Japanese Curry with Some Fried Pork

ouroji-tondon

Tonkatsu on its own is a great dish, as is curry, but combined as katsu curry is a great way to hit two sweet spots in one dish. Ouroji 王ろじ is a tonkatsu shop on a quiet back street near Shinjuku Isetan. Katsu curry here is served in a bowl and is called tondon (tonkatsu donburi). The rice is from Niigata and is the right texture and slightly sweet. The curry is not at all spicy, and in the Japanese-style, so if you like heat, look elsewhere. The tonkatsu is a thick piece with a crispy coating that is dressed with some sweet sauce over the curry. Ouroji opened in 1921 and it has an old school feel to it.

Ouroji 王ろじ

Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku3-17-21   新宿区新宿3-17-21

Sadaharu Aoki

sadaharu-aoki

Sadaharu Aoki is a Japanese pastry chef who first made his name in Paris before moving back to Tokyo. His retail shop with a café near Yurakucho station is a nice spot to rest your feet and rejuvenate with French pastries, some with Japanese flavors like yuzu, mattcha, and wasabi. The mattcha served at his shop is on the sweet side and is served hot or iced.

patisserie Sadaharu AOKI paris

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 3-4-1, Shin-Kokusai Bldg. 1F

千代田区丸の内3-4-1新国際ビル1F

http://www.sadaharuaoki.com/boutique/tokyo-en.html

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

Dinner after Ben Fiddich

tonchinkan-tonkatsu

Just around the corner from Bar Ben Fiddich on a quiet pedestrian side street is a local tonkatsu-ya, Tonchinkan 豚珍館。The assistant bartender at Ben Fiddich had recommended it for “good tonkatsu and bad service”. He also warned us that there most likely would be a line. We didn’t see a line when we turned the corner, but there was a small line going up the stairs to the second-floor shop.

It’s a value-priced meal, considering that you can get free refills of rice and tonjiru, miso soup with daikon and pork. The standard tonkatsu (photo above) is 950 JPY and is a thick cut with the breading in the style of Meguro Tonki. The tonkatsu is dipped in egg and flour a few times before being breaded and deep-fried. There are two sauces, amai (sweet) and karai (spicy), but even the sweet was not overtly sweet as many shops serve. I also love that on the table is a Thai chili sauce for the julienned cabbage.

There is an English menu and you place your order while waiting in line. This is a shop you don’t want to linger at. Glad I had been warned about the service. Diners are not coddled as at most shops in the city. This is like the strict mother getting you to eat your meal and kicking you out so the next person in line can get in.

Don’t compare this to Maisen or Butagumi. If you only have time for one tonkatsu meal in the city, then head there. But if you are here for a while, or you craving meat after dreamy cocktails at Bar Ben Fiddich, then this is a fun, local experience.

Tonkinchan 豚珍館

Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 1-13-8, Takahashi Bldg. 2F

新宿区西新宿1-13-8高橋ビル2F

closed Sunday and holidays

Family-friendly Yakitoriya

Once in a while we adults want to have yakitori, grilled chicken skewers, but many yakitori-ya are smoky joints that are not kid-friendly. Iseya in Kichijōji near Inokashira Kōen Park is both family-friendly and a good value. It is also perfect for groups as it is a large space. The only challenge is that it is wildly popular. On weekends there is a perpetual line out the front door. Bring along something to keep your kid occupied while standing in line.

First things first, large mugs of cold beer for the adults and barley tea for the kid. We ordered vegetables like edamame, potato salad, green salad, kimchi, and cucumbers to get started. At the same time we ordered a variety of chicken skewers like thigh, gizzard, liver, chicken balls complete with minced cartilage for crunch, and chicken skin. The vegetables come out immediately and just when we are ready for the yakitori a giant plate is placed on the table with the skewers.

Inokashira Kōen is a great spot for the kids to run around after lunch. On the north side of the station is a great shōtengai shopping arcade with many food shops.

Iseya Sōhōten いせや総本店

Musashino-shi, Kichijōji Minami-chō 1-15-8

武蔵野市吉祥寺南町1-15-8

12 noon – 10 p.m.

closed Monday

no website

 

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/

Yakisoba Temple

Jimbocho’s Mikasa is a temple to yakisoba, even the noodles are made from scratch here. Yakisoba is a humble dish. Noodles stir-fried with vegetables and a protein and seasoned with a sauce or salt and dusted with aonori, an aromatic sea vegetable. It’s a messy dish and is not photogenic, but would win a congeniality contest as everyone seems to love yakisoba.

There is often a line at Mikasa, no matter the time. Weekends can have up to 50 people in line when the shop opens. It’s a cheap meal, 700 JPY, considering the handmade noodles are made with Hokkaido wheat. Each dish is made to order, starting with boiling the noodles. Boiling the fresh noodles allows them to keep a chewy texture.  Just order the spicy sauce or salt and the size, an oomori extra portion of noodles is free.All of the sauces used are made in-house. For an additional 150 JPY you can add some squid and shrimp.

The owner, Nakata-san, realized that there were many udon and ramen shops in Tokyo, but that yakisoba specialty shops were lacking. His nickname is Jimbocho yakisoba god, kami-yakisoba, which is a nice play on kanji considering the area is in Jimbocho, using the same character for “god”. 神保町の神やきそば。

Mikasa is a sliver of a restaurant. Be sure to check out the space behind the counter where the chefs are. Tiny. The space for the customers is not much bigger. Imagine squeezing behind these folks to get to your seat. I don’t think this would pass any fire code in the US.

Note only 120 portions are made each day.

Order from a vending machine in the front of the shop. Below is some Japanese to help.

ソース焼きそば (so-su yakisoba) sauce yakisoba

塩焼きそば (shio yakisoba) salt yakisoba

イカ・エビトッピング (ika/ebi topping) squid and shrimp topping

大盛り (oomori) large portion

小盛り (komori) small portion

Jimbocho Yakisoba Mikasa 神保町やきそばみかさ

Chiyoda-ku, Jimbocho 2-24-3

千代田区神田神保町2-24-3

http://mikasain.com/

Travel – Shirakawa-go Nomura Soba

O

Shirakawa-go is a world heritage site in Gifu, near Takayama, known for its wooden buildings with thatched roofs. It’s not easy to get to as trains don’t run here directly, so a bus is necessary. It’s a romantic village and pretty in winter, I would love to come back in summer.

Grabbing lunch in the village we went to Nomura, a teuchi handmade soba shop. All seventeen seats overlook the open kitchen. I usually go for seiro soba, cold noodles, but it was freezing and I needed to warm up. The set lunch comes with takikomi-gohan, rice cooked with vegetables.

If you get the chance, I hope you can make it to Shirakawa-go.

Teuchi Soba Dokoro Nomura 手打ちそば処乃むら

Gifu-ken, Ōno-gun, Shirakawa-mura, Ogimachi 779

岐阜県大野郡白川村荻町779

http://www.shirakawa-go.gr.jp/details/?i=37

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