Mixology, Akasaka Cocktail Bar.

Blue cheese Daquiri and Tom Yum cooler, first round.

In the heart of Tokyo Akasaka business area a very nice find. Well a friend introduced me. I am glad he did; not really a casual drink sort of place, but certainly was worth the visit. They have been going for many years and it is essentially a high end cocktail bar with some bar snacks. They even distill their own flavored alcohols. As you walk in you might notice the scientific looking Still on the counter. I assume this is how they get the likes of Roquefort rum used in the blue cheese daquiri I opted for. The daquiri was nice but the Roquefort flavour was really only very faint. On the other hand my friend who had opted for the rif on a Tom Yum soup the Tom Yum Cooler was on to something special. The spice, the lemon grass, the savoury but sweet and sour, it was as delicious as it was confusing. This I think takes a reasonable amount of skill and effort so hats off to the establishment.

They also had some pricey bar snacks, but if you have decided to blow a hole in your pocket you might as well do it properly. The homemade wagyu jerky and Truffle french fries were quite lovely and added to our experience. I finished off with a Komasa Gin, lemon juice, syrup and absinthe short cocktail, which again was delightful.

Truffle fries with cured ham and sour cream.
Homemade Wagyu Jerky.

Not a cheap evening with drinks coming in at around 3000 yen and cover charge. Still if you fancy something unusual might be worth a visit.

L`As, course french Omotesando.

So as affordable fine dining goes I think this is a good example. They only have a tasting course at the restaurant and in front on the same building they have a wine bar for a more casual experience. This place being such a reasonable offering is often fully booked, so call before going. It has also been going a long time, must be going on 10 years.

The 9 course tasting menu.

The tasting course is 5000 yen and the wine pairing is another 5000 yen. They also have a non alcoholic pairing, with some quite interesting drinks on it. I went with the wine pairing and I must say it was quite a nice little journey through a variety of drinks not all wine I should add. For me the stand out courses were: the foie gras sandwich, which is their signature course, the sous vide salmon, the crab risotto, and the savoy cabbage roll. The benefit of fine dining courses for restaurants is of course they get to tell you what you eat. The trade off is they put a lot of effort into making what they serve great. It was a really nice diner and I will be repeating when I have something to celebrate.

Anyways here is the course in photos.

Amuse bouche fresh Motzarella with olive oil and sea salt.

The Foie gras wine pairing was a sweet Japanese red wine and kept a real fruity punch with some acidity aswell. A good pairing I must say.

The foie gras sandwich is encased in a raspberry sauce coating.
Sous vide salmon with cream cheese sauce.
Organic french white.
Three turnips sauteed with a nori sauce
Crab risotto “this crab brains out of a crab skull is quite nice” I overheard.
Roast Horo horo wrapped in savoy cabbage with red wine sauce.
Cream based desert served with olive oil and honey.
Sherbert as kuchi naoshi.

The desert TKP (Tamago kake purin, raw egg on egg flan), which is a play on a japanese soul food TKG (Tamago kake gohan, raw egg on rice) was interestingly paired with Warninks which is a Dutch eggnog which is popular in Britain. You have to be an egg lover for this triple punch finish. I liked the humour of it, and it was a nice finish to a great meal.

Le Lion, Ebisu Brasserie.

I love the way the Japanese seem to be able to focus so hard on something, that they end up almost outdoing what they are emulating. Le Lion for a casual french lunch. Lots of classics on the menu, but I am trying to be healthy lately so went with the Salade Lyonnaise. I love the way you get lunch sets in Japan. In other places you are gonna pay through the nose to get the side salad or the soup starter. Here it just comes with. I will give you not always and there does seem a clear trend of westernization of menus so all things are charged separately. All I can say is I hope Japan stays true to its roots.

Potato and Leek soup and bread as the set

The Salade Lyonnaise was just great. The Lardon and the Gessier fried off beautifully and the salad dressed in a nice crisp vinigraitte. This is a classic dish and they have done it proud here. Made me glad I had not opted for a very banal steak frites, though when the lady next to me had it I did have second thoughts.

Salade Lyonnaise

I ordered a desert because the lady at the next table ordered it and it looked so good. Creme D`Anjou with raspberry coulis. This is a heavenly mix of strained Yogurt with Creme Chantilly with a generous splash of raspberry coulis. They do it very well I highly recommend and on balance amongst many deserts this is probably almost a healthy option.

Ceme D`Anjou with raspberry coulis

I used to like going to Aux Bachannales for my fix of Bistro french, but Le Lion is certainly a contender. Like all good restaurants in Tokyo sadly it can be hard to get a table here. The little wait I would say is worth it.

Freeman shokudo, Nishi hara Brooklyn BBQ.

I was put on to this by a colleague who likes a tipple of real ale. He had come across this place on his travels and knowing that I liked to eat all sorts kindly recommended it to me. Nishi Hara which is going out of town from Shinjuku is not exactly a convenient place. However this Pastrami sandwich is absolutely the nuts. I will revisit this place just for the pastrami sandwich. The little town itself seems full of little quirky places that seem worth a visit so next time I will give myself a little more time.

Back to Freeman Shokudo, I have in my time in tokyo toyed with the idea of opening a roast pork sandwich shop. Knowing how hard it is to make this work my hat goes off to who ever the owner is. He seems to have made it work which is not easy for sandwiches in Japan. Sadly, the venerable sandwich has a fallen into this position of cheap convenience store snack in Japanese food culture, and pulling it out of the black hole that is convenience store culture will be nigh on impossible. The sandwich is not cheap around 2000 but I have to be honest given the portion and the obvious effort it takes to make I actually thought the sandwich was cheap. Now coming from the UK this sandwich made me reminisce about Bagel Bakes salt beef sandwich in Londons east end. Needless to say it is good I have not had anything close to this in Japan. Maybe Smokehouse in Omotesando but I prefer this one.

Simple but sweet lunch menu
Monster of a sandwich highly recommended

I gather from the presence of DJ decks that the place might be more vibrant of an evening and I hope to revisit when it is warmer and I can cycle out here. I look forward to being able to explore the diner menu which is more expansive it seems.

Either way who ever you are Mr Freeman well done on some great nosh.

Brendan`s Pizzakaya, American in Nishi Azabu.

This place is a bit of an institution or certainly was amongst the gaijin community many years ago. I decided to give it a revisit. Must be at least 15 years since I last went. The interior still much the same American retro very simple and I think unchanged from my last visit. I am not a huge fan of TV in restaurants was kind of funny to have Back to the Future playing while I went back to the past.

The menu is fair and the standard types of pizzas all there. Went for a half and half Peperoni and Hawaian. The pizza are a decent size you probably are not going to eat a whole one on your own. Couldn`t resist the pull of the chilli cheese fries. It was pulled pork on them which actually I prefer. They have a nice list of craft beers on tap but on this occasion I refrained.

Pepperoni and Hawaian
Chilli cheese fries

For me it was a nice visit to the past. Pizzakaya was a memory from my youth I guess. The food is fair nothing fancy and I think the American retro design is something people go for. I probably have been spoilt over the years too many nice Italian pizzerias in Tokyo, to make this a regular visit, but it was a very nice nostalgic evening.

Bar a vin Croisee, Shibuya Stream

Out for an amble and came across this place. Touch pricey, but I guess the going rate in the new Hip Stream building. Fancied something French and was not let down. Interestingly you get an amuse bouche. It was little mini burger, kind of amusing.

The amuse bouche a fancy touch I guess

A smoked duck salad with a balsamic dressing for starters. Followed up by moules frites, which in terms of just simple pleasures is hard to beat. The moules were delicious steamed in white wine with some herbs and I have to say the balance of the white wine and moules with the frites, well it just always hits the spot.

Smoked Duck and Apple salad

Had I had more time I might have tried out the desert menu but I had to run. I have actually been back to have their falafel sandwich which is rather good. I mean I have had better but not in Japan. Falafels are somewhat new here. I would say it is only in maybe the last five years or so that a few braves souls have started pushing middle eastern food. So all in all I would say Croisee is probably not going to end up in my must go places, but as I live here I can see myself doing a few lunches or casual diners here.

The yummy moules
The all important Frites

Pescatore, Coffee and a sandwich in Shibuya.

Out in the middle of nowhere a nice new restaurant. I chanced on it on my way to the tax office. It appears to be brand new, and run by a group of youngsters. I wish them the best of luck. Brave to do it in the middle of a pandemic.

Was still bright and early so went with a sandwich set. There was a choice of two coffees, Ethiopian or Brazilian. I went with the fruity Ethiopian. That was a decent cup of coffee in my book. I have to say that all these funky blends and varietals have opened a new appreciation for coffee.

The sandwich was fun too not enough to be a lunch but just about right for a breakfast. I went with the sturgeon katsu sandwich. Sturgeon in Japanese is called Chozame and Zame is reference to Same which is the word for shark. So they were calling it the shark sandwich. The logo lightly seems to reference a shark sandwich too a nice design nuance.

The pickles and sandwich actually really did a good job of tickling the tast buds. The katsu is dipped like a kushi katsu would be. A splash of mustard and well it comes together nicely.

Worth a visit and like I say hope they make it through the pandemic.

La Tortue, french in Hiroo.

Lazy Saturday lunch, I had spotted this place some time back and finally got round to visiting. Given the times, it even has a little outdoor seating, which I chose to take advantage of. Autumn in Japan is really quite perfect for out door dining. Some might find it a little chilly, but I quite like that. Fairly standard for Japan bistros, they have a lunch menu and you choose your mains and desert. At 2,900 JPY might feel a little pricey for Tokyo lunches but I would say the service and quality of food makes it worthwhile.

Funky Typography no? I liked it anyway.
The outdoor space also quite welcome.

I went with a seafood marine, sweet chestnut soup, roast lamb and Lemon tart. The food is very delicately presented. I noticed some of the planters outside had herbs growing in them, of which I think some might have ended up in the food. I love the bread and butter too. I just have a thing for simple. Anyhows.

Seafood marine starter.
Sweet chestnut soup with a milk froth.

The seafood marine, a little short on volume, but five vegetables, two of which were pickles and a shell fish made for a good start. The soup I really liked. It was reasonably dense and flavourful on its own, but the subtle addition of a few thyme leaves, the milk froth and a few drips of truffle oil just gave it a little decadence. I also loved the plate ware. In a way a bit at odds with the traditional french image yet still fitting. This and the typography choice points to some off the beaten path artistic sense in the place.

Roast lamb with gratin dauphinois and maitake frito.

The main well, well presented on another plate with lovely color and plenty of blank space for the food to present itself on. The gratin dauphinois and the roast lamb done excellently. The black mushroom sauce very rich and the bit that really piqued my attention was the little bit of fried chick peas. Now I love lamb and gratin and they were done excellently as I said, but I will remember this plate for the chick peas and the maitake frito. Not on their own but together with the lamb they were just delectable. The chick peas I think had been fried in what Italians call a sofrito, so were peculiarly flavourful. The maitake frito was just really crisp, yet not oily. Made me wonder if the maitake had not been dried somehow before frying. What ever it was the dish was lovely. The double lamb chop, having had one of the bones cut out, left the meal being all in all very filling.

Finished up and back to my book.

Desert and coffee topped off a lovely lunch where I managed to get through a chapter of my book in a pleasent culinary moment. The Lemon tart was nice but not out of the ordinary and a solid coffee just finished the meal off perfectly. Funny thing was, that thin spearmint leaf was absolutely delicious somehow. Detail, all the fun in the detail. Another great meal in Tokyo.

Lemon tart and vanilla ice cream.

Not food but some things are just beautiful. Yokoteyama Okushiga Kougen.

Snow monsters.
Ice crystal on the morning window.
First Slopes in the morning.
Bluesky ski lifts wow.
Great Panorama.

If I am honest I spent two days skiing in a Blizzard before I got these scenes. Yokoteyama is a small ski resort but there is the Yokoteyama Hutte at its peak and you can sleep at 2307 m. and wake up to scenes like this. If you are more serious about your skiing then Shiga Kougen is a better bet but a day in Yokoteyama is well worth it if the weather is cooperative.

Kappore, Izakaya in Nanpeidai.

Out on a walk with a mate, chanced on this little gem of an izakaya. Kappore is a Ko no ji (U shaped) counter with a couple of tables. I think in summer time if they have half a brain they will put some chairs outside and let people enjoy a beer in the sunshine.

The beauty of this place is two fold. Nice booze and nice food. I love these types of places where they pay attention to the little stuff that makes all the difference.

Red Star Sapporo lager, with otoshi.

Kicked off with a Sapporo red star lager, and you get an otoshi (amuze bouche) which was a tuna stew and a monaka type biscuit. They also have the Kirin Tap Marche draft beer machine so there is a choice of six craft beers. Along with a bunch of lovely sakes and shochus. I have actually been a few times but on one occasion I saw Hone Senbe and Kue Uroko Age (Fish Bone chips and fried Grouper Scales). The fish bones were Iwashi bones. They are dried til they are bone dry and then deep fried, just yummy. The Grouper skin with scales on is deep fried and the scales curl up. It is reminiscent of pork scratchings if you are english, though obviously kind of completely different. If that even makes sense. Any hows, if you see this order it. I doubt you will find it outside of Japan.

Yamaimo tsukemono, yam pickles.

The Sashimi moriawase is great. There is a good variety of nice cuts of fish. The Sea Urchin was delicious as was the Awabi and the Aburi Kinme Dai. What I love though is that they give you all the sides to really appreciate the sashimi. Salt with the white fish ginger and ban negi for the hikari mono, kabosu for a change. Gives you a lot of possibilities. If you ask them they will recommend what to use with what.

Two person Sahimi Moriawase, Note the kabosu, ginger, wasabi, salt, ban negi.

On another visit still delicious 😉

Being in a posh area of town it is a little pricey but probably worth it. I will likely visit again. The employees are all quite young and it has a nice vibe. bright and airy interior. I really hope I can stand outside in the summer.