Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Renkon Mentai

I love lotus root. They're crisp like autumn apples when chopped, and hearty like tororo (grated naga imo, or yam) when grated. Renkon (or lotus root) has a wonderful texture either way, and due to the lack of strong flavor it works well with many different ingredients. I like to chop it up in bite-size pieces and toss it with a rich mentaiko (spicy cod roe) sauce. This is an easy side dish and is great cold, making it an ideal make-ahead-and-let-sit-in-fridge-til-dinner/potluck dish.

Lotus root will start changing color if you let it sit out for too long, ruining the presentation of its almost porcelain-like appearance. So before you start chopping the holey root, let it sit in a mixture of vinegar and water for about 5 to 10 minutes. You should peel the skin with a peeler first.

While it's soaking, prepare the sauce. Scrape the roe from one large or two medium-sized mentaiko sacs. You should make a a long insertion length-wise, spread the two halves so the skin is touching the cutting board, and scrape out the roe with the dull end of a knife, or a spoon. If you are gentle you will not break the membrane. For some reason, I find a squeeze of lemon juice on the mentaiko aids in smooth scraping of the roe.

After you have enough mentaiko (and "enough" depends on how much you like these little eggs!), mix it with the same amount or less of mayonnaise (this, too, depends on how much you like mayonnaise; less mayo and more mentaiko is the way I like it). The mentaiko is salty enough so you won't need any salt for taste.

Let the sauce sit and return to the soaking lotus root. Cut them in bite size pieces, even thin slices. Boil a large pot of water and carefully dump the chopped roots into the boiling water. Let boil for about 3-5 minutes (even less if you've sliced the roots)--that's it! You don't want to lose the delicious crunch of these vegetables by cooking them too long. Taste one after a few minutes and when you feel they need another minute, that's when you should take them out. Because you will...

Use a strainer and allow the roots to cool naturally--do not cool them with water. Right after you have strained them, squeeze half a lemon (or more, if you like lemon! I'm really roundabout with my measurements, aren't I??) to slow down the color-changing process. They might get a bit purple-ish where the lemon has not touched. Although they are "cooling", since they are still hot they will continue to cook slightly. This is fine.

After maybe about 5 to 10 minutes, when they are still warm to hot to the touch, toss them with the mentaiko mixture. You should do this while the renkon are still warm so the mayonnaise kind of melts and sticks to the root.

To garnish, use chopped green onions and toasted sesame seeds. You might want to wait to put them on until they are ready to be served.

This is a delicious dish and makes such a beautiful presentation that it will surely be a hit at any dinner table or party! Try it!

レンコン明太 renkon mentai
とろろ grated yam
長いも naga imo
レンコン lotus root
明太子 spicy cod roe

I think I see Tim Burton in there...

Friday, September 7, 2007

Yanaka Coffee

A recent excursion into the Yanesen* area (a triangular section of northeastern Tokyo, the three points being Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi) found me a damn good coffee shop. I define damn good coffee shop as a) delicious b) reasonably priced, and c) good vibes. And if they roast your beans for ya too, well, you just earned yourself some extra credit, mister!

The iced cafe au lait at the top of this post (I think they called it iced milk coffee here) was about ¥250, if I remember correctly, and was very good. While I sipped on it I browsed the 30+ coffee beans from around the world on display, chose 200g of a Columbia extra dark blend (¥1,080), and watched them roast the beans in their roaster. It takes 20 minutes, the lady told me, so I left to take a walk aroound the neighborhood.

When I returned, a warm bag of aromatic, almost chocolatey beans were waiting for me, which perfumed my handbag quite nicely for the remainder of the evening, thank you very much.

Look for this kind of entrance with dark wooden planks, spot lights and large script characters that spell out the cafe's name, やなか.

* Yanesen is perfect for a day-off or afternoon adventure. For a better explanation of the area and some very sound recommendations for spots to visit, refer to this Metropolis article.

谷根千 yanesen

Sendagi Shop
2-31-3 Sendagi, Bunkyo-ku
T 0120-(877)-281 F 03-5815-8982

Koiwai Gourmet Fan

...is expensive. At ¥349 a carton, it's like Christmas Day compared to the economical ¥149 Bulgaria ones. But, man it is soo good! Over coffee and a splurge over the G.S.* recently, I seriously contemplated this tendency of mine to not purchase regularly the Gourmet Fan due to the additional ¥200--and then weighed it with the joy that very same ¥200 buys me when I have a carton of it in my fridge. And guess who won? Yes, peeps, it's Christmas Day every day now!!

On the whole, Japanese yogurt is all delicious and far superior, I hate to say, to their American cousins (Tokyolites, what do you think?). The reason is simple: it is not pasteurized to death. I think in the US there are extremely strict regulations on pasteurizing dairy, and in Japan, not. (I'm not sure if there have been problems arisen from that.) So anyone who ever lands in Japan, the first thing I enthusiastically recommend you do is buy yourself some yogurt--any yogurt--and bask in its deliciousness. You will thank me. Or the yogurt company, that's fine too.

My favorite yogurt in the world (not even exaggeratin'!) is this Gourmet Fan. The stuff is made with fresh cream! How can you go wrong??

The thickened yogurt on the edge of the carton is the best.

* Oh c'mon. The Good Shit!

小岩井プレミアムクリームヨーグルト グルメファン Koiwai Premium Cream Yogurt Gourmet Fan

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Curry Dorayaki

Soooo sorry for the long absence, readers!! >_< The heat, it seemed, affected my ability to blog. That, or Facebook (it's all close call).


Dorayaki are two palm-sized castella pancakes that sandwich something sweet, traditionally anko, or sweet red bean paste.

Castella itself is sweet spongy cake* (traditionally Spanish and/or Portuguese in origin but now a ultra-standard Japanese sweet which can be found virtually anywhere from fairs, conbini's to depa-chika's**), brought over by Portuguese merchants in the 16th century to Nagasaki, the international trading port at that time. Even today, it is said that the best castella in Japan come from Nagasaki.

Anko, is made by boiling heaps of azuki beans, dumping in what should be illegal amounts of sugar, and then mashing them all up until they are of your desired consistency (chunky? Smooth? Who knew Skippy had such a global perspective on his recipes?), and then cooled. Anko is used in a plethora of Japanese sweets (I'm not even exaggerating. Go ahead, count 'em! One plethora, two plethora, three plethora...). The funny thing is, lots of people don't like anko, because--here's the paradox of the century--it's too sweet. Even for Japanese people, and they're the ones who are all "ooooh, milk shakes, it's just sugar!" or "M n M's?! How can you eat so much chocolate it's so sweet!" It's like, harrro! Have never had anko you crazy person? That stuff is like diabetes to go. And the icing on the cake, of course, is that we sandwich anko with castella. (I recommend green or hojicha tea straight-up as your accompanying beverage.)

So, me. I am not a huge fan of anko, so dorayaki is something I don't buy for myself unless my Japanese sweet tooth is begging for it (my left is Japanese, my right is American). But over the summer a friend kindly brought with her extra-special dorayaki, each with a different filling including custard, pumpkin, the standard anko and--whaaat's this??--curry. As a certified, die-hard, no-nonsense curry freak (not to mention castella fan), I was elated when nobody claimed the curry dora-chan as their own and I was left to taste-test it. Dear God, please don't let it be a sugared-up curry! ...I thought, truthfully, just as I unwrapped it. But on the other hand, I was just as anxious about it being a regular salty curry sandwiched between castella.

Oh hell with it, just bite into it already!!

The only-mildly spicy curry was complemented well by slivers of almonds--it all worked to be classifed, still, as a sweet! And definitely a stylish omiyage (souvenir/gift) to give. (Especially when they are assorted so well. Thank Kahori!!)

Oh readers, you are going to kill me, I have no idea where they are from!! I'm pretty sure its in the Nihonbashi/Mitsukoshi-mae area. Anyone who finds out, do let me know!!

* To be absolutely fair, castella deserves to be called more than "cake". In fact, it's one of the best things in the world. And as a true castella lover, I'd like to refer you to the outstanding video illustrating the process of making this cake by Fukusaya, hands-down my favorite castella maker in Japan. And now I see why they're so great; they have robots working for them!! Human-looking ones!!

** Depa-chika are department store basements--"chika" in Japanese--and that's where the Japanese goverment hides all the good food from the North Koreans. Just kidding, but that is where all the good food is. From bento to deli items to designer fruit baskets to Belgium chocolates to wagashi, it's all here.

どら焼き dorayaki
あんこ anko
カステラ castella
デパ地下 depa-chika

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


My father is from the southern tip of Okayama prefecture in central-east Japan, right across from the large island Shikoku and home to the Mecca of sanuki udon, Kagawa prefecture. Udon are fat white noodles made of flour and often served in a lightly seasoned fish broth, served hot or cold. As with many other foods and dishes in Japan, the way they are served/prepared/made differ by region, and sanuki udon is thought to be the simplest and often best way to eat udon, especially by udon aficianados. Being as flexible as he is, my dad does justice to both the die-hard sanuki men (oh, ha ha! Men means noodles in Japanese!) and the city-slicker type at his udon restaurant in Akasaka, Hinaya.

Photo courtesy of Metropolis

Kijōyu udon is an orthodox and old-skool way to eat sanuki udon. It consists simply of freshly boiled noodles (dunked in ice water to as soon as they're just the right state of al dente to keep the koshi*), and garnished with a raw egg yolk, a splash of a soy sauce mixture and a few spice condiments called yakumi, like chopped scallions or sesame seeds, and finito. Break the yolk, toss it with the noodles and it's almost like a Japanese carbonara.

* Koshi refers to the elasticity of Japanese noodles, describing the state when it satisfies all of the following: firmness, suppleness and bouciness, especially as they go down your throat, as you don't "chew" Japanese noodles so much as swallow them. Scout's honor. Actually, udon is much more about the texture than the flavor.

Hinaya also serves it with natto, or fermented beans, for those of you who can stomach it. For me, this is the perfect breakfast. Egg! Noodles! Natto! What's not to like?

But of course my favorite all-time Hinaya udon (and the shop's #1 menu item) is the curry udon. The only vegetables that go into the roux are onions and carrots--which are sauteed until they are soft and sweet, and then pureed. The puree, curry spices and water are boiled for hours until the roux is rich and thick, at which time she meets her soulmate, the smooth and elegant otsuyu, or dipping sauce, and poured over oodles of noodles. It's a match made in heaven, and if not heaven, at least the greater Tokyo area. Served with a soft-boiled onsen tamago egg, yakumi and toasted abura age (fried tofu, prounounced "a-gé"), it's addictive.

(Does this portraiture shot convey my love for this dish? I love you, curry udon.)

Other popular udon are goma dare udon, or cold udon with a savory and creamy sesame dipping sauce, and kama tama udon, served piping hot in the water they were boiled in. It's hard-core and authentic. Or something. Lunch sets at Hinaya are ¥900 (including your choice of udon, the daily rice, and two side dishes).

Oh, and by the way, my dad makes everything fresh, including the udon noodles. From the flour to the salt to the water to the width they are cut, they all have to pass dad's test, every day. The noodles themselves are vegan--flour, salt and water are the only three ingredients that go in.

生醤油 kijōyu
コシ koshi
薬味 yakumi
納豆 natto
おつゆ otsuyu
温泉たまご onsen tamago
油揚げ abura age
ゴマだれ goma dare

Hinaya (日南家)
2-14-7 Akasaka, Minato-ku
T/F 03-3583-0178

Thursday, August 2, 2007


Thank you to everyone who participated in the poll!

You said you wanted to hear about restaurants in Tokyo and more about the healthy, low-fat Japanese diet and lifestyle. Also, you wanted recipes on simple, easy and delicious Japanese food. No problem!! I'll keep those themes in mind for subsequent posts. Thank you.


My favorite fruit is in-season. The peach. Fleshy, juicy, sweet and fragrant, I especially love it when the skin peels off large and easy.


Unfortunately I only have so-so fruit markets near my house. As I'm a huge fan of fresh fruit (as you all should be, too) I'm often stuck between a rock and a hard place in Japan with designer fruits on one hand and inconsistent quality at mediocre neighborhood options in the other. In fact one of the things I miss most about Seattle and the States is the abundance of fresh, affordable produce everywhere, and if not everywhere somewhere relatively closeby: at the QFC, and if not there at PCC, and if not there at the farmers' markets, and if not there at the little trucks by the sides of the road (especially around this time of the year) and if not there at Metropolitan Market where they will probably grow that pelican mango for you if you're willing to pay them for it. Hmm, speaking of produce trucks by the side of the road.... Bing cherries!! Handfuls and handfuls of ripe, juicy, dark sweetness! Man, I miss being able to eat cherries until I feel ill. Damn.

Ah hem. Yes, fruits in Japan. Thankfully, there is one good fruit and produce market near my work. Although it is a privately owned business, it--as well as most other produce markets or greengrocers of the same nature--is referred to as the yaoya, or greengrocer. (Like the post office. Or the pool.) After purchasing the perfect peaches above (four of them) for just 400 yen, I think I'll be stocking up on my daily fruits not at home but at work from now. The friendly ojisans and obasans and one-sans at the yaoya make for a pleasant shopping experience, anyway, which just makes the purchase sweeter.

I still miss the Bing cherry trucks though. For now, a sweet, sweet memory.

八百屋 yaoya (greengrocer)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Espresso Bar Madeleine

On the way back from our healthy-for-the-mind and healthy-for-the-body Saturday afternoon brunch at Mother Esta, we stumbled upon this cute little VW Bug Citroën 2CV (thanks eshibui!) of an espresso bar--with passerby's lined up for their coffees, but curiously no one in the driver's seat. (Literally and figuratively, folks.)

Upon closer inspection, we identified the barista...

...scrunched between the trunk, the roof, and the seat dividers. He also appeared to be the owner, and uncomfortable.

Service at Espresso Bar Madeleine is (not unsurprisingly) laid-back. If there are folks before you, you wait an extra five minutes to get your order in. But who gives, on a Saturday afternoon? If you do, you should not be in Naka-Meguro, period. Go to Shinjuku or something.

Also, Madeleine passed my iced Americano test, which is less like a test and more like a regular order of an iced Americano. (I just said it to sound cool.) Though I will drink a crappy Americano over no Americano any day, I always prefer a well-thought out, lovingly-brewed one, and am willing to pay my way for it. You see, I am from Seattle. (For those of you who get it, go ahead and skip to the next paragraph.) We have Starbucks on every face of a city block and a small business-operated cafe on every outer-city block (that or a Tully's). And most of them know exactly what they're doing. Some people say Starbucks' coffee is overroasted--not me. And I love, especially, the fresh bitterness of an iced Americano, two shots of just-brewed espresso poured over ice and then splashed with ice-cold water. That is a good iced Americano. Starbucks (usually) does it, Javasti does it and, well, almost any other cafe I frequent (-ed) does it right--in Seattle. I can't say the same thing about cafes in Tokyo, but thankfully enough cafes here serve excellent brew. Madeleine included.

I was actually doubly surprised at Madeleine; first by how cold the Madeleine barista was able to get it (I confess--I was expecting it to be luke-warm coming from a car at 2pm in July), and then at the balance of bitterness, sourness and deliciousness the drink provided. But what was even better was my friend's uji matcha latte. First the uji matcha was froathed with milk. Then the espresso was brewed into another cup. Finally, the barista gave my friend both cups and had her pour one into the other.

Pretty awesome! Now, the whole process from Americano to uji matcha completion took about eight minutes and on a Monday morning I'd perhaps border getmemyfrigginlattehomeboy, but this was Saturday afternoon, and Naka-Meguro. So my friend and I were charmed (though she may be on a Monday morning as well). What won me over completely was that the uji matcha foam was not sweetened, as many green-tea latte mixtures can be (tsk, tsk, tsk). He served both our drinks with bite-sized Japanese Meiji chocolates, complementing our coffees. We had a few minutes to chat with the owner and as he never came out of his shop/car, he mustn't have been as uncomfortable as I initially suspected. He's along the Meguro River every day except Mondays, so make sure to stop by next time you're in town.

Apparently the owner/barista bakes/serves extra extra chocolat cookies in the winter time, and something tells me they'll be more rich and dreamy than sugary. Can't wait.

宇治抹茶ラテ Uji matcha latte
明治チョコレートMeiji chocolates

Espresso Bar Madeleine
Along the Meguro River, click here for map
T 090-3500-0560

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Mother Esta (She's Getting Married!!)

But I certainly did not suspect such a thing... not one morsel. After all, she was the one who was so adament about wanting to not get married. What was the point, she challenged, to shackle up a good thing? Why not let the good run it's course, why encourage premature death?? She, the one who dated her now (as of today!) husband for ten years and never once referred to him as her boyfriend. Boyfriend? C'mon, he was more than that. He was her water, her air; she couldn't live without him, and so that, was that.

So when I met her for lunch at Mother Esta, Naka-Meguro's organic cafe and restaurant, I was in for more than just a culinary surprise.

Photo from www.mother-esta.com

It started with carrot potage, as many things really often should.

Followed by an organic vegetable salad, starring little daikon radishes that look like little swollen ankles, carrots, slices of zucchini, leaves of mustard greens and arugula, topped with a drizzle of blue cheese dressing.

I did not appreciate the pre-poured dressing, as I often prefer salad without dressing. Its only redemption was that it was good, at which time I got more use out of the accompanying gravy boat of remaining dressing. But, Mother Esta, you really should consider having all dressing accompanied--especially if we're talking about one who's as choosey with her friends (and vice versa), like, ahem, blue cheese dressing. (With whom, I would just like to point out, I am the best of friends.) (But, say, what if I was on a diet? Or I didn't care for rotting cheese? What if??)

Actually, this was basically my meal. For a steep ¥1,600, I had ordered the Mother Esta Soup & Salad lunch--but keep in mind, the ingredients are all organic. But also keep in mind, I am a carnivore. OK, OK, but we'll also keep in mind the honorable mentions! With my slightly (to me, anyway) pricey lunch were served a fantastic glass of iced coffee, hard and chewy bread with olive oil...

and a chilled banana bread dessert--and I don't even like bananas!

Shocking, I tell you. How far organic vegetables have come since the days of the over-priced, awkwardly-placed (right next to the $1.99/lb Granny Smiths would be the $3.99/lb organic Grannies), new-kid-on-the-block era at our local grocery stores. Now they've opened restaurants! In Tokyo!!

And think how much else has changed since 1997, with all of us, including my dear friend. (Who is not named Esta, by the way.) She was with her husband then, too, but with no intention of signing a marriage contract. What changed? In her own words, she realized that marriage was a declaration of strong feelings toward one another in that moment. What happens tomorrow is irrelavant, as the question really is, what can't happen in 24 hours? No, what we need to focus on is what is special to us now. And that, well! That, to her, was as clear as air.

Congrats, you two.

大根 daikon radish (Japanese radish)

Mother Esta
2-20-14 Aobadai, Meguro-ku
T/F 03-5724-5778

Sun Tea and Iced Coffee

Last weekend was a clear, blue day. A perfect day to brew sun tea (a milder version of iced tea). Just pour clean water in a clean bottle, top with lots of tea leaves and allow it to "brew" under the sun. Half a day later, your patience will be rewarded with delicious sun tea.

You can also make iced coffee in a similar fashion, but you don't want to leave it out in the sun; the point with iced coffee being, it should be cold. When making iced coffee, pour the grinds in before pouring in the water. If you do it right, a Guiness-like foam will arise. (Otherwise, in my experience, the grinds refuse to sink.)

Dump spoonfuls of freshly ground coffee grinds in a clean bottle, pour in clean water and allow the bottle to sit in your fridge over night. Tomorrow morning, say good morning to an ice-cold glass of tart, sharp coffee.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Umi Budo


Literally, "sea grapes", umi budo are a type of sea kelp that gets its name from their physical resemblence to grapes. They are found in the warm seas of Okinawa and then shipped to various other locations in Japan in a plastic sac filled with salt water. Before serving, they are lightly washed (to wash off the sea water) and then soaked in room temperature water for about 3 minutes to bring it back to its fully buoyant state.

It sounds harmless enough, doesn't it? Well, the first time I followed this procedure, I nearly had a heart attack. Let me explain.

Yikes! It's like little worms coming to life! Slightly disturbing, but way fun all the same. As you can imagine, once fully inflated, they make popping sounds when you bite down on them with your tongue and mouth. The taste? Compared to caviar they are less salty and bigger; compared to ikura (salmon roe) they are smaller and contain less liquid; kazunoko (herring roe) is much more rubbery than umi budo whereas tobiko (flying fish roe) is way more crunchy. Hmm, I managed to almost completely squirt skirt around the flavor issue. They definitely lack the flavorpunch that most of these caviar deliver, but they are seaweed, afterall, not eggs.

But wait, wait! That is not to say they are boring, and in fact, they are very good, especially because you can dip them in various sauces to enjoy various flavors! With just the right amount of salty and fun texture, they make a great otsumami (or snack, usually accompanied by an alcohoic drink like beer). I eat them dipped in ponzu (a mixture of soy sauce and yuzu or sudachi citrus) but that already means you can try them with soy sauce and wasabi, plus I have heard of it being served over sushi rice as a donburi (rice bowl). This is definitely something worth trying--at least so you can say you have, and at most because you might even like it! In Tokyo, visit Okinawan restaurant Achi Ko Ko in the Shinbashi/Yurakucho area, where they serve 'em fresh (I'm guessing freshness is key with these little guys). And while there, order a glass of authentic Okinawan liquor to complete the otsumami experience: awamori is a 60-proof, distilled rice wine from the southern islands.

海ぶどう umi budo
いくら ikura
数の子 kazunoko
飛び子 tobiko
おつまみ otsumami
ポン酢 ponzu
ゆず yuzu
すだち sudachi
わさび wasabi
どんぶり donburi
泡盛 awamori

Achi Ko Ko (あちこーこー)
2-3-2 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku
T 03-3569-3480

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Zelly is the phonetic vernacular of the international super star, jelly, in Japanese. (Of course no one spells it zelly, silly, but what the heck, I will.) I am a huge fan of anything remotely gelatinous, be it not too sweet (sorry, Jello-O) but better yet, slightly savory. Think: chilled consomme gelée over salad greens, or onsen tamago: fresh eggs simmered long and slow (and perhaps even relaxing in) a hot spring, or a simmering pot of hot water.

Ya, you heard me: the hot spring. Don't believe me? Check this out:

(Onsen tamago is my favorite and can be deliciously prepared at home and served on and in various dishes. I promise to talk about this in a future post soon.)

Yes, peeps, if it wiggles, Miss Ai giggles. I don't think I am being overly zealous in declaring my love for the buoyant and the chilled, a splash of flavor swirling in after the bounce of texture. And so, perhaps this is why Japanese zellies are high on my list of good things. Refreshing, satisfying, not terribly sweet and so often completely not what you expected. Take for example my morning cup of coffee...

..or is it actually my 4pm pick-me-up coffee zelly...

... made approximately six hours earlier with cold-brewed iced coffee mixed with gelatin?? Pour some coffee cream over the jiggly substance, and you've got yourself an afternoon delight. (And if you don't think zellies are the best thing ever, I will fightchu. No lie.)

The popular Kyoto tea house and dessert company Tsujiri often turns traditional Japanese teas like hojicha and matcha into delicious zelly (see the first photo of this post for hojicha zelly). (What this requires of us, readers, at home, is to brew that perfect cup and include a dallop--just one--of honey. Mix with gelatin, and chill.) What's more, Tsujiri features seasonal specials every month, like the sakura parfait (cherry blossom parfait) which was available in April this year. The sweet and slightly salty sakura zelly (salty because the cherry blossoms are often treated with a saline solution to help preserve it) and the bittersweet matcha zelly make this parfait what parfaits were born to be--a very special treat, of course--at ¥1,400 (about $10-12 USD).

sakura parfait

(Click on the parfait photo for details.)

It's easy to make zelly at home--if you drink black tea, try mixing in gelatin with a fresh pot of Earl Grey tea; milky, if you prefer. If you like coffee, definitely try the cold-brewed iced coffee zelly. Have Japanese, chai or herbal teas lying around? Experiment to find your favorite consistency of gelatin--the hojicha zelly at the top of this post and the coffee zelly toward the bottom have completely different consistencies due to the difference in ratio of liquid to gelatin. Keep in mind that you must immerse the gelatin--powder or sheet gelatin--in water first, for about five minutes, to insure that it will melt in evenly with the liquid you are trying to gel, otherwise the outcome can get clumpy. If it tastes good as a cold liquid, it probably tastes good as zelly. (Don't quote me on that.) Experiment!

ゼリー jelly
温泉卵 onsen tamago
コーヒーゼリー coffee jelly
都路里 Tsujiri
ほうじ茶 hojicha
抹茶 matcha

Tsujiri (都路里)
Caretta Shiodome B206, 1-8-2 Higashi-Shinbashi, Minato-ku
T 03-5537-2217

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Cardenas Chinois

An introduction to an old favorite restaurant turned new favorite, Cardenas Chinois in the Hiroo/Ebisu area. Previously (on Desperate Housewives), it used to be a casual yet stylish hangout, where one ordered a la carte and paid for the waiters (and hence, yourselves) to look swanky. Today, it's a bargain, any-day-of-the-week, semi-posh dining experience with friends, with fam and for non-first-time dates. The only thing on the menu is their ¥3,900 course (plus tax), from which you pick a plate from each of the three categories: cold side dish, warm side dish, and entree. Let the menu unfold!

I chose the Chinese Chicken Salad, which was gigantic as well as delicious. No photo as yet I was unaware of the extremity of culinary delight-ness I had stumbled onto.

Second came my warm dish, mussles and clams steamed in sherry.

Notice how the photography starts here. Ding! Said Miss Ai's brain. Servings Iz Larg N Tastingz Gud. BTW, that plate's just my serving (one often wonders in Japan. One being myself.)

Hey, a little crab!

(I ate it, much to my companion's disgust)

Here I would like to mention you have unlimited access to their drink menu. Unlimited. Beer, nama-beer, bottled-beer, five types of red wine, just as many of white, sparkling wine, OJ, coke, tea... the list goes on for two pages. Literally, the drink menu was two pages. I had a crappy Syrah, but A-M-A-Z-I-N-G-L-Y they allow you to bring your own drinks should you wish. At least, I think I received a press release about that. Check with them before showing up with your vintage in tow, do not mention Miss Ai.

Regardless of the fact it was crap, it looks nice in the photo. (It was Yellowtail.)

My main was grilled lamb rubbed with herbs and spices--juicy, tender, savory and rich. Served atop garlic mashed potatoes.

For dessert, fresh fruit and gelato, slivers of brownie (I was not too crazy about their desserts, but nice presentation. Not worthy of photo, apparently/however).

And with decaf coffee. Decaf!!

Notice the crema. It tasted like it wasn't decaf, too!

So that was my nice Monday night dinner at Cardenas. Ninapod, wanna join me soon? And to all else--two enthusiastic thumbs UP!

Cardenas Chinois
5-22-3 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku
T/F 03-5447-1287