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

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!

Midori Sushi

Midori Sushi is a sushiya chain, popular both with locals and tourists, that is known for its basement bargain prices. When we query our preschool son to pick what to have for meals out, it is often sushi. Our go-to place is Choshi Maru which is in our area. Choshi is a famous fishing port in Chiba and the restaurant gets a lot of its seafood directly from the port. But this evening we decided to break from routine and check out Midori Sushi.

We arrived before 5:00 p.m. and there was already a line of mostly elderly diners. Yes, it was the retirement crowd. Every time I have passed a Midori Sushi, there is always a line. We waited for about 15 minutes before being seated. One look at the menu and it is apparent why everyone loves coming here, it is very cheap. The question is how is the quality?

The chirashi zushi bowl on the left above was only 1,000 JPY ($10 USD). It was made of tuna, katsuo, kanpachi, two types of squid, shrimp, ikura, tamago, anago, and pickles of takuan and gobo. The sushi set on the right was 1,600 JPY ($16 USD) and included ikura, uni, herring roe, and much more. The neta pieces were very big, so it is a full meal. Is this silly? The two of us could have dinner for about $25 and leave full and satisfied. Lunch is even cheaper.

The rice is Yamagata haenuki and is nice for sushi. This rice is touted for its nice texture, inherent sweetness, and the fact that even if it is cold it still delicious. This is a key point when it comes to take-away sushi. The branch we went to had a small refrigerator in the front of the shop for sushi-to-go. The prices there were even cheaper than dining in, and at the time we were leaving, many of the sushi packs were discounted by about 30%.

So, the quality of the seafood? It was good. The tuna was very nice and the anago seems to be cooked in house was also very good. For the price, it is a great value.

If you are traveling in Tokyo and are on a budget, then put this on your radar. If you do not have a budget, then go elsewhere. This chain is kid-friendly if you are traveling with your family. On this Friday evening the suburban restaurant was filled mostly with retirees when we were seated. As we left, it was filling up with families. Service is friendly and there were a lot of seasonal seafood options as well as many small plates built around seafood starting at about 600 JPY.

The beverage list includes beer, sake, and shochu. We’ll be back. This may become our new go-to sushiya for meals with our son. As long as we avoid the peak dining hours when the wait could be long.

Midori Sushi’s main shop is in Umegaoka in Setagaya-ku is their biggest store. Branches can be found in Ginza, Shibuya, Akasaka, and a standing sushiya in Ikebukuro. Addresses are below in English.



Tsukiji Chuka Soba Inoue

Our favorite ramen at Tsukiji is Inoue. This tiny stall that has standing only tables for dining has been in business for fifty years. There is only one bowl that is made from (I believe) chicken and soy sauce broth, has thin noodles, and is topped with slices of pork, menma (bamboo shoots), green onions, and kaiware (daikon sprouts). The soup is light and a good start to the morning.

This is a great start to the day, and in our opinion, better than having sushi for breakfast at Tsukiji as many of the sushi shops have become very touristy. There is usually a line here, so stand in line, order quickly, as the shop is run much like the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. Stand and slurp quickly, and then move on to make room for the other diners.

Tsukiji Chuka Soba Inoue 築地中華そば井上

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-9-16 中央区築地4-9-16

5:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. closed Sunday, holidays, and Tsukiji holidays

Ginza Hageten Kushiage

Hageten is a popular tempura and kushiage restaurant in Ginza. While many are familiar with tempura, kushiage is another great dish that is deep-fried, but covered with panko (Japanese bread crumbs) instead of a flour and egg batter.

Hageten’s “service lunch” starts at only 820 JPY for 6 skewers, salad, rice, miso soup, and pickles. Diners can get seconds on rice and miso soup. While I declined the generous offer, a salaryman at the counter was happy to get seconds on both.

The six skewers on a recent lunch were:

  1. kisu (sillago whitefish)
  2. kabocha squash
  3. pork and leeks
  4. tsukune (ground chicken) and celery
  5. tofu and cheese
  6. uzura (quail egg)

The miso soup was made with shijimi (Corbicula clams) and an awasemiso (blend of red and white miso). The rice, kuri gohan, was studded with fresh chestnuts which are in season now.

This is a great lunch if you are in Ginza. Hageten is several floors. The kushiage restaurant is in the basement. I loved my seat where I could see the chef’s mis en place including an egg batter and bread crumbs. The kushiage was lightly coated, delicate jacket of panko, and not oily.

Chef Takaishi-san was friendly and easy to chat with. He told me that he is off on Fridays, so I’ll try to come back on another day, not Friday.🙂

I asked him about sending my vegetarian friends there for skewers. He said it would be best if the hotel concierge could call ahead and request a vegetarian only skewers and that they would be able to accommodate that request. On the fly it may be difficult. And, not sure if they could change the miso soup.

I haven’t had kushiage in a  long time, but that’s about to change. With this central location and good price, it’s hard to beat.

Hageten ハゲ天

Chuo-ku, Ginza 3-4-6 中央区銀座3-4-6


Kuoesu Breakfast

Kuoesu is the rare kaiseki restaurant that is open for breakfast. It is a long walk from Hiroo station, but worth the journey. The set morning meal starts at 900 JPY, so without the kaiseki prices.

I was greeted by a female chef who guided me to the quiet counter. I was the first diner this morning and loved the peaceful setting. She worked in the back kitchen so I had the whole dining room to myself.

She first came out with tea and an oshibori (wet towel). Then came the tray with five dishes: rice, miso soup, turnip and cucumber nukazuke (rice bran pickles), red-veined spinach lightly blanched and deep-fried hamo (conger eel). The last was a large round earthenware dish, almost as big as the tray, with a charcoal-grilled managatsuo (pomfret) and grated daikon.

The meal was colorful and nutritious. My favorite was the rice, which was a revelation. It was very firm, almost al dente. The chef told me that it is cooked in an cast iron pot with a small amount of water.

There is also a menu for supplemental dishes like omelet and nattō.

As I finished my meal she was setting up a few more settings. I wish I lived closer, but it is worth making a special trip across town. Reservations are required.

Kuoesu 栩翁S

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 7-14-6 港区南青山7-14-6

03-6805-0856 reservations required

This first appeared in my monthly column for The Japan Times on Japanese breakfast.

Risaku Onigiri Breakfast 利さく

My last monthly Japanese breakfast column for The Japan Times was on onigiri. The highlight of my research was this lovely gem, Sendagi Risaku. All of the other shops were part of a chain, but this was an independent shop that, for me, is worth having on your radar when you visit the Yanaka area.

The Japan Times column for more details:

Risaku 利さく

Bunkyo-ku, Sendagi 2-31-6 文京区千駄木2-31-6


opens 8 a.m.

closest station: Sendagi



Shibuya D47

D47 Tokushima

D47 Tokushima Sōmen

D47, on top of the Shibuya Hikarie building, is a restaurant the specializes in regional dishes from throughout Japan. The menu changes monthly and is a great chance to try kyōdo ryōri, hyper-regional cuisine, in Tokyo.

The above dish is sōmen from Tokushima. These summer noodles are normally very thin and served cold. These are much thicker than usual and bringing a richer texture and flavor to what is usually a light meal.

D47 Nagano

D47 Nagano Rōman

This second plate was from back in March while Tokyo was still waiting to warm up. I ordered this as I have a soft spot in my heart for paté and cured meats from Nagano. The main dish, Rōman, is a stir-fry of vegetables and meat, in this case, duck.

The wine list at D47 features Japanese wines by-the-glass including some of my favorites, Yamanashi Grace Winery Koshu and Tochigi Coco Farm Awa Coco. Diners can do a flight of Japanese wine as well. There is also a rich selection of Japanese tea.

The restaurant has floor to ceiling windows that overlook Shibuya station. It’s a popular restaurant, so time your visit accordingly. And, leave extra time in your schedule to visit their sister exhibit and shop on the same floor.

D47 is part of the d-department business that includes publishing, retail, and restaurants that showcase and keep alive regional cuisine and products. Near the restaurant is a D47 Museum and a D47 retail shop. The shop includes tableware, kitchenware, and food products sourced from artisanal

郷土料理 kyōdo ryōri – regional cuisine

徳島素麺 Tokushima sōmen

長野ローマン Nagano Rōman

食堂 shokudō – dining hall

D47 Shokudō

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 2-21-8, Hikarie Bldg. 8F 渋谷区渋谷2-21-8, ヒカリエ8F

Asagaya Kakizawa 柿ざわ

Asagaya’s shōtengai is a covered street filled with many small shops for food, confectionaries, and essential items for daily life. It is a great neighborhood to visit if you are looking for an insight to how suburban Tokyoites shop.

Just off the main shopping street is a gem of a soba shop, Kakizawa, named after the owner. Kakizawa-san makes his soba at his shop in a small room at the front of the restaurant. Each day there is a limited number of a set lunch that is a good value and includes his hand-rolled buckwheat noodles.

On a recent visit the 1,200 JPY lunch was deep-fried eggplant in a broth, four types of tempura (including shrimp – I had baby sweet corn instead), salmon and onion rice, pickles, and soba. The 80 percent buckwheat soba has a nice texture. We make salmon rice at home, but have never included onion. This dish is a game-changer and I will be recreating this dish at home.

The waitress spoke some English. She said that not many non-Japanese are coming, but that the shop welcomes them. My only tip for you is that if there are people waiting, be sure to leave when you are done eating.

This is a lovely set lunch in a simple Japanese setting. Asagaya is only a few minutes from Shinjuku on the Chuo line. The shop is apparently busy on weekends, so go early.

Kakizawa interior

Kakizawa 柿ざわ

Suginami-ku, Asagaya-Minami1-47-8 杉並区阿佐ヶ谷南1-47-8

Japanese Breakfast – Kuouesu


I have a six-month column on Japanese breakfast in the Japan Times. This special spot was mentioned in my first column on traditional Japanese breakfasts.

Kuouesu near Hiroo offers a very unique Japanese breakfast. The kappō restaurant is only open for breakfast and dinner. It was a long walk from the station, so best to take a taxi if you can if the weather is not good.

I was greeted by chef Moteki. She was in the back kitchen for most of the meal, getting ready for the next seating. I loved having a female chef as I don’t run into them very often, especially at traditional Japanese restaurants.

This is a classic ichiju sansai meal of rice, miso soup, and three side dishes. Ichiju sansai is literally one soup and three vegetables. This meal is rounded out with a grilled fish on this day. The rice has an al dente texture and Moteki-san said that they cook it with less water than usual in Iwate Nambu steel pot to make the Niigata koshihikari rice firm. I loved it.

Managatsuo pomfret is prepared in a classic yuan-yaki style of soy sauce, saké, and mirin that is grilled over charcoal.

Reservations are required for this bargain breakfast of 900 JPY. Side dishes like tamagoyaki and nattō can be added. This is a hidden gem. I only wish I lived closer.



Kuouesu 栩翁S

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 7-14-6 Minami-Aoyama Bldg. 1F


Japan Times article on traditional Japanese breakfasts.