Month: July 2014

Phenomenal Sushi at Tokyo’s Umegaoka Sushi-no Midori 梅丘寿司の美登利

If you’re in Tokyo, queuing at 4am for Tsukiji Fish Market’s iconic Sushi Daiwa should definitely be on your bucket list. That being said, if you want to sneak a couple more hours of sleep in, Umegaoka Sushi-no Midori is the delicious alternative you should head to instead. It definitely was one of the freshest and best price-quality sushi I’ve had in Tokyo–and yes, I’ve queued for Sushi Daiwa at wee hours of the morning! With multiple branches in Tokyo, Umegaoka Sushi-no Midori’s Shibuya branch is on the 4th floor of Shibuya Mark City. During peak hours and weekends, queues can go up to 90 minutes so come early on a weekday to grab a bar seat–this way, you’ll see up-close some sushi magic being made! I ordered the Ultimate Sushi Assortment and my friend the Maguro Assortment (different cuts of tuna)–both of which I highly recommend. But if you don’t like some of the more adventurous ingredients like uni (sea urchin) or ikura (salmon roe), opt for the Maguro Assortment and just savor how each bite of raw tuna+sushi rice can be so phenomenal.

Japanese soba noodles with one little french star

そば is Japanese for buckwheat, the main ingredient for Japan’s popularly-eaten soba noodles. Classic cold soba noodles dipped in a slightly sweet soy-broth is the perfect mix for a hot summer day–so now imagine that with a Michelin Star! Amazing right? 玉笑 Tamawarai is a 1 Michelin Star establishment famous for its extremely fresh soba noodles (the chef cuts and boils the noodles after you order!) and seasonal side-dishes. Located in-between the residential neighborhoods of Omotesando and Shibuya, Tamawarai snagged the coveted ‘#1 position for lunch spot’ on Japan’s largest restaurant review website Tabelog. Taking the recommendation of those who have dined there, I ordered two of Tamawarai’s well-reviewed dishes–their popular Yaki-Miso (焼き味噌) and classic Tofu Soba Noodles (豆腐そば)–and prepared to be dazzled.

Brunching with Gorgeous Blooms at Nicolai Bergmann’s NOMU Cafe

Claude Monet was famous for referring to flowers as the raison d’être for many of his masterpieces. As he once said, “I must have flowers, always, and always.” Stepping into Nicolai Bergmann‘s store in Aoyama would convince anyone that is true. I don’t have much experience with flower arrangements but it’s easy to be awed by Nicolai Bergmann’s signature flower boxes and contemporary floral arrangements. A short walk from Omotesando Station, NOMU Cafe is a popular weekend brunch and afternoon tea spot located right in Nicolai Bergmann’s flagship store. Not only do you get to peruse gorgeous arrangements before your meal (check out his signature flower box if you’re looking for a nice gift), you’ll also get to dine amidst all the vibrant blooms! Alternatively, outdoor seating is also available in the flower-pavilion if you want to soak in the Tokyo sun on a good day. Mizuha and I met up again to go have a light brunch this Sunday–having explored Kagurazaka last weekend, we opted for the Scandinavian-style NOMU Cafe in order to explore the Aoyama area afterwards. Walking into Nicolai Bergmann, we instantly fell in love …

A glimpse of Ginza’s dining glamor at Kakiyasu 柿安

Ginza is the glitzy face of Tokyo with gorgeous buildings like the Ginza Mitsukoshi and Wako Department Store’s Hattori clock tower built by the founder of Seiko. Iconic upscale shopping is one reason why Ginza attracts such an large crowd, but after dining at Kakiyasu this week, I’m convinced Ginza also has phenomenal food hidden in its many glamorous buildings. Kakiyasu 柿安 is a 140 years old traditional Japanese restaurant, renowned for its sukiyaki (すき焼き). If you love sweet and savory together, sukiyaki is the ultimate hot pot of comfort food–especially since Kakiyasu uses the highest grade of Matsusaka Beef (black haired Japanese wagyu). With my cousin Joseph in town this weekend, I thought a traditional Japanese meal in an iconic Tokyo area should not be missed. Although Joseph could easily enjoy a ramen burger and an ice cold ginger ale for lunch, when in Tokyo do as classy Tokyoites do right?

A not-so-secret Secret Garden: Daikanyama’s Ivy Place

Iadore Tokyo’s Daikanyama area. From its many outdoor cafes to weekend markets, Daikanyama has everything I want on a lazy Sunday. In particular, I find myself spending most hours after my internship at Daikanyama’s T-Site Garden and the connected Tsutaya Bookstore. Since its opening, Daikanayama’s Tsutaya has been applauded by many critics as one of the must-go-to bookstores in the world. So whether you prefer old bookstores or sleek modern ones, Tsutaya is definitely a gorgeous bookstore in Tokyo book lovers should not miss. Given Daikanyama’s many embassies and large expatriate population, this Tsutaya branch also holds a large collection of books and audio in multiple languages–vintage magazines, travel guides, jazz collections, etc. Just to quote disney, ‘You want thingamabobs? They’ve got plenty!’ So this past weekend, Sam and I decided to meet up for another brunch session–at this point, it certainly has become a weekly tradition for us! Ivy Place is a gorgeous restaurant located in the Daikanyama T-Site Garden with a large terrace and many surrounding greens. As with all lovely restaurants in Tokyo, there’s always a wait on weekends. However, Ivy Place allows you to leave your phone number so that you …

A Walking Guide to Kagurazaka: the Charming Cobblestone Streets of Tokyo’s Old Geisha Quarters

Kagurazaka’s quiet charm is reminiscent of Kyoto’s Gion District. Once Tokyo’s Hanamachi (Japanese courtesan and geisha quarters), Kagurazaka still has an elegant air of traditional Japanese culture to it. Interestingly, the large nearby French expatriate influences can be easily spotted by the many French brasseries in the area too! Deciding we needed a change of scenery from Tokyo’s posh Omotesando area, my good friend Mizuha and I decided to take a day exploring the little alleyways of Kagurazaka this past weekend. Attending the same university as me, Mizuha has been my Tokyo partner in crime for many food adventures–doesn’t queuing at 4am for sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market sound like a beautiful friendship? I made a gallery for our explorations in Kagurazaka so check out the various captions for recommendations. Here are some highlights: Sakura Roll Cake at the famous Canal Cafe (Tokyo’s oldest boat house, the century-old Suijyo Club, turned waterside cafe), Manju at the Spirited Away-esque Mugimaru2 hidden in a back alleyway, famous French bakeries like Cafe-Creperie Le Bretagne, and many more! There are many ways to wander around Kagurazaka, …

Enjoying Souffles and “Green Eggs and Ham” at Lauderdale

Let me just start off by saying, Lauderdale serves a version of Doctor Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham named ‘Mama’s Garden Omelette’ and I am nearly positive this delicious gruyere-filled dish is why Sam-I-Am loves Green Eggs and Ham so much! (If you have fond memories of Dr. Seuss like I do, then you’d probably understand why the prospect of having green eggs is so extremely exciting.) Lauderdale, located next to Roppongi Hills on Keyakizaka-dori, has been a hot spot for both foreigners and locals since its opening in 2009. With servers fluent in both Japanese and English, Lauderdale is a great breakfast option for families and expats working in the Roppongi area (and if you have pets, they’re allowed on the terrace seatings!) Serving a mix of French bistro-fare with international influences, its notable menu items include Hot-Out-Of-Oven Souffles, Buttermilk Pancakes, and a variety of French-Styled Omelettes. Sam, my Tokyo brunching buddy, and I heard that grabbing a seat on the terrace is virtually impossible on weekends so we opted for a quieter weekday breakfast instead.

Omotesando Koffee: Coffee in the Backstreets of Tokyo

Update: Unfortunately, the beautiful Omotesando Koffee has closed its location as of December 2016. However, you can visit their Toranomon location! (1-23-3 Toranomon,Minato-ku,Tokyo  2F Toranomon Hills Mori Tower 105-6302 Japan) ————- There’s something really beautiful about a quiet minimalist space, especially when found amidst the busy streets of Tokyo. Add some caffeine to that mix, it’s no wonder that Omotesando Koffee is highly praised by many coffee-enthusiasts. Located in the backstreets of Omotesando, Omotesando Koffee’s unassuming entrance is hard to find , but most definitely worth the effort. Not only is its simplistic decor reminiscent of a traditional Japanese house, it has by far the best cup of ice cappuccino I’ve ever had in Japan (doppio if you like it stronger!).

Aussie Breakfastin’ at Bills in Omotesando

Bill Granger really knows how to make a delicious breakfast to brighten my morning! Having tried his famous ricotta hotcakes before in Notting Hill’s Granger and Co., I was determined to repeat the delicious experience in Tokyo. But, as all serious Tokyo brunch and breakfast lovers already know, the line for Bills in Tokyo’s posh Omotesando area is notoriously long (up to 3-4 hours!). Located on the 7th floor of Tokyu Plaza, a space-fortress like complex designed by award-winning architect Hiroshi Nakamura, Bills is nestled within the Plaza’s ‘Omohara Forest.’ In other words, breakfasting or brunching at Bills Omotesando is both a delicious and gorgeous experience. So if you want to check out Bill Granger’s Omotesando branch, an early start is a must! My friend Sam, who’s been studying at Sophia University for the past semester, met me bright and early at 9am for this breakfast of champs. And to my not-so-secret delight, we managed to get a table right away. Within minutes of us sitting down, the friendly staff (fluent in both Japanese and English) took our orders and prepared our drinks. Sharing Bills’ famous Full Aussie Breakfast and Ricotta Hotcakes with …