Grand Hyatt Tokyo – Shunbou

Shunbou is the Japanese restaurant at the Grand Hyatt in Roppongi. The Grand Hyatt has several Japanese restaurants including Roku Roku for sushi and Keyakizaka for teppanyaki. Shunbou features seasonal kaiseki dishes as well as comfort food like curry udon. It is kid-friendly and a great option in the Roppongi area.

Entering the restaurant seasonal produce is displayed, as are large earthenware serving dishes. The main dining room is in granite and there is an inner garden behind windows that opens up to the sky, bringing in sunlight, or on this day, rain sprinkling on the rocks and tree.

I joined a friend for lunch here and ordered the shun-sai lunch box (5,300 JPY). The presentation is gorgeous as lunch comes in a wooden box with three tiers. The appetizer for the autumn lunch is a chrysanthemum tofu topped with chrysanthemum petals.

The first tier was composed of tuna sashimi, yuba (soy milk skin), mozuku (a slippery sea vegetable), and grilled sanma (Pacific saury).

The second tier included crab cream croquette and grilled salmon.

Grilled Iberico pork, unohana (tofu lees with vegetables), and boiled vegetables completed the third tier.

Separately takikomigohan of vegetables cooked with rice, grilled eggplant miso soup, and pickles round out the lunch. Dessert is a petit kuri chestnut wagashi, not too sweet. It was a perfect mini-kaiseki including all of the components and was a great way to sense the seasons.

Executive sous chef, Takuya Nezasa, was with Nadaman for thirteen years before coming to Shunbou. Nadaman for Tokyoites is a revered establishment with a 185-year history. Some department stores will have a branch of Nadaman in the depachika so that customers can buy seasonal and traditional dishes. Shunbou is kappō-style so you can see some of the chefs in the open kitchen cooking.

The sake list has many offerings by-the-glass, including seasonal hiyaoroshi from Nagano Masumi brewery, perfect with the ingredients available this time of year.

The dishware is also lovely. Many had lovely textures, like the teacup, calling out to be held. The meal is also a pleasure for the eyes.

Lunch starts at 1,900 JPY for curry udon or soba with rice. We got a small bite of the curry and it’s a light curry and not too spicy. The menu is vast and offers something for everyone. The menu is in English and of course staff speak English, so Shunbou is also a good option for some who may have reservations going to traditional Japanese restaurants with an English speaker.


Grand Hyatt Tokyo – 6th floor

Minato-ku, Roppongi 6-10-3 港区六本木6-10-3


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!

Japanese Eggplant

The simple step of roasting eggplants and peeling before adding to miso soup adds a rich and smoky dimension to our mornings. Japanese eggplants are thin with small seeds. When cooked the eggplant flesh becomes soft and juicy. Some Japanese eggplant can be eaten as sashimi, simply sliced and served raw with soy sauce. Growing up in the US I was not a big fan of eggplants. But in Japan I can’t get enough of them.

Japanese kitchens lack a big oven for roasting and baking, but often come with a small fish grill, perfect for grilling fish and vegetables. Simply peel off the leaves at the top of the plant exposing more of the skin. Prick the skin in a few spots with a toothpick or knife so that when it cooks the steam can be released. If not, it may explode while cooking. Put in the Japanese fish grill and roast until the skin blackens. If you don’t have a fish grill, you can blacken the skin directly over a gas flame. Be careful.

Put the roasted eggplant in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest for a few minutes. Peel, cut into bite-size pieces, and add to miso soup.

We sometimes sauté in a pan with vegetable oil and dress with a sweet Kyūshū soy sauce. It can be stir-fried with ground meat and seasoned with miso, saké, and sesame oil for mabō nasu, which needs to be eaten with a big bowl of rice.

A classic Japanese dish is dengaku miso over roasted or deep-fried eggplant. Dengaku miso is a sweetened thick miso dressing. If you are not an eggplant fan and have access to Japanese eggplants, consider giving it a second chance.

茄子 nasu – eggplant

焼き茄子 yakinasu – roasted eggplant

賀茂茄子 Kamo nasu – Kyoto vegetable Kamo eggplant

田楽みそ dengaku miso – sweetened miso dressing for eggplant and tofu


Japanese Breakfast – Kuouesu


I have a six-month column on Japanese breakfast in the Japan Times. This special spot was mentioned in my first column on traditional Japanese breakfasts.

Kuouesu near Hiroo offers a very unique Japanese breakfast. The kappō restaurant is only open for breakfast and dinner. It was a long walk from the station, so best to take a taxi if you can if the weather is not good.

I was greeted by chef Moteki. She was in the back kitchen for most of the meal, getting ready for the next seating. I loved having a female chef as I don’t run into them very often, especially at traditional Japanese restaurants.

This is a classic ichiju sansai meal of rice, miso soup, and three side dishes. Ichiju sansai is literally one soup and three vegetables. This meal is rounded out with a grilled fish on this day. The rice has an al dente texture and Moteki-san said that they cook it with less water than usual in Iwate Nambu steel pot to make the Niigata koshihikari rice firm. I loved it.

Managatsuo pomfret is prepared in a classic yuan-yaki style of soy sauce, saké, and mirin that is grilled over charcoal.

Reservations are required for this bargain breakfast of 900 JPY. Side dishes like tamagoyaki and nattō can be added. This is a hidden gem. I only wish I lived closer.



Kuouesu 栩翁S

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 7-14-6 Minami-Aoyama Bldg. 1F


Japan Times article on traditional Japanese breakfasts.

Yamagata Dashi

One of my go to side dishes this time of year is Yamagata Dashi, a classic kyōdo ryōri (regional dish) from where my family is from. I didn’t eat it growing up, and only came upon it once I lived in Japan. It’s the perfect dish for summer as the vegetables for Yamagata Dashi are at the peak of their season.

Yamagata Dashi smells like you are in the garden. It has a crunchy texture and depending on how much nattō kombu and okra you use, it can be very slippery. I love the aromatics from the shiso and myōga, the crunch from the cucumbers, and it took a while for me to get used to eating raw eggplant, but I love it now.

The main ingredients are cucumbers, eggplant, myōga (ginger buds), okra, and shiso. Nattō kombu, finely minced dried kombu, is another key ingredient. I picked up this pack of nattō kombu なっとう昆布 or 納豆昆布 at the Yamagata antenna shop in Ginza.

Soak a small amount of the nattō kombu in water while prepping the vegetables.

I like to blanch the okra and remove the seeds, but if you are in a hurry or don’t want to be bothered with turning on the stove, you could mince the okra while raw.

Finely chop the cucumbers, eggplant, and okra. Mince the myōga and shiso.

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and season with either soy sauce or tsuyu (seasoned soy sauce used for soba or udon noodles). Serve over rice. If you can’t be bothered cooking rice, use the precooked rice that only needs to be microwaved.

Serve immediately. Best to make only what you can eat as the texture changes if it sits overnight in the refrigerator.

Yamagata Dashi 山形だし

kyōdo ryōri 郷土料理

cucumbers – kyūri 胡瓜

eggplant – nasu 茄子

ginger buds – myōga 茗荷

okra オクラ

shiso しそ

nattō kombu 納豆昆布

Do let me know if you try making this dish. Curious what your reactions are.



Takenoko Gohan

Bamboo shoots are in season at the moment. They are also in season in the fall. But I associate the delicate flavor and aroma with spring. I was at a friend’s house on the weekend. Her mother, who is an excllent cook, had just cleaned and boiled a bamboo shoot and had brought half to my friend’s house. My dear friend then gave us half of that. We brought it home and made takenoko gohan. When you cook the rice in the pot with added ingredients it is called takikomigohan.

Shinji cut up the tender bamboo shoots and put it in the donabe with dashi, sake, soy sauce, and deep-fried tofu. It is garnished with sanshō leaves which we plucked from grandpa’s sanshō bush in his rooftop garden. It was so good I ate three bowls.


In the supermarkets in Tokyo, you can find both fresh bamboo shoots, complete with the skin on it. Or you can find already boiled and peeled of the hard skin.

Some more inspiration from these recipes:

take bamboo 竹

takenoko 竹の子

takenoko 筍


Nanakusa Gayu 七草粥

2016 Nanakusa

The Japanese calendar is filled with many food rituals. While we start the year off with a big bang with お節料理 osechi ryōri, the next event is a nourishing bowl of rice porridge with seven greens, 七草粥 nanakusa gayu. Kayu is rice porridge and nanakusa refers to the seven edible greens. The daikon and turnip are also chopped up and cooked with the rice.

In order clockwise the haru no nanakusa 春の七草:

  1. 仏の座 ほとけのざ Lapsana apogonoides – nipplewort
  2. 菘 すずな Brassica rapa – turnip
  3. 薺 なずな Capsella bursa – shepherd’s purse
  4. 蘩蔞 はこべら Stellaria neglecta – chickweed
  5. 蘿蔔 すずしろ(大根)Raphanus sativus – daikon
  6. 御形 ごぎょう Gnaphalium affine – cudweed
  7. 芹 せり Oenanthe javanica – water dropwort

These are the traditional seven greens that are sold in packs at the supermarket, but in the past the seven were not decided. Seven edible sprouting greens were picked and cooked in a hot soup. So even if you are not in Japan with access to these seven, you could create your own version in your home countries using seven greens.

The ritual of eating this soup on January 7th, in the past was believed to ward off evil spirits and keep your home from disease and disaster. Nowadays it is eaten with the spirit of good health for the year. It is a simple and healthful bowl that is a big contrast to the big meals at the beginning of the new year.

To make okayu we wash one cup of rice a few times. In a pot add three cups of water to the uncooked, washed rice and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer until the rice becomes soft. Stir occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking to the pot. Meanwhile wash and finely chop the seven greens, including the root vegetables. Add to the rice porridge and cook until cooked through. Season to taste with salt.

2016 Nanakusa Gayu

Here is my favorite iron chef, Kimio Nonaga, on youtube with his take on nanakusa ryōri, dishes made using the seven greens.

In the autumn, there is also a collection of seven greens 秋の七草 aki no nanakusa, but these are not meant for eating, but for appreciating the beauty of the seven plants.

  1. 萩 はぎ Japanese clover
  2. 尾花 おばな Japanese pampas grass
  3. 葛の花 くずのはな kudzu flowers
  4. 撫子 なでしこ pink dianthus carnation
  5. 女郎花 おみなえし patrinia honeysuckle
  6. 藤袴 ふじばかま thoroughwort
  7. 桔梗 ききょう bellflower




Noma Japan at the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo

Noma Japan

Noma Japan

The culinary event of the century. Chef Rene Redzepi and his team in Japan. 60,000, yes, sixty-thousand people, on the waiting list. I was lucky as I was contacted by someone in New Zealand who had a lunch reservation but could not make it. I didn’t believe that I was actually going until we checked in for lunch. It was all very crazy. E-mails back and forth to a stranger in the Southern Hemisphere. PayPal payments as well as some confirmation e-mails from Noma and a phone call to the hotel as well to confirm the guy who said he had a reservation actually did. Just the night before I was contacted about the chance to go I was having dinner with Ivan Orkin who had lunch at Noma on the first day of the five-week pop-up at the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo. Ivan was sharing photos and I refused to look at any of them. I also tried to tune him out as I was hoping that at some point I would get the opportunity to attend and wanted my meal to be experienced at the table and without any expectations. I am glad I avoided all social media about this meal as it was very refreshing. I have not been to Denmark and was a Noma virgin. No longer. On a side note, I should add that many of my friends are coming over for this meal. Editors and writers for food magazines as well as clients of our Food Sake Tokyo tours. I am thrilled beyond belief that so many friends are coming to Tokyo. So arigato chef Rene for coming here, as you have brought many of my friends here as well.

Noma Japan

Noma Japan

Lovely floral arrangement at the entrance. Noma has taken over the kitchen and dining room of Signature, a lovely French restaurant under the helm of chef Nicolas Boujema (who makes a killer black truffle waffle). I understand that some of the staff of Signature, both front- and back-of-the-house are working side-by-side with team Noma. Having been at Signature before it was interesting to see the change. Even the lobby of the Mandarin Oriental has changed. When I first got off of the elevator I thought I was on the wrong floor.



Botan ebi, so fresh that it was still wiggling. The Japanese diner next to met let out a big scream when the botan ebi jumped off of the ice onto her lap. Chef Rene came to see what was the matter and just reminded her that it was that fresh. The ants are harvested from the Nagano forests. I had my first ant at chef Zaiyu Hasegawa’s Den. The Mandarin Bar just adjacent to Noma also serves regional specialities. Most recently, four types of insects from Nagano.

苺と酒粕 花の漬け物

苺と酒粕 花の漬け物

I am allergic to shrimp and was served this dish. Chef Rene served the first course to us. I offered him a copy of my book, Food Sake Tokyo, but he said that he had bought ten copies of it for his staff. Woo-hoo! He also said that is why they selected this first dish for me, because of the sake kasu under the unripened strawberry. I asked if he had a hard time finding a farmer to harvest strawberries before they fully ripened and he said that it took three months to find someone who would do it for him. He did say that now that farmer has introduced this concept to other chefs who are now also using it. Very cool to see Rene leaving his footprint in Japan.



This was one of my favorites. Four types of citrus (mikan, kabosu, buntan, and hassaku) with sansho leaves, long pepper, and an intense Rishiri kombu oil. An unusual flavor combination, but in a very cool way.



My husband is a fishmonger and we eat a lot of ankimo (monkfish liver) at home. Rene’s version was chilled and then shaved. The cold texture was unexpected and fun at the same time.

烏賊の塩辛そば 松出汁とバラの花

烏賊の塩辛そば 松出汁とバラの花

Another seafood dish that we often eat at home, shiokara, or squid and fermented squid guts. Noma’s twist on it was to serve it like soba with a broth made from pine needles and garnished with fresh rose petals.



This was my favorite of the whole meal, Æbleskiver, which looked like takoyaki to me, but I was told it was a play on a traditional Danish sweet. It was stuffed with steamed mustard leaf greens and garnished with flowers pickled in apple vinegar – a nod to the traditional dish which is usually made with apples.



Shijimi is a fresh water clam that we use at home for making miso soup. It’s very interesting as we never eat the meat of the clam, we just boil it to make a broth and then add miso to it. We only slurp the broth, never dig into the shells. Which is what made this all the more special, the time and attention to detail for it to be made so beautifully. The crust was made with Rausu kombu and flour.



The freshly made tofu topped with shaved, wild walnuts. Delicious tofu – and impressive as making tofu is very hard to do. Kudos to Team Noma.

二日間乾燥させた帆立 ブナの実と昆布の香り

二日間乾燥させた帆立 ブナの実と昆布の香り

Another cold dish – which again, was unexpected and fun, made from scallops and beechnuts. The texture reminded me of Aero candy, light and airy.

ほっこり南瓜 ウワミズザクラの木のオイルと桜の花の塩漬け

ほっこり南瓜 ウワミズザクラの木のオイルと桜の花の塩漬け

Hokkaido pumpkin marinated in cherry blossom tree oil garnished with salted cherry blossoms and roasted kelp strips. This is a lovely reflection of how Rene has incorporated Japan into one dish with flavors from the land and sea.



Fermented black garlic is all over the markets in Japan. Here it is made into a leather and folded like origami into a leaf. Once the leaf is turned over the Nagano ants come back for an encore appearance.

様々な根菜類 生姜と共に

様々な根菜類 生姜と共に

This dish reminded me of Japanese New Year’s as we use many of the same vegetables in our osechi ryori, like the renkon and kuwai.

野生の鴨 マツブサの実

野生の鴨 マツブサの実

Wild duck glazed in fermented rye.

野生の鴨 マツブサの実

野生の鴨 マツブサの実

Carved in the kitchen and then served to the table.



Kabu (turnip) is a classic winter vegetable for soups in Japan. Noma cooks the turnip in a mushroom broth and then garnishes it with a roasted yeast and parsley oil.


The rice course is always the last savory course in traditional Japanese kaiseki cuisine. Here the rice is hidden underneath milk crisps, milk and sake ice cream and sake kasu. A sorrel sauce brought it all together.



This sweet potato cooked all day in raw sugar reminded me of Den as chef Hasegawa also has a dessert made with a similar sugar concentrate. Rene and chef Hasegawa are friends and so perhaps this is chef Hasegawa’s influence?



The meal ends with this fun presentation of cinnamon roots and chocolate-covered fermented cepes. We ordered coffee and tea to finish the meal as we hear it is the only thing that was brought from Denmark. As a Noma virgin it was great fun to have my first be here at home in Tokyo. While I am familiar with many of the ingredients, it was a pleasure to introduced to things I did not know are in Japan, like sorrel. Many of the dishes are unusual, but in a good way. The flavor profile was very different from what I am used to. There was no soy sauce, for example. A great reminder that there are other flavors yet to explore in Japan. The General Manager of the Mandarin Oriental, Anthony Costa, has said that in bringing Noma over he didn’t want it to be a short pop-up, which is the case with most guest chef appearances at Tokyo hotels. He also said that Rene and his team really threw themselves into this project by coming over so many times in the last year. I am already looking forward to seeing who Costa-san brings in next. 🙂 Arigato to Rene and his team for coming to Japan. Otsukaresama desu.

An Easy Shellfish to Cook at Home – Asari

live a sari

Asari (Ruditapes philippinarum) Japanese littleneck clams

Asari, Japanese littleneck clams, are in the market now and may be some of the easiest shellfish to cook with at home. We picked these up at Tsukiji Market and put them in water to get rid of any sand and grit. It’s best to do this overnight if you can. We wash the clams in water and then put them in a bowl of water and cover with aluminum foil. When we put the clams in the bowl they were all closed shut. Check out how much they opened up overnight. Be sure to make time to rid the clams of sand or don’t bother making them. It can be very frustrating to bite into a sandy clam.

Asari pasta

Asari vongole

Perhaps the easiest recipe is to simply steam the clams in saké with a bit of salt. That of course is best served with some of the saké that it is steamed in. Our next favorite is to sauté some garlic in olive oil, add white wine and the clams and let them open up and then add some pasta for a quick vongole. Our three-year old loves this and requests it often.

Asari miso soup

Asari, daikon, and daikon greens miso soup

Finally, boiling the clams in water and adding miso makes for a quick and easy miso soup. This bowl here we had cooked some daikon in the water before adding the asari and then garnished with finely minced daikon greens.

Look for asari at the supermarket in the seafood section. It is usually sold packed on styrofoam trays and wrapped in plastic wrap. I usually pay only about 250 to 400 JPY for a pack that feeds three of us. Asari should be eaten as soon as possible. They will not keep long so only buy when you are ready to eat, usually later that day or for the next day.

Japanese Fast Food Breakfast



Most of my work is in the morning. If I can, I try to stop by a French boulangerie, like Gontran Cherrier in Shinjuku. My go-to coffee place near Tsukiji Market is Turret Coffee. Once in a while I find myself in a new neighborhood and finding a warm breakfast in Tokyo is surprisingly easy. Many fast-food chains will offer up a classic Japanese breakfast with salted and grilled salmon, a small vegetable or sea vegetable side dish, miso soup, pickles, and rice for less than 500 JPY.

On a recent morning I was near Akasaka and came across one of the fast-food gyūdon chains.  What attracted me to this breakfast was the tororo-imo, grated yama-imo (mountain potato) which becomes very slippery and slimy when grated. This with the blanched and sliced okra and soft-boiled egg. The grated potato, okra, and egg are all put over the rice and topped with soy sauce and katsuobushi flakes. I upgraded the miso soup to include thin slices of pork, tonjiru. The top right bowl is the thin-sliced beef and onions cooked in a sweet soy broth, the signature dish for lunch and dinner.

A hearty way to start the day. And, not bad for being less than 500 JPY.