Akasaka Tsutsui Yoshoku 赤坂津つ井

Katsu Fry

Katsu Fry

Yōshoku, Western-style food modified to the Japanese palate, is comfort food to many Japanese. Yōshoku, written out in Japanese is 洋食, literally, Western food. Popular yōshoku dishes include croquettes, beef stew, and omuraisu, an omelet wrapped around ketchup-flavored rice.

Tsutsui is located on the back streets between Roppongi Itchome and Akasaka. I had walked by it many times and saw many well-dressed Japanese families going in. Yōshoku can be on the pricey side, but the lunch menu at Tsutsui is quite reasonable, about 1,500 JPY per lunch. We had a rice bowl topped with katsu, seafood and meat in bread crumbs and deep-fried. The hamba-gu, is like a meatloaf and comes with a cream sauce and vegetables.

Hamba-gu

Hamba-gu

 

If you want to try yōshoku, other popular shops around the city include chef Narisawa’s Toyoken in Akasaka, third-generation Taimeiken in Nihonbashi, Shiseido Parlour in Ginza, and Yoshikami in Asakusa. All of these are excellent shops.

At Tsutsui the waitresses are dressed in black French maid outfits with white aprons and push the meals out to the table on a rolling cart. I felt like I had stepped back in time. The spacious, dark interior is staffed with men in bow ties and black vests. There is a lovely walkway with a garden with stones that were sprinkled with water just before lunch service.

Tsutsui 津つ井

Minato-ku, Akasaka 2-22-24 港区赤坂2-22-24

www.akasakatsutsui.com/access.html

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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/

Ramen-ya 69’N’ROLL ONE Akasaka – Rock’N’Roll One Ramen CLOSED

rock1

So sorry, but a kind reader of the blog has just informed me that this shop is now closed. I will update this post when I hear of news of a new shop opening in central Tokyo.

 

Rock’N’Roll ramen is spelled out with numbers 69, or “roku” in Japanese. So, in Japanese we call this ramen shop Roku N Roll, said quickly it sounds like “rock and roll”. Chef Junichi Shimazaki’s original shop is in Machida and has been voted the best ramen in Tokyo for a few years. Machida’s a long haul from central Tokyo so I was thrilled when he opened up a shop in Akasaka in June, 2013.

What makes his ramen so special? Many facets. The flour used for making his noodles is all domestic. The broth is made from chickens from Akita prefecture. And the pork on top of the ramen is none other than Iberico pork. Some call this kodawari, an obsession to perfecting each component. It’s a great bowl of ramen. The broth, while a rich chicken flavor, is well-balanced and not too heavy. The pork was amazing. The noodles were cooked just right. The only thing I would change is that I wished that the egg was cut in half as it was hard to eat. He’s famous for his shōyu (soy sauce) ramen. Next time I’ll try the shio (salt).

rock2

Shimazaki-san’s coiffure and dress is very 50’s, think the Fonzie, but with longer hair. Seeing his style, it makes sense why he calls his restaurant Ramen-ya Rock and Roll. It was great fun to see him in the kitchen making ramen. He’s very popular and is often seen on television and in magazines.

The shop this day was filled with mostly area businessmen and young students. I went right as they had opened up and got a seat right away. But when I left there was a line.

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The gyoza on the menu looked great, but not available until later in the day.rock4

Ramen-ya 69’N’Roll  Rock’N’Roll

Minato-ku, Akasaka 3-7-11

03-3583-5569

Tokyo Toyoken – Yoshoku by Narisawa

ImageVery exciting news from Tokyo for fans of chef Yoshihiro Narisawa. He is collaborating with a historic yōshoku restaurant, Toyoken, to bring it back, but with a modern take on yōshoku. The original restaurant, in Mita, opened in the Meiji period (1889) and closed about ten years ago. Many top chefs in Japan worked in the kitchen over the years. It is mentioned in this newspaper article dating to 1915.

For Chef Narisawa, considered one of the best chefs in Asia, it is a big contrast to the cuisine that he is known for at his eponymous restaurant. At Narisawa, the menu may include soup made from soil (a GREAT dish), and includes many ingredients harvested from the forest.

Yōshoku is Western dishes adapted for the Japanese palate. Classics include croquettes and beef stew. Narisawa’s menu is a healthful take on traditional yōshoku cuisine, by using olive oil in lieu of butter where he can. This evening, at a reception to introduce the restaurant to friends, we got a small taste of what is on the menu, like this menchi katsu, think hamburger that is breaded and deep-fried served with kaki furai, breaded and deep-fried oysters. A quick look at the menu and it’s evident that top-quality ingredients are used, so it will be an upscale, healthful version of yōshoku.

Tokyo Toyoken is in Akasaka, a business district in the heart of the city. The restaurant tonight was set up for a reception, but I imagine it will seat about forty diners, so not big. There is a private dining room in the back that seats ten.

The chef at Tokyo Toyoken is chef Takayuki Nakatsuka, who is coming from Narisawa restaurant. Narisawa is the executive chef who has worked with Toyoken to create these new dishes. Narisawa will stay at his namesake restaurant.

Tokyo Toyoken opens to the public on Wednesday, January 15th. A quick look at the menu and I remember the lunch course being 3,800 JPY and the dinner course 5,800 JPY. The link to the restaurant’s website is below, but the menu is not online, yet.

Tokyo Toyoken

Minato-ku, Moto-Akasaka 1-2-7, Akasaka K Tower 1F

03-5786-0881

toyoken1

The sign leading to the restaurant. Love the font, most likely from the original restaurant.

Toyoken2

The main dining room today was set up for a reception. Stark contrast to most yōshoku restaurant interiors which can be very rustic.

Toyoken3

Private dining room. A hint at what the main dining room may look like?