Food Sake Tokyo Radar

To keep our readers up-to-date with the Tokyo food scene, I will post from time to time some news about what’s happening in the metropolis. Keeping a finger on the pulse of cuisine here is hard, so I hope this helps you to know what you should have on your food radar.

Takashi Saito will be opening Taka by Sushi Saito in the St. Regis in Kuala Lumpur this spring. I hear the counter will be twice as big as the Tokyo main shop, so maybe it will be easier to get into? Sushi Saito in Roppongi is one of the hardest reservations to come by, harder than Sukiyabashi Jiro.

Kyoto Katsugyu, famous for its gyukatsu, has opened its first shop in Tokyo. Japanese wagyu or US sirloin is breaded and deep-fried. 1F Chiyoda 21 Bldg., Kanda Mitoshirocho 9-7, Chiyoda-ku. http://kyoto-katsugyu.com/

The Kyoto Distillery will start producing artisanal gin using Japanese botanicals in early 2016. http://kyotodistillery.jp/wp/

Mos Burger has opened an upscale burger shop MOS Classic, with an expanded menu, cocktails, and wine. 1-8-11 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku. http://www.mosclassic.jp/

Milanese pizza is now available in Tokyo at Spontini’s. The thick crust is a big change from the Neopolitan style which is more prevalent. Spontini’s has been in Milano since 1953. Two branches in Tokyo, Harajuku (1-10-37 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku) and Shibuya (1-21-3 Jinnan, Shibuya-ku), serve the pizza by-the-slice. http://www.pizzeriaspontini.jp/english.html

Fans of Omotesando Koffee were sad to see the shop close at the end of last year. Sarutahiko Coffee has opened a branch in the H.I.S. Book and Coffee shop at 1F, Barbizon 7, 4-3-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. http://www.omotesando-info.com/shop/gourmet/shop/sarutahikocoffee-omotesando.html

Sage and Fennel in Hiroo with its colorful salads and soups is mostly, but not exclusively, about seasonal vegetables. 5-19-6 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku. http://www.saf.tokyo/

Verve Coffee Roasters from Santa Cruz, California, will be opening in Shinjuku station this April. Some great information on Sprudge.com here:

http://sprudge.com/verve-coffee-are-expanding-to-japan-93357.html

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Shinbashi Tsurumaru Udon 新橋つるまる饂飩

IMG_0248

Tsurumaru is a chain of udon restaurants that I love when I need to grab a quick bite. I find myself often going to the Shinbashi branch as they are open early in the morning, from 7 a.m. It’s a great spot for a quick meal anytime of the day.

The flour for the udon noodles is from Japan. Pre-cooked noodles are boiled after each order is placed and have a nice texture and flavor. The dashi used for the broth includes katsuo (skipjack tuna), saba (Pacific mackerel), and niboshi (dried sardines). It is a delicate broth that is rich in umami.

The basic bowl of noodles is only 200 JPY. There are many types of tempura to use as toppings. I love this vegetable kakiage which is a melange of vegetables fried up in a cake. With my chopsticks I break it up and take a bit with the noodles.

As a standing restaurant there are no chairs. It takes a little while getting used to standing and slurping. Once the bowl cools down you can pick it up and slurp some of the broth. It’s a fun and very local experience.

Tsurumaru つるまる饂飩

Minato-ku, Shinbashi 1-8-6 港区新橋1-8-6

http://www.tsuru-maru.jp/

Other branches include:

港区虎ノ門2-4-1    Minato-ku, Toranomon 2-4-1

渋谷区恵比寿南1-1-12  Shibuya-ku, Ebisu-Minami 1-1-12

渋谷区代々木2-11-12  Shibuya-ku, Yoyogi 2-11-12 (near Shinjuku station)

Shinjuku Restaurant with Kids – Mimiu

Shinjuku Mimiu

Shinjuku Mimiu

Dining out with kids can be challenging in Tokyo. One tip is to look for restaurants that have koshitsu, private rooms. You can then close the doors and the kids can play in the private room without disturbing the other diners. Adults can enjoy some conversation without worrying about the kids. Koshitsu are also nice when getting together with family or friends and you’d like some privacy.

Mimiu near Shinjuku station has several private rooms exactly for this occasion. It is a popular restaurant with families, so best to book a private room in advance. Be sure to inquire about seating. Some koshitsu have tables and chairs while others are tatami mat rooms with low tables. Ideally there will be a hole under the table with a sunken floor, called horigotatsu. These can be surprisingly comfortable.

Some other tips when using a tatami room. You’ll be asked to take your shoes off. If you need to use the rest room while dining use the sandals that are set near the room. Most koshitsu will have a bell to ring when you need something.

Mimiu has a few set lunches to choose from, starting at about 2,200 JPY. Above is one of the lunch sets. The food was not spectacular, but was passable. I was surprised that they did not have options for the kids. The set menu was definitely too much food to order another lunch for the kids, so we shared.

This location is conveniently located a minute or two from Shinjuku station. Mimiu has a few other locations in the city. When we reserved the room we were told that there was a two-hour limit.

Mimiu 美々卯

Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-37-12, Shinjuku Nowa Bldg. 6F 新宿区新宿3-37-12新宿Nowaビル6F

http://www.mimiu.co.jp/

All-You-Can Drink Warayakiya わらやき屋

Searing katsuo over straw

Searing katsuo over straw

Tokyo is filled with many nomihōdai, all-you-can drink spots. Restaurants offer different set menus with a selection of beverages and a time limit. These are fun gathering spots when getting together with friends. Recently we had a reunion and the nomihōdai restaurants are fun. The staff at the restaurant bring out the different courses while refilling your drink order. These spots tend to be very boisterous. Some have private rooms if you prefer that.

Warayakiya, near Shinjuku station, specializes in seared katsuo, skipjack tuna, seared over straw. Wara means straw and yaki means to grill. Warayaki-ya is a store that grills food over straw. The firing of the katsuo is done behind a glass window. The firing is very dramatic and the smell of burning straw wafts throughout the restaurant.

Katsuo tataki - seared katsuo

Katsuo tataki – seared katsuo

The katsuo is cut extra thick and served with salt instead of the usual soy sauce. Wasabi, ginger, garlic, daikon sprouts, or thinly sliced onions are garnishes that spice up the dish.

We did a seven course dinner with beverages for two hours. The usual price is 5,000 JPY but there was a promotion so that the meal was 4,000 JPY.  Beverages included beer, shochu, sake, and cocktails. Some of the other dishes included grilled shrimp and tempura sweet potatoes.

Warayakiya has branches in Roppongi, Akasaka, Ginza, and Shinagawa to name a few locations. For the money it was better than many nomihōdai spots. We enjoyed it and I would go back again. It’s a popular restaurant, so be sure to call ahead for reservations.

Warayakiya Shinjuku Sanchome

Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-15-11, Ad Hoc Shinjuku Bldg. 8F

www.diamond-dining.com/shops/warayakiya/

Shinjuku Station Berg

Shinjuku Station Berg

Berg Morning Plate

I love that Tokyo is so big and filled with so many restaurants that new gems keep presenting themselves. On a recent television program Berg in Shinjuku Station came up as a great B Gourmet restaurant, cheap and delicious. It is open from 7 a.m. and stays open until late at night. It is located just outside of the Shinjuku JR Station’s Higashi-Guchi. Take a left and walk about 15 seconds and it is on your left.

This morning at 7:05 a.m. the shop already had about five tables of customers and there was a line at the counter. I placed an order for the Morning Plate which comes with coffee and was just under 500 JPY. Can’t beat this.

The shop also has many hot dogs and beer on tap. There is a menu of side dishes that includes a cheese plate and other beer-friendly plates. I was so happy to see a poster for Baird Beer’s Rising Sun Pale Ale as the featured Japanese craft beer. Was tickled when a guy who had just finished his breakfast go back to order the Baird beer. If I weren’t off to Tsukiji Market for a tour I would have joined him.

Shinjuku Station Berg

Shinjuku Station Berg

Behind the counter were seven staff, all donning denim aprons with BERG stitched onto it and wearing colorful bandannas on their heads. For the life of me I can’t figure what seven people would be doing there. They were all busy and seemed to have some task.

A dozen kegs of beer were set off to one corner. A sign that this shop goes through a lot of beer. I will be back, later in the day next time. I hope the Baird Beer will still be the featured beer. I have walked by this shop for years and never bothered stopping by. Glad it’s finally on my radar.

Berg

Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-38-1, Lumine EST B1

Simple map:

http://www.berg.jp/map/map.html

 

Roppongi Tsurutontan Udon

Tsurutontan tomato udon

Tomato udon with tomato sorbet at Tsurutontan

In summer at home we often make chilled somen noodles, sometimes topped with tomatoes. It’s a breeze to whip together, especially if you have tsuyu, the soy-based sauce noodles. Udon specialty restaurant Tsurutonten in Roppongi has a chilled tomato udon that is served with tomato sorbet. This is a great dish on a hot summer day, rich in umami. It is presented in a massive red bowl. Had the bowl been smaller I would have picked it up to slurp up what little broth was left in the bowl. Diners have the option of thin or regular udon noodles. In the photo above are the thin noodles. The seasonal menu is big and the next one on my list to try is the grilled corn udon. Our server said the summer menu will run through September 20th.

Tsurutonten also has branches in Shinjuku (Kabukicho 2-26-3), Marunouchi (Marunouchi 2-7-3, Tokia Bldg. B1), and at Haneda Airport.

 

Tsurutonten つるとんたん

Minato-ku, Roppongi 3-14-12

Gotta Get – Deep-fried Chicken Skin

Deep-fried chicken skin

Deep-fried chicken skin

God bless the person who thought about deep-frying chicken skin. These crunchy bits are seasoned with aonori, sea vegetable flakes, and salt. It is sold at one of my favorite depachika in Tokyo, at Shinjuku Takashimaya. The yakitori stall, Toriyoshi, is filled with skewered chicken parts that are grilled and seasoned with salt or a sweet soy-based sauce. There is also boneless fried chicken nuggets and chicken wings. But it is the cup of deep-fried chicken skin that I am addicted to.

Note that it is not always in stock. Don’t go right away when the shop opens at 10 a.m. I think it is put out around 11:00 a.m. or even later. But, don’t go too late in the day as it often sells out. A big cup of chicken skin sells for about 350 JPY. The perfect snack for an ice cold beer, saké, or shochu on the rocks, if it lasts until you get home. I often dip into the cup on the train ride home and it often disappears in no time.

Toriyoshi at Shinjuku Takashimaya

Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-24-2, B1

Closest station is JR Shinjuku Shin-Minamiguchi (New South Exit)

 

Tenfufan’s Bottomless Bowl of Dumplings 天府舫

Suigyoza at Tenfufan

Suigyoza at Tenfufan

The heat and humidity is starting to become unbearable in Tokyo. One way to survive is to eat hot and spicy food as it induces sweat which helps cool you down. I was meeting a Japanese girlfriend for lunch in Shinjuku and we agreed on Shisen cuisine. Tenfufan in Nishi-Shinjuku has been on my radar for a while because it has an all-you-can-eat suigyōza (boiled dumplings) offer with its set lunch, a bargain as most lunches are under 1,000 JPY.

An online website (not the restaurant’s) said the restaurant opened at 11 a.m. We showed up at 11:15 a.m. and were surprised to see a sign on the outside of the shop that said lunch starts at 11:30 a.m. I pushed open the door and the kind owner said that they do not open until 11:30 a.m. but as it was so hot outside that we could be seated early. A pot of iced tea and two cups were set on the table and we started to peruse the menu.

The owner said that all set lunches come with the boiled dumplings. He pointed to a small table set off to the side and said that once service starts the dumplings would be there. “Self-service” he added. There is something about growing up in America, at least in the Midwest, that inspires me at a buffet to dig into as much as I can. I was so surprised to see the tables of salarymen near us taking only a few dumplings and not going back for seconds. I stopped after my second visit, but I am sure that had I gone with an American we would have gone back for thirds. The dumplings are stuffed with meat, the skins seem to be made from scratch, and the spicy dipping sauce hits the spot. Don’t bother with the soy-seasoned eggs that are also on the buffet.

Shirunashi Tantanmen at Tenfufan

Shirunashi Tantanmen at Tenfufan

The shiru-nashi tan tan men is one of their signature dishes, along with the suigyōza. Shiru-nashi means without soup. Underneath the ramen noodles were some peanuts and a hot sauce that comes and catches you by surprise after the fact. It’s not too spicy and is rich in umami. The side dishes included a bland fried rice, an unmemorable egg-drop soup, and some bean sprouts with carrots. But who cares when the dumplings and ramen were exactly what we had come for, spicy, delicious, and rich in umami.

Shortly before noon the shop was filled. Mostly salarymen who must be working in the area as the shop is on a side street. When we left there was a line out the door. 80% of the diners were having either this dish or the mabo dofu. This meal came to 880 JPY, including the dumplings. I will be back.

Tenfufan 天府舫

Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 7-4-9

 

Takashimaya Patissieria Sweets Counter

Shinjuku Takashimaya

Takashimaya Patissieria

If you have a sweet tooth be sure to visit Shinjuku Takashimaya’s Patissieria in the depachika. The concept is brilliant, over a hundred signature sweets from patisseries throughout Tokyo all displayed together. Carefully peruse the sweets and upon selecting one, or two if you like, take a seat at the counter and order a coffee and enjoy.

Shinjuku Takashimaya

Takashimaya Patissieria

Even on days when I don’t have time to sit down, I do try and glance through the display case as the offerings are constantly changing. As can be expected, aside from the classics, many are influenced by the seasonal ingredients.

Takashimaya Patissieria Mont Blanc

Takashimaya Patissieria

My view from the counter with a Mont Blanc. Shinjuku Takashimaya is located just outside of Shinjuku JR Station. Take the Shin-Minami-Guchi, New South Exit, take a left and you will walk into Takashimaya in one minute. Follow the escalators down to the basement.

Takashimaya Patissieria

Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-24-2, Shinjuku Takashimaya

Chef Federico Heinzmann at the Park Hyatt Tokyo’s New York Grill & Bar

Federico Heinzmann

Octopus Tiradito – photo by Park Hyatt Tokyo

The Park Hyatt Tokyo is celebrating its 20th anniversary this summer. Earlier this year the New York Grill and Bar welcomed a new chef, Argentinian Federico Heinzmann. His last name is a nod to his Swiss and German heritage. My interview with chef Federico is in Metropolis magazine. Chef Federico’s style and philosophy is already taking shape in the menu with simple and focused flavors.

The New York Grill and Bar is one restaurant and bar that I recommend everyone visit while in Tokyo. The bar is featured in Sofia Coppola’s movie Lost in Translation. The views are stunning, service is exquisite, cocktails are memorable, and the cuisine amazing.

Chef Federico is very passionate about history and cuisine and our interview was filled with facts and tidbits. Including that tiradito is seafood cut into thin slices and that ceviche is made from diced seafood. The octopus tiradito was a brilliant start to the dinner, like a party in your mouth. The aroma of the passion fruit was refreshing, fresh, and bright. The chili and onions add crunch and a bite to the dish. All coming together with the meaty octopus. I will try to start home parties with a tiradito, especially if I can find an aromatic fruit like passionfruit.

Prior to coming to Tokyo chef Federico was in Korea where he learned a lot about seafood. While as an Argentinian, meat is in his genes, I am sure he will be exploring much more seafood in Japan.

Federico Heinzmann

Foie Gras with Cacao Dirt – photo by Park Hyatt Tokyo

The foie gras dish incorporates a Japanese orange-like citrus called dekopon. Chef Federico garnishes it with a crunchy cacao dirt that is a nice contrast to the foie gras mousse.

Federico Heinzmann

Cod and Scallops – photo by Park Hyatt Tokyo

A black olive powder is used in lieu of salt as it offers a “deeper flavor” and is a nice contrast to the smokey and creamy cauliflower puree.

Federico Heinzmann

Wagyū Steak – photo by Yukari

As an Argentinian, chef Federico is a master at cooking meat. He is enjoying exploring Japanese wagyū. Carrots are cooked in carrot juice, an intense puree that partners well with the wagyū steak. The sauce is made with a black garlic, beef stock, and olive oil. It reminds me of during the interview when he said, “if I can surprise you with a leek, cauliflower, or carrot” as that take more of an effort.

It was interesting to hear his thoughts on Japanese wagyū as it is so different from the lean meat of Argentina. He commented that “fat is taste and you need to manage the taste” and that in Argentina meat is often slow-cooked over a fire to get caramelization on the outside and to leave the inside pink.

Here you can see the tall ceilings of the New York Grill. The city lights sparkle from below as the restaurant is on the 52nd floor of the hotel. There are no tall building nearby so the views are magnificent.

The wine list at the New York Grill is mostly from California. These wines do great with chef Federico’s cuisine. The New York Grill and Bar offers some of the most spectacular views of Tokyo with cuisine and wine to match.

Some good advice from chef, “Construct your food from what you have, not what you want”.

 

 

New York Grill and Bar at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 3-7-1-2

03-5323-3458