Umezono in Asakusa 浅草の梅園

Umezono

Umezono

Umezono's Signature Awa Zenzai

Umezono's Signature Awa Zenzai

Umezono in Asakusa

Umezono in Asakusa

Umezono 梅園

Taito-ku, Asakusa 1-31-12 台東区浅草1-31-12

Phone: 03-3841-7580

10:00 – 20:00, closed Wednesdays and 2nd Tuesday

www.asakusa-umezono.co.jp/ (Japanese)

Just off of the Nakamise Dori the corner shop is easy to recognize from the red paper umbrella and benches in front of the shop. Umezono in Asakusa, opened in 1854, has a strong following for anmitsu, oshiruko, soup-like sweets including azuki an paste, fruits, kanten and mochi dango. Their signature dish, awa zenzai, one of the most popular Asakusa sweets, warms up the body on cold days. The awa (a small grain) is cooked slowly steamed until tender and presented in a lacquer bowl with some sweet azuki paste. The menu has a full selection of traditional sweets to enjoy inside the café and several of their popular sweets are packaged to go like dorayaki, anmitsu, and mitsumame.

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Magurobito Kaitenzushi in Asakusa 浅草のまぐろ人

Magurobito

Magurobito

**** Note, this shop has closed.

 

Magurobito まぐろ人

Taito-ku, Asakusa 1-5-9 台東区浅草1-5-9

Phone: 03-3844-8736

Monday – Friday (11:00 – 15:00, 17:00 – 22:00)

Saturday (11:00 – 22:00)

Sunday and holidays (11:00 – 21:00)

www.magurobito.com/ (Japanese)

Magurobito is kaitenzushi (revolving sushi) with a good value and a selection of seasonal fresh fish. It is very popular so there is often a line, but it tends to move quickly. This is a chain so you may see shops around the city. Of the many kaitenzushi, this chain is one of the better ones. It is also very popular for its bang for buck. There is a second shop in the area but it is tachigui (stand and eat) and only accommodates a handful of customers.

Cheap Eats in Ginza – 2/2

New Castle ニューキャッスル

New Castle ニューキャッスル

The slightly spicy curry served at this nostalgic mom-and-pop shop has long been a neighborhood favorite. The small wooden building looks out of place among Ginza’s designer boutiques and department stores, and the cooking is simple as well: one curry served in four sizes, each named after a station on the Keihin-Tohoku line. The handwritten menu starts with the Shinagawa (¥480), which is a bit on the small side (perfect for the OL watching her waistline). Ooi (¥530) is what most of us would consider the normal, while Oomori (¥630) is larger and comes topped with an over-easy egg; the largest portion, Kamata (¥740), is also crowned with an egg. A small counter and a few tables complete this compact, dimly lit restaurant. With only about 20 seats, diners feel as though they are in the living room of the elderly couple who run it. Look for the building with a small curtain overhang advertising coffee and karai raisu (“spicy rice”) instead of the more common kare raisu.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 2-3-1 中央区銀座2−3−1

Tel: 03-3561-2929

Open Mon-Fri 11am-9pm, Sat 11am-5pm, closed Sun & hols.

Bairin 梅林

Bairin 梅林

Ginza’s first dedicated tonkatsu eatery, Bairin uses Kagoshima kurobuta pork that’s renowned for its inherent sweetness. Another drawing card is the original sauce, whose sweetness comes from apples and vegetables. Opened in 1927, Bairin Tonkatsu’s interior probably hasn’t changed since—and that’s part of the charm. Diners at the long counter can watch as the pork filets are dipped in an egg batter and panko breadcrumbs, then deep-fried until golden brown. Meanwhile, another chef rhythmically chops cabbage into a fine julienne for the side salad. The restaurant gets extremely busy during lunch, but turnover is quite fast, so don’t be shy to join the queue. The donburi dishes offer excellent value, particularly the katsudon (¥980). Bairin Tonkatsu’s main store is located just off of Chuo Dori, but there are branches throughout the city, including the newest in Akihabara.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 7-8-1 中央区銀座7−8−1

Tel: 03-3571-0350

Open daily 11:30am-8:45pm. www.ginzabairin.com

Bunmeido

Bunmeido

Famous for its castella sponge cake, Bunmeido is where we like to go to refuel with sweets and coffee. The café-restaurant also offers a signature hayashi rice (¥1,000), with a selection of sandwiches rounding out the lunch menu. But it’s the desserts that the well-coiffed fashionable shoppers of Ginza daintily nibble on: tarts with artfully arranged fresh fruit, chocolate sweets and other Western pastries. Japanese-style treats include a parfait of mattcha ice cream with a sweet azuki bean paste. Bunmeido’s high ceilings and large stained-glass window may have some feeling like they are back in church, but the only confessions you’ll need to make are for overindulging. The location on the main Chuo Dori thoroughfare is also a fantastic people-watching spot. Even if we’re not hungry and just need to rest our feet, the extensive drinks menu includes freshly squeezed juices, teas and a satisfying matcha latte.

Note – this photo is one of the small to-go Bunmeido shops off of the main street, not the one written about in the article. This shop is good for getting packaged sweets for gift-giving.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-7-10 中央区銀座5−7−10

Tel: 03-3574-0002

Open daily 11am-9pm. www.bunmeido.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here for other Ginza Eats. And Cheap Eats part 1 of 2.

This article first appeared in Metropolis magazine on May 13, 2010. Some of my favorite cheap eats in Ginza.

Tokyo Cheap Eats – Kanda Yabu Soba

Yabu Soba

Yabu Soba

UPDATE: Kanda Yabu Soba caught on fire on February 19, 2013. 40 customers and employees were in the restaurant during dinner service when the fire was noticed. Everyone was safely evacuated. A spokesperson for Kanda Yabu Soba has said on NHK news the following day that the restaurant hopes to reopen in six months.

If you are to visit only one soba shop in Tokyo, then it should be Yabu Soba in Kanda. Soba aficionados from around the country trek to this fifth generation shop that opened in 1880. Enter through a compact garden and step back in time in this old building. The room is traditional Japanese with dark colored wood and paper-covered lights. Listen carefully and you can hear the girl behind the cash register sing out each order to the kitchen. This is the only place in Japan that I have seen this done. The elderly kimono clad waitresses efficiently manage the busy dining room. If you are hungry the diverse menu allows you to order a few dishes prior to closing the meal with noodles, like sashimi yuba, tempura, and grilled nori. There is also a full menu of soba, both hot and cold.

Seiro Soba

Seiro Soba

Kanda Yabu Soba かんだやぶそば

Chiyoda-ku, Awajicho 2-10 千代田区淡路町2-10

Tel. 03-3251-0287

11:30 – 19:30

some holidays in January and August

www.yabusoba.net (Japanese)

www.norenkai.net/english/shop/yabusoba/index.html (English)

Tokyo Bargain Dining – Maisen Tonkatsu in Omotesando まい泉とんかつ

Maisen's Tonkatsu

Maisen's Tonkatsu

If you have not had tonkatsu in Japan you probably have not experienced the juicy pork cutlet with the crispy panko breaded. This served up with a hot bowl of rice and a large haystack of julienned cabbage does not disappoint. Season the cabbage and pork with some tonkatsu dressing, a dark, sweet, thick sauce (think ketchup and Worcestershire sauce) and dig in.

There are many shops in Tokyo, but one of the perennial favorite on any round up of tonkatsu shops consistently has Maisen at the top. There are many shops, including in depachika for take-out, throughout the city. The main shop, in Aoyama, is a few blocks behind Omotesando Hills, and a short walk from the funky shopping street Takeshita Dori in Harajuku.

Maisen Interior

Maisen Interior

There are several rooms on the two story shop in Aoyama. This is the main dining room. It used to be a bathhouse. I don’t sense it when I am there, and I don’t know why anyone who writes about it seems to feel like they need to mention it. I am including it in this blog so that you can know that yes, this is the tonkatsu shop that used to be a bathhouse.

Maisen Counter

Maisen Counter

There is usually a line, don’t worry, it moves quickly as it is a large restaurant. This here is the counter and guests are usually lined up on the right hand side along the window. There is also a take-out cart in front of the shop.

The tonkatsu sandwich is also popular, fried cutlets with sauce between white bread. I prefer my tonkatsu hot so have not come to understand the popularity of these sandwiches. My recommendation is any small farmed pork on the menu. I have had a great Okinawan pork in the past. Also, be sure to upgrade the soup to a tonjiru, thin slices of pork with vegetables in a miso soup.

Maisen まい泉

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 4-8-5 渋谷区神宮前4-8-5

Phone: 03-3470-0071

http://mai-sen.com/

Tokyo Cheap Eats – Tsukiji Market’s Yoshinoya

Yoshinoya

Yoshinoya

Yoshinoya is a popular fast-food chain famous for its gyudon, thin slices of beef cooked with onions and a sweet soy sauce are ladled over a bowl of rice. A branch of Yoshinoya is in New York City on 42nd Street. The first shop in the chain dates back to 1899 and was located near Nihonbashi. It moved here to Tsukiji with the move of the market.

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1 Building #1

Phone: 03-5550-8504

www.yoshinoya.com/shop/tsukiji/index.html (Japanese)

Tokyo Cheap Eats – Oedo Kaitenzushi 大江戸回転寿し

Ooedo Kaitenzushi

Ooedo Kaitenzushi

Ooedo Kaitenzushi

Ooedo Kaitenzushi

As a fishmonger, Shinji is always craving sushi. There are many ranks of restaurants, even within the kaitenzushi (revolving sushi). Ooedo Kaitenzushi came highly recommended for its variety of fresh fish at a reasonable price. Ooedo has several locations throughout the city. This one is near Okachimashi, just south of Ueno station and near the boisterous Ameyoko market.

Shirako

Shirako

Assorted Sushi

Assorted Sushi

Assorted Sushi

Assorted Sushi

Ooedo Kaitenzushi – Okachimachi Kitaguchi Ten

Taito-ku, Ueno 6-2-1

Phone: 03-5812-2097

http://www.ooedo.co.jp

Tokyo Bargain Dining – Nihonbashi Yukari

Iron Chef Kimio Nonaga

Iron Chef Kimio Nonaga

I am often queried for good but affordable restaurants in Tokyo. One of my favorites for lunch is Nihonbashi Yukari with 2002 Iron Chef winner Kimio Nonaga. The basic lunch starts at about 2,000 JPY (around $20 USD). If you want to splurge, the Yukari bento, an uspcale bento, is about 3,675 JPY (about $35 USD).

Yukari Bento

Yukari Bento

Here is the Yukari bento, a large meal, complete with tempura, sashimi, a simmered dish, and more.

Nihonbashi Yukari Lunch

Nihonbashi Yukari Lunch

This is a basic lunch of a grilled fish, side dish, pickles, rice, and miso soup.

Nihonbashi Yukari is a short distance from Tokyo station, and very close to Takashimaya department store. Chef Kimio Nonaga is often behind the counter.

Dinner is also quite reasonable for kaiseki cuisine. I believe it starts at about 10,000 JPY. If you go, tell him Yukari sent you!

Nihonbashi Yukari 日本橋ゆかり

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-2-14 中央区日本橋 3-2-14

03-3271-3436

http://www.nihonbashi-yukari.com/

B Kyu Gourmet – Cheap Eats in Tokyo B級グルメ

Ramen

Here are some of my favorite restaurants that won’t break the bank. This article first appeared in Metropolis on November 5, 2009.

http://metropolis.co.jp/dining/local-flavors/the-b-list/

The most sought-after tables in recession-hit Tokyo can be found at so-called B-kyu gurume restaurants. These eateries typically specialize in a single cuisine—soba or tonkatsu, for example—served in simple settings without the lacquerware or heavy linens found at more upscale establishments. While B-kyu gurumerestaurants have always been around, the economic downturn has sparked a new interest in them, as reflected in the flurry of books, magazines and TV programs documenting the best finds throughout the city. Here are some of our favorites.

Nihonbashi Sapporoya

For an exceptionable bowl of ramen, try the hiyashi chukka goma dare (¥1,000) at Sapporoya in Nihonbashi. This basement restaurant, with only a few communal tables and chairs, serves up a large bowl of chilled noodles with tomatoes, cucumbers, ham, bamboo shoots, egg and more, topped with a creamy, nutty sesame-soy broth. The hot bowls of noodles are also excellent, notably the miso butter corn ramen. B1, 3-3-5 Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-3275-0024. Open Mon-Fri 11am-9:30pm, Sat 11am-4pm, closed Sun. Nearest stn: Nihonbashi or Tokyo (Yaesu exit).

Kanda Matsuya

Kanda Matsuya (pictured) has been serving up rustic, handmade soba noodles for three generations. While connoisseurs would advise simplicity with the mori sobaserved on a bamboo tray with a dipping sauce (¥600), we can not resist the ten-nanban, a hot bowl of soba noodles topped with shrimp tempura (¥950).
1-3 Kanda-Sudacho, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 03-3251-1556. Open Mon-Fri
11am-8pm, Sat & hols 11am-7pm, closed Sun. Nearest stn: Ogawamachi or
Kanda. www.kanda-matsuya.jp

Tsukiji Market’s Nakaya Donburi

Tsukiji Market is filled with B-kyu gurume restaurants. While throngs of visitors are queued up at Daiwa Sushi and Sushi Dai, we prefer Nakaya Donburi, located just up the street. Nakaya specializes in rice bowls topped with seafood—make sure to ask about seasonal (shun) items that are only available a few weeks of each year, or check the handwritten menu outside the front door. Popular donburitoppings include creamy uni, vermillion-colored ikura, and fatty tuna, or you can combine all three for just ¥1,700—a steal. 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-3541-0211. Open daily 6:30am-1:30pm (closed Tsukiji hols). Nearest stn: Tsukiji.

Santa Tonkatsu in Shinjuku

The tonkatsu at Santa in Shinjuku is unique—the panko (bread crumbs) are julienned instead of finely minced. Ask to be seated on the lower floor at the counter to watch the chefs frying the pork cutlets and thinly slicing the cabbage. The premium rosu katsu teishoku is just ¥1,680. 3-33-10 Shinjuku. Tel: 03-3351-5861. Open Tue-Fri 11:30am-2pm and 5-9:30pm, Sat-Sun & hols 11:30am-9:30pm, closed Mon. Nearest stn: Shinjuku or Shinjuku Sanchome.www.shinjuku.or.jp/kirin/washoku/santa

Asakusa Yoshikami

Located near the historic Asakusa temple district, Yoshikami feels like a retro diner, with round stools lined up at a counter overlooking the open kitchen. These are the best seats in the house for a view of the toqued chefs creating the restaurant’s popular omu-raisu (¥1,250), the classic yoshoku dish of ketchup-flavored rice enveloped in a soft omelet. The tender pieces of beef in a rich demi-glace sauce will have you dreaming about Yoshikami’s stew long afterwards (¥2,350). 1-41-4 Asakusa, Taito-ku. Tel: 03-3841-1802. Open daily 11:45am-10:30pm. Nearest station: Asakusawww.yoshikami.co.jp

Shibuya Tokyu Food Show’s Uoriki Sushi Counter

For fresh sushi at bargain-basement prices, head to Uoriki in the Tokyu Food Show depachika, inside Shibuya station. Don’t let the age of the chefs behind the counter fool you—these elderly gents are adept at molding the rice and slicing the seafood. We love the maguro zukushi with three parts of tuna—akamichutoroand ootoro—for just ¥1,190. B1 Tokyu Department Store, 2-24-1 Shibuya. Tel: 03-5428-3813. Open daily 10am-9pm. Nearest stn: Shibuyawww.uoriki.co.jp