Arms Burger in Shinjuku

Arms Burger

Avocado Burger at Arms Burger

While I was born in Tokyo I grew up in Minnesota. Even though my husband is a fishmonger and I love sashimi, I am a meat and potatoes girl. There is just something about a juicy hamburger and a side of fries or onion rings. Finding a good burger in Tokyo is getting better, but it’s not as great as one would expect. Thanks to food photos on Facebook I have been tracking down burgers around Tokyo that friends of mine approve of. Arms Burger is one restaurant that a friend recommends. He was at the main shop in Yoyogi. I visited the Arms Picnic shop in the B2 floor of Shinjuku’s Lumine Building #1. The location is convenient if you are traveling through Shinjuku station as it is a few minutes from the South exit.

The shop, in the basement (B2) of Lumine, a department store at Shinjuku station. On this lunch day the small shop, with only 16 seats, was filled with nine girls, all dining solo, and a skinny salaryman. There are bags under the tables so that diners can store their shopping without putting it directly on the floor. A nice touch that should be exported overseas.

The lunch menu has an avocado burger that comes with fries and a drink for 1,000 JPY. The burger was a bit on the skimpy side, but was good and 100% beef. That’s worth mentioning as many burgers in Japan are beef mixed with bread crumbs, egg, and other stuff that just doesn’t belong there. The serving of vegetables with the burger, it was so generous that I had to check and see if there was a hamburger hidden underneath it. It’s a messy burger to eat, which does remind me of America. The fries are great and the staff were accommodating to include some mayonnaise, a habit I picked up when I lived in Brussels.

A nice burger that is conveniently located near Shinjuku Station. I will be back.

Arms Burger

Shinjuku Lumine B2 at the Shinjuku Minami Guchi (South Exit)

Other burger shops I like in Tokyo include:

Martiniburger in Kagurazaka

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Depachika Fruit Sweets

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The muskmelons that go for hundreds of dollars exists in Japan. If you go to a fancy restaurant, like Sukiyabashi Jiro, you may get it for dessert. I should say, if you are lucky and have a nice friend who treats you to dinner at Sukiyabashi Jiro.

The muskmelon is amazing. Aromatic, juicy, and tender, and the most amazing piece of fruit that I have ever had. But, it is possible to try a few bites of the infamous melon without breaking your wallet. Check out the fruit dessert counter at any depachika. Cakes, tarts, and much more topped with pristine, blemish-free fruit cut into bite-size pieces. The muskmelon balls are above.

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More muskmelon, figs, and grapefruit.

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Marron, mango, apple pie, and more.

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Top left is the Mont Blanc made with chestnuts.

Some department stores have small eat-in counters in the depachika to have a glass of fresh juice or a slice of melon. Or, some shops, like Shinjuku Takashimaya, have a larger café on an upper floor. Takano Fruit Café in Shinjuku Takashimaya. Some famous fruit shops include Sembikiya, Takano, and Lemon.

Sembikiya Nihonbashi (Japan’s oldest fruit shop)

My favorite depachika in Tokyo.

Gotta Get – Croissant Taiyaki

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Taiyaki is a traditional Japanese sweet that is usually a pancake like dough that is stuffed with azuki bean paste and grilled in a fish (tai is the Japanese word for sea bream) shape. I am usually not a big fan unless they are hot off the grill as the dough gets very soft and it is just a mushy cake.

Today in Kichijoji (武蔵野市吉祥寺本町1-7-10; Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Honcho 1-7-10) I came across a new shop that just opened in early February called Croissant Taiyaki. Basically taiyaki but made with croissant dough and studded with sugar crystals before it is grilled. Brilliant. The croissant dough bakes and is crunchy and especially crispy on the outer bits. The azuki was the chunky-style, not the smooth paste. The taiyaki sells for 200 yen each and was the perfect mid-morning snack.

This evening in Shinjuku I came across a second shop at the famous Studio ALTA just outside of the Higashi-Guchi East Exit. It had a line and seemed to be very popular.

There are currently 13 shops in Tokyo, including one inside of Tokyo Station’s in the Keiyo Street section.

Croissant Taiyaki

Takano Fruit Shop – Melon Juice

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The hundred dollar muskmelon. Yes, it exists. Most of the cost of the melon, I have been told by a fruit store executive, is for the air-conditioning of the greenhouses in summer or for the heaters in winter. The muskmelon juice at Takano fruit café in Shinjuku Takashimaya is a nice alternative. The shop also has fruit parfaits and sandwiches of whipped cream and fresh fruit.

The café is located on the fifth floor of Shinjuku Takashimaya. The brightly lit restaurant is furnished in white and the windows overlook Shinjuku station. It is an ideal spot to meet with a friend and catch up, or to refresh after some power shopping at Takashimaya and Tokyu Hands which is next door. Takano Fruits main shop is in Shinjuku and has a bigger menu.

Some depachika will have a small counter in the fruit specialty shop. When I worked at Nihonbashi Takashimaya I was surprised to see how popular these counters can be. Not only with older clientele but also with younger couples with their children.

It’s a luxurious treat and something that can only be experienced in Japan.

Takano Fruit

Shinjuku Takashimaya, 5th floor

Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-24-2

The Delicatessen at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

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The set lunch at the Delicatessen at the Park Hyatt Tokyo is worth the short walk from Shinjuku station. I was surprised to see how reasonably priced it is. For 1,000 JPY diners can select from a large selection of sandwiches, including croque monsieur, croissants with ham, and pita overflowing with vegetables. With the sandwich comes a salad or soup of the day and dessert. For an extra 200 JPY   a beverage.

The focaccia was irresistible. This one with smoked salmon, artichokes, and pine nuts is generous with the toppings.

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Here is the 1,000 JPY set. The sandwich and focaccia sizes are generous and today’s soup was a creamy kabocha. The fig cake was the perfect small bite to end the meal.

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I adore breads, but have a soft spot particularly for focaccia. The bread was just as it should be, very light and airy, and crispy on the bottom. When I saw that this was made with gorgonzola I had to try it. The lardons and mushrooms matched the rich cheese, and again, was generous with the toppings. The salads today included a Cobb salad and the New York Grill’s famous Caesar salad. The salads are 750 JPY and are a nice size.

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There are seats inside the Delicatessen, as well as some outdoor seating. When I came in there were several diners outside.

UPDATED 3 December 2014:

Park Hyatt Deli

Park Hyatt Deli

I was meeting a friend for lunch at Shinjuku and we walked to the Park Hyatt Tokyo, between 10 to 15 minutes depending on your pace. The quiche is a generous size and is filled with cheese, bacon, and potatoes. The side salad is garnished with chicken and colorful vegetables. The quiche is heated up in the kitchen and then brought to the table. All of this, plus a petite dessert, which hits the spot, something sweet, but not too big, for only 1,050 JPY.

The Delicatessen is a great spot for a casual, great value lunch.

Park Hyatt Tokyo Delicatessen

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

03-5323-3635

Park Brewery at Park Hyatt Tokyo

 

 

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Now that the rainy season has ended summer is officially here. Temperatures are soaring and while many are cooling down at beer gardens on department store rooftops, a great all-you-can-drink craft beer offer is at the Deli in the Park Hyatt Tokyo. The Deli has been doing this summer only special for five summers. Last year the food served with the craft beer was Mexican, this year it’s German.

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The hotel has soft pretzels made specially for this promotion. The pretzel is delicious and is a big size, perfect for nibbling on.

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The food that is served is a generous serving of German meats of Weiswurst white sausage, Bierwurst, Paprika Lyoner, and a pork belly Rouladen. There is a sweet mustard as well as a great sauce called obazda. I spoke with the Executive Sous Chef, Yoneda-san, who said that the traditional Bavarian sauce is made with Camembert cheese. It’s something I will try to make at home.

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Saito-san, in this photo, and I used to work at the New York Grill and Bar together. If you go, tell him Yukari sent you. He’ll look after you.

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There are two beers on the menu, both made by Sankt Gallen Brewery in Kanagawa. The aromatic and refreshing Park Brewery Ale is served each summer. The second beer changes each summer. The second beer this summer is a Citrus Amber Ale is made with an orange-like citron called shiranui. It’s slightly sweet at first but has a light bitter finish. A nice contrast to the house Park Brewery Ale.

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Here is the menu. The food comes out right away and is not replenished. It’s a generous serving of food, but if you do get hungry, you could always order something from the Deli’s menu which includes sandwiches, salads, and other small bites.

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The indoor seating fills up quickly with this event. There is also a standing area indoors.

DSCN6518Alternatively, grab a table outside in true Japanese beer garden style.

Having been to many different all-you-can-drink beer promotions in Tokyo, I can say that this is one of the best. Excellent quality beer and a smart menu that pairs perfectly with the beer. It’s worth a journey to Shinjuku for this event.

The Deli at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

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

6 to 8 p.m. last order at 7 p.m.

Through September 16th.

*Note, it’s usually a nice walk to the hotel from Shinjuku station. However, with the heat, I suggest taking the free hotel shuttle from Shinjuku Station’s Nishi Guchi. Check the shuttle schedule here.

CLOSED – Shinjuku Gontran Cherrier

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Sadly, this Shinjuku branch of Gontran Cherrier has closed.

We are so spoiled in Tokyo with amazing bakeries transplanted from France. While living in Singapore one of the popular bakeries was Gontran Cherrier’s Tiong Bahru Bakery. Local Singaporeans as well as Japanese expat wives filled the seats of the shop in the afternoon. One afternoon Cherrier was in town and it was great fun listening to everyone swoon about how sexy he is with his long hair. Regardless of his appearance, I do find his breads very appealing. The signature croissant here is very rustic and it is tempting to pull it apart layer by layer.

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One of my new favorites is this tarte flambée. A speciality of the Alsace region of France across the river from Germany. I traveled a few times to Alsace while living in Brussels and tarte flambée was one of my favorite culinary discoveries that year, along with Belgian french fries served with mayonnaise. Cherrier’s tarte flambée is on a puff pastry crust so it’s crispy and delicate. There is a tart white sauce generously covered with lardons and caramelized onions. These were yakitate, hot out of the oven. I only regret not buying the whole tray. Tarte flambée is a dish I’ve tried a few times making at home, but it’s never as satisfying as this. Next time I buy this I will be sure to drink an Alsatian riesling along with it.

 

 

GC3Cherrier’s creativity is reflected in his use of local ingredients. In Singapore some of his breads are served with curry. Here he does a mattcha croissant.  *** Note, that mattcha croissant is no longer being made. Hopefully, it will come back. 🙂

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Cherrier’s newest shop in Shinjuku has just opened and it’s already very popular. The shop used to be the Hiroshima antenna shop, which moved to Ginza.

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The second floor of the shop is a brightly lit space with plenty of seating. It overlooks Shinjuku’s south exit and the Southern Terrace. It is popular and often hard to find a seat at peak meal times.

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This day I was in the mood for cheese and meat. Far right is the tarte flambée. Above is a croque monsieur croissant which was covered with a handful of cheese and stuffed with ham before being put back in the oven. A meal in a sandwich. The bottom left is a cheese and prunes stuffed into a chewy dough.

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In the entrance the store posts the bakery schedule for baguettes, croissants and the croissant mattcha citron.

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Here is the curry baguette with grains and the squid ink baguette with cumin. I’ve had both of these in Singapore. Everyone is always curious to try the black ink baguette, which I like slicing thin and using for open-faced sandwiches. Topped with ham or smoked salmon. I also love his red miso bread which is dense and rich with umami.

The location is just outside of the Shinjuku Shin-Minami Guchi (New South Exit). Best of all, it is open from 7:30 a.m. as a proper bakery should be. This can not be said for most bakeries in Japan. His other location is in Shibuya, also close to the station.

Gontran Cherrier

Shibuya-ku, Yoyogi 2-2-1, Southern Terrace

03-5302-2282

7:30 – 22:00

 

 

Asahi Super Dry Extra Gold Bar – Summer Only Bar

As summer is approaching Japan’s big beer companies are shaking things up with new bars and products.

Asahi Super Dry Extra Gold Bar Shinjuku opened today and will run through September 30th. It is located just outside of Shinjuku Station’s Nishi Guchi exit at Concourse MB on the 1st floor. It’s a standing bar only. One of the specialties the bar is promoting is a beer cocktail made with lemon called Black Lemon. There is also a bar in Ginza (Ginza 2-6-4) also through September 30th.

 

 

Kozue at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

Kozue at the Park Hyatt Tokyo under the helm of talented chef Kenichiro Ooe is a wonderful traditional Japanese restaurant with amazing views of Mount Fuji on a clear day. Lunch was a gorgeous affair filled with seasonal spring May seafood and vegetables.

First course – Yomogi (mugwort) tofu garnished with shirasu, umeboshi neriume, gomadare (sesame sauce), and wasabi – loved the lacquer spoon at the bottom of the photo.

First course close-up. The yomogi is an earthy green which was a nice contrast to the sesame dressing. The tart umeboshi brightened up the palate and the shirasu added a nice texture and contrast to the dish.

Second course – Ainame (greenling) with itawarabi (gelatin-like sheets made from bracken – this can only be made in the spring), and wakame soup with ki no me (tender leaves from Japanese prickly ash sansho).

One of the pleasures of Japanese cuisine is that even after years of experiencing the cuisine, I am constantly learning about new ingredients. Today’s surprise was the itawarabi. It had a delicate, jelly-like texture. I thought it was a thin sheet of konnyaku. Chef Oe explained that it was itawarabi and something that is only made in spring when warabi are harvested from the mountains.

Third course – Sashimi course of tairagai (pen shell), katsuo with pickled rakkyo over grated daikon oroshi, ika (squid), and namanori (fresh nori), and julienned daikon.

A famous chef from the US highly recommended Kozue to me. He said the cuisine was exquisite, but he was also taken with the presentation of the food and the serving vessels. I understood when this sashimi course was presented in this large ceramic filled with crushed ice. The kimono-clad waitress then plated the seafood and garnishes onto serving dishes. A feast for the eyes indeed. See for yourself the difference from the above photo to the one below.

Third course – after arranged by waitress. My favorite was the tairagai which I don’t see much outside of Japan, notably sashimi grade tairagai.

Fourth course – Again a beautiful presentation under fresh wasabi leaves.

Fourth course  uncovered – Spanish mackerel with eggs, hotaruika (firefly squid), kani  (crab) potato croquette.

Fifth course – Tai zushi under a sakura leaf

Sixth course – Takenoko (bamboo shoots) pork and cabbage (home-style rolled cabbage). This is a dish I will try to make at home. I love rolled cabbage but can’t be bothered with making the dish more than once a year. Here, chef Ooe stuffs the ground pork mixture into layers of cabbage that are then cooked. Brilliant idea. And, delicious.

Seventh course – Asari gohan with pickles and fuki (butterbur) miso soup. Asari clams cooked with the rice. A nice way to end the savory dishes with.

Eighth course – Yamabudo (mountain grapes) with ichigo strawberries and biwa (loquat) jelly and creme sauce and berry sauce. I love these large glass dishes. I have seen it used for both savory and sweet courses and it’s always a treat. This course was a nice, light finish to the many dishes.

We had tea with our meal and I feel as though we were served at least two if not three types of tea throughout the meal. Service was lovely. And even though I speak Japanese it was nice to hear the staff explain each dish in English. They could answer all my questions which was also very impressive.

While my eyes are mostly on the food, between courses looking over the room the high ceilings are impressive. The windows face West. So if the skies are clear Mount Fuji is just in front of you. On this weekday lunch the restaurant was very busy. A few tourists, several business lunches, and some ladies-who-lunch types.

One option at lunch is to take your dessert at the Peak Bar & Lounge which is a restaurant on a different floor, also with high ceilings and great views, including a wall that overlooks Mount Fuji. I will do this next time I eat at Kozue.

Chef Ooe came out and talked about the dishes, ingredients, and about Japanese food in general. He said that he is from Yamagata, which is also where my mother is from. Now that I see his photo, I think we could be long-lost relatives. We could be second or third cousins. He reminds me of some of my first cousins so you never know. 🙂

Kozue at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

click on the link above and another link will appear for the menu

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

03.5323.3460

Lunch: Daily – 11:30 am to 2:30 pm
Dinner: Daily – 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm

Tuscan Food Fair at Shinjuku Isetan

prosciutto pizza

prosciutto pizza

Toscana wine

Toscana wine

Now through Monday, October 10th, at Shinjuku Isetan on the 6th floor, is a food festival promoting the great food and wine of Tuscany. From pizza to gelato to wine, there is a wide variety of products available. Note that the event ends at 6 p.m. on Monday.