Family-friendly Yakitoriya

Once in a while we adults want to have yakitori, grilled chicken skewers, but many yakitori-ya are smoky joints that are not kid-friendly. Iseya in Kichijōji near Inokashira Kōen Park is both family-friendly and a good value. It is also perfect for groups as it is a large space. The only challenge is that it is wildly popular. On weekends there is a perpetual line out the front door. Bring along something to keep your kid occupied while standing in line.

First things first, large mugs of cold beer for the adults and barley tea for the kid. We ordered vegetables like edamame, potato salad, green salad, kimchi, and cucumbers to get started. At the same time we ordered a variety of chicken skewers like thigh, gizzard, liver, chicken balls complete with minced cartilage for crunch, and chicken skin. The vegetables come out immediately and just when we are ready for the yakitori a giant plate is placed on the table with the skewers.

Inokashira Kōen is a great spot for the kids to run around after lunch. On the north side of the station is a great shōtengai shopping arcade with many food shops.

Iseya Sōhōten いせや総本店

Musashino-shi, Kichijōji Minami-chō 1-15-8

武蔵野市吉祥寺南町1-15-8

12 noon – 10 p.m.

closed Monday

no website

 

Advertisements

Shinjuku Kaijin 海神

Kaijin literally means the God of the Seas, a perfect name for this ramen shop that does not use meat. The seafood soup at Shinjuku Kaijin changes daily based on what seafood is in season. The broth, while rich in flavor, is light and refreshing on the palate. The fish that goes into the broth is written out daily on large white paper that is hung up on the wall.

The menu is read from right to left, top to bottom:

本日のアラ   honjitsu no ara  today’s seafood scraps (head, bones, etc.)

真鯛   madai   sea bream

平政   hiramasa   kingfish (in the same family as yellowtail)

太刀魚   tachiuo   cutlassfish or beltfish

甘鯛   amadai   tilefish

穴子   anago   sea eel

Ara refers to the head, bones, and other scraps of fish that can be either simmered in a sweet soy broth and carefully picked over when eating. Here at Kaijin the chef uses the ara scraps to make the soup stock. Salt is added to the broth. The noodles are thin, which is exactly what this broth needs. It is garnished with julienned leeks, and a chicken and a shrimp dumpling. If you have an allergy, be sure to tell them, ebi no arerugi- ga arimasu.

If you have a big appetite, be sure to order the grilled onigiri (rice ball) and put it into the soup when you are done with the noodles. The salty yuzu koshō paste is also a great way to add depth to the ramen.

Kaijin also has shellfish ramen, like asari (littleneck clam) or hamaguri (Orient clam). I have tried these, but much prefer the complexity of the seafood ramen, their signature dish.

These are the signs in front of the Shinjuku shop. It’s a smaller shop with counter seating for five, a table for four and a table for two. There is often a line going down the stairs, but it usually moves quickly, as this is a quick meal. Be sure not to linger after you’re done eating if there are people waiting.

There are three branches in Tokyo at the time this blogpost was written. I have been to the Kichijoji shop, which is close to the station, but the soup was too salty and I won’t go back. The Shinjuku shop is also near the station and where I go. A new shop has also recently opened in Ikebukuro.

Shinjuku Menya Kaijin

Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-35-7

Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Minamicho 1-5-9, Kumamoto Bldg. 2F

Toshima-ku, Ikebukuro 1-19-2

http://www.kaijin-ramen.com/menu.php

 

 

Kichijoji Light Up Coffee

Aihara-san of Light Up Coffee

Aihara-san of Light Up Coffee

At my local coffee shop, Cribe, in Kokubunji, I often meet coffee shop owners. The other day I met a very young Aihara-san whose shop, Light Up Coffee, is in Kichijoji. Light Up was on my my radar thanks to recommendations from Twitter friends. Arigato, Twitter!

Light Up Coffee is about a seven-minute walk from Kichijoji Station’s North Exit. Take a left out of the North Exit and walk straight. The street is filled with fun shops selling trinkets, antiques, clothes, and things you don’t need, but desire as they are “kawaii” (cute). Across the street is a park and this morning it is filled with nursery school kids laughing and crying. This is a residential neighborhood this far from the station.

Light Up Interior

Light Up Interior

From the back of the shop is the hum of the small coffee roaster. I walk to the back and find Aihara-san tending to the beans. He helps me choose from the day’s coffee and recommends Kenya Kariru. It has a soft acidity and is reminiscent of a strong-brewed tea. There are several Japanese magazines to peruse and even some English coffee books, including Blue Bottle’s gorgeous book.

The furnishings are simple. Two skinny wood counters with skinny chairs. There is a cool breeze as there is a back door that is opened.

Light Up Exterior

Light Up Exterior

Aihara-san brings me a second cup, also from Kenya, but a new bean called Tegu. He said the Kenya bean was changing. This was fruitier and hand hints of tomatoes. Different from the first. At Light Up one of the menu options is a flight of coffee, a great chance to taste different coffee next to each other.

Light Up Coffee is open seven days a week. On Tuesdays he has shorter hours.

Light Up Coffee

Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Honcho 4-13-15

0422-27-2094

www.lightupcoffee.com

Wednesday – Monday 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Tuesdays 12 noon – 5 p.m.

Village Vanguard Burgers in Kichijoji

Village Vanguard in Kichijoji

Village Vanguard Double Cheeseburger

Walking into Village Voice in Kichijoji I felt like I was up North in Minnesota. The beer signs lining the wood-paneled walls, the beer on tap, and the smell of burgers and fries. It’s a popular spot and we came right after they opened for lunch. Within about fifteen minutes it was packed and then a line started out the front door.

Small bites like chips and avocado or onion rings come out very quickly. The burger follows right after. The burgers are more like one will find at a diner, thin and cooked through. Toppings are generous and it’s a satisfying meal. The cheese are gooey slices, Velveeta perhaps? And even the bun has sesame seeds on it. Small things, but something one would appreciate if they spent anytime eating burgers in the USA.  The only downside would be making a special trip here to find a long line. So time your visit wisely, either come early or late, but not at prime meal times.

Village Vanguard in Kichijoji

Village Vanguard Interior

The red bar stools facing the kitchen are a nod to Americana. The other diners this day were all Japanese, many of them girls digging into big burgers with glee. There are many burger shops in Tokyo that are trying to feel like America, this is one spot that has nailed the interior, music, and cuisine.

 

Village Vanguard

Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Honcho 2-10-1 TY Bldg. 2F

武蔵野市吉祥寺本町2-20-1 TYビル2F

 

Kichijoji Satou

Image

If you have been to Kichijoji’s famous shōtengai on the North side of the station, most likely you have walked past the long lines at Satou. The shop is famous for its menchi katsu, seasoned ground beef patties covered in panko and deep-fried. The line is infamously long. I have never seen Satou without a long line, so I was thrilled when Satou had a temporary stall in our local depachika. There were only three people in line so I joined the queue. The first two ladies in line each ordered about a dozen pieces. Typical for popular items like this. Most likely the ladies are not buying only for their own household but will share these with friends as Satou menchi katsu is very famous.

The menchi katsu (200 JPY) was disappointing as was the potato croquette (140 JPY). It was fine, but nothing special, and definitely not worth standing in line for. So curious why people queue for this. Because it is famous, even if it is not good? There is a steakhouse on the 2nd floor of the take-away shop that also is popular.

Steak House Satou

Musashino-shi, Kichijōji Honcho 1-1-8

Gotta Get – Croissant Taiyaki

Image

Taiyaki is a traditional Japanese sweet that is usually a pancake like dough that is stuffed with azuki bean paste and grilled in a fish (tai is the Japanese word for sea bream) shape. I am usually not a big fan unless they are hot off the grill as the dough gets very soft and it is just a mushy cake.

Today in Kichijoji (武蔵野市吉祥寺本町1-7-10; Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Honcho 1-7-10) I came across a new shop that just opened in early February called Croissant Taiyaki. Basically taiyaki but made with croissant dough and studded with sugar crystals before it is grilled. Brilliant. The croissant dough bakes and is crunchy and especially crispy on the outer bits. The azuki was the chunky-style, not the smooth paste. The taiyaki sells for 200 yen each and was the perfect mid-morning snack.

This evening in Shinjuku I came across a second shop at the famous Studio ALTA just outside of the Higashi-Guchi East Exit. It had a line and seemed to be very popular.

There are currently 13 shops in Tokyo, including one inside of Tokyo Station’s in the Keiyo Street section.

Croissant Taiyaki

Pizzeria GG

GG1Anyone who knows the Tokyo food scene is aware of the many wood-burning ovens and great pizzerias in the city. Some of my favorites, like Seirinkan in Naka-Meguro, are a trip for me to get to. I’ve been looking for something closer to where we live on the Chuo line. Sadly, most of it is disappointing.

I’ve heard of Pizzeria GG but have had the hardest time locating it. I’ve seen it on TV and in magazines, but for all of the time I spend in Kichijoji, I’ve never been able to find it. Finally, with the help of an iPad and some satellites far up in the sky, I succeeded. I had walked by it for months. If you don’t know what to look for, you two will walk right by.

I was with our son this day so took the meat pie. It’s a large pizza and one should go on an empty stomach. The crust was thick on the edges and thin in the middle. For me it’s a great pie. The dough is chewy, toppings are generous, and best of all, it’s close to home.

GG2

The fritto misto was of zucchini, bell peppers, and sweet potatoes. Hot out of the oil and our serving of vegetables for this lunch.GG3

Proper wood-burning oven. GG4And, the exterior, which I have marched right by. I even stood in front of it, holding my iPad that said I had arrived at my destination, and couldn’t spot it.

Will definitely go back. It’s very close to the lovely Inokashira Koen, which would be perfect for a long walk before (or after) the pizza. I hear it fills up quickly on the weekends, so go early or late. Better yet, come on a weekday if you can.

Pizzeria GG

Tokyo-to, Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Minamicho 1-17-1, B1

0422-26-5024

Rose Bakery in Kichijoji 吉祥寺ローズベーカリー

akery Morning Salad Set

Rose Bakery salad lunch

Rose Bakery salad lunch

Kichijoji is a great station to visit that is close to both Shinjuku and Shibuya. It can be reached by the Chuo line from Shinjuku or the Inokashira line from Shibuya. Inokashira Koen is a large park just minutes from the station. It is great for walking around and there is even a small zoo at the park. Kichijoji also has an interesting shoutengai (shopping arcade) that is worth exploring. I list some of my favorite shops at the shoutengai in this Metropolis magazine article.

The salad lunch is a colorful, healthful lunch that is packed with a variety of flavors. There was some chicken and anchovies in this lunch set, but I am sure if I requested 100% vegetarian that the staff would have accommodated my request.

RB bread

Rose Bakery Morning Bread Set

But there is a lot to see in the station building, atré. There is a great seafood store, Uoriki, on the first floor, Shinseido bookstore on the 2nd floor, and a Kaldi on the 2nd floor to pick up some imported food products.

The bread is lovely here. A bit dense with a crispy, slightly burnt crust.

Rose Bakery is on the first floor near the concierge stand. It is a perfect place to meet friends or to sit alone and catch up on some reading. Rose Bakery has great salads that are served for breakfast. I have come to love these salads so much that it has changed the way I make salads at home. Almost once a day we’ll make a Rose Bakery inspired salad. As you can see in the photos above the salads are simply vegetables in a vinaigrette, sometimes with curry in the vinaigrette. Many of the salads include sesame or sunflower seeds.

RB interior 1

As you can see, Rose Bakery is brightly lit. Perfect for getting some work done or reading.

RB 1

On a recent visit there were live plants hanging from the roof.

rb 3

The Rose Bakery cookbook is for sale as well as some tea and other ingredients like sunflower seeds.

rb 4

“Each main course is a vegetable dish accompanied by meat.” ROSE

rb 5

The colorful salads. Now you can understand how this is very inspiring, not only to eat better, but to try and recreate some of these at home. I have only been to Rose Bakery in Japan, and love the use of local produce for the salads.

rb 7

My only complaint is that there was water dripping from the plants onto the papers I was editing at the café.

rb 6
There is a selection of sweets as well. Rose Bakery also has take-away if you are in a rush.
Rose Bakery started as a shop in England that also has a branch in Paris. Currently there are three shops in Tokyo, all in great locations. Besides the Kichijoji café the others are in Ginza in the new Dover Street complex as well as in Marunouchi.
Another thing I love about Rose Bakery in Kichijoji is that it opens at 8 a.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. on weekends. While Kichijoji has many great cafés, a lot of them don’t open until 10 or 11 a.m.

Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Minami-Machi 1-1-24, Kichijoji atré 1F phone: 0422-22-1506

Chuo-ku, Ginza 6-9-5, Ginza Komatsu West Wing 7F at Comme des Garcons – Dover Street Market

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 2-1-1, Meiji Yasuda Seimei Bldg. 1F

Shinjuku Isetan 3F