Word of Mouth

Meat-eaters will want to check out Wolfgang’s Steakhouse in Roppongi. This New York steakhouse’s first international restaurant serves up USDA prime beef that is aged in house. The menu includes steakhouse staples like crab cakes, shrimp cocktail, and creamed spinach. New world wine lovers will appreciate the deep list of California cabernet sauvignons. 1F Roppongi Duplex M’s Bldg, 5-16-50 Roppongi, Minato-ku

Italian chef Daniele Cason is making a unique pizza alla pala, a crispy crust pizza at The Pizza Bar on 38th at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Highlights include a five-cheese pizza and a trappizino of marscapone and truffles. Nihonbashi-Muromachi 2-1-1, Chuo-ku

Star chef Yoshihiro Narisawa has collaborated with the historic Toyoken restaurant to update its menu with a healthful and upscale twist at Tokyo Toyoken. Top quality ingredients like Matsuzaka wagyū is used for the menchi katsu and the black curry rice. 1F Akasaka K Tower Bldg, 1-2-7 Moto-Akasaka, Minato-ku

Maui Mike’s fire-roasted rotisserie chicken from Oahu, Hawaii to Tokyo. Select from seven sauces, including smoky BBQ or yuzu pepper and get a bottle of Hawaiian beer to wash down the chicken. 5-32-13 Hakusan, Bunkyo-ku

Atre Ebisu 3rd floor has completed a renovation. Historic wagashi shops Kyo Hayashiya from Kyoto and Nihonbashi Eitaro from Tokyo offer up wagashi confectionaries like with matcha warabi mocha and modern versions like dorayaki (pancakes with azuki) but with whipped cream. There is a new Dean & Deluca as well as Sushi Deli Matsue, a local sushi-ya with 47 years of history.

Warm up with a hot smoothie the next time you are at Tokyo Station. Fico & Pomum has four types of hot smoothies such as apple cinnamon and tomato almond. 17F Grand Tokyo North Tower, 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku. Open weekdays only.

Ark Hills South Tower at Roppongi Itchome has opened with a well-stocked gourmet supermarket, Fukushimaya and The Cellar wine shop. The 3rd Burger for Australian beef hamburgers and organic vegetable toppings. Chateau Mercian Tokyo Guest Bar is the ideal spot to try a variety of Japanese wines with oysters, grilled meat, and foie gras.

New York’s City Bakery, a classic café created by Maury Rubin, has opened in Shinagawa and Hiroo. The shop is famous for it’s pretzel croissants, muffins, brownies and cookies as well as hot chocolate with marshmallows. 2F Atre Shinagawa, 2-18-1 Konan, Minato-ku; 1F Hiroo Yutaka Towers, 5-24-1 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku

Gontran Cherrier has opened Table Convivale Shibuya in the basement of his eponymous bakery. Serving wine and Alsatian dishes like baeckeoffe, a hearty stew of beef, pork, duck, and potatoes and tarte flambé1-14-11 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku

Settle in at Ginza Maru for a value-priced washoku lunch set starting at ¥1,000. Currently serving grilled fish, simmered pork, or chicken sukiyaki. 6-12-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku

Yuu is a basement yakitori-ya has a nice selection of sake, including many from Tochigi prefecture, chef Tagami’s home prefecture. It’s a small restaurant so call ahead and reserve seats. B1 SKB Bldg, 1-9-5 Iidabashi, Chiyoda-ku; Tel: 03-3221-1344

Mt. Fuji is finding its way onto many tableware items like sake cups and dishes. This three-dimensional ginger grater, Fuji-san oroshi, is not only cute, it actually will grind up the rhizome. With the cold weather, grinding some ginger or turmeric, or both, for your tea is a natural way to fight off infections.

We have yet to try, but can’t wait to get our hands on awajōyu. It’s soy sauce in a foam version, created by maiko in Kyoto. The classic example of omotenashi, this mousse-like condiment is hard to spill and easy to eat. You have to love the ingenuity.

Restaurants featuring regional foods continue to open up. One of our new favorites is Yamagata Sakanaichi at Tokyo Station. With over 150 ji-zake, it’s possible to do a nomi kuraberu (taste comparison) of different sake. B1 Tokyo Station Grand Roof, 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku

Anago-ya Ginza Hirai specializes in the young version of the sea eel, usually never longer than 35 cm. The tender anago has a very thin skin and the meat will melt in your mouth. Try both the simmered and grilled versions served in a lacquer box over rice. 5-9-5 Ginza, Chuo-ku

Loving the offerings of granola from shops like Hudson Market Bakers (1-8-6 Azabu-Juban, Minato-ku). Ganori (1-25-11 Uehara, Shibuya-ku) offers up some unique local flavors like Japanese Purple Potatoes and Japanese Gobo Mix.

Beer and Wine 65 Rokugo near Kanda station has more than 200 types of international beers as well as 100 different wines. The food menu includes pizza, pasta and 20 types of cheese. 2F Okuno Pia, 1-3-7 Kajicho, Chiyoda-ku

On our radar to check out in the new year is bird西男man, a jidori (regional chicken) specialty restaurant showcasing Miyazaki poultry. A great selection of shochu to pair with the smoky charcoal-grilled chicken, deep-fried chicken wings and chicken skin with a leek and ponzu dressing. 7-5-7 Roppongi, Minato-ku

Washoku being declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO has opened the doors to foreign chefs wanting to study traditional Japanese cuisine. Foreigners who graduate from a Japanese culinary school will now be able to stay in Japan to continue their training at a Japanese restaurant.

By: Yukari Sakamoto | Feb 13, 2014 | No Comments | 3,063 views


The first thing you should know about the new And the Friet in Hiroo is that fries are Belgian, not French. That explains the appearance of classic bintje, used in Belgian fry shops, on the menu. A surprising number of sauces, including sweet chili sour cream, are available, as well as the homemade mayonnaise Belgians prefer. Service can be slow but the fries are worth the wait.
5-16-1 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku. http://andthefriet.com

Fans of the Streamer espresso bar in Haraku will be able to get their caffeine fix at a sister shop in Tsukiji, Turret Coffee, named after the little motor vehicles that scuttle fish from point to point in the nearby seafood market. Just down the street from Starbucks, it serves some of the best coffee in the area.

2-12-6 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku. http://meturl.com/turret

The Alsatian dish flammkuche—thin and pizza-like, topped with onions, ham or crème fraîche—is irresistible. And now you don’t have to take an international flight to try some. Katrin’s Flammkuchen, recently opened in Roppongi, serves both savory and sweet varieties.
7-3-17 Roppongi , Minato-ku. www.flammkuchen.jp

The nationwide chain Yoshinoya is famous for its cheap rice bowls topped with thin slices of beef, but now they are serving two new, upscale dishes. A sukiyaki-style gyū suki and a spicy, Korean gyū chige are both served in individual hot pots. And at ¥580, it’s still a bargain.

Catering to the increasing diversity of visitors, notably Islamic tourists, the Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum is now serving vegetarian ramen.

Marriott has opened a new hotel near Shinagawa station and the restaurants include Nadaman, a famed kaiseki restaurant.
4-7-36 Kita-Shinagawa, Shinagawa-ku. www.meturl.com/nadaman

Oboro Sakéten is a new saké shop in Shinbashi run by Okuma-san, who studied at university in the United States and speaks English. His website lists the saké kura that he has partnered with, including some great labels like Taka, Shichi Hon Yari, and Jikon.
5-29-2 Shinbashi, Minato-ku. www.oborosaketen.com

Pepper Foods has opened a standing steak bar in Ginza, Ikinari! Steak. Following the lead of other upscale standing restaurants, it’s a concept that should take off and a 300-gram steak for ¥1,500 is quite a bargain. A second shop is already scheduled to open in the area later this month.
4-10-14 Ginza, Chuo-ku. http://meturl.com/ikinari

Fun Function, a restaurant group promoting regional food and sake has opened up two new shops near Tokyo station. Saga-ken Mise-mura Fumuto Akadori (1-3-17 Yaesu, Chuo-ku. www.meturl.com/akadori) features yakitori and Kaki Sakaba Hokkaido Akkeshi specializes in oysters and the seafood of Hokkaido. (B1F Nihonbashi Teito Bldg, 2-2-15 Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku. www.meturl.com/akkeshi)

Craft beer bars are popping up left and right and it seems there is still room in the Tokyo market for more. Scottish beer maker BrewDog will be opening a bar in Roppongi this spring. The company’s website says that they are hiring.

By: Yukari Sakamoto | Jan 15, 2014 | No Comments | 3,247 views


Sake aficionados love this time of year as freshly pressed sake is coming to market. Here are some things to look for when shopping for sake. Shinshu, literally “new sake” or shiboritate for “freshly pressed”. The traditional brewing methods of kimoto or yamahai bring on sake that is rich, bold, and in your face. Nama is unpasteurized sake which tends to be fresher than varieties that has been heated and pasteurized. One example is Shiraku, from Fukushima, which comes wrapped in newspaper to protect the light-sensitive contents.

Yes, what you have heard is true. There is a bar in Ikebukuro with penguins, and at various points in the evening, guests are invited to feed them. Penguin no Iru Bar (COSMY1 Bldg, 2-38-2 Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku. www.penginbar.jp) is just minutes from Ikebukuro station and has an extensive drink menu. It’s already a popular spot, so reservations are recommended.

Japan’s oldest fruit shop, Sembikiya showcases expensive, juicy muskmelons in wooden boxes at their flagship store in in Nihonbashi (2-1-2 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku; www.sembikiya.co.jp). A more affordable way to indulge in seasonal fruit is to have some freshly squeezed juice at the shop’s Caffe di Festa, which has just reopened following renovations.

Antenna shops, regional shops that feature the local food products and sake of the different prefectures of Japan, continue to expand and evolve. Mie Terrace (Yuito Annex Bldg, 2-4-1 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku. www.mieterrace.jp) in Nihonbashi is a glitzy shop with a restaurant next door serving Italian-style cuisine using Mie products.

The tuna auction at Tsukiji Market is closed to visitors till January 18. This is because it is the busiest time of the year for the fishmongers.

Coca Cola Japan is serving up a new drink this season. It is Canada Dry Hot Ginger Ale, is made from a modified recipe to make the bubbles softer and to and hints of cinnamon and apples. Available in vending machines and convenience stores, it is surprisingly refreshing and a nice alternative to hot coffee.

Craving nabe, but can’t be bothered to make it for yourself? Check out Ichinabeya (3-5-3 Ogawamachi, Chiyoda-ku.)serving up single-serving sukiyaki and shabu-shabu.

Kenzo Estate winery from Napa Valley in California has opened a restaurant in Roppongi Hills, Kenzo Estate Winery Roppongi Hills (6-12-4 Roppongi, Minato-ku. www.kenzoestate.jp) The cuisine is a blend of modern French with Japanese.

Asakusa’s traditional sweets shop Umezono has created a unique wagashi (traditional Japanese confectionary) that looks like a macaroon, but is actually a dorayaki (mini pancakes stuffed with bean paste). The doraron comes in flavors like muskmelon, blueberry, and strawberry. Find it at Ikebukuro Tobu depachika at the Umezono shop.

For inspiration on cooking with donabe (ceramic pots) follow Naoko Moore on her blog, Happy Donabe Life (http://naokomoore.com). The Tokyoite is now living in Los Angeles and is currently working on her first cookbook, to be published by Ten Speed Press.

At the wagashi counters are starting to stock ichigo daifuku, thin mochi balls surrounding a fresh strawberry and often some sweet bean paste.

By: Yukari Sakamoto | Dec 12, 2013 | No Comments | 2,724 views


The big news across Japan at the moment is that UNESCO may be awarding washoku (traditional Japanese cuisine), with the title of “Intangible Cultural Heritage.” Washoku is well-balanced and based on seasonal and local ingredients that makes the most of natural flavors (see our Autumn’s Bounty feature on this season’s best produce).

There is a lot going on in Omotesando at the moment. On November 30 Max Brenner will be opening a chocolate shop and café in Omotesando (4-12-10 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. www.maxbrenner.com), just next door to a boutique by celebrated French chocolatier Jean-Paul Hévin. Chocolate pizza (pictured) is just one temptation on the decadent menu. Nozy Coffee, a mecca for caffeine devotees in Sangenjaya, has opened a second location, The Roastery (5-17-13 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. www.tyharborbrewing.co.jp/jp/roastery). They are offering New York Rings, a new take on the hybrid croissant and doughnut that has taken New York City by storm created for them by Breadworks. The cafe opens at 8am, but deep-friend croissants aren’t delivered till 11am, so if you need another sugar kick after a coffee and doughnut, join the line at KuKuRuZa (4-12-10 Jingumae, Shibuya-kuwww.kukuruza.jp) at Omotesando Hills, which boasts a variety of flavored popcorn including “truffle fromage porcini” and “maple bacon.”

Kinki University, famous for Kindai tuna—a farmed bluefin tuna that has been raised from egg to maturity, will open a restaurant at Ginza Corridor (2F Yamashita Bldg, 7-2 Ginza, Chuo-ku) December 2. The restaurant, called Kindaisotsu no Sakana to Kishu no Megumi: Kinki Daigaku Suisankenkyujo (ridiculously long name, but what do you expect from an educational institution?), opened its first shop in JR Osaka station that is extremely popular. Kinki University, located in Wakayama prefecture, farms a variety of seafood including madai (sea bream) and buri (yellowtail) that is also on the menu.

Craft beer restaurants continue to open up around the city, including Yona Yona Beer Kitchen in Akasaka (2-14-3 Nagatacho, Chiyoda-kuwww.yonayonabeerkitchen.com). Right now you can get a flight of three beers and try their roast chicken.

Tokyo Station City GranRoof

GranRoof, a dining section in Yeasu side of Tokyo Station (1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-kuwww.tokyostationcity.com/tsc/granroof.html) has some new restaurants to the metropolis. Yamagata Sakana Ichi (GranRoof B1) serves over 100 different saké from the Tohoku prefecture famed for its good water and rice. Nagoya classic shop Yabaton (GranRoof B1) is known for its miso katsu, tonkatsu served with a miso sauce. At R.L Waffle Café (Gran Roof 1F), diners can bake their own waffles, just like Centre The Bakery (1-2-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku) where you toast your own bread at the table. Is tabletop electronic kitchenware a new trend?

Martiniburger in Kagurazaka (31 Nakazatocho, Shinjuku-ku. http://martini-burger.com/en) has expanded their menu including pastrami sandwich, lamb burger and more salads.

Yukari Sakamoto is the author of Food Sake Tokyo. She offers tours of popular food destinations in Tokyo like Tsukiji market, depachika and supermarkets. She is a trained chef, sommelier and shochu advisor.
Twitter: @YukariSakamoto
Blog: Food Sake Tokyo

Nov 13, 2013 | No Comments | 2,666 views


Garlic ice cream at Hajime no Ippo (see restaurant review). Photo by Brandi Goode

To accompany our restaurant review of Hajime no Ippo, try some of these other restaurants that specialize in the bulbous pungent spice.


With mounds of garlic in every dish, this restaurant lives up to its robust reputation. Their towering garlic toast is actually a vertically standing baguette with a heap of roasted garlic smothered on top. Tuck in to some oysters with garlic sauce to turn your date on—and off, at the same time. Garlic clove and chili icons on the menu indicate each dish’s power (the toast clocks in at four cloves). 1-26-12 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3446-5887. Nearest stn: Ebisu. www.ninniku-ya.com

Garlic Garlic

So nice, they named it twice—and serve it with rice. Specialties include whole roasted cloves of garlic, garlic toast with baked cloves served on a baguette (horizontal, this time), garlic rice and gourmet sautéed garlic mustard pork. 1-26-2 Shoto, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5478-2029. Nearest stn: Shibuya. www.garlicxgarlic.com

Garlic Jo’s

This popular chain of garlicky restaurants was first opened in Yokohama’s Motomachi area in 1993 and has since spread to 18 other locations across Japan. They offer typically tasty, but not too drastic, ninniku-filled renditions of Western-style dishes like garlic rib-eye steaks, pan-sautéed shrimp in garlic lemon butter sauce, jambalaya rice and garlic pizza. Station Core B1F Queen’s Square, 2-3–8 Minato Mirai, Nishi-ku, Yokohama. Tel: 045-682-2870. Nearest stn: Minato Mirai. www.americanhouse.co.jp

Ninniku-ya Goemon

The name is the same, but this version of Ninniku-ya is a chain scattered about the Tokyo department store landscape. Shoo the shopping queues with only a breath after breaking for some garlic ishiyaki bibimbap, hanba-gu with garlic sauce and a garlic-shaped white sesame cake with sorbet to sweeten you up. Various locations: Shinjuku Takashimaya Times Square, Lalaport Tokyo Bay, Mona Shin-Urayasu, Lumine Omiya. www.n-rs.co.jp/brand/shoplist/ninnikuya.html

Feb 26, 2013 | No Comments | 2,124 views

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