Gotta Get – Tomizawa Dried Mikan

Tomizawa Dried Mikan

Tomizawa Dried Mikan

A friend who is the editor of a food magazine introduced me to these addictive dried mikan. These are sweet and tart at the same time. Tomizawa is a chain found throughout Tokyo. I come here to buy nuts, flour, dried fruit, and much more. If I am baking this is the first shop I go to as they have yeast, fondant, you name it. The dried mikan are great for hiking, traveling, and a healthful snack at home.

The main shop in Machida is fun, if you find yourself out there, but not worth a special trip as there are big shops in Tokyo. Shinjuku Keio department store has a big shop on the 8th floor. There are also small shops at Shinjuku Takashimaya, Coredo Muromachi, and Shibuya Toyoko Norengai depachika.

Tomizawa Shoten

http://tomiz.com/shopguide/index.html

 

 

Hiroshima Oysters – Mitsukoshi Kakigoya

A trip to Hiroshima was timed around oyster season, which is just now coming to an end. Shinji has not been and for him it’s all about the seafood, so we flew to Hiroshima and traveled around the area for about two weeks.

Sadly we were told at the restaurants we did visit that they would not be serving raw oysters as the oyster farmers had said that at this time there was a high risk of getting sick. A bit disappointing, but not the end of the world, and there are plenty of great dishes made with oysters.

On the roof of Mitsukoshi department store is a pop-up restaurant, Kakigoya, an ideal place for oyster dishes in a casual setting. Plastic tables and chairs are set under a giant tarp-covered tent. Portable charcoal grills are set next to the tables for grilling oysters. Kakigoya are often found beachside near the oyster farms, so it’s a treat to have it in the city center. The smell of the grilled oysters filled the tent. The only thing missing was the sound of the waves hitting the beach. It didn’t matter, I was in oyster heaven. If you think about it, this is the winter version of the summer beer gardens on Japanese department store rooftops.

The other diners were a wide mix from salarymen drinking beer with lunch, mothers with small kids, retirees, and a couple of solo diners. It seems to be a popular spot with the locals, always a good sign.

The staff was kind enough to grill the oysters for me. He told me 3 minutes first on the flat side of the oyster and then another 3 minutes on the curved side. The oysters are rich with the minerality of the ocean and need no seasoning.

The set lunch comes with soup, salad, two side dishes, panko-crusted and fried oysters, and oysters cooked with rice. I had fried oysters a few times while in Hiroshima, and this was the best. The rice cooked with oysters is a nice dish I haven’t come across in Tokyo. The rice is seasoned with the oysters as they cook together. Oyster season is coming to an end, so put this on your radar for next season.

Kakigoya at Mitsukoshi Department Store

Hiroshima-shi, Naka-ku, Ebisu-cho 5-1 広島市中区胡町5-1

 

Yakigaki – grilled oysters

Kakimeshi – rice cooked with oysters

Kaki furai – deep-fried oysters

Abe-chan Yakitori in Azabu-Juban あべちゃん麻布十番店

Azabu-Juban Abe-chan Interior

Azabu-Juban Abe-chan Interior

On the shotengai street of Azabu-Juban it is hard to miss the smell of yakitori, grilled chicken skewers, coming out from Abe-chan. The shop opens at 3 p.m. and it is not unusual to see older diners come in before the evening rush. Abe-chan is a local yakitori-ya that is a good value and fun. It’s not competing with high-end shops like Ginza Birdland for a special night out, but is a shop that you come in for a few skewers with family or friends.

Abe-chan Yakitori

Abe-chan Yakitori

The cuts of meat are generous so don’t order too many skewers right away. The staff will suggest which skewers are best with the tare sauce or…

Abe-chan Yakitori

Abe-chan Yakitori

and which are best simply salted.

Abe-chan4

Tare at Abe-chan

Can you believe this? The pot with the tare sauce at the front of the shop has been constantly topped off for 70 years. The handsome father, here in the photo, on television said that if the big earthquake comes he would race to the shop to protect this sauce pot. Love it.

Azabu-Juban Abe-chan Exterior

Azabu-Juban Abe-chan Exterior

In the blue shirt is the son, also Abe-chan, as Abe is the family’s last name. I love this local yakitori-ya and it’s just down the street from my favorite bar in the city, Bar Gen Yamamoto. Abe-chan has a second shop around the corner and the staff can direct you there if the main shop is full, which is often the case.

Abe-chan

Minato-ku, Azabu-Juban 2-1-1  港区麻布十番2-1-1

http://www.azabujuban.or.jp/

Steak and Saké – Sakura Masamune

Sakura Masamune Bonds Well with Beef

Sakura Masamune – Bonds Well with Beef

Working for two years at Nihonbashi Takashimaya’s depachika was an education. I was in the saké department. In Japanese saké refers not only to nihonshu, but to all alcoholic beverages. While I was hired as a sommelier and my chief responsibility was wine, I also had to be able to sell saké, shōchū, beer, and spirits. I learned so much about retailing in Japan, from packaging to gift-giving. One of the big take-aways was marketing of food.

Marketing of alcoholic beverages in Japan sometimes veers away from the traditional to offer unique ideas on pairing food with beverages. So it was no surprise when my Japanese cousin gave me this bottle of saké from Kobe from Sakura Masamune. The saké is called Bonds Well with Beef and is packaged in a wine bottle. Kobe is famous for its wagyū marbled beef. It’s a fun concept and especially smart for the saké brewery to do this as there are many restaurants in their area where this would stand out on a beverage list.

I was curious to see if this saké would actually pair well with a steak. We usually don’t eat wagyū at home as it’s better to leave that to restaurants that specialize in it, like Ginza Dons de la Nature. At home we usually have a US steak simply cooked in a cast iron pan.

The saké did surprisingly well with the steak, better than I had imagined. Sakura Masamune is a reputable brewery with a rich history of over 400 years. The rice is Yamada Nishiki, one of the most popular rice varietals for making saké. It was brewed in the kimoto method which is a traditional style that produces richer saké. The saké was slightly dry and had a nice acidity, which was great for steak. I imagine it would have been even better with a fatty wagyū.

In Tokyo I’ve seen this saké sold at some department stores. Best to call ahead if you want to buy this to make sure it is in stock. At home we usually drink wine with steak, but it is fun to add this into the mix every now and then.

Sakura Masamune Bonds Well with Beef – technical details in English

http://www.sakuramasamune.co.jp/english/bondswell.html