Tsukiji Chuka Soba Inoue

Our favorite ramen at Tsukiji is Inoue. This tiny stall that has standing only tables for dining has been in business for fifty years. There is only one bowl that is made from (I believe) chicken and soy sauce broth, has thin noodles, and is topped with slices of pork, menma (bamboo shoots), green onions, and kaiware (daikon sprouts). The soup is light and a good start to the morning.

This is a great start to the day, and in our opinion, better than having sushi for breakfast at Tsukiji as many of the sushi shops have become very touristy. There is usually a line here, so stand in line, order quickly, as the shop is run much like the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. Stand and slurp quickly, and then move on to make room for the other diners.

Tsukiji Chuka Soba Inoue 築地中華そば井上

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-9-16 中央区築地4-9-16

5:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. closed Sunday, holidays, and Tsukiji holidays

Nagano Masumi Brewery

We love Nagano. It’s just north of Tokyo, easy to access by train, and here you’ll find delicious food and great sake. Suwa is a city that is accessible from Tokyo by train, about two hours from Tokyo on the express train, Azusa. Not the shinkansen, but it passes many stations along the way.

Here is some information on Suwa, a city that sits between a lake and the mountains. There are five sake breweries all within walking distance of the city center, and all conveniently located near each other. You’ll see the breweries in the map below around C2 and D2.

http://en.go-centraljapan.jp/lsc/lsc-upfile/pamphlet/01/40/140_1_file.pdf

In the city of Suwa, we like to stay at a ryokan with an onsen (hot spring bath). In the city there are a few sake breweries where visitors can come in for a tasting. Our favorite sake brewery in Suwa is Masumi. Masumi’s rich history dates back over 300 years.

The tasting room is beautiful. The sake is oishii. The portfolio is big, including some fruit sakes like yuzu and ume (apricot).

masumi-flight

Flights of sake at Masumi

The sake tasting room is spacious and there are several sakes to taste through. If the sake is too heavy to carry, it can always be shipped to your home or hotel. The staff are friendly. Masumi is exported, so this is good news if you come across a sake that you like. There is a good chance you can also buy it overseas.

Masumi Miyasaka Brewing Company 真澄 宮坂酒造

Nagano-ken, Suwa-shi, Motomachi 1-16 長野県諏訪市元町1-16

http://www.masumi.co.jp/english/

 

 

Ginza Hageten Kushiage

Hageten is a popular tempura and kushiage restaurant in Ginza. While many are familiar with tempura, kushiage is another great dish that is deep-fried, but covered with panko (Japanese bread crumbs) instead of a flour and egg batter.

Hageten’s “service lunch” starts at only 820 JPY for 6 skewers, salad, rice, miso soup, and pickles. Diners can get seconds on rice and miso soup. While I declined the generous offer, a salaryman at the counter was happy to get seconds on both.

The six skewers on a recent lunch were:

  1. kisu (sillago whitefish)
  2. kabocha squash
  3. pork and leeks
  4. tsukune (ground chicken) and celery
  5. tofu and cheese
  6. uzura (quail egg)

The miso soup was made with shijimi (Corbicula clams) and an awasemiso (blend of red and white miso). The rice, kuri gohan, was studded with fresh chestnuts which are in season now.

This is a great lunch if you are in Ginza. Hageten is several floors. The kushiage restaurant is in the basement. I loved my seat where I could see the chef’s mis en place including an egg batter and bread crumbs. The kushiage was lightly coated, delicate jacket of panko, and not oily.

Chef Takaishi-san was friendly and easy to chat with. He told me that he is off on Fridays, so I’ll try to come back on another day, not Friday.🙂

I asked him about sending my vegetarian friends there for skewers. He said it would be best if the hotel concierge could call ahead and request a vegetarian only skewers and that they would be able to accommodate that request. On the fly it may be difficult. And, not sure if they could change the miso soup.

I haven’t had kushiage in a  long time, but that’s about to change. With this central location and good price, it’s hard to beat.

Hageten ハゲ天

Chuo-ku, Ginza 3-4-6 中央区銀座3-4-6

www.hageten.com

 

Talking About Drinking on Television

Today Japan welcomed a new sumo champion, Goeido. It’s most interesting as in this tournament had he not done well he was going to be demoted. Well, he rose to the challenge and went 15 days undefeated. Bravo!

The television cameras were on Goeido just before the awards ceremony and the announcers filled in with some banter. Following is the conversation (that I could catch) between a former sumo wrestler, Mainoumi, and an announcer. I love that in Japan talking about drinking is normal and not shunned upon.

Announcer (A): 舞の海さん、Mainoumi-san…

Mainoumi (M):はい、Yes…

A: 豪栄道は酒飲むの? Does Goeido drink sake?

M: あ、飲みます。Yes, he drinks.

A: 飲むの? He drinks?

M: え、Yes.

A: あ、そう。。。Oh, really?

M:  気合が入ると良く飲みますよ。When he gets into it, he can drink a lot.

A: 今日は美味い酒は飲めます。。。I bet he’s going to drink really good sake tonight.

M: そうですね。Yes…

A: 遊びに行きたい。(it sounded like the announcer said that he wants to go over to Goeido’s celebration party this evening.)

I had to laugh when I heard this. Such a great commentary on how we approach drinking in Japan.

Congratulations to Goeido. The first time a sumo wrestler from Osaka has won in 86 years. Omedetou gozaimasu! I hope you are drinking very good sake tonight.

*** FYI, sake can refer to Japanese nihonshu (the fermented and brewed rice drink) or to any alcoholic beverage. However, as this is sumo, which is a very traditional sport, when the announcer asked if Mainoumi if Goeido drinks sake, I assume it means nihonshu.

 

Vegetarian in Tokyo?

It’s very tough being a true vegetarian in Tokyo. That is not my case, but it is for some of our clients and friends who come to travel, or live and work in Japan. Here are some suggestions for restaurants that are vegetable-friendly. They may not be strictly vegetarian, so be sure to inquire if you follow a very strict diet.
When I am craving vegetables, I make a beeline for Rose Bakery and get the salad lunch. There is a branch in Ginza, but you most likely will find me at the Kichijoji branch.
Sougo is a lovely vegetarian restaurant in Roppongi.
Daisuke Nomura is the owner. His family owns another famous restaurant called Daigo in Atago, also Buddhist vegetarian.
I LOVE Dhaba Indian in Kyobashi for dosa. It is a short walk from Tokyo Station:
I often ask for vegetarian tempura at places like Tenmatsu (there is also a branch in Shibuya):
Kushiage are skewers of vegetables, fish, and meat, that are breaded and deep-fried. Hageten in Ginza said that if you call ahead when making a reservation that they could do a vegetable only flight of skewers.
This is my favorite pizza in Tokyo:
If you like bagels, this shop is also nearby the pizzeria above:
Also, I LOVE TY Harbor restaurants as they are very good about substituting vegetarian dishes for meat or seafood components.
The following are all in the TY Harbor group:
Aoyama Cicada
Daikanyama Ivy Place
Sukiyaki is a dish based on wagyū beef, but if you call ahead, they can prepare a vegetarian sukiyaki.
For Japanese breakfast, the Park Hyatt Tokyo’s Girandole will also do a vegetarian traditional Japanese breakfast, but reservations need to be made in advance for this.
Some other spots from my blog:

Atami Mugitoro Doji 麦とろ童子

Atami is a seaside resort south of Tokyo. If you have access to a car, then put Mugitoro Douji on your radar. I believe you could also come by bus, but best to look into the details.

Mugitoro is a dish made from rice cooked with barley (mugi) that is topped with grated yamaimo (mountain potato), which we call toro. The Atami area is also famous for shirasu, tiny anchovies that have been quickly blanched in hot water. The shirasu are soft and rich in calcium as you are eating the whole fish, head to toe.

Here is shirasudon, short for donburi, or rice bowl, here topped with the boiled anchovies. To the side in the brown bowl with a lip is the grated mountain potato with some dashi and soy sauce which is poured over the leftover rice after eating the fish. The right bowl is simply green tea soba with the grated mountain potato.

The setting is fabulous, with a wall of windows overlooking the sea. The entrance is charming with the handwritten noren banner, and who wouldn’t loved to be hosted by this chef, smiling like a little boy.

Mugitoro Dōji 麦とろ童子

Shizuoka-ken, Atami-shin, Izusan, Gōshimizu 210

静岡県熱海市伊豆山郷清水210

closed Wednesdays

Craft Beer – Yoyogi Watering Hole

Watering Hole near Yoyogi station is a great spot to try Japanese and imported craft beer. I felt like I was back in the US with the stickers on the wall and refrigerator. The menu is basic, fish and chips, mac n’ cheese, seasonal pickles, and rice crackers. Sadly, I believe the sweet potato chips are no longer on the menu. Bummer.

Watering Hole opens from 3 p.m., for those of you who are here on holidays, or if you finish work early. Friendly staff who help answer my questions about the brews. Check their website as they update their beer menu daily.

Watering Hole is a short walk from Shinjuku Takashimaya.

Watering Hole

Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-26-5-103 渋谷区千駄ヶ谷5-26-5-103

http://wateringhole.jp/

Yakumo Saryo Asacha Breakfast

Yakumo Saryo is a tea lover’s paradise that is open for breakfast. It doesn’t serve coffee, so if you are like me, have an espresso before you come. The name of the meal is 朝茶 asacha, morning tea.

The restaurant does not allow photos, so the best I could do was these two pictures of the entrance.

If you are familiar with Higashiya, a lovely wagashi shop in Ginza and Aoyama, you’ll be familiar with the aesthetics and sense of Yakumo Saryo, as they are the same company.

The breakfast included a flight of tea served with breakfast. It’s a brilliant start to the day. The setting is a dark tea room with a small window that looks over the upper part of a garden. There is a large communal table and a small counter. The room is quiet and only interrupted by the sound of tea being roasted. Highlights for me was the colorful selection of pickles and the different tea that were served. The meal ends with wagashi, which was also a surprise. I don’t want to spoil the experience, but do consider putting this on your Go List as a special meal. It is not cheap, about 4,000 JPY, and it is a long meal.

Reservations can be made online. My only advice is to please dress up for the meal. Do not come in shorts and Tevas, please. If you plan on traveling in Japan without one nice outfit, then don’t bother coming to places like this that require a reservation.

Yakumo Saryo 八雲茶寮

Meguro-ku, Yakumo 3-4-7 目黒区八雲3-4-7

03-5371-1620

www.yakumosaryo.jp

reservations required – may be made online

This restaurant first appeared in my column in The Japan Times on Japanese breakfasts.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2016/08/05/food/start-morning-serving-tradition-breakfast-joints/#.V94ymZN97uQ

Kuoesu Breakfast

Kuoesu is the rare kaiseki restaurant that is open for breakfast. It is a long walk from Hiroo station, but worth the journey. The set morning meal starts at 900 JPY, so without the kaiseki prices.

I was greeted by a female chef who guided me to the quiet counter. I was the first diner this morning and loved the peaceful setting. She worked in the back kitchen so I had the whole dining room to myself.

She first came out with tea and an oshibori (wet towel). Then came the tray with five dishes: rice, miso soup, turnip and cucumber nukazuke (rice bran pickles), red-veined spinach lightly blanched and deep-fried hamo (conger eel). The last was a large round earthenware dish, almost as big as the tray, with a charcoal-grilled managatsuo (pomfret) and grated daikon.

The meal was colorful and nutritious. My favorite was the rice, which was a revelation. It was very firm, almost al dente. The chef told me that it is cooked in an cast iron pot with a small amount of water.

There is also a menu for supplemental dishes like omelet and nattō.

As I finished my meal she was setting up a few more settings. I wish I lived closer, but it is worth making a special trip across town. Reservations are required.

Kuoesu 栩翁S

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 7-14-6 港区南青山7-14-6

03-6805-0856 reservations required

This first appeared in my monthly column for The Japan Times on Japanese breakfast.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2016/08/05/food/start-morning-serving-tradition-breakfast-joints/#.V93rv5N97uQ

Risaku Onigiri Breakfast 利さく

My last monthly Japanese breakfast column for The Japan Times was on onigiri. The highlight of my research was this lovely gem, Sendagi Risaku. All of the other shops were part of a chain, but this was an independent shop that, for me, is worth having on your radar when you visit the Yanaka area.

The Japan Times column for more details:

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2016/09/02/food/onigiri-japans-perfect-morning-meal/#.V9zPGJN97uQ

Risaku 利さく

Bunkyo-ku, Sendagi 2-31-6 文京区千駄木2-31-6

03-5384-7292

opens 8 a.m.

www.risaku.jimdo.com

closest station: Sendagi