Le Pain de Joel Robuchon

One of my favorite bakeries in Tokyo is from the famous chef Joel Robuchon, for savory breads made with excellent ingredients. Le Pain de Joel Robuchon has recently opened near Shinjuku station in the NEWoMaN mall. Imagine one of France’s top chefs creating breads and sweets using French and Japanese ingredients? I love the l’Atelier de Joel Robuchon restaurant, but don’t often have the time to sit through a meal, so the boulangerie is a alternative to get my Robuchon fix.

On the left above is a foie gras toast topped with apple and pink peppercorns croque monsieur, the right is my favorite, a cheesy potato bread with lardons. Crispy cheese bits contrasted with potato bites and meaty bacon. How many shops do you know serving foie gras croque monsieur?

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Joel Robuchon mushrooms and walnuts

Seasonal breads like this bread with maitake, shimeji, and eringi mushrooms with walnuts change throughout the year. All of the above breads are best reheated in a toaster oven. The green olive fougasse never made it home, it was too hard to resist, and I highly recommend it.

The Roppongi Hills shop has no seating area, but the Shinjuku shop does have a small café seating area by the bakery. There is also a retail shop in the Shibuya Hikarie B2 depachika.

Le Pain de Joel Robuchon

Roppongi Hills, Shinjuku NEWoMaN, Shibuya Hikarie

http://www.robuchon.jp/en

Japanese Curry with Some Fried Pork

ouroji-tondon

Tonkatsu on its own is a great dish, as is curry, but combined as katsu curry is a great way to hit two sweet spots in one dish. Ouroji 王ろじ is a tonkatsu shop on a quiet back street near Shinjuku Isetan. Katsu curry here is served in a bowl and is called tondon (tonkatsu donburi). The rice is from Niigata and is the right texture and slightly sweet. The curry is not at all spicy, and in the Japanese-style, so if you like heat, look elsewhere. The tonkatsu is a thick piece with a crispy coating that is dressed with some sweet sauce over the curry. Ouroji opened in 1921 and it has an old school feel to it.

Ouroji 王ろじ

Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku3-17-21   新宿区新宿3-17-21

Dinner after Ben Fiddich

tonchinkan-tonkatsu

Just around the corner from Bar Ben Fiddich on a quiet pedestrian side street is a local tonkatsu-ya, Tonchinkan 豚珍館。The assistant bartender at Ben Fiddich had recommended it for “good tonkatsu and bad service”. He also warned us that there most likely would be a line. We didn’t see a line when we turned the corner, but there was a small line going up the stairs to the second-floor shop.

It’s a value-priced meal, considering that you can get free refills of rice and tonjiru, miso soup with daikon and pork. The standard tonkatsu (photo above) is 950 JPY and is a thick cut with the breading in the style of Meguro Tonki. The tonkatsu is dipped in egg and flour a few times before being breaded and deep-fried. There are two sauces, amai (sweet) and karai (spicy), but even the sweet was not overtly sweet as many shops serve. I also love that on the table is a Thai chili sauce for the julienned cabbage.

There is an English menu and you place your order while waiting in line. This is a shop you don’t want to linger at. Glad I had been warned about the service. Diners are not coddled as at most shops in the city. This is like the strict mother getting you to eat your meal and kicking you out so the next person in line can get in.

Don’t compare this to Maisen or Butagumi. If you only have time for one tonkatsu meal in the city, then head there. But if you are here for a while, or you craving meat after dreamy cocktails at Bar Ben Fiddich, then this is a fun, local experience.

Tonkinchan 豚珍館

Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 1-13-8, Takahashi Bldg. 2F

新宿区西新宿1-13-8高橋ビル2F

closed Sunday and holidays

Craft Beer – Yoyogi Watering Hole

Watering Hole near Yoyogi station is a great spot to try Japanese and imported craft beer. I felt like I was back in the US with the stickers on the wall and refrigerator. The menu is basic, fish and chips, mac n’ cheese, seasonal pickles, and rice crackers. Sadly, I believe the sweet potato chips are no longer on the menu. Bummer.

Watering Hole opens from 3 p.m., for those of you who are here on holidays, or if you finish work early. Friendly staff who help answer my questions about the brews. Check their website as they update their beer menu daily.

Watering Hole is a short walk from Shinjuku Takashimaya.

Watering Hole

Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-26-5-103 渋谷区千駄ヶ谷5-26-5-103

http://wateringhole.jp/

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

 

 

Sarabeth’s

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Sarabeth’s

Sarabeth’s, a restaurant from New York City that serves classic American breakfast dishes like French toast, eggs Benedict, and yogurt with granola and fruit. After breakfast the menu features salads and sandwiches. There are a few branches in Tokyo as well as a shop in Osaka. The Japanese are crazy for pancakes, so Sarabeth’s is often filled with locals digging into ricotta pancakes.

Tokyo Station: Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-8-2, Tekko Bldg. 2-3F

Shinjuku: Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-38-2, Lumine2 Bldg. 2F

Shinagawa: Minato-ku, Konan 2-18-1, atre Shinagawa 4F

http://sarabethsrestaurants.jp/location/en/

Maison Kayser Kouign Amann

maison-kayser-kouign-amann

Kouign amann is a butter pastry that is rich with a caramel like crust that can be both crunchy and chewy. If you’ve been to Bretagne in France, you will know that it is famous for butter, a key ingredient in this decadent sweet.

My favorite kouign amann in Tokyo is at Dominique Ansel Bakery in Omotesando. Another one that I like is this one from Maison Kayser, which has branches throughout the city, including at Shinjuku Takashimaya.

Try it, you’ll love it. Kouign amann is very popular in Tokyo, so check out any bakery you pass. Here it is in Japanese: クイニーアマン

Focaccia and Ciabatta in Tokyo

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My favorite Italian bakery in the city is Peck, which is only found at Takashimaya, both in Nihonbashi and Shinjuku, as well as at the shops in the suburbs. Peck is a gourmet shop in Milano that dates back to 1883. The selection includes Italian cheeses, cured meats, pastas, olive oils, and other pantry staples. There is also a selection of prepared dishes as well as some sandwiches.

I am addicted to the focaccia and ciabatta at Peck. The ciabatta freezes well, so I’ll cut up a few pieces for the freezer and warm it up in the oven toaster.

Peck is perfect for an impromptu picnic in Shinjuku Gyoen park, which is a short walk from the Shinjuku Takashimaya. Pick up some breads, cheese, and meat and swing by the wine shop for a bottle of wine.

If you come across great Italian breads in Tokyo, please let me know.

Peck at Takashimaya

Best Mentaiko Pan in Tokyo?

My favorite Japanese bread is mentaiko panMentaiko is pollack roe that has been cured in salt and seasoned with dried red chili peppers. At home we love mentaiko raw with a bowl of rice. It can be toasted on the outside and left raw inside for an umami-rich dish with sake.

The Japanese have brilliantly come up with putting into a small baguette with some butter and toasting it. Whenever I go into a new bakery it is the first thing I look for. Not all bakeries in Tokyo have it, so if you come across it, I recommend highly picking one up.

My commute into Tokyo takes me through Shinjuku station. The South Exit area has been under construction for a long time and has recently opened up under the new bus terminal. For me, this is the best mentaiko pan I have come across in the city. It opens at 8 a.m. and this is a great way to start the day.

Le Bihan is originally from Bretagne and dates back to 1913. It has many more stores in the Kansai region. Le Bihan, also has branch in Shinjuku Odakyu depachika, Ikebukuro Seibu, and Kita Senju Marui.

Le Bihan

Shinjuku Station South Exit

Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-24-55, NEWoMan Shinjuku 2F (inside the station gates)

渋谷区千駄ヶ谷5-24-55 NEWoMan SHINJUKU 2F

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