Food Sake Tokyo Update

Food Sake Tokyo

Yukari & Shinji Sakamoto – photo by Gary Stollar

It is the middle of the rainy season. We have been enjoying katsuo (skipjack tuna or bonito) as sashimi, much fatter than usual this time of year as the fish are swimming up north. In the fall when they return south is when they will be really rich in fat. As ume (Japanese apricots, Prunus mume) are in the market we are busy making pickled umeboshi, ume jam, and sweet umeshu for an aperitif later this year.

Izakaya Sakamoto

Katsuo Sashimi

We have had some changes at our company Food Sake Tokyo, named after the book published by The Little Bookroom. The focus of our business is our market visits to Tsukiji Market, depachika, Nihonbashi, Kappabashi, and supermarkets. We really enjoying meeting new people and helping them to explore and better understand Japanese cuisine. We are thankful for their recommendations as we are starting to see friends of former clients as well as clients returning.

We would like to open a cooking school next year. To prepare for that Shinji is taking the next year off from giving tours and is studying Japanese cuisine at Tsuji Culinary School. We are not offering the evening izakaya tours for the time being.

There will be some changes to this blog as we start to include more recipes and tips for cooking at home along with our usual posts on where to eat and shop in Tokyo. Shinji’s studies will finish next March. Once we have found a kitchen to offer classes, we will update it here on our blog.

Thanks for following Food Sake Tokyo and we look forward to someday welcoming you to our kitchen. The plan is to continue offering market visits and to supplement that with cooking classes.

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Takashimaya Patissieria Sweets Counter

Shinjuku Takashimaya

Takashimaya Patissieria

If you have a sweet tooth be sure to visit Shinjuku Takashimaya’s Patissieria in the depachika. The concept is brilliant, over a hundred signature sweets from patisseries throughout Tokyo all displayed together. Carefully peruse the sweets and upon selecting one, or two if you like, take a seat at the counter and order a coffee and enjoy.

Shinjuku Takashimaya

Takashimaya Patissieria

Even on days when I don’t have time to sit down, I do try and glance through the display case as the offerings are constantly changing. As can be expected, aside from the classics, many are influenced by the seasonal ingredients.

Takashimaya Patissieria Mont Blanc

Takashimaya Patissieria

My view from the counter with a Mont Blanc. Shinjuku Takashimaya is located just outside of Shinjuku JR Station. Take the Shin-Minami-Guchi, New South Exit, take a left and you will walk into Takashimaya in one minute. Follow the escalators down to the basement.

Takashimaya Patissieria

Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-24-2, Shinjuku Takashimaya

Village Vanguard Burgers in Kichijoji

Village Vanguard in Kichijoji

Village Vanguard Double Cheeseburger

Walking into Village Voice in Kichijoji I felt like I was up North in Minnesota. The beer signs lining the wood-paneled walls, the beer on tap, and the smell of burgers and fries. It’s a popular spot and we came right after they opened for lunch. Within about fifteen minutes it was packed and then a line started out the front door.

Small bites like chips and avocado or onion rings come out very quickly. The burger follows right after. The burgers are more like one will find at a diner, thin and cooked through. Toppings are generous and it’s a satisfying meal. The cheese are gooey slices, Velveeta perhaps? And even the bun has sesame seeds on it. Small things, but something one would appreciate if they spent anytime eating burgers in the USA.  The only downside would be making a special trip here to find a long line. So time your visit wisely, either come early or late, but not at prime meal times.

Village Vanguard in Kichijoji

Village Vanguard Interior

The red bar stools facing the kitchen are a nod to Americana. The other diners this day were all Japanese, many of them girls digging into big burgers with glee. There are many burger shops in Tokyo that are trying to feel like America, this is one spot that has nailed the interior, music, and cuisine.

 

Village Vanguard

Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Honcho 2-10-1 TY Bldg. 2F

武蔵野市吉祥寺本町2-20-1 TYビル2F

 

Chef Federico Heinzmann at the Park Hyatt Tokyo’s New York Grill & Bar

Federico Heinzmann

Octopus Tiradito – photo by Park Hyatt Tokyo

The Park Hyatt Tokyo is celebrating its 20th anniversary this summer. Earlier this year the New York Grill and Bar welcomed a new chef, Argentinian Federico Heinzmann. His last name is a nod to his Swiss and German heritage. My interview with chef Federico is in Metropolis magazine. Chef Federico’s style and philosophy is already taking shape in the menu with simple and focused flavors.

The New York Grill and Bar is one restaurant and bar that I recommend everyone visit while in Tokyo. The bar is featured in Sofia Coppola’s movie Lost in Translation. The views are stunning, service is exquisite, cocktails are memorable, and the cuisine amazing.

Chef Federico is very passionate about history and cuisine and our interview was filled with facts and tidbits. Including that tiradito is seafood cut into thin slices and that ceviche is made from diced seafood. The octopus tiradito was a brilliant start to the dinner, like a party in your mouth. The aroma of the passion fruit was refreshing, fresh, and bright. The chili and onions add crunch and a bite to the dish. All coming together with the meaty octopus. I will try to start home parties with a tiradito, especially if I can find an aromatic fruit like passionfruit.

Prior to coming to Tokyo chef Federico was in Korea where he learned a lot about seafood. While as an Argentinian, meat is in his genes, I am sure he will be exploring much more seafood in Japan.

Federico Heinzmann

Foie Gras with Cacao Dirt – photo by Park Hyatt Tokyo

The foie gras dish incorporates a Japanese orange-like citrus called dekopon. Chef Federico garnishes it with a crunchy cacao dirt that is a nice contrast to the foie gras mousse.

Federico Heinzmann

Cod and Scallops – photo by Park Hyatt Tokyo

A black olive powder is used in lieu of salt as it offers a “deeper flavor” and is a nice contrast to the smokey and creamy cauliflower puree.

Federico Heinzmann

Wagyū Steak – photo by Yukari

As an Argentinian, chef Federico is a master at cooking meat. He is enjoying exploring Japanese wagyū. Carrots are cooked in carrot juice, an intense puree that partners well with the wagyū steak. The sauce is made with a black garlic, beef stock, and olive oil. It reminds me of during the interview when he said, “if I can surprise you with a leek, cauliflower, or carrot” as that take more of an effort.

It was interesting to hear his thoughts on Japanese wagyū as it is so different from the lean meat of Argentina. He commented that “fat is taste and you need to manage the taste” and that in Argentina meat is often slow-cooked over a fire to get caramelization on the outside and to leave the inside pink.

Here you can see the tall ceilings of the New York Grill. The city lights sparkle from below as the restaurant is on the 52nd floor of the hotel. There are no tall building nearby so the views are magnificent.

The wine list at the New York Grill is mostly from California. These wines do great with chef Federico’s cuisine. The New York Grill and Bar offers some of the most spectacular views of Tokyo with cuisine and wine to match.

Some good advice from chef, “Construct your food from what you have, not what you want”.

 

 

New York Grill and Bar at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 3-7-1-2

03-5323-3458

Why You Should be Eating Italian in Tokyo

Tacubo

Hokkaido Winter Potato Vichyssoise with Virgin Oyster

A good chef friend was visiting from NYC. He’s lived in Tokyo for years and knows that Italian done by Japanese chefs is one of Tokyo’s greatest culinary treats. I was thrilled to hear we were going for Italian and that a food editor was picking our lunch spot. A tiny Hiroshima virgin oyster in the chilled soup was rich in umami. The skin of the potato was grated and used in the Parmigiano-Reggiano crisp, a brilliant Japanese concept of using every part of the product.

Tacubo

Karatsu Sazae with Aonori Butter

Sazae, turban-wreath shell, is a tiny conch-shaped shellfish. Here it is sautéed in an aonori (laver) butter sauce and seasoned with some garlic chips. Some warm bread came just in time to soak up the butter sauce.

Tacubo

Fresh Shirasu and Karasumi Pasta

Chef Tacubo excels in pasta and meat dishes. The pasta in this dish was well-seasoned as he seasons it with asari (littleneck clams) jus before plating. It is topped with fresh shirasu (tiny sardines) and karasumi (bottarga roe) and dill. A great fusion dish of East meets West.

Tacubo

Orecchiette and Sausage

Another brilliant dish.

Tacubo

Aomori Pork and Wild Asparagus

The pork from Aomori was well-balanced with the wild asparagus and edamame. The African salt pearls, I believe from Djibouti, are like large grains of sand. Sadly I had to head home early so I missed the dessert which was lemon-based.

Aria di Tacubo is a short walk from Ebisu station. It is a tiny, well-lit spot at lunch. Only a few tables, about 16 seats, so reservations are required. We sat down to an empty restaurant at 12:30 p.m. and by 1 p.m. it was full. Chef Tacubo has a strong following so be sure to plan ahead. Lunch starts at 2,900 JPY for 3 courses with one pasta, but you’ll want to be sure to have at least two pasta, so starting at 4,900 JPY. Dinner starts at 8,500 JPY. The wine list is not exclusive to Italy and we enjoyed a few wines with our meal. The sommelier was very helpful in helping us pair wines with the menu.

Come here to see the sophisticated work of a Japanese chef who knows Japanese ingredients well and can assemble them into Italian cuisine. My NYC chef friend is right when he says that tourists to Japan are missing out on a big part of the food scene here by limiting themselves to Japanese cuisine. It is a great idea to have one Italian meal while in Tokyo, and Aria di Tacubo should be near the top of that list.

Perhaps the greatest pleasure is experiencing the seasonal ingredients, this time of year includes the nama-shirasu and sazae. Bravissimo, chef Tacubo!

** Note, the restaurant has moved to a new location in 2016. The new address is reflected below.

Aria di Tacubo

Shibuya-ku, Ebisu Nishi 2-13-16, Rangusu Daikanyama 1F

渋谷区恵比寿西2-13-16 ラングス代官山 1F

(Shibuya-ku, Ebisu-Nishi 1-12-11, Bios Bldg. 4F – old address)

Aria di Tacubo Facebook

Arms Burger in Shinjuku

Arms Burger

Avocado Burger at Arms Burger

While I was born in Tokyo I grew up in Minnesota. Even though my husband is a fishmonger and I love sashimi, I am a meat and potatoes girl. There is just something about a juicy hamburger and a side of fries or onion rings. Finding a good burger in Tokyo is getting better, but it’s not as great as one would expect. Thanks to food photos on Facebook I have been tracking down burgers around Tokyo that friends of mine approve of. Arms Burger is one restaurant that a friend recommends. He was at the main shop in Yoyogi. I visited the Arms Picnic shop in the B2 floor of Shinjuku’s Lumine Building #1. The location is convenient if you are traveling through Shinjuku station as it is a few minutes from the South exit.

The shop, in the basement (B2) of Lumine, a department store at Shinjuku station. On this lunch day the small shop, with only 16 seats, was filled with nine girls, all dining solo, and a skinny salaryman. There are bags under the tables so that diners can store their shopping without putting it directly on the floor. A nice touch that should be exported overseas.

The lunch menu has an avocado burger that comes with fries and a drink for 1,000 JPY. The burger was a bit on the skimpy side, but was good and 100% beef. That’s worth mentioning as many burgers in Japan are beef mixed with bread crumbs, egg, and other stuff that just doesn’t belong there. The serving of vegetables with the burger, it was so generous that I had to check and see if there was a hamburger hidden underneath it. It’s a messy burger to eat, which does remind me of America. The fries are great and the staff were accommodating to include some mayonnaise, a habit I picked up when I lived in Brussels.

A nice burger that is conveniently located near Shinjuku Station. I will be back.

Arms Burger

Shinjuku Lumine B2 at the Shinjuku Minami Guchi (South Exit)

Other burger shops I like in Tokyo include:

Martiniburger in Kagurazaka

Tsukiji Curry – Higashi Indo Curry Shōkai

Tsukiji curry

Higashi Indo Curry Shōkai at Tsukiji Market

I love curry. So does Ichiro Suzuki of the New York Yankees. I remember watching a television program on Ichiro that reported that when he has home games that his wife makes him curry for breakfast. I found that so fascinating. Curry for breakfast. While I have lived in Singapore and often had curry for breakfast there it roti prata. But in Japan curry is eaten with rice and the concept was so foreign to me. Until I started having curry for breakfast. It’s not something we have at home for breakfast, but it is something I eat when I am taking my breakfast in the city, often at Tsukiji Market. I usually have curry at Indo Curry Nakaei, a shop that is popular with the fishmongers at Tsukiji. Curry for breakfast is a bold start to the day and there are some great options at Tsukiji Market.

Another curry shop caught my attention when it was featured on television as a popular night spot at Tsukiji Market. While most of us think of Tsukiji Market as a morning spot there are a handful of restaurants that are open at night. As the inner market of Tsukiji is moving in a few years to Toyosu the outer market vendors are concerned about the future of their business. Some of the shops have started promoting their restaurants as destinations at night, including the Italian hot spot Tsukiji Paradiso, mentioned in an article I wrote for The Japan Times.

Higashi Indo Curry Shōkai is one of the shops that is open from breakfast to dinner. The original shop is in Fudōmae near Gotanda. The curry (950 JPY) is rich and comes with big chunks of vegetables – carrot, potato, onion, and tender pork. The owner asked me if I liked potato salad and he gave me a bit with my curry. As it was breakfast and curry shops often serve a generous amount of rice I asked for a smaller serving of rice. Even the small serving was a lot to finish. At Shōkai you can have extra curry sauce if you would like, which I gladly accepted.

The owner, Akira-san, is very friendly. He used to be a mountaineering guide in Europe. We had a quick chat and I asked him how he went from mountaineering to a curry shop. He said that when he came back to Japan he was working in the wholesale produce section of Tsukiji Market, which led him to opening his first restaurant in Fudomae. Just as I was finishing a local worker came in for curry, ordering a beer to enjoy while waiting for the curry. There are also grilled curry onigiri rice balls for sale in front of the shop. Early in the morning that was the popular menu item.

While most people coming to Tsukiji Market are coming to eat sushi, if you are craving something more, consider curry.

Higashi Indo Curry Shōkai 東印度カレー商会

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-13-17, Akiyama Bldg. 1F 中央区築地4-13-17秋山ビル1F

03-3542-3322

An Easy Shellfish to Cook at Home – Asari

live a sari

Asari (Ruditapes philippinarum) Japanese littleneck clams

Asari, Japanese littleneck clams, are in the market now and may be some of the easiest shellfish to cook with at home. We picked these up at Tsukiji Market and put them in water to get rid of any sand and grit. It’s best to do this overnight if you can. We wash the clams in water and then put them in a bowl of water and cover with aluminum foil. When we put the clams in the bowl they were all closed shut. Check out how much they opened up overnight. Be sure to make time to rid the clams of sand or don’t bother making them. It can be very frustrating to bite into a sandy clam.

Asari pasta

Asari vongole

Perhaps the easiest recipe is to simply steam the clams in saké with a bit of salt. That of course is best served with some of the saké that it is steamed in. Our next favorite is to sauté some garlic in olive oil, add white wine and the clams and let them open up and then add some pasta for a quick vongole. Our three-year old loves this and requests it often.

Asari miso soup

Asari, daikon, and daikon greens miso soup

Finally, boiling the clams in water and adding miso makes for a quick and easy miso soup. This bowl here we had cooked some daikon in the water before adding the asari and then garnished with finely minced daikon greens.

Look for asari at the supermarket in the seafood section. It is usually sold packed on styrofoam trays and wrapped in plastic wrap. I usually pay only about 250 to 400 JPY for a pack that feeds three of us. Asari should be eaten as soon as possible. They will not keep long so only buy when you are ready to eat, usually later that day or for the next day.

Best of Japan Tour at Nihonbashi Coredo Muromachi

best of japan map

Food Sake Tokyo is delighted to have guest blogger Janice Espa. Janice is passionate about food and Japan. She is a great photographer and all of the photos here are from Janice. Here is Janice on the Best of Japan Tour now being offered at Coredo Muromachi in Nihonbashi. Arigato Janice!

Coredo Muromachi, in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi area, has launched a special tour; one to taste Japan and learn about regional specialties all within the comfort of the Coredo Muromachi’s recently opened buildings. Escorted by two knowledgeable English-speaking guides, you work your way around the different shops in Coredo Muromachi, see what each shop specializes in, and sample many of the products on sale.

For someone with limited time, or for those unfamiliar with peculiar Japanese creations, this ninety minute introduction to the range of Japanese specialties is top-notch. For the ¥1,000 price tag, it’s a no-brainer. After signing up at Nihonbashi Information Center, which is conveniently located outside Mitsukoshimae Station exit, the tour begins with a description of what you’ll see and the stores you’ll visit that afternoon.

The first stop is Okui Kaiseido 奥井海生堂. The shop sells kombu products from Fukui. There’s a startling shredded kombu, that looks like thick shaves of cotton candy, as well as kombu water that tastes, for lack of more accurate comparison, like a savory version of green tea, or like tea stewed with sea water. It’s odd at first, but refreshing, and something you don’t easily come across or get to sample. (Yukari piping in here – this is one of my favorite kombu vendors in Japan. If you want to buy kombu to take home with you, it is worth making a special trip.)

wagashi

Chefs and wagashi at Tsuruya Yoshinobu

I was captivated by the delicate work at the Kyoto Wagashi store Tsuruya Yoshinobu 鶴屋吉信.  There’s a seasonal menu and also a life-size, edible display by the window that is changed every three weeks.  Food this beautiful is hard to conceptualize, but the flavours are as soft and delightful as the exterior.

At Imoya Kinjiro 芋屋金次郎, you skip the queue and go straight to the samples of hot, crispy matchsticks of fried, candied sweet potato – a specialty from Kyushu’s Shikoku Island.  Then you enjoy a cup of creamy amazake, before nibbling on Satsuma-agé from Q-Jiki, a store specializing in Kagoshima’s local favourite fish cakes. (Yukari – The shop is famous as it deep-fries the sweet potatoes in olive oil before coating it in the candy coating. This is a popular selling point as it is deemed better to fry in olive oil than in other oils.)

fish cake

Q-Jiki 

At Hakuza Nihonbashi 箔座日本橋, store that specializes in crafts made from gold leaf, there’s an impressive display of Ishikawan artistry, including a gold leaf tower, jewellery, pottery, and edible gold leaf flakes for sale – which would make the most elegant furikaké sprinkled over a bowl of rice.

sprinkles

Gold leaf sprinkles for sale

At Ninben Nihonbashi Honten にんべん日本橋本店, you learn how katsuo (skipjack tuna or often called bonito) is dried, smoked, and then shaved to make the highest quality fish flakes, followed by a visit to Dashi Bar Hanare, where you taste some warming soup broth.

katsuo anatomy

Katsuo Anatomy

After traveling from North to South, viewing craftsmanship and tasting goods from Hokkaido to Nagasaki, the tour rounds up nicely at Nihonbashi Hashicho 日本橋箸長.  Hashicho sells chopsticks from all over Japan. The merits and regional differences are evident: diverse shapes and materials, from sharp, wooden edges to lacquer choptsicks. The selection is beautiful, and in some cases exorbitant (1 million yen chopsticks available for purchase). A thoughtful way to finish a tour of Japan: seeing it ‘all together’ through chopsticks from all over the country.  Upon conclusion, you receive a small gift as a token of Coredo’s appreciation for your time.  An afternoon spent tasting Japanese delicacies, presented by knowledgeable concierges in modern, beautiful surroundings, is a win-win.

When the tour was done, I lingered around the Coredo buildings for a bit longer, had some iced matcha, and bought food from the basement to take away for dinner.  After samples of fish cakes, kombu, and amazaké, I enthusiastically purchased Hakkaisan saké, tsukuné (chicken meatball) yakitori, and uni with an Italian twist from Riccio Mania’s exclusively designed, sea urchin-centric menu.  Oishii!

ladies afternoon tea

Afternoon tea at Hakuza Nihonbashi

The Best of Japan tour is on every Saturday at 2 pm and 4 pm

Cost ¥1,000

Duration: 90 minutes

Reservations by email guide@nihonbashi-info.jp or by calling 03-3242-0010

Address:
B1 Coredo Muromachi, 2-2-1 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo.

 

Nearest stations:

Mitsukoshimae Station, Exit A6 (Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line/Ginza Line)

Shin-Nihonbashi Station, direct access (JR Sobu Line Rapid)

 

If you liked this post, please check out Janice’s other post about Kyoto.

Nishiki Market and Kyoto Uzuki Cooking School

Sake Tasting with JD Kai

 

Janice Espa photoJanice Espa

Janice Espa is a Spanish-Peruvian food enthusiast; an avid traveller and inquisitive taster who explores culture through cuisine.  Janice lives in Sydney where she writes and styles food. Her days are spent visiting grower’s markets, checking out restaurants, and shopping at specialty stores to discover goods from every corner of the world.

Feel free to email suggestions and travel tips, or to contact Janice for her own recommendations, whether you’re visiting Peru, trekking South America or doing a road trip along the east coast of Australia.

Email:  janicespa@gmail.com

Gotta Get – Chopsticks at Hashichō in Nihonbashi

 

chopsticks store in Nihonbashi Coredo

Nihonbashi Coredo Hashicho

We eat with our chopsticks two, sometimes three times a day. Having a pair that you really love to eat with makes each meal all the more fun. There are so many factors to consider when selecting chopsticks. The size of your hands will determine the length. The tips can be fine or thick. The chopsticks can be round or beveled. The material can range from a simple bamboo to several layers of lacquer that are polished away to show off the colorful layers.

Nihonbashi Coredo

Selection of chopsticks at Hashicho

One of my favorite shops is Ginza Natsuno as the selection may be the greatest in Tokyo. Another shop worth checking out is Hashichō in the new Nihonbashi Coredo Building #3. It is a sister shop to Natsuno. Here you will find not only chopsticks, but also hashioki (chopstick rests) and other tableware items.

Hashichō

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi-Muromachi 1-5-5, Coredo Muromachi Bldg. 3, 2nd floor

03-3277-6033

 

There is also a shop in Roppongi at Midtown (Roppongi 9-7-4) in the Galleria 3rd floor.