Chef Bruno Menard at Imperial Hotel

Aiste Miseviciute of Luxeat is a friend who put chef Bruno Menard on my radar. My first time to try chef’s cuisine was at a wine dinner at the Imperial Hotel with Don Melchor wines. I was taken in with not only the cuisine, but chef’s fine touches on the dishes to pair them with the lovely Don Melchor wines.

Chef Bruno is in Tokyo this week for a pop-up at the Imperial Hotel’s Les Saisons. He is collaborating with chef Thierry Voisin of Les Saisons. It was a treat to try his dishes once more.

What do I love of his cuisine? The small touches of Japanese ingredients, the rich flavors that are light and not too heavy.

Some of the highlights include a crab dish that includes yuzu kosho, a salty and spicy paste made with yuzu rind, but just the right amount of it so as not to outshine to crab. The presentation is fun, with the 3 Michelin stars on the package.

Truffles are in season at the moment and chef came to the table to shave the white truffles over his onion soup with chestnuts. Light on top, creamy at the bottom, and the rich aromatics and texture of the white truffles pulling it all together.

The yin yang dish above is scallop sashimi and beet sashimi. The dots were of Japanese shiso (perilla leaf) and umeboshi (pickled apricots) with raspberries, there was some kabosu (citrus) with the scallops.

Hokkaido scallop is sauteed in butter and set upon a spinach sauce with gnocchi and white truffles.

The lemon tart dessert is topped with a gin fizz sorbet, with mango powder and passionfruit crisps. The soft sable dough is topped with a sugar tuile.

The baba au rhum was finished table side by chef, and topped with a 2001 Diplimatico Single Vintage Rum aged in sherry casks. The cake is finished with a passionfruit apricot glaze with a fresh acidity. The syrup is steeped with star anise, lemon, lives, and cloves. White chocolate ice cream is nestled in the cake. The Diplimatico rum was crazy. Smooth, hints of coffee and vanilla, and no harsh alcohol flavors that can overtake this dish. Chef was proud to share that this recipe came from his father.

I had the pleasure of speaking with chef and loved hearing him talk about his regular customers from his L’Osier days coming back with their family to see him and eat his cuisine once more. He said that this is what the business of being a chef is all about. You could see he loved talking to the guests, but moreover, that the guests were so happy to be talking with him.

He did talk about the quality of ingredients in Japan and how good they are. That some are so great they should be served raw, while others can be transformed.

Chef Bruno is based in Singapore. I am hoping that someday he can open up a restaurant in Tokyo.

Meruhenk Sandwiches

Japanese sandwiches are my go-to meal when I am on the run, even before onigiri rice balls. Meruhen is my favorite sandwich shop and if I am not near one, then some of the convenience stores like 7-11, Lawson, or Family Mart, also has great sandwiches.

The sandwiches are built on crustless pain de mie (white bread). Savory fillings can be egg salad, tonkatsu, ham and cheese, kabocha with mayonnaise, and more. The sweet sandwiches are fresh fruit with whipped cream, which I have a hard time swallowing. My favorite is the simple julienned carrots with a bit of mayonnaise, but you have to go early. It’s popular and is often sold out by the time I get there. The sandwiches are in the 300 JPY range.

Meruhenk branches in popular areas (there are many more):

Tokyo Station eCute 1st floor (inside the station) – with limited seating in the area.

Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi

Shinjuku Takashimaya, Shinjuku Odakyu

Ginza Matsuya

Daimaru Tokyo Station

and many more!

Nagato Cheese – Nagano

There are a handful of Japanese cheese producers that I am a big fan of and one of them is Nagato from Nagano. It’s on the top of the mountains, the air is clean and crisp and there are cows. For this Minnesota girl, it was like visiting a friend’s home growing up, but with cheese, and a big selection to choose from. And, the area is filled with birch trees (shirakaba), another nice nod to home.

There is the farm, a retail shop, and a restaurant.

My favorite is the tezukuri gouda miso cheese. Cubes of gouda cheese mixed with Shinshu miso. We love this with wine or saké. There is also ice cream, yogurt, and milk. The restaurant serves pizza, cheese and sausage plates, curry, and  cheesecake.

Nagato Farm Bokujo 長門牧場


Nagano-ken, Chiisagata-gun, Nagawa-machi, Daimon 3539-2

Access by train and car (in Japanese):

If you can’t make it to Nagato, then look for the cheese at the Nagano antenna shop in Ginza.

Food Sake Tokyo Radar – 2016 October

On top of our radar is the Tsukiji to Toyosu move which has been put on hold. I am trying to keep readers up to date on our blog. It’s changing by the hour and I’ll do what I can to update things here: (2nd link)

There is a new documentary movie out called Tsukiji Wonderland. The movie will be released in mid-October, but is currently being shown at the movie theater near Tsukiji. Shinji saw it and said it’s very good. Speakers in the movie include Harvard professor and author of the best book written about Tsukiji, Ted Bestor, and several famous Japanese chefs.

We are very excited to hear that Singapore’s Bee Cheng Hiang has opened in Ginza. If you haven’t tried the barbecue minced pork, you are in for a sweet and meaty surprise. We often ate this when we lived in Singapore. Usually as a snack with beer.🙂 Ginza 5-6-9

In Ginza, the Tokyu Plaza has finally opened up. Highlights include City Bakery in the basement, Bareburger, Tsurutontan, and a Greek restaurant from Australia, The Apollo.

A new coffee shop in Toranomon, Caffeineholic for organic caffeine drink (mattcha for those of you who don’t like coffee) and hot dogs. Minato-ku, Toranomon 1-4-7

A Russian sake sommelier, Dmitry Bulakh, has opened a sake bar, Twelv.. He worked a the popular sake bar Musshu Mizuki in Ginza prior to this. Looks like it’s on the pricey side, so not sure if/when I’ll be making it here, but my friends who have been have said it’s a cool space and that there’s great sake here. Minato-ku, Nishi-Azabu 4-2-4

A small bit of scandal in the saké world, not by the Japanese, but by non-Japanese trying to perhaps make some money off of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate attempt at ranking Japanese saké. Journalist W. Blake Gray has it all covered on his blog:

Atami Mugitoro Doji 麦とろ童子

Atami is a seaside resort south of Tokyo. If you have access to a car, then put Mugitoro Douji on your radar. I believe you could also come by bus, but best to look into the details.

Mugitoro is a dish made from rice cooked with barley (mugi) that is topped with grated yamaimo (mountain potato), which we call toro. The Atami area is also famous for shirasu, tiny anchovies that have been quickly blanched in hot water. The shirasu are soft and rich in calcium as you are eating the whole fish, head to toe.

Here is shirasudon, short for donburi, or rice bowl, here topped with the boiled anchovies. To the side in the brown bowl with a lip is the grated mountain potato with some dashi and soy sauce which is poured over the leftover rice after eating the fish. The right bowl is simply green tea soba with the grated mountain potato.

The setting is fabulous, with a wall of windows overlooking the sea. The entrance is charming with the handwritten noren banner, and who wouldn’t loved to be hosted by this chef, smiling like a little boy.

Mugitoro Dōji 麦とろ童子

Shizuoka-ken, Atami-shin, Izusan, Gōshimizu 210


closed Wednesdays

Berkeley’s Tokyo Fish Market

Berkeley’s Tokyo Fish Market is as close as you’ll get to grocery shopping in Japan.

Whether you’ve just gotten back from a trip to Japan or have a particular craving, this place is hard to beat. The selection of fish is superb, the seafood and deli section is clever, and the aisles of imported products ranges from arare (rice crackers) and Hello Kitty snacks, to mochi, soba, and organic Japanese vegetables like komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach) and kabu (white turnip).

aisles tokyo market

Tokyo Fish Market has been around for over fifty years. Although it has grown significantly since the shop opened, the feel of a “mom and pop” store is still there. It’s wonderful. You enter a supermarket, the staff are courteous, and the owner is always there, giving a helping hand.

Mr Nakamura and seafood

Go for fresh tuna or call ahead and ask what will be coming in for the week to pre-order seafood. Visit the deli section for bento boxes or sushi-to-go, or deviate from Japanese food and check out the Hawaiian specialties aisle. There’s a selection of treats, macadamia nuts, lilikoi (passionfruit) jams, and in the freezer you can even find lau lau (traditional luau dish of taro leaf parcels filled with butterfish and pork or chicken). It’s like taking a food tour across the Pacific Ocean.

sake and guide

Tokyo Fish Market also has a gift shop in the building adjacent to the supermarket. Homewares, gifts, knives, chopsticks, t-shirts, and some Japanese memorabilia are available at prices comparable to Japan.

tokyo market grab n go

In San Francisco’s Japantown, Nijiya Market and SuperMira (organic) are two other well stocked Japanese grocers. However, Tokyo Fish Market is best in show.

Tokyo Fish Market

1220 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley CA 94706

Tel. +1 510 524 7234

Janice Espa photo

Janice Espa

Janice Espa is a Spanish-Peruvian food enthusiast; an avid traveller and inquisitive taster who explores culture through cuisine.  Janice lives in San Francisco where she writes and styles food. Her days are spent visiting grower’s markets, checking out restaurants, and shopping at specialty stores to discover goods from every corner of the world.

Feel free to email suggestions and travel tips, or to contact Janice for her own recommendations, whether you’re visiting Peru, trekking South America or doing a road trip along the east coast of Australia.

Email:  janicespa at

Other posts by Janice.

Convenience Store Sandwiches

Conbini sandwich

Japanese convenience store food is surprisingly fresh and reasonably priced. In particular, I am a big fan of the sandwiches, which come with many fillings, like tuna or egg salad, katsu (fried pork cutlets), or as seen above, ham and cheese with lots of fresh iceberg lettuce. The sandwiches are about 250 JPY. When I am craving vegetables I get this sandwich.

These are actually from two different shops. 7-11 on the left and Family Mart on the right. The 7-11 was better as it was made with mayonnaise and the lettuce was crispier. I think the Family Mart was made with butter.

A chef friend of mine is addicted to the egg salad sandwiches, which are pretty amazing.

The sandwiches also make for a quick breakfast if you are on the run.

convenience store = konbini


Japan’s Most Challenging Food


Chinmi. I am not a fan, not one bit. But my husband, Shinji, loves having some type of chinmi in the fridge at all times. Usually we have one or two types, but we recently traveled and Shinji picked up some along the way. Chinmi is fermented seafood, often including the guts or other parts of seafood like the liver. It is very intense and one only needs to eat a little bit of this when sipping on saké. But even if I am drunk on saké I have a hard time swallowing this. We did a tasting recently. Well, Shinji did a tasting and I took a tiny bit of each. Remember, although I was born in Tokyo, I grew up in Minnesota and this is as foreign to me as it is for many overseas guests.

Saba shiokara. Pacific mackerel is super salty, you can taste the crystals, of what surely must be salt. There are small pieces of the filet, making this the most appealing by appearance. We picked this up on a recent trip to Tottori to Sakai Minato port.

Aka Hoya. Red sea squirt is very chewy and a little funky. While it is called red, the color is a bright orange and the aftertaste lingers, way too long, and not in a pleasant way.

Surumeika koji zuke. Koji-fermented squid was my favorite of all in this tasting. It is slightly sweet, and has the texture of koji, meaning tiny bits of softened rice. We picked this up from Sakai Minato port on a recent trip to Tottori. I would have this again. You gotta love how the website suggests serving suggestions, like on crackers with cheese. That would make it even easier to eat.
Katsuo shuto. Fermented skipjack tuna innards. This is one of the most famous types of chinmi that is from Odawara, just south of Tokyo. It is rich in umami and has a thin chewy texture, like chewing on a balloon. This is one of the more easier chinmi, meaning it is palatable, if you are drinking a lot of saké.
English website for this product:

Awabi Toshiro. The liver of the abalone made the biggest impression. My notes from the tasting are as follows, “Will not go back there, ever, even if I am drunk.”

Ayu no uruka. Ayu is a freshwater sweet fish that is gorgeous when simply salted and grilled. However, this 3-year fermented chinmi is super salty, creamy, gross, way too funky. I come back to this word as nothing else comes to mind. Why would anyone eve think to eat this? Seriously…
It was the worst food tasting I have ever done in my life. Nothing will top this. We found two that I like and will have again. Hopefully none of these others will be in our fridge again.

Gotta Get – Tomizawa Dried Mikan

Tomizawa Dried Mikan

Tomizawa Dried Mikan

A friend who is the editor of a food magazine introduced me to these addictive dried mikan. These are sweet and tart at the same time. Tomizawa is a chain found throughout Tokyo. I come here to buy nuts, flour, dried fruit, and much more. If I am baking this is the first shop I go to as they have yeast, fondant, you name it. The dried mikan are great for hiking, traveling, and a healthful snack at home.

The main shop in Machida is fun, if you find yourself out there, but not worth a special trip as there are big shops in Tokyo. Shinjuku Keio department store has a big shop on the 8th floor. There are also small shops at Shinjuku Takashimaya, Coredo Muromachi, and Shibuya Toyoko Norengai depachika.

Tomizawa Shoten



Gotta Get – Furikake Pen

We have just returned from a trip to Western Japan and one of my favorite things I brought back as an omiyage for myself is this furikake pen that happens to say yukari on it. Yukari is a furikake made from red shiso leaves that are dried and minced with salt. I love it as a topping over rice, but it also makes for quick pickles when massaged into cucumbers or cabbage. It is also can brighten up a salad dressing or be used as a seasoning for popcorn.

The pen was designed by the president of Mishima, a company that is known for yukari furikake. Mishima is based in Hiroshima. Here is a link to the US site for the furikake:

The yukari furikake also comes with bits of dried ume (salted apricots), also oishii.

On a recent visit to the Hiroshima antenna shop in Ginza, I see that it is also being sold in Tokyo. The pen cap comes off and can be refilled.

Now, I have my own personalized furikake pen.🙂


Tau Setouchi Hiroshima Antenna Shop

Ginza 1-6-10 銀座1-6-10

If you do make it to the Hiroshima antenna shop, ask for some brandy-infused momiji Mi. You’ll thank me later.