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

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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/

Soba-ya Amongst the Love Hotels

fukudaya

Shibuya Fukudaya

Fukudaya is a traditional soba-ya on a narrow pedestrian street in the love hotel area on the Shibuya backstreets. The clientele is smart, ranging from fashionable youth to elderly warmly welcomed as regulars. The soba is light and the serving size is generous. Just minutes from the station on the 2nd floor above a 7-11. The older waitstaff and the traditional interior has the feeling of being in shitamachi, the older part of Tokyo.

Fukudaya 福田や

Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 2-25-15 渋谷区道玄坂2-25-15

Photo: Tempura seiro soba – I had vegetables substituted for the shrimp. 1,300 JPY.

Omusubi Gonbei

omusubi-gonbei

Omusubi Gonbei

Rice balls, onigiri or omusubi, may be Japan’s greatest comfort food. I wrote about onigiri for a column on Japanese breakfast in Tokyo for The Japan Times. Omusubi Gonbei is a short walk from Shibuya station.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2016/09/02/food/onigiri-japans-perfect-morning-meal/#.WBqdxeF96Cc

Omusubi Gonbei おむすび権米衛

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 1-7-3 渋谷区渋谷1-7-3

03-3498-2556

opens 8 a.m., weekdays, 9 a.m. weekends and holidays

www.omusubi-gonbei.com/shoplist/tokyo/shibuya/aoyama.html

Meruhenk Sandwiches

Japanese sandwiches are my go-to meal when I am on the run, even before onigiri rice balls. Meruhen is my favorite sandwich shop and if I am not near one, then some of the convenience stores like 7-11, Lawson, or Family Mart, also has great sandwiches.

The sandwiches are built on crustless pain de mie (white bread). Savory fillings can be egg salad, tonkatsu, ham and cheese, kabocha with mayonnaise, and more. The sweet sandwiches are fresh fruit with whipped cream, which I have a hard time swallowing. My favorite is the simple julienned carrots with a bit of mayonnaise, but you have to go early. It’s popular and is often sold out by the time I get there. The sandwiches are in the 300 JPY range.

Meruhenk branches in popular areas (there are many more):

Tokyo Station eCute 1st floor (inside the station) – with limited seating in the area.

Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi

Shinjuku Takashimaya, Shinjuku Odakyu

Ginza Matsuya

Daimaru Tokyo Station

and many more!

http://www.meruhenk.co.jp/shop/index.html

Midori Sushi

Midori Sushi is a sushiya chain, popular both with locals and tourists, that is known for its basement bargain prices. When we query our preschool son to pick what to have for meals out, it is often sushi. Our go-to place is Choshi Maru which is in our area. Choshi is a famous fishing port in Chiba and the restaurant gets a lot of its seafood directly from the port. But this evening we decided to break from routine and check out Midori Sushi.

We arrived before 5:00 p.m. and there was already a line of mostly elderly diners. Yes, it was the retirement crowd. Every time I have passed a Midori Sushi, there is always a line. We waited for about 15 minutes before being seated. One look at the menu and it is apparent why everyone loves coming here, it is very cheap. The question is how is the quality?

The chirashi zushi bowl on the left above was only 1,000 JPY ($10 USD). It was made of tuna, katsuo, kanpachi, two types of squid, shrimp, ikura, tamago, anago, and pickles of takuan and gobo. The sushi set on the right was 1,600 JPY ($16 USD) and included ikura, uni, herring roe, and much more. The neta pieces were very big, so it is a full meal. Is this silly? The two of us could have dinner for about $25 and leave full and satisfied. Lunch is even cheaper.

The rice is Yamagata haenuki and is nice for sushi. This rice is touted for its nice texture, inherent sweetness, and the fact that even if it is cold it still delicious. This is a key point when it comes to take-away sushi. The branch we went to had a small refrigerator in the front of the shop for sushi-to-go. The prices there were even cheaper than dining in, and at the time we were leaving, many of the sushi packs were discounted by about 30%.

So, the quality of the seafood? It was good. The tuna was very nice and the anago seems to be cooked in house was also very good. For the price, it is a great value.

If you are traveling in Tokyo and are on a budget, then put this on your radar. If you do not have a budget, then go elsewhere. This chain is kid-friendly if you are traveling with your family. On this Friday evening the suburban restaurant was filled mostly with retirees when we were seated. As we left, it was filling up with families. Service is friendly and there were a lot of seasonal seafood options as well as many small plates built around seafood starting at about 600 JPY.

The beverage list includes beer, sake, and shochu. We’ll be back. This may become our new go-to sushiya for meals with our son. As long as we avoid the peak dining hours when the wait could be long.

Midori Sushi’s main shop is in Umegaoka in Setagaya-ku is their biggest store. Branches can be found in Ginza, Shibuya, Akasaka, and a standing sushiya in Ikebukuro. Addresses are below in English.

http://www.sushinomidori.co.jp/tenpo_e.html

 

 

Tsukiji Chuka Soba Inoue

UPDATE – Tsukiji Chūka Soba Inoue is currently closed due to a fire at Tsukiji Market. (Aug. 2017)

 

Our favorite ramen at Tsukiji is Inoue. This tiny stall that has standing only tables for dining has been in business for fifty years. There is only one bowl that is made from (I believe) chicken and soy sauce broth, has thin noodles, and is topped with slices of pork, menma (bamboo shoots), green onions, and kaiware (daikon sprouts). The soup is light and a good start to the morning.

This is a great start to the day, and in our opinion, better than having sushi for breakfast at Tsukiji as many of the sushi shops have become very touristy. There is usually a line here, so stand in line, order quickly, as the shop is run much like the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. Stand and slurp quickly, and then move on to make room for the other diners.

Tsukiji Chuka Soba Inoue 築地中華そば井上

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-9-16 中央区築地4-9-16

5:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. closed Sunday, holidays, and Tsukiji holidays

Shibuya Joto Curry

Shibuya Joto Curry

Jōtō Katsu Curry

Katsu curry is a great fusion dish of two Japanese classics, tonkatsu and curry. Near Shibuya station is Jōtō Curry, originally from Osaka.

When you come into the 2nd floor shop, you’ll find the vending machine for tickets just to your right. There are photos for the main dishes. The signature katsu curry button is on the top left. There is a long counter overlooking the kitchen with seating for about 15 and a small table to the back. What caught me off guard was the country music on the soundtrack, I think it was 70’s Johnny Cash. After a while though, it just felt right. I wanted to sing along to Hey, hey, good-lookin’, whatcha got cookin’, but resisted the urge.

On the counter there are two small pots. The light brown pot had bright red salty pickles and the dark brown pot was packed with pickled sweet cabbage. There is also a dispenser for powdered chili powder, which you’ll need if you like your curry hot as this is mild curry.

The country music is only interrupted by the sound of the pork cutlets being fried and the chef cutting the tonkatsu into smaller slices.

The chopped pork cutlet is presented on a bed of rice that is covered with curry. Add your pickles and dig in. On a recent afternoon I was the only girl in the shop. It was filled with salarymen and students on their lunch break.

Toppings could be added, like a raw egg or grated cheese. Options include ebi furai (deep-fried shrimp), eggplant, or pickled rakkyo (shallots). Most of the diners were ordering the katsu curry.

Jōtō Curry 上等カレー

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 3-18-7 2F 渋谷区渋谷3-18-7 2F

http://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1303/A130301/13160341/

Convenience Store Sandwiches

Conbini sandwich

Japanese convenience store food is surprisingly fresh and reasonably priced. In particular, I am a big fan of the sandwiches, which come with many fillings, like tuna or egg salad, katsu (fried pork cutlets), or as seen above, ham and cheese with lots of fresh iceberg lettuce. The sandwiches are about 250 JPY. When I am craving vegetables I get this sandwich.

These are actually from two different shops. 7-11 on the left and Family Mart on the right. The 7-11 was better as it was made with mayonnaise and the lettuce was crispier. I think the Family Mart was made with butter.

A chef friend of mine is addicted to the egg salad sandwiches, which are pretty amazing.

The sandwiches also make for a quick breakfast if you are on the run.

convenience store = konbini

 

Nihonbashi Gela C Fruit Breakfast

 

 

In Japan fruit shops and cafés are a great spot for trying blemish-free and perfectly ripened fruit. One thing to put on your radar are morning sets at these cafés. A breakfast of fruit in Japan will feature seasonal fruit and confiture.

Gela C in Nihonbashi Muromachi Coredo building has a bargain breakfast for 500 JPY. Toast, three confiture, yogurt topped with fruit, and coffee. The shop opens at 9 a.m. On this day the confiture was kiwi, black grape, and lemon and honey.

Gela C’s parent company, Tokio, is a fruit shop based in Fukuoka. This shop in the historic Nihonbashi district, near Mitsukoshimae station, has a wide selection of fruit gelato and cut fruit.

The shop was quiet on this weekday morning. My friend James always reminded me to “eat more fruit”. We never get enough fruit, do we? It’s hard in Japan as fruit is very expensive. So this value-priced breakfast is a royal treat.

Gela C

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 2-3, Coredo Muromachi 2, B1

中央区日本橋室町2丁目3番コレド室町2 B1 F