Tokyo Pancakes and Morning Sweets

Pancakes are the hot, hot item in Tokyo now. While they are being served all over the city, for some reason many of the restaurants seem to be near Harajuku and Omotesando. Perhaps to reach out to the young, female market that come to this area for shopping?

Eggs ‘n Things in Harajuku, Matsunosuke NY Tokyo in Daikanyama, Cafe Kaila in Omotesando, Bill’s Tokyu Plaza in Omotesando, Sarabeth’s in Harajuku, San Francisco Peaks in Harajuku (Jingumae 3-28-7), Rainbow Pancake in Harajuku, and Sunday Jam in Harajuku.

Many of these are branches of restaurants originally from abroad in places like NYC, Hawaii, and Australia. I mention that as Japanese “hotcakes” are too sweet for my palate.

And, thanks to James Hadfield for reminding me of Slappy Cakes from Portland which opened today at the new Lumine Est in Shinjuku.

This has sparked a trend of other places servings sweets in the morning with items like granola, muffins and scones. As well, a few places now serving American style pies and cakes.

Hudson Market Bakers at Azabu-Juban 1-8-6 for coffee cake and muffins.

Bubby’s at Akasaka 1-12-31, Ark Mori Bldg. 2F, for American style pies.

Kyle’s Good Finds at Nakano-ku, Aragi 2-7-10 for cakes and pies.

Good Morning Tokyo at Meguro-ku, Nakamachi 1-8-12-103 for granola (mattcha flavored) and muesli.

Daylesford Organic in Aoyama (Jingumae 5-51-8) for British-style breakfast.

Amour du Chocolat at Takashimaya

choco Kyushu

Kyushu Shochu Chocolates

choco sake

Junmai Ginjo Saké and Uméshu Chocolates

choco Tengumai

Tengumai Saké with Tsujiguchi’s Nama Chocolate

* all photos are from the Takashimaya website

If you are traveling to Tokyo between now and February 14th, be sure to stop by a department store to check out all of the chocolates that are for sale. Valentine’s Day in Japan is done like nowhere else in the world. Chocolate is given from women to the men in their lives. Not only to your boyfriend or partner, but to colleagues at work, family members, and good friends.

This being Japan, gift-giving is not a one-way street. Men return the favor to the women in their lives a month later on March 14th, White Day. However, the okaeshi, or return gift, is typically white chocolate. There is a good reason for that. No re-gifting. Also, it was interesting for me to see that on White Day, many of the older men who were returning gifts often bought much nicer presents, such as wine.

Working at Takashimaya for two years I was able to observe the retail side of this tradition. First of all, my colleagues were surprised to hear that it is only in Japan that this is done. Most of them would laugh at themselves and say how brilliant the chocolate companies are to sell so much chocolate during a holiday that isn’t even Japanese.

Most department stores attract customers to their stores by offering unique chocolates that are only available at their shop. Each year the offerings vary as do the chocolatiers who are invited to create special boxes of chocolates.

This year, Takashimaya’s offerings include chocolates from Japanese chefs like Sadaharu Aoki, who currently has a great program on NHK on making French pastries at home. Of course, world-famous chefs like Pierre Herme, Michel Chaudun, and Pierre Marcolini.

I am always attracted to any that involve any type of alcohol like the three in the photos above. Most of these unique sweets are only available this time of year. And, it is no secret that some of the chocolates that are sold this time of year is by women buying for themselves.

Department stores will hold these chocolate fairs usually the first two weeks in February. If you are near any department store, stop by the concierge on the first floor to inquire into the chocolate events. Most often they are held on the special event floor, but some are held in the depachika as well. Nihonbashi Takashimaya starts on Saturday, February 2nd. Shinjuku Takashimaya starts on Friday, February 1.

2013 Michelin Guide Tokyo and Kyoto Online


Great news from Gurunavi, a major Japanese restaurant search site. It has the English-version website for the 2013 Michelin Guide Tokyo and Kyoto. Both of these publications are published by Nihon Michelin Tire Co., Ltd.

The online version includes 712 restaurants, hotels, and Japanese inns. Currently, the Japanese version is available in print as well as by subscription for online access. So, we English readers are fortunate that Gurunavi has made this available for free.

This service will not only help English speakers residing in Japan, but also will help Japan-bound travelers plan for their trip. Links to official restaurant sites are available.

The website is released with the sponsorship, support and collaboration of 19 enterprises, groups and local governments, including East Japan Railway Company, Japan Airlines, Japan Airport Terminal, Japan National Tourism Organization, Kansai International Airport, Keisei Electric Railway, City of Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Narita International Airport Corporation, Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau, Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau, Tokyo Metro, and West Japan Railway Company. It also has the full approval of Nihon Michelin Tire Co., Ltd.

Established in 1996, GURUNAVI is a major search site for restaurants in Japan providing accurate, up-to-date and detailed information on menus, courses and chef suggestions. There are over 500,000 nationwide listings and 28 million monthly users. Here is the English site for Gurunavi which includes non-Michelin starred restaurants.

Madara Pacific Cod 101

Nabé with cod (small filets on the bottom)

For visitors and residents of Japan, we are featuring seafood posts written by my husband, Shinji, a Japanese fishmonger. While in Japan, these are seasonal seafood and dishes that you should definitely look for. All of the food was prepared in our home.

A popular winter dish in Japan that is really easy to prepare, is hot pot (nabé ). Just cook any vegetables, meat, or fish you like in a hot broth, usually a simple kombu dashi, for about 10 minutes. When you smell the nice aroma of the ingredients, it is ready to serve. In Japan we have small, portable gas grills that are used on the dining room table so that the nabé is always hot and diners can continue to add vegetables and other ingredients to the pot as needed. Serve with your favorite  dipping sauces like a citrusy soy sauce (ponzu ポン酢) or a creamy sesame paste sauce (gomadare ゴマだれ), and dip the cooked ingredients in the dipping sauces and enjoy. Nabé will wrap you up with warmness and a lot of nutrition in cold winters. In Japan, there are many kinds of nabé dishes as there are many types of seafood and meat.

The representative fish for nabé, which is very well known worldwide, is cod (madara 真鱈 Gadus macrocephalus). 

Cod nabé ingredients

Madara (Pacific cod) is a winter delicacy for Japanese people. Cod flesh is delicate and flaky with a light flavor. The bones contribute to a good broth. Cod goes with any kind of sauce, and moreover, it is a very affordable fish.
You can buy cod at any supermarket in Japan. I would like to give you some tips when choosing cod at your supermarket.

The first thing you should know is that madara spoils rather fast, and has a parasite (anisakis), so that you will not be able to buy cod as sashimi. All of the cod you buy at supermarkets has to be cooked before serving. It is usually sold as portion cuts. See the pictures below.
However, there could be high-end restaurants that serve very fresh, air-shipped Japanese cod sashimi that is cured with kelp (kombu 昆布), a special technique called the kobujimé method. (Note – while kelp is called kombu in Japanese, the kelp-curing method is called kobujimé, without an “m”.)

解凍 kaitou = defrosted

甘塩たら切り身 amajio tara kirimi =  filets of lightly salted cod

甘塩 amajio =  lightly salted

たら tara =  Pacific cod

切り身  kirimi =  portion cuts

アメリカ産 Amerika san = product of America

ムニエル、フライでもどうぞ = suggested for meuniere or deep-fried

加工日 kakoubi = date the supermarket cut the filet and labeled it

消費期限 shouhikigen = expiration date (should be consumed no later than this date)

北海道 = Hokkaido

生真たら Nama Matara =  fresh Pacific cod

Can you tell which filet was lightly salted and frozen prior and which is fresh?

The top photo is amajio or lightly salted. The bottom photo is fresh. You can tell by the color of the flesh, the fresh cod is transparent while the lightly salted cod is opaque. Also, the bloodline, which is the bit of red in the middle of the flesh, should be bright red in fresh fish while frozen and defrosted cod will lose this color.

Fresh Japanese cod (matara 真たら、madara 真鱈、nama tara 生たら) and  Salted Alaskan cod (amajiotara 甘塩たら)

Cod season in Japan is from November to March. You can buy very nice fresh cod during this period. Usually, the fish is caught and sent to markets whole or as fillets. There used to be ikijimé processed (killed immediately after harvested by breaking the spinal chord and removing the blood from the fish) line-caught cod from Miyagi and Ibaraki prefectures. However, the number has dramatically decreased due to the radiation problems after the Tsunami in March 2011. Now, most fresh cod comes from Hokkaido or Aomori in the northern part of Japan. When you find fresh cod, look for   (nama) and  真たら or 真鱈 (madara) or  生たら (namadara) on the package. (Note – the name tara for cod sometimes changes to dara when it is preceded by ma- or nama-.)

Also, defrosted Alaskan cod fillets are available yearlong. It is usually lightly salted.  The processors import tons of whole fish by a reefer ocean container from Alaska. Once in Japan the cod is defrosted and then processed into fillets and then lightly salted. Look for ‘甘塩たら amajio tara’ on the package.

たらこ tarako = (cod roe)

真だらの子 madara no ko =  (Pacific cod roe)

北海道産 Hokkaido san = from Hokkaido

Pacific cod roe

Pacific cod roe cut in half

Pacific cod roe simmered with carrots, Japanese turnips (kabu), and spinach.

Pacific cod roe with shirataki (konnyaku strings) and dried red chili peppers.

Pacific cod roe (真たらこ matarako) and milt (真たら白子 matara shirako)

Surprisingly, it can be hard to believe for non-Japanese, that cod roe and milt are sold at a much higher price than the fillets. These are regarded as winter delicacies more than the flesh. They have very delicate flavors and unique textures. Both are not only put in nabé with the cod flesh, but also the roe is usually served as soup (simmered with kelp broth), or nitsuké (simmered with soy sauce, saké, and mirin), and the milt is lightly boiled in hot water then dipped in a citrus soy sauce (ponzu) garnished with chopped leeks and grated daikon radish. Also, you can deep-fry or sauté the milt.

青森産 = from Aomori

白子 shirako = Pacific cod milt

真たら matara = Pacific cod

Pacific cod milt

milt simply blanched in hot water and saké

Pacific cod milt lightly blanched so the inside is still raw

topped with grated daikon, yuzu, ponzu, and shichimi

served with Urakasumi Kan-oroshi Tokubetsu Junmaishu from Miyagi

Both roe and milt are usually distributed through December to March from Hokkaido or Aomori prefectures, but the madara shirako has more demand than the supply. As a result, imported air-flown fresh Alaskan cod milt is distributed from late January to March. There is little demand for the product in Alaska, so most of air-flown milt is exported to Japan all the way over the Pacific Ocean. Alaskan milt is almost the half price of the local Hokkaido product. If you can identify and recognize the taste, then you really deserved to be called ‘a king of fishmongers’.

Perhaps you have had miso-marinated and grilled cod at a Japanese restaurant. This dish was made famous by chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, better known as Nobu. In Japanese, this dish is called gindara Saikyo-yaki. At many Japanese restaurants this is translated into English as “miso cod”. Gindara is black cod, but actually, it is not Pacific cod, it is sablefish Anoplopoma fimbria. Sablefish is a very fatty fish while Pacific cod is not fatty at all.

Sablefish gindara filets after marinating in miso

Miso marinated and grilled sablefish gindara.

Food Sake Tokyo Update – Nakaiseki Sen has closed

Chef Yumiko Kano’s Nakaiseki Sen has closed. She has moved locations and focusing her energy on her cooking school. Classes are in Japanese only. I recently attended a class here and learned so much about cooking with Japanese vegetables. Definitely worth visiting if you speak Japanese. Her website is below (Japanese only).

Ginza Sake no Ana 銀座酒の穴


Some of my clients are interested in learning a bit about saké during their visit to Tokyo. However, finding somewhere in Tokyo that serves a wide selection of saké during lunch is challenging. Most of the tours we offer start at Tsukiji Market which is of course only takes place in the morning.
Sake no Ana 酒の穴 is in John Gauntner’s great book, The Sake Handbook. And, is conveniently located in Ginza, a short walk from Tsukiji Market.
The full menu is available during lunch. This menu features a lot of saké-friendly food. As it is winter that includes fugu kara-agé (deep-fried fugu), salted and grilled buri collar (yellowtail), shirako ponzu (milt), ika shiokara (squid innards), and aji hone-sembei (deep-fried bones of horse mackerel). The restaurant also recommends natto omelet. There is also a nice selection of set menu (teishoku) options which includes soup, rice, and a variety of side dishes.
Sake Sommelier Sakamoto-san
Saké Sommelier Sakamoto-san (photo from prior tasting)
When you arrive, ask for the saké sommelier, Sakamoto-san (sadly, no relation). He’s very knowledgeable and will bring out a variety of saké for your group to try. He always introduces a unique and often hard-t0-source saké.
Before you leave, be sure to take a look at the glass-doored refrigerators to see the selection of saké here. It is towards the back of the restaurant on your left hand side.
This day we had the following:
1. Jikon Tokubetsu Junmaishu Nigorizake Nama from Mie
而今特別純米酒 にごり酒生 (scroll down, it’s the cloudy one)
Slightly sweet, this unfiltered nigorizaké was the perfect aperitif. It is nama or unpasteurized, so something you’ll only find in Japan. Sakamoto-san said that this Jikon brand is a very sought after label in Japan and hard to find. It is exactly for this reason that I like to come to Sake no Ana. The collection of sake is very impressive.
2. Hiroki Junmai Ginjo from Fukushima
飛露喜 純米吟醸 (scroll down, half way down is Hiroki)
Medium dry, this had a nice acidity to it and a perfect transition from the nigorizaké.
3. Ooroku Junmaishu Karakuchi from Shimane
王祿純米酒 辛口
As the name says, “karakuchi” is a dry saké and a bit more bold on the palate.
4. Kokuryu Ishidaya Junmai Daiginjo 5 Nen Koshu
黒龍 石田屋 純米大吟醸 5年古酒
We were discussing koshu and aging saké at the table. Sakamoto-san overheard us talking and brought out this very interesting koshu that I’ve never seen or tried before. It is aged five years and Sakamoto-san said that the emperor of Japan is a fan of this saké. Very rich and impressive saké.
Sake no Ana 酒の穴
Chuo-ku, Ginza 3-5-8
Earlier posts on Sake no Ana:

Buri and Hamachi Yellowtail 101

Classic Winter Dish of Buri Daikon

Buri is simmered with daikon in a sweet soy broth until both are tender.


Himi Port in Toyama famous for winter kanburi.

These kanburi are at the wholesale fish market which is open to the public.

Kanburi at the retail fish market an hour later.

Prices range from $100 to over $300 USD.

You can purchase a kanburi and have it sent to anywhere in Japan.

Kanburi sashimi breakfast at the restaurant on the 2nd floor of the wholesale market.

This restaurant is open to the public.

Shioyaki salt-grilled kanburi.

The miso soup in both meals is made with fish heads and bones for a meaty broth.

Here is everything a Japanese fishmonger (Shinji) wants you to know about buri and hamachi:

Yellowtail (鰤 Buri, Seriola quinqueradiata) is a very popular fish in Japan for sushi and sashimi. There are many recipes to enjoy this precious protein gifted from the ocean.

The wild fish swim up from the south to the north along the main island of Japan. Yellowtail eat a lot of seafood to obtain as much fat as possible in their flesh for energy to bear the cold waters in the north. The best season is from December to February, when the flesh color turns gradationally pink to white. In March, it ends its peak season after spawning.

Although the wild fish season ends in March, farmed fish is available all-year long. Farmed yellowtail has white flesh with a lot of fat and it is usually delicious. It is called hamachi (farmed yellowtail in Japanese, wild fish=buri, farmed fish=hamachi) and exported all over the world to fill the demand for sashimi, sushi, and grilled as teriyaki.

Wild fish in winter gets as fatty or fattier than farmed fish, and its gorgeous flavor is unbelievably amazing. If you have any chance to try wild fish sized more than 10 kg, from Hokkaido (Tenjo-buri) in Nov to Dec, Ishikawa (Noto-buri) and Toyama (Himi-buri) in Dec to Feb, you must try it.

You can find frozen yellowtail fillets in the US or other countries, but there is no frozen yellowtail distributed in Japan, so when you buy steaks or sashimi loins in the local supermarkets, they should be fresh. Here are some tips to help you when shopping for yellowtail.

Yellowtail has different names depending on its size. The name also changes regionally.


Kanto Region Names for Yellowtail

Wakashi 10-20 cm

Inada 30-40 cm

Warasa 50-60 cm

Buri 80 cm or more


Kansai Region Names for Yellowtail

Tsubasa or Wakana 10-15 cm

Hamachi 20-40 cm

Mejiro or Inada 50-60 cm

Buri 80 cm or more

Wild or Farmed

The label does not need to show if it is wild, but labeling is required for farmed fish. So If  you see the sign ‘養殖’ (Youshoku, farmed) on the label, it is a farmed fish. Retailers sometimes label the fish as ‘天然’ (Tennen, wild) on the package for wild caught fish, usually with a sticker. If you can tell if the fish is wild or farmed without seeing the sign, it means that you have completed the first step to becoming a fish foodie in Japan.


Hokkaido wild buri sashimi

For Sashimi or Cooking

The label must show ‘刺身用’ (sashimi-you, for sashimi-grade fish), ’生食用’ (namashoku-you, if it can be consumed raw) or ‘加熱用’ (kanetsu-you, for if it needs to be cooked). It is better to check the labeling before you buy the fish. Though it is easy for Japanese people to recognize the usage by checking the portion appearance, but just in case, you should check the label. The sashimi-you ‘刺身用’ label does not mean how fresh the fish is, it just means that the fish was cut under careful hygiene standards for sashimi, using sanitized cutting boards and sashimi knives (yanagiba knife), and the freshness is suitable to consume as raw. So kanetsu-you加熱用’ labeled fish can be as fresh as sashimi-you刺身用’ labeled fish. When they cut steaks, they usually use filet knife (deba knife) which is not usually sanitized very often.


-Steaks or filets (kirimi 切身)

It is easy to know which part of the fish that the steak cuts come from. You can check the skin color, if black, it is back loin (less fat) and if white, it is belly loin (fattier).


buri back (left) and belly (right)

this is how it would look on the fish


buri steaks back (left) and belly (right)

-Sashimi loin

Firstly, filets are roughly divided into 2 loins, back or belly. But when the loins are too big to sell, they are cut into upper (head side) portion and lower (tail side) portion. Personally I love the fatty portions, and chose in this order: 1. upper belly 2. upper back 3. lower belly 4. lower back. Usually it is sold without the skin, so that you should learn to know which part is which by the appearance.

Rose Bakery

Rose Bakery salad lunch

Rose Bakery salad lunch

*** Note the Kichijoji Rose Bakery has closed. I am so heartbroken.

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.

RB bread

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.

RB interior 1

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

RB 1

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

rb 3

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

rb 4

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

rb 5

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.

rb 7

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

rb 6
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.

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 (for sweets and coffee)

Shochu – Mitake Imo Jochu 三岳芋焼酎

Mitake 1

Mitake first came on my shochu radar when I was working at Nihonbashi Takashimaya in the saké department. One large bottle (1800 ml) was sitting in the storeroom as a customer had special ordered it. It wasn’t a shochu that we normally carried. I asked one of my colleagues about it and she told me that it was a premium shochu. Premium is tricky in Japan. In this case, it is a popular shochu that is available in limited amounts, creating a premium price for it.

Fast forward about ten years later and you can imagine how thrilled I was to see Mitake being sold in our local department store saké department as part of a fukubukuro, the lucky grab bags that are sold on January 2nd at major department stores.

Mitake 2

Can you see the beautiful imagery of Yakushima island on the label?

Mitake is made on Yakushima island, a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site for its rich flora and ancient sugi (Japanese cedar trees). Yakushima island is also famous for its delicious water, essential in making Mitake sweet potato shochu. In the shochu making process after it is distilled it is often diluted with water to lower the alcohol percentage. Some on Yakushima will tell you that the local water has umami, hence the Mitake shochu also has umami.

Mitake 3

On the upper left corner there is a circle with what looks like three red E’s in it. This symbol is important as it recognizes that all of the sweet potatoes used in making Mitake shochu comes from sweet potatoes that were grown and harvested in Kagoshima prefecture. Apparently some shochu distillers are using imported sweet potatoes from overseas.

The red characters reading down is honkaku shochu 本格焼酎, or single distilled shochu. If you are drinking any shochu, it should be honkaku shochu. The other style, distilled several times, is better for making umeshu or other sweet shochu that is steeped with fruit like yuzu, lemons, or even coffee beans.

Mitake 4

 On the right side of the label there are two other important kanji to take note of.
 屋久島産  Yakushima-san or from Yakushima island
 薩摩焼酎 Satsuma Shochu or shochu from Kagoshima
Much like D.O.C. in wine, there are four regional types of shochu that can be labeled as such:
 薩摩焼酎 Satsuma Shochu from Kagoshima (made from sweet potatoes)
球磨焼酎  Kuma Jochu from Kumamoto (made from Japanese rice)
琉球泡盛  Ryukyu Awamori from Okinawa (made from Thai rice)
壱岐焼酎  Iki Shochu from Nagasaki (made from barley)

On the nose, Mitake has a sweet aroma, somewhat like sweet potatoes. It isn’t funky like some sweet potato shochu can be, but more on the mild side. On the palate it is slightly sweet, somewhat like steamed sweet potatoes. It’s slightly dry with a bit of umami on the palate. Overall a mild and easy drinking shochu. I liked it with hot water (oyu wari) but that is because it’s cold this time of year. It is also very nice on the rocks or as mizuwari (mixed with water).

If you ever come across a bottle of Mitake be sure to pick it up.

Mitake Shuzo started in Showa 33 (1958) and is currently a 2nd generation shochu distillery.

三岳 Mitake

芋焼酎 imo jochu (sweet potato shochu)

麹:米麹(白麹) shiro kome koji

原料:コガネセンガン base ingredient: koganesengan sweet potato

900 ml

25 degrees alcohol (Mitake also makes a shochu with the same label that is 35 degrees, so double check when purchasing)

Kagoshima-ken, Kumage-gun, Yakucho Awa 2625-19


TEL 0997-46-2026


You may like these other blog posts on shochu.

Tsukemen Momiji in Kokubunji 国分寺 つけ麺 紅葉

Koyo 1

Tsukemen Momiji in Kokubunji is a popular shop that almost always has a line outside of its shop. We went recently to the shop 15 minutes before it opened and joined the queue. Most of those in line looked like college students, and all were men. The sign above the shop says that the noodles are made by hand, “jikasei men” 自家製麺. Momiji is known for its handmade ramen noodles and for its dipping broth for the tsukemen. The noodles and dipping broth are served in two separate bowls. The noodles are dipped into the dipping broth and then slurped up. And, just as done with soba, at the end of the meal hot water is brought if you want to try it with the remains of the dipping broth.
Koyo 2

There is a menu with some photos outside of the shop for those waiting in line. However, everyone when we were there ordered the tsukemen. Orders are made at a vending machine inside the shop that spits out a ticket. Give the ticket to your server when you sit down at the counter overlooking the open kitchen. (I can see and understand how frustrating ordering from a vending machine is for non-Japanese speakers as the menu is only written in Japanese. But, it’s a friendly shop and you could easily point at the photo on the menu outside of the shop or just say “tsukemen” to try the signature dish.)

Koyo 3

And, a handwritten sign listing the types of noodles that are made at the shop. The noodles are all made for that morning.

Futomen 太麺 fat noodles that are chewy with a rich texture, suggested noodles for tsukemen

Hosomen 細麺 skinny noodles that are long and with a good texture

Hirauchimen 平打麺 flat noodles that reveal the sweetness of the flour when it’s chewed

Kawarimen 変り麺 unique, original noodles; the recipe changes from time to time

Koyo 4

Not sure, but I believe this is the owner of the shop. First and foremost because of the music that was playing. All classic 80’s hits, stuff like Journey’s Open Arms. The rest of the staff was young and surely this would not have been their preferred music at work. The owner was busy behind the counter cooking and serving the ramen. It’s a small shop, about a dozen seats at a long counter. There are a row of seats inside the restaurant against a wall for diners who are waiting for an open seat to sit at.

Koyo 5

The dipping broth for the tsukemen. It was very rich with lots of umami. You can see it had negi, menma, and naruto. On the shop’s website it says that the broth is made over 3 days using pork knuckles, chicken feet, pork bones, and chicken as well as smoked, dried skipjack tuna, flying fish, and mackerel.

Koyo 6

This was the futomen, the suggested noodles for the tsukemen. Very chewy and filling. If I go back I’ll try the hosomen or skinny noodles as this was a lot of noodles. However, it was obvious that these were handmade noodles and not mass produced by the texture and flavor.
Koyo 7

The chashu pork which was very tender and meaty, a luxury as the ramen on its own was more than enough food.

Koyo 8

I tried the kawarimen which was on this day an aburamen, very little, rich sauce in the bottom of the bowl, noodles, and a variety of toppings like bean sprouts, seafood sausage, menma, garlic chips, and more. This too was generously portioned and too much for me to finish.

Koyo 9

The kawarimen was served with vinegar that had sliced lemons in it. It was very refreshing and a good way to cut through the rich sauce in the bowl.

If you are on the Chuo line or out in the Western part of Tokyo Momiji is good to have on your radar and worth visiting. The line moves quickly so don’t let that discourage you from  coming here.

Tsukemen Momiji

Kokubunji-shi, Honcho 2-2-15


Tuesday – Friday: 11:45~14:30 17:45~23:30

Saturday – Sunday


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