La Boutique de Joel Robuchon

Image

J’adore Joel Robuchon. For special occasions we love L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Roppongi. The food is exquisite, service is professional yet friendly, and it has a great wine list. But, at the moment we don’t have the luxury of dining out for long meals. So La Boutique de Joel Robuchon offers a taste of Robuchon, without the commitment of a time. A good friend first put this on my radar right after it opened. He was addicted to the tarte au citron and served it at all of his dinner parties. La Boutique de Joel Robuchon is both a patisserie and boulangerie. In the photo here the Roppongi shop shows off its most popular bread, a curry pan, stuffed with curry and crispy on the outside.

Image

Monsieur Robuchon’s quiche with salmon and spinach or mushrooms. Notice how each one is made by hand.

Image

Kouign Aman is very popular in Tokyo and it is found at many bakeries throughout the metropolis. But this is the first time I have seen it with sweet potatoes that are in season at the moment. Actually, it looks like a nice fusion of kouign aman and daigaku imo, a traditional sweet made from sweet potatoes and sesame seeds. A nice nod to the local cuisine.

Image

And yes, you read correctly in the back sign, “Croc” foie gras et pomme, garnished with pink peppers. In front, croque monsieur aux champignons. We are so spoiled in Tokyo.

There are three locations in Tokyo of La Boutique de Joel Robuchon. These photos were taken at the Roppongi Hills location. The other two are in Marunouchi Brick Square and Yebisu Garden Place. My only complaint is that the boulangerie doesn’t open up earlier. The shop I pass the most often, Marunouchi Brick Square, does not open until 11 a.m.

Advertisements

November Seasonal Japanese Seafood

Image

Salmon roe, pulled out of its sac and simply marinated in the sweet soy sauce of Kyushu, is irresistible this time of year. We love it so much it is on the table for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Crabs are also coming to market. Another highlight this time of year is fresh scallops and oysters, both best when raw.

Image

Kawahagi may not be the most beautiful fish to look at, but when cut of its leathery skin, and served as sushi with its liver, it is heavenly.

Image

Shirako, or milt, is often from cod fish, but Japanese chefs I speak with say that the best milt comes from fugu. Many people who try this love its creaminess and velvety texture. But, once you tell them what it is they sometimes change their mind. Here it is steamed and then served with a tart ponzu and grated daikon with chili.

Amadai  赤甘鯛  tilefish (Branchiostegus japonicas)                                       

Ankō 鮟鱇 monkfish (Lophiomus setigerus)                     

Asaba karei 浅羽鰈  rock sole (Pleuronectes mochigarei)                                 

Chidai   血鯛  crimson sea bream (Evynnis japonica)                     

 Hata はた grouper  (Epinephelus septemfasciatus)                                    

Hata hata 鰰 sailfin sandfish (Arctoscopus japonicus)               

Higedara ひげたらsnubnose brotula (Hoplobrotuda armata)   

Hi ika ひいか winter dwarf squid  (Nipponololig (Loliolus) japonica)     

Hirame 鮃 olive flounder (Paralichthys olivaceus)                 

Hotate 帆立貝 scallops (Patinopecten yessoensis)                  

Hon kamasu 本カマス barracuda (Sphyraena pinguis)             

Hon kawahagi 本皮剥 thread-sail filefish (Stephanolepis cirrhifer)   

Ibodai 疣鯛  Japanese butterfish (Psenopsis anomala)                  

Ise ebi 伊勢海老  Japanese spiny lobster (Panulirus japonicas)                   

Ishi karei いしかれい Stone flounder (kareius bicoloratus)                                

Itoyori イトヨリGolden threadfin bream (Nemipterus virgatus)         

Kanpachi  間八 amberjack (Seriola dumerili)                       

Kou ika こういか cuttlefish (Sepia (Platysepia) esculenta)                       

Kuro karei くろかれい black plaice (Pleuronectes obscurus)              

Kurumaebi 車海老   Japanese tiger prawn (Marsupenaeus japonicas)

Kaki 牡蠣 oyster (Crassostrea gigas)                                                         

Matara 真鱈 codfish (Gadus macrocephalus)                           

Masaba  真鯖   Pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus)                 

Matsuba gani  松葉蟹 spiny crab (Hypothalassia armata)           

Mebachi maguro  目鉢鮪 bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus)         

Medai  目鯛  butterfish (Hyperoglyphe japonica)                                       

Meita karei  めいたかれいfine spotted flounder (Pleuronichthys cornutus)  

Mekajiki  かじき swordfish (Xiphias gladius)                      

Mongouika  もんごういか  cuttlefish (Sepia lycidas)                               

Mutsu  むつgnomefish  (Scombrops boops)                

Nametagarei  婆鰈  slime flounder (Microstomus achne)       

Sawara  さわら Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus niphonius)

Sanma 秋刀魚  Pacific saury (Cololabis saira)             

Shiba ebi  芝海老  Shiba shrimp (Metapenaeus joyneri                   

Shiro ika  白烏賊swordtip squid (Loligo (Photololigo) edulis) or kensaki ika   

Shirosake  白鮭   chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta)                

Souda katsuo  宗田鰹bullet mackerel (Auxis rochei)                                  

Sujiko  筋子  chum salmon roe                              

Sukesou tara  助宗たら pollockTheragra chalcogramma)           

Suma katsuo  すまかつお  black skipjack (Euthynnus affinis)         

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

Tairagai  平貝 penshell (Atrina (Servatrina) pectinata)                 

Wakasagi  若細魚 Japanese smelt (Hypomesus nipponensis)                        

 Warasa  ワラサ  yellowtail  (Seriola quinqueradiata)            

Yoshikiri same  よしきりさめ blue shark (Prionace glauca)              

Watarigani  渡蟹   swimming crab (Portunus trituberculatus)                     

Zuwaigani  頭矮蟹  snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio)

Tokyo’s Best Mamé Daifuku

Image

Wagashi, traditional Japanese confectionaries, are often made with azuki, tiny red beans, and mochi, sticky rice pounded until its like a taffy. While I grew up eating some of these, I was never a big fan until I tried the mamé daifuku from Mizuho in Harajuku.

The smooth azuki paste is not too sweet. But what makes this sweet, about the size of my fist, are the ever-so-lightly salted black beans that are in the mochi. It is often listed in magazines and television programs as one of the best mamé daifuku in the city, and for good reasons.

Image

Mizuho is located on one of the narrow streets off of Omotesando. The shop opens at 8:30 a.m. and closes when it sells out. It is closed on Sundays.

If you are not a fan of wagashi, try Mizuho. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Mizuho 瑞穂

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 6-8-7

World’s Greatest Wine Festival

Image

My dear friend Yamada-san

September 11, 2001 was a day that changed my life. I had worked as a cellar rat at Windows on the World. A friend of mine, who also started out with me working in the wine cellar, had just been promoted at WOW. We had a wine class together on September 10th at WOW. He had said that some of our friends, who also worked at WOW, were out of town that week for a wedding. Steve told me that he was placing orders for wine and was now working the day shift. He had come to wine late in life but seemed to have found his niche.

But the next morning everything changed. I was downtown NYC in Soho and knew immediately that Steve was in the towers. I knew the drill for what to do if there was an emergency or a terrorist attack. Because we had training before we could start working. It was a known fact that the WTC was a target for future attacks.

The first days and weeks after the Twin Towers fell down are all a blur. But eventually I decided that the only thing that mattered for me was my family and friends. Most of my family is in Japan and I have a lot of friends in Japan as well. A day and a year later, on September 12, 2002, I moved back to Japan to start a new chapter in my life. I landed in a beautiful place called Coco Farm and Winery in Ashikaga, Tochigi. A small city an hour and a bit north of Tokyo. I could live and work at the winery for three months. It was a magical time in my life, and well needed after 9/11. Each year there is a Harvest Festival, the third weekend in November.

Image

The winery is staffed with developmentally disabled individuals who live on the grounds. It is their pure hearts that makes this a special place for everyone who comes to visit. On the weekend of the Harvest Festival some of them dress up for the day. Can you see the angel wings?

Image

They take turns wearing a large wine bottle costume.

Image

While others dress up as clowns. Live music is performed and many of the students dance freely around the grounds.

There are many food stations and everyone coming in gets a bottle of wine, or if you prefer, a bottle of grape juice. Visitors bring along a picnic blanket and sit on the steep hills of the vineyard.

The 2013 Harvest Festival is November 16 and 17. Entrance is 3,000 JPY. If you are coming from Tokyo, take the train to Ashikaga, Tochigi. But be warned, the lines for the shuttle bus from Ashikaga station to the winery can be very long. Taxi lines also long. So, go early!

If you can’t make it this weekend, then think about coming on another day. The winery is open all-year long with a short holiday over New Year’s. There is a café and a tasting room. My favorite wines here include a Kerner and the Coco Rose. The winery makes everything from sparkling to a dessert wine. They have a big portfolio of wines to choose from.

I still remember fondly my time there. I didn’t know if the students were familiar with what happened outside of the winery, or even outside of Japan. I was talking with one of the students and when I told him I had come from New York City, he asked abpit 9/11 right away and expressed his sympathy for New Yorkers. It is the big hearts and sincerity of these students that I hope you can see if you visit. If you go, tell them that Yukari sent you.

CNN did a lovely video on the students at the winery.

The 2013 Harvest Festival is November 16 and 17. Entrance is 3,000 JPY.

Coco Farm and Winery

Tochigi-ken, Ashikaga-shi, Tajima 611

Phone: 0284-42-1194