled with a banana cream custard.

Tokyo Banana

New flavors are introduced from time to time. Currently Tokyo Banana is celebrating their 20th anniversary and are offering a caramel banana version. You can see a list of their many different sweets here.

New Candyland at Tokyo Station

Opening tomorrow in the basement of Tokyo Station is Tokyo Candyland (Tokyo Okashi Rando). The three main tenants are Calbee, Morinaga, and Glico, big snack manufacturers in Japan. At Calbee you can have potato chips hot out of the deep-fryer. The area is located in the basement outside of the Yaesu central exit. While it’s not worth going out of your way to come to, it may be interesting if you are at Tokyo station as the tenants will say limited edition items, usually seasonal products.

Tokyo Station Omiyage – Nihonbashi Nishiki Hourin 日本橋錦豊琳

Nihonbashi Nishiki Hourin

Nihonbashi Nishiki Hourin

Karintou are traditional sweet confectionaries made from a flour based cracker that is fermented and then is deep-fried and covered with a sugar coating. The sugar coating can be a white sugar but many times it is a dark sugar coating that is rich in minerals. The cracker can have different ingredients folded into it like mattcha, peanuts, soybeans, or sesame seeds.

In the basement of Tokyo Station’s GranSta area is a very, very popular booth selling karintou called Nihonbashi Nishiki Hourin. I have never seen the shop without a long line. The variety of flavors is what makes this shop a lot of fun: ginger, coffee, vegetables, shichimi tougarashi, black pepper, and kinpira gobou. The packaging is perfect for picking up a variety of flavors as they are small packs priced at 330 JPY.

kinpira gobou

kinpira gobou

Nihonbashi Nishiki Hourin

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-9-1, Tokyo Station GranSta B1

8:00 – 22:00 (closes at 21:00 on Sunday and holidays)

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

Digging into an Ice Cold Kakigori

On summer visits to Japan as a child my favorite sweets were kakigori topped with milk. Only when I grew up did I realize that it wasn’t milk but it was sweetened condensed milk. No better way to cool down in the Tokyo heat than a bowl of shaved ice topped with a sweet syrup. Flavors like mattcha and azuki, mango, or anzu (apricots) will have you smacking your lips. Many kanmidokoro (Japanese cafes with traditional sweets) serve kakigori, but usually only for the summertime so this is the best time to dig in.

Here are a few places to dig into kakigori in the summer. Shops usually put a small flag outside with the kanji for ice on it. 氷

Mihashi

Mihashi

Mihashi’s original shop in Ueno (Taito-ku, Ueno 4-9-7) opened during the Edo period. This location, in the basement of Tokyo station in the area called Ichiban Gai, is more centrally located.

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-9-1, Tokyo Station, Ichiban Gai B1

Morinoen

Morinoen

Walking around the historic Ningyocho district is always fun. Morinoen is a tea shop that specializes in houjicha. Here is their houjicha kakigori. You can smell the houjicha being roasted out on the street. Pick up a bag of the tea while you are here to take home. It’s great both hot or cold.

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Ningyocho 2-4-9

Naniwaya

Naniwaya

Naniwaya in Azabu-Juban is renowned for its taiyaki (fish-shaped pancakes stuffed with azuki).  It’s been grilling taiyaki for over a century. Step inside and grab a seat for an anzu (apricot) kakigori.

Minato-ku, Azabu-Juban 1-8-14

Kinozen

Kinozen

Kagurazaka is also a fabulous place for walking around and Kinozen is my favorite place for a kakigori.

Shinjuku-ku, Kagurazaka 1-12

Toraya

Toraya

Toraya in Ginza serves up a yummy ichigo (strawberries) kakigori.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 7-8-6, 2nd floor

2011 Top Ten New Ramen Restaurants in Tokyo (2/2)

Baisenshio Soba Dokoro Kinjito

Baisenshio Soba Dokoro Kinjito

New Old Style Niku Soba Keisuke

New Old Style Niku Soba Keisuke

Hongare Chuka Soba Gyorai Siphon

Hongare Chuka Soba Gyorai Siphon

Hongare Chuka Soba Gyorai Toppings

Hongare Chuka Soba Gyorai Toppings

Hongare Chuka Soba Gyorai

Hongare Chuka Soba Gyorai

Muteppou Tokyo Nakano Ten

Muteppou Tokyo Nakano Ten

The February 2011 issue of Shokuraku magazine lists the top ten new ramen shops in Tokyo. As most of this information only appears in Japanese I hope by including it in this blog that more people can come to explore these new restaurants.

3. (tied for third) Baisenshio Soba Dokoro Kinjito 焙煎汐蕎麦処 金字塔

Kita-ku, Akabane 1-62-5

03-5249-0355

11:30 – 24:30 (last order), open daily

http://www.hotpepper.jp/strJ000765396/ (Japanese)

The soup is based on both chicken and pork. The restaurant also does monthly specials.

3. (tied for third) New Old Style Niku Soba Keisuke 肉そばけいすけ

Koto-ku, Sumiyoshi 2-25-1

03-3846-1040

11:00 – 23:10 (last order), open daily

http://www.grandcuisine.jp/keisuke/nikusoba.html (Japanese)

These hearty bowls are loaded with sliced cha-shu pork.

2. Hongare Chuka Soba Gyorai 本枯中華そば  魚雷

Bunkyo-ku, Koishikawa 1-8-6, Arushion Bunkyo Koishikawa 102

03-5842-9833

11:00 – 15:00, 18:00 – 23:00 (or until supplies last)

closed Wednesday

http://bond-of-hearts.jp/shop_gyorai.html (Japanese)

A very unique concept where the soup is dispensed from a siphon and the toppings are served separately (see photos above). While I prefer to have my ramen assembled by the restaurant (the whole reason for going out to eat right?) it is a curious concept and one I imagine brings in a lot of customers. The soup is a W or a blend of two types, seafood and chicken and includes kombu dashi.

1. Muteppou Tokyo Nakano Ten 無鉄砲 東京中野店

Nakano-ku, Egota 4-5-1

03-5380-6886

11:00 – 15:00, 18:00 – 23:00 (or until supplies last)

closed Monday

http://www.muteppou.com/mainmenu.html#1 (Japanese)

With branches throughout Japan this is the first shop in Tokyo. Muteppou is known for its rich tonkotsu (pork bones) stock.

The other top ten new ramen restaurants are at this link:

http://foodsaketokyo.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/2011-top-ten-new-ramen-restaurants-in-tokyo/