Nakameguro Sumi-Grilled Yakitori

Maru, just a few minutes’ from Nakameguro station, is a great lunch spot for sumi (charcoal) grilled yakitori. The chicken, Amakusa Daiou, from Kumamoto, is called the king of chicken, and is known for it’s rich in texture and flavor.

The oyako-don (900 JPY), on the left above is a popular dish of chicken and eggs cooked in a sweet soy broth. Oyako is literally mother and child, a fun name for this dish. The sign of a good oyakodon is eggs that are just heated enough so that the whites just start to gel. The semi-scrambled eggs become a sauce for the chicken and rice.

The yakitori-don (1,200 JPY) includes three smokey skewers, grilled over charcoal: white meat, gizzard, and thighs with leeks. Two tsukune meatballs, a raw yolk, shishitō and nori round out the dish. Lunch sets include pickles, chicken soup, and a rich tiramisu.

Nakameguro is a hot area at the moment as several restaurants, including a hip City Bakery and Tsutaya bookstore have opened up under the tracks, in an area called Nakameguro Koukashita. On a recent visit the new shops were swamped, so we were happy to find quiet refuge at Maru.

Sumibiyaki Maru 炭火焼 Maru

Meguro-ku, Nakameguro 2-12-2 W. Nakameguro 1F

目黒区上目黒2-12-2 W. Nakameguro 1F

New Breakfast Spot at Tsukiji Market

tsukiji-uogashi-shokudo

Uogashi Shokudō breakfast

There is a brand new place to have breakfast at Tsukiji Market that is void of tourists and offering a value priced meal. There is a new facility, Tsukiji Uogashi, with about sixty retail shops for seafood and produce on the first floor. The first floor is open to the general public after 9 a.m. Prior to that it is for trade people only. The second floor is administrative offices and is off limits to visitors.

The third floor is a new shokudō (dining hall) that is run by a non-profit organization to supporting Japanese seafood and produce from Tsukiji Market. The recommended breakfast, only 650 JPY, included a small grilled fish filet, simmered fish with daikon, miso soup, pickles, and rice. The breakfast above was only 800 JPY and was a large serving of yellowtail and daikon simmered until tender in a sweet soy broth.

The dining hall on a recent morning was very quiet, only a handful of customers. The dining hall is so new that many don’t know about it yet. I was seated at a counter overlooking the open kitchen. The staff were very friendly and genki (enthusiastic).

The shokudō is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lunch prices too are reasonable, with a sashimi donburi for only 1,000 JPY or a sashimi set lunch for 1,200 JPY. I highly recommend starting your morning here if you will be visiting Tsukiji Market.

Chūō-ku, Tsukiji 6-26-1, Odawarabashi Ren 3rd floor, Uogashi Shokudō

中央区築地6-26-1小田原橋棟 3F

http://www.tsukiji.or.jp/forbiz/uogashi/

Sushi Chain to Put on Your Radar

Living in Tokyo it’s good to have a few sushi chain on your radar, especially if  you are parents and dining out with kids. Some popular sushiya on the budget side include Midori Sushi, Sushi Zanmai, Sushiro, Choshi Maru, and Kurazushi. One to know about is Uoriki, which is not only a sushiya, but also a seafood retail shop, so the company is buying a lot of seafood and can offer sushi menus at a good value.

Uoriki is unbelievably cheap for what it is offering. The set lunch in the upper right photo was only 1,290 JPY ($13). Check out the size of the anago (simmered sea eel). It also included ikura, chutoro, scallop, and shrimp.

The bottom photo is of silvery skinned fish, which took me a long time to get used to, but now I love these. At lunch this was only 750 JPY and consisted of: Pacific saury, horse mackerel, sardine, Pacific mackerel, and gizzard shad. As these are the fishy in flavor, they are often garnished with ginger, garlic, chives, or even pickled in salt and rice vinegar to make them more palatable.

A very easy branch of Uoriki Sushi to get to is in the Shibuya station building in the Tokyu Toyoko-ten depachika. There are a few shops on the Chuo line which we frequent. The take-away sushi is also very cheap and is usually made without wasabi so it is kid-friendly. Wasabi is served on the side.

The name, Uoriki 魚力, literally means strong fish. What a great name for a seafood retail and restaurant chain.

Uoriki Sushi

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 2-24-1, Tokyu Toyoko-ten Depachika B1

渋谷区渋谷2-24-1 東急百貨店西館B1F

Other branches (in Japanese):

http://www.uoriki.co.jp/tenpo/index.html#insyoku

I was recently interviewed for this piece for Saveur magazine, by Laurie Woolever:

http://www.saveur.com/conveyor-belt-kaiten-sushi

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.

Menu:

http://restaurants.tokyo.grand.hyatt.co.jp/wp-content/uploads/pdf/shunbou_menu.pdf

Grand Hyatt Tokyo – 6th floor

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

Map:

http://restaurants.tokyo.grand.hyatt.com/access.html

Ginza Hageten Kushiage

Hageten is a popular tempura and kushiage restaurant in Ginza. While many are familiar with tempura, kushiage is another great dish that is deep-fried, but covered with panko (Japanese bread crumbs) instead of a flour and egg batter.

Hageten’s “service lunch” starts at only 820 JPY for 6 skewers, salad, rice, miso soup, and pickles. Diners can get seconds on rice and miso soup. While I declined the generous offer, a salaryman at the counter was happy to get seconds on both.

The six skewers on a recent lunch were:

  1. kisu (sillago whitefish)
  2. kabocha squash
  3. pork and leeks
  4. tsukune (ground chicken) and celery
  5. tofu and cheese
  6. uzura (quail egg)

The miso soup was made with shijimi (Corbicula clams) and an awasemiso (blend of red and white miso). The rice, kuri gohan, was studded with fresh chestnuts which are in season now.

This is a great lunch if you are in Ginza. Hageten is several floors. The kushiage restaurant is in the basement. I loved my seat where I could see the chef’s mis en place including an egg batter and bread crumbs. The kushiage was lightly coated, delicate jacket of panko, and not oily.

Chef Takaishi-san was friendly and easy to chat with. He told me that he is off on Fridays, so I’ll try to come back on another day, not Friday. 🙂

I asked him about sending my vegetarian friends there for skewers. He said it would be best if the hotel concierge could call ahead and request a vegetarian only skewers and that they would be able to accommodate that request. On the fly it may be difficult. And, not sure if they could change the miso soup.

I haven’t had kushiage in a  long time, but that’s about to change. With this central location and good price, it’s hard to beat.

Hageten ハゲ天

Chuo-ku, Ginza 3-4-6 中央区銀座3-4-6

www.hageten.com

 

Ginza Akomeya

Akomeya Ginza

Ginza Akomeya

For one-stop shopping for food, tableware, kitchenware, and lunch, I highly recommend Ginza Akomeya. The restaurant offers a colorful lunch rich with small dishes. While not vegetarian, it is vegetable-friendly and nourishing.

The retail part of the store is curated offering great products for the pantry. Essentials like mirin, sesame oil, and soy sauce as well as fun condiments like yuzu kosho or ponzu. The tableware and kitchenware selection is also lovely. Pick up a donabe (earthenware pot) for cooking rice on the stovetop.

There is a kome (rice) counter where you can have your rice freshly polished. The selection is impressive, bringing in varietals from all over Japan. Some of our favorites are sold here like Hokkaido Yumepirika, Yamagata Tsuyahime, Toyama Milky Queen and Niigata Uonuma Koshihikari.

Lunch is very popular, so come early or late. The rice is cooked in a donabe. Dinner is also a big affair, and there is a nice selection of saké. In the afternoon the shop offers traditional Japanese sweets. The menu with photos is here:

http://www.akomeya.jp/akomeyakitchen/menu/

Akomeya Tokyo

Chuo-ku, Ginza 2-2-6 中央区銀座2-2-6

http://www.akomeya.jp/shop/ginza.php

New York Pizza at Shibuya Pizza Slice

Having lived in NYC I was spoiled with many options for pizza by the slice. My favorite was Two Boots and there was one in the West Village near my home. I would have taxi drivers bring me there if were returning home from an overseas trip.

In Tokyo we have incredible pizza, like Nakameguro Seirinkan and Nihonbashi Pizza Bar on 38th at the Mandarin Oriental. These are like pizzas you will find in Napoli and Roma.

I love Rocco’s New York-Style Pizza but it is up in Oji, a part of town I never get to. It’s been two years since I last went. I’d love to go back, but it’s a hike.

I am thrilled to have finally made it to Pizza Slice in Shibuya and even happier that it is good New York pizza. Thin, crispy crust, that almost took me back to Two Boots. The pepperoni by the slice is 500 JPY. Nice tomato sauce and pepperoni, just like in New York City. The slices are warmed up after you order and brought to your table.

Even the cashier had an attitude and was kind of bitchy when I asked for a receipt. I totally felt like I was back home. I guess we get spoiled in Japan with polite service.

Even the room feels like you are in America. A mix of large communal and small tables. A counter on the side to sit. There is a large display of the variety of pizzas to choose from. The crowd this afternoon was a mix of Japanese and non-Japanese, all young and even a gaggle of high school boys.

Best of all, Pizza Slice is in Shibuya, a neighborhood that I get to very often. It’s about a ten-minute walk from the station, faster if you know where you are going. Here’s hoping they open their first branch on the Chuo line.

Pizza Slice

Shibuya-ku, Sarugakucho 3-1  渋谷区猿楽町3-1

http://www.pizzaslice.co/

Sardine Lovers’ Lunch 新宿割烹中嶋

Chef Nakajima of Shinjuku Kappō Nakajima is often on television on a morning cooking show. His restaurant serves a multi-course kaiseki meal in the evening, but the lunch is a set lunch based on iwashi sardines.

For less than $10 USD (800 or 900 JPY), the menu options are sashimi, furai (breaded and deep-fried), nimono (simmered in a sweet soy sauce), or Yanagigawa (fried sardines cooked with eggs in a sweet soy sauce). The meal includes rice, miso soup, and pickles.

We sat at the counter and watched as an assistant chef continued to make the sashimi dish, which is actually tataki (photo, above left). It is a great preparation for silvery-skinned fish like sardines or horse mackerel. The sashimi is roughly chopped and mixed with ginger and sesame, which helps cut through the fishiness.

Fried sardines often include some of the bones, which you can chew and eat, but a warning if you are not used to it. The Yanagigawa is served in a shallow dish that is a nice combination of sardines with the softly cooked eggs.

The restaurant has a counter overlooking part of the kitchen and several tables. We arrived around 11:30 a.m. and snagged the last seats at the counter. When we left there was over a dozen people in line.

The restaurant is hard to find. It is on a quiet side street and signage is ridiculously small, even for Japanese readers. Look for the sign (photo, above right) and go down the stairs. The staff are very friendly and there is an English menu for this great lunch.

Shinjuku Kappō Nakajima 新宿割烹中嶋

Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-32-5, Nichihara Bldg. B1     新宿区新宿3-32-5 日原ビルB1

http://www.shinjyuku-nakajima.com/

Map from the restaurant’s website

http://www.shinjyuku-nakajima.com/tenpo.html#main

iwashi いわし 鰯

kappō 割烹

Nakajima 中嶋

 

Shibuya Shunju 春秋 – Colorful Vegetable Salad Bar

Buffet lunches abound around the city. Some of my favorites include the New York Grill at the Park Hyatt Tokyo and Motif at the Four Seasons Marunouchi, but these gorgeous buffets deserve a leisurely long lunch so that you can enjoy all that is offered. I was meeting a girlfriend for a casual lunch in Shibuya and wanted somewhere that offered a vegetable-friendly meal.

Shunju, just across the street from Bunkamura music hall and museum, was exactly what I was looking for. There is a small, but thoughtfully assembled organic salad bar and diners choose a main course. I opted for a simple onigiri as my main course. The other options included fish grilled over sumi charcoal, chicken, and pork. The buffet lunch with onigiri starts at about 900 JPY ($9 USD). For a supplemental 500 JPY you can add a protein main course to the meal.

Yellow and orange carrots, red cabbage, simmered lotus root, tempura eggplant, and a creamed cabbage were some of my favorites. The carrot juice at the salad bar was sweet enough to stand in for dessert. The only meat product on the buffet was some ground meat in the miso, an umami-rich dip for the vegetables.

The restaurant was busy at the noon hour. Mostly young girls making several rounds to the salad bar. Shunju has a few other branches around the city, and I imagine that they also offer a similar lunch.

Note that the buffet is on weekdays only. On the weekends the restaurant is course lunches only. Arigato to David Richards for sending this helpful information via the blog. Arigato and thankful for your notes.

Shunju 春秋

Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 2-23-12, Fontis Bldg. 1F

渋谷区道玄坂2-23-12フォンティスビル1F

http://shunju.com/

Shibuya Torikatsu Chicken とりかつチキン

Katsu refers to panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) encrusted and deep-fried goods. Tonkatsu, deep-fried pork, is the most popular, but there are many others such as torikatsu for chicken. Furai is another Japanese word that is used to describe the same preparation, and is often seen with seafood such as kaki (oysters), aji (horse mackerel), or ika (squid).

Torikatsu in Shibuya is hidden on the back streets, a short walk from both Shibuya JR and Inokashira stations. This shop is often featured in magazines and television shows as a great spot for cheap eats. Diners select two or more fried items that is served with rice, julienned cabbage, and miso soup. On the counter is homemade pickles that diners can help themselves to.

It’s a popular and chaotic shop. The open kitchen on this day is staffed with three very busy aunties. They each multitask and take turns doing different jobs. If you understand Japanese it’s quite fun to watch as they ask each other for help, reconfirm orders, and often ask customers to repeat what they ordered. As diners pay on their way out, it is on the honor system and each diner is asked what they ordered so that the price can be determined. Very Japanese.

A narrow counter with fifteen seats surrounds the kitchen. There is a small table tucked into the corner which seats three, and diners are asked to use this as a communal table. As you can imagine the seats at the counter are squeezed quite tight together and there is no room to set your belongings, aside from the narrow area between you and the counter.

Smoke rises non-stop from the deep-fat fryer. The cutting board next to the fryer has been used for so long that the surface is no longer flat. The knife on the cutting board is oily and covered with deep-fried panko.

Customers at the counter are asked to bus their own dishes to the high counter into the kitchen after they are done. New diners are asked to wipe down their area if it was not done by the prior diner. It feels like you are dining at your auntie’s home in the countryside with the friendly ambience and the casual service, “please set your dishes on top”. “Sorry, but if your dining area is not clean, feel free to use the wet cloth to wipe it down.”

The menu starts at 650 JPY for two items, 800 JPY for three, and 1000 JPY for four. Some of the items include: torikatsu (chicken), tonkatsu (pork), menchi katsu (ground meat), aji furai (horse mackerel), ikafurai (squid), nasu (eggplant), kani kuri-mu (crab in a white sauce), and tamanegi (onion). In season at the moment is kaki furai (oyster).

The popular set, which comes at a discounted price, is the ninki teishoku (650 JPY) which consists of chicken, ham, and croquette. Hamu katsu may be the most interesting thing I’ve ever seen, a thin slice of ham that is breaded and deep-fried. The coating is thicker than the ham.

The rice serving is generous, so I suggest asking for gohan sukuname, for a smaller portion to begin with (see photo above). You could always ask for more rice if you would like more. It is considered impolite to leave rice in your bowl, so I try to do this at most restaurants.

On this day the crowd was mostly young students with a handful of salarymen mixed in. Many solo diners in the group. There is an old television over the refrigerator. The older people, myself included, watched the talk show program while waiting for our food. The rest of the diners were busy with their smartphones.

The tail was cut off of the horse mackerel after it was deep-fried, making it much easier to eat. The chicken was tender and juicy. The pickles made from greens this day was a bit on the salty side, so maybe take a small serving to see if it is to your liking.

This is a great local spot and hard to beat for this price. The ambience itself is worth a trip here. There are two entrances to the 2nd floor shop. One on a side street and the second off of a narrow pedestrian street on the backside of the building. Finding it is part of the fun.

Torikatsu Chicken とりかつチキン

Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 2-16-19, Miyakoji Bldg. 2F

渋谷区道玄坂2-16-19都路2F