My Go-To Brasserie

My go-to brasserie is Girandole at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. The menu includes many classics like Salad Nicoise (2,300 JPY) and Pate de Campagne (2,600 JPY). I love the Japanese twist on the salad which included seared tuna. The pate de campagne is dense without being heavy.  There is a nice selection of wines by the glass. Service is professional without being stodgy.

The Petit Lunch is a good value for 2,500 JPY which starts with a soup or salad, main, and dessert. The restaurant is on the 41st floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo in Shinjuku. There are a handful of seats along the window, but I prefer the cozy banquettes. At a recent dinner here there was a family celebrating a baby’s first birthday in a corner semi-private room. We’ve come with our young son and the kid-friendly restaurant made us feel at home.

Girandole at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 3-7-1-2, Park Hyatt Tokyo 41st Floor

https://tokyo.park.hyatt.com/en/hotel/dining/Girandole.html

Aoyama Cicada

At Cicada in Aoyama, near Omotesando, I always order the mezze plate. I love the variety of small bites, often with lots of vegetables. If you have allergies, or prefer for an all vegetable mezze, the kitchen is great to substitute something.

I sometimes come by myself and sit at the bar.  In New York City I found it very easy to start up conversations with complete strangers, but that is much harder to do here in Japan. However, I’ve met some interesting people here, including a designer. In our conversation we realized that we both worked on the same food project, at different stages. Cicada is that type of restaurant that draws in an international crowd, but also internationally-minded locals. There is always a buzz in the restaurant and the staff speak English.

The draft beer is from T.Y. Harbor, their sister shop. The wine list is reasonably priced and there is a nice selection of wines-by-the-glass that match the Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.

There is outdoor seating, but that seems to book up quickly, so plan ahead if you want to dine al fresco.

Aoyama Cicada4

Aoyama Cicada Mezze

Cicada

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 5-7-28 港区南青山5-7-28

https://www.tysons.jp/cicada/en/

Aoyama Cicada

Cicada - Mezze

Cicada – Mezze

At Cicada in Aoyama, near Omotesando, I always order the mezze plate. I love the variety of small bites, often with lots of vegetables. If you have allergies, or prefer for an all vegetable mezze, the kitchen is great to substitute something.

I sometimes come by myself and sit at the bar.  In New York City I found it very easy to start up conversations with complete strangers, but that is much harder to do here in Japan. However, I’ve met some interesting people here, including a designer. In our conversation we realized that we both worked on the same food project, at different stages. Cicada is that type of restaurant that draws in an international crowd, but also internationally-minded locals. There is always a buzz in the restaurant and the staff speak English.

Cicada Mezze2

Cicada – Mezze

The draft beer is from T.Y. Harbor, their sister shop. The wine list is reasonably priced and there is a nice selection of wines-by-the-glass that match the Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.

There is outdoor seating, but that seems to book up quickly, so plan ahead if you want to dine al fresco.

Cicada

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 5-7-28 港区南青山5-7-28

https://www.tysons.jp/cicada/en/

 

Planting a Vineyard in Nagano

Vin d'Ohmachi

Vin d’Ohmachi

My first work in the wine world was at Coco Farm and Winery, just north of Tokyo. I had left New York City a year after 9/11. Coco Farm and Winery is an amazing home to students with developmental disabilities and autism. My new home was the perfect transition out of New York City. The students work at the winery every day. There were about a dozen of us working a the winery and one of those was Yano-san. Yano-san was a salaryman in Tokyo, but every weekend he would come up to help at the winery.

Yano-san of Vin d'Ohmachi

Yano-san of Vin d’Ohmachi

Yano-san eventually left his job in Tokyo and worked at Coco Farm for ten years. He and his family is now in Ohmachi, in northern Nagano. We went up to help him plant his vineyard for Vin d’Ohmachi. Yano-san could not have picked a more beautiful backdrop, the Kita Alps, which are in the background.

It takes a village.

It takes a village.

There were many friends and family on this beautiful weekend to help plant the grape trees. We planted gewurtztraminer and cabernet franc on this day. It was hard work as the soil had lots of big rocks in it. Good luck, Yano-san. Looking forward to someday drinking Vin d’Ohmachi with you.

Here is a nice blogpost in Japanese from that day.

http://blog.livedoor.jp/omachi_wine/archives/43785562.html

Nearby:

Azumino Okina Soba

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

Ruby Jack’s Steakhouse

Ruby Jack's Tomato Salad

Ruby Jack’s Tomato Salad

Ruby and Jack are chef Matthew Crabbe’s grandparents name. Ruby Jack’s Steakhouse is a great spot in the Ark Hills South Tower building. High ceilings, outdoor seating if you want on a spacious terrace. The interior feels very upscale with the white tablecloths, but it’s very friendly and without any attitude. Here is a tomato and blue cheese salad.

Ruby Jack's Caesar Salad

Ruby Jack’s Caesar Salad

The Caesar salad is covered with a generous amount of cheese, which is a treat in Japan.

Ruby Jack's Pork

Ruby Jack’s Pork

While it is a steakhouse, I couldn’t resist the Japanese pork. A meaty portion that was just right for lunch.

Ruby Jack's burger

Ruby Jack’s Burger

I had such a great meal that I went back right away as I wanted to try the burger and fries. It’s a messy burger, as they should be, and with a barbecue sauce. All of the lunch sets come with an appetizer and coffee or tea. Here is my review of Ruby Jack’s for Metropolis magazine.

The wine list is rich and there are several selections under 10,000 JPY. At lunchtime the restaurant is kid-friendly and there is even a kid’s menu. Don’t bother coming if you are a vegetarian, or you may leave hungry.

My only advice is to allow yourself some time to get lost in this area. There are many buildings in the Ark Hills complex and I have been lost here several times.

Ruby Jack’s Steakhouse

Minato-ku, Roppongi 1-4-5, Ark Hills South Tower 2F

rubyjacks.jp

 

Ebisu Tachinomi Q

Tachinomi Q

Tachinomi Q

Tachinomi interior

Tachinomi interior

I first came upon this great standing bar about five years ago when it first opened. It had great reviews for being cheap, with great food, and a fun environment. It was exactly that. This is not your typical izakaya with Japanese fare but includes many tapa-style bites. The menu includes home-cured bacon, escargot, smoked butter toast, pork simmered in balsamico, and deep-fried octopus. The drink menu is extensive, including cocktails and whisky, but I stick to wine or sangria as it seems to be the best match with the food. The bar serves seven wines by the glass and is it is a busy place, the bottles are usually fresh. It is only a few minutes’ walk from the station, so perfect to stop by and have a drink and a few small plates if you are in the area.

Q

Shibuya-ku, Ebisu 4-4-2, Kuresuto Ebisu 1F

03-5793-5591

closed Sunday and holidays

17:00 – 4:00 a.m.

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.

Five Questions for Japan’s First Master of Wine Ned Goodwin

Ned Goodwin is Japan’s first Master of Wine. Ned is also one of the most passionate sommeliers in Japan. Ned graciously took me under his wings when I moved to Tokyo to work as a sommelier. His generosity and guidance helped me tremendously. Ned has had a great impact in the wine world in Japan with innovative wine lists and staff training. Here Ned shares with readers some of his favorite places to drink wine in Tokyo and more.
1. Congratulations on becoming the first Master of Wine in Japan. Tell us about the Master of Wine and how it is different from a Master Sommelier. What all did you have to do to become a Master of Wine?

On average the MW demands around a decade of study and is a mutli-disciplined course that examines vineyard work, vinification, marketing / business and contemporary issues such as Global Warming, the rise of China et al.  These sections are woven around four-days of exams that constitute the ‘Theory’ section of the exam. Each day consists of three one hour essays aside from the final and fourth day, which consists of two essays.

In addition, each morning over the first three-days, one sits the ‘Practical’ section of the exam. The ‘Theory’ follows in the afternoon. The ‘Practical’ constitutes a white, red and ‘mixed bag’ (often fortifieds and sparkling, but not necessarily) paper; each 2 1/4 hours long with 12 wines across each discipline.

These two sections are then followed by a 10,000 word dissertation on a subject pertinent to the market that one works in. Diss was on Jap. sommeliers & whether the wine by-the-glass in a tightly defined tier of restaurant chosen by them, had physiological synergies with a tightly defined customer type that both drinks wine and goes to the defined ilk of restaurant. In other words, are sommeliers here giving customers what they like, or do Japanese prefer (possibly) other similarly priced wine by-glass styles, that for some reason or other, are not popular here (Gruner, Rose etc.).

The Master Sommelier is more service-focused without the overall range or discipline across many facets of the wine world, that the MW demands.

2. What are some of your favorite places to drink wine in Tokyo?

Shonzui in Roppongi (Minato-ku, Roppongi 7-10-2)

Buchi at Shinsen kousaten (Shibuya-ku, Shinsen-cho 9-7)

Fiocchi in Soshigaya-Okura (Setagaya-ku, Soshigaya 3-4-9)

Tharros in Shibuya (Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 1-5-2, Shibuya SED Bldg).

3. What are your favorite retail wine shops in Tokyo?

I mostly get my wine directly from producers, wholesalers or importers albeit, if I were to purchase wine at a retail level, Tokyu Honten (Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 2-24-1) is very good.

4. In a Japanese magazine you wrote about pairing rose with yakitori. Any other general recommendations to pair wine with Japanese food?

I think pairing wine with Japanese food is relatively straightforward given that the dominant flavour profiles are sweet/salt, with and subtle textures an important part-at least with traditional Japanese fare. The major stumbling block is the rather ethnocentric and closed mentality of many Japanese chefs and even sommeliers when it comes to matching wine with anything Japanese. True, there is of course beer and Nihon-shu, although wine offers a different and equally fun experience. Izakaya-styled food is particularly good with a slew of rose styles although, perhaps due to their perceived simplicity, rose has not really taken on here as a category. Umami and its yeasty, savouriness lends itself well to wines that have spent time on lees, such as many Chardonnays and bottle-fermented sparkling wines.

5. Any wine trends you see in Tokyo or in Japan?

Recessionary pressures mean less expensive wines and the rise therefore, of imports from places such as Chile. There is an overall lack of dynamism in the market and the power of China, Hong Kong and other SE Asian markets has usurped Japan’s muscle, to a great degree, on the world stage. I believe that many Japanese still want to drink quality at a better price rather than a cheap price, however. Yet because selling in a western sense is foreign to most Japanese and their attention to ‘face’ and ambiguity / lack of direct sales techniques; wines that sell themselves (cheap and/or from mainstream regional brands such as Chianti, Chablis etc.) are relied on instead of sommeliers and salespeople actively suggesting real value across, perhaps, lesser known regions. Salespeople in Japan rarely engage the customer, but play to a love of pomp and aesthetics in terms of sertvice styles. Unfortunately, these approaches often fail to get good wine of value in glasses!

Ned’s links include:

The Institute of Masters of Wine

Asian Correspondent

Twitter

UPDATE as of December 15, 2012:

ned1

ned2

Ned has made two wines under the “Good Wine” label. These Australian wines are perfect for entertaining or for your new house wine. Pinot Grigio and a Cabernet & Shiraz blend. E-mail me for details for delivery in Japan.