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

 

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Le Pain de Joel Robuchon

One of my favorite bakeries in Tokyo is from the famous chef Joel Robuchon, for savory breads made with excellent ingredients. Le Pain de Joel Robuchon has recently opened near Shinjuku station in the NEWoMaN mall. Imagine one of France’s top chefs creating breads and sweets using French and Japanese ingredients? I love the l’Atelier de Joel Robuchon restaurant, but don’t often have the time to sit through a meal, so the boulangerie is a alternative to get my Robuchon fix.

On the left above is a foie gras toast topped with apple and pink peppercorns croque monsieur, the right is my favorite, a cheesy potato bread with lardons. Crispy cheese bits contrasted with potato bites and meaty bacon. How many shops do you know serving foie gras croque monsieur?

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Joel Robuchon mushrooms and walnuts

Seasonal breads like this bread with maitake, shimeji, and eringi mushrooms with walnuts change throughout the year. All of the above breads are best reheated in a toaster oven. The green olive fougasse never made it home, it was too hard to resist, and I highly recommend it.

The Roppongi Hills shop has no seating area, but the Shinjuku shop does have a small café seating area by the bakery. There is also a retail shop in the Shibuya Hikarie B2 depachika.

Le Pain de Joel Robuchon

Roppongi Hills, Shinjuku NEWoMaN, Shibuya Hikarie

http://www.robuchon.jp/en

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

Soba-ya Amongst the Love Hotels

fukudaya

Shibuya Fukudaya

Fukudaya is a traditional soba-ya on a narrow pedestrian street in the love hotel area on the Shibuya backstreets. The clientele is smart, ranging from fashionable youth to elderly warmly welcomed as regulars. The soba is light and the serving size is generous. Just minutes from the station on the 2nd floor above a 7-11. The older waitstaff and the traditional interior has the feeling of being in shitamachi, the older part of Tokyo.

Fukudaya 福田や

Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 2-25-15 渋谷区道玄坂2-25-15

Photo: Tempura seiro soba – I had vegetables substituted for the shrimp. 1,300 JPY.

Omusubi Gonbei

omusubi-gonbei

Omusubi Gonbei

Rice balls, onigiri or omusubi, may be Japan’s greatest comfort food. I wrote about onigiri for a column on Japanese breakfast in Tokyo for The Japan Times. Omusubi Gonbei is a short walk from Shibuya station.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2016/09/02/food/onigiri-japans-perfect-morning-meal/#.WBqdxeF96Cc

Omusubi Gonbei おむすび権米衛

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 1-7-3 渋谷区渋谷1-7-3

03-3498-2556

opens 8 a.m., weekdays, 9 a.m. weekends and holidays

www.omusubi-gonbei.com/shoplist/tokyo/shibuya/aoyama.html

Midori Sushi

Midori Sushi is a sushiya chain, popular both with locals and tourists, that is known for its basement bargain prices. When we query our preschool son to pick what to have for meals out, it is often sushi. Our go-to place is Choshi Maru which is in our area. Choshi is a famous fishing port in Chiba and the restaurant gets a lot of its seafood directly from the port. But this evening we decided to break from routine and check out Midori Sushi.

We arrived before 5:00 p.m. and there was already a line of mostly elderly diners. Yes, it was the retirement crowd. Every time I have passed a Midori Sushi, there is always a line. We waited for about 15 minutes before being seated. One look at the menu and it is apparent why everyone loves coming here, it is very cheap. The question is how is the quality?

The chirashi zushi bowl on the left above was only 1,000 JPY ($10 USD). It was made of tuna, katsuo, kanpachi, two types of squid, shrimp, ikura, tamago, anago, and pickles of takuan and gobo. The sushi set on the right was 1,600 JPY ($16 USD) and included ikura, uni, herring roe, and much more. The neta pieces were very big, so it is a full meal. Is this silly? The two of us could have dinner for about $25 and leave full and satisfied. Lunch is even cheaper.

The rice is Yamagata haenuki and is nice for sushi. This rice is touted for its nice texture, inherent sweetness, and the fact that even if it is cold it still delicious. This is a key point when it comes to take-away sushi. The branch we went to had a small refrigerator in the front of the shop for sushi-to-go. The prices there were even cheaper than dining in, and at the time we were leaving, many of the sushi packs were discounted by about 30%.

So, the quality of the seafood? It was good. The tuna was very nice and the anago seems to be cooked in house was also very good. For the price, it is a great value.

If you are traveling in Tokyo and are on a budget, then put this on your radar. If you do not have a budget, then go elsewhere. This chain is kid-friendly if you are traveling with your family. On this Friday evening the suburban restaurant was filled mostly with retirees when we were seated. As we left, it was filling up with families. Service is friendly and there were a lot of seasonal seafood options as well as many small plates built around seafood starting at about 600 JPY.

The beverage list includes beer, sake, and shochu. We’ll be back. This may become our new go-to sushiya for meals with our son. As long as we avoid the peak dining hours when the wait could be long.

Midori Sushi’s main shop is in Umegaoka in Setagaya-ku is their biggest store. Branches can be found in Ginza, Shibuya, Akasaka, and a standing sushiya in Ikebukuro. Addresses are below in English.

http://www.sushinomidori.co.jp/tenpo_e.html

 

 

Shibuya Joto Curry

Shibuya Joto Curry

Jōtō Katsu Curry

Katsu curry is a great fusion dish of two Japanese classics, tonkatsu and curry. Near Shibuya station is Jōtō Curry, originally from Osaka.

When you come into the 2nd floor shop, you’ll find the vending machine for tickets just to your right. There are photos for the main dishes. The signature katsu curry button is on the top left. There is a long counter overlooking the kitchen with seating for about 15 and a small table to the back. What caught me off guard was the country music on the soundtrack, I think it was 70’s Johnny Cash. After a while though, it just felt right. I wanted to sing along to Hey, hey, good-lookin’, whatcha got cookin’, but resisted the urge.

On the counter there are two small pots. The light brown pot had bright red salty pickles and the dark brown pot was packed with pickled sweet cabbage. There is also a dispenser for powdered chili powder, which you’ll need if you like your curry hot as this is mild curry.

The country music is only interrupted by the sound of the pork cutlets being fried and the chef cutting the tonkatsu into smaller slices.

The chopped pork cutlet is presented on a bed of rice that is covered with curry. Add your pickles and dig in. On a recent afternoon I was the only girl in the shop. It was filled with salarymen and students on their lunch break.

Toppings could be added, like a raw egg or grated cheese. Options include ebi furai (deep-fried shrimp), eggplant, or pickled rakkyo (shallots). Most of the diners were ordering the katsu curry.

Jōtō Curry 上等カレー

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 3-18-7 2F 渋谷区渋谷3-18-7 2F

http://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1303/A130301/13160341/

Shibuya Hayashi Ramen はやし

On the back streets of Shibuya, a short walk from Mark City and the Inokashira line is Hayashi ramen. There are only 10 seats at a counter overlooking the open kitchen. The ramen at Hayashi is a rich blend of pork and seafood. Meaty and smoky aromas from the bowl are accented with a fresh green punch from the julienned leeks. The thick straight noodles stand up to the rich broth. The toppings of the egg and pork round out this umami-rich bowl. For all that is going on in the bowl, it is well-balanced. No wonder the long lines.

I walk by the shop every few weeks and there is usually a long line. I was lucky to have come recently when the line was shorter than usual and jumped at the chance to try the bowl I have heard much about, and am glad that I did.

Purchase your ticket at the vending machine up front. There are only three options:

ramen 800 JPY; aji tama (with seasoned egg) 900 JPY; yaki buta (1,100 JPY)

The photo above is the yaki buta, which includes the cha shu pork and the seasoned egg.

Hayashi is only open for lunch, starting at 11:30 a.m. It closes at 3:30 p.m., or when the soup runs out. I imagine it usually closes before 3:30 p.m. It is closed Sunday and holidays.

Hayashi はやし

Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 1-14-9 渋谷区道玄坂1-14-9

Shibuya Kotaro 高太郎

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** Note, reservations required. Kotaro is very popular and not many spots open up each month as regulars make their next reservations on their way out.

Kotaro is named after the owner and chef who prepares all of the food in an open kitchen behind a large wooden counter. I was introduced to Kotaro by a food writer who introduces me to the best spots around the city.

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Selection of saké cups on the counter. Each saké is served with a different cup. It’s always interesting to try saké from different cups, and curious to see which ones the staff picks for each person as they are not always the same.

Kotaro menu

Kotaro menu – photo by my sommelier friend, Carrie. Arigato! Kotaro writes the menu by hand. Love this personal touch.

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The concept behind the saké list is very simple. Kotaro has selected eight breweries that he is fond of and only serves from these eight. When I first heard this I thought it was limiting. However, the brilliance behind this is that as he has strong connections with these breweries he is able to get limited release saké for his restaurant. Many of what we had this evening will be hard to find elsewhere in Tokyo. He also likes the styles of these breweries and his cuisine works well with these.

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The first course at Koutaro is always a bean dish. Again, very simple concept, but when executed correctly is very rewarding. I also loves the tableware he uses, like this intricate blue and white dish. There is katsuobushi (dried and shaved skipjack tuna) garnishing the beans, greens, and mushrooms.

Most Japanese will start the night off with a beer and then move onto saké. At izakaya with a good saké list, I like to start off with a sparkling saké, which Kotaro usually has on hand.

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Otsukuri, or sashimi course.

The izakaya has a long counter facing the open kitchen, or if you come with friends you can get a table. The staff speak English and can explain the dishes. The menu is only in Japanese, so I recommend telling the staff, “omakase” (oh-mah-kah-say) and letting Kotaro serve you some of their signature dishes. Tell them if there is anything you like, and more importantly, you don’t like.

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Basashi (horse meat sashimi) 馬刺し from Canada of all places. Kumamoto prefecture in Kyushu (southern Japan) is famous for basashi and I have become a big fan of it. It’s very meaty and like eating steak tartare.

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Oyster on the half shell. 生牡蠣

The restaurant is popular so you have to book well in advance. You could call from overseas to place your reservation, about a month in advance. I believe the phone lines open up at 1:30 p.m. The staff can take your reservation in English.

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Japanese-style potato salad is a common dish found at casual izakaya so I was surprised to find it here at Koutaro. That being said, potato salad is a comfort food that almost everyone loves. And, this one was topped with a smoked, hard-boiled egg. Something I can’t make at home. The dressing is a classic vinaigrette.

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Menchi katsu is one of Kotaro’s signature dishes. Ground meat that is breaded and deep-fried. Surprisingly very good with a hearty saké.

Another tip, ask them to give you different temperatures of saké. It’s fun to try hot and cold and to see how the flavor changes as a hot saké cools down.
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The last dish is his signature udon noodles that he makes each evening from scratch after the store closes. Kotaro is from Kagawa, on the island of Shikoku. This is the heart of udon country. In Tokyo, most meals end with rice, so the handmade udon noodles is a great spin.

He serves a Japanese-style carbonara with a raw egg, butter, and soy sauce. He also does a cold udon noodle simply garnished with grated daikon and soy sauce.

It’s usually a young, hip crowd here. It’s always busy. They do serve until late at night, so if you can’t get in early, try and book later in the evening.

Kotaro is a short walk from Shibuya station. It’s a bit hard to find, so make sure you have Google Maps, or go by taxi, to be safe. If you go, please tell him Yukari sent you. 🙂

Kotaro 高太郎

Shibuya-ku, Sakuragaokacho 28-2 渋谷区桜丘町

03-5428-5705

Closed Sunday and the first Monday of each month.

http://ameblo.jp/kotaro-info/

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/