Meruhenk Sandwiches

Japanese sandwiches are my go-to meal when I am on the run, even before onigiri rice balls. Meruhen is my favorite sandwich shop and if I am not near one, then some of the convenience stores like 7-11, Lawson, or Family Mart, also has great sandwiches.

The sandwiches are built on crustless pain de mie (white bread). Savory fillings can be egg salad, tonkatsu, ham and cheese, kabocha with mayonnaise, and more. The sweet sandwiches are fresh fruit with whipped cream, which I have a hard time swallowing. My favorite is the simple julienned carrots with a bit of mayonnaise, but you have to go early. It’s popular and is often sold out by the time I get there. The sandwiches are in the 300 JPY range.

Meruhenk branches in popular areas (there are many more):

Tokyo Station eCute 1st floor (inside the station) – with limited seating in the area.

Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi

Shinjuku Takashimaya, Shinjuku Odakyu

Ginza Matsuya

Daimaru Tokyo Station

and many more!

http://www.meruhenk.co.jp/shop/index.html

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Where to Buy Kit Kats in Tokyo

The best place to buy regional Kit Kats in Tokyo is at the Shokoku Gotochi Plaza. The shop is in the basement mall of Tokyo Station near the Tokyo Ramen Street, across the hallway from Rokurinsha ramen shop.

Kit Kat in Japan makes regional flavors that are usually only sold in that region. The Shokoku Gotochi Plaza features regional food items from throughout Japan, which is why the shop also sells these regional Kit Kats.

https://d.nestle.jp/kitkat/omiyage/

Some examples are wasabi, beni imo (purple sweet potato), azuki, mattcha, hōjicha (roasted green tea), strawberry, and more.

The Tokyo Station underground mall is huge. I get lost in there from time to time and I have a good sense of direction. The underground mall is divided into different sections and the Shokoku Gotochi Plaza is part of an area called “First Avenue Tokyo Station”, in Japanese, “Tokyo Eki Ichibangai”. Here is a map in English:

http://www.tokyoeki-1bangai.co.jp/pdf/floorMap_foreign.pdf

Shop hours are listed as 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.

Shokoku Gotochi Plaza

 

Sarabeth’s

IMG_0780

Sarabeth’s

Sarabeth’s, a restaurant from New York City that serves classic American breakfast dishes like French toast, eggs Benedict, and yogurt with granola and fruit. After breakfast the menu features salads and sandwiches. There are a few branches in Tokyo as well as a shop in Osaka. The Japanese are crazy for pancakes, so Sarabeth’s is often filled with locals digging into ricotta pancakes.

Tokyo Station: Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-8-2, Tekko Bldg. 2-3F

Shinjuku: Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-38-2, Lumine2 Bldg. 2F

Shinagawa: Minato-ku, Konan 2-18-1, atre Shinagawa 4F

http://sarabethsrestaurants.jp/location/en/

Tokyo Station Ekiben

Getting a bento 弁当 and riding on one of the express trains from Tokyo station is a ritual that is comes with traveling in Japan. Even on a short ride, like the hour ride to Narita on the Narita Express, we take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy a bento. Above are some bentos that we recently purchased for the Narita Express.

The bento on the top right included many delicacies from the sea like asari clams, ikura salmon roe, and simmered anago sea eel. The bottom right bento is made with 50 different ingredients. It was fun to follow the menu and check off each item.

IMG_2459

Our five-year old loves the shinkansen bento, which come in a variety, based on actual running shinkansen 新幹線. The bento boxes themselves are quite sturdy so we wash them and reuse them at home. The shinkansen bento are about 1,200 – 1,300 JPY and are filled with kid-friendly bites like kara-age chicken, sausage, and fruit jelly. I am reminded by Twitter friends that adults also enjoy this bento.

The above bentos were all purchased at Bentoya Matsuri 弁当屋祭, a bento shop inside of Tokyo Station. As it is in the station, you will need to purchase a ticket to access the shop. If you are traveling from Tokyo Station to another destination, then you will have access to the shop. If you are already near Tokyo Station and just want to come in to see the shop, then yes, you will need to purchase a ticket to enter the station. It is at Tokyo Station Central Street, between the stairs leading to platforms 5/6 and 7/8. Matsuri sells over 170 different ekiben 駅弁. Ekiben are bento sold at different eki (stations) throughout Japan. It’s a popular shop and usually very busy. On the wall of the shop is a sample of the different bento for sale, which are brought in from all over Japan.

*Note, the Matsuri website says that it is open from 5:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

For beverages we like to go to Hasegawa Saketen which inside Tokyo Station in the basement in an area called GranSta. There is also a counter for drinking saké if you have the luxury of time on your hands.

*** Note – Hasegawa Saketen has moved to a new location while their original shop in the station is under construction. There is still a shop in the station, about a 1-minute walk from the original location. (The photos above are from the original shop.)

Hasegawa Saketen sells full bottles of sake, shochu, umeshu, and wine. For drinks for the train, look to the far left of the shop where there is a big selection of tea, beer, and smaller servings of sake, beer, and shochu.

If you are riding at a time that is between meals and don’t need a full bento, Hasegawa Saketen sells small bites and saké-friendly snacks.

*Note, the Hasegawa Saketen website says that it is open from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (Monday – Saturday) and 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Other good places to pick up bento are throughout Tokyo Station, including in the depachika-like area across the aisle from Hasegawa Saketen, GranSta. Daimaru department store is also next to Tokyo Station and has the biggest selection of bento. If you have time, then come here, and allow yourself time to carefully peruse the options.

* The GranSta website says that it is open from 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. (Monday – Saturday and holidays -except for the last day of a string of holidays). 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. Sunday and last day of a string of holidays.

* Daimaru website says it is open from 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. on weekdays. 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

Once you are on the train, wait for it to depart the station before drinking and eating. It’s part of the ritual. 🙂

When you are done eating, the trains have trash cans for bento and for your drinks.

Enjoy partaking in this fun eating and drinking part of traveling in Japan.

 

 

 

Tokyo Station Sushi Sei

Sushi Sei salmon and ikura

Sushi Sei salmon and ikura

Sushi Sei is a popular sushi shop at Tsukiji Market that has a branch inside of Tokyo Station. There is often a line of salarymen outside of the shop before it opens at 7 a.m. The breakfast options include sashimi or donburi (sashimi over a large bowl of rice). There are also two versions of ochazuke. Ochazuke is a bowl of rice with toppings such as seafood or pickles that is then drenched with tea or a mix of dashi and tea. Sushi Sei has sea bream in a creamy sesame dressing or salmon belly with ikura. Above is the salmon and ikura set as it is presented.

Sushi Sei ochazuke

Sushi Sei ochazuke

The diner assembles the toppings to the rice and then pours the savory tea broth over the bowl. This breakfast is only 670 JPY. At current exchange rates I think it is about $5 USD. It is garnished with mizuna greens and arare, colorful rice crackers.

There are seats at the sushi counter, but this early in the morning the counter is not filled with seafood yet. It was busy recently on a weekday morning, and I was happy to see that most of the customers were ordering the ochazuke. It is a popular comfort food dish. I usually drink it as a last dish at an izakaya after a night out of drinking, but it is also an excellent way to start the day.

Sushi Sei first opened 120 years ago, in the original fish market, before it moved to Tsukiji.

Tsukiji Sushi Sei 築地寿司清

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-9-1, Tokyo Station GranSta Dining 1st Floor

www.tsukijisushisay.co.jp/store/tokyo.html

Where to Get Coffee at Tokyo Station – Standby Coffee

Standby Coffee by Sarutahiko

Standby Coffee by Sarutahiko

I travel through Tokyo Station almost five times a week. Until recently getting a really good cup of coffee in the morning has been a challenge. Finally there is a great little shop serving coffee by Sarutahiko Coffee in Ebisu (Ebisu 1-6-6). Standby opens at 7 a.m. which is often the time I am getting to the station as I make my way to Tsukiji Market. The shop is hard to find, but persevere for it is worth it. The shop is near the South Entrance to the Shinkansen inside of Tokyo Station. If you have an early morning train out of Tokyo, be sure to allow yourself some time to pick up a cup of coffee at Standby. There is a narrow seating area in the back of the shop if you want to rest your feet.

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-9-1, 1st Floor inside of Tokyo Station (near South Entrance to the Shinkansen)

Vegetarian Ramen in Tokyo Station – T’s Tan Tan Restaurant

ramen - vegetarian T's at Tokyo Station

Tokyo Station Vegetarian Ramen at T’s Tan Tan Restaurant

I have a new friend in town who is a vegetarian. A while back when we got together for lunch I told her I would love to find a spot that we could have for lunch near her office. It was so frustrating to find someplace that was 100% vegetarian. While Japan has a rich variety of vegetables, many times it is cooked in a dashi broth which is usually made with kombu (kelp, a type of sea vegetable) and katsuobushi (smoked skipjack tuna flakes). I spent a long time searching and finally told her I couldn’t find anything that looked appetizing. There were a few places, but the cuisine just didn’t look appealing.

Now I understand the frustrations that vegetarians go through when visiting Tokyo.

Which is why I was so excited to happen upon a vegetarian restaurant inside of Tokyo Station that serves ramen along with many other dishes. The sign outside said no meat, no fish, no egg, no milk. But the photos of the ramen looked appealing. I sat down and confirmed with my waitress and she said it is 100% vegetarian. I ordered T’s tantan men, which seems to be a signature dish.

The noodles were skinny and straight, as I like them. The broth was rich in miso but also full of umami. I added some of the condiment of red chili peppers and sesame seeds, although the broth on its own was a bit spicy.

ramen - vegetarian T's interior

T’s Tan Tan Restaurant in Tokyo Station

The location is inside of Tokyo Station on the first floor in a section called Keio Street. It opens at 7 a.m., which is when I went. After opening the shop the store filled up with a half-dozen diners. I will be back to try the vegetable curry which also looks good, but is not served at breakfast. The shop is brightly lit and the menu is filled with photos of the dishes, so ordering is easy for non-Japanese speakers.

T’s Restaurant

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-9-1, Keio Street 1st floor (inside Tokyo Station closest to the Yaesu Minami South Exit)

http://ts-restaurant.jp/english/

 

The main shop is in Jiyugaoka at Meguyo-ku, Jiyugaoka 2-9-6, Luz Jiyugaoka B1

〒152-0035東京都目黒区自由が丘2-9-6Luz自由が丘 B1F

Summer Lunch at Nihonbashi Yukari

Nihonbashi Yukari - summer lunch

Iron Chef Kimio Nonaga of Nihonbashi Yukari

On a recent afternoon we found ourselves in Nihonbashi a little after noon. Just around the corner was one of our favorite restaurants in the city, Nihonbashi Yukari. Nihonbashi Yukari is a kaiseki/kappō restaurant. Behind the counter on most days is the third-generation chef, Kimio Nonaga. We actually tried coming in last week but when we called to make our reservations Nonaga-san said that he was going to be at NHK that day filming for a television program. When Nonaga-san is not in the house his father, the second-generation chef, fills in.

We were thrilled when we opened the door to see Nonaga-san behind the counter. We had just seen several people leaving the restaurant so our timing was perfect. The counter was just being cleared and we were seated just in front of the former Iron Chef champion at the best seats in the house.

Usually we pre-order our lunch, the Yukari lunch box which is like a mini-kaiseki meal and a great bargain at 3,500 JPY. Today as we were walk-ins it was our first time to order lunch off of the menu. There is a wide variety of dishes to choose from including tempura, grilled fish, simmered pork, sashimi platter, and much more.

Nihonbashi Yukari - summer lunch sashimi

Summer sashimi course on Edo Kiriko plate

We are big fans of a special nattō taré (sauce) that was created by Nonaga-san. This sashimi course was in addition to the regular lunch. Three types of sashimi, seared scallops, katsuo (skipjack tuna), and kanpachi (yellowtail) is topped with julienned daikon, shiso, myoga, onion, kaiwaré (daikon sprouts), and baby shiso. The dressing is a blend of the fermented soybean dressing which adds a rich umami and deep flavor to the dish. Anago bones are deep-fried and pulverized and sprinkled on which adds an unexpected and welcome crunch to the dish. The dish is a beautiful dish for summer, Edo Kiriko.

Nihonbashi Yukari summer lunch - anago

Anago Jyubako

Anago is sea eel and is often seen at the traditional sushi counter in Japan. At Nihonbashi Yukari the anago is simmered until tender and then served over rice in a lacquer box, jyubako. The anago is so soft that it melts in your mouth. The sauce is ever-so-sweet, not cloying as is often the case with unagi (fresh water eel).

Nihonbashi Yukari - summer lunch simmered meitagarei

Simmered meitagarei (fine-spotted flounder)

There were a few offerings for simmered fish this day. Shinji went with meitagarei which is a type of flounder. The simmering sauce is not made fresh each day but is passed on day after day over the years. It has a deep flavor from it. Nonaga-san said that many different types of fish are simmered in this sauce, hence the depth of flavor. This is something that would be hard to recreate at home, we pondered aloud. Nonaga-san suggested we try it. He said to save the broth and to put it in the fridge. I love his positive and encouraging attitude. The rice served with the simmered fish has julienned fresh ginger and abura-agé (deep-fried tofu) in it. Refreshing for the summer, and we find inspiration in another dish we will try at home.

Nihonbashi Yukari is just minutes from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu Guchi. It is possible to walk-in, but we recommend reservations. Within about ten minutes of being seated the counter filled up again and most of the tables in the restaurant were also full.

Nihonbashi Yukari

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-2-14

Dakshin “Truly South Indian” Near Tokyo Station

Curry and naan at Dakshin Yaesu

Curry and naan at Dakshin Yaesu

The Kyobashi side of Tokyo Station outside of the Yaesu exit has many restaurants hidden away down narrow streets or in the basement of boring buildings. Dakshin is one of these spots that is worth seeking out. I only happened upon it as my regular Indian spots for dosa, Dhaba, had a long line out the door. I had come too late in the day, it was just 12 noon and I knew better. Dhaba was not so popular ten years ago. I headed towards Tokyo Station and saw the menu and sign for Dakshin on the street level. “Truly South Indian” caught my attention. I went down the stairs and Dakshin too had a line out the door, but I made a mental note to come back, and am glad that I did.

The shop opens at 11 a.m. and I came at about 11:15 a.m. expecting it to be quiet. Was surprised to see the shop already about 1/3 full, and not all the customers were Japanese. While there is dosa on the menu at Dakshin, everyone in the restaurant was eating naan so I followed their lead. I was seated at the counter facing the open kitchen where the naan oven is. I was given the last seat at the counter which happened to be right in front of the oven for baking naan. At first I was excited as it is always fun to see the naan being stretched out, slapped into the oven, only to be later plied out by a long steel tool. But when my neighbors left I asked if I could be reseated away from the oven as it was getting hot. The restaurant filled up quickly after I was seated and by the time I left there was a line out the door.

The three curries today were a mutton, lentil, and shrimp. Instead of the shrimp curry I tried a side dish that sounded like onion tempura, I wish I hadn’t. It is best to leave the deep-frying to the tempura masters. The naan was excellent and served hot out of the oven and the curries also did not seem to be tempered for the Japanese palate. The businessman next to me kept wiping the sweat off of his face with his handkerchief.

Dakshin

Chuo-ku, Yaesu 2-5-12, Prairie Bldg. B1 中央区八重洲2-5-12プレリービル B1F

Dosa at Kyobashi Dhaba

Dosa by Dhaba

Masala Dosa by Dhaba

I remember ten years when I first had a dosa at Dhaba in Kyobashi. I was in heaven. It immediately brought me back to the first dosa I had in Singapore a decade before. I couldn’t believe that this was in Tokyo and that I didn’t know about it. Luckily I was working at Takashimaya in Nihonbashi and would come here for lunch from time to time. A decade ago I could usually walk in and get a seat right away. On a recent lunch I was surprised to see a line out the front door.

Dhaba India is a sweet spot for Southern Indian in Kyobashi, a very short walk from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu exit. Many of the diners are eating dosa, and the naan is great, but I come here for the dosa. Breaking up the crispy dosa shell is great fun, until it comes to an end. The curry doesn’t seem to be modified for the Japanese palate. The Masala Dosa here at lunch is 1,400 JPY.

It’s a bustling restaurant, filled with a mix of area salarymen and office ladies. Try and avoid the noon lunch rush.

The only thing I find strange about this shop is that they do not let diners look at their iPads during the meal. I could snap a quick photo of my lunch, but was asked to put it away. I was told that there was a sign on the outside of the restaurant, which there was, about this ban on electronics. I guess this is a good thing and a habit we all should be doing.

Dhaba India

Chuo-ku, Yaesu 2-7-9, Sagami Building