Crista

Crista is the new restaurant that is in the old Beacon space, run by the same restaurant group, Tysons & Company. Chef David Chiddo oversees the menu and if you are fan of Beacon, TY Harbor, and Cicada, then you will feel at home here.

The interior has changed and the private room has moved from the side of the main dining room to behind the bar, much more intimate. On a recent lunch the energy was not as boisterous as in the past, but more relaxed with diners seeming to linger longer.

One thing that caught my eye when we were seated was the simple dish for bread on the table. It was handmade. I was impressed by many of the dishes that came out. The tableware is Kasama-yaki from Ibaraki. The table is much warmer with these artisan dishes. A nice nod to Japanese artisans.

We started with the tuna tartare with avocado and crispy papadams and a kochi jan sauce. A nice contrast of textures and flavors. I am a big fan of the TY Harbor Caesar salads and have a hard time resisting it.

 

I loved the Beacon burger and I love the Crista burger, which is an upgrade. The US Prime-grade chuck is ground fresh daily and the fries are new. The ketchup and mayonnaise is made in-house and is oishii.

If you love pork, be sure to try the Waton mochi-buta from Gunma. Japan has great pork and this is one of them. Simply grilled, this will spoil you for pork.

Brendhan, the manager, is very friendly and walked us through the menu. He also assembled the tuna tartare with papadams. The young pastry chef spent some time in NYC which is reflected in this life-changing brownie with caramelized bananas with a caramel ice cream.

Crista is a short walk from either Shibuya or Omotesando stations. There is a nice outdoor seating area that I would like to come back to with a girlfriend when it warms up a bit more. Crista’s brunch looks great. Kim chee fried rice, huevos rancheros,

CRISTȂ

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 1-2-5 渋谷区渋谷1-2-5

https://www.tysons.jp/crista/en/access/

Prix Fixe lunch course 3,800 JPY

Burger a la carte 2,800 JPY

Crista Romaine Caesar Salad with Avocado 1,600 JPY

 

Tokyo’s Coolest Tea and Spirits Bar

souen-gyokuro

One of the most magical tea tastings I have experienced was at Souen. The original shop was in Nishi-Azabu at a terribly inconvenient location. Souen has moved to Minami-Aoyama’s Spiral Building on the 5th floor, which is easy to access. Woo-hoo!

Souen offers a simple tea with wagashi tasting, but the flight of tea and tea-infused spirits is an experience that can only be had here. Allow time for for the full course, I believe we were there for almost two hours, which included some shopping in the tiny retail shop.

gyokuro-w-wagashi

The afternoon started with a sampling of different infusions of gyokuro. The savory and meaty tea was steeped in warm, not hot, water, bringing out notes and aromas I have never experienced with green tea. After the tasting with the wagashi, we were presented with the steeped gyokuro leaves and some ponzu. We were instructed to dress the gyokuro with ponzu and eat. It was like a rich spinach sunomono, and a perfect palate cleanser before the tea-infused liqueurs.

We were presented with four different spirits that were infused with four different tea leaves. The alcohol is very strong and the pours are generous. Be sure to have big dinner plans following a full flight. I have had the date stuffed with butter and walnut before so I was thrilled to be reacquainted with it, and preferred it with the spirit than with tea.

souen-whisky

The tea-infused Japanese whisky was served with iburigako, a smoked daikon pickle from Akita, and pickled greens, this too was a nice match.

souen-wagashi-selectionGuests are presented with a selection of wagashi for the final course. A friend and I couldn’t decide on which to get so we each ordered one and they kindly cut them so we could each try both.

The course ends with a green tea spirit and we selected a cinnamon and apple jelly with a sweet that included ginkgo nuts.

This is a very special experience. Even a cup of tea is lovely here. There is a wall of windows overlooking Aoyama and Shinjuku, but that contrasts the quiet tea space. Reservations recommended. We tried walking in earlier in the week and could not get in.

Souen

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 5-6-23, Spiral Building 5F 港区南青山5-6-23

http://www.sakurai-tea.jp/

Aoyama Cicada

At Cicada in Aoyama, near Omotesando, I always order the mezze plate. I love the variety of small bites, often with lots of vegetables. If you have allergies, or prefer for an all vegetable mezze, the kitchen is great to substitute something.

I sometimes come by myself and sit at the bar.  In New York City I found it very easy to start up conversations with complete strangers, but that is much harder to do here in Japan. However, I’ve met some interesting people here, including a designer. In our conversation we realized that we both worked on the same food project, at different stages. Cicada is that type of restaurant that draws in an international crowd, but also internationally-minded locals. There is always a buzz in the restaurant and the staff speak English.

The draft beer is from T.Y. Harbor, their sister shop. The wine list is reasonably priced and there is a nice selection of wines-by-the-glass that match the Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.

There is outdoor seating, but that seems to book up quickly, so plan ahead if you want to dine al fresco.

Aoyama Cicada4

Aoyama Cicada Mezze

Cicada

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 5-7-28 港区南青山5-7-28

https://www.tysons.jp/cicada/en/

Dominique Ansel Bakery Tokyo

For my birthday we went to Dominique Ansel Bakery’s Cafe on the second floor of his shop. The menu has always intrigued me, especially since I saw a photo of his avocado toast.

New on the menu is chicken pot pie, which was the best pot pie I have ever had. A crispy golden crust over an umami-rich stew packed with chicken and vegetables. I woke up the next day thinking about this. The avocado toast comes with créme fraiche and a salad. The butternut squash was accented with cinnamon marshmallow squares.

The first floor of the shop is almost always full. The cafe has a full drink menu as well, including champagne and wine. There is an open kitchen and on my way out I could see a lobster roll being assembled.

Menu: http://dominiqueanseljapan.com/wp/wp-content/themes/dabjp/pdf/DAB_MENU_2F.pdf

Dominique Ansel DKA

We were so full from lunch that we celebrated at home with chef’s signature DKA, Dominique’s version of the kouign amann. This pastry is very popular in Tokyo and many bakeries serve their version of it. This one is not too sweet, has a rich texture from the buttery dough.

The shop is very popular and the line can be very long on the first floor. Reservations can be made for the cafe and sweets from the first floor can be had in the cafe, along with a drink order. The only thing that is only sold on the first floor is the cronut. From what I hear from friends in NYC, the line here in Tokyo is much shorter for cronuts.

The bakery is in Omotesando, just off the main street. It is worth the short detour if you are in the area of Harajuku, Shibuya, or Meiji Jingu Shrine. The first floor opens at 8 a.m. and the cafe opens at 9 a.m. A great spot to start your day in Tokyo.

Dominique Ansel Bakery

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-7-14 渋谷区神宮前5-7-14

shop information and access:

http://dominiqueanseljapan.com/en/contact

http://dominiqueanseljapan.com/wp/wp-content/themes/dabjp/pdf/DAB_MENU_2F.pdf

Aoyama Cicada

Cicada - Mezze

Cicada – Mezze

At Cicada in Aoyama, near Omotesando, I always order the mezze plate. I love the variety of small bites, often with lots of vegetables. If you have allergies, or prefer for an all vegetable mezze, the kitchen is great to substitute something.

I sometimes come by myself and sit at the bar.  In New York City I found it very easy to start up conversations with complete strangers, but that is much harder to do here in Japan. However, I’ve met some interesting people here, including a designer. In our conversation we realized that we both worked on the same food project, at different stages. Cicada is that type of restaurant that draws in an international crowd, but also internationally-minded locals. There is always a buzz in the restaurant and the staff speak English.

Cicada Mezze2

Cicada – Mezze

The draft beer is from T.Y. Harbor, their sister shop. The wine list is reasonably priced and there is a nice selection of wines-by-the-glass that match the Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.

There is outdoor seating, but that seems to book up quickly, so plan ahead if you want to dine al fresco.

Cicada

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 5-7-28 港区南青山5-7-28

https://www.tysons.jp/cicada/en/

 

Dominique Ansel Bakery Tokyo

Dominique's Kouign Amann DKA

Dominique’s Kouign Amann DKA

Dominique Ansel Bakery Tokyo has finally opened. The local media has been leading up to this event for several months so it is no surprise that there are long lines. The first customers started lining up about 9:30 p.m. the night before, on a wet evening during rainy season. Staff brought out umbrellas for the customers, very Japanese of them, a nod towards”omotenashi“. On the opening day the first customers in line were given DAB baseball hats. The bakery will also bring out warm madeleines to those standing in line.

I went in a few days after it opened and was lucky enough to get a tour of the space and sit down with chef Dominique to talk about the opening. My take-away from speaking with him was how down-to-earth he is, how much he supports his staff, and his creativity and playfulness. He has brought together a great team, including head chef Laurie Jon Moran, executive sous chef Mitsuhiro Shimotaka, and general manager Yuji Okada. There are almost 100 on the staff. Ansel says how hard-working his team is.

The Japanese adore the buttery, flakey, sweet kouign amann, so it is no surprise that the DKA is one of the more popular sweets at the bakery. However, chef Dominique’s version is rich and dense, just take a look at the photo above. It uses half the butter and half the sugar as usual and has a touch of fleur de sel. It is a nice contrast to the thinner versions which are typically found throughout the city.

Dominique Ansel Frozen S'more

Dominique Ansel Frozen S’more

The frozen s’more is presented on a natural wooden stick that has been smoked. The marshmallow surrounds a center of vanilla ice cream, salted chocolate, and a cookie is fired just before serving. The marshmallow is made with honey instead of sugar. The madeleines are baked after each order is placed, so that they are served warm out of the oven after being freshly dusted with powdered sugar.

There are some Tokyo-only creations, including the Japanese cronut which is now being made with a yuzu cream and Hokkaido milk. The Tokyo Brest, a play on the classic Paris Brest, is made with mattcha and passion fruit and is garnished with a ginkgo leaf. There is a kawaii (cute) maneki neko cat creme puff that is filled with yuzu vanilla. The traditional Japanese melon pan is made with kokuto black sugar and hojicha (roasted tea) cream. It is called Mr. Roboto melon pan as it looks like a robot’s face. Chef said that he has toned down the sugar a bit for the Japanese market. Looking at the sweets in the glass display case it is evident this is for a fun, young, casual market. At 3 p.m. the cookie shots are available. Vanilla is steeped in milk for 24 hours and the cookies come out of the oven. A good excuse to come back in the afternoon.

Dominique Ansel Tokyo Tea Room

Dominique Ansel Tokyo Tea Room

The bakery is a three-story building. The first floor is the bakery with a seating section and a kitchen for finishing the sweets. This is where you will find the cronuts and other sweets.

The second floor is a cafe with its own menu. Chef Laurie Jon Moran. There is also a quiet tea room off to the side. Chef is making a mont blanc wagashi that I need to come back for.

The working space for the staff is nice, especially the third floor production kitchen which is well-lit with windows that bring in natural sunlight. Sadly, many production kitchens are hidden away in the basement or in some dark part of the restaurant without any windows.

Dominique Ansel Tokyo Art

Dominique Ansel Tokyo Art

The custom-made graphics on the wall are from French graphic artist Vahram Muratyan. It is a play on the view from the kitchen of customers peering in. The wall includes some nods to Japan including a sumo wrestler and the black makkuro-kurosuke from Ghibli’s Totoro. There is a mirror on the wall so that you can imagine what you look like peering into the kitchen. Be sure to also check out the playful Metro map on the wall of the cafe.

http://www.vahrammuratyan.com/

Dominique Ansel Tokyo Interior

Dominique Ansel Tokyo Interior

The lines for the bakery are actually on the main Omotesando street. Staff will bring the customers on the back street where the bakery is. I have seen many chefs open in Tokyo and sadly they pick the wrong location to open up on. A famous Michelin-starred chef first opened his restaurant in the suburbs of Tokyo and of course it didn’t survive. He has since successfuly reopened in the heart of the city. But DAB is in a perfect location for his first shop.

#Anselfie

#Anselfie

Chef Dominique also spoke on the Japanese appreciation for sweets. He definitely understands the market and is off to a great start. Tokyoites are embracing him and his bakery. Here’s hoping that this is the start of a long ride for him and his team in Japan.

Note – if you do see chef at the bakery, ask to take an #Anselfie with him.

Dominique Ansel Bakery Tokyo

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-7-14

渋谷区神宮前5-7-14

dominiqueanseljapan.com/

Aoyama Blue Bottle Coffee

Aoyama Blue Bottle Coffee

Aoyama Blue Bottle Coffee

Blue Bottle has arrived to Tokyo. The first shop, in Kiyosumi, is on the other side of the city for me. So, even though I live in Tokyo it is about an hour from where I live. Blue Bottle’s second shop has opened in Aoyama.

It’s a busy shop and not the best place to do writing or editing. Quite noisy in fact. I couldn’t hear the staff call out my name to get my coffee. Eventually seats opened up on the deck, where it was quiet and I could get some work done. There is a buzz in the restaurant. It seems that many of the customers, like myself, are first timers. Taking it all in, looking around, checking things out, lots of questions for the staff.

The staff helped me to select a Papau New Guinea single origin. She said it was “like peach”. The coffee, served in a glass mug, was fruity.

Blue Bottle is getting a lot of press in the media, which explains the big crowds. Not sure, but I guess this will die down at some point.

The Aoyama location is just off the main street where there are many brands like Issey Miyake and Prada. The shop is up the stairs on the second floor of a building that looks like it was an old apartment building. Don’t know why, but the shop doesn’t open up until 10 a.m. Frustrating for those of us who prefer to have coffee earlier in the day, but many coffee shops in Tokyo don’t open until 10 or even 11 a.m.

 

Blue Bottle Aoyama

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 3-13-14

港区南青山3-13-14

bluebottlecoffee.com/cafes/aoyama

Aoyama Farmer’s Market

Food Sake Tokyo is delighted to host guest blogger Janice Espa. Janice is passionate about food and Japan. She is a great photographer and all of the photos here are from Janice. Janice’s most recent guest post on the Best of Japan Tour now being offered at Coredo Muromachi in Nihonbashi, is very popular and some followers of Food Sake Tokyo have since taken the tour and loved it. Here is Janice on Aoyama Farmer’s Market. Arigato, Janice!

Espa - Market vibe

Market Vibe – Janice Espa

I thoroughly enjoy learning about the story behind things. The food we come across and the people who put it together to make a livelihood out of it. The effort that goes into cultivating crops, the detail and care with which coffee is grown and roasted. The significance behind passing down a recipe from generation to generation in order to make cookies ‘just like grandma used to make’, or the finesse with which dishes are conceptualized and presented.

Espa - Father daughter and amazing mushrooms

Father and daughter’s Amazing Mushrooms and dashi packs – Janice Espa

 This aspect of food and travel is a deeply gratifying cultural experience, and it’s readily accessible too. Farmer’s markets are the perfect place to begin.

Flowers - Janice Espa

Flowers – Janice Espa

In Tokyo, Aoyama Farmer’s Market is a great weekend destination. Every Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the forecourt of the United Nations University becomes a lively bazaar. The market is buzzing from start to finish, but getting there before noon will ensure you don’t miss out on buying any of the fruit, vegetables, breads, pastries, or flowers you’re after.

Fresh from the farm - Janice Espa

Fresh from the farm – Janice Espa

I’d suggest making a morning of it, browsing the stalls, talking to the producers, and then having a brunch in the courtside area – or head to a nearby park for a picnic, because you’ll pick up many tasty things along the way.

On my visit, I was enamoured by the tomatoes, many shapes and sizes, beautifully plump with bright colors. The stalls have clever and cute names. I sampled juicy strawberries that were just in season, as well as surprisingly flavorsome, and healthful, soy yogurt smoothies. My jaw dropped when I counted the number of mushrooms for sale from one of the vendors, and I giggled in excitement as the lady selling sesame paste and sesame seed products freshly ground some seeds for me to take home.   “If possible, all the way to Machu Picchu”, she said.

Kawaii strawberries - Janice Espa

Kawaii strawberries – Janice Espa

This one-on-one interaction, taking all the smells in, the sight of people sharing who they are and where they come from, producers eager to have a chat and tell you their story, and then the surprises and treats that may come from this sense of community, is priceless.

Fresh ginger and yuzu vinegar - Janice Espa

Fresh ginger and yuzu vinegar – Janice Espa

Aside from fresh produce, there are handmade bags and accessories and a selection of breads. Pastry stands offer kinako (toasted soybean flour) shortbread cookies, miso-based sweets, and fresh bagels. There’s also a takoyaki (octopus cooked in a savory batter) stand, a cart selling Spanish sangria, a curry rice vendor, Indian dosa made-to-order, and some German sausages for sale.

Cool Mobile Coffee - Janice Espa

Cool Mobile Coffee – Janice Espa

Aoyama Farmer’s Market, located in a relatively quiet section between Omotesando and Shibuya, is the perfect way to spend a few unscheduled hours in Tokyo. I thoroughly encourage you to check it out and find for yourself the taste of the season. You may bump into some of Tokyo’s famous chefs like Shinobu Namae of  L’Effervescence who often shops here.

Arrive by bike - Janice Espa

Arrive by bike – Janice Espa

AOYAMA FARMER’S MARKET

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-53-70, United Nations University Plaza 渋谷区神宮前5-53-70国際連合大学前

Nearest station: Omotesando (Ginza, Chiyoda and Hanzomon lines)

farmersmarkets.jp

 

If you liked this post, please check out Janice’s other post about Kyoto.

Nishiki Market and Kyoto Uzuki Cooking School

Sake Tasting with JD Kai

 

Janice Espa photoJanice Espa

Janice Espa is a Spanish-Peruvian food enthusiast; an avid traveller and inquisitive taster who explores culture through cuisine.  Janice lives in Sydney where she writes and styles food. Her days are spent visiting grower’s markets, checking out restaurants, and shopping at specialty stores to discover goods from every corner of the world.

Feel free to email suggestions and travel tips, or to contact Janice for her own recommendations, whether you’re visiting Peru, trekking South America or doing a road trip along the east coast of Australia.

Email:  janicespa at gmail.com

Japanese Fried Chicken at iro-kara

Irokara1

 

I have been craving Korean-style fried chicken ever since listening to Rick Bayless talk about it on The Feed Podcast. When I lived in New York City and Singapore I could get my fix. For some reason, Tokyo, which has amazing kara-agé (deep-fried, seasoned, boneless cuts of chicken) hasn’t caught on to it. And, there is a big difference. I believe the Korean chicken is fried twice. It has a sweet and spicy sauce that will have you licking your fingers after you have gnawed off all the meat that you can get off of the bone.

I went to Shin-Okubo, the Korean part of Tokyo and tried two restaurants, both disappointing. A dear friend suggested iro-kara near Omotesando. The kara-agé here was delicious but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I will be back as it was a nice, quick lunch. The chicken is fried after the order is placed and there is al fresco seating on the rooftop. The donburi is a generous serving of rice topped with the fried chicken, katsuobushi, leeks, and pickled ginger. A mash-up of kara-agé and takoyaki toppings.

Irokara2

There are several flavors, such as basil, curry, yuzu kosho, and ume shiso. We tried a few but nothing outstanding. Best to stick with the basic kara-agé.

Brimmer Beer is next doors, but not open at lunch time. There is also a curry stand next door. Could be fun to order a curry and top it with the fried chicken.

iro-kara

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 3-8-34

www.iro-kara.net

 

 

3rd Burger

Image

3rd Burger recently opened in the Ark Hills South Tower. I thought it was a new restaurant to Tokyo until I came across a second shop in the Aoyama/Omotesando area. The clientele in Aoyama is young and hip. Diners are given a buzzer after placing their order. Not exactly fast food, but the food does comes about five minutes during the busy lunch hour. The meaty burger is juicy and the fries are excellent. Burger options include avocado wasabi and basil and tomato. Burgers are served with fresh lettuce and tomatoes.  The only downside was that ketchup is given in small packets. Burgers start at about 400 JPY and fries at 300 JPY. 3rd Burger has a variety of smoothies in flavors like carrot, banana, and fresh tomatoes. The Aoyama shop is brightly lit and there is a communal table at the front of the shop. Now, if they would only open a shop on the Chuo Line.

3rd Burger

Minato-ku, Roppongi 1-4-5, Ark Hills South Tower B1

OR

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 5-11-2