Nakameguro Seirinkan – One of the Best Pizzas in Tokyo

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Susumu Kakinuma makes some of Tokyo’s best pizzas in Nakameguro. Alan Richman, the decorated food journalist documents Kakinuma and his pizzas in this timeless GQ magazine article. It is worth the journey across the city to Nakameguro for one of his pies. There are two pizzas, the marinara and the Margherita.

Here is Richman on Seirinkan. “…Kakinuma prepares two kinds of pizza, marinara and Margherita, because that’s what you get at his favorite pizzeria in Naples. (I preferred the marinara, because the tomato sauce and garlic were so vivid.) His crusts are soft, chewy, puffy, slightly charred, and incredibly tender.”

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What Richman doesn’t write about is my second favorite dish at Seirinkan after the pizza, broccoli. Boiled until al dente, then sautéed in a pan with crispy garlic chips and olive oil, this is the perfect partner to the pies. Kakinuma kindly shared the recipe with us on a recent visit and while we have made it a few times at home, it’s never as good as it is here. He also recommends dipping the chewy crust of the pizza in the garlic oil that the broccoli is served with.

Seirinkan is just a few minutes’ walk from Nakameguro station. if you are thirsty after your pizza, Bryan Baird’s Taproom, with some of Japan’s best craft beer, is just around the corner.

Seirinkan

Meguro-ku, Kami-Meguro 2-6-4

03-3714-5160

Gotta Get – Taberu Togarashi Furikake

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Furikake are toppings that are sprinkled over rice. Most of the times at home we are eating a bowl of white rice. But once in a while we’ll sprinkle on some furikake just to spice things up. This Taberu Tōgarashi is in the genre of the taberu rayū, which we also like to have from time to time. We try to keep this Taberu Tōgarashi in the back of the pantry and not on the table. Why? Because when we do use it we end up eating two to three bowls of rice at a time. It’s that delicious.

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We came across this at Tsukiji Market and picked one up to try about a year ago and now it is a staple in our pantry. Ingredients include dried red chili peppers, black sesame seeds, yukari (dried purple shiso), apricot, smoked and dried fish flakes from skipjack tuna and Pacific mackerel, salt, nori, and salt.

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On the palate you get the heat from the dried red chili peppers, some tartness from the red shiso and apricot, and nutty from the sesame seeds. The capsaicin in the peppers is what makes this so addictive. The package suggests serving it with noodles, fried rice, onigiri, or as ochazuké. I have yet to try it on pizza, but I imagine most dishes that use Tabasco would also do well with this Taberu Tōgarashi.

Taberu Tōgarashi is sold at some shops at Tsukiji Market. We buy ours at a great little shop called Karaimonya, which specializes in chili peppers and all things spicy.

Karaimonya

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1, Building #9

03-3541-0607

Takano Fruit Shop – Melon Juice

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The hundred dollar muskmelon. Yes, it exists. Most of the cost of the melon, I have been told by a fruit store executive, is for the air-conditioning of the greenhouses in summer or for the heaters in winter. The muskmelon juice at Takano fruit café in Shinjuku Takashimaya is a nice alternative. The shop also has fruit parfaits and sandwiches of whipped cream and fresh fruit.

The café is located on the fifth floor of Shinjuku Takashimaya. The brightly lit restaurant is furnished in white and the windows overlook Shinjuku station. It is an ideal spot to meet with a friend and catch up, or to refresh after some power shopping at Takashimaya and Tokyu Hands which is next door. Takano Fruits main shop is in Shinjuku and has a bigger menu.

Some depachika will have a small counter in the fruit specialty shop. When I worked at Nihonbashi Takashimaya I was surprised to see how popular these counters can be. Not only with older clientele but also with younger couples with their children.

It’s a luxurious treat and something that can only be experienced in Japan.

Takano Fruit

Shinjuku Takashimaya, 5th floor

Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-24-2

Gotta Get – Nori Cups at Tsukiji Market

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Once in a while you come across something that changes your food life forever. A Japanese chef girlfriend who now lives in California told me about these nori cups at Tsukiji Market. They are sold at a store that I walk by every time we do a Food Sake Tokyo tour, which is about 3-4 times a week. It is a store that we often stop by as they also sell the sushi erasers that are popular gifts. I was kicking myself for not noticing these before. These are perfect for bite-size sushi. Perfect for parties or for a fun night at home.

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The version above are unseasoned, while these are flavored with salt. I prefer the salty ones.

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Nori cups are circles of nori shaped into small cups like cupcake papers. Just add rice, or better yet, vinegared sushi rice, and top with sushi toppings.

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The first time we tried these we were celebrating a special occasion at home and Shinji pulled out all of the stops. Topping options this night included: clockwise from top left: sujiko (soy sauce marinated salmon roe in the sac), mentaiko (salted and spicy cod roe), kombu, seafood salad, maguro (tuna), kazunoko (herring roe), tobiko (flying fish roe), tuna salad, salmon, tamagoyaki (omelet), crab, and shirasu (baby anchovies boiled in salt water).

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Everyone makes their own as they like.

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On this night we simply did salmon sashimi to celebrate the new saké cups we purchased.
Orimatsu

There are a few shops selling the nori cups at Tsukiji Market. The easiest one to find is Orimatsu in the outer market. While here, be sure to also take a look at the erasers in designs like sushi, bento, and wagashi (Japanese confectionaries).

Orimatsu

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-9-15

3:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Followers of the Food Sake Tokyo blog have written to me to say that the nori cups can also be found at Tokyu Hands in the bento section as well as at Kappabashi.

Food Trends in Japan – Supermarket Trade Show

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Fermented foods are an essential part of Japanese cuisine. Many staples of the Japanese pantry are made with fermented products including sake, soy sauce, mirin, miso, and vinegar. Kōji, Aspergillus oryzae, is the common ingredients in all of the products. The popularity of kōji is evident with the shio (salt) kōji and shōyu (soy sauce) kōji products that are very popular in supermarkets. At this year’s Supermarket Trade Show in Tokyo we came across many new products made with kōji. Some of our favorites include this Kōji Pon from Marukome. Pon, short for ponzu, is a citrusy tart and soy sauce that is often used for hot pots or vinegared dishes. This product is made with kōji, so with added fermented power. It is already on the supermarket shelves so look for this to put on your next salad.
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This is an aged shio kōji that is aged, which rounds out its flavor and mellows it out a bit. It’s a new product that is not out yet.

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These are brilliant. Dried, smoked, and sometimes fermented fish in a jar. Simply add soy sauce which will increase in umami and use as you would use soy sauce. We have a similar product at home and love the smokey soy sauce.

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Here you can see into the bottles to see the smoked and dried fish. Some kombu as well which also adds another dimension of umami to the soy sauce.

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Nigori su, or unfiltered vinegar, is very interesting. It is made with saké lees from one of my favorite sake breweries, Dassai. True to its name it is creamy and has a much thicker texture than vinegar. It could be used for making pickles, salad dressings, or for making rice for sushi.

Marutake Tamagoyaki at Tsukiji Market

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Tamagoyaki, Japanese omelets, can be found throughout Tsukiji’s Jōgai, Outer Market. Within about a 50 feet meter there are three tamagoyaki shops. Recently some good friends of ours gave us a tamagoyaki from Marutake. Marutake has been in business for over 80 years. It is a very popular shop. The bespectacled son of the owner, Terry Itō, is a famous television personality and his photo is proudly displayed at the shop.

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The tamagoyaki is on the sweet side, hence the name tamagoyaki. In Kyoto where the savory version is more popular, it is called dashimaki-tamago. At home we make the dashimaki version about once a week, so the sweet style from Marutake was a nice treat. And, has it is sweet, it calls out for something to balance the flavor. We grated some daikon which had a tinge of bitterness to it and topped it with some soy sauce. The perfect side dish for any Japanese meal, breakfast, lunch, or dinner. All the better with a glass of saké.

Tsukiji Maturake

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-10-10

03-3542-1919

Monday – Friday 4:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (yes, starting at 4:00 a.m.!)

Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

closed Sunday and holidays.

Art on the Table by Asato Ikeda

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It was the first time in my life that I held a cup in my hand and immediately fell in love with it. The light sky blue color, the rough and smooth texture that my fingers fell into, and the taste of the saké while holding something so beautiful. I couldn’t put it down.

I first held Asato Ikeda’s ceramic cup at Den in Jimbocho, chef Zaiyu Hasegawa’s brilliant restaurant. I thought someday I would invest in some of Ikeda-san’s pieces for myself. Even took a picture of the cup (photo above) so that I could remember it. And then, a few months later, Ikeda-san and his works were on television. Once more my heartstrings were pulled and my motivation to bring his craftsmanship into our home became a priority.

I did some searching online in Japanese and quickly lost hope. What few sites that did come up with his pieces were all sold out. I then reached out to Kenshin Sato of Kenshin Utsuwa. Bob Tobin and Hitoshi Ohashi of the Tobin Ohashi Gallery first introduced me to Sato-san last spring. I went to one of his special events at Ginza Mitsukoshi and we exchanged business cards.

This summer, while at Den, chef Hasegawa told me that Kenshin Utsuwa sells many pieces that are used at his restaurant, including Ikeda-san’s. I follow Kenshin Utsuwa on Facebook and reached out to him in Japanese in December. I sent him the photo of the cup from Den and asked him if he could find me some pieces. Just last week I got the e-mail telling me that I could stop by his shop this week. It’s a beautiful shop that is worth visiting if you are in Shibuya or Omotesando as it is just between the two. Just call ahead as he closes the shop if does special events around the city.

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Welcome home! My birthday present from me to me.

Two small guinomi and a tokkuri with a lip for pouring sake or shochu.

Ikeda1We christened the cups with Shichihonyari which we bought at our new favorite sake shop in town, Oboro Saketen in Shinbashi.

The owner of Oboro Saketen, Okuma-san, studied at university for two years in Minnesota and speaks English.

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We love these nori cups for bite-size sushi that we picked up at Tsukiji Market. A small celebration to welcome these pieces to our home. I am already looking forward to using these tomorrow. I have enjoyed the journey. Holding something and wanting it, thinking of someday owning a piece of Ikeda-san’s artwork, and the help of friends to help make my little dream come true.

Kenshin Utsuwa

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 2-3-4

Gyūkatsu Okada in Shinbashi 牛かつおか田

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Gyū Katsu Okada is a restaurant that has been on my Go List for about a decade. It opened in 1998 and the signature dish is Australian wagyū that is breaded and deep-fried. It is a classic restaurant that has been mentioned in many food magazines over the years. The meat is cooked in 210 degrees C oil for only 30 seconds, hence the rare wagyū. It is served with two sauces, soy sauce that you can have with wasabi or an original sesame-based dressing. The lunch set comes with miso soup, rice, and a salad based on thinly julienned cabbage, as you would find at a tonkatsu restaurant. The sesame dressing is also very nice for the salad. The lunch set is 1,200 JPY.

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The restaurant is in the basement of the New Shinbashi Building. While the building is called new, it is anything but. There was an excessive amount of duct tape inside on the corners of the walls. The space is dark, but I guess that is to be expected for a basement restaurant? Even the restaurant is quite tired inside, but that exactly what makes a place like this special. There are only six seats at the counter and two tables seating four. The restaurant is smoke-free, which is not always the case in the Shinbashi area.

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The chef, Kenichi Okada, trained in French cuisine. He has created such a following for this dish that he is only open for a few hours for lunch only on weekdays. It is very popular and there is usually a line. I happened to come just before they closed at 2:00 p.m. and even then the restaurant was filled with salarymen in suits. I overheard one of them say to Mrs. Okada that the four of them have been trying to come to the restaurant over the years and finally got in today. She apologized for the inconvenience. How Japanese. The restaurant is scheduled to stay open until 2:00 p.m., but if they do sell out they will close early. This is the sign on the door if you have missed out.

Gyu Katsu Okada 牛かつ おか田

Minato-ku, Shinbashi 2-16-1, New Shinbashi Building B1

03-3502-0883

Monday-Friday 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

closed weekends and holidays

camp Curry at Otemachi

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camp (small letter c) has been on my Go List for a long time. The signature curry at camp serves up a day’s recommended portion of vegetables. Most of us could probably do better at eating vegetables, so to get my daily requirement in one delicious meal makes me happy.

The curry is quite smoky. Looking into the open kitchen, it seems that each curry is made to order. There was a lot of big flames at the stove, which explains the smokiness in the dish. The mild curry includes onions, kabocha squash, cabbage and potatoes. We upgraded the dish which included some chicken wings to make it a complete dish with protein. The chicken was tough and without a lot of meat so the next time I would do vegetables only.

The other curry, which was very comforting, was bacon, corn, and onions that are garnished with cheese and a soft-boiled egg. Did I mention the bacon? This as well was mild, but rich with smoky bacon.

There are extra-large paper bibs at each setting. I consider myself a neat eater, but was surprised to see the small splatters on the white bib. I may start carrying some around for me for whenever I dine out. 🙂

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Tableware is what you would take with you camping. Ice water is in a thermos on the table with silverware in a bucket. Simple interior, think wooden tables and chairs that probably came from IKEA, and the staff are in t-shirts. This shop is in a very busy business district. We came just before the lunch rush and were seated right away, but just as the noon hour came up a long line queued in front of the restaurant. There are a few branches around Tokyo including Yoyogi and camp express in Ikebukuro and Shinagawa.

Otemachi Camp

Camp Curry

Went back to camp Curry at the end of summer and had another great meal. The curry on the left is one day’s vegetables in a coconut green curry and on the right is a summer tomato and eggplant curry with ground meat and cheese. It’s a great spot, just very crowded at the noon rush, so go early.

camp Otemachi

Chiyoda-ku, Otemachi 1-5-5, Ootemori Bldg. B2

11:00 – 22:00

Le Pain Quotidien at nonowa Higashi-Koganei

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I lived in Brussels for a year and one of the things I remember the most is the Le Pain Quotidien down the street from my apartment. The bakery opened up early in the morning so I could stop by and get a croissant or pain au chocolat to start the day. The large communal table in the middle of the cafe is perfect when dining solo. On the table were jars of jam and nutty and chocolate spreads for bread. Open-faced tartine sandwiches as well as salads round out the menu here. The menu sadly does not have any Japanese influences. It is pretty much the same menu you’ll see in Belgium or in New York City. A fun shop to come in solo or with some friends.

Le Pain Quotidien is in a new shopping complex that opened up recently, nonowa Higashi-Koganei, which is on the Chuo line between Mitaka and Kokubunji. nonowa can also be found in Nishi-Kokubunji and in Musashi-Sakai, also on the Chuo line. The shops are in the train stations and this Higashi-Koganei shop is all underneath the Chuo line. A smart move to use the space underneath the train tracks. While it’s possible to hear the trains passing above, it is not nearly as noisy as spots like the restaurants underneath the Yamanote line near Yurakucho station.

The organic coffee is served in a bowl. Reminds me of bowls of hot chocolate in Europe. The coffee comes in a pot and is about two cups plus. Next time I come back I will bring some reading with me and settle in and be transported back to Belgium.

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The shop is brightly lit as one wall of windows faces south. On this day there were a few older couples and many young women in the shop. There is a small, but well-stocked bakery in the front of the shop for take-away or for eating in the cafe.

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There is also outdoor seating which will be perfect once the weather warms up. And, operation hours are 7:30 – 22:00.

Le Pain Quotidien has branches in the city. It’s not worth the trek out to Higashi-Koganei. But, if you find yourself traveling on the Chuo line, it’s good to know that it’s here.

Sandwich and Salad Lunch

Sandwich and Salad Lunch

A vegetable-friendly menu with salads and sandwiches.

Le Pain Quotidien Kid's Lunch

Le Pain Quotidien Kid’s Lunch

The Kid’s Lunch is hearty with an open-faced sandwich, fresh fruit, roasted potatoes, juice, and a chocolate muffin. Best of all, the waitress set a bucket of crayons on the communal table along with some origami paper. The crayons bought me enough free time to leisurely peruse their cookbook.

Le Pain Quotidien

Koganei-shi, Kajinocho 5-1-1, nonowa Higashi-Koganei

小金井市梶野町5-1-1, nonowa東小金井

Chuo line, local stop at Higashi-Koganei station 東小金井駅

042-316-7041

7:30 – 22:00

updated 27 July 2015