Table-worthy Canned Goods

We keep a big variety of canned foods in the pantry, in case of an earthquake, and because Japan offers great options. Canned foods in Japan offer a wide variety of seafood and meats, many worth putting on the table with a glass of wine or saké.

Kokubu is a company that offers a colorful selection in its premium line up. On the upper right photo is simmered beef tendons from the Ginza izakaya, ROCK FISH. The sauce is so good that it’s good to have a baguette for dipping.

From left to right is: smoked kaibashira (shellfish adductor muscle), yakitori with black pepper, habanero sardines,  and Hokkaido scallops. The cans are easy to heat up in the toaster oven. Clean-up is a breeze, just rinse and recycle the cans.

There is a Kokubu retail shop, ROJI Nihonbashi, is in Nihonbashi at Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 1-1-1. http://www.roji-nhb.jp/shop/ But you’ll find these sold at supermarkets and some convenient stores.

The canned sardines, both from Kushiro in Hokkaido, and Choshi in Chiba, are standards in our menu. We will open up a can if we need to add a protein to a meal. The sardines are cooked in the cans with sugar, soy sauce, sake, mirin, ginger, and salt. The bones are tender enough that they can be eaten. “Rich in calcium” is what Shinji loves to say about this. These products, made by Maruha Nichiro for Seven & i (7-11 and Ito Yokado), are very good and cost only about 250 JPY (or less) per can.

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Nakameguro Sumi-Grilled Yakitori

Maru, just a few minutes’ from Nakameguro station, is a great lunch spot for sumi (charcoal) grilled yakitori. The chicken, Amakusa Daiou, from Kumamoto, is called the king of chicken, and is known for it’s rich in texture and flavor.

The oyako-don (900 JPY), on the left above is a popular dish of chicken and eggs cooked in a sweet soy broth. Oyako is literally mother and child, a fun name for this dish. The sign of a good oyakodon is eggs that are just heated enough so that the whites just start to gel. The semi-scrambled eggs become a sauce for the chicken and rice.

The yakitori-don (1,200 JPY) includes three smokey skewers, grilled over charcoal: white meat, gizzard, and thighs with leeks. Two tsukune meatballs, a raw yolk, shishitō and nori round out the dish. Lunch sets include pickles, chicken soup, and a rich tiramisu.

Nakameguro is a hot area at the moment as several restaurants, including a hip City Bakery and Tsutaya bookstore have opened up under the tracks, in an area called Nakameguro Koukashita. On a recent visit the new shops were swamped, so we were happy to find quiet refuge at Maru.

Sumibiyaki Maru 炭火焼 Maru

Meguro-ku, Nakameguro 2-12-2 W. Nakameguro 1F

目黒区上目黒2-12-2 W. Nakameguro 1F

Family-friendly Yakitoriya

Once in a while we adults want to have yakitori, grilled chicken skewers, but many yakitori-ya are smoky joints that are not kid-friendly. Iseya in Kichijōji near Inokashira Kōen Park is both family-friendly and a good value. It is also perfect for groups as it is a large space. The only challenge is that it is wildly popular. On weekends there is a perpetual line out the front door. Bring along something to keep your kid occupied while standing in line.

First things first, large mugs of cold beer for the adults and barley tea for the kid. We ordered vegetables like edamame, potato salad, green salad, kimchi, and cucumbers to get started. At the same time we ordered a variety of chicken skewers like thigh, gizzard, liver, chicken balls complete with minced cartilage for crunch, and chicken skin. The vegetables come out immediately and just when we are ready for the yakitori a giant plate is placed on the table with the skewers.

Inokashira Kōen is a great spot for the kids to run around after lunch. On the north side of the station is a great shōtengai shopping arcade with many food shops.

Iseya Sōhōten いせや総本店

Musashino-shi, Kichijōji Minami-chō 1-15-8

武蔵野市吉祥寺南町1-15-8

12 noon – 10 p.m.

closed Monday

no website

 

Abe-chan Yakitori in Azabu-Juban あべちゃん麻布十番店

Azabu-Juban Abe-chan Interior

Azabu-Juban Abe-chan Interior

On the shotengai street of Azabu-Juban it is hard to miss the smell of yakitori, grilled chicken skewers, coming out from Abe-chan. The shop opens at 3 p.m. and it is not unusual to see older diners come in before the evening rush. Abe-chan is a local yakitori-ya that is a good value and fun. It’s not competing with high-end shops like Ginza Birdland for a special night out, but is a shop that you come in for a few skewers with family or friends.

Abe-chan Yakitori

Abe-chan Yakitori

The cuts of meat are generous so don’t order too many skewers right away. The staff will suggest which skewers are best with the tare sauce or…

Abe-chan Yakitori

Abe-chan Yakitori

and which are best simply salted.

Abe-chan4

Tare at Abe-chan

Can you believe this? The pot with the tare sauce at the front of the shop has been constantly topped off for 70 years. The handsome father, here in the photo, on television said that if the big earthquake comes he would race to the shop to protect this sauce pot. Love it.

Azabu-Juban Abe-chan Exterior

Azabu-Juban Abe-chan Exterior

In the blue shirt is the son, also Abe-chan, as Abe is the family’s last name. I love this local yakitori-ya and it’s just down the street from my favorite bar in the city, Bar Gen Yamamoto. Abe-chan has a second shop around the corner and the staff can direct you there if the main shop is full, which is often the case.

Abe-chan

Minato-ku, Azabu-Juban 2-1-1  港区麻布十番2-1-1

http://www.azabujuban.or.jp/

Tsukiji Market Toritoh 鳥藤

Tsukiji Toritoh

Tsukiji Market Toritoh

While many people coming to Tsukiji Market are dining on raw fish for breakfast I usually beeline it to the non-sushi and donburi restaurants as I get enough of it at home. Toritoh is a chicken retail shop that also has a restaurant around the corner from the main shop. The restaurant’s signature dish is oyakodonburi, a mixture of soft scrambled eggs and chicken, called parent and child.

This day I had asked for the yakitori donburi but was told that the retail shop didn’t send any yakitori over so the restaurant would not be serving it for the whole day. I then ordered this donburi that is topped with ground chicken seasoned with a sweet soy sauce and ginger, teriyaki chicken, liver, gizzard, and egg yolk. Chicken broth is served in a tea cup which is done at many yakitori restaurants in the city.

I did ask for a smaller serving of rice (gohan o sukuname o kudasai) and am glad I did as this smaller portion was just the right size.

Toritoh is often busy but on this rainy day I lucked out.

Highly recommended and I will be back for this dish.

For more details on the restaurant, see this earlier post on Toritoh.

Toritoh 鳥藤

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-8-6 中央区築地4-8-6

03-3543-6525

7:30 – 14:30

Tsukiji Market Cheap Eats – Toritoh Chicken

toritada 1While many come to Tsukiji Market for sushi, I prefer to have warm dishes first thing in the morning. There is a wide variety of restaurants offering up more than just raw fish. Toritoh is both a restaurant and a retail shop. The retail shop in the outer market that sells both raw and cooked chicken. The restaurant is just around the corner from the retail shop. It’s a tiny restaurant that seats six at the counter and about ten at tables in the back.

** Note on a recent visit in October 2014 this fried chicken dish was no longer on the menu.
toritada 2

Kara-agé is Japanese fried chicken. This version fries the chicken and then quickly dips it in a sweet soy broth before putting over a bowl of rice topped with sauteed bean sprouts. It is served with a simple chicken broth, tofu, and pickles.

Toritoh 3

The signature dish of this shop is oyakodon, literally “mother and child rice bowl”, or chicken and eggs over rice. 親子丼

toritoh 5

The counter overlooks the open kitchen. On the stove there are several pots used specifically for cooking the chicken and eggs for oyakodon.
Toritoh 4Other dishes on the menu include yakitori over rice, chicken katsu (cutlets) and curry, and an interesting dish of bonjiri which is the fatty tissue near the tail end of the chicken.

Click here for photos of the dishes and a map to both the restaurant and the retail shop.

Toritoh

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-8-6

03-3543-6525

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Tsukiji Market Cheap Eats

Where to have sushi at Tsukiji

7:30 – 14:30

Tokyo Cheap Eats

Tokyo is a great city for eating well on a budget. The first thing to look for is restaurants that specialize in a dish, like ramen, tonkatsu, or soba. Also, remember the word “teishoku” which is like the daily special or set meal. It is often includes rice, miso soup, pickles, a main dish and a side dish or two. In all of my years eating in Tokyo I can count on one hand the bad meals I have had.

Here are my favorite cheap eats in Tokyo (and this is just scratching the surface):

1. Maisen tonkatsu in Omotesando. Who doesn’t love breaded and deep-fried cutlets? And, it is conveniently located near Omotesando Hills and Takeshita Dori in Harajuku.

Isehiro Yakitori Lunch Donburi

2. Isehiro yakitori in Kyobashi. The lunch donburi special is 1,800 JPY for five sticks of grilled yakitori over a bowl of rice with soup and pickles. This is a bargain when compared to the dinner full course which starts at 6,300 JPY. This is one of my favorite yakitori restaurants in the city, especially at this price. I like to sit at the counter and watch the chef grilling the skewers. Chuo-ku, Kyobashi 1-5-4.

3. Ivan Ramen. Ivan makes his own noodles, trained at the CIA, and has worked under luminaries such as Andre Soltner and Bobby Flay. Other favorites include Afuri in Ebisu, Jangara Ramen (chain), Ippudo (chain).

4. Uoriki Sushi in Shibuya’s Tokyu Toyoko-ten depachika. Uoriki’s main business is as fishmongers, they have a big retail shop in Tokyu, so the quality of the seafood is very good. Also, the location is great, literally underneath Shibuya station. It is located in the depachika, near the seafood section. Don’t worry if there is a line as it usually moves quickly. Just put your name on the waiting list.

5. Saiseisakaba tachinomi for offal. Everything we’ve had here has been great, from sashimi brains (even Shinji was afraid to try this at first), to all of the grilled innards. My favorite dish here is always the tender tongue. And, I love the genki (and handsome) staff here. Locations in Shinjuku, Monzennakacho, and at the Shin Maru Building outside of Tokyo Station’s Marunouchi exit.

6. Narutomi Soba in Ginza. A bit off the beaten path yet located between Tsukiji and Ginza. I was brought here by two Japanese food writers. Be sure to get the gobo tempura, you’ll thank me later.

7. Tenmatsu for tempura at Nihonbashi. The “business lunch” is a bargain at 920 JPY. Be sure to ask for a seat at the counter. Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-8-2. It is located just next to the historic Nihonbashi bridge. And conveniently located between Takashimaya and Mitsukoshi – both with magnificent depachika.

8. Tamai for anago in Nihonbashi. Most people I know adore unagi. If you don’t live in Japan chances are you haven’t had anago yet. Similar to unagi, but I find it more delicate.

9. Buri tachinomi for sake and small bites. A short walk from Shibuya station, the menu has a variety of dishes and not only are the staff hip, so are your fellow diners. Shibuya-ku, Ebisu Nishi 1-14-1

10. Depachika. When I am at a loss for where to go, I head to the basement of any major department store. Especially Nihonbashi Takashimaya, Shinjuku Takashimaya, Shinjuku Isetan, and Ginza Mitsukoshi as these all have rooftop gardens where you can bring any bento that you get at the depachika to enjoy. While you’re at it, pick up a beer or can of sake to enjoy.

This is just a tiny bit of what’s delicious and affordable in Tokyo. Just recently, Robbie Swinnerton of The Japan Times shared with readers a great sukiyaki restaurant, Sukiyaki Yoshihashi, in Akasaka that has a lunch bargain starting at 2,100 JPY.

Shotengai Shopping Arcades – Walking Food Tours of Tokyo

Shotengai

Shotengai

I love the shotengai, Japanese shopping arcades. Filled with ma and pa shops selling tofu, fresh produce, rice, pickles, miso, and other basics of the Japanese pantry. This article recently appeared in Metropolis magazine and features five of my favorite shotengai in Tokyo.

http://metropolis.co.jp/dining/local-flavors/street-eats/ (text follows)

While the one-stop food shopping at Tokyo’s depachika is an amazing experience, the gourmet eats come with a high price tag. At the other end of the spectrum are the places where most Japanese do their daily shopping: neighborhood shopping streets known as shotengai, where you’ll find mom and pop shops selling vegetables, fish, meat, rice and even handmade tofu. The Tokyo Shotengai website (http://meturl.com/shotengai) lists over 550 of these shopping streets; here are some of our favorites.

KAGURAZAKA 神楽坂

This foodie neighborhood is filled with many fantastic shops along the main drag. Try 50-ban (3-2 Kagurazaka) for its steamed buns, Kintokiya (2-10 Kagurazaka) for wagashi made from sweet potatoes, and the gorgeous Rakuzan (4-3 Kagurazaka) for tea. Isuzu (5-34 Kagurazaka) offers a variety of Japanese-style sweets and, if you walk along the street far enough, Baikatei (6-15 Kagurazaka) has fantastic handmade wagashi. Nearest station: Iidabashi

NIPPORI 日暮里

Just outside of Nippori station lies the Yanaka shotengai—very typical of what you would imagine an old-style shopping street to be like. Two of the area’s meat shops are famous for their menchikatsuNiku no Sato (3-13-2 Yanaka) and Niku no Suzuki (3-15-5 Nishi-Nippori). Goto no Ame (3-15-1 Nishi-Nippori) has a colorful selection of candies. There are many options, including deep-fried tofu balls known as ganmodoki, at Musashiya (3-9-15 Yanaka), oyatsu-pan (snack breads) at Atomu Bakery (3-11-14 Yanaka), and skewered and grilled seafood at Fukushima Shoten (3-13-4 Yanaka). Note that a lot of the shops are closed on Mondays.Nearest stn: Nippori. www.yanakaginza.com

NINGYOCHO 人形町

The historic Ningyocho district is always a delight to visit. While you’ll find many shops selling the local specialty, ningyoyaki (small cakes filled with azuki bean paste), there are many other interesting stores. On the famous Amazake Yokocho shotengai is Futaba Tofu (2-4-9 Ningyocho), with a variety of tofu products and also the sweet, creamy drink for which this street is named. Hojicha tea is the specialty of Morinoen (2-4-9 Ningyocho), while the long line outside the tiny Yanagiya (2-11-3 Ningyocho) is a testament to the popularity of its taiyaki sweet-bean cakes—considered one of the three best varieties in the city. Ningyocho’s most famous restaurant may well be Tamahide (1-17-10 Ningyocho), renowned for its oyako-don rice bowls. Nearest stn: Ningyocho.

KICHIJOJI 吉祥寺

Just north of Kichijoji station is Sun Road, a covered shotengai filled with many small shops. Among the several worth exploring are traditional German bakery Linde (1-11-27 Kichijoji-Honcho) and Meat Shop Sato (1-1-8 Kichijoji-Honcho), which is famous for its menchikatsu and wagyu and which also has a popular restaurant on the second floor, usually with a long line. Okashi no Machioka (1-15-1 Kichijoji-Honcho) will have your eyes spinning with all of the different types of candies, sweets and snacks. In the evening, the Harmonica Yokocho strip is filled with small restaurants that are perfect for a drink and some nibbles. Tecchan is a popular yakitori spot—if you can squeeze in (1-1-2 Kichijoji-Honcho). Nearest stn: Kichijoji.

AZABU-JUBAN 麻布十番

This popular foodie street in the heart of the city is easy to navigate. The renowned Mamegen (1-8-12 Azabu-Juban) tempts customers with over 90 varieties of flavored rice crackers, including uni, wasabi and curry, but it’s the shio-okaki (deep-fried and salted) that are irresistible. The taiyaki at the extremely popular Naniwaya Sohonten (1-8-14 Azabu-Juban) are made by the shop’s fourth-generation owners. Hasegawa Saketen (2-2-7 Azabu-Juban) has well-selected sake, shochu and umeshu. If you’re craving meat, the yakitori at Abe-chan (2-1-1 Azabu-Juban) will hit the spot. Alternatively, slurp up some soba noodles at Nagasaka Sarashina (1-8-7 Azabu Juban), notably the delicate, white sarashina noodles. Nearest stn: Azabu-Juban.

Ukai Toriyama in Takao

Gardens of Toriyama

Gardens of Toriyama

On the outskirts of Tokyo in the shadows of Mount Takao (Takao-san) is Toriyama. Part of the famous Ukai chain of restaurants, is a garden filled with private rooms for a meal based on grilled chicken kaiseki. This is a dining experience that is worth the trip out to Hachioji, about an hour from Tokyo station on an express train, followed by a shuttle bus to the restaurant.

Grilled Fish at Toriyama

Grilled Fish at Toriyama

Several courses are presented, including this grilled fish presented on pine leaves.

Rice Course

Rice Course

A view of the room and the rice course (shime).

Kimono-clad waitresses in the garden

Kimono-clad waitresses in the garden

While dining in your own private room you feel as though you are the only one there. On your way home after your meal you may see the waitresses in colorful kimono bringing courses to the different guest rooms scattered throughout the garden.

Ukai Toriyama

Hachioji, Minami Asakawa 3426

0426-61-0739

www.ukai.co.jp/toriyama/index.html#english