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

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Nakameguro Onigily Cafe

Onigiri and Annin Dofu

Onigiri and Annin Dofu

The Nakameguro area is filled with many great restaurants, including my favorite pizzeria, Seirinkan. Just a short walk from Nakameguro station is Onigily Cafe. Onigiri is perhaps the quintessential comfort food in Japan. Rice stuffed with a savory filling that is often wrapped with nori. I almost didn’t go in as the spelling of onigiri with an l just seemed so wrong, but it was hot and I needed to take a break. From outside I could see the handmade onigiri and they looked to good to resist.

Onigily Cafe interior

Onigily Cafe interior

The interior is also inviting as it is brightly lit and there are a handful of tables and a counter at the window. I had the mentaiko and takana, a great combination of spicy pollack roe with pickled greens. The annin dōfu was the best I have had in Tokyo. I will go back just for the almond custard.

Onigily Cafe Take-Away

Onigily Cafe Take-Away

I was surprised that the onigiri that I was served had just a small piece of nori. But forgot all about that when I bit in. The rice was still warm and was lightly pressed, it was like a pillow.

This is a great spot for vegetarians as there is a good selection of vegetable-only onigiri including yukari (salted red shiso) natto, leek miso with shiso, kombu, umeboshi, soft-boiled egg, and salt. There is also a selection of vegetable side dishes including potato salad, tomato salad, pickled cucumbers, and turnips with kombu.

It was not surprising that there were many people coming for take-away. The prices range from 100 – 200 JPY with most averaging about 155 JPY, which is about the same as you would pay at a convenience store. But these are just so much better.

Onigily Cafe

Meguro-ku, Nakameguro 3-1-4 目黒区中目黒3-1-4

www.onigily.com/

Ginza Rose Bakery

Salad Lunch

Salad Lunch

I am a big fan of Rose Bakery. An English bakery that first opened in Paris and is now dotting Tokyo. This casual cafe has a large delicatessen-style refrigerator in each shop that showcases the colorful salads and baked goods. While the cakes and sweets are tempting, I am always come here for the salads.

This Plate of Vegetables is about 1,550 JPY at the Ginza shop and was 100% vegetarian. Six vegetable dishes served with a side of rustic sourdough bread. The Kichijoji branch, which I go to more often, sometimes includes some chicken or anchovies in the Salad Lunch, so be sure to let them know if you prefer all vegetables as I believe they could accommodate your request.

The Kichijoji branch is filled with suburban shoppers and stay-at-home moms, sometimes with their kids in tow. The Ginza shop which is in the fashionable Dover Street Market, was just the opposite. Hip and stylishly dressed diners and shoppers with their shopping bags from high-end designers. I definitely feel more at ease at the Kichijoji shop, which also opens at 8 a.m., while the Ginza branch opens at 11 a.m.

Many times our clients tell us that they are craving vegetables. This is a great spot to get your fill.

Rose Bakery Ginza

Chuo-ku, Ginza 6-9-5, Ginza Komatsu West Wing 7F

中央区銀座6-9-5ギンザコマツ西館7F

rosebakery.jp

Best Cafe for Train Fans – N3331

N3331

N3331

Did you know that in the heart of Tokyo there is a cafe that sits on the train tracks? It is actually located in between the inbound and outbound lines of the Chuo line. The station is just between Ochanomizu and Kanda. It is also a short walk from Akihabara station. Here is the view from the window. We are just a few feet from the trains whizzing by.

Cafe is on the train tracks

Cafe on the train tracks

Here is the view from our seat looking as two Chuo trains pass us.

The cafe opens at 11 a.m. We came early and were the first in line, but by about 10:45 a.m. there were about a dozen waiting to get in on a weekend.

We ordered a sandwich and a curry. Both were terrible. The lettuce on the sandwich was so wilty, it surely was made the day before. The 7-11 sandwiches have fresher lettuce. As for the curry, I’ve had better curry from a pack. Bummer as the cafe itself is so sweet. When we go back I am just going to have something to drink. We did order some ice cream which was good. But, don’t come for the food. Sad as this is such a great dining city. It is a shock to come across food so awful. Come for the view and the experience.

Outdoor seating at N3331

Outdoor seating at N3331

There is indoor and outdoor seating. The outdoor seating has the best views of the trains coming and going. Note that there is NOT a roof over you, so don’t go when it is raining. And, note that it is very hot out there under the sun. We will go back, but I will wait until autumn. You do hear the trains as they pass by.

Ichiro Whiky

Ichiro Whiky

If you like whisky, they have a great selection of Ichiro whisky. I should have ordered a glass after the shock of the food.

The station is the old Manseibashi station. Underneath the tracks there are several great little shops and restaurants. Get your food down here. The cafe is only good for experiencing the train. But, if you are a train fan, or with kids, it is pretty awesome to be on the tracks with trains passing by just in front of you.

There is a part of the cafe that is covered and air-conditioned, but it opens onto the open-air cafe so is not too cool. I will definitely be back, but most likely after the weather cools down.

www.maach-ecute.jp/shop.html

N3331

東京都千代田区神田須田町1丁目25番地4

Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Kanda Sudacho 1-25-4

n3331.com

A good access map:

www.maach-ecute.jp/access.html

Aoyama Blue Bottle Coffee

Aoyama Blue Bottle Coffee

Aoyama Blue Bottle Coffee

Blue Bottle has arrived to Tokyo. The first shop, in Kiyosumi, is on the other side of the city for me. So, even though I live in Tokyo it is about an hour from where I live. Blue Bottle’s second shop has opened in Aoyama.

It’s a busy shop and not the best place to do writing or editing. Quite noisy in fact. I couldn’t hear the staff call out my name to get my coffee. Eventually seats opened up on the deck, where it was quiet and I could get some work done. There is a buzz in the restaurant. It seems that many of the customers, like myself, are first timers. Taking it all in, looking around, checking things out, lots of questions for the staff.

The staff helped me to select a Papau New Guinea single origin. She said it was “like peach”. The coffee, served in a glass mug, was fruity.

Blue Bottle is getting a lot of press in the media, which explains the big crowds. Not sure, but I guess this will die down at some point.

The Aoyama location is just off the main street where there are many brands like Issey Miyake and Prada. The shop is up the stairs on the second floor of a building that looks like it was an old apartment building. Don’t know why, but the shop doesn’t open up until 10 a.m. Frustrating for those of us who prefer to have coffee earlier in the day, but many coffee shops in Tokyo don’t open until 10 or even 11 a.m.

 

Blue Bottle Aoyama

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 3-13-14

港区南青山3-13-14

bluebottlecoffee.com/cafes/aoyama

Kichijoji Light Up Coffee

Aihara-san of Light Up Coffee

Aihara-san of Light Up Coffee

At my local coffee shop, Cribe, in Kokubunji, I often meet coffee shop owners. The other day I met a very young Aihara-san whose shop, Light Up Coffee, is in Kichijoji. Light Up was on my my radar thanks to recommendations from Twitter friends. Arigato, Twitter!

Light Up Coffee is about a seven-minute walk from Kichijoji Station’s North Exit. Take a left out of the North Exit and walk straight. The street is filled with fun shops selling trinkets, antiques, clothes, and things you don’t need, but desire as they are “kawaii” (cute). Across the street is a park and this morning it is filled with nursery school kids laughing and crying. This is a residential neighborhood this far from the station.

Light Up Interior

Light Up Interior

From the back of the shop is the hum of the small coffee roaster. I walk to the back and find Aihara-san tending to the beans. He helps me choose from the day’s coffee and recommends Kenya Kariru. It has a soft acidity and is reminiscent of a strong-brewed tea. There are several Japanese magazines to peruse and even some English coffee books, including Blue Bottle’s gorgeous book.

The furnishings are simple. Two skinny wood counters with skinny chairs. There is a cool breeze as there is a back door that is opened.

Light Up Exterior

Light Up Exterior

Aihara-san brings me a second cup, also from Kenya, but a new bean called Tegu. He said the Kenya bean was changing. This was fruitier and hand hints of tomatoes. Different from the first. At Light Up one of the menu options is a flight of coffee, a great chance to taste different coffee next to each other.

Light Up Coffee is open seven days a week. On Tuesdays he has shorter hours.

Light Up Coffee

Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Honcho 4-13-15

0422-27-2094

www.lightupcoffee.com

Wednesday – Monday 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Tuesdays 12 noon – 5 p.m.

Takashimaya Patissieria Sweets Counter

Shinjuku Takashimaya

Takashimaya Patissieria

If you have a sweet tooth be sure to visit Shinjuku Takashimaya’s Patissieria in the depachika. The concept is brilliant, over a hundred signature sweets from patisseries throughout Tokyo all displayed together. Carefully peruse the sweets and upon selecting one, or two if you like, take a seat at the counter and order a coffee and enjoy.

Shinjuku Takashimaya

Takashimaya Patissieria

Even on days when I don’t have time to sit down, I do try and glance through the display case as the offerings are constantly changing. As can be expected, aside from the classics, many are influenced by the seasonal ingredients.

Takashimaya Patissieria Mont Blanc

Takashimaya Patissieria

My view from the counter with a Mont Blanc. Shinjuku Takashimaya is located just outside of Shinjuku JR Station. Take the Shin-Minami-Guchi, New South Exit, take a left and you will walk into Takashimaya in one minute. Follow the escalators down to the basement.

Takashimaya Patissieria

Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-24-2, Shinjuku Takashimaya

Monzennakacho Monz Cafe

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Monzennakacho is a very cool neighborhood that is close to the heart of Tokyo. Accessible via the Tozai or Oedo subway lines. Part of the area abuts the Sumidagawa River and there is a river that runs through it that offers boat rides under the cherry blossoms in spring.  I lived here for a few years and love this area very much. There are a few temples in the area including the Tomioka Hachimangu and Fukagawa Fudosan, as well as a big festival every three years in the summer. My favorite pickle restaurant in Tokyo, Kintame, has a shop just in front of the Fukagawa Fudosan.

A new addition to the area is Monz Cafe, hip cafe on the old street that leads from the Tozai station exit to the Fukagawa Fudosan temple. On this spring day the windows and doors are wide open. Two young girls are behind the counter. Inside is tight seating for 18. There is a small glass case with some baked goods like pound and chiffon cakes. The limited food menu includes panini and Eggs Benedict. My “flat white” is like a cappuccino, but with more milk. The coffee is rich, but not too bitter or dark. The cafe has a light and refreshing feel to it. A great spot to grab coffee with a friend, or perhaps a coffee after a pickle lunch at Kintame.

I asked one of the girls behind the counter what this was prior and she said it used to be an amazaké shop. She pointed to the space above the door and they have retained the old sign. A small gesture, but one that is perfect for this neighborhood, which still retains the feel of shitamachi, the heart of old Tokyo.

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Monz Cafe

Koto-ku, Tomioka 1-14-5

03-6873-0835

Monday – Friday 8:00-19:00

Weekends and holidays 9:00-18:00

One minute from Tozai exit #1.

Takano Fruit Shop – Melon Juice

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The hundred dollar muskmelon. Yes, it exists. Most of the cost of the melon, I have been told by a fruit store executive, is for the air-conditioning of the greenhouses in summer or for the heaters in winter. The muskmelon juice at Takano fruit café in Shinjuku Takashimaya is a nice alternative. The shop also has fruit parfaits and sandwiches of whipped cream and fresh fruit.

The café is located on the fifth floor of Shinjuku Takashimaya. The brightly lit restaurant is furnished in white and the windows overlook Shinjuku station. It is an ideal spot to meet with a friend and catch up, or to refresh after some power shopping at Takashimaya and Tokyu Hands which is next door. Takano Fruits main shop is in Shinjuku and has a bigger menu.

Some depachika will have a small counter in the fruit specialty shop. When I worked at Nihonbashi Takashimaya I was surprised to see how popular these counters can be. Not only with older clientele but also with younger couples with their children.

It’s a luxurious treat and something that can only be experienced in Japan.

Takano Fruit

Shinjuku Takashimaya, 5th floor

Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-24-2

Le Pain Quotidien at nonowa Higashi-Koganei

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I lived in Brussels for a year and one of the things I remember the most is the Le Pain Quotidien down the street from my apartment. The bakery opened up early in the morning so I could stop by and get a croissant or pain au chocolat to start the day. The large communal table in the middle of the cafe is perfect when dining solo. On the table were jars of jam and nutty and chocolate spreads for bread. Open-faced tartine sandwiches as well as salads round out the menu here. The menu sadly does not have any Japanese influences. It is pretty much the same menu you’ll see in Belgium or in New York City. A fun shop to come in solo or with some friends.

Le Pain Quotidien is in a new shopping complex that opened up recently, nonowa Higashi-Koganei, which is on the Chuo line between Mitaka and Kokubunji. nonowa can also be found in Nishi-Kokubunji and in Musashi-Sakai, also on the Chuo line. The shops are in the train stations and this Higashi-Koganei shop is all underneath the Chuo line. A smart move to use the space underneath the train tracks. While it’s possible to hear the trains passing above, it is not nearly as noisy as spots like the restaurants underneath the Yamanote line near Yurakucho station.

The organic coffee is served in a bowl. Reminds me of bowls of hot chocolate in Europe. The coffee comes in a pot and is about two cups plus. Next time I come back I will bring some reading with me and settle in and be transported back to Belgium.

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The shop is brightly lit as one wall of windows faces south. On this day there were a few older couples and many young women in the shop. There is a small, but well-stocked bakery in the front of the shop for take-away or for eating in the cafe.

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There is also outdoor seating which will be perfect once the weather warms up. And, operation hours are 7:30 – 22:00.

Le Pain Quotidien has branches in the city. It’s not worth the trek out to Higashi-Koganei. But, if you find yourself traveling on the Chuo line, it’s good to know that it’s here.

Sandwich and Salad Lunch

Sandwich and Salad Lunch

A vegetable-friendly menu with salads and sandwiches.

Le Pain Quotidien Kid's Lunch

Le Pain Quotidien Kid’s Lunch

The Kid’s Lunch is hearty with an open-faced sandwich, fresh fruit, roasted potatoes, juice, and a chocolate muffin. Best of all, the waitress set a bucket of crayons on the communal table along with some origami paper. The crayons bought me enough free time to leisurely peruse their cookbook.

Le Pain Quotidien

Koganei-shi, Kajinocho 5-1-1, nonowa Higashi-Koganei

小金井市梶野町5-1-1, nonowa東小金井

Chuo line, local stop at Higashi-Koganei station 東小金井駅

042-316-7041

7:30 – 22:00

updated 27 July 2015