Food Sake Tokyo Radar

Sharing food and drinks news that are on our radar.

I am most excited about the new shops that have opened up at Nakameguro’s Koukashita, including a branch of NYC’s City Bakery and a new Tsutaya bookstore, small but worth visiting. The shops are all underneath the Toyoko train tracks.

Had a falafel sandwich at City Bakery which sparked an informative list of other Tokyo shops selling falafel: Ta-im, No. 4, , and Kuumba du Falafel.

SABAR + is a new concept restaurant in Ueno’s Marui department store that serves saba (Pacific mackerel) with a bottomless bowl of rice that is blend of white and genmai (brown rice). It’s unusual to not offer a white rice only option, but the company believes that the blend is a better match with the fatty fish, and it is also better for you. Taito-ku, Ueno 6-15-1, Ueno Marui depachika B1, SABAR + (Saba plus).

Umami Burger announced this summer that they will be opening in Tokyo. No word since then, but here is the press release. The chef behind this, Adam Fleischman, is also the creator of 800 Degrees Neopolitan Pizza at Shinjuku NEWoMaN. I’ve tried going several times, but the line is always too long.

Single origin chocolate at Dandelion, from San Francisco, is in the fun neighborhood of Kuramae. Kudos to the team for picking an up-and-coming area for their premier shop in Japan (Taito-ku, Kuramae 4-14-6).

While in Kuramae, get your coffee at Leaves Coffee Apartment, which opened in May (Taito-ku, Komagata 2-2-10).

Living in NYC, I loved going to Café Habana, which felt quintessentially NYC for cubano sandwiches and grilled corn dusted with cheese and chili. I can still remember that first bite of corn with umami and heat and sitting in the restaurant on Prince Street. Café Habana is now in Shibuya (Shibuya-ku, Sarugakucho 2-11).

Near Ebisu a few shops for burgers, curry, and an izakaya, have opened up in an area called Brick Stand near Ebisu Garden Place.

Onibus Coffee has opened near Nakameguro Station (Meguro-ku, Kamimeguro 2-14-1).

Alexander’s Steakhouse from California serving aged steaks at Shinbashi Shiodome with views overlooking the city.

From Kyoto, a tea shop in Marunouchi, Wakuden’s Marunouchi Chaka(Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 3-3-1, Shin-Tokyo Bldg. 1F).

The new Tokyo Michelin guide is out and online for free.



Japan’s Most Challenging Food


Chinmi. I am not a fan, not one bit. But my husband, Shinji, loves having some type of chinmi in the fridge at all times. Usually we have one or two types, but we recently traveled and Shinji picked up some along the way. Chinmi is fermented seafood, often including the guts or other parts of seafood like the liver. It is very intense and one only needs to eat a little bit of this when sipping on saké. But even if I am drunk on saké I have a hard time swallowing this. We did a tasting recently. Well, Shinji did a tasting and I took a tiny bit of each. Remember, although I was born in Tokyo, I grew up in Minnesota and this is as foreign to me as it is for many overseas guests.

Saba shiokara. Pacific mackerel is super salty, you can taste the crystals, of what surely must be salt. There are small pieces of the filet, making this the most appealing by appearance. We picked this up on a recent trip to Tottori to Sakai Minato port.

Aka Hoya. Red sea squirt is very chewy and a little funky. While it is called red, the color is a bright orange and the aftertaste lingers, way too long, and not in a pleasant way.

Surumeika koji zuke. Koji-fermented squid was my favorite of all in this tasting. It is slightly sweet, and has the texture of koji, meaning tiny bits of softened rice. We picked this up from Sakai Minato port on a recent trip to Tottori. I would have this again. You gotta love how the website suggests serving suggestions, like on crackers with cheese. That would make it even easier to eat.
Katsuo shuto. Fermented skipjack tuna innards. This is one of the most famous types of chinmi that is from Odawara, just south of Tokyo. It is rich in umami and has a thin chewy texture, like chewing on a balloon. This is one of the more easier chinmi, meaning it is palatable, if you are drinking a lot of saké.
English website for this product:

Awabi Toshiro. The liver of the abalone made the biggest impression. My notes from the tasting are as follows, “Will not go back there, ever, even if I am drunk.”

Ayu no uruka. Ayu is a freshwater sweet fish that is gorgeous when simply salted and grilled. However, this 3-year fermented chinmi is super salty, creamy, gross, way too funky. I come back to this word as nothing else comes to mind. Why would anyone eve think to eat this? Seriously…
It was the worst food tasting I have ever done in my life. Nothing will top this. We found two that I like and will have again. Hopefully none of these others will be in our fridge again.

October Seasonal Seafood


At Tsukiji Market we are seeing many autumn seafood like oysters, wakasagi for deep-frying, and finally sanma for grilling with salt. Some of our favorite sashimi this time of year include katsuo, isaki, and if you get a kawahagi with a big liver we will mix the liver with soy sauce and dip the sashimi in the creamy mixture. Many of the fishy fish like saba, iwashi, and aji are in abundance.

Akagarei 赤鰈 flathead flounder (Hippoglossoides dubius)        

Amadai 赤甘鯛 tilefish (Branchiostegus japonicas)

Ayu 鮎 sweet fish (Plecoglossus altivelis)

Bora flathead mullet or Gray mullet (Mugil cephalus)               

Chidai 血鯛 crimson sea bream (Evynnis japonica)

Hon kamasu 本カマス barracuda (Sphyraena pinguis)       

Hon kawahagi 本皮剥 thread-sail filefish (Stephanolepis cirrhifer)   

Hon shishamo 本ししゃもcapelin or longfin smelt (Spirinchus lanceolatus)

Ibodai疣鯛 Japanese butterfish (Psenopsis anomala)

Isaki 伊佐木threeline grunt (Parapristipoma trilineatum)

Itoyori イトヨリgolden threadfin bream (Nemipterus virgatus)

Kaki 牡蠣 oyster (Crassostrea gigas)

Katsuo  鰹   skipjack tuna or oceanic bonito (Katsuwonus pelamis)

Kohada 小鰭   gizzard shad (Konosirus pumctatus)

Kurumaebi 車海老   Japanese tiger prawn (Marsupenaeus japonicas)

Maaji 真鯵 horse mackerel (Trachurus japonicas)        

Maiwashi  真鰯  sardine (Sardinops melanostictus)

Masaba真鯖   pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus)

Mebachi maguro 目鉢鮪 bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus)

Medai 目鯛 butterfish (Hyperoglyphe japonica)

Mekajikiめかじき swordfish (Xiphias gladius)        

Sanma 秋刀魚 Pacific saury (Cololabis saira)

Sawara さわら Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus niphonius)

Shirosake 白鮭   chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta)                              

Sujiko筋子 salmon roe still in the sac                         

Surume ika スルメイカJapanese flying squid (Todarodes pacificus)

Tachiuo   太刀魚   cutlassfish or largehead hairtail (Trichiurus lepturus)

Takabe タカベ yellow-striped butterfish (Labracoglossa argentiventris)

Wakasagi 若細魚 Japanese smelt (Hypomesus nipponensis)                                        

Warasaワラサ yellowtail  (Seriola quinqueradiata)        

Watarigani 渡蟹 swimming crab (Portunus trituberculatus)    


Other fish you may see in the market


Ainame 鮎魚女fat greenling (Hexagrammos otakii)                         

Akagai 赤貝 ark shell (Scapharca broughtonii)

Asari 浅利 Japanese littleneck clams (Ruditapes philippinarum)

Ayu     ayu or sweet fish ( Plecoglossus altivelis)                

Hotate 帆立貝 scallops (Patinopecten yessoensis)

Hoya ホヤ sea squirt (Halocynthia roretzi)

Kihada maguro 黄肌鮪 yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares)  

Kinki 黄血魚 thornyhead (Sebastolobus macrochir)

Kinmedai or kinme 金目鯛 splendid alfonsino (Beryx splendens)

Kurumaebi 車海老   Japanese tiger prawn (Marsupenaeus japonicas)  

Maaji  真鯵  horse mackerel (Trachurus japonicas) 

Madai 真鯛 sea bream (Pagurus major)

Makarei 真鰈 Japanese common flounder (Pleuronectes yokohamae)

Mebaru 目張 rockfish (Sebastes inermis)

Mirugai 海松食 geoduck (Tresus keenae)           

Sazae 栄螺 turban shell (Turbo cornutus)

Tairagai 平貝 penshell (Atrina (Servatrina) pectinata)

Tobiuo 飛魚 flying fish (Cypselurus agoo agoo)

Tsubugai   螺貝   whelk (Buccinum undatum)

June Seasonal Japanese Seafood


The waters are warming up around Japan and many of the fish coming to market now are lean like katsuo. Here is a sashimi platter at our home, Izakaya Sakamoto. The big fish in the back is Tokyo Bay aji, iwashi, lean katsuo, kisu, and shiriyake-ika.


This tsubugai sashimi was served at a izakaya specializing in shōchū, Bettako. One of the joys of eating sashimi in Japan is the wide variety of shellfish. Tsubugai has a rich texture. Here it is served with some grated daikon, julienned myōga, and green onions.

Taste of TohokuAt a recent class at Elizabeth Andoh’s A Taste of Culture, we made a full meal from her latest collection of recipes, Kibō Recipes and Stories from Japan’s Tohoku. The rice dish is made with tokijake (chum salmon) and ikura.


Young surumeika are just now coming into the market. They are very soft and tender. You can eat it as sashimi without peeling the skin. Here we had it barbecued. It is stuffed with its innards and legs and simply grilled.


This is a sashimi platter we made on June 1st. Shinji’s father went fishing that morning in Tokyo Bay and all of the seafood, except for the Hokkaido scallops in the middle, were caught in the waters near Tokyo. This sashimi is even fresher than what customers are eating at Tsukiji Market sushi shops. Here we have aji, kochi, madako, and kisu.DSCN6299

Also, from Tokyo Bay, is this beautiful saba. Pacific mackerel is often cured in vinegar and served as shime-saba. It’s not often seen like this, but was amazing. Not as fishy as we associate with mackerel. We served it with julienned pickled ginger, myōga, and shiso and dressed it with a citrusy ponzu.

Another fish in season right now is anago. There is a restaurant in Nihonbashi that specializes in anago. A visit to Tamai, which is just behind Nihonbashi Takashimaya, is a treat, especially this time of year.

Ainame  鮎魚女  Fat greenling (Hexagrammos otakii)

Akagai 赤貝   Ark shell (Scapharca broughtonii)

Amaebi 甘海老 Pink shrimp (Pandalus eous)

Aoyagi   青柳   Surf clam (Mactra chinensis) 

Asari  浅利   Japanese littleneck clam (Ruditapes philippinarum)

Ayu      Ayu or sweet fish (Plecoglossus altivelis)

Chidai   血鯛   Crimson sea bream (Evynnis japonica)

Ginzake 銀鮭   Silver (Coho) salmon (Oncorhynchus kisuts)

Hamo 鱧 Pike conger  (Muraenesox cinereus)

Hiramasa 平政 Giant amberjack (Seriola lalandi)  

Hoya  ホヤ   Sea squirt (Ascidiacea) 

Isaki 伊佐木 Threeline grunt (Parapristipoma trilineatum)

Ishigarei 石鰈 Stone flounder (Kareius bicoloratus)

Katsuo      Skipjack tuna or oceanic bonito (Katsuwonus pelamis) 

Karauni   殻雲丹   Sea urchin (Anthocidaris crassispina)

Kinki 黄血魚   Thornyhead (Sebastolobus macrochir)

Kinmedai 金目鯛   Splendid alfonsino (Beryx splendens)

Kisu キス Sillago (Sillago japonica)

Kochi 鯒 Flathead (Platycephalus indicus)  

Ma-aji  真鯵   Horse mackerel (Trachurus japonicas)

Ma-anago 真穴子 Conger eel (Conger myriaster) is a salt-water eel

Madako真蛸   Octopus   (Octopus vulgaris)

Maiwashi 真鰯 Sardine (Sardinops melanostictus)

Makokarei   真子鰈  Marbled flounder (Pleuronectes yokohamae)

Mebachi maguro  目鉢   Bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus)

Mebaru 目張   rockfish (Sebastes inermis)

Minami maguro 南鮪 Southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii)

Mirugai  海松食   geoduck  (Tresus keenae) 

Mongouika紋甲烏賊   Kisslip cuttlefish (Sepia lycidas)

Okoze 虎魚   Scorpion fish (Inimicus japonicus)

Saruebi 猿海老  Southern rough shrimp  (Trachysalambria curvirostris)

Sazae   栄螺   Turban shell (Turbo cornutus)

Shako   蝦蛄   Mantis shrimp (Oratosquilla oratoria)

Shiiraシイラ Mahi-mahi (Coryphaena hippurus)

Shiroika 白烏賊 Swordtip squid (Photololigo edulis)

Shitabirame舌平目 Red tongue sole (Cynoglossus joyneri)

Surume ikaスルメイカ  Japanese flying squid (Todarodes pacificus)

Suzuki 鱸 Japanese seabass (Lateolabrax japonicus)

Tachiuo   太刀魚   Belt fish or Largehead hairtail (Trichiurus lepturus)

Tokisake   時鮭   Young chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta)

Torigai   鳥貝   Cockle (Fulvia mutica)

Tsubugai   螺貝   Whelk (Buccinum undatum)


June Seasonal Japanese Seafood 6月旬の魚

June Seasonal Seafood

The arrival of ayu is a sign that summer has arrived. Simply salted and grilled is the most popular way of serving this tender-fleshed fish. Kawahagi is a funny looking fish. The skin is so thick, hence the name kawahagi, or leather jacket. We love this fish as sashimi. If we’re lucky, the fresh fish will have its liver, which we mix with ponzu and serve with the sashimi.

Katsuo simply seared on the edges, sliced thickly, and served with some soy sauce and garlic. Katsuo tataki is particularly nice if you can garnish it with fresh myoga. Karei is lovely when deep-fried whole, a dish called karei no kara-age.

As for octopus, which is one of my favorite seafood if cooked properly, there are so many recipes. Shinji and I visited an octopus-processing factory and the staff there suggested putting boiled octopus on top of Japanese curry. It’s so easy as boiled octopus is often sold in Japanese supermarkets. And, it’s yummy.

Suzuki is a nice fish to sauté meuniere style. Tobiuo we love as sashimi. As for saba, there are so many different preparations, including simmered in miso, salted and grilled, deep-fried, or sautéed.

If you are in Tokyo, be sure to visit Tamai in Nihonbashi, near Takashimaya, for anago which is in season now.

And, while wakame is not a seafood, this sea vegetable is in season now. If you have the opportunity to have some you are in for a treat to enjoy its texture and flavor this time of year.

If you click on the Japanese name of the seafood you should be directed to a link with a photo.

Ainame 鮎並 fat greenling (Hexagrammos otakii)

Aji 鰺 Japanese horse mackerel (Trachurus japonicus)

Aka isaki 赤伊佐幾 Schlegel’s red bass (Caprodon schlegelii)

Akashita birame 赤舌鮃  red-tongued sole (Cynoglossus joyneri)

Anago  穴子 conger eels (Conger myriaster)

Aodai 青鯛 Blue fusiller  (Paracaesio caeruleus (Katayama))

Aori ika 障泥烏賊 big fin reef squid (Sepioteuthis lessoniana)

Awabi 鮑  abalone (Haliotis (Nordotis) discus discus)

Ayu 鮎 sweetfish (Plecoglossus altivelis altivelis)

Bai 貝 Japanese ivory shell  (Balylonia japonica)

Benisake べにさけ 紅鮭 sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka)

Buri 鰤 Japanese amberjack (Seriola quinqueradiata)

Hamo   pike eel or pike conger (Muraenesox cinereus)

Hanafuedai – 花笛鯛   (Pristipomoidae argrogrammicus)

Horagai or boushuubora  房州法螺  Japanese triton (Charonia lampas sauliae)

Hoya 海鞘 sea squirt (Halocynthia roretzi)

Isaki 伊佐幾 chicken grunt  (Parapristipoma trilineatum)

Ishimochi – イシモチ  honnibe croaker (Nibea mitsukurii)

Iwana –    (Salvelinus leucomaenis pluvius)

Iwashi 鰯  spotline sardine (Sardinops melanostictus)

Jindou ika 神頭烏賊 Japanese dwarf squid (Loliolus (Nipponololig) japonica)

Kamasu 叺 barracuda (Sphyraena japonica)

Kanpachi  間八 amberjack or yellowtail (Seriola dumerili)

Karei  鰈 littlemouth flounder (Pleuronectes yokohamae)

Katsuo 鰹 skipjack tuna or oceanic bonito (Katsuwonus pelamis)

Kawahagi 皮剥 thread-sail filefish (Stephanolepis cirrhifer)

Kensaki ika 剣先烏賊 swordtip squid (Loligo edulis)

Kibinago 黍魚子 banded blue sprat (Spratelloides gracilis)

Kihada maguro 黄肌鮪 yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares)

Kijihata or akahata 雉子羽太  redspotted grouper (Epinephelus akaara)

Kisu or shirogisu 鱚 Japanese whiting (Sillago japonica)

Kochi 鯒 bartail flathead (Platycephalus)

Konoshiro or shinko 鰶 dotted gizzard shad (Konosirus punctatus)

Kuro maguro 黒鮪 bluefin tuna (Thunus thynnus)

Kurumaebi 車海老 Japanese tiger prawn (Penaeus (Melicertus) japonicus)

Madai or tai 真鯛 seabream (Pagurus major)

Makogarei 真子鰈 marbled sole (Pleuronectes yokohamae)

Oni okoze  鬼虎魚 spiny devilfish (Inimicus japonicus)

Ooasari 蜊蝦夷忘 Japanese littleneck clam (Callista berevisiphonata)

Saba 鯖 Pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus)

Sazae 栄螺 horned turban shell (Turbo cornutus)

Shijimi – 大和蜆 corbicula clams or water clams (Corbicula japonica)

Shima aji or striped jack or white trevally 島鯵 (Pseudocaranx dentex)

Shira ebi 白海老 glass shrimp (Pasiphaea japonica)

Suzuki 鱸  Japanese sea perch (Lateolabrax japonicus)

Tako 蛸  common octopus (Octopus vulgaris)

Tobiuo 飛魚 Japanese flying fish (Cypselurus agoo agoo)

Torigai 鳥貝 heart clam (Fulvia mutica)

Uchimurasaki ウチムラサキ  butter clam (Saxidomus purpurata)

Uni –  sea urchin


Yamameヤマメ cherry salmon (Oncorhynchus masou maso)

January Japanese Seasonal Seafood 一月旬の魚




January Japanese Seasonal Seafood

The seafood in winter is rich with fat as the fish protects itself from the cold waters. Some sashimi eaten this time of year will be a bit oily as a result. As always, we love to have most seafood as sashimi when possible, in particular tairagai and yari ika. Shinji in particular has a soft spot for kanburi or winter buri from Himi port in Toyama. He loves it as sashimi but it is also good as teriyaki or in the classic dish buri daikon – simmered with daikon in a slightly sweet soy broth. Kinmedai is also lovely when simmered in a soy broth as nitsuke.

Aozakana, literally blue fish, are the fishy fish in the mackerel family like saba and sawara. Sawara can be marinated in a sweet Saikyo miso and grilled, the miso helps to cover some of the intense fish flavor. Saba is nice simmered in miso in a traditional dish preparation called misoni. Shime saba is the term for saba that has been marinated in a sweet rice vinegar, essentially pickling it. Finally, each January we usually have ankou nabe, a hot pot of monkfish. We save the liver to prepare it as ankimo, often called “foie gras of the sea”. It is simple to prepare, see the recipe here.

If you click on the name of the seafood in Japanese you should be directed to a photo of it.

Akagarei – 赤鰈 flathead flounder (Hippoglossoides dubius)

Amadai – 赤甘鯛 tilefish (Branchiostegus japonicus)

Ankou – 鮟鱇 monkfish (Lophiomus setigerus)

Asari – 浅利 littleneck clams (Ruditapes philippinarum)

Benizuwaigani楚蟹  red snow crab   (Chionoecetes japonicus)

Buri – 鰤 Japanese amberjack (Seriola quinqueradiata)

Chidai–   血鯛  crimson sea bream (Evynnis japonica)

Hamaguri – 浜栗  common Orient clam  (Meretrix lusoria)

Hira suzuki – 平鱸   blackfin Japanese seabass (Lateolabrax latus)

Honmaguro – 本鮪 bluefin tuna (Thunus thynnus)

Hoshigarei –  星鰈  spotted halibut (Verasper variegatus)

Kaki – 牡蠣 oyster (Crassostrea gigas)

Kanburi – 寒鰤 winter Japanese amberjack (see buri) (Seriola quinqueradiata)

* The port of Himi in Toyama is famous for its kanburi.

Kinmedai– 金目 (sometimes called kinme) splendid alfonsino (Beryx splendens)

Matsuba gani – 松葉蟹 spiny crab (Hypothalassia armata)

Matsukawa –  松皮鰈  barfin flounder (Verasper moseri)

Nishin – 鰊  Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii)

Oma honmaguro – 大間鮪 bluefin tuna from Oma in Aomori (see honmaguro)

Saba – 鯖  Pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus)

Sawara – 鰆  Japanese Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus niphonius)

Shijimi – 大和蜆 corbicula clams (Corbicula japonica)

Soudagatsuo– 騒多鰹  frigate mackerel  (Auxis thazard)

Surumeika –   鯣烏賊  Japanese flying squid (Todarodes pacificus)

Tairagai –  平貝  pen shell or fan shell (Atrina (Servatrina) pectinata)

Yanagi dako – 柳蛸 chestnut octopus (Octopus conispadiceus)

Yari ika – 槍烏賊 spear squid (Loligo (Heterololigo) bleekeri)