Ito Onsen – Shizuoka

Ito Onsen in Shizuoka is a lovely onsen resort town that can be reached using the cool Super Odoriko train, from Tokyo Station. Ito Onsen is on the Izu Hanto (peninsula), famous for onsen (hot springs) and seafood. The train has extra large windows, which overlooks Tokyo Bay in Shizuoka (left side of the train going and right side returning to Tokyo).

Shizuoka has many seaside onsen resort towns. Atami is popular and has many options. Ito Onsen was on our radar as it is just beyond Atami and is known for having yasukute oishii ryokan, cheap and delicious ryokan. There are also many higaeri onsen, hot springs that you can use without staying overnight.

It is the first train that I have been on with beer on tap and plenty of beer-friendly snacks. In Japan this often means dried squid or processed cheese sandwiched between seafood flattened into a sheet.

If you have small kids, this is also the only train I have been on that has a play room. Be sure to ask to get your seats near the kids room. Our kid played the whole ride going and coming. It’s Japan, so of course, the kids take off their shoes when they go into the room.

We stayed at the Ito Garden Hotel, which had a simple rotenburo (outdoor onsen) and a small kids’ room with toys. It’s not a big selection of toys, but was suitable for a six-year old. There was also a small library of children’s books in Japanese and English. The hotel is up on the mountainside and we had a room that overlooked the city and the bay.

Dinner, served in a separate room, included steamed abalone, local sashimi, and some grilled meat. While guests are dining someone goes to your room to pull out the futons.

Traditional Japanese breakfast to start the day. Local seafood & sea vegetables (hijiki and funori) highlight the menu. There is a vending machine in the hotel if you need your coffee. It was not a luxurious hotel, but simple and the food was good and plentiful.

We spent the day exploring the city of Ito which is on the bay. There is a black sand beach and in the summer it is popular. There are many shops selling himono (butterflied and air-dried seafood) and some shops are even drying seafood in front of the shop.

There is a sculpture garden on the beach which is a great spot to look over the water and to climb on some of the sculptures.

For lunch I highly recommend Fujiichi (est. 1945). The first floor is a fishmonger and the second floor is a casual restaurant. Each table has its own barbecue, which makes any meal more fun. The table gets hot, so a good excuse to have an ice-cold beer. We ordered Pacific mackerel and squid that was served raw so that we could grill it ourselves. It’s a small shop and very popular, so time your visit around the main 12 noon lunch time (when the restaurant was packed).

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There are a few pedestrian shōtengai, arcades with many small shops selling omiyage (souvenirs), sweets, and the local green tea. Shizuoka is one of the famous tea regions in Japan.

One of the shōtengai, Yu no Hana Dōri 湯の花通り, has a large souvenir shop, Izu Guricha, selling local tea. In one corner is a small shop selling soft-serve ice cream, including a sundae topped with sweetened chestnuts, azuki beans, mochi, and kinpaku (gold sheet). Shizuoka-ken, Itō-shi, Shishido, 1 Chome−2, 静岡県伊東市猪戸1丁目2ー1

Nearby is Binya Coffee with an in-house roaster. Shishido 1-5-35

We loved our two days in Ito Onsen and I look forward to coming back.

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.

 

 

Early Breakfast at Daikanyama T-Site

Daikanyama’a T-Site is home to one of Tokyo’s best bookstores, Tsutaya, and to a cozy restaurant, Ivy Place. Ivy Place opens at 7:00 a.m., the same time the bookstore opens, which is just next door. The frittata had a touch of Japan with shiitake and maitake mushrooms with spinach, mozzarella, and feta cheese served with a salad (1,300 JPY). The NY rye bread comes with whipped butter and house-made jam. Blueberry and smoked nuts were the jams that day. The smoked nuts jam is creamy and sweet with a hint of smokiness to it (400 JPY). Best of all, Ivy Place offers a bottomless cup of coffee for 300 JPY with any breakfast menu.

While I am not a vegetarian, I love that Ivy Place is a vegetarian-friendly restaurant with many options for non-meat eaters. The interior is like a warm American home with lots of wood and floor to ceiling windows surrounding the shop. Staff and the menu are bilingual. I am addicted to the flatbread pizza at lunch.

Ivy Place

Shibuya-ku, Sarugaku-cho 16-15

03-6415-3232

https://www.tysons.jp/ivyplace/

Tuna Lovers’ Day Trip From Tokyo

Misaki Maguro Kippu is a special discounted train, bus, and lunch ticket that is a fun day trip from Tokyo for tuna lovers. Many Japanese train and bus lines offer discounted tickets for round-trip excursions. Misaki is a famous port for tuna. Maguro is tuna, and kippu is for ticket.

The Misaki Maguro Kippu can be purchased from the Shinagawa Keikyu line ticket booth. 3,060 JPY per ticket which includes round-trip fare on the express trains as well as all bus routes on the peninsula. We only made it to the fishing port, but if you have more time, you could also visit an aquarium and an onsen on the bus routes.

The express train goes to Misaki-guchi 三崎口 station. From there take a bus to Misaki-ko 三崎港. We went on a weekend and about 40 others from the train were also using the same pass so we just followed them to the bus. The train ride was a little over an hour and the bus to the fishing port was another 20 minutes.

The ticket includes lunch in the city. The tickets come with a map with photos of the different lunches available on the peninsula. There are 30 shops to choose from. Here is a link to the options:

http://www.keikyu.co.jp/information/otoku/otoku_maguro/list.html

Many shops are busy on the weekends, so be prepared to stand in line. We went on a colder day and didn’t have to wait to get seated.

After lunch we went to the seafood market which was like many seafood markets in fishing ports around Japan. As Misaki is known for tuna, most of the vendors were selling tuna, mostly frozen cuts called saku. The second floor of the market is a farmers’ market. I picked up all of the daikon above for 500 JPY.

This is a fun day trip from Tokyo. The shops are kid-friendly. We will do it again, next time in the summer and we’ll be sure to see the aquarium and onsen. There is a bicycle rental shop and ferry rides are also available at the port.

Details on the Misaki Maguro Kippu (in Japanese):

http://www.keikyu.co.jp/information/otoku/otoku_maguro/

Shout-out to Takumi-san at Roberto Perozzi Salon in Shibuya. I go to Roberto to get my hair cut and Takumi-san told me about this ticket, arigato! If you need your hair cut in Tokyo, Roberto is the best.

Grand Hyatt Tokyo – Shunbou

Shunbou is the Japanese restaurant at the Grand Hyatt in Roppongi. The Grand Hyatt has several Japanese restaurants including Roku Roku for sushi and Keyakizaka for teppanyaki. Shunbou features seasonal kaiseki dishes as well as comfort food like curry udon. It is kid-friendly and a great option in the Roppongi area.

Entering the restaurant seasonal produce is displayed, as are large earthenware serving dishes. The main dining room is in granite and there is an inner garden behind windows that opens up to the sky, bringing in sunlight, or on this day, rain sprinkling on the rocks and tree.

I joined a friend for lunch here and ordered the shun-sai lunch box (5,300 JPY). The presentation is gorgeous as lunch comes in a wooden box with three tiers. The appetizer for the autumn lunch is a chrysanthemum tofu topped with chrysanthemum petals.

The first tier was composed of tuna sashimi, yuba (soy milk skin), mozuku (a slippery sea vegetable), and grilled sanma (Pacific saury).

The second tier included crab cream croquette and grilled salmon.

Grilled Iberico pork, unohana (tofu lees with vegetables), and boiled vegetables completed the third tier.

Separately takikomigohan of vegetables cooked with rice, grilled eggplant miso soup, and pickles round out the lunch. Dessert is a petit kuri chestnut wagashi, not too sweet. It was a perfect mini-kaiseki including all of the components and was a great way to sense the seasons.

Executive sous chef, Takuya Nezasa, was with Nadaman for thirteen years before coming to Shunbou. Nadaman for Tokyoites is a revered establishment with a 185-year history. Some department stores will have a branch of Nadaman in the depachika so that customers can buy seasonal and traditional dishes. Shunbou is kappō-style so you can see some of the chefs in the open kitchen cooking.

The sake list has many offerings by-the-glass, including seasonal hiyaoroshi from Nagano Masumi brewery, perfect with the ingredients available this time of year.

The dishware is also lovely. Many had lovely textures, like the teacup, calling out to be held. The meal is also a pleasure for the eyes.

Lunch starts at 1,900 JPY for curry udon or soba with rice. We got a small bite of the curry and it’s a light curry and not too spicy. The menu is vast and offers something for everyone. The menu is in English and of course staff speak English, so Shunbou is also a good option for some who may have reservations going to traditional Japanese restaurants with an English speaker.

Menu:

http://restaurants.tokyo.grand.hyatt.co.jp/wp-content/uploads/pdf/shunbou_menu.pdf

Grand Hyatt Tokyo – 6th floor

Minato-ku, Roppongi 6-10-3 港区六本木6-10-3

Map:

http://restaurants.tokyo.grand.hyatt.com/access.html

Food Sake Tokyo Radar – 2016 October

On top of our radar is the Tsukiji to Toyosu move which has been put on hold. I am trying to keep readers up to date on our blog. It’s changing by the hour and I’ll do what I can to update things here: (2nd link)

https://foodsaketokyo.com/2016/06/21/need-to-know-tsukiji-move-to-toyosu/

https://foodsaketokyo.com/2016/09/01/tsukiji-toyosu-move/

There is a new documentary movie out called Tsukiji Wonderland. The movie will be released in mid-October, but is currently being shown at the movie theater near Tsukiji. Shinji saw it and said it’s very good. Speakers in the movie include Harvard professor and author of the best book written about Tsukiji, Ted Bestor, and several famous Japanese chefs.

http://tsukiji-wonderland.jp/en/

We are very excited to hear that Singapore’s Bee Cheng Hiang has opened in Ginza. If you haven’t tried the barbecue minced pork, you are in for a sweet and meaty surprise. We often ate this when we lived in Singapore. Usually as a snack with beer. 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/beechenghiangjapan Ginza 5-6-9

In Ginza, the Tokyu Plaza has finally opened up. Highlights include City Bakery in the basement, Bareburger, Tsurutontan, and a Greek restaurant from Australia, The Apollo.

http://ginza.tokyu-plaza.com/en/

A new coffee shop in Toranomon, Caffeineholic for organic caffeine drink (mattcha for those of you who don’t like coffee) and hot dogs. Minato-ku, Toranomon 1-4-7

http://www.iamcaffeineholic.jp/

A Russian sake sommelier, Dmitry Bulakh, has opened a sake bar, Twelv.. He worked a the popular sake bar Musshu Mizuki in Ginza prior to this. Looks like it’s on the pricey side, so not sure if/when I’ll be making it here, but my friends who have been have said it’s a cool space and that there’s great sake here. Minato-ku, Nishi-Azabu 4-2-4

https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1307/A130702/13199359/

http://www.twelv.in/

A small bit of scandal in the saké world, not by the Japanese, but by non-Japanese trying to perhaps make some money off of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate attempt at ranking Japanese saké. Journalist W. Blake Gray has it all covered on his blog:

http://blog.wblakegray.com/2016/09/some-facts-for-wine-advocates-sake.html

Vegetarian in Tokyo?

It’s very tough being a true vegetarian in Tokyo. That is not my case, but it is for some of our clients and friends who come to travel, or live and work in Japan. Here are some suggestions for restaurants that are vegetable-friendly. They may not be strictly vegetarian, so be sure to inquire if you follow a very strict diet.
When I am craving vegetables, I make a beeline for Rose Bakery and get the salad lunch. There is a branch in Ginza, but you most likely will find me at the Kichijoji branch.
Sougo is a lovely vegetarian restaurant in Roppongi.
Daisuke Nomura is the owner. His family owns another famous restaurant called Daigo in Atago, also Buddhist vegetarian.
I LOVE Dhaba Indian in Kyobashi for dosa. It is a short walk from Tokyo Station:
I often ask for vegetarian tempura at places like Tenmatsu (there is also a branch in Shibuya):
Kushiage are skewers of vegetables, fish, and meat, that are breaded and deep-fried. Hageten in Ginza said that if you call ahead when making a reservation that they could do a vegetable only flight of skewers.
This is my favorite pizza in Tokyo:
If you like bagels, this shop is also nearby the pizzeria above:
Also, I LOVE TY Harbor restaurants as they are very good about substituting vegetarian dishes for meat or seafood components.
The following are all in the TY Harbor group:
Aoyama Cicada
Daikanyama Ivy Place
Sukiyaki is a dish based on wagyū beef, but if you call ahead, they can prepare a vegetarian sukiyaki.
For Japanese breakfast, the Park Hyatt Tokyo’s Girandole will also do a vegetarian traditional Japanese breakfast, but reservations need to be made in advance for this.
Some other spots from my blog:

Point et Ligne

In the basement of the Shin Marunouchi building is a Japanese bakery, Point et Ligne, with a retail shop and a cramped café space in the back. The bread is not traditional French, but made for the Japanese market. The breads are soft and made with butter. The crusts are not crispy and the crumb is chewy. I am not a big fan of this style as I prefer shops like Viron, Gontran Cherrier, and Maison Kayser.

The setting is very dramatic. Dark walls and the retail shop is enticing. But things digress as the walk to the café is through a narrow walkway that overlooks an unorganized kitchen.

The lunch set (about 1,500 JPY) starts out with a sample of five breads. My favorite in today’s mix was the walnut bread. A palate of six dipping sauces is dropped on the table and the server points out the Japanese menu on the side describing the flavors. Four are savory, like EVOO and tapenade and the sweets were salted caramel and Canadian maple syrup.

Diners pick a main course. I went with the pâté de campagne which was under seasoned (maybe made for the Japanese palate?…) and a poorly dressed salad. The dressing was fine, but it was just poured over the leaves, not massaged or tossed, which would make a world of a difference.

Most disappointing was the service. We are so spoiled with great service in Japan, when you come upon a restaurant that isn’t on top of things, you notice it right away.

Point et Ligne

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-5-1, Shin Marunouchi Bldg. B1

http://www.point-et-ligne.com/

CNN Tokyo Point of View

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Filming for CNN Tokyo POV

We had the great pleasure of working with CNN International for a new television show called Point of View. In the show you see my point of view as I go shopping for food in Ginza. I won’t tell you more, until the show is out. For now, here is the times that the program is scheduled to be shown in the US (Eastern Standard Time). Be sure to tune your television to CNN International.

http://us.cnn.com/specials/travel/tokyo-pov

The producer and cameramen we worked with were great and very proactive in reaching out to the shops we wanted to film at. We are so excited to share a small bit of the great food world in Tokyo.

Our tours of markets to Tokyo include Tsukiji, depachika, and antenna shops. In this Tokyo POV show you will see a peak at what we include in our tours.

NOTE – following are showtimes in the US for CNN International. I will update with Japan times if/when I get them.

Friday 8/12/16

530am ET

Saturday 8/13/16

930am ET

Sunday 8/14/16

1130pm ET

 Tuesday 8/16/16

1230pm ET

 Wednesday 8/17/16

430am ET

Ebisu Shake Shack

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Ebisu Shake Shack – ShackMeister

Shake Shack, New York City’s great burger chain, is in Tokyo at two locations, Aoyama and Ebisu. The Ebisu location is next to the station. I’ve passed by many times and the line was always too long. I was lucky today when I passed as the line, while still long, it was nothing like I had seen before and I jumped in.

The current special is the ShackMeister of fried shallots on a cheeseburger. It is a great burger with the crispy shallots over the meaty burger. The crinkle fries with a cheddar and American cheese sauce were a nice touch of NYC.

The seating area is big and there were two staff helping diners bus their trays and assisting diners to find seats.

My fingers are  crossed that the next Shake Shack will be on the Chuo line, maybe in Kichijoji? Tachikawa? Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

Ebisu Shake Shack

Shibuya-ku, Ebisu-Minami 1-6 渋谷区恵比寿南1-6

https://www.shakeshack.com/locations#international

The other location is at

Minato-ku, Kita-Aoyama 2-1-15 港区北青山2-1-15