Tokyo, ただいま! People say the best time to visit Japan is in the Spring for hanami, the cherry blossom viewing festival; or in the Fall, to see the country’s beautiful Autumn foliage. But a true foodie knows Winter in Japan means two things: Ramen tastes even more amazing than usual (cold weather, hot bowl of noodle, go figure). Tsukiji Fish Market in the Winter time is a FIESTA! (Fish fatten up in the winter time so it’s one of the best time of the year to get sushi and sashimi). Plus, with the traditional marketplace moving sometime in 2016, another reason to go visit now. While I adore my previous summers in Japan, which were filled with cold soba noodles and sweet kakigori in the sweltering summer heat, I love wintery Japan. It is the perfect season for warm comfort food. I’m looking at you ramen, oden, and fried-everything. Plus, this time around, winter fashion was in full swing and Japanese girls really rock the furry coats and beanie look–some great food fashion for thought! Below, you’ll find a round-up of the foods I chomped on …
Sukiyabashi Jiro might be the ultimate sushi master, but if you can wake up amazingly early in Tokyo and make your way to Tsukiji Fish Market, you’ll find yourself lost in the buzzing excitement of the world’s largest seafood market. I’ve had such amazing sushi in Tokyo but Sushi Dai, located in the busy lanes of Tsukiji Fish Market, is one of a kind (and yes, this is where Jiro and other renowned sushi chefs come to select their fresh fish!) Lines can stretch up to 5 hours, so bring some entertainment or simply come to enjoy the good company you’ll meet–I’ve truly met the most interesting and international people in line before. After all, as Julia Child so wisely reminds us, “people who love to eat are always the best people.”
Sadaharu Aoki is a highly acclaimed patissier I’ve been dying to try since I arrived in Tokyo. If you adore classic teatime pastries the way I do, you’ll definitely find Sadaharu Aoki’s exquisite Matcha Eclairs irresistible. By infusing traditional Japanese ingredients into French pastries, a visit to Sadaharu Aoki is a sweet-tooth culinary adventure for sure! Excited to try out Sadaharu Aoki’s lovely array of pastries, Mizuha and I embarked on yet another afternoon full of sweets this past week. As usual, we couldn’t decide on just one tea set to get, so what better than a degustation cake sampler? Located in Roppongi Midtown’s B1 Level, Sadaharu Aoki offers a colorful cake sampler if you dine in–a definite worthy splurge. But of course, since summer is the perfect time for kakigori, and I also had my eyes set on the rows of lovely eclairs–we decided to try a little bit of everything!
Croissant Taiyaki Croissant meets Taiyaki, and a love affair later, I think I’m in love too! 銀のあん, following Dominique Ansel’s wildly popular inventions (cronuts, milk and cookie shots, etc.), adds its own twist to a traditional Japanese dessert. Taiyaki たい焼き is a Japanese fish-shaped pastry, stuffed with sweet Azuki Red Bean paste. Traditional Taiyaki dough has a pancake-like consistency. After grilling it, it’s nice and fluffy, with a golden finish. However, Croissant Taiyaki has more of a croissant-like consistency, meaning layers of flakey goodness and a crispy almond-brown color! The original flavor Croissant Taiyaki is with the sweet Azuki Bean paste, but they happened to have a summer special when I went today–a Green Tea Croissant Taiyaki! Filled with green tea custard, the Green Tea Croissant Taiyaki is extra lovely with its candied red beans on the outside and green-tea flavored layers. Don’t miss this fantastic twist on a delicious Japanese dessert, because I was in a solid 5-minutes of food heaven before it was all gone. *Directions: To get to Croissant Taiyaki, take the East Exit when you get out …
When in Tokyo, you can be easily spoiled by phenomenal sushi or delicious sukiyaki but the ultimate Japanese comfort food is definitely Tonkatsu, Japanese-style breaded, deep-fried pork cutlets. These juicy cutlets are pieces of fried heaven Tonki, a 75 year old establishment in Meguro, Tokyo, specialise in. Serving either hire (fillet, lean cut) or rosu (pork loin, fatter cut) Tonkatsu, Tonki is a proud no-frills establishment that has a never ending line of regulars and passersby that are drawn to the irresistible smell of its slow-fried Tonkatsu. It’s hard to resist Tonkatsu, especially when Tonki’s slow-fried process means each bite of its Tonkatsu doesn’t leave that oily after taste and only makes you want to smother it in more Tonkatsu sauce (a thicker and sweeter version of Worcestershire sauce). My good friend Cyrus, a French foodie I met in LSE (remember our post-Japanese class Thai nights?), had found raving reviews of Tonki so naturally, we decided a dinner rendezvous in Meguro was must.
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.
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.
One of my favorited buzzfeed articles features gorgeous photos of cities that never sleep. If the busy hum of cities is something you have fond memories of, hope you enjoy these city lights the way I do. love, eatprayjade x.
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 …
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?