Nakameguro Sumi-Grilled Yakitori

Maru, just a few minutes’ from Nakameguro station, is a great lunch spot for sumi (charcoal) grilled yakitori. The chicken, Amakusa Daiou, from Kumamoto, is called the king of chicken, and is known for it’s rich in texture and flavor.

The oyako-don (900 JPY), on the left above is a popular dish of chicken and eggs cooked in a sweet soy broth. Oyako is literally mother and child, a fun name for this dish. The sign of a good oyakodon is eggs that are just heated enough so that the whites just start to gel. The semi-scrambled eggs become a sauce for the chicken and rice.

The yakitori-don (1,200 JPY) includes three smokey skewers, grilled over charcoal: white meat, gizzard, and thighs with leeks. Two tsukune meatballs, a raw yolk, shishitō and nori round out the dish. Lunch sets include pickles, chicken soup, and a rich tiramisu.

Nakameguro is a hot area at the moment as several restaurants, including a hip City Bakery and Tsutaya bookstore have opened up under the tracks, in an area called Nakameguro Koukashita. On a recent visit the new shops were swamped, so we were happy to find quiet refuge at Maru.

Sumibiyaki Maru 炭火焼 Maru

Meguro-ku, Nakameguro 2-12-2 W. Nakameguro 1F

目黒区上目黒2-12-2 W. Nakameguro 1F

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

 

 

 

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?

img_7023

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

Tuna Lovers’ Day Trip From Tokyo

Misaki Maguro Kippu is a special discounted train, bus, and lunch ticket that is a fun day trip from Tokyo for tuna lovers. Many Japanese train and bus lines offer discounted tickets for round-trip excursions. Misaki is a famous port for tuna. Maguro is tuna, and kippu is for ticket.

The Misaki Maguro Kippu can be purchased from the Shinagawa Keikyu line ticket booth. 3,060 JPY per ticket which includes round-trip fare on the express trains as well as all bus routes on the peninsula. We only made it to the fishing port, but if you have more time, you could also visit an aquarium and an onsen on the bus routes.

The express train goes to Misaki-guchi 三崎口 station. From there take a bus to Misaki-ko 三崎港. We went on a weekend and about 40 others from the train were also using the same pass so we just followed them to the bus. The train ride was a little over an hour and the bus to the fishing port was another 20 minutes.

The ticket includes lunch in the city. The tickets come with a map with photos of the different lunches available on the peninsula. There are 30 shops to choose from. Here is a link to the options:

http://www.keikyu.co.jp/information/otoku/otoku_maguro/list.html

Many shops are busy on the weekends, so be prepared to stand in line. We went on a colder day and didn’t have to wait to get seated.

After lunch we went to the seafood market which was like many seafood markets in fishing ports around Japan. As Misaki is known for tuna, most of the vendors were selling tuna, mostly frozen cuts called saku. The second floor of the market is a farmers’ market. I picked up all of the daikon above for 500 JPY.

This is a fun day trip from Tokyo. The shops are kid-friendly. We will do it again, next time in the summer and we’ll be sure to see the aquarium and onsen. There is a bicycle rental shop and ferry rides are also available at the port.

Details on the Misaki Maguro Kippu (in Japanese):

http://www.keikyu.co.jp/information/otoku/otoku_maguro/

Shout-out to Takumi-san at Roberto Perozzi Salon in Shibuya. I go to Roberto to get my hair cut and Takumi-san told me about this ticket, arigato! If you need your hair cut in Tokyo, Roberto is the best.

Tokyo’s Coolest Tea and Spirits Bar

souen-gyokuro

One of the most magical tea tastings I have experienced was at Souen. The original shop was in Nishi-Azabu at a terribly inconvenient location. Souen has moved to Minami-Aoyama’s Spiral Building on the 5th floor, which is easy to access. Woo-hoo!

Souen offers a simple tea with wagashi tasting, but the flight of tea and tea-infused spirits is an experience that can only be had here. Allow time for for the full course, I believe we were there for almost two hours, which included some shopping in the tiny retail shop.

gyokuro-w-wagashi

The afternoon started with a sampling of different infusions of gyokuro. The savory and meaty tea was steeped in warm, not hot, water, bringing out notes and aromas I have never experienced with green tea. After the tasting with the wagashi, we were presented with the steeped gyokuro leaves and some ponzu. We were instructed to dress the gyokuro with ponzu and eat. It was like a rich spinach sunomono, and a perfect palate cleanser before the tea-infused liqueurs.

We were presented with four different spirits that were infused with four different tea leaves. The alcohol is very strong and the pours are generous. Be sure to have big dinner plans following a full flight. I have had the date stuffed with butter and walnut before so I was thrilled to be reacquainted with it, and preferred it with the spirit than with tea.

souen-whisky

The tea-infused Japanese whisky was served with iburigako, a smoked daikon pickle from Akita, and pickled greens, this too was a nice match.

souen-wagashi-selectionGuests are presented with a selection of wagashi for the final course. A friend and I couldn’t decide on which to get so we each ordered one and they kindly cut them so we could each try both.

The course ends with a green tea spirit and we selected a cinnamon and apple jelly with a sweet that included ginkgo nuts.

This is a very special experience. Even a cup of tea is lovely here. There is a wall of windows overlooking Aoyama and Shinjuku, but that contrasts the quiet tea space. Reservations recommended. We tried walking in earlier in the week and could not get in.

Souen

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 5-6-23, Spiral Building 5F 港区南青山5-6-23

http://www.sakurai-tea.jp/

New Breakfast Spot at Tsukiji Market

tsukiji-uogashi-shokudo

Uogashi Shokudō breakfast

There is a brand new place to have breakfast at Tsukiji Market that is void of tourists and offering a value priced meal. There is a new facility, Tsukiji Uogashi, with about sixty retail shops for seafood and produce on the first floor. The first floor is open to the general public after 9 a.m. Prior to that it is for trade people only. The second floor is administrative offices and is off limits to visitors.

The third floor is a new shokudō (dining hall) that is run by a non-profit organization to supporting Japanese seafood and produce from Tsukiji Market. The recommended breakfast, only 650 JPY, included a small grilled fish filet, simmered fish with daikon, miso soup, pickles, and rice. The breakfast above was only 800 JPY and was a large serving of yellowtail and daikon simmered until tender in a sweet soy broth.

The dining hall on a recent morning was very quiet, only a handful of customers. The dining hall is so new that many don’t know about it yet. I was seated at a counter overlooking the open kitchen. The staff were very friendly and genki (enthusiastic).

The shokudō is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lunch prices too are reasonable, with a sashimi donburi for only 1,000 JPY or a sashimi set lunch for 1,200 JPY. I highly recommend starting your morning here if you will be visiting Tsukiji Market.

Chūō-ku, Tsukiji 6-26-1, Odawarabashi Ren 3rd floor, Uogashi Shokudō

中央区築地6-26-1小田原橋棟 3F

http://www.tsukiji.or.jp/forbiz/uogashi/

My Go-To Brasserie

My go-to brasserie is Girandole at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. The menu includes many classics like Salad Nicoise (2,300 JPY) and Pate de Campagne (2,600 JPY). I love the Japanese twist on the salad which included seared tuna. The pate de campagne is dense without being heavy.  There is a nice selection of wines by the glass. Service is professional without being stodgy.

The Petit Lunch is a good value for 2,500 JPY which starts with a soup or salad, main, and dessert. The restaurant is on the 41st floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo in Shinjuku. There are a handful of seats along the window, but I prefer the cozy banquettes. At a recent dinner here there was a family celebrating a baby’s first birthday in a corner semi-private room. We’ve come with our young son and the kid-friendly restaurant made us feel at home.

Girandole at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 3-7-1-2, Park Hyatt Tokyo 41st Floor

https://tokyo.park.hyatt.com/en/hotel/dining/Girandole.html

Our Local Burger Shop

I love a good burger. While I was born in Tokyo, I grew up in Minnesota eating burgers and fries. There are some good burger shops in Tokyo, but it’s nice to have a local spot that we can decide to go to at the last minute and not have to make a special trip into the city.

Jimmy’s Diner is our local burger shop serving a generous portion of fries and a meaty burger in an American diner interior. There are booths off to one side and a counter overlooking the kitchen.

The menu is simple, a burger with many different toppings. The burger is made with Japanese beef and the bun is from my favorite local bakery. The onions are raw, but Jimmy is kind enough to sauté them upon request. The fries are crispy and the serving is big, but if you are hungry, you can request a bigger serving for a small supplement, but only if you are really hungry. The serving in the photos above are the regular serving.

I believe Jimmy’s is closed on Monday. Call ahead to be sure if you are making a special trip here. Jimmy’s Diner is about a five-minute walk from Kokubunji station’s north exit. Jimmy (Hirakawa Hajime-san) and his wife run the kid-friendly shop. It’s open on Sundays. 🙂

Jimmy’s Diner

Kokubunji-shi, Honcho 2-14-5 国分寺市本町2-14-5

https://www.facebook.com/Jimmys-DINER-1219940928032747/

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/