Early Breakfast at Daikanyama T-Site

Daikanyama’a T-Site is home to one of Tokyo’s best bookstores, Tsutaya, and to a cozy restaurant, Ivy Place. Ivy Place opens at 7:00 a.m., the same time the bookstore opens, which is just next door. The frittata had a touch of Japan with shiitake and maitake mushrooms with spinach, mozzarella, and feta cheese served with a salad (1,300 JPY). The NY rye bread comes with whipped butter and house-made jam. Blueberry and smoked nuts were the jams that day. The smoked nuts jam is creamy and sweet with a hint of smokiness to it (400 JPY). Best of all, Ivy Place offers a bottomless cup of coffee for 300 JPY with any breakfast menu.

While I am not a vegetarian, I love that Ivy Place is a vegetarian-friendly restaurant with many options for non-meat eaters. The interior is like a warm American home with lots of wood and floor to ceiling windows surrounding the shop. Staff and the menu are bilingual. I am addicted to the flatbread pizza at lunch.

Ivy Place

Shibuya-ku, Sarugaku-cho 16-15

03-6415-3232

https://www.tysons.jp/ivyplace/

Fend Off Colds with Ginger Kuzu-yu

 

ginger-kuzuyu

Kuzu was first put on my radar by the famous vegetarian chef, Yumiko Kano. Kano Sensei is a prolific cookbook author with 29 cookbooks, all vegetarian, except for the very last one, Okazu Salada, which is vegetable-rich, but does introduce a bit of fish and meat.

At a cooking class Kano Sensei talked about the health benefits of using kuzu instead of katakuriko (a potato starch) as a thickener. She said that kuzu warms up the body while katakuriko cools the body down. Kuzu is also rich in flavonoids, a strong antioxidant. Here is a hon-kuzu that we like: http://www.morino-kuzu.com/en

A friend of mine told me that she and her husband were advised by their doctor to take kuzu to fight off a cold that they both felt they were coming down with and it worked like a charm. Influenza is spreading in Tokyo at the moment and so I started drinking a thick slurry of kuzu mixed with grated ginger and honey when I too started to feel like I was catching something. It has kept the cold from setting in and I love the ritual of making the drink.

Look for hon-kuzu 本葛 本くず in the supermarket. Do not use katakuriko (potato starch).

Ginger Kuzu-yu

1 cup water

1 Tablespoon hon-kuzu

1/2 Tablespoon grated ginger

honey

In a pot add 1 Tablespoon of hon-kuzu to 1 cup of cold water. Mix until the chunks of kuzu dissolve. Turn on the heat and continue to mix until the color changes from white to almost transparent. Turn off the heat and add 1/2 Tablespoon grated ginger. Add honey to taste.

kuzuyu-mattcha

Mattcha green tea and black sugar is a classic combination in traditional Japanese sweets. This mattcha kuzu-yu is a refreshing and earthy afternoon tea, here served with sweetened black beans.

Mattcha Kuzu-yu

1 cup water

1 Tablespoon hon-kuzu

1/2 Tablespoon instant mattcha

kokutō (black sugar)

In a pot add 1 Tablespoon of hon-kuzu to 1 cup of cold water. Mix until the chunks of kuzu dissolve. Turn on the heat and continue to mix until the color changes from white to almost transparent. Turn off the heat and add 1/2 Tablespoon instant mattcha. Add kokutō to taste.

http://yumiko-kano.com/index.html

 

 

 

Vegetarian Sushi in a Traditional Japanese Home

Just south of Nishi-Ogikubo station on the JR Chuo line is a quaint kominka, traditional Japanese home, with a restaurant and retail shop. Re:gendo offers nutritious meals in a rustic setting that is worth a trip out of the city. A good friend put this shop on my radar and she even knew to pre-order the vegetarian sushi when she made the reservation. The set made with seasonal vegetables is only made in limited numbers and if you don’t reserve it in advance there is a good chance you can’t have it. The shop is popular so it is best to make reservations. The menu is rich in vegetables, but not exclusively vegetarian.

The photo on the left is the menu, which folds out of a what looks like a Japanese wallet. The sushi included two made with fruit, mango and strawberries, along with pickled vegetables, tempura, a savory custard, and a hearty miso soup.

The retail shop features tableware, kitchenware, and ingredients. Many of the items sold here are handcrafted. If you like some of the dishes used for your meal you may find it sold in the shop. The Nishi-Ogikubo area is fun to walk around and carefully peruse, so plan on spending an afternoon here.

After each meal I leave nourished and inspired to eat better and to surround myself with beautiful things.

Re:gendo りげんど

Suginami-ku, Shoan 3-38-20 杉並区松庵3-38-20

http://re-gendo.jp/

 

Tempura-ya That Should Be on Your Radar

On the back streets of Kagurazaka in the basement of a modern building is Tempura Arai. The entrance to the restaurant is a small door that one must bend over to enter. Tempura Arai is the sister shop to the famous Tenko that opened recently and should be put on your Go List. The contrast to the father’s shop is striking as Tenko is a former geisha residence and has some history to it while this is modern with sleek lines.

At the moment Tempura Arai is open for lunch and lunch is very reasonable with the tendon starting at 1,400 JPY and a full course at 5,000 JPY. However, I believe that the shop may only be open for lunch on Saturdays only starting in the new year. The evening course starts at 8,500 JPY which is a good price.

Part of the tempura experience is listening to the items as they fry in the oil. Tempura Arai is intimate enough that you can hear each item as it cooks in the hot oil.

We did the lunch course, the tempura is light and delicate and finishes with a kakiage cake over rice. The shop has sake and a selection of wine as well. The restaurant can do vegetarian only upon request, but I believe the vegetables would be fried in the same oil as the shrimp and seafood.

Tempura Arai 天婦羅あら井

Shinjuku-ku, Kagurazaka 4-8, AGE Bldg. B1

新宿区神楽坂4-8 AGEビル B1

http://tempura-arai.jp/

A Rainbow of Pickles

A colorful meal based on Japanese pickles is refreshing and light. Nishiri is a famous pickle shop based in Kyoto. My favorite meal here is the pickle sushi, made with pickles on top of the rice instead of raw fish.

Here are two other set meals composed of pickles including eggplant, daikon stuffed with lemon, turnip stuffed with salmon, and much more. Strict vegetarians should advise the staff that they do not eat fish or meat. The miso soup here is made with kombu dashi and a sweet white miso, Saikyo miso, from Kyoto.

I come to Nishiri when I want some nutrition and the variety of textures and flavors that come with simply fermented vegetables. This shop in Tokyo has a small cafe inside the retail shop, so if you like any pickles, you can buy them to bring home.

Nishiri 西利

Nihonbashi Coredo Muromachi near Mitsukoshimae station

https://www.nishiri.co.jp/mise/coredo/coredo.html

Family-Friendly Sushiya Chain

Going out for sushi as a family cuts out many options. High-end sushiya are out of the question as are many mid-range spots. Our kid loves sushi, could eat it three days a week and when we go out, it’s often for sushi. We eat a lot of sashimi at home and will also make donburi rice bowls and make luscious spreads for temakizushi hand-rolls. But, we don’t make nigirizushi and go out for that.

Sushi Zanmai is a popular chain with branches throughout the city that is kid-friendly and offers a good value. The owner, Kiyoshi Kimura, is famous around the world for having paid $1.76 million dollars for a tuna a while back. Kimura-san is a tuna fanatic and if you love tuna, then go for the maguro-zukushi (maguro-zanmai at his shop) plate which is made with different cuts of tuna. There are about a dozen stores in the Tsukiji/Ginza area alone.

The weekday lunch sets start at about 1,080 JPY ($10). Sushi Zanmai has a variety of shops including kaiten-zushi, revolving conveyor belt sushi, to proper restaurants with a counter and tables. All of the shops we have been to are boisterous. Some shops do allow smoking, so frustrating. At a recent visit we asked to be moved away from a smoking table.

I was in the mood for vegetables this evening, so I took the handrolls which was made of cucumbers, umeboshi, takuan (pickled daikon), shiso, natto, and kampyō (soy simmered gourd). Hit the spot for me.

Below is the link for Sushi Zanmai. On top you can change to language to English to see what is in your neighborhood.

Sushi Zanmai

http://www.kiyomura.co.jp/

Sushi For Beginners – Press Your Sushi

Pressed sushi is a great starting point if you want to make sushi at home. Best of all, even if you don’t have access to sashimi-grade seafood, you can still make sushi at home. This recipe came from a Nobu cookbook which I helped to edit. Chef Nobu is brilliant and knows what flavors appeal to the wide masses.

A box for pressing the sushi is required. Oshizushi hako 押し寿司箱 or a wooden sushi press mold. Here is an example of one sold on Amazon in the US:

https://www.amazon.com/JapanBargain-Wooden-Sushi-Press-Mold/dp/B00269NS02

For this recipe, mince shiso and myōga (ginger buds) and mix into vinegared sushi rice along with some toasted sesame seeds. Variations of this could include thin-sliced cucumbers or pickled gari (ginger).

Press the rice mixture into the wooden box that has been wiped with some rice vinegar. Press just enough to bring the rice together, but not too hard, and then remove the box. Slice into bite-size pieces and wrap with toasted nori.

To add seafood to this you could do grilled unagi, shime saba (pickled Pacific mackerel), or salmon sashimi over vinegared sushi rice.

The Nobu Sushi Cookbook in Tokyo is sold at his restaurant. I have yet to see it sold at any bookstores, sadly. Online, in the US:

https://www.amazon.com/Nobu-Sushi-Book-Nobuyuki-Matsuhisa/dp/4418133003

Small Bite in Ningyocho

Ningyocho is a charming part of Tokyo that I was thrilled to discover. I had lived in Tokyo for years and when I first walked the streets of Ningyocho I was kicking myself for having not made it there earlier. Many historic food shops and a laid-back energy that is hard to find in the city.

Futaba is a tofu-ya that dates back to 1907, that sells soy doughnuts, surely not made 100 years ago. The shop sells a wide variety of tofu and other soy products including soy soft cream, yuba, and soy milk. The glass cases are filled with soft, firm, and grilled tofu. Fried tofu, both thick and thin, as well as my favorite, ganmodoki, tofu stuffed with vegetables and deep-fried.

Futaba is on a shōtengai shopping street and if you get hungry, pick up a soy milk doughnut (100 JPY) and some sweet amazaké drink. There is also a restaurant on the second floor above the retail shop.

Tofu no Futaba 豆腐の双葉

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Ningyocho 2-4-9

中央区日本橋人形町2-4-9

http://www.tofunofutaba.com/tenpo.html

Nagano Gotta Eat – Oyaki

While traveling in Japan it is essential to try the local cuisine. Nagano is famous for soba, Nozawana (a pickled leafy green), basashi (horse sashimi), some insect dishes like inago (grasshoppers) and hachinoko (bee larva), and my favorite oyaki.

Oyaki are stuffed dumplings. The dough can be made from flour or buckwheat. It is stuffed with a variety of ingredients like mushrooms, kabocha squash, kiriboshi daikon (dried daikon strips), eggplant, walnuts, azuki sweet red beans, or my favorite, the local pickle Nozawana – a leafy green (photo above left).

We bought these handmade oyaki at a local supermarket. At home we fry them up in a pan with a little bit of oil. A great snack or side dish to a meal.

Kinukatsugi Satoimo – Boiled Taro Root

kinukatsugi-sato-imo

Kinukatsugi sato imo – boiled taro root

Kinukatsugi are small taro root. All of these fit in my hands. I had been served this in the past and wanted to try them at home. There is a lot of dirt on the skin, so they need to be washed and scrubbed thoroughly. Then a slice is made on the top 1/5 to 1/4 and placed in a steamer. Steam for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Garnish with sea salt and serve with saké.

These are fun to eat. Pick up and squeeze into your mouth. The meat falls out of the skins. The texture is thick and a bit slippery, which I love. I know its not for everyone. This slippery texture is one that many have a hard time with. I grew up with it. It reminds me a bit of nattō. Kinkukatsugi are only in season for about two months.