Grand Hyatt Tokyo – Shunbou

Shunbou is the Japanese restaurant at the Grand Hyatt in Roppongi. The Grand Hyatt has several Japanese restaurants including Roku Roku for sushi and Keyakizaka for teppanyaki. Shunbou features seasonal kaiseki dishes as well as comfort food like curry udon. It is kid-friendly and a great option in the Roppongi area.

Entering the restaurant seasonal produce is displayed, as are large earthenware serving dishes. The main dining room is in granite and there is an inner garden behind windows that opens up to the sky, bringing in sunlight, or on this day, rain sprinkling on the rocks and tree.

I joined a friend for lunch here and ordered the shun-sai lunch box (5,300 JPY). The presentation is gorgeous as lunch comes in a wooden box with three tiers. The appetizer for the autumn lunch is a chrysanthemum tofu topped with chrysanthemum petals.

The first tier was composed of tuna sashimi, yuba (soy milk skin), mozuku (a slippery sea vegetable), and grilled sanma (Pacific saury).

The second tier included crab cream croquette and grilled salmon.

Grilled Iberico pork, unohana (tofu lees with vegetables), and boiled vegetables completed the third tier.

Separately takikomigohan of vegetables cooked with rice, grilled eggplant miso soup, and pickles round out the lunch. Dessert is a petit kuri chestnut wagashi, not too sweet. It was a perfect mini-kaiseki including all of the components and was a great way to sense the seasons.

Executive sous chef, Takuya Nezasa, was with Nadaman for thirteen years before coming to Shunbou. Nadaman for Tokyoites is a revered establishment with a 185-year history. Some department stores will have a branch of Nadaman in the depachika so that customers can buy seasonal and traditional dishes. Shunbou is kappō-style so you can see some of the chefs in the open kitchen cooking.

The sake list has many offerings by-the-glass, including seasonal hiyaoroshi from Nagano Masumi brewery, perfect with the ingredients available this time of year.

The dishware is also lovely. Many had lovely textures, like the teacup, calling out to be held. The meal is also a pleasure for the eyes.

Lunch starts at 1,900 JPY for curry udon or soba with rice. We got a small bite of the curry and it’s a light curry and not too spicy. The menu is vast and offers something for everyone. The menu is in English and of course staff speak English, so Shunbou is also a good option for some who may have reservations going to traditional Japanese restaurants with an English speaker.

Menu:

http://restaurants.tokyo.grand.hyatt.co.jp/wp-content/uploads/pdf/shunbou_menu.pdf

Grand Hyatt Tokyo – 6th floor

Minato-ku, Roppongi 6-10-3 港区六本木6-10-3

Map:

http://restaurants.tokyo.grand.hyatt.com/access.html

Keisuke Fugu Ramen

Fugu, a fish that has many names: torafugu, pufferfish, tiger blowfish, blowfish, porcupine fish, or globefish. Regardless of what you call it, you probably know that it is the fish that one could die from if it is not handled properly. Nowadays fugu farmers in Japan have figured out how to raise poison-free fugu.

As for the fish, we do eat it in nabe hot pots from time to time. The broth from fugu is rich in umami. I prefer it best deep-fried, glorified fried fish, simply seasoned with salt.

Keisuke Fugu Ramen is in the basement of the Tokyu Plaza Ginza at the Sukiyabashi Ginza crossing. The Fugu shio ramen with soy egg is 1,150 JPY. The staff said this was the most popular bowl. It was a tiny bit on the salty side, but otherwise a good bowl. The noodles are thin, which I prefer. It included nama fu (wheat gluten), bamboo shoot, Napa cabbage, and the fugu sashimi is cured in kombu and garnished with yuzu.

If you come, be sure to order a side of fried fugu.

Keisuke Fugu Ramen

Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-2-1, Tokyu Plaza Ginza B2

中央区銀座5-2-1  B2東急プラザ銀座 B2F

http://www.grandcuisine.jp/keisuke/8daime.html

Shikaku-mame Winged Beans

Shikaku-mame 四角豆、literally square beans, are also called winged beans. Shikaku-mame is a crisp green bean with slightly bitter notes that can be blanched, sautéed, or fried as tempura. I came across a package at Tsukiji Market for 100 JPY ($1 USD). I asked the shopkeeper her suggestions for cooking and she suggested ohitashi-style and sautéed.

Rinse the shikaku-mame in water and pat dry. To sauté, simply panfry with a small amount of oil and season with salt and pepper. This version was a bit bland. I will try this once more, but with some pork and other vegetables.

The ohitashi-style was my favorite. Blanch in hot water and shock in ice water. Cut into bite-size pieces and season with soy sauce and katsuobushi. In the photo above we used katsuo-kona, a powder made from smoked bonito flakes. The beans are crispy and have a pleasant hint of bitterness.

Peak season: September and October

Scientific name: Psophocarpus tetragonolobus

Kitazawa Seed Co. link

http://www.kitazawaseed.com/seed_218-10.html

 

Gotta Get – Sesame Seed Paste and Oil

kyoto-yamada-seiyu-sesame

Kyoto Yamada Seiyu sesame products

Who doesn’t love sesame? Everyone I’ve spoken to on our tours all go crazy for this (and for yuzu). I first came across

Here are three of my favorite sesame products for the Japanese pantry.

The nerigoma sesame paste on the left is what I use the most. Mix simply with some sugar and soy sauce and then dress cooked vegetables like broccoli, green beans, or spinach with it. If the dressing is thick, add some dashi or water to thin it out. The paste is similar to tahini, but the sesame seeds have been roasted (not raw like in tahini) for a nutty aroma and flavor.

The rayu chili oil in the middle we use for gyōza potstickers. Chili oil, rice wine vinegar, and soy sauce dipping sauce.

The toasted sesame oil is used for stir-fries and salad dressings.

http://eng.trip.kyoto.jp/spot/db/yamada-seiyu/ (English)

4 Katsura Tatsumi-cho, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto

075-394-3276

9:00-19:00 (shop)

http://www.henko.co.jp/ (Japanese homepage)

Chef Bruno Menard at Imperial Hotel

Aiste Miseviciute of Luxeat is a friend who put chef Bruno Menard on my radar. My first time to try chef’s cuisine was at a wine dinner at the Imperial Hotel with Don Melchor wines. I was taken in with not only the cuisine, but chef’s fine touches on the dishes to pair them with the lovely Don Melchor wines.

Chef Bruno is in Tokyo this week for a pop-up at the Imperial Hotel’s Les Saisons. He is collaborating with chef Thierry Voisin of Les Saisons. It was a treat to try his dishes once more.

What do I love of his cuisine? The small touches of Japanese ingredients, the rich flavors that are light and not too heavy.

Some of the highlights include a crab dish that includes yuzu kosho, a salty and spicy paste made with yuzu rind, but just the right amount of it so as not to outshine to crab. The presentation is fun, with the 3 Michelin stars on the package.

Truffles are in season at the moment and chef came to the table to shave the white truffles over his onion soup with chestnuts. Light on top, creamy at the bottom, and the rich aromatics and texture of the white truffles pulling it all together.

The yin yang dish above is scallop sashimi and beet sashimi. The dots were of Japanese shiso (perilla leaf) and umeboshi (pickled apricots) with raspberries, there was some kabosu (citrus) with the scallops.

Hokkaido scallop is sauteed in butter and set upon a spinach sauce with gnocchi and white truffles.

The lemon tart dessert is topped with a gin fizz sorbet, with mango powder and passionfruit crisps. The soft sable dough is topped with a sugar tuile.

The baba au rhum was finished table side by chef, and topped with a 2001 Diplimatico Single Vintage Rum aged in sherry casks. The cake is finished with a passionfruit apricot glaze with a fresh acidity. The syrup is steeped with star anise, lemon, lives, and cloves. White chocolate ice cream is nestled in the cake. The Diplimatico rum was crazy. Smooth, hints of coffee and vanilla, and no harsh alcohol flavors that can overtake this dish. Chef was proud to share that this recipe came from his father.

I had the pleasure of speaking with chef and loved hearing him talk about his regular customers from his L’Osier days coming back with their family to see him and eat his cuisine once more. He said that this is what the business of being a chef is all about. You could see he loved talking to the guests, but moreover, that the guests were so happy to be talking with him.

He did talk about the quality of ingredients in Japan and how good they are. That some are so great they should be served raw, while others can be transformed.

Chef Bruno is based in Singapore. I am hoping that someday he can open up a restaurant in Tokyo.

Meruhenk Sandwiches

Japanese sandwiches are my go-to meal when I am on the run, even before onigiri rice balls. Meruhen is my favorite sandwich shop and if I am not near one, then some of the convenience stores like 7-11, Lawson, or Family Mart, also has great sandwiches.

The sandwiches are built on crustless pain de mie (white bread). Savory fillings can be egg salad, tonkatsu, ham and cheese, kabocha with mayonnaise, and more. The sweet sandwiches are fresh fruit with whipped cream, which I have a hard time swallowing. My favorite is the simple julienned carrots with a bit of mayonnaise, but you have to go early. It’s popular and is often sold out by the time I get there. The sandwiches are in the 300 JPY range.

Meruhenk branches in popular areas (there are many more):

Tokyo Station eCute 1st floor (inside the station) – with limited seating in the area.

Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi

Shinjuku Takashimaya, Shinjuku Odakyu

Ginza Matsuya

Daimaru Tokyo Station

and many more!

http://www.meruhenk.co.jp/shop/index.html

Nagano Gotta Eat – Oyaki

While traveling in Japan it is essential to try the local cuisine. Nagano is famous for soba, Nozawana (a pickled leafy green), basashi (horse sashimi), some insect dishes like inago (grasshoppers) and hachinoko (bee larva), and my favorite oyaki.

Oyaki are stuffed dumplings. The dough can be made from flour or buckwheat. It is stuffed with a variety of ingredients like mushrooms, kabocha squash, kiriboshi daikon (dried daikon strips), eggplant, walnuts, azuki sweet red beans, or my favorite, the local pickle Nozawana – a leafy green (photo above left).

We bought these handmade oyaki at a local supermarket. At home we fry them up in a pan with a little bit of oil. A great snack or side dish to a meal.

Nagato Cheese – Nagano

There are a handful of Japanese cheese producers that I am a big fan of and one of them is Nagato from Nagano. It’s on the top of the mountains, the air is clean and crisp and there are cows. For this Minnesota girl, it was like visiting a friend’s home growing up, but with cheese, and a big selection to choose from. And, the area is filled with birch trees (shirakaba), another nice nod to home.

There is the farm, a retail shop, and a restaurant.

My favorite is the tezukuri gouda miso cheese. Cubes of gouda cheese mixed with Shinshu miso. We love this with wine or saké. There is also ice cream, yogurt, and milk. The restaurant serves pizza, cheese and sausage plates, curry, and  cheesecake.

Nagato Farm Bokujo 長門牧場

長野県小県郡長和町大門3539-2

Nagano-ken, Chiisagata-gun, Nagawa-machi, Daimon 3539-2

http://nagatofarm.com/

Access by train and car (in Japanese):

http://nagatofarm.com/access

If you can’t make it to Nagato, then look for the cheese at the Nagano antenna shop in Ginza. http://www.ginza-nagano.jp/en

Marutaka Miso – Suwa, Nagano

In Suwa, Nagano we came across this lovely Marutaka Miso shop. The shop celebrates its 100th anniversary for making miso since 1916. The area is famous for Shinshu miso, made from soybeans and rice. There is also a kome kōji miso, made with extra kōji (aspergillus oryzae) that is aged for a longer time resulting in a sweet and mild miso.

Marutaka also has many other pantry staples including soy sauce, vinegar, sake, and more. It’s a fun shop to visit and there are plenty of products to bring home for yourself and for omiyage for friends.

One of the miso we brought home is this miso mixed simply with green chili peppers. A spicy dip for crudite of daikon, cucumbers, and carrots. We don’t think of heat in the Japanese palate, so this is a fun way to add spice to your table.

Marutaka Kura 丸高蔵

Nagano-ken, Suwa-shi, Takashima 1-8-30 長野県諏訪市高島1-8-30

http://www.suwa-marutaka.jp/map/

10 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday

closed Monday. If Monday is a national holiday, it is open and then closed Tuesday.

 

 

Nunohan Ryokan – Suwa, Nagano

When deciding where to stay while traveling in Japan there are many considerations for type of stay. When we can, we try to stay at local ryokan inns with onsen hot springs. Nunohan was put on my radar by a friend who lives in Suwa, Nagano.

We loved it. The ryokan is kid-friendly, had lovely cuisine, and my requirement for any stay a rotenburo, outdoor onsen. For dinner we included a flight of local saké with the full course kaiseki. Breakfast (photo on left) included freshly made tofu, grilled salmon, and much more. The rotenburo and onsen was big and spacious.

Nunohan is on the banks of Lake Suwa. Here is the view from our room. We loved taking a walk on the lake, kind of reminded me of being back in Minneapolis, but this lake is much bigger than the ones in the Cities and here we have mountains.

Nunohan has been in operation for 160 years.

ぬのはん Nunohan

〒392-0027  長野県諏訪市湖岸通り3-2-9

Tel:0266-52-5500(代) Fax:0266-52-5636

http://www.nunohan.co.jp/index.html