Summer Lunch at Nihonbashi Yukari

Nihonbashi Yukari - summer lunch

Iron Chef Kimio Nonaga of Nihonbashi Yukari

On a recent afternoon we found ourselves in Nihonbashi a little after noon. Just around the corner was one of our favorite restaurants in the city, Nihonbashi Yukari. Nihonbashi Yukari is a kaiseki/kappō restaurant. Behind the counter on most days is the third-generation chef, Kimio Nonaga. We actually tried coming in last week but when we called to make our reservations Nonaga-san said that he was going to be at NHK that day filming for a television program. When Nonaga-san is not in the house his father, the second-generation chef, fills in.

We were thrilled when we opened the door to see Nonaga-san behind the counter. We had just seen several people leaving the restaurant so our timing was perfect. The counter was just being cleared and we were seated just in front of the former Iron Chef champion at the best seats in the house.

Usually we pre-order our lunch, the Yukari lunch box which is like a mini-kaiseki meal and a great bargain at 3,500 JPY. Today as we were walk-ins it was our first time to order lunch off of the menu. There is a wide variety of dishes to choose from including tempura, grilled fish, simmered pork, sashimi platter, and much more.

Nihonbashi Yukari - summer lunch sashimi

Summer sashimi course on Edo Kiriko plate

We are big fans of a special nattō taré (sauce) that was created by Nonaga-san. This sashimi course was in addition to the regular lunch. Three types of sashimi, seared scallops, katsuo (skipjack tuna), and kanpachi (yellowtail) is topped with julienned daikon, shiso, myoga, onion, kaiwaré (daikon sprouts), and baby shiso. The dressing is a blend of the fermented soybean dressing which adds a rich umami and deep flavor to the dish. Anago bones are deep-fried and pulverized and sprinkled on which adds an unexpected and welcome crunch to the dish. The dish is a beautiful dish for summer, Edo Kiriko.

Nihonbashi Yukari summer lunch - anago

Anago Jyubako

Anago is sea eel and is often seen at the traditional sushi counter in Japan. At Nihonbashi Yukari the anago is simmered until tender and then served over rice in a lacquer box, jyubako. The anago is so soft that it melts in your mouth. The sauce is ever-so-sweet, not cloying as is often the case with unagi (fresh water eel).

Nihonbashi Yukari - summer lunch simmered meitagarei

Simmered meitagarei (fine-spotted flounder)

There were a few offerings for simmered fish this day. Shinji went with meitagarei which is a type of flounder. The simmering sauce is not made fresh each day but is passed on day after day over the years. It has a deep flavor from it. Nonaga-san said that many different types of fish are simmered in this sauce, hence the depth of flavor. This is something that would be hard to recreate at home, we pondered aloud. Nonaga-san suggested we try it. He said to save the broth and to put it in the fridge. I love his positive and encouraging attitude. The rice served with the simmered fish has julienned fresh ginger and abura-agé (deep-fried tofu) in it. Refreshing for the summer, and we find inspiration in another dish we will try at home.

Nihonbashi Yukari is just minutes from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu Guchi. It is possible to walk-in, but we recommend reservations. Within about ten minutes of being seated the counter filled up again and most of the tables in the restaurant were also full.

Nihonbashi Yukari

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-2-14

Dakshin “Truly South Indian” Near Tokyo Station

Curry and naan at Dakshin Yaesu

Curry and naan at Dakshin Yaesu

The Kyobashi side of Tokyo Station outside of the Yaesu exit has many restaurants hidden away down narrow streets or in the basement of boring buildings. Dakshin is one of these spots that is worth seeking out. I only happened upon it as my regular Indian spots for dosa, Dhaba, had a long line out the door. I had come too late in the day, it was just 12 noon and I knew better. Dhaba was not so popular ten years ago. I headed towards Tokyo Station and saw the menu and sign for Dakshin on the street level. “Truly South Indian” caught my attention. I went down the stairs and Dakshin too had a line out the door, but I made a mental note to come back, and am glad that I did.

The shop opens at 11 a.m. and I came at about 11:15 a.m. expecting it to be quiet. Was surprised to see the shop already about 1/3 full, and not all the customers were Japanese. While there is dosa on the menu at Dakshin, everyone in the restaurant was eating naan so I followed their lead. I was seated at the counter facing the open kitchen where the naan oven is. I was given the last seat at the counter which happened to be right in front of the oven for baking naan. At first I was excited as it is always fun to see the naan being stretched out, slapped into the oven, only to be later plied out by a long steel tool. But when my neighbors left I asked if I could be reseated away from the oven as it was getting hot. The restaurant filled up quickly after I was seated and by the time I left there was a line out the door.

The three curries today were a mutton, lentil, and shrimp. Instead of the shrimp curry I tried a side dish that sounded like onion tempura, I wish I hadn’t. It is best to leave the deep-frying to the tempura masters. The naan was excellent and served hot out of the oven and the curries also did not seem to be tempered for the Japanese palate. The businessman next to me kept wiping the sweat off of his face with his handkerchief.

Dakshin

Chuo-ku, Yaesu 2-5-12, Prairie Bldg. B1 中央区八重洲2-5-12プレリービル B1F

Dosa at Kyobashi Dhaba

Dosa by Dhaba

Masala Dosa by Dhaba

I remember ten years when I first had a dosa at Dhaba in Kyobashi. I was in heaven. It immediately brought me back to the first dosa I had in Singapore a decade before. I couldn’t believe that this was in Tokyo and that I didn’t know about it. Luckily I was working at Takashimaya in Nihonbashi and would come here for lunch from time to time. A decade ago I could usually walk in and get a seat right away. On a recent lunch I was surprised to see a line out the front door.

Dhaba India is a sweet spot for Southern Indian in Kyobashi, a very short walk from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu exit. Many of the diners are eating dosa, and the naan is great, but I come here for the dosa. Breaking up the crispy dosa shell is great fun, until it comes to an end. The curry doesn’t seem to be modified for the Japanese palate. The Masala Dosa here at lunch is 1,400 JPY.

It’s a bustling restaurant, filled with a mix of area salarymen and office ladies. Try and avoid the noon lunch rush.

The only thing I find strange about this shop is that they do not let diners look at their iPads during the meal. I could snap a quick photo of my lunch, but was asked to put it away. I was told that there was a sign on the outside of the restaurant, which there was, about this ban on electronics. I guess this is a good thing and a habit we all should be doing.

Dhaba India

Chuo-ku, Yaesu 2-7-9, Sagami Building

 

Tokyo Ramen Street’s Rokurinsha Tsukemen 六厘舎

Tokyo Ramen Street

Tokyo Ramen Street – Rokurinsha Tsukemen

Rokurinsha’s tonkotsu tsukemen is one of the city’s most sought after bowl of ramen. Tsukemen is an interesting way to eat ramen if you are not used to dipping noodles in a broth. In Japan we often eat soba, udon or sōmen with a smokey soy dipping sauce, so the concept is not too wild. Unlike the traditional bowl of ramen where the noodles and savory broth are together, here they are separate. Grab a few noodles with your chopsticks, dip in the broth, and slurp away. There is a spoon if you want more of the broth.

Tokyo Ramen Street in the basement of Tokyo Station has eight ramen shops all lined up next to each other. Note that the basement shopping area of Tokyo Station is massive. Be sure to head to the Yaesu side of Tokyo Station. There is a map in English if you click below on Tokyo Ramen Street in the address section. I recommend it as a place to go to for ramen as you do have the option of checking out what the other shops offer and the location can not be beat. Most travelers in Tokyo will pass through Tokyo Station at some point. However, most people who come here want to join the line of customers waiting for a seat at Rokurinsha, which is by far the most popular ramen shop. The line is usually filled up with salarymen in white shirts and ties. But the same could be said for many restaurants in Tokyo Station as there are many train lines going through this station and the financial district is near here.

Most likely you will want to order the ajitama-tsukemen for 950 JPY, which includes all of the basics as shown above, including the seasoned egg (ajitama). The umami-rich broth is tonkotsu, based on pork bones, and this is a meaty, in-your-face soup. As you can see, the toppings include a soy-marinated hard-boiled egg, a thin sliced of pink and white naruto fish cake, toasted nori, julienned leeks, and some pork pork belly. There were extra packets of powdered katsuobushi, smoked skipjack tuna, but the dish had enough flavor it did not need any more help. For some it may be too complex, the meaty broth and the smokey fish powder. The thick, straight noodles seem perfect for this dense broth. What some may not care for is the cold noodles being dipped into the hot broth. The temperature of the broth drops quickly and the fatty soup is not as enticing as when it is hot. Regardless, it is very popular and it’s rare that there is not a line to get in here, even first thing in the morning when it opens at 7:30 a.m.

Rokurinsha at Tokyo Ramen Street

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-9-1, Tokyo Eki Ichibangai B1

While here,  be sure to pick up the regional flavored Kit Kats at the shop across the aisle. Details in this Metropolis article.

Tokyo Station Breakfast – Beef Stew

Tokyo Station Breakfast

Nihon Shokudo, literally the Japanese Dining Hall, serves a beef stew made with a rich demi-glace for breakfast. The middle of the stew is a seasoned rice and the bread is a buttery croissant-like dough. A sumo wrestler would be happy to start his day with this meal.

Located inside of Tokyo Station, the restaurant interior is like a dining car on the old trains, perfect for this major transportation hub. Tables are lined with linen and service is serious. Most of the customers are on the older side. Travelers walk by the window quickly, almost giving a feel that the restaurant is a moving train. This restaurant is very popular at lunch and dinner times, so breakfast is a good time to give it a try. Nihon Shokudo opens at 7 a.m.

Nihon Shokudo

Tokyo Station GranSta Dining (1st floor)

03-3214-5120

 

 

Kintame Kyoto Pickles Restaurant 近為

Kintame Bubuchazuke

Kintame Bubuchazuke

One of the great delights of dining in Japan is the cornucopia of restaurants that specialize in one type of cuisine, as in the recent reviews of ramen at Ivan Ramen.

Another unique dining experience is a meal based on pickles. Kintame, a store based in Kyoto, has two restaurants in Tokyo where diners can indulge in a colorful variety of salty, tart, piquant, and sweet pickles.

This type of restaurant is more commonly found in Kyoto, which is renowned for its pickles. So the opportunity to have this in Tokyo is a fun treat.

Pickles find their way to most Japanese meals. At curry shops the fukujinzuke of seven different pickled vegetables often accompanies the dish.

Yakisoba is garnished with bright red pickled ginger, benishouga. Sushi is served with thin sliced ginger, gari, as a palate cleanser between bites.

What makes Kintame worth the trip? It is the opportunity to try so many different pickles at the same time. There are a variety of pickling methods that include salt (shiozuke), vinegar (suzuke), miso (misozuke), soy sauce (shouyuzuke), and nuka (nukazuke).

Regionality also plays a role. Narazuke, or pickles originating from Nara, are melons and gourds that have been pickled for two to three years in sake lees (sake kasu) and are quite heady. Kyozuke, the pickles from Kyoto, are often delicate and refreshing.

Kintame’s most central location is at Daimaru department store’s restaurant floor (12th floor) at Tokyo station’s Yaesu exit.

The menu is limited, and the suggested dish to order is the bubuchazuke. Select a fish that is marinated in miso or sake lees; it is then grilled and will accompany an impressive variety of pickles, usually over a dozen.

The meal ends with ochazuke (rice with green tea). Come on an empty stomach and delight as you nibble your way through seasonal vegetables that may include eggplant, daikon, cucumber, bamboo shoots, gourd, melon, radish, and ginger, just to name a few.

If there are any in particular that you like, be sure to ask your server who will write down the name. On your way out of the restaurant prepackaged pickles are sold to take home.

Kintame is good for groups but is also great for the solo diner looking to have a nourishing, contemplative meal.

The Monzennakacho location is very popular on weekends and there is usually a line. Also, the schedule changes depending on if there is a holiday, so it is best to call ahead if you are making a special trip.

A meal at Kintame is one that you will remember for a long time. And, if you are lucky, you may be introduced to some new pickles to incorporate into your meals at home.

Kintame at Daimaru
1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku,
tel: 03-6895-2887
www.kintame.co.jp

This article first appeared in the American Chamber of Commerce Journal:

http://accjjournal.com/kintame/

My personal favorite location of Kintame in Tokyo is at Monzennakacho.

Koto-ku, Tomioka 1-14-3

03-3641-4561