Nakameguro Onigily Cafe

Onigiri and Annin Dofu

Onigiri and Annin Dofu

The Nakameguro area is filled with many great restaurants, including my favorite pizzeria, Seirinkan. Just a short walk from Nakameguro station is Onigily Cafe. Onigiri is perhaps the quintessential comfort food in Japan. Rice stuffed with a savory filling that is often wrapped with nori. I almost didn’t go in as the spelling of onigiri with an l just seemed so wrong, but it was hot and I needed to take a break. From outside I could see the handmade onigiri and they looked to good to resist.

Onigily Cafe interior

Onigily Cafe interior

The interior is also inviting as it is brightly lit and there are a handful of tables and a counter at the window. I had the mentaiko and takana, a great combination of spicy pollack roe with pickled greens. The annin dōfu was the best I have had in Tokyo. I will go back just for the almond custard.

Onigily Cafe Take-Away

Onigily Cafe Take-Away

I was surprised that the onigiri that I was served had just a small piece of nori. But forgot all about that when I bit in. The rice was still warm and was lightly pressed, it was like a pillow.

This is a great spot for vegetarians as there is a good selection of vegetable-only onigiri including yukari (salted red shiso) natto, leek miso with shiso, kombu, umeboshi, soft-boiled egg, and salt. There is also a selection of vegetable side dishes including potato salad, tomato salad, pickled cucumbers, and turnips with kombu.

It was not surprising that there were many people coming for take-away. The prices range from 100 – 200 JPY with most averaging about 155 JPY, which is about the same as you would pay at a convenience store. But these are just so much better.

Onigily Cafe

Meguro-ku, Nakameguro 3-1-4 目黒区中目黒3-1-4

www.onigily.com/

Rose Bakery – Ginza and Marunouchi

Salad Lunch

Salad Lunch

I am a big fan of Rose Bakery. An English bakery that first opened in Paris and is now dotting Tokyo. This casual cafe has a large delicatessen-style refrigerator in each shop that showcases the colorful salads and baked goods. While the cakes and sweets are tempting, I am always come here for the salads.

This Plate of Vegetables is about 1,550 JPY at the Ginza shop and was 100% vegetarian. Six vegetable dishes served with a side of rustic sourdough bread. The Kichijoji branch, which I go to more often, sometimes includes some chicken or anchovies in the Salad Lunch, so be sure to let them know if you prefer all vegetables as I believe they could accommodate your request.

The Ginza shop which is in the fashionable Dover Street Market, was just the opposite. Hip and stylishly dressed diners and shoppers with their shopping bags from high-end designers.

Many times our clients tell us that they are craving vegetables. This is a great spot to get your fill.

Rose Bakery Ginza

Chuo-ku, Ginza 6-9-5, Ginza Komatsu West Wing 7F

中央区銀座6-9-5ギンザコマツ西館7F

rosebakery.jp

 

There is a second shop in Tokyo center in Marunouchi in the Commes des Garcons shop. The selection of salads and sweets is not as big as the Ginza branch, but the location is convenient to Tokyo Station. The menu is also smaller than the Ginza branch, but it does have a lunch salad of three different salads. Ask the staff to add a fourth salad for about 100 JPY.

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 2-1-1, Meiji Yasuda Seimei Bldg. 1F

11 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Shibuya Curry House Tiri Tiri

Chili Tiri Curry

Tomato, Spinach, and Garbanzo Beans

It is hot and humid in Tokyo. A great time to have curry as the spices helps you to sweat, cooling you down. Curry House Tiri Tiri is a popular shop in Shibuya, about a five minute walk from the station along Meiji Dori.

While the shop has pork, chicken, or shrimp as options for the curry, I was craving healthful vegetables. This tomato is the chū-kara, medium spicy, curry. If you ask for a small portion of rice you get a 50 JPY discount. The owner’s wife said that a usual serving is a cup and a half of rice so I asked for the small portion, which was perfect.

I was curious to come here as the shop is famous for serving healthful curry. The chef uses little oil and lots of onions. Outside of the shop is a sign in Japanese that says each serving of curry contains about one whole onion. All of the ingredients are natural, no preservatives. It is also known for having some of the best curry in the city.

The menu is simple. Pick your heat, chū-kara or spicy Masala. You can pick chicken, pork, or shrimp, or go vegetarian. Just list up what you want like tomato, spinach, garbanzo beans, lentils, potatoes, cheese, or a raw egg. Also, tell them if you want a little or a lot of rice.

Chili Tiri Storefront

Chili Tiri Storefront

The shop is only open weekdays, 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., or until they run out. Love this. If I were to do a restaurant I would do the same. Even when I got there around 1 p.m., late for lunch in Japan, there was a line. There are 15 seats at a long counter with white tiles. The line does move quickly as the meal is quite fast. If there is a line outside they will come out and take your order to expedite the service. Quite a lot of customers came for take-away.

The only thing they have to drink is ice water. Smart.

I don’t know if they speak English. The wife was very abrupt asking me in Japanese if I spoke Japanese. I don’t know how she would be with a non-Japanese speaker. So go prepared. I felt like I was at Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi.

Curry House Tiri Tiri チリチリ

Shibuya-ku, Higashi 1-27-9

xn--7cka6jb.com/pc/index.html

Mandarin Oriental Pizza Bar on 38th

Tomato Salad

Tomato Salad

Tomato Salad at Pizza Bar on 38th

Trappizino

Trappizino

The specialty of the Pizza Bar on 38th. Marscapone, black olives, and truffle essence. This is so rich in umami and impressive. The first time I had this I woke up the next day thinking of it. Even a week later it haunts you, in a good way.

Cinque Formaggio

Cinque Formaggio

The pizza here is Roma-style. The crust is 80% water and is fermented for 48 hours. It is light and airy. The five cheese pizza is topped with truffle honey. The wine list includes a nice selection of Italian wines that naturally pair well with the cuisine.

Chef Daniele

Chef Daniele

Chef Daniele serving up a glass of “konatsu-cello” made from the tart summer citron, konatsu that is steeped in vodka with star anise and cloves. A perfect combination of Japanese ingredients with a traditional Italian drink. It is chef Daniele who came up with the recipe for the pizza dough after doing research back home in Italia. Grazie, chef!

The Pizza Bar on 38th

Mandarin Oriental, 38th Floor

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 2-1-1

www.mandarinoriental.com/tokyo/fine-dining/the-pizza-bar-on-38/

I first wrote about the Pizza Bar on 38th for Metropolis:

metropolis.co.jp/dining/restaurant-reviews/the-pizza-bar-on-38th/

Daikanyama Ivy Place

vy Place - zucchini flatbread pizza

Ivy Place – zucchini flatbread pizza

Daikanyama T-Site is a must visit for book lovers and design aficionados. T-Site is Tsutaya bookstore, cafe, music store, and so much more in a gorgeous complex. Many name it amongst some of the best bookstores in the world.

Ivy Place is the restaurant that is part of the T-Site complex. Chef David Chiddo has several restaurants throughout the city. I have heard so much about the flatbread pizza and finally made it there to try for myself. The menu changes weekly and the staff are great to update their website up-to-date. This was the menu when I went:

https://www.tysons.jp/ivyplace/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2015/06/ivy-lunch_150622.pdf

The zucchini, spinach, mozzarella, feta, and fresh dill pizza was a nice combination of flavors. The flatbread is grilled bringing a deeper flavor to it. Lunch at Ivy Place includes iced tea, salad, and coffee or tea. At 1,500 JPY for the flatbread pizza lunch set, it is a good value. The menu is vegetarian friendly and seasonal.

I was dining solo and was seated at the bar. The seating on the terrace is under some trees and a few different rooms in the restaurant that each had a different feel to it. The restaurant has a buzz to it, as most of David’s restaurants do. The cafe opens at 7:00 a.m. for breakfast. Lunch is very popular so time your visit accordingly.

Ivy Place

Shibuya-ku, Sarugaku-cho 16-15

03-6415-3232

Ginza Lunch – Hachidaime Gihey 銀座米料亭 八代目儀兵衛

 

Hachidaime lunch

Hachidaime lunch

At home we cook our rice in a donabe (ceramic pot). It is much faster to cook the rice in the donabe than it is in a rice cooker. Better yet, if you can cook it properly, the donabe will give you a nice okoge, charred crust. A Kyoto restaurant that specializes in rice that has a small restaurant in Ginza, which is a lovely spot for lunch. Here is a standard set lunch (about 2,500 JPY) that includes sashimi, tempura, yuba, and teriyaki Spanish mackerel as some of the dishes.

Hachidaime vegetarian

Hachidaime vegetarian

The vegetarian lunch (about 1,500 JPY) is a delight which included nama fu (wheat gluten), tempura, and tofu. Both lunches included roasted nori, salted kombu, pickles, miso soup (which is made with katsuo so not vegetarian). Both also included chirimen sansho (sardines with sansho berries), so also not vegetarian. But, if you are vegetarian you would be satisfied with the rest of the meal.

Hachidaime okoge

Hachidaime okoge

The rice has a lovely texture, and is all-you-can-eat. Here is the lovely okoge crust that is so treasured in Japan.

Hachidaime exterior

Hachidaime exterior

The Ginza restaurant is small. Just a handful of tables and it is a popular shop. We saw many diners turned away.

On our way out the staff called out the traditional Kyoto thank-you, okini.

 

Ginza Kome Ryotei Hachidaime Gihey 銀座米料亭 八代目儀兵衛

Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-4-15

中央区銀座5-4-15

03-6280-6383

Closed Wednesday

http://www.hachidaime.co.jp/ginza/

You can see the lunch and dinner photos with prices here:

http://www.hachidaime.co.jp/ginza/menu/

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

Tenmatsu Tempura in Nihonbashi

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Spring is my favorite time of year for tempura as sansai, mountain vegetables, are featured at good restaurants serving tempura. At the top of this box is udo (spikenard), which reminds me of a tender and somewhat bitter white asparagus. The other vegetable is renkon (lotus root). 

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Tenmatsu at Nihonbashi bridge, just between Nihonbashi and Mitsukoshi-Mae stations on the Ginza line, has long been a favorite spot of mine. I used to work at Takashimaya which is just a five-minute walk from here and would sometimes come for a solo lunch. The lunch here is a great bargain at under 1,000 JPY for tempura that is made and served to you piece-by-piece as it comes out of the oil. Here you see the chef’s work spot. Some flour that the ingredients are dipped in before being covered with an egg, flour, and water batter before being deep-fried.

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Here is the udo to start off the meal. At home we blanch udo and then dress it with mayonnaise. But tempura is probably the best way to enjoy it.

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This is a special technique when putting in items to the hot oil, to gently toss away from you into the hot oil. Part of the joy of sitting at the counter at a tempura restaurant is listening to the oil as it sputters. A good tempura chef will know when items are ready to be pulled out of the oil by the sound it makes when it is done frying. On the plate is asparagus and shiitake. My friend got two pieces of shrimp for this course.

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Squid and lotus root. I love the chef’s smile. 🙂

In the large round bowl is the chef’s batter mixture. He also uses two different chopsticks. A wooden pair for the flour and batter and then a metal pair for working in the oil.

Tenmatsu is in my book, Food Sake Tokyo. The chef in this photo is the same chef that is in my book. It is quite busy at lunch time so either go early or late. Be sure to request a seat at the counters on the 1st or 2nd floor. The 3rd floor is tables only and you miss out on watching the chef prepare the tempura in front of you. They are open on Sundays and holidays which is good to keep in mind as most shops in this area are closed on these days. The main shop is in Shibuya.

Note that at lunch time there is a vegetable only tempura set lunch.

Tenmatsu

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-8-2

03-3241-5840

Lunch 11:00 – 14:00 (Sat., Sun., and holidays until 14:30)

Dinner 17:00 – 21:00

Nakameguro Seirinkan – One of the Best Pizzas in Tokyo

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Susumu Kakinuma makes some of Tokyo’s best pizzas in Nakameguro. Alan Richman, the decorated food journalist documents Kakinuma and his pizzas in this timeless GQ magazine article. It is worth the journey across the city to Nakameguro for one of his pies. There are two pizzas, the marinara and the Margherita.

Here is Richman on Seirinkan. “…Kakinuma prepares two kinds of pizza, marinara and Margherita, because that’s what you get at his favorite pizzeria in Naples. (I preferred the marinara, because the tomato sauce and garlic were so vivid.) His crusts are soft, chewy, puffy, slightly charred, and incredibly tender.”

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What Richman doesn’t write about is my second favorite dish at Seirinkan after the pizza, broccoli. Boiled until al dente, then sautéed in a pan with crispy garlic chips and olive oil, this is the perfect partner to the pies. Kakinuma kindly shared the recipe with us on a recent visit and while we have made it a few times at home, it’s never as good as it is here. He also recommends dipping the chewy crust of the pizza in the garlic oil that the broccoli is served with.

Seirinkan is just a few minutes’ walk from Nakameguro station. if you are thirsty after your pizza, Bryan Baird’s Taproom, with some of Japan’s best craft beer, is just around the corner.

Seirinkan

Meguro-ku, Kami-Meguro 2-6-4

03-3714-5160

Le Pain Quotidien at nonowa Higashi-Koganei

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I lived in Brussels for a year and one of the things I remember the most is the Le Pain Quotidien down the street from my apartment. The bakery opened up early in the morning so I could stop by and get a croissant or pain au chocolat to start the day. The large communal table in the middle of the cafe is perfect when dining solo. On the table were jars of jam and nutty and chocolate spreads for bread. Open-faced tartine sandwiches as well as salads round out the menu here. The menu sadly does not have any Japanese influences. It is pretty much the same menu you’ll see in Belgium or in New York City. A fun shop to come in solo or with some friends.

Le Pain Quotidien is in a new shopping complex that opened up recently, nonowa Higashi-Koganei, which is on the Chuo line between Mitaka and Kokubunji. nonowa can also be found in Nishi-Kokubunji and in Musashi-Sakai, also on the Chuo line. The shops are in the train stations and this Higashi-Koganei shop is all underneath the Chuo line. A smart move to use the space underneath the train tracks. While it’s possible to hear the trains passing above, it is not nearly as noisy as spots like the restaurants underneath the Yamanote line near Yurakucho station.

The organic coffee is served in a bowl. Reminds me of bowls of hot chocolate in Europe. The coffee comes in a pot and is about two cups plus. Next time I come back I will bring some reading with me and settle in and be transported back to Belgium.

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The shop is brightly lit as one wall of windows faces south. On this day there were a few older couples and many young women in the shop. There is a small, but well-stocked bakery in the front of the shop for take-away or for eating in the cafe.

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There is also outdoor seating which will be perfect once the weather warms up. And, operation hours are 7:30 – 22:00.

Le Pain Quotidien has branches in the city. It’s not worth the trek out to Higashi-Koganei. But, if you find yourself traveling on the Chuo line, it’s good to know that it’s here.

Sandwich and Salad Lunch

Sandwich and Salad Lunch

A vegetable-friendly menu with salads and sandwiches.

Le Pain Quotidien Kid's Lunch

Le Pain Quotidien Kid’s Lunch

The Kid’s Lunch is hearty with an open-faced sandwich, fresh fruit, roasted potatoes, juice, and a chocolate muffin. Best of all, the waitress set a bucket of crayons on the communal table along with some origami paper. The crayons bought me enough free time to leisurely peruse their cookbook.

Le Pain Quotidien

Koganei-shi, Kajinocho 5-1-1, nonowa Higashi-Koganei

小金井市梶野町5-1-1, nonowa東小金井

Chuo line, local stop at Higashi-Koganei station 東小金井駅

042-316-7041

7:30 – 22:00

updated 27 July 2015