Shibuya Shunju 春秋 – Colorful Vegetable Salad Bar

Buffet lunches abound around the city. Some of my favorites include the New York Grill at the Park Hyatt Tokyo and Motif at the Four Seasons Marunouchi, but these gorgeous buffets deserve a leisurely long lunch so that you can enjoy all that is offered. I was meeting a girlfriend for a casual lunch in Shibuya and wanted somewhere that offered a vegetable-friendly meal.

Shunju, just across the street from Bunkamura music hall and museum, was exactly what I was looking for. There is a small, but thoughtfully assembled organic salad bar and diners choose a main course. I opted for a simple onigiri as my main course. The other options included fish grilled over sumi charcoal, chicken, and pork. The buffet lunch with onigiri starts at about 900 JPY ($9 USD). For a supplemental 500 JPY you can add a protein main course to the meal.

Yellow and orange carrots, red cabbage, simmered lotus root, tempura eggplant, and a creamed cabbage were some of my favorites. The carrot juice at the salad bar was sweet enough to stand in for dessert. The only meat product on the buffet was some ground meat in the miso, an umami-rich dip for the vegetables.

The restaurant was busy at the noon hour. Mostly young girls making several rounds to the salad bar. Shunju has a few other branches around the city, and I imagine that they also offer a similar lunch.

Note that the buffet is on weekdays only. On the weekends the restaurant is course lunches only. Arigato to David Richards for sending this helpful information via the blog. Arigato and thankful for your notes.

Shunju 春秋

Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 2-23-12, Fontis Bldg. 1F

渋谷区道玄坂2-23-12フォンティスビル1F

http://shunju.com/

Kyobashi Domenica Soup Curry

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Hokkaido’s soup curry is a great change-up on the regular Japanese curry. I remember the first time a girlfriend served this to me. I thought she had messed up the recipe as the curry was so watery, but she explained to me that this is what soup curry is. Once I got over the mind shift that I should not compare this to the thick Japanese curry we are most familiar with, I could enjoy it for what it is.

Domenica, a soup curry shop in Sapporo, has a branch in Kyobashi, just between Ginza and Tokyo Station. The Special Vegetable Curry (Tokusen Yasai Curry 特選野菜カレー) comes with a dozen vegetables and half of a boiled egg. The vegetables are about 300 grams, and in Japan it is said that 350 grams is what your body needs daily, so pretty good for one bowl. The vegetables here are deep-fried and then put into the soup curry. It was a colorful selection including kabocha squash, carrot, young corn, and much more. Chicken can be added to the soup curry.

There are four soups to choose from:

original – kombu, Japanese-style dashi, chicken and pork

tonkotsu – thick pork

tomato – tomato

tonyu soup – soymilk

The original was a nice combination of meat and seafood. When picking your spiciness you tell them a number from 1 to 10. I think I did four and it had a nice heat, but not unbearable.

I asked if the soups were vegetarian and was told that it wasn’t. Sadly, this wouldn’t be good for strict vegetarians, but a good place for those craving vegetables.

Domenica

Chuo-ku, Kyobashi 3-4-1, TM Ginza Bldg. 2F

中央区京橋3-4-1TM銀座ビル2F

www.s-curry-dominica.com/

There is also a branch near Tokyo Station’s Yaesu exit.

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 2-2-21, Nihonbashi 2-Chome Bldg. B1

中央区日本橋2-2-21日本橋2丁目ビルB1F

Shibuya Tare Katsu Don

The signboard outside of this small shop near Shibuya station caught my eye. Vegetables and thin slices of pork dressed in panko bread crumbs, deep-fried, and dipped in a sweet and savory soy sauce over a bowl of rice. Donburi are large bowls of rice with toppings. Tare refers to the sauce that clings to the vegetables and pork. Tare katsu don is a regional dish from Niigata prefecture, which is just north of Tokyo.

This shop uses organic soy sauce. The pork is Waton Mochibuta. The rice is koshi ibuki, from Niigata, famous for its rice.

I had walked by the shop several times but it was always full. Recently I spotted a single seat at the counter and swooped in. I ordered the yasai hire katsu don, vegetable and pork donburi (930 JPY). There is also a vegetable only donburi for 830 JPY.

It takes a while for the food to come, which is a good sign at fast food shops. You can see the chef deep-frying the vegetables and pork and dipping it into the sauce.

On this day the vegetables included sweet potato, eggplant, baby corn, and broccoli. There was a cherry tomato, but it was only deep-fried, not breaded. The pork was cut thin. If you were in the mood for meat you could do pork only.

The shop is only one minute from the Keio Inokashira line exit, or 3 minutes from the Shibuya JR station.

Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 1-5-9 渋谷区道玄坂1-5-9

Map:

http://www.tarekatsu.jp/map.html#shibuya

 

Shibuya Ore no Hamba-gu Yamamoto 俺のハンバーグ山本

Ore no Hamba-gu

Ore no Hamba-gu

There is a chain of restaurants that specialize in a certain cuisine or a dish. The “Ore no” series includes French, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, yakitori, kappō, soba, oden, and yakiniku. There are all in the Oreno Corporation and are casual restaurants, many of them standing only spots, that offer reasonable priced cuisine in a casual environment.

The other day on the bus I passed a restaurant called Ore no Hamba-gu near Shibuya station. I got off the bus and got in line. A good sign that there were people standing in line. Hamba-gu is different from hamburger. Hamba-gu are more like a juicy meatloaf that is served with rice instead of a bun. Hamba-gu is a staple of yōshoku, Western-style cuisine adapted for the Japanese palate. The lunch set is 1,750 JPY and comes with a salad, rice, and miso soup along with the burger.

The Ore no Hamba-gu seems to be not affiliated with the Oreno Corporation, but I could be wrong.

Ore no Hamba-gu has a handful of shops around the city including Ebisu, Kichijōji, and Jiyugaoka. The interior at Shibuya is like being at home with a living room feel in the back of the restaurant.

The menu offers about a dozen different types of toppings for the hamba-gu. I went with the most popular, which was Gorgonzola. The cheese sauce on top was nothing special, but the hamba-gu was stuffed with a rich serving of cheese. The hamba-gu is served in a hot bowl, the type you find at Korean restaurants. The meat is very, very hot. I should have known that looking at the sauce bubbling, but I wish they would have warned me. :-)

The restaurant has its own farm. The small salad that came with the lunch set is made with flavorful vegetables. I can still taste the sweet red bell peppers. I may go back and just ask for a big salad. The lunch set includes a small juice made from seven vegetables and fruit, including cilantro and shikuwasa, a tart citrus.

There is a nice server who speaks English. So even though the menu is in Japanese, there is someone to help you order. I highly recommend a glass of juice and getting a salad along with the hamba-gu.

Ore no Hamba-gu is a great example of a restaurant focusing on one thing, hamba-gu, and doing it very well.

Ore no Hamba-gu Yamamoto 俺のハンバーグ山本

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 3-18-5, Wada Bldg. 1F 渋谷区渋谷3-18-5和田ビル1F

www.orehan.com/shoplist/shibuya.html

twitter.com/orenohamburg

Shibuya Curry House Tiri Tiri

Chili Tiri Curry

Tomato, Spinach, and Garbanzo Beans

It is hot and humid in Tokyo. A great time to have curry as the spices helps you to sweat, cooling you down. Curry House Tiri Tiri is a popular shop in Shibuya, about a five minute walk from the station along Meiji Dori.

While the shop has pork, chicken, or shrimp as options for the curry, I was craving healthful vegetables. This tomato is the chū-kara, medium spicy, curry. If you ask for a small portion of rice you get a 50 JPY discount. The owner’s wife said that a usual serving is a cup and a half of rice so I asked for the small portion, which was perfect.

I was curious to come here as the shop is famous for serving healthful curry. The chef uses little oil and lots of onions. Outside of the shop is a sign in Japanese that says each serving of curry contains about one whole onion. All of the ingredients are natural, no preservatives. It is also known for having some of the best curry in the city.

The menu is simple. Pick your heat, chū-kara or spicy Masala. You can pick chicken, pork, or shrimp, or go vegetarian. Just list up what you want like tomato, spinach, garbanzo beans, lentils, potatoes, cheese, or a raw egg. Also, tell them if you want a little or a lot of rice.

Chili Tiri Storefront

Chili Tiri Storefront

The shop is only open weekdays, 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., or until they run out. Love this. If I were to do a restaurant I would do the same. Even when I got there around 1 p.m., late for lunch in Japan, there was a line. There are 15 seats at a long counter with white tiles. The line does move quickly as the meal is quite fast. If there is a line outside they will come out and take your order to expedite the service. Quite a lot of customers came for take-away.

The only thing they have to drink is ice water. Smart.

I don’t know if they speak English. The wife was very abrupt asking me in Japanese if I spoke Japanese. I don’t know how she would be with a non-Japanese speaker. So go prepared. I felt like I was at Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi.

Curry House Tiri Tiri チリチリ

Shibuya-ku, Higashi 1-27-9

xn--7cka6jb.com/pc/index.html

Sweet Corn Rice

 

Corn Takikomigohan

Corn Takikomigohan

Growing up in Minnesota I was surrounded by large farms growing corn. There was nothing better than stopping by the side of the road and picking up a dozen ears of corn in a brown paper bag for a buck. At home we would shuck the ears outside on the front lawn. There was one huge pot in our house that was used mostly for boiling corn every summer. The sweet corn was then slathered with butter and salt, and attack ear after ear until my face was covered with butter and the corn disappeared.

While we salted the water when we boiled the corn I was shocked when a farmer’s wife told me that we should cook the corn in sugared water. That revelation changed the way I made corn ever since, and it does make it better.

Corn in Tokyo has been out for a few weeks already. I have been eating an ear or two every day. The only difference is that here it costs a buck a cob. It’s my favorite vegetable and I will indulge while it’s in season.

Shinji’s in culinary school at the moment and one of his recent assignments was corn rice. Takikomigohan is when toppings are steamed with the rice and then incorporated into the rice. A similar preparation is called mazegohan when toppings are mixed into cooked rice. While this is called a takikomigohan this almost feels like a mazegohan as the corn is cooked before it is added to the pot. To be honest, I don’t care what it’s called, it’s delicious.

Sweet Corn Rice

Sweet Corn Rice

Shinji said that he cooked the ear of corn in salt water. After it is cooked the kernels are cut off of the cob. Rice is cooked with a little bit of salt in the water. We cook the rice in a donabe (ceramic pot). After the rice has come to a boil the lid is taken off, usually a no-no, and sprinkled with some saké and the corn. The lid is returned and the rice is set aside to finish steaming for fifteen minutes. If you are cooking your rice in a rice cooker there should be a timer that tells you when there about ten minutes or so left to cook. I would add the corn at that time.

The rice is ever-so-salty, like the breeze on your face at the ocean, while the corn adds bursts of sweetness.

Tenmatsu Tempura in Nihonbashi

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Spring is my favorite time of year for tempura as sansai, mountain vegetables, are featured at good restaurants serving tempura. At the top of this box is udo (spikenard), which reminds me of a tender and somewhat bitter white asparagus. The other vegetable is renkon (lotus root). 

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Tenmatsu at Nihonbashi bridge, just between Nihonbashi and Mitsukoshi-Mae stations on the Ginza line, has long been a favorite spot of mine. I used to work at Takashimaya which is just a five-minute walk from here and would sometimes come for a solo lunch. The lunch here is a great bargain at under 1,000 JPY for tempura that is made and served to you piece-by-piece as it comes out of the oil. Here you see the chef’s work spot. Some flour that the ingredients are dipped in before being covered with an egg, flour, and water batter before being deep-fried.

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Here is the udo to start off the meal. At home we blanch udo and then dress it with mayonnaise. But tempura is probably the best way to enjoy it.

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This is a special technique when putting in items to the hot oil, to gently toss away from you into the hot oil. Part of the joy of sitting at the counter at a tempura restaurant is listening to the oil as it sputters. A good tempura chef will know when items are ready to be pulled out of the oil by the sound it makes when it is done frying. On the plate is asparagus and shiitake. My friend got two pieces of shrimp for this course.

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Squid and lotus root. I love the chef’s smile. :-)

In the large round bowl is the chef’s batter mixture. He also uses two different chopsticks. A wooden pair for the flour and batter and then a metal pair for working in the oil.

Tenmatsu is in my book, Food Sake Tokyo. The chef in this photo is the same chef that is in my book. It is quite busy at lunch time so either go early or late. Be sure to request a seat at the counters on the 1st or 2nd floor. The 3rd floor is tables only and you miss out on watching the chef prepare the tempura in front of you. They are open on Sundays and holidays which is good to keep in mind as most shops in this area are closed on these days. The main shop is in Shibuya.

Note that at lunch time there is a vegetable only tempura set lunch.

Tenmatsu

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-8-2

03-3241-5840

Lunch 11:00 – 14:00 (Sat., Sun., and holidays until 14:30)

Dinner 17:00 – 21:00

Le Pain Quotidien

Pain1

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.

Rose Bakery in Kichijoji 吉祥寺ローズベーカリー

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Rose Bakery Morning Salad Set

Rose Bakery salad lunch

Rose Bakery salad lunch

Kichijoji is a great station to visit that is close to both Shinjuku and Shibuya. It can be reached by the Chuo line from Shinjuku or the Inokashira line from Shibuya. Inokashira Koen is a large park just minutes from the station. It is great for walking around and there is even a small zoo at the park. Kichijoji also has an interesting shoutengai (shopping arcade) that is worth exploring. I list some of my favorite shops at the shoutengai in this Metropolis magazine article.

The salad lunch is a colorful, healthful lunch that is packed with a variety of flavors. There was some chicken and anchovies in this lunch set, but I am sure if I requested 100% vegetarian that the staff would have accommodated my request.

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Rose Bakery Morning Bread Set

But there is a lot to see in the station building, atré. There is a great seafood store, Uoriki, on the first floor, Shinseido bookstore on the 2nd floor, and a Kaldi on the 2nd floor to pick up some imported food products.

The bread is lovely here. A bit dense with a crispy, slightly burnt crust.

Rose Bakery is on the first floor near the concierge stand. It is a perfect place to meet friends or to sit alone and catch up on some reading. Rose Bakery has great salads that are served for breakfast. I have come to love these salads so much that it has changed the way I make salads at home. Almost once a day we’ll make a Rose Bakery inspired salad. As you can see in the photos above the salads are simply vegetables in a vinaigrette, sometimes with curry in the vinaigrette. Many of the salads include sesame or sunflower seeds.

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As you can see, Rose Bakery is brightly lit. Perfect for getting some work done or reading.

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On a recent visit there were live plants hanging from the roof.

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The Rose Bakery cookbook is for sale as well as some tea and other ingredients like sunflower seeds.

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“Each main course is a vegetable dish accompanied by meat.” ROSE

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The colorful salads. Now you can understand how this is very inspiring, not only to eat better, but to try and recreate some of these at home. I have only been to Rose Bakery in Japan, and love the use of local produce for the salads.

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My only complaint is that there was water dripping from the plants onto the papers I was editing at the café.

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There is a selection of sweets as well. Rose Bakery also has take-away if you are in a rush.
Rose Bakery started as a shop in England that also has a branch in Paris. Currently there are three shops in Tokyo, all in great locations. Besides the Kichijoji café the others are in Ginza in the new Dover Street complex as well as in Marunouchi.
Another thing I love about Rose Bakery in Kichijoji is that it opens at 8 a.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. on weekends. While Kichijoji has many great cafés, a lot of them don’t open until 10 or 11 a.m.

Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Minami-Machi 1-1-24, Kichijoji atré 1F phone: 0422-22-1506

Chuo-ku, Ginza 6-9-5, Ginza Komatsu West Wing 7F at Comme des Garcons – Dover Street Market

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 2-1-1, Meiji Yasuda Seimei Bldg. 1F

Shinjuku Isetan 3F

Yasaiya Mei at Omotesando Hills やさい家めい


When I am craving Japanese vegetables one of the first restaurants that comes to mind is Yasaiya Mei in Omotesando Hills. While the restaurant specializes in produce it also serves meat and seafood. While classified as a “washoku” or Japanese restaurant, the menu often includes Western-style dishes like bagna cauda or a cheese fondue.

The lunch menu is filled with photos of the set lunches so no worries if you don’t speak Japanese. The dinner menu is bilingual – English and Japanese.

Everything I have had here has been excellent. Tofu burgers, eggplant doria of sake kasu (sake lees) and cheese, and the gozen (see photo above) featuring seasonal vegetables. On this day the staff suggested having a glass of freshly squeezed corn juice. Growing up in Minnesota I am spoiled by corn and have to admit that this was one of the most surprisingly delicious things I’ve had here. Many of the vegetables are on display at the restaurant if there is a Japanese vegetable you are not familiar with.

I’ve always gone with friends which is great for sharing. There is also counter seating popular with solo diners. The staff are knowledgeable about the dishes and ingredients. And service, as usual in Japan, is top-notch.

Yasaiya Mei

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 4-12-10, Omotesando Hills 3F

03-5785-0606

Monday – Saturday and Holidays
11:00~(Last Order 16:00)
17:00~23:30(Last Order 22:30)
Sunday
17:00~22:30(Last Order 21:30)

Closed if Omotesando Hills complex is closed.