Aoyama Coutume Coffee

Aoyama Coutume

Aoyama Coutume

Parisian coffee shop Coutume has a branch in the fashionable Aoyama district. I am impressed that they got a nice location on Kotto Dori (street).

Coutume offers both single origin pour-over coffees as well as espresso-based drinks. In photos the shop looks brightly lit and white, which it is in the front of the shop. The back of the store darker, perfect for relaxing.

The menu includes breads and pastries from Gontran Cherrier bakery, soups, salads, and sandwiches.

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 5-9-15 港区南青山5-9-15

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Gobo Burdock Root

Our cooking school has opened up. While we continue our food tours in Tokyo, we are starting to put more energy into teaching Japanese cuisine. Our blog will include more recipes going forward. We will also continue to share restaurants and food shops in Japan as well as the occasional travelogue.

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Shin gobo 新牛蒡

In season now is the earthy root vegetable, gobo, or burdock root. This time of year it is called shin gobo, or new gobo.

Burdock root can be dense in texture, but in early summer the fibers are very tender. Burdock root is often sold with earth clinging to the skin. After washing it off it can be peeled. Many cookbooks will suggest soaking it in water so the burdock root doesn’t turn brown. My vegetarian cooking teachers says that it is better not to soak in water and to just cook with it immediately. She also suggests scrubbing the long root vegetable thoroughly with a scrubber (Japanese tawashi) and not peeling it.

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Burdock Root and Chicken

This dish is simple to pull together. Carefully wash the burdock root and cut at an angle into small pieces. Cut chicken thigh into bitesize pieces. In a pot saute some garlic and burdock root in vegetable oil for a few minutes. Add the chicken and continue to saute until the color of the chicken changes. Add dashi to cover the mixture and then some soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Serve hot or at room temperature.

kinpira gobo

Kinpira Gobo

Mastering kinpira will add a wonderful dish to your kitchen repertoire. I usually make it with gobo (burdock root) and carrots, but it can be made with a variety of vegetables including renkon (lots root), celery, and even potatoes. The vegetables should be julienned, or if making from renkon, sliced thinly. Better yet, learn how to do the “sasagaki” cut, which results in vegetable shards that look like bamboo leaves (sasa).

Gobo should be soaked in water immediately after it is cut or it turns brown.

Cut your vegetables (julienne or sasagaki).

In a saute pan, stir-fry the vegetables in a bit of oil until the vegetables start to soften. Then season with sugar, soy sauce, sake and sesame oil. I do it all to taste but if you are looking for rough amounts:

1 burdock root
1 carrot
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons sake
1 Tablespoon sesame oil

If you like a bit of spice feel free to add either dried chili sliced thinly or seven spice shichimi togarashi. Toasted sesame seeds are also a nice compliment.

This dish can be eaten hot or cold, so is perfect for adding to a bento. For a vegetarian sandwich, toss with some mayonnaise and serve with bread.

Maison Kayser Kouign Amann

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Kouign amann is a butter pastry that is rich with a caramel like crust that can be both crunchy and chewy. If you’ve been to Bretagne in France, you will know that it is famous for butter, a key ingredient in this decadent sweet.

My favorite kouign amann in Tokyo is at Dominique Ansel Bakery in Omotesando. Another one that I like is this one from Maison Kayser, which has branches throughout the city, including at Shinjuku Takashimaya.

Try it, you’ll love it. Kouign amann is very popular in Tokyo, so check out any bakery you pass. Here it is in Japanese: クイニーアマン

Gari Gari Kun

Gari Gari Kun

Gari Gari Kun

It is getting hot in Tokyo. Shinji has stocked the freezer with Gari Gari-kun. A popular popsicle that is sold at convenient stores and supermarket. The price of Gari Gari-kun went up last year and the company apologized to fans across Japan in this great commercial. Gari Gari is the sound of biting into something hard and crunchy (or ice cold). Kun is what we use when calling out to small boys. Gari Gari-kun is a fun name for this product that comes in many different flavors like grape, kiwi, or watermelon. You can see their flavors here (in Japanese).

Pick it up when you’re hot and need to cool down. If there is writing on the popsicle stick, that means you get a second one for free. Bring the popsicle stick to any retail store and ask them if they’ll redeem it for you.

Ginza Akomeya

Akomeya Ginza

Ginza Akomeya

For one-stop shopping for food, tableware, kitchenware, and lunch, I highly recommend Ginza Akomeya. The restaurant offers a colorful lunch rich with small dishes. While not vegetarian, it is vegetable-friendly and nourishing.

The retail part of the store is curated offering great products for the pantry. Essentials like mirin, sesame oil, and soy sauce as well as fun condiments like yuzu kosho or ponzu. The tableware and kitchenware selection is also lovely. Pick up a donabe (earthenware pot) for cooking rice on the stovetop.

There is a kome (rice) counter where you can have your rice freshly polished. The selection is impressive, bringing in varietals from all over Japan. Some of our favorites are sold here like Hokkaido Yumepirika, Yamagata Tsuyahime, Toyama Milky Queen and Niigata Uonuma Koshihikari.

Lunch is very popular, so come early or late. The rice is cooked in a donabe. Dinner is also a big affair, and there is a nice selection of saké. In the afternoon the shop offers traditional Japanese sweets. The menu with photos is here:

http://www.akomeya.jp/akomeyakitchen/menu/

Akomeya Tokyo

Chuo-ku, Ginza 2-2-6 中央区銀座2-2-6

http://www.akomeya.jp/shop/ginza.php

Aoyama Cicada

At Cicada in Aoyama, near Omotesando, I always order the mezze plate. I love the variety of small bites, often with lots of vegetables. If you have allergies, or prefer for an all vegetable mezze, the kitchen is great to substitute something.

I sometimes come by myself and sit at the bar.  In New York City I found it very easy to start up conversations with complete strangers, but that is much harder to do here in Japan. However, I’ve met some interesting people here, including a designer. In our conversation we realized that we both worked on the same food project, at different stages. Cicada is that type of restaurant that draws in an international crowd, but also internationally-minded locals. There is always a buzz in the restaurant and the staff speak English.

The draft beer is from T.Y. Harbor, their sister shop. The wine list is reasonably priced and there is a nice selection of wines-by-the-glass that match the Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.

There is outdoor seating, but that seems to book up quickly, so plan ahead if you want to dine al fresco.

Aoyama Cicada4

Aoyama Cicada Mezze

Cicada

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 5-7-28 港区南青山5-7-28

https://www.tysons.jp/cicada/en/

Shibuya Kotaro 高太郎

K1Kotaro is named after the owner and chef who prepares all of the food in an open kitchen behind a large wooden counter. I was introduced to Kotaro by a food writer who introduces me to the best spots around the city.

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Selection of saké cups on the counter. Each saké is served with a different cup. It’s always interesting to try saké from different cups, and curious to see which ones the staff picks for each person as they are not always the same.

Kotaro menu

Kotaro menu – photo by my sommelier friend, Carrie. Arigato! Kotaro writes the menu by hand. Love this personal touch.

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The concept behind the saké list is very simple. Kotaro has selected eight breweries that he is fond of and only serves from these eight. When I first heard this I thought it was limiting. However, the brilliance behind this is that as he has strong connections with these breweries he is able to get limited release saké for his restaurant. Many of what we had this evening will be hard to find elsewhere in Tokyo. He also likes the styles of these breweries and his cuisine works well with these.

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The first course at Koutaro is always a bean dish. Again, very simple concept, but when executed correctly is very rewarding. I also loves the tableware he uses, like this intricate blue and white dish. There is katsuobushi (dried and shaved skipjack tuna) garnishing the beans, greens, and mushrooms.

Most Japanese will start the night off with a beer and then move onto saké. At izakaya with a good saké list, I like to start off with a sparkling saké, which Kotaro usually has on hand.

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Otsukuri, or sashimi course.

The izakaya has a long counter facing the open kitchen, or if you come with friends you can get a table. The staff speak English and can explain the dishes. The menu is only in Japanese, so I recommend telling the staff, “omakase” (oh-mah-kah-say) and letting Kotaro serve you some of their signature dishes. Tell them if there is anything you like, and more importantly, you don’t like.

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Basashi (horse meat sashimi) 馬刺し from Canada of all places. Kumamoto prefecture in Kyushu (southern Japan) is famous for basashi and I have become a big fan of it. It’s very meaty and like eating steak tartare.

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Oyster on the half shell. 生牡蠣

The restaurant is popular so you have to book well in advance. You could call from overseas to place your reservation, about a month in advance. I believe the phone lines open up at 1:30 p.m. The staff can take your reservation in English.

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Japanese-style potato salad is a common dish found at casual izakaya so I was surprised to find it here at Koutaro. That being said, potato salad is a comfort food that almost everyone loves. And, this one was topped with a smoked, hard-boiled egg. Something I can’t make at home. The dressing is a classic vinaigrette.

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Menchi katsu is one of Kotaro’s signature dishes. Ground meat that is breaded and deep-fried. Surprisingly very good with a hearty saké.

Another tip, ask them to give you different temperatures of saké. It’s fun to try hot and cold and to see how the flavor changes as a hot saké cools down.
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The last dish is his signature udon noodles that he makes each evening from scratch after the store closes. Kotaro is from Kagawa, on the island of Shikoku. This is the heart of udon country. In Tokyo, most meals end with rice, so the handmade udon noodles is a great spin.

He serves a Japanese-style carbonara with a raw egg, butter, and soy sauce. He also does a cold udon noodle simply garnished with grated daikon and soy sauce.

It’s usually a young, hip crowd here. It’s always busy. They do serve until late at night, so if you can’t get in early, try and book later in the evening.

Kotaro is a short walk from Shibuya station. It’s a bit hard to find, so make sure you have Google Maps, or go by taxi, to be safe. If you go, please tell him Yukari sent you. 🙂

Kotaro 高太郎

Shibuya-ku, Sakuragaokacho 28-2 渋谷区桜丘町

03-5428-5705

Closed Sunday and the first Monday of each month.

http://ameblo.jp/kotaro-info/

Focaccia and Ciabatta in Tokyo

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My favorite Italian bakery in the city is Peck, which is only found at Takashimaya, both in Nihonbashi and Shinjuku, as well as at the shops in the suburbs. Peck is a gourmet shop in Milano that dates back to 1883. The selection includes Italian cheeses, cured meats, pastas, olive oils, and other pantry staples. There is also a selection of prepared dishes as well as some sandwiches.

I am addicted to the focaccia and ciabatta at Peck. The ciabatta freezes well, so I’ll cut up a few pieces for the freezer and warm it up in the oven toaster.

Peck is perfect for an impromptu picnic in Shinjuku Gyoen park, which is a short walk from the Shinjuku Takashimaya. Pick up some breads, cheese, and meat and swing by the wine shop for a bottle of wine.

If you come across great Italian breads in Tokyo, please let me know.

Peck at Takashimaya

Tsukiji Gyoza and Ramen at Home

Tsukiji Gyoza

Tsukiji Gyoza

In the outer market of Tsukiji is a great little shop selling gyoza wrappers and ramen noodles called Dai-Ni Tsukiji Seimenjo. It is a tiny stall and for us, are some of the best gyoza wrappers in Tokyo. If you are looking to make ramen at home, then get your freshly made noodles here.

Tsukiji Gyoza at Home

Tsukiji Gyoza at Home

Dai-Ni Tsukiji Seimenjo 第二築地製麺所

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-9-7 中央区築地4-9-7

http://tsukiji-monzeki.com/shop/tsukijiseimenjo2/

Best Mentaiko Pan in Tokyo?

My favorite Japanese bread is mentaiko panMentaiko is pollack roe that has been cured in salt and seasoned with dried red chili peppers. At home we love mentaiko raw with a bowl of rice. It can be toasted on the outside and left raw inside for an umami-rich dish with sake.

The Japanese have brilliantly come up with putting into a small baguette with some butter and toasting it. Whenever I go into a new bakery it is the first thing I look for. Not all bakeries in Tokyo have it, so if you come across it, I recommend highly picking one up.

My commute into Tokyo takes me through Shinjuku station. The South Exit area has been under construction for a long time and has recently opened up under the new bus terminal. For me, this is the best mentaiko pan I have come across in the city. It opens at 8 a.m. and this is a great way to start the day.

Le Bihan is originally from Bretagne and dates back to 1913. It has many more stores in the Kansai region. Le Bihan, also has branch in Shinjuku Odakyu depachika, Ikebukuro Seibu, and Kita Senju Marui.

Le Bihan

Shinjuku Station South Exit

Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-24-55, NEWoMan Shinjuku 2F (inside the station gates)

渋谷区千駄ヶ谷5-24-55 NEWoMan SHINJUKU 2F