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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Opened only a couple of years ago, with a simple menu of curries, achars (Indian pickles) and craft beers. Super simple interior and a quiet owner chef. If you live near by or pass by and fancy a curry. The owner has gone to lengths to gather the spices to make a nice curry. I think he has given it a bit of a Japanese accent to them, but I have to say it was a nice meal. The craft beers are nice too.
There is a collection of books on the wall you can pick up and read to and generally not busy so nice for a quiet evening.
I was heading to my favorite hainan chicken place in Ebisu the other day, when I noticed a new restaurant just across the road. Now Hainan Jeefan is a great lunch but I go often enough that I felt like trying something new was the right thing to do. I was glad that I did. It also helped that I am kind of dieting and the free refill on rice at Hainan Jeefan encourages me to overeat. So I went into Wassappu 和作部 the name itself is a play on the famous app Whatsapp. It is a Soba slash Sousakuryouri restaurant. At lunch there is a lunch plate or a soba lunch a very simple menu. It was late and as I walked in the chef indicated only the lunch plate was left. So Lunch plate it was.
Decor was brand new and very minimalist Japanese woody design with some clever use of lighting at ground and ceiling to make it feel quite airy though in reality it is fairly compact. The chef was quite talkative and as I run my own little shop we had a little banter. Turns out the restaurant is owned by some TV personality who is a bit of a foodie. It had not been open long and was still trying to build a client base. The chef himself a bit of a journeyman chef had worked overseas and in other areas of Japan but always in Japanese Washoku.
The lunch plate came on a tray with some nice plates and bowls as you would imagine. It seemed like a lot of attention had been paid to the details. With seven little japanese dishes, pickles , rice, salad and miso soup it had a fair blend of interesting flavours and was a pleasent little lunch time journey. It is this variety of flavours and textures that I really love about Washoku and to get it all in a little set like this just felt perfect. The dishes incidentally were clockwise from top left “Age Bitashi Nasu” fried aubergine in dashi, “Agedashi Tofu” fried tofu in dashi, “Horenso to Shirasu” spinach with shirasu, “Aburi Mentaiko” seared spicy fish roe, “Ika no Uni Ae” raw squid with sea urchin, “Tamagoyaki” omelette, and “Hijiki Kinpira” hijiki and carrots.
If you happen to be passing by, I would imagine the soba will be rather good too and well worth it for lunch. I am impressed enough that I will swing by for a diner sometime.
About a year ago I came across this place in a magazine. A young girl starting up her own izakaya from scratch and had been meaning to visit for a long time. I recently got down there and was glad to have.
It is one long kitchen counter izakaya. The menu changes seasonally and Emma the lady behind the counter is the master and chef. She is nice and easy to talk to if you speak Japanese. The food is not traditional traditional izakaya fare and the seasoning is healthier (less salty) than at your average izakaya, but I liked it. She serves a couple of craft beers I plumbed for the Coedo blonde, which I like. She also has nice plum wines and sake.
Food wise I went with the special which was salt stewed pork belly with cabbage. I guess a Japanese equivalent to a Sourkraut. I also had Toriham tofu ae, Nanohana and Tai ae, and the Sui Gyouza.
For a quiet bite to eat with a friend, this place will do just fine. A bit quieter than the noisy main street izakayas and a little healthier tool.
I like Tempura. It is kind of reminiscent of the Fish part of Fish and Chips in the UK. So it is a little nostalgic for me. It of course is not fair to Tempura to make that comparison, because though I like the UK Tempura is far superior. I have eaten in Michelin starred Tempura places and they are wonderful. Kimono dressed waitresses, live shrimps, fine table wear and Japanese minimalist, calm atmosphere. With drinks you are looking at 15,000 Yen. When I am in the mood for Tempura with out the flash, this is where I go.
Kaneko Hannosuke has two restaurants quite close to each other in Nihon Bashi. One is the Tempura don and the other is the Tempura meshi. I recommend the Tempura meshi. You will have to wait. The queue will be about thirty to forty minutes and this seems to be almost at any time of day. The menu is super simple; Tempura meshi 980 Yen, or Tempura meshi with Anago 1,380 Yen. I recommend the Anago.
The Tempura is made to order and is very good quality not quite michelin star but considerably better than average places. You also get to have the pickles. One is burdock root, Gobo kinpira. There is also the squid pickle and the daikon Takuwan. Try all three they are nice. The meal comes with Miso which is usually a clam based miso and rice.
The First plate of Tempura is Shishitou, Maitake, Egg and Anago. The Anago I recommend you eat in the following way. First, the tail with a sprinkling of salt. Then the middle part with the tentsuyu. Lastly, the belly with a little dash of soy sauce. I learnt that at the higher end venue but you get three really nice flavours out of the single piece of Tempura. The Maitake is for sure in the tentsuyu, while the shishitou I would be open to having with just salt. Something not far from Pimentos del Padron in the Spanish Tapas. The egg keep for later.
The second plate is the Shrimp, chicken, pumpkin and kakiage. Now I think purist might baulk at the chicken and I myself often question the value of it being there. Still it is there and it is not bad though I would personally prefer another vegetable over it. Shrimp I usually eat half with salt and the tail end with tentsuyu. I eat the tail if it looks delicate and crispy as in this case. The pumpkin is also tentsuyu for me along with the chicken. The kaki age I like to put over the rice. In this instance ,with the soft egg tempura aswell you have to remember to leave a little rice to finish off with the egg tempura and a little sauce sauce. Something close to a Tamago Kake Gohan finish.
You will be full and you will not find a better value lunch than this in any city other than Tokyo.
On the train, look up. There is a shady looking guy looking suspiciously at the copy he shares a poster with. The random shaver pondering his future. Men’s TBC to the rescue. Fully 180,000 users take advantage of their services, which one I am not sure but I am guessing not this service after I read the absurd copy.
“Every day 5 minutes of shaving or go to work earlier? Your life will probably change! 1000 Yen trial for facial hair removal.”
Do we live a world where we really no longer have a clue. What will getting to work 5 minutes earlier really mean? An extra coffee, an extra cigarette, a bit of banter, life changing stuff it seems. And what is a trial? Do they just do a patch randomly in the middle of your face?
The beauty of this poster for me was that the copy is so dumb even the illustrations face appears suspicious of it.
Great marketing never ends.
This one I heard about in a shop. “Favorite Ramen?” “Oh I know this great one started by a group of Chefs from a French restaurant, Ichizu.” So I figured this needed investigating. In a way I can understand the desire to leave a French Restaurant to start a Ramen ya. A popular Ramen shop will be more profitable than a French Restaurant in Japan. It is really just to do with the frequency at which Japanese people eat ramen. I recently met a guy who eats it every day. It is no wonder then that you see shops with queues in front of them.
Ichizu promised to be something new, outside of the standard four of Shoyuu, Shio, Miso, and Tonkotsu. The shop itself is a fairly standard decor, counter seating and a kitchen behind, which was bigger than expected and better equipped than a standard Ramen ya. There is a Japanese style Koshitsu or private room in the corner too. You can apparently reserve this and order a French course.
The menu is longer than a standard Ramen ya and their ramens have a few different angles; a standard shio with a twist in the broth ingredients, a curry ramen, and about three others. I went with the Eri, which was described as a ramen that you would not expect in a ramen shop and was one of their first recipes. It said there is a limited number per day. Though I suspect not so limited, as I was there at 9.30 at night and they still had it. Besides the ramens, they have a few interesting sides such as white shoyuu poached eggs and confit of chicken. I ordered the confit, as I happen to just love anything confit.
The wait was standard. The two chefs much better dressed than standard ramen chefs, were busy toiling away in the kitchen. Out came my menu and I have to say it was nicely presented, an iron skillet with the confit chicken in it and a Japanese pottery ramen bowl of above standard quality. A nice touch, to give you a small serving of edible Ra-yuu and the advice to add it later when you want a change of flavour.
I plunged into the ramen. It was as described not what you expect. In a nice way. It was a little like a cream stew broth with the ramen in. Much thicker and richer in flavour than usual ramen broth. The richness has the edge taken off with some raw red onions finely sliced on top as a garnish. I would just advise it is hot, so mind not to burn yourself on your first bite. The thicker broth seems to keep its heat much better than standard broth, when slurped.
I went on to the chicken confit and this did not disappoint. At 400 Yen I would say this is a bargain. Confiting food is time consuming and expensive and they had done a good job. It was tender and well flavoured with something that made me think of China, but very subtle. The skin was crisp and for me well above what you would expect in a Ramen ya.
I went back to the ramen and added in the Ra-yuu and as suggested the French stew flavour took a turn towards chinese flavours, a pleasing outcome from such a simple action. They offer a service portion of rice. They ought to take a little more care when doing the rice. I felt they had made it too soft. It was still worth having though, as dipped in the remains of the soup it was quite a nice soul food type of flavour. I think perhaps even to do it earlier before the addition of the Ra-yuu might have been best of all.
All in all well worth a visit and at 1300 yen, which is not soo much more expensive than usual ramen a bit of a bargain.
We came to talking about Tonkatsu and a friend recommended Tonkatsu Suzuki in Shirokane. Shirokane is a little area that bemuses me. There are a number of interesting looking bars and restaurants. It is very off the beaten track and hard to get to, so I often wonder how they survive. Still they survive. I headed out in the evening just for a quick bite.
When you enter on the left is a small counter, on the right two tables on elevated tatami flooring. Not being one for sitting cross legged too long, I went to the nice wooden counter. You can see the place has not been renovated in many years. It has a very old fashioned feel to it. I noticed the wood panelling on the tatami side of the room. Japan has quite a nice aesthetic when it comes to wood. It is not entirely my favourite but I do appreciate it.
The menu is phenomenally simple Loin, Fillet, Shrimp, Bite size Fillet, Fillet and Naganegi skewers. There is also lunch and four drinks including bottled Sapporo. I went with the most standard Loin Tonkatsu. The master was in front of me. He looked exhausted and seemed to be holding himself up by resting his arms on the counter in front of him. He appeared to be well into his seventies perhaps even into his eighties. Still he got to work on the order. I was quite surprised when I saw him triple dip the Katsu in the flour and egg. The loin had also had a knife run over it. A little like the way sushi chefs do to squid. This seemed to ensure a nice thick crust to the Katsu. The oil was very dark looking. I am told that some of the older school tempura and tonkatsu places always keep a little of the old oil back, before adding fresh oil to keep the flavour. The little appetisers were brought out while he did this. A cabbage coleslaw and some Japanese pickles. They went down well with the Sapporo.
A few minutes later, the master pulled out the Katsu from the oil and placed it on a small round chopping board. He ran a large knife through it with a slow yet purposeful movement, glimpsed inside and served it on the plate.
I had my first bite just with salt and was very intrigued as the crust was not as bready as many place, though it was still quite thick and crisp. The result of the triple dipping in flour I should imagine. It was tasty and the meat was a nice thick chop, which these days is getting harder and harder to find as restaurants have taken to reducing size to reduce cost. The next bite was with Shichimi and Soy sauce. Followed by bites with sauce and mustard. I found the Soy sauce and Shichimi to be my favourite. The miso soup was quite notable not that it appeared special, but I believe this was a Aimiso mixture of two miso. In this instance a rice miso and a soy bean miso. Either that or they had put Kome Kooji into the soup. It had a nice round flavour and a hint of sweetness, but not the type that sugar brings. Diner with a beer 2500 Yen quite satisfying. It did not surpass Butagumi in Nishi Azabu. However it did have a nice nostalgic Showa era feel to it. I could see this place ending up on Kodoku Gurume one day.
I was recently invited to eat at a small Kushi-Age shop a bit out of town in Ebara-Nakanobu. The food was very standard fair, but the retro posters and retro drinks made for an interesting evening. The highlight of which was drinking Denki-Bran. Not because it was delicious but more because you rarely see it and yet in a phase in Japanese drinking culture somewhere in the Showa era, this was a very common drink. The name derives from electric and brandy. In essence I was told that it made your tongue tingle, so they called it electric brandy or in Japanese Denki-Bran. I like the fact they have kept a super retro bottle design. If you see it somewhere, it is probably best drunk as a highball but give it a go over the rocks first to see if you get the electric shock. Also try out Hoppy if they have it an interesting beer substitute, which I am told is ok for those with Gout. All the interesting things you learn on an evening out in deep Japan.