What to Eat in Tokyo Now

 

Tokyo summers are hot, humid, and in my opinion, horrible. I don’t know about you, but my appetite wanes and some days it can be hard to get motivated to eat. Here are some things that I look forward to eating this time of year. In this list I am including some dishes or restaurants I haven’t been to, but are on my radar for the summer. If you make it to any of these, please reply to this blogpost, I’d love to hear your impressions.

Dominique Ansel’s Sweet Corn Ice Cream http://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/corn-ice-cream-grilled-corn-cob-tokyos-newest-dessert We love this shop so much it is where we came to celebrate my birthday. There is a second floor café with great savory dishes like avocado toast and chicken pot pie. This summer’s sweet corn ice cream looks amazing. (Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-7-14 渋谷区神宮前5-7-14)

Kakigori shaved ice brings me back to my first visits to Japan from Minnesota. My favorite was the miruku (milk) topping, which is actually sweetened condensed milk. Other great toppings include green tea and red bean paste.

sapporoya-hiyashi-chuka

Nihonbashi Sapporoya Chilled Ramen with Sesame Dressing

Chilled Ramen at Nihonbashi Sapporoya. This is my favorite bowl of ramen in the summer. If you’ve never had cold ramen, let this be your first.  https://foodsaketokyo.com/2013/10/13/nihonbashi-sapporoya/

Baird Beer Taproom in Takadanobaba. I haven’t been, but this is on my summer Go List. Nothing better to cool down with than cold beer. This is my favorite craft beer in Japan, and this new shop’s menu includes kushiage (meat and vegetables that are skewered, dusted with panko, and deep-fried). See you there. http://bairdbeer.com/en/tap/takadanobaba.html

kintame-bubuchazuke

Kintame Bubuchazuke

A meal of Japanese pickles is cooling and refreshing. My favorite pickle shop is Monzennakacho’s Kintame. https://foodsaketokyo.com/2011/06/30/kintame/

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Tsukishima Monjayaki

One crazy food I crave in the summer is monjayaki, Tokyo’s version of a savory pancake that is cooked over a hot iron grill. Sitting at the table is hot, and a good excuse to drink ice cold beer. Tsukishima is a neighborhood that has a street lined with monjayaki shops. Best to go at night as the area comes to life. Most shops are closed at lunch, but a few are open, if this is your only time to come. https://foodsaketokyo.com/2011/07/06/monjayaki-okame-hyottoko-ten/

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Summer Saké

Cooling down with saké in the summer is more interesting when drinking summer saké. Saké made for drinking in the summer tends to be a little lower in alcohol, sometimes frizzante, and often bottled in light blue or clear bottles. Ask for natsu sake at your retail shop or when dining out.

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Kagurazaka Meisyan Tan Tan Men

Spicy and hot tan tan men noodles are also on my mind this time of year. Eating this dish I usually work up a sweat, which somehow seems to cool me down a bit. It’s also a good excuse to have a cold beer. This bowl is from Meisyan 梅香 in Kagurazaka, with a female chef in the kitchen (woo-hoo!). Shinjuku-ku, Yokoteramachi 37-39, Nakajima Daiichi Bldg. 新宿区横寺町37-39中島第一ビル

On this same theme, I also love having curry in the summer. Here is a list of some curries in Tokyo worth seeking out. https://foodsaketokyo.com/category/curry/

tsurutontan-tomato-udon

Tsurutontan Tomato Udon

Finally, cold noodles, soba, udon, or somen. Pop into any noodle shop and seek out the cold noodles. In particular, I am a huge fan of the seasonal udon menu at Tsurutontan, with branches throughout the city and at Haneda airport.  https://foodsaketokyo.com/2014/08/12/roppongi-tsurutontan-udon/

 

 

 

Still Craving Korean Fried Chicken

I was so excited to hear that a Korean fried chicken (KFC) restaurant opened in Roppongi. I have yet to find good KFC in Tokyo, even after scouring Okubo and Shin-Okubo, where many Korean restaurants are.

KyoChon had a few missteps while I was there and I don’t know if I will go back. I came on a quiet weekday for a late lunch. The restaurant was only about a quarter full and the girl who greeted me told me there was a time limit of two hours per customer. I was so confused. I told her that I surely would be gone in two hours.

When the menu is presented I was told that all of the chicken is made from scratch and that it takes at least 20 minutes. Really? I just got seated and I’ve already been told about how long I have to wait to eat and when I will be pushed out the door.

So, I ordered a chicken salad to kill time while waiting for my KFC. The salad was fine, but the dressing was too sweet. To top it all off, they brought my chicken shortly after I got started on my salad. It was not 20 minutes, I don’t even think it was 10 minutes.

So, the chicken was good, but nothing close to as good as what I have had in NYC or Singapore. That, or I was just in such a sour mood as the chicken came so quickly.

KyoChon Roppongi

Minato-ku, Roppongi 5-1-7 港区六本木5-1-7

http://www.kyochon.jp/index_en.php

 

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

Maison Landemaine

Landemaine croissant

Landemaine croissant

At the French Culinary Institute I completed the bread baking program before doing the culinary program. I love bread. Tokyo is a wonderful city for bread. There are many French boulangeries in Tokyo including Viron, Maison Kayser, and Gontran Cherrier. Add to that impressive collection Maison Landemaine from Paris. I had heard that there were long lines, as is to be expected when any hot spot opens in Tokyo. I went recently on a weekday and was happy to see that there were no lines and that I could sit in the cafe. The shop was busy with customers, but most of them for take-away.

There are two croissants. The French croissant made with Lescure butter and the Japanese croissant made with a local butter. Forgive me for not knowing as I couldn’t resist trying the French croissant. It is among the best in the city, along with the croissant at Le Boutique at Le Cordon Bleu in Daikanyama.

Maison Landemaine

Maison Landemaine

There is a nice selection of breads that I will be back for. It’s a long walk from the closest subway station, which I believe is Roppongi. I hope that they expand, quickly.:-)

Maison Landemaine

Minato-ku, Azabudai 3-1-5 港区麻布台3-1-5

www.maisonlandemaine.com/en/shops

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/

Fermintxo Boca

Fermintxo Boca Pasta Paella

Fermintxo Boca Pasta Paella

Fermintxo Boca is a lovely Spanish spot hidden behind the escalators on the first floor of the Ark Hills South Tower. Lunch, which includes an appetizer plate, main dish, and coffee, is a bargain starting at 1,200 JPY. The pasta paella at lunch is made with splinters of angel hair pasta cooked in a rich seafood broth studded with scallops, squid, and shellfish. The aroma of the ocean filled the table when the large dish was set down.

fermintxo boca steak

Fermintxo Boca Steak

The steak is seared on the outside and red on the inside, perfectly paired with meaty mushrooms. The restaurant is usually full at the peak noon lunchtime, so go early or late. It’s casual here and at this lunch it was filled with ladies, so lots of chatting. Staff are friendly and welcoming. Fermintxo Boca is also getting a lot of press lately for its sandwiches, so I will be back. This is a great spot for lunch. It’s a small restaurant, and fills up quickly. There is a counter overlooking the open kitchen, great for solo diners. Fermintxo Boca offers a great value at lunch.

Fermintxo Boca

Minato-ku, Roppongi 1-4-5, Ark Hills South Tower 1st Floor

Ruby Jack’s Steakhouse

Ruby Jack's Tomato Salad

Ruby Jack’s Tomato Salad

Ruby and Jack are chef Matthew Crabbe’s grandparents name. Ruby Jack’s Steakhouse is a great spot in the Ark Hills South Tower building. High ceilings, outdoor seating if you want on a spacious terrace. The interior feels very upscale with the white tablecloths, but it’s very friendly and without any attitude. Here is a tomato and blue cheese salad.

Ruby Jack's Caesar Salad

Ruby Jack’s Caesar Salad

The Caesar salad is covered with a generous amount of cheese, which is a treat in Japan.

Ruby Jack's Pork

Ruby Jack’s Pork

While it is a steakhouse, I couldn’t resist the Japanese pork. A meaty portion that was just right for lunch.

Ruby Jack's burger

Ruby Jack’s Burger

I had such a great meal that I went back right away as I wanted to try the burger and fries. It’s a messy burger, as they should be, and with a barbecue sauce. All of the lunch sets come with an appetizer and coffee or tea. Here is my review of Ruby Jack’s for Metropolis magazine.

The wine list is rich and there are several selections under 10,000 JPY. At lunchtime the restaurant is kid-friendly and there is even a kid’s menu. Don’t bother coming if you are a vegetarian, or you may leave hungry.

My only advice is to allow yourself some time to get lost in this area. There are many buildings in the Ark Hills complex and I have been lost here several times.

Ruby Jack’s Steakhouse

Minato-ku, Roppongi 1-4-5, Ark Hills South Tower 2F

rubyjacks.jp

 

Roppongi Butagumi Shokudō 六本木豚組食堂

Roppongi Butagumi

Butagumi Tonkatsu

Butagumi Shokudō is located in the basement of the Roppongi Hills North Tower. There are about a dozen counter seats and several tables in back at this popular tonkatsu spot. Take-away bento and tonkatsu sandwiches are also available, but the best tonkatsu is eaten right away as it comes out of the deep-fryer. At the counter you can watch as a chef trims away fat from big slabs of pork. The frying is done in the back of the house.

One of the pork used at Butagumi is the Tsubaki Sangenton (椿三元豚) from Chiba. It is a tender, light pork. The aka (dark red) miso soup comes with slippery nameko mushrooms. The salad can be topped with a refreshing yuzu ginger dressing.

The main branch, Butagumi, is in Nishi-Azabu and has a long list of pork to choose from. Consider Butagumi Shokudō (dining hall) the café branch of the honten for an abbreviated menu and a quick meal. The music on a recent day was hits from the 80s from Bruce Springstein and Michael Jackson, which made the meal all the more comfortable.

Butagumi Shokudō 豚組食堂

Minato-ku, Roppongi 6-2-31, Roppongi Hills North Tower B1

港区六本木6-2-31、六本木ヒルズノースタワーB1

https://www.facebook.com/butagumi.shokudo

 

Roppongi Tsurutontan Udon

Tsurutontan tomato udon

Tomato udon with tomato sorbet at Tsurutontan

In summer at home we often make chilled somen noodles, sometimes topped with tomatoes. It’s a breeze to whip together, especially if you have tsuyu, the soy-based sauce noodles. Udon specialty restaurant Tsurutonten in Roppongi has a chilled tomato udon that is served with tomato sorbet. This is a great dish on a hot summer day, rich in umami. It is presented in a massive red bowl. Had the bowl been smaller I would have picked it up to slurp up what little broth was left in the bowl. Diners have the option of thin or regular udon noodles. In the photo above are the thin noodles. The seasonal menu is big and the next one on my list to try is the grilled corn udon. Our server said the summer menu will run through September 20th.

Tsurutonten also has branches in Shinjuku (Kabukicho 2-26-3), Marunouchi (Marunouchi 2-7-3, Tokia Bldg. B1), and at Haneda Airport.

 

Tsurutonten つるとんたん

Minato-ku, Roppongi 3-14-12

Soba at Honmura An

Honmura An

Fresh Yuba on Chilled Soba

My first introduction to Honmura An was in New York City back about 15 years ago. A friend who loved soba wanted to share with me his favorite soba shop in the city. I was mesmerized with the stone grinder for crushing the dried buckwheat and impressed that the noodles were being made fresh daily. Sadly the Manhattan shop has since closed. Honmura An has since relocated to Tokyo, in Roppongi, just across the street and around a corner from the massive Tokyo Midtown complex. It is a short walk from Roppongi Hills or any of the Roppongi stations.

The interior is modern and sparsely decorated with simple washi, Japanese paper, that hangs from above. In the back of the restaurant there is a large window overlooking the soba prep room. Sadly when we arrived the rolling and cutting of the noodles were done for the first seating of lunch.

A few tables had solo diners, in their 20s, plugged into their own music or engrossed into their phones and the outer world. Most of the diners were area businessmen and ladies who lunch. The restaurant has a big menu of small bites that can be had before finishing off with soba. At lunchtime most people were not having the side dishes but all going straight for the buckwheat noodles. This day it was quite hot outside and as one would expect, most diners were ordering the cold noodles.

Honmura An

Ikura and Grated Daikon on Chilled Soba

I had asked if they had yakimiso, a classic dish of a sweet miso, often studded with buckwheat, that is grilled. I was disappointed when I was told it wasn’t served so we ordered two types of soba. One topped with a creamy, fresh yuba (soy milk skin) and the other a grated daikon and ikura (marinated salmon roe).

The noodles are fine and very delicate and this would be a great light lunch during the hot summers that Tokyo is known for.

Honmura An has a nice selection of saké and wine. I was so happy to see Urakasumi Junmaishu on the list that I didn’t even bother looking at the wine list. The saké is easy on the palate and a nice partner to the soba.

Honmura An

Minato-ku, Roppongi 7-14-18

03-5772-6657

English menu available.

Closed Monday and 1st & 3rd Tuesday