Baked Kit Kats

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Japanese food companies are brilliant at marketing their products. Kit Kat has teamed up with a famous pastry chef, Yasumasa Takagi, of Le Patissier Takagi. The latest product to hit the supermarket shelves is Kit Kat that is meant to be baked in the toaster oven. The television commercial shows chef Takagi baking the Kit Kats until golden brown. Currently there are two flavors, chocolate and pudding.

So, it was fun to put the Kit Kat in the toaster oven and watch it toast. The results were not mind-blowing. You do have to let it cool down once it comes out of the oven as it is too hot to eat. The wafers still remain crispy and I guess the only addition is a slightly toasty flavor from the baking. It’s more about being unique and about putting Kit Kat in a new context.

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This is what the packaging looks like. I am curious to see if this trend continues and if the company introduces new flavors in the future. These are sold at local supermarkets.

FYI, the video says to put the Kit Kats in the refrigerator before baking in the toaster oven for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes.

If you are looking for the regional flavored Kit Kats, check out my Foodies Gifts article in Metropolis for details on where to find a big selection in Tokyo.

Omotesando Koffee – closed as of Dec. 30, 2015

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Note, Omotesando Koffee has closed. See note here:

http://ooo-koffee.com/omotesando.html

Omotesando Koffee, while known for its good coffee, it is perhaps more famous for its “ko-hi- kashi” or coffee sweet. Kunitomo-san at the shop said it is a baked purin, which is like a creme custard, but that flour is added to the mixture. It has a crispy crust and is soft and eggy inside. Dangerous if you come hungry as one could easily go through several of these.

The quality of the coffee is excellent here. My girlfriend’s latte had a nice proportion of milk to espresso. I indulged and got a Bailey’s espresso. The aroma of the Baileys reminded the both of us of our days at Midwestern liberal arts colleges. Amazing how just smelling the Baileys brought back memories from 25 years ago. Next time I will get the Baileys with some milk.

The shop card are coffee filters that are also used for serving the ko-hi- kashi. Brilliant. I teased him asking if I could recycle these at home as coffee filters and he said we could.

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Here is the exterior of the shop. It is on the first floor of a residential home, which could explain why the shop does not open until 10 a.m. We got there a bit early and it was fun to watch the rituals of preparing the small garden in front of the shop before opening the gate.

The handsome Kunitomo-san in a light blue lab coat is very friendly. We spoke only in Japanese but on our way out some Americans came in and we could hear him speaking English. It was raining this morning so we stood inside and had our coffee tachi-nomi style. If the weather is good there are two small benches in the narrow garden in front of the shop. But, this is not a place you want to linger for long at.

Omotesando Koffee

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 4-15-3

03-5413-9422

10:00 – 19:00 daily

* Omotesando Koffee is right behind Maisen tonkatsu. The perfect spot for a coffee after tonkatsu.

Tokyo’s Best Banh Mi

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Thanks to a tip from JapanEats I finally found what I believe to be the best banh mi in Tokyo at Banh Mi Sandwich. The bun has a nice crust but is chewy inside. The pate and ham banh mi (550 JPY) remind me of what I had in Chinatown in NYC and there is a generous serving of pickled carrots and daikon. I splurged an extra 50 JPY for extra cilantro. The shop is only a minute from Takadanobaba station and is a tiny shop. Only one person can fit inside at a time to use the vending machine to place your order. There are two narrow seats in front of the shop, but it was busy with diners waiting for their orders to be filled. Consider this a take-away shop. I am already trying to figure out in my calendar when I can go back.

For a city with some of the world’s greatest food, there are some things that just are not easily available, like banh mi. I am still on the hunt for Korean fried chicken, like Bon Chon in NYC. If anyone can help me, please let me know.

Banh Mi Sandwich (seriously, that is the name of the restaurant)

Shinjuku-ku, Takadanobaba 4-9-18

Japanese Fried Chicken at iro-kara

Irokara1

 

I have been craving Korean-style fried chicken ever since listening to Rick Bayless talk about it on The Feed Podcast. When I lived in New York City and Singapore I could get my fix. For some reason, Tokyo, which has amazing kara-agé (deep-fried, seasoned, boneless cuts of chicken) hasn’t caught on to it. And, there is a big difference. I believe the Korean chicken is fried twice. It has a sweet and spicy sauce that will have you licking your fingers after you have gnawed off all the meat that you can get off of the bone.

I went to Shin-Okubo, the Korean part of Tokyo and tried two restaurants, both disappointing. A dear friend suggested iro-kara near Omotesando. The kara-agé here was delicious but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I will be back as it was a nice, quick lunch. The chicken is fried after the order is placed and there is al fresco seating on the rooftop. The donburi is a generous serving of rice topped with the fried chicken, katsuobushi, leeks, and pickled ginger. A mash-up of kara-agé and takoyaki toppings.

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There are several flavors, such as basil, curry, yuzu kosho, and ume shiso. We tried a few but nothing outstanding. Best to stick with the basic kara-agé.

Brimmer Beer is next doors, but not open at lunch time. There is also a curry stand next door. Could be fun to order a curry and top it with the fried chicken.

iro-kara

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 3-8-34

www.iro-kara.net

 

 

3rd Burger

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3rd Burger recently opened in the Ark Hills South Tower. I thought it was a new restaurant to Tokyo until I came across a second shop in the Aoyama/Omotesando area. The clientele in Aoyama is young and hip. Diners are given a buzzer after placing their order. Not exactly fast food, but the food does comes about five minutes during the busy lunch hour. The meaty burger is juicy and the fries are excellent. Burger options include avocado wasabi and basil and tomato. Burgers are served with fresh lettuce and tomatoes.  The only downside was that ketchup is given in small packets. Burgers start at about 400 JPY and fries at 300 JPY. 3rd Burger has a variety of smoothies in flavors like carrot, banana, and fresh tomatoes. The Aoyama shop is brightly lit and there is a communal table at the front of the shop. Now, if they would only open a shop on the Chuo Line.

3rd Burger

Minato-ku, Roppongi 1-4-5, Ark Hills South Tower B1

OR

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 5-11-2

Tokyo Station Breakfast – Beef Stew

Tokyo Station Breakfast

Nihon Shokudo, literally the Japanese Dining Hall, serves a beef stew made with a rich demi-glace for breakfast. The middle of the stew is a seasoned rice and the bread is a buttery croissant-like dough. A sumo wrestler would be happy to start his day with this meal.

Located inside of Tokyo Station, the restaurant interior is like a dining car on the old trains, perfect for this major transportation hub. Tables are lined with linen and service is serious. Most of the customers are on the older side. Travelers walk by the window quickly, almost giving a feel that the restaurant is a moving train. This restaurant is very popular at lunch and dinner times, so breakfast is a good time to give it a try. Nihon Shokudo opens at 7 a.m.

Nihon Shokudo

Tokyo Station GranSta Dining (1st floor)

03-3214-5120

 

 

Beacon Brunch – closed

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** Updated Dec 2016 – sadly Beacon has closed. A new shop, Crista, has opened in the same space, also by the same owner and chef.

Brunch at Beacon is a taste of America in Tokyo. David Chiddo works his magic at this urban chophouse located between Shibuya and Omotesando. I picked Beacon for Sunday brunch thinking I would go for a burger and martini. But, once I took a look at the menu the huevos rancheros jumped out of the menu and I am so glad I got it. I loved the green rice and beans. I was sad when the plate was empty. And, I could see that many others in the restaurant were enjoying the burger.

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Portions are generous, another nod to American brunches. The brunch menu includes a selection from the bread basket, fruit, and coffee, tea, or espresso drinks. My girlfriend who studied at university in Minnesota also felt right at home with this hearty plate of eggs Florentine. Many of our fellow diners were talking in English, something that I am not used to, so I totally felt like I was back in the USA. Staff are attentive and there is a great buzz in the restaurant. Diners are here to relax and be taken care of.

There is a counter if you are dining solo. Beacon’s a great spot for meeting friends at. It’s popular so reservations are highly recommended. If you are from America, you will feel right back at home. Other brunch menu highlights include Belgian waffles and fried chicken, steak and eggs, and almond French toast made with brioche.

One of Tokyo’s best brunches.

Beacon

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 1-2-5

03-6418-0077

Best Steak in Tokyo – Dons de la Nature

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The assignment came from my boss in London, to seek out and eat the best steak in Tokyo. Tough assignment from Chowzter, but Shinji and I were up to the challenge. We were surprised when we called Dons de la Nature and got in within a few days. Seems that this restaurant is not yet on everyone’s radar.

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The restaurant is located in an unassuming basement on the main Chuo Dori street in the Ginza shopping district. Walking into the corridor leading to the elevator we feel as though we are in the wrong spot, until we spot the window filled with wine bottles and the name of the restaurant. We arrive and the okami-san (female manager overlooking the front of the house) is very friendly and down to earth. She takes our jackets and brings us to our table.

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Saga sirloin on top and Yonezawa filet on the bottom.

This evening there are only two options of steak, a filet from Yonezawa in Yamagata and a sirloin from Saga. The sirloin is highly marbled and has more fat than meat. The filet, while meaty, still has a nice amount of shimofuri, the white fat that is flecked throughout the meat. The steak is cut into 400-gram portions and cooked in one piece before it is cut and shared, so couples must agree on the same cut. The sirloin looked too fatty so we agreed on the filet.

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While the interior is tired and service is casual, the cuisine on the plate is taken very seriously. Chef Otsuka trained as a French chef and it is reflected in his carefully assembled salad topped with fresh crab legs, Japanese tiger prawn, and salmon. The consommé is classically made and I quickly forget about the environs and focus on the food.

The steaks start at about 30,000 JPY each ($300 USD) which is shared between two people. That is before soup and salad. There is also a course menu which starts at 21,000 JPY per person. We took wine by the glass but there is also a long list to choose from of mostly French wines.

The raising of kuroge wagyū (black-haired Japanese cattle) in Japan is very different from what you’ll find outside of Japan. The cows are grass-fed the first eight months of their lives. Each farmer selects the feed he believes to be best for the wagyū, such as soybeans or corn or straw. The last four months of their lives the cows are not fed straw anymore. We asked chef Otsuka if it is true that wagyū are fed beer and he said some places do, but that it is actually quite rare. But, he did confirm that wagyū are massaged daily. This is what helps to give the beef the shimofuri marbling that it is so famous for.

Chef Otsuka came to our table and talked about how he selects his wagyū. He only picks the best that he finds at the wholesale market so his inventory is constantly changing. He has no preferences or loyalties to any region, but will pick what is the best that day at the market.

The wagyū is first dry-aged for one month, increasing the natural umami in the meat. The second month it is wet-aged. At this point the fat in the meat turns into amino acids, adding even more umami to the meat. The aging is all done in-house.

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Chef Otsuka could see that we were so curious about our dinner as we peppered him with questions and he generously invited us into his kitchen. The meat is skewered and then cooked in a kiln that was custom built for the sole purpose of grilling the meat with intense heat. The charcoal used at Dons de la Nature is made from Kinshu binchotan. Binchotan is a charcoal made from a Japanese oak tree. And, while many places may say that they use binchotan for grilling, the best quality binchotan is said to come from Kinshu, and the stock is very limited. Some binchotan is not even Japanese. We were told the binchotan can bring the oven to a temperature of upwards of 800 to 1000 degrees Centigrade.

Chef Otsuka seasons the wagyū with salt and pepper, skewers the steak, and then puts it into the kiln over the binchotan. He then closes the kiln and listens for the sound of the fat in the wagyū melting and falling onto the hot binchotan. The charcoal then starts to smoke, adding another layer of flavor to the steak. An Argentinian chef friend of mine recently told me about the seven ways to cook meat in Argentina and one of the methods was in a similar kiln. I wonder if this is where chef Otsuka came up with the idea.

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The recommended serving for the steak is medium rare. The outside is just seared in the middle is still red. The steak is presented whole and then is cut at the table into two pieces for each person.

The steak is incredibly rich in umami. The contrast in texture from the crispy seared outside to the tender, rare inside is a treat. As the steak is marbled with fat it almost melts in your mouth. After my first bite “oh my God” came out of my mouth. I didn’t realize it until I heard the okami-san laughing. It was, hands down, the best steak I have ever had in my life.

In speaking with chef Otsuka after our meal he said what makes his steaks so unique is the searing in the custom-made kiln. Otsuka explained that most restaurants cook steak in a pan over a gas heater and that the sauté pan can only get up to about 250 degrees Centigrade. He also said that as wagyū is so fatty that when it is cooked in a pan that it is cooking in its own fat. And, that the searing directly over charcoals is the method that he thinks is ideal for Japanese beef.

This is what makes his steak the best in Tokyo, if not the best in the world.

 

Dons de la Nature

Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-7-6

03-3563-4129

Monday – Saturday 5:00 – 10:00 p.m.

Closed Sunday and holidays

http://dons-nature.jp/e/steak.html