Summer Lunch at Nihonbashi Yukari

Nihonbashi Yukari - summer lunch

Iron Chef Kimio Nonaga of Nihonbashi Yukari

On a recent afternoon we found ourselves in Nihonbashi a little after noon. Just around the corner was one of our favorite restaurants in the city, Nihonbashi Yukari. Nihonbashi Yukari is a kaiseki/kappō restaurant. Behind the counter on most days is the third-generation chef, Kimio Nonaga. We actually tried coming in last week but when we called to make our reservations Nonaga-san said that he was going to be at NHK that day filming for a television program. When Nonaga-san is not in the house his father, the second-generation chef, fills in.

We were thrilled when we opened the door to see Nonaga-san behind the counter. We had just seen several people leaving the restaurant so our timing was perfect. The counter was just being cleared and we were seated just in front of the former Iron Chef champion at the best seats in the house.

Usually we pre-order our lunch, the Yukari lunch box which is like a mini-kaiseki meal and a great bargain at 3,500 JPY. Today as we were walk-ins it was our first time to order lunch off of the menu. There is a wide variety of dishes to choose from including tempura, grilled fish, simmered pork, sashimi platter, and much more.

Nihonbashi Yukari - summer lunch sashimi

Summer sashimi course on Edo Kiriko plate

We are big fans of a special nattō taré (sauce) that was created by Nonaga-san. This sashimi course was in addition to the regular lunch. Three types of sashimi, seared scallops, katsuo (skipjack tuna), and kanpachi (yellowtail) is topped with julienned daikon, shiso, myoga, onion, kaiwaré (daikon sprouts), and baby shiso. The dressing is a blend of the fermented soybean dressing which adds a rich umami and deep flavor to the dish. Anago bones are deep-fried and pulverized and sprinkled on which adds an unexpected and welcome crunch to the dish. The dish is a beautiful dish for summer, Edo Kiriko.

Nihonbashi Yukari summer lunch - anago

Anago Jyubako

Anago is sea eel and is often seen at the traditional sushi counter in Japan. At Nihonbashi Yukari the anago is simmered until tender and then served over rice in a lacquer box, jyubako. The anago is so soft that it melts in your mouth. The sauce is ever-so-sweet, not cloying as is often the case with unagi (fresh water eel).

Nihonbashi Yukari - summer lunch simmered meitagarei

Simmered meitagarei (fine-spotted flounder)

There were a few offerings for simmered fish this day. Shinji went with meitagarei which is a type of flounder. The simmering sauce is not made fresh each day but is passed on day after day over the years. It has a deep flavor from it. Nonaga-san said that many different types of fish are simmered in this sauce, hence the depth of flavor. This is something that would be hard to recreate at home, we pondered aloud. Nonaga-san suggested we try it. He said to save the broth and to put it in the fridge. I love his positive and encouraging attitude. The rice served with the simmered fish has julienned fresh ginger and abura-agé (deep-fried tofu) in it. Refreshing for the summer, and we find inspiration in another dish we will try at home.

Nihonbashi Yukari is just minutes from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu Guchi. It is possible to walk-in, but we recommend reservations. Within about ten minutes of being seated the counter filled up again and most of the tables in the restaurant were also full.

Nihonbashi Yukari

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-2-14

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Nihonbashi Yukari Summer Lunch

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Nihonbashi Yukari is one of my favorite restaurants in Tokyo for a kaiseki meal. Chef Kimio Nonaga is the 2002 Iron Chef champion from the original series. I’ve included many Yukari Gozen lunches on this blog and it’s a beautiful way to taste seasonal ingredients exquisitely presented.

This lunch in early June starts with a chilled chawanmushi topped with a hydrangea flower picked from the small garden in front of the restaurant. Hydrangeas (ajisai) are blossoming all over Tokyo but it’s an unexpected treat when it is presented with your meal. A gentle reminder to the time of year.

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Chawanmushi is a savory egg custard, usually served hot. But on this hot summer morning he serves a very soft custard that is topped with a thick slurry. It’s a unique flavor and texture that I’ve never had before and I have a hard time imagining what it could be. Nonaga-san says that it is dashi mixed with Jersey mozzarella cheese made in Tokyo at Isonuma Farms in Hachioji. It adds to the dish a creamy texture.

Nonaga3

 

Here is the lunch, presented in a lacquer box and is a generous lunch, so come hungry.Nonaga4

Another look at the lacquer box with all of its components. A fried course, a sashimi course, a simmered course, and the top right box which includes small bites prepared in a variety of ways.Nonaga5

 

Another overview of the lunch including young ginger rice, miso soup, and pickles.

Nonaga6Top left is the simmered course with ganmodoki (deep-fried tofu) and nama fu, a lovely wheat gluten that is a treat as at our home we only have the dried version of fu which doesn’t have the chewy texture of nama fu.

Top right are the small bites including a savory fuki miso garnished with pine nuts, yokan sweet cake made with amazu (tart plum vinegar), and a sweet egg omelet.

Bottom left is the otsukuri (sashimi) course of scallops, horse mackerel, and North Pacific giant octopus topped with vegetables and a creamy green dressing made from shiso.

Bottom right is the deep-fried course of shishitō and shiitake tempura, baby ayu that is covered with sticky rice balls and deep-fried and yuba stuffed with shrimp paste and deep-fried.

As you can see, it is a variety of colors, flavors, and textures. For those who want to experience kaiseki cuisine this is a great lunch in Tokyo.

 

Nonaga7

Nonaga-san is known for serving desserts, not just cut fruit, at the end of each meal. Today it is a mattcha babaloa made with yogurt. It is served with a creamy, sweet azuki bean paste and sticky rice balls.

Nonaga exterior

The entrance to Nihonbashi Yukari. Can you see the lavender hydrangeas that were used for the first course? If you come, tell Nonaga-san that Yukari sent you. The recommended lunch is the Yukari Gozen as seen here for 3,675 JPY. It must be reserved in advance when making your reservation. Alternative lunch options include sashimi, tempura, or grilled seafood. Nine-course kaiseki dinner starts at 10,500 JPY, a bargain and great value for a kaiseki evening. Nihonbashi Yukari is a five-minute walk from Tokyo station’s Yaesu exit. It is also around the corner from Takashimaya’s flagship store.

Nihonbashi Yukari

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-2-14

03-3271-3436

closed Sunday and holidays

Kimio Nonaga on Twitter

Kimio Nonaga on Facebook

 

Nihonbashi Yukari Spring Bento

Yukari 1

Chawanmushi

Nihonbashi Yukari is one of my favorite restaurants in Tokyo. Chef Kimio Nonaga is the 2002 Iron Chef Champion, from the original series. He is the third-generation chef of a kaiseki restaurant that is located in the historic district on Nihonbashi. His restaurant is about a three minute walk from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu exit.

Yukari 2

On this chilly spring day he starts his lunch course with a savory, warm egg custard, chawanmushi. Inside of the custard is anago eel and it is topped with some grated ginger, which helps warm up the body.

yukari 5

I like to request a seat at the counter so that chef Nonaga can answer questions about the different ingredients and cooking techniques. He’s very passionate about Japanese cuisine and enjoys sharing his knowledge with diners. He doesn’t speak English so it’s best to go with a Japanese speaker.

yukari 4

The bentō lunch needs to requested when making your reservation. It is a mini-kaiseki meal as it includes a variety of dishes incorporating seasonal ingredients that are prepared using different cooking techniques.

yukari 6

One of chef Nonaga’s signature dishes is a Japanese dish made from chicken liver that is topped with keshi no mi. It is not served with the bentō, but we were talking about Valentine’s Day and chocolate and he paired this with some chocolate.

yukari 7

While it is called a bentō, it is an extravagant affair that is presented in a lacquer box. It’s quite a feast:

Sashimi topped with a nattō dressing that he created with an Ibaraki nattō purveyor.

Tender Yamagata pork kakuni.

Tempura of shishitō pepper, shiitaké mushroom, wakasagi Japanese smelt that is is rolled in komé-ko (rice flour) before deep-fried, and kakiagé – a melange of seafood and vegetables deep-fried in a little cake.

Rice is studded with benidaizu red beans from Yamagata, and more.

yukari 8

With the tsukuri, sashimi course, chef Nonaga puts some nattō dressing on it. There was also something crunchy. I asked him if it was dried nattō beans and he said that it was deep-fried anago bones. A great example that nothing goes to waste in the Japanese kitchen.

 

 

 

yukari 9

Nihonbashi Yukari is the rare kaiseki restaurant that serves dessert. This day it is a mattcha yogurt babaloa with a strawberry from Ibaraki, azuki paste, and wasanbon sugar.

yukari 10

 

And, as if that was not enough, chef Nonaga gave us a second dessert. A cookies and cream ice cream that had some ground coffee in it.

There are so many things why this is a favorite of mine. The location can’t be beat as it is in the heart of the city. Chef Nonaga is full of personality and sitting at the counter, I always learn new things about Japanese cuisine. The food incorporates seasonal ingredients – and many of it from Tokyo, including Tokyo Bay. Finally, it is a bargain when compared to similar restaurants. A client recently dined here twice during her stay in Tokyo and she wrote about it on her blog. If you go, please tell chef Nonaga that Yukari sent you.

Nihonbashi Yukari

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-2-14

Nihonbashi Yukari 日本橋ゆかり – August Bento Lunch

My favorite restaurant in Tokyo is Nihonbashi Yukari. Third-generation chef Kimio Nonaga is the 2002 Iron Chef champion. The food is amazing and I most of all I appreciate chef Nonaga’s passion for sharing Japanese cuisine. He graciously answers all of our questions about the ingredients, where it was sourced, and preparation. He also shares with us current projects that he is working on.

On this hot August day we start off with a cold beer as we watch chef Nonaga preparing dishes.

Eggplant chawanmushi. Chilled Kyoto eggplant soup over chawanmushi. Topped with eggplant skin sauce, rice arare, and shiso no hana hojiso. Nonaga-san says that the skin which is often discarded has color and flavor. Lovely flavor of eggplants which are at the peak of their seasonality.

Yukari bento is much more than a bento. To me it’s like a mini kaiseki meal as it includes many different preparations incorporating seasonal ingredients that are artistically displayed. The lunch bento needs to be ordered ahead of time when making your reservation.

On the left: A tender pork kakuni  with a sauce of Hatcho miso and kurozato (brown sugar). Chef Nonaga said the whole process to make the pork takes three days to make and that one of his key points was to steam the pork. It is served with fresh awafu, sato imo, and okra.

On the right:  Katsuramuki daikon wrapped around smoked salmon, toriniku dango, shrimp and ikura, sweet potato, grilled chicken Nambanzuke, sawara Saikyo-yaki, Tokyo tamagoyaki, grated yamaimo topped with house-cured karasumi (bottarga).

On the left: Banno natto made with kuromame (black bean) natto from Hitachi, Ibaraki. Include link. Otsukuri (sashimi) of shima-aji, mizudako, and meji maguro. Garnish with daikon, kaiware, onions, shiso, benidate.

The banno natto is a dressing that chef Nonaga makes in house. He says that it is good with noodles, seafood, salad, or as a dressing as aemono.

On the right: Tempura eggplant, shishito, and kakiage melange of eggplant, shako, sayori, ika, kobashira, and sakura ebi. Chiayu fish rolled in rice arare then deep-fried. The colorful red is momiji oroshi for the dipping sauce.

On the left: Rice topped with yukari (dried, red, shiso). Today’s pickles include wasabi zuke made with shoyu kasu and katsuobushi.

In the middle: the dipping sauce for the tempura.

On the right: Akadashi miso soup with fu, mozuku sea vegetables, mitsuba, and a hint of kona zansho.

Chef Nonaga’s signature kinako ice cream studded with black beans. Topped with kuromitsu (brown sugar syrup) and puffed rice. Heaven in a cup.

The toothpicks are from a historic shop Saruya.

As we went to Nihonbashi Yukari during Obon holidays in August we were curious where he got his seafood as it was very fresh. He said that on days that Tsukiji Market is closed he procures his seafood from the Kyoto Market.

I’ve walked in front of Nihonbashi Yukari for years and this is the first time that I have seen these gorgeous chochin paper lanterns. It gives a festive ambience to the entrance.

Lunch was very busy, especially considering it was during Obon holidays. Diners were a mix of young and old, men and women. If you come with a large group you can request one of the private rooms in the basement. Nihonbashi Yukari is conveniently located just minutes from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu Exit and around the corner from Nihonbashi Takashimaya. If you go, tell him Yukari sent you.

Nihonbashi Yukari

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-2-14

What and Where to Eat in Tokyo

Iron Chef Kimio Nonaga at Nihonbashi Yukari

Iron Chef Kimio Nonaga at Nihonbashi Yukari

Updated May, 2016

I often am asked for restaurant suggestions in Tokyo. Wow. Where does one begin? The food is amazing, from the high end kaiseki restaurants and sushi counters to the neighborhood ramen shop or izakaya. Even on a budget it is very easy to eat well in Tokyo.

Let me put here just some of my recommendations of restaurants based on the types of food one should try when visiting. Also, one should consider location as the city is so big and there are so many great restaurants, it may not be necessary to traverse the metropolis.

Sushi – Ginza Harutaka or Kyubey for high end. Both are in Ginza.

Tonkatsu – Maisen (Omotesando) or Katsukura (Shinjuku)

Soba – Yabu Soba (Kanda), Muto (Nihonbashi), or Kanda Matsuya (Kanda)

Tempura – Kondo (Ginza), Zezankyo (Monzennakacho), or Tenko (Kagurazaka), Taniya (Ningyocho)

Value-priced tempura – Tenmatsu (Nihonbashi)

Tofu – Tofuya Ukai (Shiba Koen) – high-end and not exclusively vegetarian.

Pickles – Kintame (Tokyo Station or Monzennakacho) or Nishiri (Nihonbashi)

Meat – New York Grill and Bar (Shinjuku). Exquisite views and service – a splurge. Alternatively Ukaitei teppanyaki (Ginza or Omotesando) – also upscale service, without the view of the New York Grill and Bar. I also love Dons de la Nature in Ginza as the chef cooks the wagyu in a kiln he built just for this purpose. The interior is stuck in the 70s but the steak is good. Just be sure to confirm the price of the steak before ordering as it is market price.

Izakaya – Yamariki (Morishita) or Saiseisakaba (Shinjuku or Monzennakacho).

Kaiseki – Nihonbashi Yukari  (Nihonbashi), Waketokuyama (Hiroo), Kikunoi (Akasaka). Note, I’ve been told that Nihonbashi Yukari no longer accepts reservations from non-Japanese. Not sure if this is true and will update this after I speak with the chef.

 

Ramen – Ginza Kagari is my favorite at the moment. Afuri for the yuzu shio is also excellent. Alternatively,  Ippudo (Ueno) or Kyushu Jangara (Nihonbashi or Harajuku). Note that Ginza Kagari in the link above has closed and is now at Ginza 6-4-12 and is now cashless (credit card, Suica, etc.).

Unagi – Nodaiwa (Higashi Azabu)

Monjayaki – Okame Hyottoko Ten (Tsukishima) or Sometaro (Asakusa).

Yakitori – Birdland (Ginza) or Isehiro (Kyobashi)

Oden – Otafuku (Asakusa) or Ogura (Ginza)

My short list of where to drink in Tokyo.

A similar list of culinary highlights in Tokyo from Indagare.

I have also contributed to these great food guides for:

Saveur Tokyo City Guide

Punch Tokyo City Guide

Autumn Lunch at Nihonbashi Yukari 日本橋ゆかり

Iron Chef Kimio Nonaga

Iron Chef Kimio Nonaga

Nihonbashi Yukari is just a few minutes’ walk from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu exit. This third generation restaurant is one of my favorites in Japan for many reasons. For the quality of food it is a great bargain. The Yukari bento lunch here is about 3,675 JPY. A kaiseki multi-course dinner starts at 10,500 JPY. At this price it is amazing.

Second, the chef, 2002 Iron Chef champion, Kimio Nonaga, is very passionate about Japanese food and sharing it with anyone who is curious. No matter how many questions I ask about ingredients or preparation, he is always full of passion in teaching me.

Third, the atmosphere is very friendly. Some kaiseki or sushi restaurants feel like a temple and diners may feel awkward even if they sneeze. Here, diners are warmly welcomed and the whole dining experience is pleasant.

Finally, the location can not be beat. Very close to Tokyo station, and a good excuse to stop by Nihonbashi Takashimaya which is just a few blocks away.

Here is a recent Yukari bento lunch, featuring autumn seafood and vegetables. This has to be ordered in advance as only a limited amount are made daily.

If you do go here, please tell him that Yukari sent you. And, when making the reservation, request to sit at the counter so you can watch chef Nonaga at work.

Nihonbashi Yukari

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi  3-2-14

03-3271-3436

www.nihonbashi-yukari.com

Anago Chawan Mushi 穴子茶碗蒸し

Anago Chawan Mushi 穴子茶碗蒸し

It was a very cold and rainy day that we went so the first course was a warm, savory egg custard with tender anago. A great way to warm up and to start the meal.

Nihonbashi Yukari Bento 日本橋ゆかり弁当

Nihonbashi Yukari Bento 日本橋ゆかり弁当

While this is given the humble name of a bento, it is quite an elaborate meal as you can see. It is also a lot of food. If you are looking for a more simple meal, there is also an a la carte menu. Our neighbors had a nice simmered tai head with gobo that looked very appetizing. The a la carte menu for lunch starts at 2,100 JPY.

Autumn at Nihonbashi Yukari

Autumn at Nihonbashi Yukari

Inside of the bento are these four lovely dishes.

Otsukuri お造り

Otsukuri お造り

The sashimi course was katsuo, hotate, and tako tataki with oroshi ponzu. Over the sashimi was julienned vegetables of daikon, carrots, myoga, kaiware (daikon sprouts), kikuna (chrysanthemum flowers), and baby shiso leaves. What really makes this dish special is Nonaga-san’s unique oroshi ponzu. Typically this is grated daikon with a ponzu dressing but the Iron Chef takes 30 different vegetables, grates them, squeezes out the excess juice and then adds the ponzu. It really elevates the dish to a new level.

Tempura 天ぷら

Tempura 天ぷら

Everything at Nihonbashi Yukari is made from scratch, including the yuba in this tempura course. Today’s tempura was of wakasagi (smelt), shishitou, shiitake, and yuba surrounding a hotate shinjo served with a momiji oroshi (grated daikon with togarashi pepper) and a dipping sauce.

Simmered Pork 豚の角煮

Simmered Pork 豚の角煮

The pork was simmered with kurozato (brown sugar) and Mercian kouso wine. It is served with simmered daikon, snap peas and a lovely nama awafu that has a great mochi mochi texture.

Autumn 秋の旬

Autumn 秋の旬

Here is the artistry of an Iron Chef. Grilled kuri (chestnut), grilled ginnan (ginkgo nuts), shrimp stuffed with ikura (salmon roe), salmon wrapped in thin layers of daikon, ground duck meatball,  dashimaki tamago (Japanese omelet), grated yamaimo topped with karasumi, and grilled sawara (Japanese Spanish mackerel) marinated in Saikyo miso.

Kuri Gohan 栗ごはん

Kuri Gohan 栗ごはん

The rice course was one of Shinji’s favorite, kuri (chestnut) gohan served with nuka kabu pickles. Shinji got a second serving of the rice.

Mozuku Miso Soup

Mozuku Miso Soup

The miso soup had mozuku (a type of sea vegetable), mitsuba, and futama (wheat gluten).

Kinako Ice Cream きな粉アイス

Kinako Ice Cream きな粉アイス

Very rarely will you find a Western-style dessert at a kaiseki restaurant like Nihonbashi Yukari. Nonaga-san makes my favorite dessert in Japan. Kinako (roasted soybean powder) ice cream studded with Kyoto Tanba Kuromame (black beans), topped with kuromitsu (brown sugar syrup) and puffed rice. It is not too sweet and has great texture – mochi mochi beans and kari kari from the puffed rice. The perfect end to an amazing meal.

Nihonbashi Yukari 日本橋ゆかり

Chef Kimio Nonaga

Chef Kimio Nonaga

One of my favorite restaurants in Tokyo is Nihonbashi Yukari. It is just a coincidence that it is called Yukari. It is not a coincidence that I worked at Takashimaya in Nihonbashi, just a few blocks from this oasis. Nihonbashi Yukari is a kaiseki restaurant serving seasonal cuisine. Chef Nonaga was the 2002 Iron Chef Winner, you can see the trophy when you walk into the restaurant.

Bento Lunch Box

Bento Lunch Box

If you are going for lunch, call ahead and order the Yukari Bento box. (3,675 JPY last time I had it, or about $35 USD.) It is a gorgeous presentation including tempura, sashimi, and usually something simmered and grilled.

Dinner here is reasonable for the several courses. I believe it starts around 10,000 JPY or about $100 USD. Ask to sit at the counter so that you can watch Chef Nonaga behind the counter as he works with the seafood for sashimi. The hot dishes are prepared by his team in the kitchen.

If you go, tell him New York Yukari sent you there.

Nihonbashi Yukari

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-2-14

Phone: 03-3271-3436

http://www.nihonbashi-yukari.com

closest station is Tokyo station’s Yaesu guchi (exit) or Nihonbashi.

Gotta Go – Nihonbashi Yukari

I am often asked for restaurant suggestions in Tokyo. There is one restaurant that I recommend time and time again. Chef Kimio Nonaga of Nihonbashi Yukari was the 2002 Iron Chef winner, and the trophy is displayed when you first walk in. I love this restaurant for lunch or dinner. For a multi-course kaiseki dinner incorporating seasonal ingredients, you get a meal for a good value. Lunch is also reasonable. If you want to splurge, call ahead and order the Yukari bento box, pictured here. The last time I went this was 3,675 JPY.

The food here is prepared using classic Japanese techniques. Chef Nonaga trained in Kyoto at Kikunoi with Chef Murata, author of the gorgeous Kaiseki book published by Kodansha International.

If possible, sit at the counter so that you can watch Chef Nonaga perform his magic. And, tell him Yukari sent you. If you go with a Japanese speaker you can talk to him about the seasonal ingredients, how the food is prepared, and observe his passion for traditional Japanese cuisine.

Nihonbashi Yukari

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-2-14

tel. 03-3271-3436

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