What to Eat in Tokyo Now

 

Tokyo summers are hot, humid, and in my opinion, horrible. I don’t know about you, but my appetite wanes and some days it can be hard to get motivated to eat. Here are some things that I look forward to eating this time of year. In this list I am including some dishes or restaurants I haven’t been to, but are on my radar for the summer. If you make it to any of these, please reply to this blogpost, I’d love to hear your impressions.

Dominique Ansel’s Sweet Corn Ice Cream http://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/corn-ice-cream-grilled-corn-cob-tokyos-newest-dessert We love this shop so much it is where we came to celebrate my birthday. There is a second floor café with great savory dishes like avocado toast and chicken pot pie. This summer’s sweet corn ice cream looks amazing. (Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-7-14 渋谷区神宮前5-7-14)

Kakigori shaved ice brings me back to my first visits to Japan from Minnesota. My favorite was the miruku (milk) topping, which is actually sweetened condensed milk. Other great toppings include green tea and red bean paste.

sapporoya-hiyashi-chuka

Nihonbashi Sapporoya Chilled Ramen with Sesame Dressing

Chilled Ramen at Nihonbashi Sapporoya. This is my favorite bowl of ramen in the summer. If you’ve never had cold ramen, let this be your first.  https://foodsaketokyo.com/2013/10/13/nihonbashi-sapporoya/

Baird Beer Taproom in Takadanobaba. I haven’t been, but this is on my summer Go List. Nothing better to cool down with than cold beer. This is my favorite craft beer in Japan, and this new shop’s menu includes kushiage (meat and vegetables that are skewered, dusted with panko, and deep-fried). See you there. http://bairdbeer.com/en/tap/takadanobaba.html

kintame-bubuchazuke

Kintame Bubuchazuke

A meal of Japanese pickles is cooling and refreshing. My favorite pickle shop is Monzennakacho’s Kintame. https://foodsaketokyo.com/2011/06/30/kintame/

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Tsukishima Monjayaki

One crazy food I crave in the summer is monjayaki, Tokyo’s version of a savory pancake that is cooked over a hot iron grill. Sitting at the table is hot, and a good excuse to drink ice cold beer. Tsukishima is a neighborhood that has a street lined with monjayaki shops. Best to go at night as the area comes to life. Most shops are closed at lunch, but a few are open, if this is your only time to come. https://foodsaketokyo.com/2011/07/06/monjayaki-okame-hyottoko-ten/

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Summer Saké

Cooling down with saké in the summer is more interesting when drinking summer saké. Saké made for drinking in the summer tends to be a little lower in alcohol, sometimes frizzante, and often bottled in light blue or clear bottles. Ask for natsu sake at your retail shop or when dining out.

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Kagurazaka Meisyan Tan Tan Men

Spicy and hot tan tan men noodles are also on my mind this time of year. Eating this dish I usually work up a sweat, which somehow seems to cool me down a bit. It’s also a good excuse to have a cold beer. This bowl is from Meisyan 梅香 in Kagurazaka, with a female chef in the kitchen (woo-hoo!). Shinjuku-ku, Yokoteramachi 37-39, Nakajima Daiichi Bldg. 新宿区横寺町37-39中島第一ビル

On this same theme, I also love having curry in the summer. Here is a list of some curries in Tokyo worth seeking out. https://foodsaketokyo.com/category/curry/

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Tsurutontan Tomato Udon

Finally, cold noodles, soba, udon, or somen. Pop into any noodle shop and seek out the cold noodles. In particular, I am a huge fan of the seasonal udon menu at Tsurutontan, with branches throughout the city and at Haneda airport.  https://foodsaketokyo.com/2014/08/12/roppongi-tsurutontan-udon/

 

 

 

Shinbashi Tsurumaru Udon 新橋つるまる饂飩

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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)

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

Hanamaru Summer Udon Salad

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It’s that time of year again. The weather is warming up and restaurants are starting their summer menu. Japanese restaurants, even fast food chain restaurants, offer menus that change throughout the year. This time of year many restaurants offer lighter fare, often featuring salad greens and generous vegetables. Each year I look forward to the summer salad at Hanamaru Udon, a chain of udon restaurants, with locations throughout Tokyo.

This year’s summer salad udon offers a full day’s of vegetables served over udon noodles for the bargain price of 500 JPY (about $5). The udon noodles are cooked and then quickly chilled in ice water and then topped with lettuce, carrots, daikon, deep-fried kabocha squash, okra, and some boiled chicken. Diners are offered the choice of a dressing, either creamy sesame or ginger. Here is a close-up photo on the company’s website. The other noodle bowls here are great, but the salad udon dish is one that I go back to often, especially in hot Japanese summers.

Hanamaru Udon restaurants are great for a quick meal. We went recently on a weekend and the shop was filled with families and school kids (both high school and college). If you are looking for a healthful meal and are on a budget, or are just craving some vegetables, check out Hanamaru Udon. The shop’s logo is an orange flower.

There is a shop in Ginza at Ginza 3-10-9, Kyodo Bldg. B1, and shops throughout the city.

Tsurumaru Udon in Toranomon つるまる饂飩 虎ノ門店

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A hot bowl of thick and chewy flour udon noodles hits the spot any time of day. Starting the day with fast food udon is something I could get used to. Good thing there is not one of these shops in my neighborhood. The standard bowl of noodles with hot broth is only 262 JPY. It’s topped with tenkasu, tempura bits and pieces that are in a bucket next to where you pick up your noodles. I splurged an extra 105 JPY and got the chikuwa tempura, a grilled fish cake that is battered and deep-fried. The broth is hot, so sip until it cools down. The smoky fish broth is light and if I weren’t in a hurry, I would have lingered over it and probably would have drunk most of it up.

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These fast-food udon shops are throughout Tokyo and are a bargain, any time of day. This shop, Tsurumaru, is brightly lit and there is a large communal table in the middle of the shop and several counters that face the wall. Most of the customers are solo diners and the meals are fast.

The menu is simple. Pick a bowl of udon from the pictures on the wall. Some bowls will come with meat or a raw egg. And, if you want, top up the bowl wit h some tempura vegetables or seafood. You’ll also find rice balls, that but seems a bit much after having a bowl of noodles, doesn’t it?

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If you are visiting Japan and looking for a quick meal, this is one of my recommendations. Save McDonald’s for when you are back home.

Tsurumaru Udon Toranomon-ten

Minato-ku, Toranomon 2-4-1

03-3504-0023

You may also like:

Ten Udon Shops in Tokyo

Nana Udon in Kokubunji 七うどん

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A recent issue of Dancyu magazine featured the hot noodle of the moment, udonUdon noodles are thick flour noodles. Restaurants are popping up around Tokyo and it’s not unusual to see long lines forming at lunchtime. Many of these shops have been around for a long time are seeing a new appreciation for these hearty noodles. In the Dancyu magazine I was thrilled to see a restaurant in our neighborhood of Kokubunji. It’s about a 15-minute walk from Kokubunji station. If you are ever near Kokubunji, it’s a good shop to have on your radar.

My first time there I asked the proprietress her recommendation and she suggested going with the standard inaka udon. She said that all of the udon comes with the tempura side dish. And, she did warn me that the portions are generous, echoing what Dancyu had also mentioned in their article. The photo above is the inaka udon which comes with a flavorful dipping sauce.

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The niku-jiru udon is a meaty soy broth with beef and onions and my favorite.

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Creamy sesame dipping sauce with udon and kaki-agé tempura, a melange of vegetables chopped up and deep-fried in a cake, and kabocha tempura. This is the small “sho” portion, for a bargain 600 JPY.

This area of Tokyo is known for Musashino udon which is a dark-colored udon that is very chewy. Nana does not serve the Musashino udon.  The noodles are softer yet still have a nice texture.

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The entrance, which is hard to see from the street.

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I had a hard time finding Nana as not only is it in a residential area, it’s a home. This is the exterior of Nana, and no, there are no signs signifying the restaurant.

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Actually, once I saw all of the bicycles parked in the driveway, I knew this must be it.

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The interior. Very simple, basically the living room of the home. This was a very early lunch, but it filled up quickly after we were seated. The husband and wife team are very kind. Portions of udon are very large so I suggest going for the smaller size. If you can’t finish your bowl of noodles you can put them in a plastic bag to take home.

Nana Udon XOn our second visit the wife gave us a bag of kombu Tsukudani to take home with us. She had warned us that it was spicy as it is made with tōgarashi, dried red chili peppers. We loved it over a bowl of steaming rice.

The shop’s great name is “Foot Stomped Udon” as the noodles are traditionally stomped by feet.

Ashi Uchi Udon Dokoro Nana 足打ちうどん処七

Tokyo-to, Kokubunji-shi, Honda 5-28-2 東京都国分寺市本多5-28-2

042-328-1002

Saturday – Sunday 11:00~14:00 (or until sold out)

Monday – Friday 11:30~14:00

Closed Tuesday, Wednesday, and each month on the 30th and 31st

Google Map

Ten Udon Shops in Tokyo

Udon noodles are everywhere I look. TV programs, food magazines, and newspapers are all covering the different types of udon noodles, ways of eating it, and where to go in Tokyo.

My fall back restaurant has always been the chain store Hanamaru. Mainly because it was close to where I was working, it’s cheap, and very good for the price. The menu changes throughout the year offering seasonal specialties. At home we usually have dried udon noodles in our pantry for a last minute meal or a light snack. If we are making a nabe (hot pot) we’ll get some frozen udon noodles to throw in the pot at the end of the meal.

However, now restaurants are making their own udon noodles or serving them as traditionally served in different regions around Japan. Here is a list of ten udon shops worth seeking out in Japan. If the restaurant has a website I’ve included a link. Just click on the restaurant name.

Here are tips to demystifying an udon menu.

1. Sanuki Udon Nenotsu 讃岐饂飩 根の津

Bunkyo-ku, Nezu 1-23-16

03-3822-9015

Handmade noodles. To try very simple noodles order the kama-age udon.

2. Taniya 谷や

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Ningyocho 2-15-17

03-5695-3060

Handmade Sanuki udon noodles at this modern restaurant near the Suitengumae temple.

3. Udon Kokuwagata うどん こくわがた

Bunkyo-ku, Hongo 2-39-7

03-5689-2132

Tight quarters at this tachigui standing bar with handmade Sanuki udon noodles.

4. Sato Yosuke 佐藤養助

Chuo-ku, Ginza 6-4-17

03-6215-6211

Inaniwa udon from Akita prefecture are thin noodles. Sato Yosuke is a 7th generation shop in Akita. This Ginza shop has been open since 2006. A modern take on the dish are tsuke-men noodles can be dipped in Italian, French, or Thai curry broths, as well as the traditional soy based broth.

5. Nanakura 七蔵

Minato-ku, Shinbashi 2-20-15, Shinbashi Eki-mae Bldg. 1 Go, 2F

03-3571-5012

In the basement of a building in front of Shinbashi station, this popular 30-year old shop usually has a line of customers at lunch time for the Inaniwa udon. A popular dish is cold noodles served with a hot sesame dipping broth made from katsuobushi broth with minced duck and seasonal ingredients.

6. Fuji Yoshida Udon Marunaga 富士吉田うどん まるなが

Shingawa-ku, Ebara 1-22-4

03-3786-4777

Fuji Yoshida udon noodles are thick and known for having a dense texture.

7. Misonikomin 味噌煮込罠

Bunkyo-ku, Hongo 3-31-15

03-3812-2286

Nagoya udon is famous for using the very hearty Hatcho miso in the broth.

8. Kushi Katsu Kasu Udon Tanaka 串カツかすうどん田中

Meguro-ku, Kami-Meguro 2-21-4

03-6426-8866

Osaka udon is the speciality of this shop with very simple settings.

9. Koko Nagasaki ここ長崎

Toshima-ku, Sugamo 3-38-4

03-6426-2717

Nagasaki udon are thin and light.

10. Sawanoi 澤乃井

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 1-8-5, Ogawa Bldg. 1F

03-3409-1058

Miyazaki Kama-age udon noodles are the specialty of this shop.