Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Yokohama. What a pleasant surprise. Just a hop skip and jump away from Tokyo, Yokohama is the 2nd largest city in Japan. I guess because it was so close to Tokyo, I never really considered it a destination spot, but it has quite a lot to offer. You can take a lovely 15 minute ferry ride from central Yokohama to Motomachi-Chugakai, where you will find Japan's largest Chinatown and a cute shopping street lined with cafes and shops.

I have seen a few Chinatowns in my lifetime. I took the SF Muni 42 bus almost everyday for a year. So yeah, I've seen/smelt/tasted/been elbowed in the face by Chinatown. What happens when you create a Chinatown in a clean and organized country such as Japan? You get clean, friendly and spacious roads filled with yummy food and Hello Kitties dressed like pandas. It seemed as though every other person was trying to give us a sample of freshly roasted chestnuts. There were steam buns galore - some the size of your face, others adorned with panda faces. We had a really tasty dinner at one of the many Chinese restaurants in town. I had the best Mabo Tofu I have ever had in my life. Whoa.

Friday, November 20, 2009

My Lunch :: Nov 20th

Maple Donut and Pineapple Bread with coffee at Froment D'Or in Minami Senjuu.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Potluck @ Opening Ceremony :: Banh Mi in Tokyo

I have been pretty lucky so far in terms of quality Vietnamese food in Tokyo. What a relief! While my Pho and Spring Roll needs are perfectly here, I have yet to find a single Banh Mi sandwich! The horror! I guess Tokyo didn't get the memo that Banh Mi is so hot right now.
Of course, leave it to the ahead of the trends-so cool it hurts boutique, Opening Ceremony, to bring the my favorite sandwich to town. For those of you that don't know, Opening Ceremony is an LA/NY clothing boutique that carries very cool designers at prices you obviously cannot afford. Opening Ceremony Tokyo opened in Shibuya in September and their cafe, Potluck, opened this week. They serve a variety of cuisines and being super in the know, they of course brew SF's Blue Bottle coffee. I'm in love!
I have to admit, these are not completely authentic. The bread was mushy, no pate and there were pickled jalapenos a la Mexico on them. That being said, it was a damn tasty sando and I will be going back. The staff is really friendly and it looks as though they experiment with their menu a lot.
They also get bonus points for having Sriracha and Fish Sauce bottles on every table and for having a Japanese waiter that speaks perfect English and has an Afro. If that's not cool, then I don't know what is.

Potluck at Opening Ceremony
Udagawacho 21-1, Shibuya Seibu Movida B1F
(Basement of Seibu Movida...attached to Loft and Muji) 

Monday, November 16, 2009

ABC Cooking School Part 2 :: Singaporean Cuisine

When I first moved to Japan, I wrote about ABC Cooking School International at Tokyo Midtown. I had a lot of fun, made a low calorie brunch and got to chat with a young Japanese girl who loved Whitney and Lauren from The Hills. I had every intention of going back for another class...but it just didn't happen. Last week, I finally made good and went back for a class on how to cook Nasi Goreng, Singaporean fried rice. This wasn't my first choice of courses, but it worked best with my schedule. Fried rice is after all, kind of beginner.
Along with the fried rice, we made a very simple curry soup and fried shrimp chips. The rice was pretty good, however I am always hesitant to cook anything that requires shrimp paste, because it will make your apartment smell for DAYS. I saw some more interesting classes for November and hope to drop in on one...particularly the Japanese Party Platter which teaches you how to make a salmon sushi roll and green tea mochi. Here's hoping I make it to one of those classes!

Big Tuna

One of the perks of living in any big city is that you're bound to run into something unique, spectacular, weird and/or cool at any given moment. This past weekend, on the way to the metro station, I walked past a local sushi shop in Akasaka-Mitsuke. There was a small crowd gathered around something in front of the shop so I decided to stop and try and see what was up. Perhaps a celebrity sighting? A crime? No, even better - A HUGE FRESH TUNA.
I have never really seen a tuna fish live in the flesh - I'm a little embarrassed that I had NO idea they got so big. Tuna auctions happen every morning at the famous Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, but a tuna this size is special. Think about how many sushi shops there are in the Tokyo area alone...not imagine all those shop owners bidding for this beautiful fish. I have no idea how much this piece cost, but I'm guess A LOT. Back in January, a 282-pounder went for $104,700 to a guy that has a shop in Akasaka! I wonder if it is the same guy...hmmm..

Tsukiji is a popular tourist destination, but I think that tourists were interfering too much with the auctions, so they closed off the auction to the public. Even if you have to wake up at the crack of dawn, it really is a great place to eat the freshest sushi in town.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Octopus Balls

I don't really have a lot to say about Takoyaki other than that it is
really tastey, can burn your mouth if you're overzealous and are the
local delicacy of Osaka. I'm leaving out any jokes about tentacles
and mayonaise toppings...grow up!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Neyn Donuts

There is a very cute donut shop called Neyn, down the hill from where we live and as I learn more and more about the shop, the more I love it. The donuts are very unique - they are all handmade and most are baked rather than fried and more cakey in texture. Don't let that fool you - they're still quite tasty. My favorite is the fromage donut which is covered with organic powdered sugar and filled with a sweet cream cheese. They also have matcha, chocolate, cassis and orange chocolate varieties. The design of the cafe is European and authentic. The coffee is strong and tastey - kind of rare of Japan.

What makes this shop pretty bitchin' is the story behind it. The owner,
Yoshihisa Yamada is a 45-year-old bad ass. I really admire people who have "made it" in the business world. I guess maybe because I used to work in that kind of environment, I understand how hard it is to be successful and not just another paper-pusher/middle-management drone (like I was...wah wah). Yamada's resume is truly impressive: he graduated from the best University in Japan (Tokyo University), got an MBA from Harvard, worked at both the Bank of Japan and Goldman Sachs, then became the man in charge of Rakuten Travel, the largest online shopping operator in Japan, kind of like the Amazon.com of Japan. Did I mention he's only 45?

Thankfully for sweets lovers, he decided to take his smarts and invest it into a donut shop. It might seem kind of random, but he has such a good business-oriented reason as to why he chose a donut shop. From a Japan Times article:

Yamada decided on doughnuts because their popularity in Japan is a constant, and because there aren't all that many competitors. He said he could have tried the fashion business or a patisserie, but Tokyo already has a ton of those and he wasn't sure if he could set his company apart...

"Creating value-added products and bringing them overseas — that's what I'm interested in doing."
He also chose his location, Akasaka Sacas, because of the high density of Office Ladies (called OL's in Japan) in the area. Office ladies are kind of their own demographic here. In short, OL's are young women who work in big offices, taking care of the workers by fetching tea and snacks. They live at home with their parents and stop working once they get married. The whole point of being an OL is to find a husband...or at least this is what I'm told. Most cute cafes and lunch spots are catered to OLs, and Neyn is one of them.

Neyn seems to be doing pretty well for themselves. Aside from their main shop in Akasaka, they opened an experimental 1-year shop in the swanky Tokyo Midtown building. I hope this shop does well. Anyone who thinks that donuts are a value-added product is someone I can get behind.

Neyn Donuts

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