Kokubunji Menya Rikyu 国分寺 麺屋利休

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Menya Rikyū is a ramen shop in our neighborhood. It has been on television as a recommended ramen shop. There is sometimes a line, but not always. A few friends in the area also recommended it. The ramen is very good here. While it’s known for its tsuke-men we tried the shio (salt) ramen. The noodles are straight, chewy, and thick.

The ingredients for making the stock are shown on their website. What I do love is that he garnishes the ramen with buckwheat tea (soba-cha). You do get a nutty flavor and the crunchy texture of the buckwheat. If you scroll down you can see an interesting ingredient, green tea oil.

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The entrance to Menya Rikyū. Menya means noodle shop and Rikyu comes from the famous tea ceremony master, Rikyū. Hence, the connection to the green tea oil that it poured over the ramen. I couldn’t taste the tea as the broth is quite rich. The interior of the ramen shop is said to be designed after a tea room, but that too gets lost in translation.

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The shop’s name at the entrance. You’ll see a drawing of Rikyū at the counter.

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In a residential building off of the main street in Kokubunji. It’s about a five minute walk from the north exit of Kokubunji station. Worth visiting if you are in the area.

Menya Rikyū

Kokubunji-shi, Honcho 2-22-2

closed Thursday

Blue Moon in Tokyo

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A new craft beer, Blue Moon, has arrived to Tokyo. Blue Moon is something we drank from time to time when we lived in New York City. It’s refreshing, citrusy, and light on the palate. I can imagine that it will be very popular in Japan. Craft beers in Japan are very hot with many new bars opening up serving a variety of domestic and imported craft beer. Blue Moon’s timing could not be better for entering the market in Japan.

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Keith Villa, head brewmaster and founder of Blue Moon, was recently in Tokyo to launch the craft beer in its newest destination. The first venues to carry Blue Moon include:

Craft Hands in Azabu Juban

Tavern Meat and Bakery in Naka-Meguro

Craftheads in Shibuya

Cataratas in Shibuya

Beard in Meguro

Mardi Gras in Ginza

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Unfortunately Blue Moon is currently only being sold at bars. Hopefully it will be soon sold retail. I did get a bottle to bring home, along with an orange, at the launch party. I was inspired to make a carpaccio style dish using the orange. This simple octopus carpaccio with an orange vinaigrette was a nice partner to Blue Moon. Blue Moon has hints of orange, coriander and is creamy. Welcome to Tokyo – look forward to seeing you around town at more places.

Shinjuku Gontran Cherrier

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We are so spoiled in Tokyo with amazing bakeries transplanted from France. While living in Singapore one of the popular bakeries was Gontran Cherrier’s Tiong Bahru Bakery. Local Singaporeans as well as Japanese expat wives filled the seats of the shop in the afternoon. One afternoon Cherrier was in town and it was great fun listening to everyone swoon about how sexy he is with his long hair. Regardless of his appearance, I do find his breads very appealing. The signature croissant here is very rustic and it is tempting to pull it apart layer by layer.

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One of my new favorites is this tarte flambée. A speciality of the Alsace region of France across the river from Germany. I traveled a few times to Alsace while living in Brussels and tarte flambée was one of my favorite culinary discoveries that year, along with Belgian french fries served with mayonnaise. Cherrier’s tarte flambée is on a puff pastry crust so it’s crispy and delicate. There is a tart white sauce generously covered with lardons and caramelized onions. These were yakitate, hot out of the oven. I only regret not buying the whole tray. Tarte flambée is a dish I’ve tried a few times making at home, but it’s never as satisfying as this. Next time I buy this I will be sure to drink an Alsatian riesling along with it.

 

 

GC3Cherrier’s creativity is reflected in his use of local ingredients. In Singapore some of his breads are served with curry. Here he does a mattcha croissant.  *** Note, that mattcha croissant is no longer being made. Hopefully, it will come back. 🙂

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Cherrier’s newest shop in Shinjuku has just opened and it’s already very popular. The shop used to be the Hiroshima antenna shop, which moved to Ginza.

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The second floor of the shop is a brightly lit space with plenty of seating. It overlooks Shinjuku’s south exit and the Southern Terrace. It is popular and often hard to find a seat at peak meal times.

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This day I was in the mood for cheese and meat. Far right is the tarte flambée. Above is a croque monsieur croissant which was covered with a handful of cheese and stuffed with ham before being put back in the oven. A meal in a sandwich. The bottom left is a cheese and prunes stuffed into a chewy dough.

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In the entrance the store posts the bakery schedule for baguettes, croissants and the croissant mattcha citron.

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Here is the curry baguette with grains and the squid ink baguette with cumin. I’ve had both of these in Singapore. Everyone is always curious to try the black ink baguette, which I like slicing thin and using for open-faced sandwiches. Topped with ham or smoked salmon. I also love his red miso bread which is dense and rich with umami.

The location is just outside of the Shinjuku Shin-Minami Guchi (New South Exit). Best of all, it is open from 7:30 a.m. as a proper bakery should be. This can not be said for most bakeries in Japan. His other location is in Shibuya, also close to the station.

Gontran Cherrier

Shibuya-ku, Yoyogi 2-2-1, Southern Terrace

03-5302-2282

7:30 – 22:00

 

 

Tamahide in Ningyocho

Tamahide in Nihonbashi Ningyocho has a perpetual line out its front door, regardless if it is a weekday or holiday. Its signature dish, oyakodon, literally mother and child, is bite-size pieces of chicken mixed with scrambled eggs and a sweet sauce. The chicken is cooked and then added to the eggs which is then just given some heat to start to set and this is poured over a hot bowl of rice.

 When I worked at Takashimaya, Tamahide did promotions in our depachika and the lines were there too.

Tamahide has been in business since 1760. In speaking to fellow diners, they too were curious like me, it was their first time, and they too wanted to try Tamahide’s oyakodon once in their life. As this is where the now popular comfort food was created here.

It is hands down the best oyakodon that I have had. Surely it is the eggs, the chicken, the seasoning, but also, having tried to make this at home a few times, I am always challenged to get the eggs to set just like this. The eggs are still runny and the savory sauce is filled with umami. It does come at a price though, at 1,300 JPY. My neighbor had the soboro oyakodon with ground chicken at 800 JPY and it looked just as satisfying. And, it is a bit silly to stand in line for longer than it takes to order and eat your food. But, I had to do it once, just as, I assume, many of the other customers. It would be fun to come for the dinner full chicken sukiyaki course.

Ningyocho is a great neighborhood to walk around filled with wagashi shops, kanmidokoro (Japanese confectionary cafes), sembei (rice crackers), tea shops, and more.

Tamahide 玉ひで

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi-Ningyocho 1-17-10

03-3668-7651

Closed Sunday and holidays

*This first appeared on my other blog in May, 2009, before Food Sake Tokyo was started.

Nihonbashi Yukari Summer Lunch

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Nihonbashi Yukari is one of my favorite restaurants in Tokyo for a kaiseki meal. Chef Kimio Nonaga is the 2002 Iron Chef champion from the original series. I’ve included many Yukari Gozen lunches on this blog and it’s a beautiful way to taste seasonal ingredients exquisitely presented.

This lunch in early June starts with a chilled chawanmushi topped with a hydrangea flower picked from the small garden in front of the restaurant. Hydrangeas (ajisai) are blossoming all over Tokyo but it’s an unexpected treat when it is presented with your meal. A gentle reminder to the time of year.

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Chawanmushi is a savory egg custard, usually served hot. But on this hot summer morning he serves a very soft custard that is topped with a thick slurry. It’s a unique flavor and texture that I’ve never had before and I have a hard time imagining what it could be. Nonaga-san says that it is dashi mixed with Jersey mozzarella cheese made in Tokyo at Isonuma Farms in Hachioji. It adds to the dish a creamy texture.

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Here is the lunch, presented in a lacquer box and is a generous lunch, so come hungry.Nonaga4

Another look at the lacquer box with all of its components. A fried course, a sashimi course, a simmered course, and the top right box which includes small bites prepared in a variety of ways.Nonaga5

 

Another overview of the lunch including young ginger rice, miso soup, and pickles.

Nonaga6Top left is the simmered course with ganmodoki (deep-fried tofu) and nama fu, a lovely wheat gluten that is a treat as at our home we only have the dried version of fu which doesn’t have the chewy texture of nama fu.

Top right are the small bites including a savory fuki miso garnished with pine nuts, yokan sweet cake made with amazu (tart plum vinegar), and a sweet egg omelet.

Bottom left is the otsukuri (sashimi) course of scallops, horse mackerel, and North Pacific giant octopus topped with vegetables and a creamy green dressing made from shiso.

Bottom right is the deep-fried course of shishitō and shiitake tempura, baby ayu that is covered with sticky rice balls and deep-fried and yuba stuffed with shrimp paste and deep-fried.

As you can see, it is a variety of colors, flavors, and textures. For those who want to experience kaiseki cuisine this is a great lunch in Tokyo.

 

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Nonaga-san is known for serving desserts, not just cut fruit, at the end of each meal. Today it is a mattcha babaloa made with yogurt. It is served with a creamy, sweet azuki bean paste and sticky rice balls.

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The entrance to Nihonbashi Yukari. Can you see the lavender hydrangeas that were used for the first course? If you come, tell Nonaga-san that Yukari sent you. The recommended lunch is the Yukari Gozen as seen here for 3,675 JPY. It must be reserved in advance when making your reservation. Alternative lunch options include sashimi, tempura, or grilled seafood. Nine-course kaiseki dinner starts at 10,500 JPY, a bargain and great value for a kaiseki evening. Nihonbashi Yukari is a five-minute walk from Tokyo station’s Yaesu exit. It is also around the corner from Takashimaya’s flagship store.

Nihonbashi Yukari

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-2-14

03-3271-3436

closed Sunday and holidays

Kimio Nonaga on Twitter

Kimio Nonaga on Facebook

 

Martiniburger in Kagurazaka

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Once while private cheffing for a Japanese executive, my client asked me to make him a “hamba-gu”. I heard “hamba-ga-” an American-style hamburger. I went to Whole Foods and picked up some ground beef and buns. Later that evening when I presented the hamburger he laughed, in a good way. He said (in Japanese), “Yukari-san, I said hamba-gu not hamba-ga-“. Wow, was I embarrassed. I asked him to give me some time and I went back to the kitchen and made a Japanese-style hamba-gu. Japanese burgers, “hamba-gu” often are mixed with onions, eggs, milk, and bread, making it like meatloaf. The Japanese burger is often served with rice.  He loved it, and, I loved the original hamburger that I made for him.

And here, you see the predilections of a Japanese when it comes to hamburgers. For many Japanese they are happy with a meatloaf like hamburger. Which is why, whenever I have a hamburger at a Japanese restaurant I always clarify if the burger is 100% ground beef or if it is a Japanese-style burger. If it’s the Japanese-style I go back to the menu and order something else. Why? Because I much prefer the burgers I grew up with in Minnesota.

Which, is why I was thrilled when I heard about Martiniburger. It was covered in some Japanese magazines when it first opened. And then Robbie Swinnerton’s article in The Japan Times confirmed for me that this is what I was craving.

Martiniburger is on the quiet back streets of Kagurazaka, away from the crowds on the main Kagurazaka Dori. About a three-minute walk from Kagurazaka station on the Tozai line. It’s a sleek restaurant, with floor to ceiling windows that showcase the dramatic bar and clean lines of the restaurant.

Eliot Bergman, a former graphic designer, now restaurateur, has his fingerprints on the restaurant, from the cool bar to the menu with photos of food. He also has good taste in music. When I asked Eliot about the music he said, “we play a wide mix of vintage and contemporary blues and jazz, including a number of New York artists, as well”. Which explains why I felt like I was back in New York City.

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I asked him where he got inspiration for Martiniburger. He said it was from “when he was living in New York City and enjoyed the cocktails and burgers from P.J. Clarke’s”. P.J. Clarke’s is an institution in Midtown known not only for its burgers, but also its steaks. This all makes sense when the burger is presented, complete with creamed spinach and Béarnaise sauce.

The signature burger, the Martiniburger, is as I love it, 100% beef, from Australia, and with a good sear on the outside. It’s also served on an English muffin, which is how I remember my first New York City hamburger in Greenwich Village. (Coming from the Midwest I remember thinking how brilliant to put a burger on an English muffin and started making my burgers like that back at home.) Other offerings come on custom-baked buns. The creamed spinach and mashed potatoes also remind me of home. To top it off, a slice of Oreo New York Cheesecake, which is not too sweet, and also a dessert you don’t see too often in the metropolis.

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Bergman has said that he wanted to do something different with his restaurant, so he’s not serving any French fries. He said that the clientele, mostly Japanese, are fine with it. If anyone isn’t happy with it, it’s usually an American.

Martiniburger is open from Tuesday – Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sundays 11:00 a.m. to 10 p.m. Bergman says that it is a neighborhood restaurant with many coming from the area offices for lunch or after work. On weekends it is not uncommon to see kids and strollers as it is a kid-friendly shop.

It’s one of Tokyo’s best burgers. Now, if Bergman would only open Martiniburger around Tokyo. Maybe on the Chuo line, please?

There is Brooklyn Lager on tap, another great taste of New York City. What more could a person want, except for maybe some French fries?

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The menu is well designed, easy to read, and includes lots of colorful photos.

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I came for a late lunch, but can only imagine how lovely this bar must be at night.

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The colorful and brightly lit interior is inviting. Seating is comfortable, making it easy to linger over dessert and coffee.

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Martiniburger

Shinjuku-ku, Nakazatocho 31

03-6280-8920

11:00 – 23:00 (until 22:00 on Sundays)

closed Mondays

opened in October 2010

closest station: Kagurazaka on the Tozai Line

June Seasonal Japanese Seafood

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The waters are warming up around Japan and many of the fish coming to market now are lean like katsuo. Here is a sashimi platter at our home, Izakaya Sakamoto. The big fish in the back is Tokyo Bay aji, iwashi, lean katsuo, kisu, and shiriyake-ika.

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This tsubugai sashimi was served at a izakaya specializing in shōchū, Bettako. One of the joys of eating sashimi in Japan is the wide variety of shellfish. Tsubugai has a rich texture. Here it is served with some grated daikon, julienned myōga, and green onions.

Taste of TohokuAt a recent class at Elizabeth Andoh’s A Taste of Culture, we made a full meal from her latest collection of recipes, Kibō Recipes and Stories from Japan’s Tohoku. The rice dish is made with tokijake (chum salmon) and ikura.

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Young surumeika are just now coming into the market. They are very soft and tender. You can eat it as sashimi without peeling the skin. Here we had it barbecued. It is stuffed with its innards and legs and simply grilled.

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This is a sashimi platter we made on June 1st. Shinji’s father went fishing that morning in Tokyo Bay and all of the seafood, except for the Hokkaido scallops in the middle, were caught in the waters near Tokyo. This sashimi is even fresher than what customers are eating at Tsukiji Market sushi shops. Here we have aji, kochi, madako, and kisu.DSCN6299

Also, from Tokyo Bay, is this beautiful saba. Pacific mackerel is often cured in vinegar and served as shime-saba. It’s not often seen like this, but was amazing. Not as fishy as we associate with mackerel. We served it with julienned pickled ginger, myōga, and shiso and dressed it with a citrusy ponzu.

Another fish in season right now is anago. There is a restaurant in Nihonbashi that specializes in anago. A visit to Tamai, which is just behind Nihonbashi Takashimaya, is a treat, especially this time of year.

Ainame  鮎魚女  Fat greenling (Hexagrammos otakii)

Akagai 赤貝   Ark shell (Scapharca broughtonii)

Amaebi 甘海老 Pink shrimp (Pandalus eous)

Aoyagi   青柳   Surf clam (Mactra chinensis) 

Asari  浅利   Japanese littleneck clam (Ruditapes philippinarum)

Ayu      Ayu or sweet fish (Plecoglossus altivelis)

Chidai   血鯛   Crimson sea bream (Evynnis japonica)

Ginzake 銀鮭   Silver (Coho) salmon (Oncorhynchus kisuts)

Hamo 鱧 Pike conger  (Muraenesox cinereus)

Hiramasa 平政 Giant amberjack (Seriola lalandi)  

Hoya  ホヤ   Sea squirt (Ascidiacea) 

Isaki 伊佐木 Threeline grunt (Parapristipoma trilineatum)

Ishigarei 石鰈 Stone flounder (Kareius bicoloratus)

Katsuo      Skipjack tuna or oceanic bonito (Katsuwonus pelamis) 

Karauni   殻雲丹   Sea urchin (Anthocidaris crassispina)

Kinki 黄血魚   Thornyhead (Sebastolobus macrochir)

Kinmedai 金目鯛   Splendid alfonsino (Beryx splendens)

Kisu キス Sillago (Sillago japonica)

Kochi 鯒 Flathead (Platycephalus indicus)  

Ma-aji  真鯵   Horse mackerel (Trachurus japonicas)

Ma-anago 真穴子 Conger eel (Conger myriaster) is a salt-water eel

Madako真蛸   Octopus   (Octopus vulgaris)

Maiwashi 真鰯 Sardine (Sardinops melanostictus)

Makokarei   真子鰈  Marbled flounder (Pleuronectes yokohamae)

Mebachi maguro  目鉢   Bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus)

Mebaru 目張   rockfish (Sebastes inermis)

Minami maguro 南鮪 Southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii)

Mirugai  海松食   geoduck  (Tresus keenae) 

Mongouika紋甲烏賊   Kisslip cuttlefish (Sepia lycidas)

Okoze 虎魚   Scorpion fish (Inimicus japonicus)

Saruebi 猿海老  Southern rough shrimp  (Trachysalambria curvirostris)

Sazae   栄螺   Turban shell (Turbo cornutus)

Shako   蝦蛄   Mantis shrimp (Oratosquilla oratoria)

Shiiraシイラ Mahi-mahi (Coryphaena hippurus)

Shiroika 白烏賊 Swordtip squid (Photololigo edulis)

Shitabirame舌平目 Red tongue sole (Cynoglossus joyneri)

Surume ikaスルメイカ  Japanese flying squid (Todarodes pacificus)

Suzuki 鱸 Japanese seabass (Lateolabrax japonicus)

Tachiuo   太刀魚   Belt fish or Largehead hairtail (Trichiurus lepturus)

Tokisake   時鮭   Young chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta)

Torigai   鳥貝   Cockle (Fulvia mutica)

Tsubugai   螺貝   Whelk (Buccinum undatum)