Sardine Lovers’ Lunch 新宿割烹中嶋

Chef Nakajima of Shinjuku Kappō Nakajima is often on television on a morning cooking show. His restaurant serves a multi-course kaiseki meal in the evening, but the lunch is a set lunch based on iwashi sardines.

For less than $10 USD (800 or 900 JPY), the menu options are sashimi, furai (breaded and deep-fried), nimono (simmered in a sweet soy sauce), or Yanagigawa (fried sardines cooked with eggs in a sweet soy sauce). The meal includes rice, miso soup, and pickles.

We sat at the counter and watched as an assistant chef continued to make the sashimi dish, which is actually tataki (photo, above left). It is a great preparation for silvery-skinned fish like sardines or horse mackerel. The sashimi is roughly chopped and mixed with ginger and sesame, which helps cut through the fishiness.

Fried sardines often include some of the bones, which you can chew and eat, but a warning if you are not used to it. The Yanagigawa is served in a shallow dish that is a nice combination of sardines with the softly cooked eggs.

The restaurant has a counter overlooking part of the kitchen and several tables. We arrived around 11:30 a.m. and snagged the last seats at the counter. When we left there was over a dozen people in line.

The restaurant is hard to find. It is on a quiet side street and signage is ridiculously small, even for Japanese readers. Look for the sign (photo, above right) and go down the stairs. The staff are very friendly and there is an English menu for this great lunch.

Shinjuku Kappō Nakajima 新宿割烹中嶋

Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-32-5, Nichihara Bldg. B1     新宿区新宿3-32-5 日原ビルB1

http://www.shinjyuku-nakajima.com/

Map from the restaurant’s website

http://www.shinjyuku-nakajima.com/tenpo.html#main

iwashi いわし 鰯

kappō 割烹

Nakajima 中嶋

 

Tsukiji Fishmongers’ Breakfast 築地気まぐれ屋

Kimagureya is a popular sandwich shop for the workers at Tsukiji Market. Most of the workers get the sandwiches to go. Often a worker from a stall will come and pick up a big order for him and his colleagues.

The simple menu includes fried items like shrimp, chicken or croquettes, and more standard sandwich fillings like tuna salad, egg salad, or ham and cheese. Each sandwich is about 140 – 200 JPY. The cold sandwiches are on display in the window. Hot sandwiches, like fried chicken, menchi katsu (fried ground meat cutlet),  korokke (croquette), or ebi katsu (shrimp cutlets) are kept in warm boxes in the kitchen.

The shop also sells onigiri, rice sandwiches stuffed with salmon, spicy cod roe, pickled umeboshi, and more at 140 JPY each.

The staff do not speak English and the menu is only in Japanese, so if you go, point at one of the cold sandwiches, you can see the fillings. Or, if you want a hot sandwich, pick from the list above and ask for it, slowly.:-)

IMG_1928.jpg

Tsukiji Kimagureya

The biggest surprise was how the sandwiches are assembled. It is one slice of bread that is stuffed and folded over. I love this. The chicken katsu above is seasoned with julienned cabbage and sauce (think Worcestershire). Kimagure is a Japanese word that means fickle, whimsical, or capricious. Perfect name for these sandwiches.:-)

Kawasaki-san, the owner of Tsukiji Turret Coffee, put this lovely shop on my radar. He sometimes stops by here before he opens his shop. His favorite is the ebi katsu, deep-fried shrimp cutlet sandwich.

An older couple runs this very local shop. I am worried that once the market moves to Toyosu in November as most of their customers seem to come from the inner market.

The shop sits on a quiet side street. There is a tiny plastic table with two seats in front of the shop. I like to sit here and watch as the workers drive by on the turrets delivering seafood. This is far away from the long lines at the sushi shops, and this is where the local workers eat. A very unique change from the hoards of people standing in line for sushi. I prefer this quiet breakfast.

Kimagureya 気まぐれ屋

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 6-21-6  中央区築地6-21-6

Musashi-Sakai Passage a Niveau

Passage a Niveau baguette

Passage a Niveau baguette

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 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.

Passage a Niveau

Tokyo-to, Musashino-shi, Sakai Minami-cho 1-1-20, Taiko Bldg.

東京都武蔵野市境南町1-1-20 タイコービル

 

 

 

New York Bagels in Nakameguro

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.

Bagel Standard

Meguro-ku, Nakameguro 2-8-19 目黒区中目黒2-8-19

http://bagelstandard.com/

 

Tsukiji Kitsuneya 築地きつねや

Kitsuneya offal

Kitsuneya offal

One of the most popular stalls at Tsukiji’s Outer Market is Kitsuneya. It does not sell any seafood, but it is famous for offal stewed in a savory soy broth until tender and served over a large bowl of rice (800 JPY). If you are not in the mood for offal, Kitsuneya also does nikudōfu, tofu and meat cooked in a sweet soy broth (600 JPY). The tofu and meat does not come with rice (220 JPY) so you have to order that separately. I love oshinko pickles with every meal and this day it was cucumbers pickled in salt (120 JPY). A nice, crisp contrast to the soft offal.

Hovering over the large stewpot is a fiesty grandmother. As Kitsuneya is on the main street there are many who try and take her photo and she is quick to tell them no photos allowed. I was even nervous to take this photo, so I waited until she turned the other way to snap this.

The smell of the stewing offal is rich and enticing. When I walk by with clients many will naturally hum, “mmmmmmm”.  There is often a long line at the shop. There are a few stools and a narrow counter at the shop. If those are full, many will stand and eat at a high table set up by the street.

To find it, look for a small white noren banner of the shop that says in black Japanese calligraphy きつねや, or look for the old woman waving her hands telling people to stop taking her photo.:-)

Tsukiji Kitsuneya 築地きつねや

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-9-12 中央区築地4-9-12

Abe-chan Yakitori in Azabu-Juban あべちゃん麻布十番店

Azabu-Juban Abe-chan Interior

Azabu-Juban Abe-chan Interior

On the shotengai street of Azabu-Juban it is hard to miss the smell of yakitori, grilled chicken skewers, coming out from Abe-chan. The shop opens at 3 p.m. and it is not unusual to see older diners come in before the evening rush. Abe-chan is a local yakitori-ya that is a good value and fun. It’s not competing with high-end shops like Ginza Birdland for a special night out, but is a shop that you come in for a few skewers with family or friends.

Abe-chan Yakitori

Abe-chan Yakitori

The cuts of meat are generous so don’t order too many skewers right away. The staff will suggest which skewers are best with the tare sauce or…

Abe-chan Yakitori

Abe-chan Yakitori

and which are best simply salted.

Abe-chan4

Tare at Abe-chan

Can you believe this? The pot with the tare sauce at the front of the shop has been constantly topped off for 70 years. The handsome father, here in the photo, on television said that if the big earthquake comes he would race to the shop to protect this sauce pot. Love it.

Azabu-Juban Abe-chan Exterior

Azabu-Juban Abe-chan Exterior

In the blue shirt is the son, also Abe-chan, as Abe is the family’s last name. I love this local yakitori-ya and it’s just down the street from my favorite bar in the city, Bar Gen Yamamoto. Abe-chan has a second shop around the corner and the staff can direct you there if the main shop is full, which is often the case.

Abe-chan

Minato-ku, Azabu-Juban 2-1-1  港区麻布十番2-1-1

http://www.azabujuban.or.jp/

Isomaru Suisan 磯丸水産

A friend and I needed to grab a quick lunch before he jumped on the shinkansen to Kyoto. We popped into Isomaru Suisan near Ueno station and had colorful and fresh sashimi donburiDonburi are large bowls filled with rice and toppings, a great one-bowl meal. He had a tuna and avocado bowl and I took a chirashizushi with seasonal sashimi, roe, and tamagoyaki. Each bowl was about 800 JPY or about $7 USD. Isomaru Suisan is a reliable restaurant for quick and affordable meals made with very fresh seafood.

Isomaru Suisan was recently featured on television as it goes to great lengths to bring the freshest seafood to its stores. The chain has branches throughout Tokyo and most shops are 24 hours. There are multiple locations at the bigger stations. Shinjuku station has nine shops within walking distance. There is a menu that is in English, Chinese, and Korean complete with photos.

The interior is filled with colorful designs from tairyōbata, giant flags that are flown from fishing boats in Japan. Staff are plentiful and service is fast. This is not gourmet dining, but for the price, it offers a great value.

Many of the diners were drinking beer and saké. Many were grilling their own seafood on portable burners. It’s a fun atmosphere and a great place to come with friends, but solo diners would also feel comfortable here.

Isomaru Suisan 磯丸水産

http://www.isomaru.jp/

The shops:

http://www.isomaru.jp/shoplist/

The shop list is only in Japanese. I would suggest doing a search in English under “Isomaru Suisan” and the name of a Tokyo station.

 

 

Shibuya Shunju 春秋 – Colorful Vegetable Salad Bar

Buffet lunches abound around the city. Some of my favorites include the New York Grill at the Park Hyatt Tokyo and Motif at the Four Seasons Marunouchi, but these gorgeous buffets deserve a leisurely long lunch so that you can enjoy all that is offered. I was meeting a girlfriend for a casual lunch in Shibuya and wanted somewhere that offered a vegetable-friendly meal.

Shunju, just across the street from Bunkamura music hall and museum, was exactly what I was looking for. There is a small, but thoughtfully assembled organic salad bar and diners choose a main course. I opted for a simple onigiri as my main course. The other options included fish grilled over sumi charcoal, chicken, and pork. The buffet lunch with onigiri starts at about 900 JPY ($9 USD). For a supplemental 500 JPY you can add a protein main course to the meal.

Yellow and orange carrots, red cabbage, simmered lotus root, tempura eggplant, and a creamed cabbage were some of my favorites. The carrot juice at the salad bar was sweet enough to stand in for dessert. The only meat product on the buffet was some ground meat in the miso, an umami-rich dip for the vegetables.

The restaurant was busy at the noon hour. Mostly young girls making several rounds to the salad bar. Shunju has a few other branches around the city, and I imagine that they also offer a similar lunch.

Note that the buffet is on weekdays only. On the weekends the restaurant is course lunches only. Arigato to David Richards for sending this helpful information via the blog. Arigato and thankful for your notes.

Shunju 春秋

Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 2-23-12, Fontis Bldg. 1F

渋谷区道玄坂2-23-12フォンティスビル1F

http://shunju.com/

Shibuya Torikatsu Chicken とりかつチキン

Katsu refers to panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) encrusted and deep-fried goods. Tonkatsu, deep-fried pork, is the most popular, but there are many others such as torikatsu for chicken. Furai is another Japanese word that is used to describe the same preparation, and is often seen with seafood such as kaki (oysters), aji (horse mackerel), or ika (squid).

Torikatsu in Shibuya is hidden on the back streets, a short walk from both Shibuya JR and Inokashira stations. This shop is often featured in magazines and television shows as a great spot for cheap eats. Diners select two or more fried items that is served with rice, julienned cabbage, and miso soup. On the counter is homemade pickles that diners can help themselves to.

It’s a popular and chaotic shop. The open kitchen on this day is staffed with three very busy aunties. They each multitask and take turns doing different jobs. If you understand Japanese it’s quite fun to watch as they ask each other for help, reconfirm orders, and often ask customers to repeat what they ordered. As diners pay on their way out, it is on the honor system and each diner is asked what they ordered so that the price can be determined. Very Japanese.

A narrow counter with fifteen seats surrounds the kitchen. There is a small table tucked into the corner which seats three, and diners are asked to use this as a communal table. As you can imagine the seats at the counter are squeezed quite tight together and there is no room to set your belongings, aside from the narrow area between you and the counter.

Smoke rises non-stop from the deep-fat fryer. The cutting board next to the fryer has been used for so long that the surface is no longer flat. The knife on the cutting board is oily and covered with deep-fried panko.

Customers at the counter are asked to bus their own dishes to the high counter into the kitchen after they are done. New diners are asked to wipe down their area if it was not done by the prior diner. It feels like you are dining at your auntie’s home in the countryside with the friendly ambience and the casual service, “please set your dishes on top”. “Sorry, but if your dining area is not clean, feel free to use the wet cloth to wipe it down.”

The menu starts at 650 JPY for two items, 800 JPY for three, and 1000 JPY for four. Some of the items include: torikatsu (chicken), tonkatsu (pork), menchi katsu (ground meat), aji furai (horse mackerel), ikafurai (squid), nasu (eggplant), kani kuri-mu (crab in a white sauce), and tamanegi (onion). In season at the moment is kaki furai (oyster).

The popular set, which comes at a discounted price, is the ninki teishoku (650 JPY) which consists of chicken, ham, and croquette. Hamu katsu may be the most interesting thing I’ve ever seen, a thin slice of ham that is breaded and deep-fried. The coating is thicker than the ham.

The rice serving is generous, so I suggest asking for gohan sukuname, for a smaller portion to begin with (see photo above). You could always ask for more rice if you would like more. It is considered impolite to leave rice in your bowl, so I try to do this at most restaurants.

On this day the crowd was mostly young students with a handful of salarymen mixed in. Many solo diners in the group. There is an old television over the refrigerator. The older people, myself included, watched the talk show program while waiting for our food. The rest of the diners were busy with their smartphones.

The tail was cut off of the horse mackerel after it was deep-fried, making it much easier to eat. The chicken was tender and juicy. The pickles made from greens this day was a bit on the salty side, so maybe take a small serving to see if it is to your liking.

This is a great local spot and hard to beat for this price. The ambience itself is worth a trip here. There are two entrances to the 2nd floor shop. One on a side street and the second off of a narrow pedestrian street on the backside of the building. Finding it is part of the fun.

Torikatsu Chicken とりかつチキン

Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 2-16-19, Miyakoji Bldg. 2F

渋谷区道玄坂2-16-19都路2F

Dominique Ansel Bakery Tokyo

For my birthday we went to Dominique Ansel Bakery’s Cafe on the second floor of his shop. The menu has always intrigued me, especially since I saw a photo of his avocado toast.

New on the menu is chicken pot pie, which was the best pot pie I have ever had. A crispy golden crust over an umami-rich stew packed with chicken and vegetables. I woke up the next day thinking about this. The avocado toast comes with créme fraiche and a salad. The butternut squash was accented with cinnamon marshmallow squares.

The first floor of the shop is almost always full. The cafe has a full drink menu as well, including champagne and wine. There is an open kitchen and on my way out I could see a lobster roll being assembled.

Menu: http://dominiqueanseljapan.com/wp/wp-content/themes/dabjp/pdf/DAB_MENU_2F.pdf

Dominique Ansel DKA

We were so full from lunch that we celebrated at home with chef’s signature DKA, Dominique’s version of the kouign amann. This pastry is very popular in Tokyo and many bakeries serve their version of it. This one is not too sweet, has a rich texture from the buttery dough.

The shop is very popular and the line can be very long on the first floor. Reservations can be made for the cafe and sweets from the first floor can be had in the cafe, along with a drink order. The only thing that is only sold on the first floor is the cronut. From what I hear from friends in NYC, the line here in Tokyo is much shorter for cronuts.

The bakery is in Omotesando, just off the main street. It is worth the short detour if you are in the area of Harajuku, Shibuya, or Meiji Jingu Shrine. The first floor opens at 8 a.m. and the cafe opens at 9 a.m. A great spot to start your day in Tokyo.

Dominique Ansel Bakery

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-7-14 渋谷区神宮前5-7-14

shop information and access:

http://dominiqueanseljapan.com/en/contact

http://dominiqueanseljapan.com/wp/wp-content/themes/dabjp/pdf/DAB_MENU_2F.pdf