Shotengai Shopping Arcades – Walking Food Tours of Tokyo

Shotengai

Shotengai

I love the shotengai, Japanese shopping arcades. Filled with ma and pa shops selling tofu, fresh produce, rice, pickles, miso, and other basics of the Japanese pantry. This article recently appeared in Metropolis magazine and features five of my favorite shotengai in Tokyo.

http://metropolis.co.jp/dining/local-flavors/street-eats/ (text follows)

While the one-stop food shopping at Tokyo’s depachika is an amazing experience, the gourmet eats come with a high price tag. At the other end of the spectrum are the places where most Japanese do their daily shopping: neighborhood shopping streets known as shotengai, where you’ll find mom and pop shops selling vegetables, fish, meat, rice and even handmade tofu. The Tokyo Shotengai website (http://meturl.com/shotengai) lists over 550 of these shopping streets; here are some of our favorites.

KAGURAZAKA 神楽坂

This foodie neighborhood is filled with many fantastic shops along the main drag. Try 50-ban (3-2 Kagurazaka) for its steamed buns, Kintokiya (2-10 Kagurazaka) for wagashi made from sweet potatoes, and the gorgeous Rakuzan (4-3 Kagurazaka) for tea. Isuzu (5-34 Kagurazaka) offers a variety of Japanese-style sweets and, if you walk along the street far enough, Baikatei (6-15 Kagurazaka) has fantastic handmade wagashi. Nearest station: Iidabashi

NIPPORI 日暮里

Just outside of Nippori station lies the Yanaka shotengai—very typical of what you would imagine an old-style shopping street to be like. Two of the area’s meat shops are famous for their menchikatsuNiku no Sato (3-13-2 Yanaka) and Niku no Suzuki (3-15-5 Nishi-Nippori). Goto no Ame (3-15-1 Nishi-Nippori) has a colorful selection of candies. There are many options, including deep-fried tofu balls known as ganmodoki, at Musashiya (3-9-15 Yanaka), oyatsu-pan (snack breads) at Atomu Bakery (3-11-14 Yanaka), and skewered and grilled seafood at Fukushima Shoten (3-13-4 Yanaka). Note that a lot of the shops are closed on Mondays.Nearest stn: Nippori. www.yanakaginza.com

NINGYOCHO 人形町

The historic Ningyocho district is always a delight to visit. While you’ll find many shops selling the local specialty, ningyoyaki (small cakes filled with azuki bean paste), there are many other interesting stores. On the famous Amazake Yokocho shotengai is Futaba Tofu (2-4-9 Ningyocho), with a variety of tofu products and also the sweet, creamy drink for which this street is named. Hojicha tea is the specialty of Morinoen (2-4-9 Ningyocho), while the long line outside the tiny Yanagiya (2-11-3 Ningyocho) is a testament to the popularity of its taiyaki sweet-bean cakes—considered one of the three best varieties in the city. Ningyocho’s most famous restaurant may well be Tamahide (1-17-10 Ningyocho), renowned for its oyako-don rice bowls. Nearest stn: Ningyocho.

KICHIJOJI 吉祥寺

Just north of Kichijoji station is Sun Road, a covered shotengai filled with many small shops. Among the several worth exploring are traditional German bakery Linde (1-11-27 Kichijoji-Honcho) and Meat Shop Sato (1-1-8 Kichijoji-Honcho), which is famous for its menchikatsu and wagyu and which also has a popular restaurant on the second floor, usually with a long line. Okashi no Machioka (1-15-1 Kichijoji-Honcho) will have your eyes spinning with all of the different types of candies, sweets and snacks. In the evening, the Harmonica Yokocho strip is filled with small restaurants that are perfect for a drink and some nibbles. Tecchan is a popular yakitori spot—if you can squeeze in (1-1-2 Kichijoji-Honcho). Nearest stn: Kichijoji.

AZABU-JUBAN 麻布十番

This popular foodie street in the heart of the city is easy to navigate. The renowned Mamegen (1-8-12 Azabu-Juban) tempts customers with over 90 varieties of flavored rice crackers, including uni, wasabi and curry, but it’s the shio-okaki (deep-fried and salted) that are irresistible. The taiyaki at the extremely popular Naniwaya Sohonten (1-8-14 Azabu-Juban) are made by the shop’s fourth-generation owners. Hasegawa Saketen (2-2-7 Azabu-Juban) has well-selected sake, shochu and umeshu. If you’re craving meat, the yakitori at Abe-chan (2-1-1 Azabu-Juban) will hit the spot. Alternatively, slurp up some soba noodles at Nagasaka Sarashina (1-8-7 Azabu Juban), notably the delicate, white sarashina noodles. Nearest stn: Azabu-Juban.

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Food & Wine Magazine’s 2009 Tokyo Go List

Tokyo

Tokyo

My contribution to Food & Wine magazine’s 2009 Go List for Tokyo:

Japanese chefs are dictating the world’s dining trends with their fierce devotion to seasonality and respect for aesthetics.

GINZA HARUTAKA

Chef Harutaka Takahashi may have a Michelin-starred resume, but he isn’t showy. He turns exceptional seafood into perfect sashimi and sushi in a simple space down the street from Tsukiji Market.
We loved: Anago (eel) broiled in a sweet soy-based sauce.

IVAN RAMEN

Native New Yorker Ivan Orkin faced skeptics when he opened a 10-seatramen counter in the Setagaya neighborhood almost two years ago. But now, ramen connoisseurs make pilgrimages to eat his homemade noodles doused in a chicken-and-seafood broth and topped with luxurious slabs of roast pork or nests of pickled bamboo shoots.
We loved: Whole wheat noodles with slow-cooked charred pork topped with a spicy sesame-and-peanut salad.
Insider tip: Ask for the gentei, or daily special.

KONDO

At this tiny tempura temple, baskets of seasonal vegetables sit on the counter waiting to be battered, deep-fried and served right out of the bubbling oil. Chef Fumio Kondo carefully monitors the temperature of the oil and the cooking time to create a delicate, crisp shell. He serves sweet soytsuyu dipping sauce on the side, but purists stick to salt.
We loved: Lacy nests of julienned carrots and Satsumaimo sweet potato.

TOFUYA UKAI

At this 100-year-old reconstructed sake brewery, the classic kaiseki courses, like seasonal sashimi and seared wagyu, are delicious. The highlight is soy in several forms, including decadent twice-cooked tofu and freshly made tofu simmering in a hot pot of creamy soy milk.
We loved: Deep-fried tofu spread with dengaku miso.
Insider tip: The gift shop sells jars of the sweet dengaku miso.

WAKETOKUYAMA

Revered chef Hiromitsu Nozaki owns several other places in Tokyo, but he likes to hang out behind the counter at his little kappo restaurant (a relaxed relative of kaiseki) in upscale Hiroo. Nozaki preaches the philosophy ofshun, or seasonality, as he assembles gorgeous dishes like uni-toppedshimeji mushrooms.
We loved: Abalone with kimo (liver) sauce and toasted nori.

Hot Food Zone: Kagurazaka

Once renowned for its geisha houses, this area near Iidabashi Station is now called “Petit France” for its many brasseries, bistros and wine bars. Also here are some of the best places to eat nearly every style of Japanese cuisine, like steamed dumplings at 50 Ban, tempura at geisha house–turned–restaurant Tenko and traditional sweets at Baikatei.

Where to Eat Near: Omotesando’s Shops

MAISEN TONKATSU

Hidden behind the Omotesando Hills shopping complex, this is a classic spot for humble tonkatsu: fried panko-breaded pork cutlets made from prized regional breeds like Okinawa’s red benibuta hog.

OMOTESANDO UKAI-TEI

At this luxe new teppanyaki restaurant, Venetian glass and European art set a fancy stage for chefs grilling extraordinary seafood, vegetables and marbled beef.

YANMO

Seafood from the Izu Peninsula, brought in daily, elevates the reasonably priced lunch specials at this excellent restaurant on a side street behind Comme des Garçons.

http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/go-list-2009-tokyo-city-guide