Dominique Ansel Bakery Tokyo

Dominique's Kouign Amann DKA

Dominique’s Kouign Amann DKA

Dominique Ansel Bakery Tokyo has finally opened. The local media has been leading up to this event for several months so it is no surprise that there are long lines. The first customers started lining up about 9:30 p.m. the night before, on a wet evening during rainy season. Staff brought out umbrellas for the customers, very Japanese of them, a nod towards”omotenashi“. On the opening day the first customers in line were given DAB baseball hats. The bakery will also bring out warm madeleines to those standing in line.

I went in a few days after it opened and was lucky enough to get a tour of the space and sit down with chef Dominique to talk about the opening. My take-away from speaking with him was how down-to-earth he is, how much he supports his staff, and his creativity and playfulness. He has brought together a great team, including head chef Laurie Jon Moran, executive sous chef Mitsuhiro Shimotaka, and general manager Yuji Okada. There are almost 100 on the staff. Ansel says how hard-working his team is.

The Japanese adore the buttery, flakey, sweet kouign amann, so it is no surprise that the DKA is one of the more popular sweets at the bakery. However, chef Dominique’s version is rich and dense, just take a look at the photo above. It uses half the butter and half the sugar as usual and has a touch of fleur de sel. It is a nice contrast to the thinner versions which are typically found throughout the city.

Dominique Ansel Frozen S'more

Dominique Ansel Frozen S’more

The frozen s’more is presented on a natural wooden stick that has been smoked. The marshmallow surrounds a center of vanilla ice cream, salted chocolate, and a cookie is fired just before serving. The marshmallow is made with honey instead of sugar. The madeleines are baked after each order is placed, so that they are served warm out of the oven after being freshly dusted with powdered sugar.

There are some Tokyo-only creations, including the Japanese cronut which is now being made with a yuzu cream and Hokkaido milk. The Tokyo Brest, a play on the classic Paris Brest, is made with mattcha and passion fruit and is garnished with a ginkgo leaf. There is a kawaii (cute) maneki neko cat creme puff that is filled with yuzu vanilla. The traditional Japanese melon pan is made with kokuto black sugar and hojicha (roasted tea) cream. It is called Mr. Roboto melon pan as it looks like a robot’s face. Chef said that he has toned down the sugar a bit for the Japanese market. Looking at the sweets in the glass display case it is evident this is for a fun, young, casual market. At 3 p.m. the cookie shots are available. Vanilla is steeped in milk for 24 hours and the cookies come out of the oven. A good excuse to come back in the afternoon.

Dominique Ansel Tokyo Tea Room

Dominique Ansel Tokyo Tea Room

The bakery is a three-story building. The first floor is the bakery with a seating section and a kitchen for finishing the sweets. This is where you will find the cronuts and other sweets.

The second floor is a cafe with its own menu. Chef Laurie Jon Moran. There is also a quiet tea room off to the side. Chef is making a mont blanc wagashi that I need to come back for.

The working space for the staff is nice, especially the third floor production kitchen which is well-lit with windows that bring in natural sunlight. Sadly, many production kitchens are hidden away in the basement or in some dark part of the restaurant without any windows.

Dominique Ansel Tokyo Art

Dominique Ansel Tokyo Art

The custom-made graphics on the wall are from French graphic artist Vahram Muratyan. It is a play on the view from the kitchen of customers peering in. The wall includes some nods to Japan including a sumo wrestler and the black makkuro-kurosuke from Ghibli’s Totoro. There is a mirror on the wall so that you can imagine what you look like peering into the kitchen. Be sure to also check out the playful Metro map on the wall of the cafe.

http://www.vahrammuratyan.com/

Dominique Ansel Tokyo Interior

Dominique Ansel Tokyo Interior

The lines for the bakery are actually on the main Omotesando street. Staff will bring the customers on the back street where the bakery is. I have seen many chefs open in Tokyo and sadly they pick the wrong location to open up on. A famous Michelin-starred chef first opened his restaurant in the suburbs of Tokyo and of course it didn’t survive. He has since successfuly reopened in the heart of the city. But DAB is in a perfect location for his first shop.

#Anselfie

#Anselfie

Chef Dominique also spoke on the Japanese appreciation for sweets. He definitely understands the market and is off to a great start. Tokyoites are embracing him and his bakery. Here’s hoping that this is the start of a long ride for him and his team in Japan.

Note – if you do see chef at the bakery, ask to take an #Anselfie with him.

Dominique Ansel Bakery Tokyo

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-7-14

渋谷区神宮前5-7-14

dominiqueanseljapan.com/

Daikanyama Ivy Place

vy Place - zucchini flatbread pizza

Ivy Place – zucchini flatbread pizza

Daikanyama T-Site is a must visit for book lovers and design aficionados. T-Site is Tsutaya bookstore, cafe, music store, and so much more in a gorgeous complex. Many name it amongst some of the best bookstores in the world.

Ivy Place is the restaurant that is part of the T-Site complex. Chef David Chiddo has several restaurants throughout the city. I have heard so much about the flatbread pizza and finally made it there to try for myself. The menu changes weekly and the staff are great to update their website up-to-date. This was the menu when I went:

https://www.tysons.jp/ivyplace/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2015/06/ivy-lunch_150622.pdf

The zucchini, spinach, mozzarella, feta, and fresh dill pizza was a nice combination of flavors. The flatbread is grilled bringing a deeper flavor to it. Lunch at Ivy Place includes iced tea, salad, and coffee or tea. At 1,500 JPY for the flatbread pizza lunch set, it is a good value. The menu is vegetarian friendly and seasonal.

I was dining solo and was seated at the bar. The seating on the terrace is under some trees and a few different rooms in the restaurant that each had a different feel to it. The restaurant has a buzz to it, as most of David’s restaurants do. The cafe opens at 7:00 a.m. for breakfast. Lunch is very popular so time your visit accordingly.

Ivy Place

Shibuya-ku, Sarugaku-cho 16-15

03-6415-3232

Taco Rico

Taco Rico

Taco Rico

I don’t remember when I was so excited about a new restaurant. Taco Rico is in the Ark Hills complex in Roppongi. There are a handful of tables in the brightly lit restaurant, but most of the diners over the busy lunch hour were taking their lunches to go. The shop reminds me of Chipotle with the ingredients on display and diners asking for which items to be included on their tacos or burritos. However, it still has it Japanese touches in service, the staff welcomed guests with a genki, “hola, irasshaimase”. While one of the cooks was warming up the flour tortillas for burritos she would count “uno, dos” and the rest of the staff cheerily joined in for a “tres”.

Thankfully the cuisine does not seem altered for the Japanese palate, but tastes like the tacos I am used to in the US. Someday I hope to experience tacos in Mexico.

I had a quick chat with one of the managers (perhaps the owner?). He said that the tortillas are made fresh every morning in house. I asked him when he would be opening along the Chuo line and he said that the shop has only been open for two months. Here’s hoping they open up around the city soon.

Taco Rico

Minato-ku, Akasaka 1-12-32, Ark Mori Bldg. 2F

www.tacorico.jp/

Tokyo Station Sushi Sei

Sushi Sei salmon and ikura

Sushi Sei salmon and ikura

Sushi Sei is a popular sushi shop at Tsukiji Market that has a branch inside of Tokyo Station. There is often a line of salarymen outside of the shop before it opens at 7 a.m. The breakfast options include sashimi or donburi (sashimi over a large bowl of rice). There are also two versions of ochazuke. Ochazuke is a bowl of rice with toppings such as seafood or pickles that is then drenched with tea or a mix of dashi and tea. Sushi Sei has sea bream in a creamy sesame dressing or salmon belly with ikura. Above is the salmon and ikura set as it is presented.

Sushi Sei ochazuke

Sushi Sei ochazuke

The diner assembles the toppings to the rice and then pours the savory tea broth over the bowl. This breakfast is only 670 JPY. At current exchange rates I think it is about $5 USD. It is garnished with mizuna greens and arare, colorful rice crackers.

There are seats at the sushi counter, but this early in the morning the counter is not filled with seafood yet. It was busy recently on a weekday morning, and I was happy to see that most of the customers were ordering the ochazuke. It is a popular comfort food dish. I usually drink it as a last dish at an izakaya after a night out of drinking, but it is also an excellent way to start the day.

Sushi Sei first opened 120 years ago, in the original fish market, before it moved to Tsukiji.

Tsukiji Sushi Sei 築地寿司清

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-9-1, Tokyo Station GranSta Dining 1st Floor

www.tsukijisushisay.co.jp/store/tokyo.html

Aoyama Blue Bottle Coffee

Aoyama Blue Bottle Coffee

Aoyama Blue Bottle Coffee

Blue Bottle has arrived to Tokyo. The first shop, in Kiyosumi, is on the other side of the city for me. So, even though I live in Tokyo it is about an hour from where I live. Blue Bottle’s second shop has opened in Aoyama.

It’s a busy shop and not the best place to do writing or editing. Quite noisy in fact. I couldn’t hear the staff call out my name to get my coffee. Eventually seats opened up on the deck, where it was quiet and I could get some work done. There is a buzz in the restaurant. It seems that many of the customers, like myself, are first timers. Taking it all in, looking around, checking things out, lots of questions for the staff.

The staff helped me to select a Papau New Guinea single origin. She said it was “like peach”. The coffee, served in a glass mug, was fruity.

Blue Bottle is getting a lot of press in the media, which explains the big crowds. Not sure, but I guess this will die down at some point.

The Aoyama location is just off the main street where there are many brands like Issey Miyake and Prada. The shop is up the stairs on the second floor of a building that looks like it was an old apartment building. Don’t know why, but the shop doesn’t open up until 10 a.m. Frustrating for those of us who prefer to have coffee earlier in the day, but many coffee shops in Tokyo don’t open until 10 or even 11 a.m.

 

Blue Bottle Aoyama

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 3-13-14

港区南青山3-13-14

bluebottlecoffee.com/cafes/aoyama

Kichijoji Light Up Coffee

Aihara-san of Light Up Coffee

Aihara-san of Light Up Coffee

At my local coffee shop, Cribe, in Kokubunji, I often meet coffee shop owners. The other day I met a very young Aihara-san whose shop, Light Up Coffee, is in Kichijoji. Light Up was on my my radar thanks to recommendations from Twitter friends. Arigato, Twitter!

Light Up Coffee is about a seven-minute walk from Kichijoji Station’s North Exit. Take a left out of the North Exit and walk straight. The street is filled with fun shops selling trinkets, antiques, clothes, and things you don’t need, but desire as they are “kawaii” (cute). Across the street is a park and this morning it is filled with nursery school kids laughing and crying. This is a residential neighborhood this far from the station.

Light Up Interior

Light Up Interior

From the back of the shop is the hum of the small coffee roaster. I walk to the back and find Aihara-san tending to the beans. He helps me choose from the day’s coffee and recommends Kenya Kariru. It has a soft acidity and is reminiscent of a strong-brewed tea. There are several Japanese magazines to peruse and even some English coffee books, including Blue Bottle’s gorgeous book.

The furnishings are simple. Two skinny wood counters with skinny chairs. There is a cool breeze as there is a back door that is opened.

Light Up Exterior

Light Up Exterior

Aihara-san brings me a second cup, also from Kenya, but a new bean called Tegu. He said the Kenya bean was changing. This was fruitier and hand hints of tomatoes. Different from the first. At Light Up one of the menu options is a flight of coffee, a great chance to taste different coffee next to each other.

Light Up Coffee is open seven days a week. On Tuesdays he has shorter hours.

Light Up Coffee

Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Honcho 4-13-15

0422-27-2094

www.lightupcoffee.com

Wednesday – Monday 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Tuesdays 12 noon – 5 p.m.