We flew in on a red-eye flight and arrived at Narita and managed to check in rather early in the morning at our apartment at Ikebukuro on our recent trip to Tokyo last month, and thought we could swing by Mutekiya for a quick ramen fix before getting on with our itinerary planned for the day. Despite being an hour early to the usual lunch peak hour, the queue outside the famed ramen shop just a stone’s throw away from Seibu Ikebukuro had already developed with more than 20 diners, mostly visitors to the metropolitan like us waiting to be ushered into the shop. Not wanting to waste time since we’d already had Mutekiya on several occasions and blogged about it before, we decided to look into the other recommendations I’d jotted on our dining list and this was when Uchouten came to mind. It is a 洋食屋 which we had wanted to visit since our last trip back to Tokyo and it seems like the perfect opportunity to do so now..
From my observations, the Japanese line of patissiers and patissieres can be broadly divided into two categories. There are those who innovate and improvise, bringing together familiar “oriental” elements be it in ingredients or technique with the art of French pastry making, adapting to bring forth and open up greater possibilities and potentials yet at the same time making the creations more “acceptable” and attuned to the palates and taste buds of the local crowd. Then there are those who choose to stay firm and close to ground zero, bringing what they have learnt and absorbed from their years of apprenticeship in France back to Japan and introduce to the home audience the very essence of French pastry making in an utmost unbashful and unadulterated manner. Both have their loyal fans and followers, and both must be commended for their efforts to scale greater heights and also preserve the pertinent traditions and methods that define the very soul of pastry arts. From what I see, Chef Norihiko Terai 寺井則彦 of Patisserie Francaise Aigre Douce エーグル・ドゥース belongs to the latter…
Being more or less creatures of habit by now, we often set aside time to revisit some of our favorite places whenever we are in Tokyo. That said, we also try to make it a point to try out some new joints which we had not been to before, especially for foods we love. 凪 ゴールデン Nagi Golden Gai Ramen is our latest venture down the alley of sampling ramens from all over Tokyo and the experience here was quite an eye-opener to say the least!
For those who love Japanese ramen, 一蘭 Ichiran Tonkotsu Ramen should not sound unfamiliar. Hailing from 博多 Hakata, Fukuoka, they are one of the the first to popularise this stye of ramen from the south characterised by a rich and creamy bone broth with branches all over Japan. It is not only their ramen itself that makes them unique but also the way of ordering ramen, and also the sheer experience of dining in an Ichiran ramen outlet itself that makes things interesting…
Whenever it comes to Japan, what comes to mind is almost always loads of traditional Japanese food like ramen, sushi, donburi, wagashi, tonkatsu etc… Having gone to Tokyo quite a few times now, we were in the “been there done that” mood and were keen to try out other things Tokyo is probably lesser known for or associated with. Then again, Japanese being Japanese, they do almost everything with fervent dedication and spot-on perfection, owing to their 和魂 ‘yamato spirit‘. Sounds damn cliché I know! We went to Bounce Baker Burgers when we visited Tokyo Midtown for lunch just the other day, something lesser 和風 “wafu” on would think but in actuality, 洋食”yoshoku” and other external food influences have already become part and parcel of Japanese culinary culture as well, be it 中華 “chuwa” or french, italian or the regular “americano”. And for the records, the burgers were absolutely delicious! So here we are, to track down “Great Burger” yet another popular burger deli located in the hearts of Omotesando.
When it comes to French pastry, Pierre Herme is almost like a household name. I’d mentioned him countless times on this blog and I’m sure some of you guys would already know that I am quite a fan of his works, especially the art of macaron making, which he revolutionised with innovative combinations of flavours and the use of exotic ingredients some totally unheard of, sometimes to the point of the unimaginable under his “Signature“, “Fetish” and in more recent years, his “Jardin” series. But during our most recent trip to Tokyo, we’d decided to go back to the traditions and “re-discover” the French classics. Read on to see how Pierre Herme fares!
Mention Japanese patissiers and names like Hideki Sugino and Sadaharu Aoki immediately comes to mind. No doubt they may be really good and/or popular but for me, there are many other talented Japanese pastry chefs awaiting to be discovered and getting to know. Hideki Kawamura 川村英樹 is one such pastry chef. I first gotten to know about him through his signature piece Acidule which one of my friends in Vancouver had recreated. Seeing how chic piece was, I was intrigued to find out more about him, which led me to visit his Patisserie a tes Souhaits in Kichijoji during one of our memorable trips to Tokyo.
It seems like a growing trend, that people are no longer satisfied with “just” being able to savour the desserts and pastries off their plates, but they’d also like to see how the desserts are being prepared right before their eyes. I see this as an extension of gastronomic experience which probably first stemmed from stepping into a sushi bar where a Jiro-like Japanese chef puts on a performance of, selecting a suitable cut, slicing the fish to precision, grasping the perfectly flavoured sushi rice so elegantly in one hand before clasping the two components together. It is a performance which many believe can invigorate the senses during the “omakase” as well as help one to gain a deeper understanding of the food in order to better appreciate what is being eaten. Such a dramatic show is a tradition is not unique to just Japanese of course, as a good crepe suzuette is often prepared from scratch right next one’s dining table, from the making of the lace-thin pancakes, to the final flambe of the orange juice and liqueur concoction. As such, “salons” or “ateliers” becomes an increasingly popular culinary concept which is replicated in many places now. During our most recent trip to Japan, we visited Salon de Dessert Toshi Yoroizuka in Tokyo Midtown , for a treat of not only their desserts but also the performance.
We woke up really early to beat the crowd at the Tokyo Skytree. Knowing how unpredictable the weather in Tokyo can sometimes be, we didn’t wanna be committed to buying our tickets in advance and end up going there on a rainy day. Thankfully, the weather throughout the whole time was quite pleasant and the visit went on rather smoothly. Time flies so quickly and before we knew it, it was time for lunch. the conjoining mall to the Tokyo Skytree has a good selection of eating joints from family restaurants to burger delis to choose from. We landed ourselves in a place which we’d always been wanting to visit, Nana’s Green Tea!
Strangely whenever we are in Tokyo, we never really thought much about visiting Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki Paris unlike the others be it local like Hidemi Sugino or Hideki Kawamura, or the “imports” like Pierre Herme and Jean Paul Hevin. I think it is because we were already sampled quite a few of his creations during our trips to Taipei where he has two dessert salons, in Bellavita and Regent Taipei. However, perhaps due to the quality of the local ingredients used or the level of sophistication his local pastry team is imbued with, friends who tried his cakes from Paris, Taipei and Tokyo told me that one could quite literally make out a difference in the “quality” of the creations between these places. Unlike the macarons and other petit gateau pour sec which are all flown in from France, the entremets and petit gateaus we see in the local stores are made in situ. Tokyo turned out to be their favorite, whose standards of pastry surpasses even those from the 6th arrondissement flagship store in Paris supposedly. That got me very curious and we knew we had to try it to believe it!
One of the places we always make it a point to visit whenever we are in Tokyo is Tsukiji Market located at the south-eastern corner of the metropolis not too far away from Ginza. Unlike other tourist sites
, Tsukiji is worth visiting over and over again from time to time. It boasts to have the freshest seafood one would be able to find anywhere and it garners the best produce from all over Japan which changes with the seasons. There is always so much to see, smell, taste and of course buy. Despite our numerous trips to Tsukiji, we’d never gotten to try much of the stuff from the cooked food stalls there. Yes we’d done the “touristic thing” and ate kaisendon at some of the small sushi delis which can be found all over the place, but we’d never gotten round to try much of the other stuff there. So for our most recent trip, we’d made it a point to have a bowl the local ramen, and have a taste of what the locals eat. One name that comes to mind would naturally be 井上中華そば Inoue Chukka Ramen.
Our trip to Tokyo in early 2013 was all about patisseries and ramen. Well, it ain’t a pilgrimage for nothing. We flew budget to Tokyo and that meant transiting in Taipei. It was an overnight flight and after the gruelling experience of spending more than half a day airborne, we were visibly tired and hungry (read: grumpy). After a quick check in-to the apartment we would be putting up with over the next few days, we made a beeline for a late “lunch date” at 麺創房無敵家 Mutekiya, our first pitstop for ramen. Definitely wasted no time in getting into the pilgrimage mode!
麺創房無敵家 Mutekiya is much raved for their ramen, specifically that of the “Kyushu style”. Located at the southern tip of the Ikebukuro JR station, it was conveniently just a stone-throw away from where we stayed. Literally just across the subway line. So coming here to get fed and fuelled made absolute perfect sense!
Ladurée, an old guard in the long-withstanding tradition of French pastry-making is a name that hardly needs introduction. It is due to open its first outlet in Singapore in a week’s time. We’d visited Ladurée’s flagship store in Japan just last week. Hopefully this would be a “sneak preview” of we could expect when it hits town soon.
Hello everyone! Kindly excuse us for the long absence! Just realised that it had been 3 weeks since we last posted, only because we had been terribly busy trying to clear our work and run errands before we take a much
deserved awaited break to Tokyo! The trip was planned to take place ahead of the hanami season as it was the only time when both of us could make it! Alas thanks literally to the freak weather, the cherry blossoms bloomed much earlier in Japan this year, allowing us to enjoy their beauty, amidst other spectacular floral displays along the way. The downside is, we had to cut back on several pastry joints which we had slated to visit. Nonetheless we had a really good time in Tokyo!
This trip to Tokyo is all about pastries, ramen and depachikas! We absolutely love depachikas in Japan, so they are surely a “must go” whenever we are in Japan! J lamented that we didn’t get to try any ramen joints during our last trip so I made sure that we had enough ramen this time round for J to remember by! And 5 years ago during our first trip to Tokyo, which incidentally marks the commencement of this blog, I wasn’t much into fine pastry making then. But I do remember being much in awe with what I saw at the display windows of dessert boutiques and patisserie sales counters at depachikas. The level of artistry and presentation in trhe Japanese patisseries then was already quite impeccable and very impressive. Over the years as I grew to appreciate and get involved myself in the French art of pastry making, the desire to return to Tokyo fueled on. So after a long wait of more than 4 years, we are finally back! I will be writing and sharing about the various patisseries and ramen joints we’d visited this time round over the next couple of months or so but here’s a sneak preview of what we’d tried and sampled in Tokyo 2013!
Edo Museum @Ryogoku
Decoration in conjunction with the Rake Festival
On our 4th day in Japan, we went on a side-trip to Hakone 箱根, a town at the foot of Mount Fuji world-renowned for their hot spring resorts and related onsen activities. We set up from Tokyo really early, embarking on the Odakyu Odawara Line from Shinjuku to Hakone Yumoto Station
Little Japanese school girls we met saw on the train.
Then we walked through Harajuku’s Takeshita Dori 竹下通りto Omotesando Hills and finally Shibuya.
A beautiful Sunday morning with lots of traditional weddings going on at the Meiji Jingu Shrine 明治神宮. Coincides with a crysanthemum flower show and the 7-5-3 children festival. Lots to shoot!
A bridge co-joining Harajuku Station to the entrance of Meiji Jingu Shrine.
A long and pebbly walkway. Well… its more than a walkway actually. Probably wide enough for several horse carriages to move through at the same time. But this is now strictly used by walking pedestrians only. Vehicles into the Meiji Jingu vicinity take another pathway.
Started the day at Tsukiji. Actually, we went Shinjuku first to get our tickets changed for Hakone.
Famous soba joint at Tsukiji outer market. It was recommended in both Taiwanese Tokyo guidebooks we had, so it is hopefully good. And it was! Just nice and piping hot for the cold weather. Obasan in charge of the tempura is grouchy though. Curtly reminded us that we can’t order tempura without having soba. The sign above her already said so. DUH! The soba is really tasty! Slurp Slurp! Hoped that her service was as palatable though. Oh yeah, its kinda pricy! Paid around 1500 Yen for two bowls of soba soup with Ebi tempura.
Hot soba with wakame (seaweed), negi (spring onions) and ebi tempura
Massive Christmas Deco at T3 Changi Airport. Its a ball-shaped dome which opens up like an umbrella periodically and plays music.
Another deco for xmas in the transit area. Lotsa tourists stop by on the way to their boarding gates for some quick shots.
Stewardess serving refreshments on SQ638 to Narita. Its a overnight flight. So no dinner served as it was 2345h when we boarded. Our first A380 experience! Chose a seat which doesn’t have a seat in front of it in exchange for more legroom turned out to be a mistake. With no foot rest extension from the seat in front (cos there isn’t a seat in front!), I kept slipping downwards while sleeping. And the meal table is wobbly. The screen is stowed away on the left of the seat. But I could do with the extra legroom. Oh well… you win some, you lose some.