Tempura-ya That Should Be on Your Radar

On the back streets of Kagurazaka in the basement of a modern building is Tempura Arai. The entrance to the restaurant is a small door that one must bend over to enter. Tempura Arai is the sister shop to the famous Tenko that opened recently and should be put on your Go List. The contrast to the father’s shop is striking as Tenko is a former geisha residence and has some history to it while this is modern with sleek lines.

At the moment Tempura Arai is open for lunch and lunch is very reasonable with the tendon starting at 1,400 JPY and a full course at 5,000 JPY. However, I believe that the shop may only be open for lunch on Saturdays only starting in the new year. The evening course starts at 8,500 JPY which is a good price.

Part of the tempura experience is listening to the items as they fry in the oil. Tempura Arai is intimate enough that you can hear each item as it cooks in the hot oil.

We did the lunch course, the tempura is light and delicate and finishes with a kakiage cake over rice. The shop has sake and a selection of wine as well. The restaurant can do vegetarian only upon request, but I believe the vegetables would be fried in the same oil as the shrimp and seafood.

Tempura Arai 天婦羅あら井

Shinjuku-ku, Kagurazaka 4-8, AGE Bldg. B1

新宿区神楽坂4-8 AGEビル B1

http://tempura-arai.jp/

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What to Eat in Tokyo Now

 

Tokyo summers are hot, humid, and in my opinion, horrible. I don’t know about you, but my appetite wanes and some days it can be hard to get motivated to eat. Here are some things that I look forward to eating this time of year. In this list I am including some dishes or restaurants I haven’t been to, but are on my radar for the summer. If you make it to any of these, please reply to this blogpost, I’d love to hear your impressions.

Dominique Ansel’s Sweet Corn Ice Cream http://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/corn-ice-cream-grilled-corn-cob-tokyos-newest-dessert We love this shop so much it is where we came to celebrate my birthday. There is a second floor café with great savory dishes like avocado toast and chicken pot pie. This summer’s sweet corn ice cream looks amazing. (Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-7-14 渋谷区神宮前5-7-14)

Kakigori shaved ice brings me back to my first visits to Japan from Minnesota. My favorite was the miruku (milk) topping, which is actually sweetened condensed milk. Other great toppings include green tea and red bean paste.

sapporoya-hiyashi-chuka

Nihonbashi Sapporoya Chilled Ramen with Sesame Dressing

Chilled Ramen at Nihonbashi Sapporoya. This is my favorite bowl of ramen in the summer. If you’ve never had cold ramen, let this be your first.  https://foodsaketokyo.com/2013/10/13/nihonbashi-sapporoya/

Baird Beer Taproom in Takadanobaba. I haven’t been, but this is on my summer Go List. Nothing better to cool down with than cold beer. This is my favorite craft beer in Japan, and this new shop’s menu includes kushiage (meat and vegetables that are skewered, dusted with panko, and deep-fried). See you there. http://bairdbeer.com/en/tap/takadanobaba.html

kintame-bubuchazuke

Kintame Bubuchazuke

A meal of Japanese pickles is cooling and refreshing. My favorite pickle shop is Monzennakacho’s Kintame. https://foodsaketokyo.com/2011/06/30/kintame/

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Tsukishima Monjayaki

One crazy food I crave in the summer is monjayaki, Tokyo’s version of a savory pancake that is cooked over a hot iron grill. Sitting at the table is hot, and a good excuse to drink ice cold beer. Tsukishima is a neighborhood that has a street lined with monjayaki shops. Best to go at night as the area comes to life. Most shops are closed at lunch, but a few are open, if this is your only time to come. https://foodsaketokyo.com/2011/07/06/monjayaki-okame-hyottoko-ten/

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Summer Saké

Cooling down with saké in the summer is more interesting when drinking summer saké. Saké made for drinking in the summer tends to be a little lower in alcohol, sometimes frizzante, and often bottled in light blue or clear bottles. Ask for natsu sake at your retail shop or when dining out.

IMG_3129

Kagurazaka Meisyan Tan Tan Men

Spicy and hot tan tan men noodles are also on my mind this time of year. Eating this dish I usually work up a sweat, which somehow seems to cool me down a bit. It’s also a good excuse to have a cold beer. This bowl is from Meisyan 梅香 in Kagurazaka, with a female chef in the kitchen (woo-hoo!). Shinjuku-ku, Yokoteramachi 37-39, Nakajima Daiichi Bldg. 新宿区横寺町37-39中島第一ビル

On this same theme, I also love having curry in the summer. Here is a list of some curries in Tokyo worth seeking out. https://foodsaketokyo.com/category/curry/

tsurutontan-tomato-udon

Tsurutontan Tomato Udon

Finally, cold noodles, soba, udon, or somen. Pop into any noodle shop and seek out the cold noodles. In particular, I am a huge fan of the seasonal udon menu at Tsurutontan, with branches throughout the city and at Haneda airport.  https://foodsaketokyo.com/2014/08/12/roppongi-tsurutontan-udon/

 

 

 

Focacceria Altamura

Image

A gift from my cousin, some focaccia from a shop in her neighborhood. These are as focaccia should be, light, airy, with a crispy crust and moist crumb. Very simple flavors of rosemary, zucchini, and tomatoes. Tokyo is filled with great bakeries, and this is a good one to know about if you find yourself near Kagurazaka station.

Focacceria Altamura

Shinjuku-ku, Yamabukicho 5 Banchi

03-6265-3842

Martiniburger in Kagurazaka

DSCN1648

Once while private cheffing for a Japanese executive, my client asked me to make him a “hamba-gu”. I heard “hamba-ga-” an American-style hamburger. I went to Whole Foods and picked up some ground beef and buns. Later that evening when I presented the hamburger he laughed, in a good way. He said (in Japanese), “Yukari-san, I said hamba-gu not hamba-ga-“. Wow, was I embarrassed. I asked him to give me some time and I went back to the kitchen and made a Japanese-style hamba-gu. Japanese burgers, “hamba-gu” often are mixed with onions, eggs, milk, and bread, making it like meatloaf. The Japanese burger is often served with rice.  He loved it, and, I loved the original hamburger that I made for him.

And here, you see the predilections of a Japanese when it comes to hamburgers. For many Japanese they are happy with a meatloaf like hamburger. Which is why, whenever I have a hamburger at a Japanese restaurant I always clarify if the burger is 100% ground beef or if it is a Japanese-style burger. If it’s the Japanese-style I go back to the menu and order something else. Why? Because I much prefer the burgers I grew up with in Minnesota.

Which, is why I was thrilled when I heard about Martiniburger. It was covered in some Japanese magazines when it first opened. And then Robbie Swinnerton’s article in The Japan Times confirmed for me that this is what I was craving.

Martiniburger is on the quiet back streets of Kagurazaka, away from the crowds on the main Kagurazaka Dori. About a three-minute walk from Kagurazaka station on the Tozai line. It’s a sleek restaurant, with floor to ceiling windows that showcase the dramatic bar and clean lines of the restaurant.

Eliot Bergman, a former graphic designer, now restaurateur, has his fingerprints on the restaurant, from the cool bar to the menu with photos of food. He also has good taste in music. When I asked Eliot about the music he said, “we play a wide mix of vintage and contemporary blues and jazz, including a number of New York artists, as well”. Which explains why I felt like I was back in New York City.

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I asked him where he got inspiration for Martiniburger. He said it was from “when he was living in New York City and enjoyed the cocktails and burgers from P.J. Clarke’s”. P.J. Clarke’s is an institution in Midtown known not only for its burgers, but also its steaks. This all makes sense when the burger is presented, complete with creamed spinach and Béarnaise sauce.

The signature burger, the Martiniburger, is as I love it, 100% beef, from Australia, and with a good sear on the outside. It’s also served on an English muffin, which is how I remember my first New York City hamburger in Greenwich Village. (Coming from the Midwest I remember thinking how brilliant to put a burger on an English muffin and started making my burgers like that back at home.) Other offerings come on custom-baked buns. The creamed spinach and mashed potatoes also remind me of home. To top it off, a slice of Oreo New York Cheesecake, which is not too sweet, and also a dessert you don’t see too often in the metropolis.

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Bergman has said that he wanted to do something different with his restaurant, so he’s not serving any French fries. He said that the clientele, mostly Japanese, are fine with it. If anyone isn’t happy with it, it’s usually an American.

Martiniburger is open from Tuesday – Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sundays 11:00 a.m. to 10 p.m. Bergman says that it is a neighborhood restaurant with many coming from the area offices for lunch or after work. On weekends it is not uncommon to see kids and strollers as it is a kid-friendly shop.

It’s one of Tokyo’s best burgers. Now, if Bergman would only open Martiniburger around Tokyo. Maybe on the Chuo line, please?

There is Brooklyn Lager on tap, another great taste of New York City. What more could a person want, except for maybe some French fries?

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The menu is well designed, easy to read, and includes lots of colorful photos.

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I came for a late lunch, but can only imagine how lovely this bar must be at night.

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The colorful and brightly lit interior is inviting. Seating is comfortable, making it easy to linger over dessert and coffee.

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Martiniburger

Shinjuku-ku, Nakazatocho 31

03-6280-8920

11:00 – 23:00 (until 22:00 on Sundays)

closed Mondays

opened in October 2010

closest station: Kagurazaka on the Tozai Line

Digging into an Ice Cold Kakigori

On summer visits to Japan as a child my favorite sweets were kakigori topped with milk. Only when I grew up did I realize that it wasn’t milk but it was sweetened condensed milk. No better way to cool down in the Tokyo heat than a bowl of shaved ice topped with a sweet syrup. Flavors like mattcha and azuki, mango, or anzu (apricots) will have you smacking your lips. Many kanmidokoro (Japanese cafes with traditional sweets) serve kakigori, but usually only for the summertime so this is the best time to dig in.

Here are a few places to dig into kakigori in the summer. Shops usually put a small flag outside with the kanji for ice on it. 氷

Mihashi

Mihashi

Mihashi’s original shop in Ueno (Taito-ku, Ueno 4-9-7) opened during the Edo period. This location, in the basement of Tokyo station in the area called Ichiban Gai, is more centrally located.

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-9-1, Tokyo Station, Ichiban Gai B1

Morinoen

Morinoen

Walking around the historic Ningyocho district is always fun. Morinoen is a tea shop that specializes in houjicha. Here is their houjicha kakigori. You can smell the houjicha being roasted out on the street. Pick up a bag of the tea while you are here to take home. It’s great both hot or cold.

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Ningyocho 2-4-9

Naniwaya

Naniwaya

Naniwaya in Azabu-Juban is renowned for its taiyaki (fish-shaped pancakes stuffed with azuki).  It’s been grilling taiyaki for over a century. Step inside and grab a seat for an anzu (apricot) kakigori.

Minato-ku, Azabu-Juban 1-8-14

Kinozen

Kinozen

Kagurazaka is also a fabulous place for walking around and Kinozen is my favorite place for a kakigori.

Shinjuku-ku, Kagurazaka 1-12

Toraya

Toraya

Toraya in Ginza serves up a yummy ichigo (strawberries) kakigori.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 7-8-6, 2nd floor

Kintokiya in Kagurazaka 神楽坂のきんときや

Kintokiya

Kintokiya

Kintokiya きんときや

Shinjuku-ku, Kagurazaka 2-10 新宿区神楽坂2-10

Phone: 03-3260-4151

10:00 – 20:00 (Sundays and holidays until 19:00)

no holidays

www.kintokiya.com (Japanese)

This tiny wagashi sweets shop has items based on with imo (sweet potatoes) and kuri (chestnuts). There are also some classic sweets including yokan and dango. In the summertime pick up a purple sweet potato soft cream.

Kinozen in Kagurazaka 神楽坂の紀の善

Window Shopping at Kinozen

Window Shopping at Kinozen

The ever-present line at Kinozen

The ever-present line at Kinozen

Kinozen 紀の善

Shinjuku-ku, Kagurazaka 1-12 新宿区神楽坂1-12

Tel. 03-3269-2920

11:00 – 21:00, Monday – Saturday

12:00 – 18:00, Sunday & holidays

Closed the 3rd Sunday of each month

no website

 

Kinozen is one of the cities popular kanmidokoro. Located just next door to Fujiya, Kinozen too often has a line out the front door. Their signature dish is a modern mattcha babaloa. The babaloa made from Uji mattcha is delicate with tsubuan (chunky azuki) and whipped cream is a nice ensemble of flavors and textures. The kakigori in the summer of shaved ice colored with flavored syrups are irresistible and offer a respite from the heat and humidity. There is also a selection of items to go, including the mattcha babaloa.

Fujiya in Kagurazaka

Fujiya

Fujiya

Peko-chan grilled cakes

Peko-chan grilled cakes

Grilling the Peko-chan cakes

Grilling the Peko-chan cakes

Peko-chan

Peko-chan

Fujiya 不二家

Shinjuku-ku, Kagurazaka 1-12 新宿区神楽坂1-12

Tel. 03-3269-1526

10:00 – 22:00, Monday – Friday

11:30 – 19:00, weekend and holidays

www.fujiya-peko.co.jp (Japanese)

Fujiya is a chain famous for affordable Western-style sweets. Normally nothing to line up for, however, this Kagurazaka branch is the only shop in Japan where you can purchase Pekochan-yaki. Pekochan is the darling mascot of the Fujiya sweets chain. The outside is a pancake like dough grilled and filled with azuki, chocolate and some seasonal flavors like mango or mattcha. The windows allow you to watch the process of the cakes being made while you are standing in line.

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.

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