One of my favorite bakeries in Tokyo is from the famous chef Joel Robuchon, for savory breads made with excellent ingredients. Le Pain de Joel Robuchon has recently opened near Shinjuku station in the NEWoMaN mall. Imagine one of France’s top chefs creating breads and sweets using French and Japanese ingredients? I love the l’Atelier de Joel Robuchon restaurant, but don’t often have the time to sit through a meal, so the boulangerie is a alternative to get my Robuchon fix.
On the left above is a foie gras toast topped with apple and pink peppercorns croque monsieur, the right is my favorite, a cheesy potato bread with lardons. Crispy cheese bits contrasted with potato bites and meaty bacon. How many shops do you know serving foie gras croque monsieur?
Joel Robuchon mushrooms and walnuts
Seasonal breads like this bread with maitake, shimeji, and eringi mushrooms with walnuts change throughout the year. All of the above breads are best reheated in a toaster oven. The green olive fougasse never made it home, it was too hard to resist, and I highly recommend it.
The Roppongi Hills shop has no seating area, but the Shinjuku shop does have a small café seating area by the bakery. There is also a retail shop in the Shibuya Hikarie B2 depachika.
In the basement of the Shin Marunouchi building is a Japanese bakery, Point et Ligne, with a retail shop and a cramped café space in the back. The bread is not traditional French, but made for the Japanese market. The breads are soft and made with butter. The crusts are not crispy and the crumb is chewy. I am not a big fan of this style as I prefer shops like Viron, Gontran Cherrier, and Maison Kayser.
The setting is very dramatic. Dark walls and the retail shop is enticing. But things digress as the walk to the café is through a narrow walkway that overlooks an unorganized kitchen.
The lunch set (about 1,500 JPY) starts out with a sample of five breads. My favorite in today’s mix was the walnut bread. A palate of six dipping sauces is dropped on the table and the server points out the Japanese menu on the side describing the flavors. Four are savory, like EVOO and tapenade and the sweets were salted caramel and Canadian maple syrup.
Diners pick a main course. I went with the pâté de campagne which was under seasoned (maybe made for the Japanese palate?…) and a poorly dressed salad. The dressing was fine, but it was just poured over the leaves, not massaged or tossed, which would make a world of a difference.
Most disappointing was the service. We are so spoiled with great service in Japan, when you come upon a restaurant that isn’t on top of things, you notice it right away.
One of my favorite simple breakfasts in Tokyo is this carrot sandwich at Nihonbashi Bon Coeur. Julienned carrots simply presented between two slices of pain de mie, with a schmear of mayonnaise. The orange haystack is so big that it’s hard to keep contained while eating. There may be butter, or not, I don’t remember and I don’t care, because it is so good.
Bon Coeur is a Japanese bakery on the Chuo Dori of Nihonbashi, very close to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. I often pick up clients a the MO and will stop by here for breakfast. There is also a free cup of coffee in the early morning, I believe from 7:30 – 9:00 a.m.
There are a few small tables in front of the shop, if the weather is good. There is also a counter inside. Most of the customers work in the neighborhood and are regulars.
The breads here are they typical Japanese oyatsu pan or snack breads, made with ingredients like hot dog, cheese, croquettes, yakisoba, and burdock root. Some unusual breads that they do here will include chili con carne or macaroni. You’ll also find Japanese classic breads like melon pan and French classics like pain au chocolat.
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
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.
My favorite Japanese bread is mentaiko pan. Mentaiko 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.
The Japanese have a love for “oyatsu pan” or snack breads that can be either savory or sweet. Pan is from the Portuguese for bread. The bakeries here are called pan-ya.
At the bakeries customers pick up a tray and tongs and carefully peruse the bakery putting their selection on the tray before paying. One popular oyatsu pan is curry bread. Savory curry stuffed into a soft dough that is often dipped into panko bread crumbs before being deep-fried.
24-hour convenience stores excel at offering food at a good level. We recently did a tasting of convenience store curry pan. At home, we spritz it with water before reheating in the toaster oven.
The four we tried, clockwise from upper-right:
Lawson Beef curry pan (125 JPY)
Lawson Spice curry pan (180 JPY)
Family Mart curry pan (108 JPY)
7-11 Koku Uma curry pan (130 JPY)
Our favorite was the cheapest one, from Family Mart. It had a nice flavor of curry that wasn’t too complicated. The 7-11 curry pan was very sweet, surely from many vegetables like carrots and onions.
The two Lawson curry breads were nice. The Spice curry pan is made from 30 different spice and definitely had more complexity than the rest. The Lawson beef curry pan left me asking, “where’s the beef” (which may date me).
Regardless, be sure to try a curry pan when you are in Japan. It’s a quintessential snack bread. If you are lucky, the sign will say 焼き立て or 焼きたて, for hot, out of the oven.
My favorite baguette in Tokyo is found along the Chuo line near Musashi-Sakai station. Passage a Niveau does a three-grain baguette that has a lovely crumb with a chewy crust.
Passage a Niveau baguette crumb
The bakery opens at 8 a.m. but the baguettes do not come out until a bit later in the morning. Passage a Niveau is worth a journey across town for. The shop is small but has a selection of both Western and Japanese breads.
It is closed every Wednesday and the first Tuesday of each month. Nearby, the library at the South Exit has a big collection of magazines on the first floor as well as a café.
Growing up in Minnesota I thought frozen Lender’s Bagels was the standard. That was until I moved to New York City and lived in Chelsea. Murray’s bagels was a short walk away and finally I understood what the fuss was over a bagel. I have fond memories of eating an everything bagel while carefully perusing the Sunday New York Times.
Bagel Standard in Nakameguro offers the best New York-style bagel I have tried in Tokyo. A big shout-out to Twitter friend @ninja_padrino for putting this on my radar. Bagel Standard is about a ten-minute walk from Nakameguro station (when walking with a five-year old). The staff included information (in Japanese) on freezing the bagels and refreezing at home.
Seasoned cream cheeses and bagel sandwiches round out the selection. There are two benches in front of the shop.
This is the first time in 25 years that I have had a NY bagel in Tokyo and I can not tell you how happy I am. I will be back. This is worth a journey across town for.
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.