Shibuya Kotaro 高太郎

K1Kotaro is named after the owner and chef who prepares all of the food in an open kitchen behind a large wooden counter. I was introduced to Kotaro by a food writer who introduces me to the best spots around the city.

K2

Selection of saké cups on the counter. Each saké is served with a different cup. It’s always interesting to try saké from different cups, and curious to see which ones the staff picks for each person as they are not always the same.

Kotaro menu

Kotaro menu – photo by my sommelier friend, Carrie. Arigato! Kotaro writes the menu by hand. Love this personal touch.

K3

The concept behind the saké list is very simple. Kotaro has selected eight breweries that he is fond of and only serves from these eight. When I first heard this I thought it was limiting. However, the brilliance behind this is that as he has strong connections with these breweries he is able to get limited release saké for his restaurant. Many of what we had this evening will be hard to find elsewhere in Tokyo. He also likes the styles of these breweries and his cuisine works well with these.

K4

The first course at Koutaro is always a bean dish. Again, very simple concept, but when executed correctly is very rewarding. I also loves the tableware he uses, like this intricate blue and white dish. There is katsuobushi (dried and shaved skipjack tuna) garnishing the beans, greens, and mushrooms.

Most Japanese will start the night off with a beer and then move onto saké. At izakaya with a good saké list, I like to start off with a sparkling saké, which Kotaro usually has on hand.

K5

Otsukuri, or sashimi course.

The izakaya has a long counter facing the open kitchen, or if you come with friends you can get a table. The staff speak English and can explain the dishes. The menu is only in Japanese, so I recommend telling the staff, “omakase” (oh-mah-kah-say) and letting Kotaro serve you some of their signature dishes. Tell them if there is anything you like, and more importantly, you don’t like.

K6

Basashi (horse meat sashimi) 馬刺し from Canada of all places. Kumamoto prefecture in Kyushu (southern Japan) is famous for basashi and I have become a big fan of it. It’s very meaty and like eating steak tartare.

K7

Oyster on the half shell. 生牡蠣

The restaurant is popular so you have to book well in advance. You could call from overseas to place your reservation, about a month in advance. I believe the phone lines open up at 1:30 p.m. The staff can take your reservation in English.

K8

Japanese-style potato salad is a common dish found at casual izakaya so I was surprised to find it here at Koutaro. That being said, potato salad is a comfort food that almost everyone loves. And, this one was topped with a smoked, hard-boiled egg. Something I can’t make at home. The dressing is a classic vinaigrette.

K10

Menchi katsu is one of Kotaro’s signature dishes. Ground meat that is breaded and deep-fried. Surprisingly very good with a hearty saké.

Another tip, ask them to give you different temperatures of saké. It’s fun to try hot and cold and to see how the flavor changes as a hot saké cools down.
K11

The last dish is his signature udon noodles that he makes each evening from scratch after the store closes. Kotaro is from Kagawa, on the island of Shikoku. This is the heart of udon country. In Tokyo, most meals end with rice, so the handmade udon noodles is a great spin.

He serves a Japanese-style carbonara with a raw egg, butter, and soy sauce. He also does a cold udon noodle simply garnished with grated daikon and soy sauce.

It’s usually a young, hip crowd here. It’s always busy. They do serve until late at night, so if you can’t get in early, try and book later in the evening.

Kotaro is a short walk from Shibuya station. It’s a bit hard to find, so make sure you have Google Maps, or go by taxi, to be safe. If you go, please tell him Yukari sent you.:-)

Kotaro 高太郎

Shibuya-ku, Sakuragaokacho 28-2 渋谷区桜丘町

03-5428-5705

Closed Sunday and the first Monday of each month.

http://ameblo.jp/kotaro-info/

 

 

New York Pizza at Shibuya Pizza Slice

Having lived in NYC I was spoiled with many options for pizza by the slice. My favorite was Two Boots and there was one in the West Village near my home. I would have taxi drivers bring me there if were returning home from an overseas trip.

In Tokyo we have incredible pizza, like Nakameguro Seirinkan and Nihonbashi Pizza Bar on 38th at the Mandarin Oriental. These are like pizzas you will find in Napoli and Roma.

I love Rocco’s New York-Style Pizza but it is up in Oji, a part of town I never get to. It’s been two years since I last went. I’d love to go back, but it’s a hike.

I am thrilled to have finally made it to Pizza Slice in Shibuya and even happier that it is good New York pizza. Thin, crispy crust, that almost took me back to Two Boots. The pepperoni by the slice is 500 JPY. Nice tomato sauce and pepperoni, just like in New York City. The slices are warmed up after you order and brought to your table.

Even the cashier had an attitude and was kind of bitchy when I asked for a receipt. I totally felt like I was back home. I guess we get spoiled in Japan with polite service.

Even the room feels like you are in America. A mix of large communal and small tables. A counter on the side to sit. There is a large display of the variety of pizzas to choose from. The crowd this afternoon was a mix of Japanese and non-Japanese, all young and even a gaggle of high school boys.

Best of all, Pizza Slice is in Shibuya, a neighborhood that I get to very often. It’s about a ten-minute walk from the station, faster if you know where you are going. Here’s hoping they open their first branch on the Chuo line.

Pizza Slice

Shibuya-ku, Sarugakucho 3-1  渋谷区猿楽町3-1

http://www.pizzaslice.co/

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

Shibuya Tare Katsu Don

The signboard outside of this small shop near Shibuya station caught my eye. Vegetables and thin slices of pork dressed in panko bread crumbs, deep-fried, and dipped in a sweet and savory soy sauce over a bowl of rice. Donburi are large bowls of rice with toppings. Tare refers to the sauce that clings to the vegetables and pork. Tare katsu don is a regional dish from Niigata prefecture, which is just north of Tokyo.

This shop uses organic soy sauce. The pork is Waton Mochibuta. The rice is koshi ibuki, from Niigata, famous for its rice.

I had walked by the shop several times but it was always full. Recently I spotted a single seat at the counter and swooped in. I ordered the yasai hire katsu don, vegetable and pork donburi (930 JPY). There is also a vegetable only donburi for 830 JPY.

It takes a while for the food to come, which is a good sign at fast food shops. You can see the chef deep-frying the vegetables and pork and dipping it into the sauce.

On this day the vegetables included sweet potato, eggplant, baby corn, and broccoli. There was a cherry tomato, but it was only deep-fried, not breaded. The pork was cut thin. If you were in the mood for meat you could do pork only.

The shop is only one minute from the Keio Inokashira line exit, or 3 minutes from the Shibuya JR station.

Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 1-5-9 渋谷区道玄坂1-5-9

Map:

http://www.tarekatsu.jp/map.html#shibuya

 

Shibuya Ore no Hamba-gu Yamamoto 俺のハンバーグ山本

Ore no Hamba-gu

Ore no Hamba-gu

There is a chain of restaurants that specialize in a certain cuisine or a dish. The “Ore no” series includes French, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, yakitori, kappō, soba, oden, and yakiniku. There are all in the Oreno Corporation and are casual restaurants, many of them standing only spots, that offer reasonable priced cuisine in a casual environment.

The other day on the bus I passed a restaurant called Ore no Hamba-gu near Shibuya station. I got off the bus and got in line. A good sign that there were people standing in line. Hamba-gu is different from hamburger. Hamba-gu are more like a juicy meatloaf that is served with rice instead of a bun. Hamba-gu is a staple of yōshoku, Western-style cuisine adapted for the Japanese palate. The lunch set is 1,750 JPY and comes with a salad, rice, and miso soup along with the burger.

The Ore no Hamba-gu seems to be not affiliated with the Oreno Corporation, but I could be wrong.

Ore no Hamba-gu has a handful of shops around the city including Ebisu, Kichijōji, and Jiyugaoka. The interior at Shibuya is like being at home with a living room feel in the back of the restaurant.

The menu offers about a dozen different types of toppings for the hamba-gu. I went with the most popular, which was Gorgonzola. The cheese sauce on top was nothing special, but the hamba-gu was stuffed with a rich serving of cheese. The hamba-gu is served in a hot bowl, the type you find at Korean restaurants. The meat is very, very hot. I should have known that looking at the sauce bubbling, but I wish they would have warned me.:-)

The restaurant has its own farm. The small salad that came with the lunch set is made with flavorful vegetables. I can still taste the sweet red bell peppers. I may go back and just ask for a big salad. The lunch set includes a small juice made from seven vegetables and fruit, including cilantro and shikuwasa, a tart citrus.

There is a nice server who speaks English. So even though the menu is in Japanese, there is someone to help you order. I highly recommend a glass of juice and getting a salad along with the hamba-gu.

Ore no Hamba-gu is a great example of a restaurant focusing on one thing, hamba-gu, and doing it very well.

Ore no Hamba-gu Yamamoto 俺のハンバーグ山本

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 3-18-5, Wada Bldg. 1F 渋谷区渋谷3-18-5和田ビル1F

www.orehan.com/shoplist/shibuya.html

twitter.com/orenohamburg

Shibuya Uobei Train Sushi

Uobei Sushi

Uobei Sushi

Uobei near Shibuya station is a fun spot for sushi, especially if you are dining out with your kids. This is a new trend in Japan based on the kaiten-zushi, conveyor belt sushimodel. In this new style sushi is only prepared once the customer orders it. So there is zero waste with any sushi being thrown away after a certain amount of time has passed. This is the future of fast food sushi, as new shops opening in the city take on this method.

Uobei is a large restaurant with aisles of seats facing a counter. Diners place an order on a computer screen in front of them. The menu is in English as well and is complete with pictures. Shortly after placing your order a train comes shooting from the kitchen to your spot and stops. Once you have taken off your order you push a button on the screen to send the train back to the kitchen.

Sushi at Your Fingertips

Sushi at Your Fingertips

Placing your order is half of the fun as diners scroll through the screen selecting sushi. It’s very cheap and the quality is fine. It’s not gourmet standards, but it is kid-friendly and a fun meal out with the family or friends.

Uobei is part of the Genki Sushi chain.

Uobei

Shibuya-ku, Udagawa-cho 24-8, Leisure Plaza Building

渋谷区宇田川町24-8, Leisure Plaza Building

www.genkisushi.co.jp/en/travelers/

Shibuya Curry House Tiri Tiri

Chili Tiri Curry

Tomato, Spinach, and Garbanzo Beans

It is hot and humid in Tokyo. A great time to have curry as the spices helps you to sweat, cooling you down. Curry House Tiri Tiri is a popular shop in Shibuya, about a five minute walk from the station along Meiji Dori.

While the shop has pork, chicken, or shrimp as options for the curry, I was craving healthful vegetables. This tomato is the chū-kara, medium spicy, curry. If you ask for a small portion of rice you get a 50 JPY discount. The owner’s wife said that a usual serving is a cup and a half of rice so I asked for the small portion, which was perfect.

I was curious to come here as the shop is famous for serving healthful curry. The chef uses little oil and lots of onions. Outside of the shop is a sign in Japanese that says each serving of curry contains about one whole onion. All of the ingredients are natural, no preservatives. It is also known for having some of the best curry in the city.

The menu is simple. Pick your heat, chū-kara or spicy Masala. You can pick chicken, pork, or shrimp, or go vegetarian. Just list up what you want like tomato, spinach, garbanzo beans, lentils, potatoes, cheese, or a raw egg. Also, tell them if you want a little or a lot of rice.

Chili Tiri Storefront

Chili Tiri Storefront

The shop is only open weekdays, 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., or until they run out. Love this. If I were to do a restaurant I would do the same. Even when I got there around 1 p.m., late for lunch in Japan, there was a line. There are 15 seats at a long counter with white tiles. The line does move quickly as the meal is quite fast. If there is a line outside they will come out and take your order to expedite the service. Quite a lot of customers came for take-away.

The only thing they have to drink is ice water. Smart.

I don’t know if they speak English. The wife was very abrupt asking me in Japanese if I spoke Japanese. I don’t know how she would be with a non-Japanese speaker. So go prepared. I felt like I was at Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi.

Curry House Tiri Tiri チリチリ

Shibuya-ku, Higashi 1-27-9

xn--7cka6jb.com/pc/index.html

Shibuya Adenia

Adenia burger

Adenia burger

Adenia in Shibuya is home to one of my favorite burgers in Tokyo. Chef Masafumi Irie was the sous chef at the Park Hyatt Tokyo at the same time that I was the sommelier. The bistro is a short walk from Shibuya station. It is on a quiet residential street. The daily lunch menu, reasonably priced between 1,000 and 1,500 JPY, includes a fish, meat, and steak. The burger is a bargain at 1,000 JPY. The burger is meaty and juicy and comes with the essential side dish, French fries.

Adenia steak

Adenia steak

On a recent visit I had the steak frites. The Australia steak is served with a generous salad that has is always well seasoned and has a nice acidity to it. I mention that only because I am often disappointed at how other bistros in the city dress their salads.

Adenia tartare

Adenia tartare

For a supplemental fee an appetizer or dessert can be added to the menu. The steak tartare brings me back to Paris.

Looking over this blogpost I see that it is all meat, but have no fear as the seafood options are always excellent. My dining partners usually get the fish and it is delicious. But for whatever reason, once I get here I always fall for the meaty options.

It is a small bistro, so call ahead for reservations.

Chef Irie has opened a second bistro, Decary, in Kameido which is in Kōtō-ku. The station is on the Sobu line. The menu is simliar to Adenia. Good to keep in mind when you are on that side of the city.

decary.jp/

Adenia

Shibuya-ku, Hachiyama-cho 1-7

渋谷区鉢山町1-7

www.adenia.jp/

Shibuya Murgi Curry 印度料理ムルギー

Murgi Curry

Murgi Tamago-Iri Curry

Murugi has been on my Go List for about twenty-five years now. Famous for its curry, and the unusual presentation of the tall rice behind the curry. The popular dish is the tamago-iri curry, curry with a hard-boiled egg (1,050 JPY). It is served with a small portion of a fruit paste, to be mixed into the curry to add sweetness. There are no chunks of vegetables in the curry, just a thick black curry with a strong flavor of ginger. I believe the meat is ground chicken, but it is hard to tell. The curry is served with two jars of pickles, red ginger and yellow daikon, both are a nice accent to the curry. The curry is not that spicy and diners can ask for it to be made hotter for a small charge.

Murgi exterior

Murgi exterior

Opened in 1951, the shop is nestled amongst the Love Hotels of Dogenzaka. The brick exterior of the door surrounds the sign which uses the kanji for India, 印度, instead of katakana which we see more often these days, インド (both pronounced Indo). The shop opened in 1951 and is included on many round-ups of curry restaurants in Tokyo. The interior is dim and dark wood fills much of the shop. The diners are a mix of young and old. Next to me is a table of salarymen, also first-timers, and like me excited to finally have made it to a shop that they have heard so much of.

A CD player to the side of the room with CDs lined up against the wall provide the music. Today it is Lionel Ritchie, a nod back to about 30 years ago, when Murugi was first put on my radar. I am glad I finally made it, and look forward to going back.

Murugi 印度料理ムルギー

Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 2-19-2

渋谷区道玄坂2-19-2

Saturday – Thursday; 11:30 – 15:00 (lunch only)

closed Fridays