Asagaya Kakizawa 柿ざわ

Asagaya’s shōtengai is a covered street filled with many small shops for food, confectionaries, and essential items for daily life. It is a great neighborhood to visit if you are looking for an insight to how suburban Tokyoites shop.

Just off the main shopping street is a gem of a soba shop, Kakizawa, named after the owner. Kakizawa-san makes his soba at his shop in a small room at the front of the restaurant. Each day there is a limited number of a set lunch that is a good value and includes his hand-rolled buckwheat noodles.

On a recent visit the 1,200 JPY lunch was deep-fried eggplant in a broth, four types of tempura (including shrimp – I had baby sweet corn instead), salmon and onion rice, pickles, and soba. The 80 percent buckwheat soba has a nice texture. We make salmon rice at home, but have never included onion. This dish is a game-changer and I will be recreating this dish at home.

The waitress spoke some English. She said that not many non-Japanese are coming, but that the shop welcomes them. My only tip for you is that if there are people waiting, be sure to leave when you are done eating.

This is a lovely set lunch in a simple Japanese setting. Asagaya is only a few minutes from Shinjuku on the Chuo line. The shop is apparently busy on weekends, so go early.

Kakizawa interior

Kakizawa 柿ざわ

Suginami-ku, Asagaya-Minami1-47-8 杉並区阿佐ヶ谷南1-47-8

http://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1319/A131905/13161398/

Japanese Breakfast – Kuouesu

Kuouesu

I have a six-month column on Japanese breakfast in the Japan Times. This special spot was mentioned in my first column on traditional Japanese breakfasts.

Kuouesu near Hiroo offers a very unique Japanese breakfast. The kappō restaurant is only open for breakfast and dinner. It was a long walk from the station, so best to take a taxi if you can if the weather is not good.

I was greeted by chef Moteki. She was in the back kitchen for most of the meal, getting ready for the next seating. I loved having a female chef as I don’t run into them very often, especially at traditional Japanese restaurants.

This is a classic ichiju sansai meal of rice, miso soup, and three side dishes. Ichiju sansai is literally one soup and three vegetables. This meal is rounded out with a grilled fish on this day. The rice has an al dente texture and Moteki-san said that they cook it with less water than usual in Iwate Nambu steel pot to make the Niigata koshihikari rice firm. I loved it.

Managatsuo pomfret is prepared in a classic yuan-yaki style of soy sauce, saké, and mirin that is grilled over charcoal.

Reservations are required for this bargain breakfast of 900 JPY. Side dishes like tamagoyaki and nattō can be added. This is a hidden gem. I only wish I lived closer.

 

 

Kuouesu 栩翁S

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 7-14-6 Minami-Aoyama Bldg. 1F

港区南青山7-14-6南青山1F

Japan Times article on traditional Japanese breakfasts.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2016/08/05/food/start-morning-serving-tradition-breakfast-joints/#.V7v-SZN96i4

Point et Ligne

In the basement of the Shin Marunouchi building is a Japanese bakery, Point et Ligne, with a retail shop and a cramped café space in the back. The bread is not traditional French, but made for the Japanese market. The breads are soft and made with butter. The crusts are not crispy and the crumb is chewy. I am not a big fan of this style as I prefer shops like Viron, Gontran Cherrier, and Maison Kayser.

The setting is very dramatic. Dark walls and the retail shop is enticing. But things digress as the walk to the café is through a narrow walkway that overlooks an unorganized kitchen.

The lunch set (about 1,500 JPY) starts out with a sample of five breads. My favorite in today’s mix was the walnut bread. A palate of six dipping sauces is dropped on the table and the server points out the Japanese menu on the side describing the flavors. Four are savory, like EVOO and tapenade and the sweets were salted caramel and Canadian maple syrup.

Diners pick a main course. I went with the pâté de campagne which was under seasoned (maybe made for the Japanese palate?…) and a poorly dressed salad. The dressing was fine, but it was just poured over the leaves, not massaged or tossed, which would make a world of a difference.

Most disappointing was the service. We are so spoiled with great service in Japan, when you come upon a restaurant that isn’t on top of things, you notice it right away.

Point et Ligne

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-5-1, Shin Marunouchi Bldg. B1

http://www.point-et-ligne.com/

Shibuya Joto Curry

Shibuya Joto Curry

Jōtō Katsu Curry

Katsu curry is a great fusion dish of two Japanese classics, tonkatsu and curry. Near Shibuya station is Jōtō Curry, originally from Osaka.

When you come into the 2nd floor shop, you’ll find the vending machine for tickets just to your right. There are photos for the main dishes. The signature katsu curry button is on the top left. There is a long counter overlooking the kitchen with seating for about 15 and a small table to the back. What caught me off guard was the country music on the soundtrack, I think it was 70’s Johnny Cash. After a while though, it just felt right. I wanted to sing along to Hey, hey, good-lookin’, whatcha got cookin’, but resisted the urge.

On the counter there are two small pots. The light brown pot had bright red salty pickles and the dark brown pot was packed with pickled sweet cabbage. There is also a dispenser for powdered chili powder, which you’ll need if you like your curry hot as this is mild curry.

The country music is only interrupted by the sound of the pork cutlets being fried and the chef cutting the tonkatsu into smaller slices.

The chopped pork cutlet is presented on a bed of rice that is covered with curry. Add your pickles and dig in. On a recent afternoon I was the only girl in the shop. It was filled with salarymen and students on their lunch break.

Toppings could be added, like a raw egg or grated cheese. Options include ebi furai (deep-fried shrimp), eggplant, or pickled rakkyo (shallots). Most of the diners were ordering the katsu curry.

Jōtō Curry 上等カレー

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 3-18-7 2F 渋谷区渋谷3-18-7 2F

http://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1303/A130301/13160341/

Shiso Juice

I am enchanted with the minty aroma of shiso. Did you know there is a red shiso and a green shiso? The green shiso is often served as a garnish for sashimi. If you find it on your plate, often as a backdrop to sliced raw fish, then be sure to eat it. If not by wrapping a slice of sashimi with it, then by using it to pick up the julienned daikon and eat as a palate cleanser between sashimi bites.

Red shiso is used not for its flavor, but more for its color. Red umeboshi get their bright color from red shiso and the leaves can be dried, pulverized, and mixed with salt for a dark purple furikake called Yukari. I happen to love Yukari.

Shiso juice is made from red and green shiso. The green shiso helps to add the unmistakeable aromatic notes that is shiso, as the red provides color and is not rich on the nose. This colorful juice is sweet and tart and the perfect afternoon drink on a hot day or a refreshing aperitif before a meal. It’s a breeze to make and I only regret not making more of it.

Shiso Juice

300 grams shiso leaves (mix of red and green)

2.2 liters water

25 grams citric acid (kuensan クエン酸)

200 grams sugar

Remove the leaves from the stem of the plant. Rinse three to four times in water or until it is rid of dirt.

In a large pot, bring 2.2 liters water to a boil. Add a large amount of washed shiso leaves, about 1/3 of the batch, and cook for up to one minute. Any more than a minute and bitter notes will come from the leaves. Remove the leaves and set aside. This process will be repeated until all of the leaves have been cooked.

The red leaves will lose their color when it hits the hot water. This is normal.

Strain the hot shiso water through sarashi (cheesecloth) as there may be some more dirt.

Add the sugar to the mixture and stir until it dissolves completely.

Now, comes the fun part. Add the citric acid and watch the color change from a rusty red to an intense pink. Check out the colors in the photo above.

Allow the juice to cool to room temperature before putting it in bottles for storage. The juice will keep for up to one year in the refrigerator.

Serve over ice.

akajiso  赤じそ red shiso

shiso しそ shiso

kuensan クエン酸 citric acid

Culinary Journeys with Chef Namae Shinobu

Shinobu Namae picnics amongst rice fields at Terada Honke_2

Chiba Terada Honke

I am very excited to share air time with Chef Namae Shinobu in this month’s Discover Japan special on CNN. His show is airing today at 5:30 p.m. Japan Standard Time. Be sure to tune in to travel with him as he goes to Kyoto and to Chiba as he explores the world of tea and saké. Learn about omotenashi, an essential part of the food culture in Japan.

http://edition.cnn.com/videos/tv/2016/08/12/cnn-culinary-journeys-japan-asia-8-18-16.cnn-creative-marketing

Following is an interview with chef Namae Shinobu with CNN’s Culinary Journeys. Read on for where chef Namae would go in the world for his personal culinary journey. I was surprised to hear his destination.

  1. What inspired you to cook? And what compose your culinary philosophy?

Cooking is all about making something by hand to make someone happy. My philosophy is to be sincere to everything around you, love who you are and what you do.

  1. You hold a diploma in Politics from one of the top universities in Japan, Keio University, but it’s not a career you pursued. Becoming a chef must have been quiet an interesting journey for you. Can you tell us about it?

A lot of people been asking me this question but it was quite natural for me to get into the world of cuisine. When I was studying, I needed to earn money to support myself. So I started working part-time at an Italian restaurant at night and went to school in the morning. I needed to survive and this job fed me a delicious and warm meal at the end of the day. That was my starting point and it was really simple.

I love people and I am interested in Social Science, and I wanted to understand people’s difference in different aspects including culture, generations, gender, religions etc. Learning politics was all about how to cope with these differences. And now finding the beauty of different food cultures is another way to fulfill my interest.  

  1. Why have you decided to do French cuisine instead of Japanese cuisine?

My mentor Michel Bras is a French chef. And I was interested in learning something different so I started from European cuisine.

  1. You’ve had experience in the kitchens at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck and Michel Bras’ three-Michelin-starred restaurants – what did you learn from your time there?

Both chefs are unique and have extreme curiosities about nature and science. They are both self-taught chefs, creating dishes from nature. 

  1. Tell us about your ‘Culinary Journey’ on CNN. What is the highlight of this journey?

Through this journey, I would like to show the very unique Japanese hospitality made by Japan’s historical background, beautiful landscape and craftsmanship. I travelled to Kyoto to meet two Kaiseki chefs and a tea master. And I completed the journey at a sake brewery in Chiba with more than 300 years history.

I thought I already knew many beautiful aspects of Japanese food culture and I realized again it’s a never an ending journey to discover all of them.

Highlights are everywhere from this journey, but I would say each person who I introduce to audience in this journey not only care about details of their craft but also care about people they encounter and serve. The warm-hearted hospitality is the most unique thing here in Japan.

  1. In CNN ‘Culinary Journeys’, you went to Kyoto to discover the best quality Japanese green tea. And a tea ceremony is integral in the dining experience at your restaurant L’Effervescence. Tell us the importance of tea in Japanese dining culture.

The traditional Japanese fine dining, Kaiseki, is originally the meal served in the context of tea ceremony. The tea ceremony ceremony gives you a precious moment of encountering with other guests. A good cup of tea makes people united together and it has a power of magic.

Tea ceremony is an important dining experience at my restaurant because it’s the symbol of unity and peace as well as care of each other.

  1. Will we still find hints of Japan flavors in L’Effervescence menu?

Yes very much. I put some Japanese technic behind European composition, but I try not to make it too prominent in one side of the culture on my dishes. But almost all ingredients are sourced from all over Japan now. 

  1. How would you describe Tokyo’s culinary scene?

A lot of new restaurants opened by younger generations are rising.  

  1. If we gave you a blank cheque, where would your dream culinary journey take you and what would you do there?

Ethiopia. The starting point of “The great journey of human being”. I believe I can find something very important in this country of many tribes. And I am interested in “Gursha” – grabbing a morsel of food and place into the mouth of someone else at the table. Then the person you have just honoured with a “Gursha” returns the favour. It’s about making the friendship and love stronger.
And great coffee too.

  1. What does Michelin recognition mean to you?

It’s good to be recognized but I try to be humble and generous. I don’t mind being called a celebrity chef or so, but I am still who I am. Nothing more or less after recognized by Michelin.  

  1. What do you usually like to cook when you are at home?

Something simple like vegetables with some seafood. And I enjoy having sake and wines.

Part one – the art of hospitality:

http://edition.cnn.com/videos/foodanddrink/2016/08/18/spc-culinary-journeys-tokyo-shinobu-namae-a.cnn

Part two – Kyoto’s culinary traditions:

http://edition.cnn.com/videos/foodanddrink/2016/08/18/spc-culinary-journeys-tokyo-shinobu-namae-b.cnn/video/playlists/spc-culinary-journeys/

Part three – a meal inspired by memories:

http://edition.cnn.com/videos/foodanddrink/2016/08/18/spc-culinary-journeys-tokyo-shinobu-namae-c.cnn/video/playlists/spc-culinary-journeys/

 

Shibuya Hayashi Ramen はやし

On the back streets of Shibuya, a short walk from Mark City and the Inokashira line is Hayashi ramen. There are only 10 seats at a counter overlooking the open kitchen. The ramen at Hayashi is a rich blend of pork and seafood. Meaty and smoky aromas from the bowl are accented with a fresh green punch from the julienned leeks. The thick straight noodles stand up to the rich broth. The toppings of the egg and pork round out this umami-rich bowl. For all that is going on in the bowl, it is well-balanced. No wonder the long lines.

I walk by the shop every few weeks and there is usually a long line. I was lucky to have come recently when the line was shorter than usual and jumped at the chance to try the bowl I have heard much about, and am glad that I did.

Purchase your ticket at the vending machine up front. There are only three options:

ramen 800 JPY; aji tama (with seasoned egg) 900 JPY; yaki buta (1,100 JPY)

The photo above is the yaki buta, which includes the cha shu pork and the seasoned egg.

Hayashi is only open for lunch, starting at 11:30 a.m. It closes at 3:30 p.m., or when the soup runs out. I imagine it usually closes before 3:30 p.m. It is closed Sunday and holidays.

Hayashi はやし

Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 1-14-9 渋谷区道玄坂1-14-9

Yamagata Dashi

One of my go to side dishes this time of year is Yamagata Dashi, a classic kyōdo ryōri (regional dish) from where my family is from. I didn’t eat it growing up, and only came upon it once I lived in Japan. It’s the perfect dish for summer as the vegetables for Yamagata Dashi are at the peak of their season.

Yamagata Dashi smells like you are in the garden. It has a crunchy texture and depending on how much nattō kombu and okra you use, it can be very slippery. I love the aromatics from the shiso and myōga, the crunch from the cucumbers, and it took a while for me to get used to eating raw eggplant, but I love it now.

The main ingredients are cucumbers, eggplant, myōga (ginger buds), okra, and shiso. Nattō kombu, finely minced dried kombu, is another key ingredient. I picked up this pack of nattō kombu なっとう昆布 or 納豆昆布 at the Yamagata antenna shop in Ginza.

https://foodsaketokyo.com/2011/05/02/yamagata-antenna-shop/

Soak a small amount of the nattō kombu in water while prepping the vegetables.

I like to blanch the okra and remove the seeds, but if you are in a hurry or don’t want to be bothered with turning on the stove, you could mince the okra while raw.

Finely chop the cucumbers, eggplant, and okra. Mince the myōga and shiso.

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and season with either soy sauce or tsuyu (seasoned soy sauce used for soba or udon noodles). Serve over rice. If you can’t be bothered cooking rice, use the precooked rice that only needs to be microwaved.

Serve immediately. Best to make only what you can eat as the texture changes if it sits overnight in the refrigerator.

Yamagata Dashi 山形だし

kyōdo ryōri 郷土料理

cucumbers – kyūri 胡瓜

eggplant – nasu 茄子

ginger buds – myōga 茗荷

okra オクラ

shiso しそ

nattō kombu 納豆昆布

Do let me know if you try making this dish. Curious what your reactions are.

 

 

Where to Buy Kit Kats in Tokyo

The best place to buy regional Kit Kats in Tokyo is at the Shokoku Gotochi Plaza. The shop is in the basement mall of Tokyo Station near the Tokyo Ramen Street, across the hallway from Rokurinsha ramen shop.

Kit Kat in Japan makes regional flavors that are usually only sold in that region. The Shokoku Gotochi Plaza features regional food items from throughout Japan, which is why the shop also sells these regional Kit Kats.

https://d.nestle.jp/kitkat/omiyage/

Some examples are wasabi, beni imo (purple sweet potato), azuki, mattcha, hōjicha (roasted green tea), strawberry, and more.

The Tokyo Station underground mall is huge. I get lost in there from time to time and I have a good sense of direction. The underground mall is divided into different sections and the Shokoku Gotochi Plaza is part of an area called “First Avenue Tokyo Station”, in Japanese, “Tokyo Eki Ichibangai”. Here is a map in English:

http://www.tokyoeki-1bangai.co.jp/pdf/floorMap_foreign.pdf

Shop hours are listed as 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.

Shokoku Gotochi Plaza

 

Shinjuku Kaijin 海神

Kaijin literally means the God of the Seas, a perfect name for this ramen shop that does not use meat. The seafood soup at Shinjuku Kaijin changes daily based on what seafood is in season. The broth, while rich in flavor, is light and refreshing on the palate. The fish that goes into the broth is written out daily on large white paper that is hung up on the wall.

The menu is read from right to left, top to bottom:

本日のアラ   honjitsu no ara  today’s seafood scraps (head, bones, etc.)

真鯛   madai   sea bream

平政   hiramasa   kingfish (in the same family as yellowtail)

太刀魚   tachiuo   cutlassfish or beltfish

甘鯛   amadai   tilefish

穴子   anago   sea eel

Ara refers to the head, bones, and other scraps of fish that can be either simmered in a sweet soy broth and carefully picked over when eating. Here at Kaijin the chef uses the ara scraps to make the soup stock. Salt is added to the broth. The noodles are thin, which is exactly what this broth needs. It is garnished with julienned leeks, and a chicken and a shrimp dumpling. If you have an allergy, be sure to tell them, ebi no arerugi- ga arimasu.

If you have a big appetite, be sure to order the grilled onigiri (rice ball) and put it into the soup when you are done with the noodles. The salty yuzu koshō paste is also a great way to add depth to the ramen.

Kaijin also has shellfish ramen, like asari (littleneck clam) or hamaguri (Orient clam). I have tried these, but much prefer the complexity of the seafood ramen, their signature dish.

These are the signs in front of the Shinjuku shop. It’s a smaller shop with counter seating for five, a table for four and a table for two. There is often a line going down the stairs, but it usually moves quickly, as this is a quick meal. Be sure not to linger after you’re done eating if there are people waiting.

There are three branches in Tokyo at the time this blogpost was written. I have been to the Kichijoji shop, which is close to the station, but the soup was too salty and I won’t go back. The Shinjuku shop is also near the station and where I go. A new shop has also recently opened in Ikebukuro.

Shinjuku Menya Kaijin

Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-35-7

Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Minamicho 1-5-9, Kumamoto Bldg. 2F

Toshima-ku, Ikebukuro 1-19-2

http://www.kaijin-ramen.com/menu.php