Ogikubo Takahashi Soba 高はし

Takahashi is a about a ten-minute walk from Ogikubo station on the Chuo line, but worth the journey through the residential area west of Tokyo. I was meeting a girlfriend for lunch on a Tuesday. For whatever reason, many soba shops are closed on Tuesdays. But my friend had been to Takahashi before and we were in luck as it is open Tuesdays. On a side note, many hair salons are also closed on Tuesday. So frustrating…

The shop is just off of a main street and in a residential area. The menu is only in Japanese, so best to go with a Japanese friend, or have your hotel call ahead and arrange a menu.

Takahashi has a nice selection of sake as well. Dassai from Yamaguchi is on the list. This day we went with Tefu from Kokken in Fukushima. It is made with Miyama-Nishiki rice and is unpasteurized. The junmai sake is soft and food-friendly, a lovely partner to soba.

The shop brings out some deep-fried soba noodles with our sake. We started with goma-dōfu (sesame tofu), which was quite firm. The soba sashimi was cut into long strips and was a nice hint as to what was coming. The tempura included both shrimp and vegetables.

My friend was excited as fresh nori soba was on the menu. It was my first time to have it and it was lovely. A generous amount of soft nori that is reminiscent of the ocean is on top of the handmade soba. The nori soba was the seasonal soba. Can you imagine, nori having a season? It does, and it is just now ending its season, so get it while you can. Our table overlooked the soba processing room, but by lunchtime the master was done rolling and cutting the soba.

Highly recommend Takahashi, but be sure to go with a Japanese speaker or arrange your menu ahead of time. The menu is only in Japanese and don’t expect any English here. I also love that it is a bit of a walk from the station as the other customers there obviously made the trek for Takahashi-san’s soba.

Takahashi 高はし

Suginami-ku, Ogikubo 2-30-7 杉並区荻窪2-30-7

closed Wednesday and the third Tuesday of each month.

72 Seasons – Guest post by Janice Espa

Tokyo is enthralling.

If like me, you can’t get enough of this city, then you’re probably on the go from early in the morning.

Tokyo dining, though delicious, can leave you dumbfounded. Dinner plans, which many times require a reservation, are easier to plan around than deciding what to have for lunch when caught in the midst of exploring the city.

When this happens, and lunchtime pangs spring up, unsolicited, a really great option is 72 Seasons. Shichi Jyu Ni Kou – a Japanese restaurant specialized in both kaiseki and teppanyaki cuisine – is in the basement of the Tokyo Station Hotel. It is a midday dining haven.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m equally as happy grabbing a snack or five from the smorgasbord available at department store food halls (depachika), or to eat the donburi of the day while sitting on a counter, or graze on a set of mixed yakitori skewers while standing. However, when your legs can’t take it anymore and you long for a bit of serenity, places like Shichi Jyu Ni Kou are an oasis. Serene, secluded, delicious, and right in the heart of the city’s movement.

I sat in the restaurant’s kaiseki section and opted for the bento box of the daily. I felt it not only offered the most variety, but also, seasonality and a well-balanced portion for lunch. There’s an introductory teishoku menu which features a grilled fish of the day, a more extensive “kaiseki in lighter style”, and several a la carte options to add to the set lunch meals.

The amuse bouche was a spinach ohitashi, with the works: edible flowers, shaved katsuo sprinkles, and ikura. Splendid. Followed by a lacquer box filled with steamed mussels, nimono stewed vegetables, an assortment of tempura, and a few pieces of sashimi.

The hassun, artfully plated, had grilled tai (snapper), a piece of tamagoyaki – my favourite addition to any plate, one piece of oshizushi (pressed sushi), a portion of sweet and savoury chestnut paste, cubes of sweet potato, and stewed burdock.

All of those flavours along with miso soup, steamed rice, and roasted tea for 3800 JPY. I was delighted.

To finish the meal, a different tea was served with a choice of dessert: fruit or kokuto purin (Okinawan black sugar pudding). I had the latter, which was caramelized on top like a cold crème brulee, wonderful, just wonderful.

The full menu is not available in English, though a general description of it is. Front of the house service is courteous, and the waitresses, beautifully dressed in kimonos, are helpful and accommodating.

There is a second location of Shichi Jyu Ni Kou, in Roppongi. However, if you’re in central Tokyo, and want an hour of serenity before continuing your sightseer trail, I strongly recommend paying this restaurant a visit.

Shichi Jyu Ni Kou
The Tokyo Station Hotel B1F,
1-9-1, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Tel +81-(0)3-6269-9401


Open Daily
Lunch 11:00a.m.~ 3:00p.m.(Last Order 2:00p.m.)
Dinner 5:00p.m.~11:00p.m.(Last Order 9:30p.m.)

Janice Espa photo

Janice Espa

Janice Espa is a Spanish-Peruvian food enthusiast; an avid traveller and inquisitive taster who explores culture through cuisine.  Janice lives in San Francisco where she writes and styles food. Her days are spent visiting grower’s markets, checking out restaurants, and shopping at specialty stores to discover goods from every corner of the world.

Feel free to email suggestions and travel tips, or to contact Janice for her own recommendations, whether you’re visiting Peru, trekking South America or doing a road trip along the east coast of Australia.

Manseibashi Hofbackerei Edegger-Tax

Tokyoites have yet another European bakery to add to a rich list that includes Viron, Maison Kayser, Peck (exclusively at Takashimaya), and Gontran Cherrier. What makes this new shop unique is that I believe it is the first bakery in Tokyo from Austria. For German bakeries there is Linde in Kichijoji. (Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Honcho 1-11-27).

Hofbakerei Edegger-Tax is at the Manseibashi mall conveniently located between Kanda, Akihabara, and Ochanomizu. It is one of Austria’s oldest bakeries (1569), and fills a gap in the city for these European breads. Linde is a great shop, but Kichijoji is a hike out of the city center.

The shop opens at 8:30 a.m. on weekdays, and 11:00 a.m. on weekends. There is a lovely selection of bread, sandwiches, including open-faced sandwiches, and pastries. I’ve been to the original shop in Graz, Austria, and at the time, the most impressive memory was the colorful selection of open-faced sandwiches.

Hofbakerei Edegger-Tax

Chiyoda-ku, Kanda-Sudacho 1-25-4, Maach ecute Kanda Manseibashi




Gotta Get – Kokuto Black Sugar 沖縄黒糖



Do you know about kokutō? Black sugar that is harvested on the islands south of Kagoshima in Okinawa. It is a dark sugar that is rich in minerals and is 100% natural sugar cane. We often keep a jar of kokutō on the counter. It makes a nice little snack. Kokutō can be cooked with water to make a syrup for desserts. This with some kinako, roasted soybean powder, over vanilla ice cream, is a combination of flavors that most people love.

A friend of ours is an editor of a famous food magazine in Tokyo. He is a fountain of information and I never share a meal with him without my notebook and pen. At a recent dinner party we were talking about kokutō and he said that each island produces a different flavor of black sugar. Of course, that totally makes sense, but how different could the flavors be?

Shinji picked up five different kokutō at the Washita Okinawa antenna shop in Ginza. Each from a different island. First of all, they all look very different from each other. Who knew? And, drumroll…….they do all taste very different from each other.

Kokuto Packaging

Kokuto Packaging

These small packages are 50 grams each and cost about 200 JPY ($2 USD). Our tasting notes counter-clockwise starting at pink:

  1. Ie-shima 伊江島 (pink) *** Our favorite. Light in color, not too sweet and surprisingly salty. Rich in flavor and very natural. Will go back for this.
  2. Yonaguni-jima 与那国島 (yellow) ** Medium in color. Light in flavor, not as rich as Ieshima. A hint of saltiness. Hard texture and cut into squares.
  3. Iheya-jima 伊平屋島 (blue) * Light in color. For both of us it was too sweet, much like sugar.
  4. Tarama-jima 多良間島 (dark orange) * Dark color and very hard texture. Sweet and rich flavor.
  5. Hateruma-jima 波照間島 (light orange) ** Very dark in color. Blocks are very chewy. Rich mineral flavor.

Overall the Ie-shima was our favorite. We loved that it wasn’t too sweet and the saltiness was a surprise at first, but we came to love it. Most people love kokutō when they try it.

Note on the names. Shima means island in Japanese. Sometimes the pronunciation of shima can change to jima depending on what name comes before it.

Mandarin Oriental Pizza Bar on 38th

Tomato Salad

Tomato Salad

Tomato Salad at Pizza Bar on 38th



The specialty of the Pizza Bar on 38th. Marscapone, black olives, and truffle essence. This is so rich in umami and impressive. The first time I had this I woke up the next day thinking of it. Even a week later it haunts you, in a good way.

Cinque Formaggio

Cinque Formaggio

The pizza here is Roma-style. The crust is 80% water and is fermented for 48 hours. It is light and airy. The five cheese pizza is topped with truffle honey. The wine list includes a nice selection of Italian wines that naturally pair well with the cuisine.

Chef Daniele

Chef Daniele

Chef Daniele serving up a glass of “konatsu-cello” made from the tart summer citron, konatsu that is steeped in vodka with star anise and cloves. A perfect combination of Japanese ingredients with a traditional Italian drink. It is chef Daniele who came up with the recipe for the pizza dough after doing research back home in Italia. Grazie, chef!

The Pizza Bar on 38th

Mandarin Oriental, 38th Floor

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 2-1-1


I first wrote about the Pizza Bar on 38th for Metropolis:


Kanda Glitch



Staying on top of the food scene at Tokyo has become much easier with social media. Ten years ago when I started research for my book, Food Sake Tokyo, I relied heavily on Japanese food magazines and tips from food writers, chefs, sommeliers, and other industry insiders. I still rely on these same sources, but more and more staying connected with these friends on social media helps me to see where things are trending. Some of

One hot spot with friends who are baristas and coffee shop owners is Glitch. Located in Kanda it is just between three subway stations, Jimbocho, Ogawamachi, and Takebashi. Although the street it sits on has a lot of traffic, the area itself is pretty quiet. The shop is spacious and on the corner there is a take-away window where the drip coffees are made. On the other end of the shop is a roaster. There is a small communal table that seats six and a few other seats around the brightly lit shop.

Communal table at Glitch

Communal table at Glitch

Glitch offers cuppings and other seminars. I assume these are in Japanese. I stopped by about 9:30 on a weekday morning and most of the customers this morning were women in their 20s and 30s. Some stayed but most of them took their coffee to go. Behind the counter, Machiko-san chatted up the customers, many who seemed to be regulars. We even had a friendly chat about our mutual friends and on being a mother.

Machiko-san recommended a drip made from Kenya beans that had notes of fruit tomatoes. The Japanese fruit tomatoes have a lovely bouquet that is sweet and with a hint of acidity, which was what the coffee offered. The selection of magazines on the communal table included some I have at home, like Hanako, but also a few not in my usual reading list so it was a nice way to pass time over the coffee.

The Glitch facebook page has gorgeous photos from the shop. A haven for hipsters. I wish I were half that cool. Even more awesome to be young and have a slick coffee shop like Glitch to hang out with friends over good coffee.

Glitch opens from 7:30 a.m. on weekdays, which is actually on the early side for coffee shops in Tokyo. It’s a lovely coffee shop and worth a special trip.


Chiyoda-ku, Nishikicho 3-16 千代田区錦町3-16


Nagano Azumino Okina Soba 安曇野翁 そば

Azumino Okina Soba

Azumino Okina Kamo Seiro Soba

Nagano is famous for soba, among many other things. But where to go, especially in the countryside? We asked around to friends about their recommendations, and a restaurateur told us about this lovely soba restaurant in Azumino called Okina. Azumino is a pastoral part of Nagano that has the impressive Kita Alps, Northern Japanese Alps, guarding it to one side.

The menu was very simple, only four different soba dishes. No side dishes. At first I was disappointed, as I was hoping to linger over a few small dishes before the soba. But realized that a small menu is a good thing as turnover is very quick. There was always someone outside waiting to come in, and usually the wait was not too long, even on a sunny Sunday.

This is the classic example of a shokunin, a craftsman who excels at doing one thing. In this case, it is soba (buckwheat) noodles. The soba master, Wakatsuki-san, opened the shop at the age of 40 in 1997. Prior to that he was the manager at the Tokyo branch of the famous Hakone Akatsukian soba shop.

Inside just as you walk in you can see his workshop for making soba noodles. I assume that he is there in the mornings and that he then moves over to the kitchen to cook during service. While there were waitresses, he did sometimes come out and help with the front of the house.

Check out how simple the Azumino Okina menu is.

Zaru soba – cold soba with a dipping sauce (865 JPY)

Inaka soba – thicker soba served cold with a dipping sauce (865 JPY) – this was sold out when we arrived

Oroshi soba – cold noodles served with a spicy grated daikon (1,080 JPY)

Kamo seiro – cold noodles served with a hot dipping sauce of duck and leeks, garnished with yuzu (1,400 JPY)

Azumino Okina Soba view

Azumino Okina Soba view

The view was amazing. We had the Kita Alps as a backdrop. This is the view from the from the shop.

The soba (buckwheat) comes from Nagano, Ibaraki, and Hokkaido. The buckwheat is milled at the shop and the noodles are made in house. The noodles had a little bit of a bite to them, which I really enjoyed. The tsuyu is made with kombu, katsuobushi, and donko dried shiitake mushrooms. The soy sauce is Okubo soy sauce from Matsumoto in Nagano.

The shop is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., but will close early if they run out of soba.

To get to it you do need a car or by taxi, ten minutes from Akashina station in Azumino city, Nagano.

Azumino Okina Soba

Nagano-ken, Kita Azumi-Gun, Ikeda, Nakau 3056-5

安曇野 翁




We visited Okina after a trip to the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.

Kagurazaka Kuzuryu Soba 神楽坂 九頭龍蕎麦

Kagurazaka Kyu Soba

Kagurazaka Kuzuryu Soba

Just minutes from Iidabashi stations (both JR and the Metro) is a lovely spot for handmade soba, Kuzuryu Soba. The lunch set includes both soba and a donburi, rice bowl. The donburi options include curry rice, oyakodon (chicken and soft-scrambled eggs), and their recommendation – sōsu katsu, thin-slices of pork deep-fried and then covered with just the right amount of a sweet and salty sauce. It is such a bold and umami-rich dish that it almost outshines what we came here for, the soba.

Kagurazaka Kyu soba noodles

Kagurazaka Kuzuryu Soba noodles

The buckwheat noodles are made from scratch in the store and if you are lucky you can watch the soba dough being sliced into thin noodles with the large, rectangular soba knife.

Kagurazaka Kyu Soba tableware

Kagurazaka Kuzuryu Soba tableware

The gorgeous dishware is on display. Lovely lacquer and colorful tableware that is a reminder of how dining in Japanese is done first with the eyes.

Did I mention the price of the lunch? Only 890 JPY. Great bargain for handmade soba and donburi.

Kagurazaka Kuzuryu Soba 神楽坂 九頭龍蕎麦

Shinjuku-ku, Kagurazaka 3-3


Suntory Master’s Dream

Suntory Master's Dream

Suntory Master’s Dream

A recent trend with Japanese beer companies is to produce a high-end brew for their portfolio. Suntory’s newest product to this category is Master’s Dream. This is a rich, aromatic beer with a nice balance of bitter and sweet notes. It is made with a traditional “diamond” malt, European hops, and spring water. I also love the packaging. It is in a glass bottle and what looks like a cap on top, but it is actually a plastic replica that doesn’t need a bottle opener.

Tokyo Station Yaesu Hatsufuji やえす初藤

Traditional Japanese Breakfast at Tokyo Station

Traditional Japanese Breakfast at Tokyo Station

The Yaechika mall in the basement of Tokyo Station is busy during the day, but at seven in the morning it is eerily quiet. The exit out of Tokyo Station’s basement into the Yaechika mall was closed until 7 a.m. When the gates were rolled open I followed some salarymen who were walking in the same direction and came across Yaesu Hatsufuji. I was surprised to see that minutes after opening, the shop was already starting to fill up.

I joined the line in front of the vending machine and picked a very traditional breakfast of salted and grilled salmon, pickles, simmered daikon and carrots, miso soup, seasoned nori, and rice. Service is quick and efficient and most diners here do not linger. This big breakfast is cheaper than McDonald’s, costing only 570 JPY. So cheap that I splurged and added a bowl of nattō, fermented soybeans.

Diners are asked to share tables. Most of the customers were male and the few women were escorted into booths.

Other main dish options include meat and tofu (nikudōfu), pork miso soup (tonjiru), ginger pork (shōgayaki), and some egg dishes.

I will be back. This is my new breakfast spot near Tokyo Station.

Yaesu Hatsufuji やえす初藤

Chuo-ku, Yaesu 2-1, Yaesu Chika Kita #1