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

2016 Tsukiji Market Record Tuna by Numbers

Tsukiji 2016 tuna.JPG

  • This year’s most expensive tuna sold at 14,000,000 JPY or roughly $117,220 US dollars.
  • The bluefin tuna weighed about 200 kg (about 440 pounds).
  • The price per kilogram was about 70,000 JPY or roughly $585 US dollars.
  • The tuna came from Ohma in Aomori prefecture and was caught on January 3rd.
  • The tuna was bought by the sushi chain, Sushi Zanmai. Kimura Shacho (president) commented that 3 days of aging makes it for perfect eating for today.
  • Sushi Zanmai has bought the winning tuna the last four years in a row.
  • The 2013 year’s record tuna sold for 155,400,000 JPY or roughly $1.76 million US Dollars.
  • This year’s tuna came in at about 3 times last year’s record-winning price.
  • This is the last opening tuna auction to be held at Tsukiji Market. Next year the tuna auction will be held at the new market, Toyosu Market. The name Tsukiji will stay at the current location. The current Tsukiji Market’s outer market will remain and can keep the famous brand name that is named after the area.

Tsukiji tuna graph

Graph of the winning tuna price over the last ten years.

Tsukiji Sushi Zanmai

Kimura Shacho (president) of Sushi Zanmai. Proud owner of the best tuna at Tsukiji’s last opening tuna auction. Each year he brings the winning tuna to his main shop in the outer market. The shop is just behind him in this photo, with the winning tuna waiting to be cut into.

Japanese:

初競り はつせり first auction

黒鮪 くろまぐろ bluefin tuna

大間 おおま Ohma port

 

Dominique Ansel Bakery Tokyo

For my birthday we went to Dominique Ansel Bakery’s Cafe on the second floor of his shop. The menu has always intrigued me, especially since I saw a photo of his avocado toast.

New on the menu is chicken pot pie, which was the best pot pie I have ever had. A crispy golden crust over an umami-rich stew packed with chicken and vegetables. I woke up the next day thinking about this. The avocado toast comes with créme fraiche and a salad. The butternut squash was accented with cinnamon marshmallow squares.

The first floor of the shop is almost always full. The cafe has a full drink menu as well, including champagne and wine. There is an open kitchen and on my way out I could see a lobster roll being assembled.

Menu: http://dominiqueanseljapan.com/wp/wp-content/themes/dabjp/pdf/DAB_MENU_2F.pdf

Dominique Ansel DKA

We were so full from lunch that we celebrated at home with chef’s signature DKA, Dominique’s version of the kouign amann. This pastry is very popular in Tokyo and many bakeries serve their version of it. This one is not too sweet, has a rich texture from the buttery dough.

The shop is very popular and the line can be very long on the first floor. Reservations can be made for the cafe and sweets from the first floor can be had in the cafe, along with a drink order. The only thing that is only sold on the first floor is the cronut. From what I hear from friends in NYC, the line here in Tokyo is much shorter for cronuts.

The bakery is in Omotesando, just off the main street. It is worth the short detour if you are in the area of Harajuku, Shibuya, or Meiji Jingu Shrine. The first floor opens at 8 a.m. and the cafe opens at 9 a.m. A great spot to start your day in Tokyo.

Dominique Ansel Bakery

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-7-14 渋谷区神宮前5-7-14

shop information and access:

http://dominiqueanseljapan.com/en/contact

http://dominiqueanseljapan.com/wp/wp-content/themes/dabjp/pdf/DAB_MENU_2F.pdf

Keio Takao-san Onsen Gokurakuyu 京王高尾山温泉極楽湯

There is a brand new onsen at the Keio line Takao-san Guchi station. It is located just behind the new station, designed by Kengo Kuma. If you are going by JR Chuo line, when you get to Takao station, transfer to the Keio line and go one more station. Mount Takao is a great mountain for hiking. For those looking for an easy climb, take a ride to the top and do some simple walking around.

There are indoor and outdoor baths, a sauna, a micro-bubble bath, and more. On the first floor there is a big shokudō (dining hall), but the food was disappointing. I would go back for a beer and some small bites, but don’t plan on having your lunch or dinner here. There are many soba shops nearby that are worth the short walk. If you are looking for a very special meal, then make a reservation at Ukai Toriyama. I love coming here for lunch to see the gardens in the light.

The onsen was very busy, even though we went first thing in the morning. I imagine that in the afternoon when hikers are coming down from the mountain looking to refresh that it would be packed.

The onsen water is slightly cloudy and white and is alkaline. Most importantly, it isn’t too hot, so if you are not used to onsen, this is a good spot to start.

It’s only 1,000 JPY for adults, 500 JPY for kids, and children under 3 are free. There is a short period (only about 3 weeks of the year) that the prices go up by 100-200 JPY.

Keio Takaosan Onsen 京王高尾山温泉

Tokyo-to, Hachioji-shi, Takao-machi 2229-7  東京都八王子市高尾町2229-7

8:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. (last entry is at 10:00 p.m.)

Tsukiji Katou 築地かとう – moved to Toyosu

IMG_9967

*** Katou has closed with the closing of the Tsukiji Jōnai Inner Market and has moved to Toyosu Market. It is in the Suisan Nakaoroshi Uriba-to on the 3rd floor and the name changed to Ikinoya (粋のや). I believe it is being managed by Kaisendon Oedo, another popular shop that moved from Tsukiji to Toyosu. (updated 10/21/2018)

For a truly local breakfast at Tsukiji, bypass all of the sushi shops and follow the fishmongers to shops like Katou. The menu consists mostly of grilled and simmered seafood served with rice, miso soups, pickles, and a side dish.

Kinmedai, 金目鯛 splendid alfonsino, when simmered in a sweet soy broth, will melt in your mouth. I was lucky and got the head part of the fish, while my neighbor got the tail end. Dig into the head with your chopsticks to pull out small nuggets of tender meat. The eyeball is a delicacy. It is a challenge to pick up with your chopsticks. If you are successful in getting it into your mouth, suck up the tender collagen, but be sure to spit out the hard white part.

Katou’s big menu includes Saikyo miso marinated and grilled black cod, an assortment of seasonal sashimi, and seasonal whole fish simply salted and grilled. The bowl of rice is hearty, for the fishmongers who work in the market. It is impolite to leave rice in your bowl, so unless you are very hungry, it is good to ask for a small bowl of rice. In Japanese, gohan o sukuname.

IMG_9973

Katou かとう

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1, Building #8 中央区築地5-2-1ビル8号

This Tabelog page shows some of their other main dishes:

http://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1313/A131301/13007669/dtlphotolst/1/

Ogikubo Takahashi Soba 高はし

Takahashi is a about a ten-minute walk from Ogikubo station on the Chuo line, but worth the journey through the residential area west of Tokyo. I was meeting a girlfriend for lunch on a Tuesday. For whatever reason, many soba shops are closed on Tuesdays. But my friend had been to Takahashi before and we were in luck as it is open Tuesdays. On a side note, many hair salons are also closed on Tuesday. So frustrating…

The shop is just off of a main street and in a residential area. The menu is only in Japanese, so best to go with a Japanese friend, or have your hotel call ahead and arrange a menu.

Takahashi has a nice selection of sake as well. Dassai from Yamaguchi is on the list. This day we went with Tefu from Kokken in Fukushima. It is made with Miyama-Nishiki rice and is unpasteurized. The junmai sake is soft and food-friendly, a lovely partner to soba.

The shop brings out some deep-fried soba noodles with our sake. We started with goma-dōfu (sesame tofu), which was quite firm. The soba sashimi was cut into long strips and was a nice hint as to what was coming. The tempura included both shrimp and vegetables.

My friend was excited as fresh nori soba was on the menu. It was my first time to have it and it was lovely. A generous amount of soft nori that is reminiscent of the ocean is on top of the handmade soba. The nori soba was the seasonal soba. Can you imagine, nori having a season? It does, and it is just now ending its season, so get it while you can. Our table overlooked the soba processing room, but by lunchtime the master was done rolling and cutting the soba.

Highly recommend Takahashi, but be sure to go with a Japanese speaker or arrange your menu ahead of time. The menu is only in Japanese and don’t expect any English here. I also love that it is a bit of a walk from the station as the other customers there obviously made the trek for Takahashi-san’s soba.

Takahashi 高はし

Suginami-ku, Ogikubo 2-30-7 杉並区荻窪2-30-7

closed Wednesday and the third Tuesday of each month.

72 Seasons – guest post by Janice Espa

Tokyo is enthralling.

If like me, you can’t get enough of this city, then you’re probably on the go from early in the morning.

Tokyo dining, though delicious, can leave you dumbfounded. Dinner plans, which many times require a reservation, are easier to plan around than deciding what to have for lunch when caught in the midst of exploring the city.

When this happens, and lunchtime pangs spring up, unsolicited, a really great option is 72 Seasons. Shichi Jyu Ni Kou – a Japanese restaurant specialized in both kaiseki and teppanyaki cuisine – is in the basement of the Tokyo Station Hotel. It is a midday dining haven.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m equally as happy grabbing a snack or five from the smorgasbord available at department store food halls (depachika), or to eat the donburi of the day while sitting on a counter, or graze on a set of mixed yakitori skewers while standing. However, when your legs can’t take it anymore and you long for a bit of serenity, places like Shichi Jyu Ni Kou are an oasis. Serene, secluded, delicious, and right in the heart of the city’s movement.

I sat in the restaurant’s kaiseki section and opted for the bento box of the daily. I felt it not only offered the most variety, but also, seasonality and a well-balanced portion for lunch. There’s an introductory teishoku menu which features a grilled fish of the day, a more extensive “kaiseki in lighter style”, and several a la carte options to add to the set lunch meals.

The amuse bouche was a spinach ohitashi, with the works: edible flowers, shaved katsuo sprinkles, and ikura. Splendid. Followed by a lacquer box filled with steamed mussels, nimono stewed vegetables, an assortment of tempura, and a few pieces of sashimi.

The hassun, artfully plated, had grilled tai (snapper), a piece of tamagoyaki – my favourite addition to any plate, one piece of oshizushi (pressed sushi), a portion of sweet and savoury chestnut paste, cubes of sweet potato, and stewed burdock.

All of those flavours along with miso soup, steamed rice, and roasted tea for 3800 JPY. I was delighted.

To finish the meal, a different tea was served with a choice of dessert: fruit or kokuto purin (Okinawan black sugar pudding). I had the latter, which was caramelized on top like a cold crème brulee, wonderful, just wonderful.

The full menu is not available in English, though a general description of it is. Front of the house service is courteous, and the waitresses, beautifully dressed in kimonos, are helpful and accommodating.

There is a second location of Shichi Jyu Ni Kou, in Roppongi. However, if you’re in central Tokyo, and want an hour of serenity before continuing your sightseer trail, I strongly recommend paying this restaurant a visit.

Shichi Jyu Ni Kou
The Tokyo Station Hotel B1F,
1-9-1, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan
100-0005
Tel +81-(0)3-6269-9401

 

Open Daily
Lunch 11:00a.m.~ 3:00p.m.(Last Order 2:00p.m.)
Dinner 5:00p.m.~11:00p.m.(Last Order 9:30p.m.)
http://www.72kou.jp/marunouchi/english.html

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.

Manseibashi Hofbackerei Edegger-Tax

Tokyoites have yet another European bakery to add to a rich list that includes Viron, Maison Kayser, Peck (exclusively at Takashimaya), and Gontran Cherrier. What makes this new shop unique is that I believe it is the first bakery in Tokyo from Austria. For German bakeries there is Linde in Kichijoji. (Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Honcho 1-11-27).

Hofbakerei Edegger-Tax is at the Manseibashi mall conveniently located between Kanda, Akihabara, and Ochanomizu. It is one of Austria’s oldest bakeries (1569), and fills a gap in the city for these European breads. Linde is a great shop, but Kichijoji is a hike out of the city center.

The shop opens at 8:30 a.m. on weekdays, and 11:00 a.m. on weekends. There is a lovely selection of bread, sandwiches, including open-faced sandwiches, and pastries. I’ve been to the original shop in Graz, Austria, and at the time, the most impressive memory was the colorful selection of open-faced sandwiches.

Hofbakerei Edegger-Tax

Chiyoda-ku, Kanda-Sudacho 1-25-4, Maach ecute Kanda Manseibashi

http://www.edegger-tax.jp/

 

 

Gotta Get – Kokuto Black Sugar 沖縄黒糖

Kokuto

Kokuto

Do you know about kokutō? Black sugar that is harvested on the islands south of Kagoshima in Okinawa. It is a dark sugar that is rich in minerals and is 100% natural sugar cane. We often keep a jar of kokutō on the counter. It makes a nice little snack. Kokutō can be cooked with water to make a syrup for desserts. This with some kinako, roasted soybean powder, over vanilla ice cream, is a combination of flavors that most people love.

A friend of ours is an editor of a famous food magazine in Tokyo. He is a fountain of information and I never share a meal with him without my notebook and pen. At a recent dinner party we were talking about kokutō and he said that each island produces a different flavor of black sugar. Of course, that totally makes sense, but how different could the flavors be?

Shinji picked up five different kokutō at the Washita Okinawa antenna shop in Ginza. Each from a different island. First of all, they all look very different from each other. Who knew? And, drumroll…….they do all taste very different from each other.

Kokuto Packaging

Kokuto Packaging

These small packages are 50 grams each and cost about 200 JPY ($2 USD). Our tasting notes counter-clockwise starting at pink:

  1. Ie-shima 伊江島 (pink) *** Our favorite. Light in color, not too sweet and surprisingly salty. Rich in flavor and very natural. Will go back for this.
  2. Yonaguni-jima 与那国島 (yellow) ** Medium in color. Light in flavor, not as rich as Ieshima. A hint of saltiness. Hard texture and cut into squares.
  3. Iheya-jima 伊平屋島 (blue) * Light in color. For both of us it was too sweet, much like sugar.
  4. Tarama-jima 多良間島 (dark orange) * Dark color and very hard texture. Sweet and rich flavor.
  5. Hateruma-jima 波照間島 (light orange) ** Very dark in color. Blocks are very chewy. Rich mineral flavor.

Overall the Ie-shima was our favorite. We loved that it wasn’t too sweet and the saltiness was a surprise at first, but we came to love it. Most people love kokutō when they try it.

Note on the names. Shima means island in Japanese. Sometimes the pronunciation of shima can change to jima depending on what name comes before it.

Mandarin Oriental Pizza Bar on 38th

Tomato Salad

Tomato Salad

Tomato Salad at Pizza Bar on 38th

Trappizino

Trappizino

The specialty of the Pizza Bar on 38th. Marscapone, black olives, and truffle essence. This is so rich in umami and impressive. The first time I had this I woke up the next day thinking of it. Even a week later it haunts you, in a good way.

Cinque Formaggio

Cinque Formaggio

The pizza here is Roma-style. The crust is 80% water and is fermented for 48 hours. It is light and airy. The five cheese pizza is topped with truffle honey. The wine list includes a nice selection of Italian wines that naturally pair well with the cuisine.

Chef Daniele

Chef Daniele

Chef Daniele serving up a glass of “konatsu-cello” made from the tart summer citron, konatsu that is steeped in vodka with star anise and cloves. A perfect combination of Japanese ingredients with a traditional Italian drink. It is chef Daniele who came up with the recipe for the pizza dough after doing research back home in Italia. Grazie, chef!

The Pizza Bar on 38th

Mandarin Oriental, 38th Floor

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 2-1-1

www.mandarinoriental.com/tokyo/fine-dining/the-pizza-bar-on-38/

I first wrote about the Pizza Bar on 38th for Metropolis:

metropolis.co.jp/dining/restaurant-reviews/the-pizza-bar-on-38th/