Fukamachi – the perfect tempura can only be found in Japan

IMG_8484

A year ago now I was totally emerged in the preparation of our trip to Japan. It is always troubling for me how time just seems to fly by and I can’t believe that I STILL haven’t managed to share with you all the places that I so enjoyed on our trip although this is the last one. I find that Japan is a truly remarkable country and even though I read, watched and listened to so much information before traveling there, there are still so many things that catch you totally off guard and cause you to fall in love with the city. So many experiences that you know and are aware that are unique to this country and when you fly back home they will comfortably find a home in your memory. One of those flavors, textures is that of tempura. We are used to a much thicker coat when we have tempura outside of Japan, but if you eat a high standard tempura restaurant in Japan you will find that the coating used is so thin, crisp, light and marvelous that it will have you wishing to memorize it.

We were recommend to go to Fukamachi, a one-Michelin star restaurant in Tokyo. It is located in the quieter area of Ginza and it is a very small restaurant, like most in Japan, so be sure to book in advance. Our hotel was kind enough to handle all of our booking requests before our trip.

Fukamachi is run by the head chef and he has two helpers by his side. The restaurant is small and unpretentious because here the only aim is good tempura. We had the lunch time set menu, there are a few to choose from and the price was very reasonable. These are some pictures of our fish and vegetable tempura.

image1

IMG_8486

IMG_8487

IMG_8489

IMG_8491

I would not leave Japan without having tasted true tempura. Tempura will never be the same from that day on.

IMG_8494

Fukamachi

2-5-2 Kyobachi, Chou-ku, Tokyo

Advertisements

Gen Yamamoto – cocktails brought to a new level

_dsc3941

A friend of ours told us that we couldn’t go to Tokyo without having cocktails at Gen Yamamoto and I have to say that it is quite an experience. As most places in Tokyo, the bar is small, bear except for the thick wood counter which is absolutely stunning. You can’t but help run your fingers over the grain and awe over its subliminal beauty. That is the way Gen Yamamoto works, there is such subdued elegance in each of his cocktails that it almost feels as if you were drinking his artwork.

img_8428

As you enter, Gen Yamamoto greets you, perfectly attired in a crisp white jacket, in English that makes you forget that you are in Tokyo, he has lived abroad many years, and throughout the evening he explains each cocktail and engages in subtle conversation.

img_8430

The only option is a cocktail tasting menu, either four or six cocktails. Now, I know what you are thinking because I thought exactly the same thing. “I can’t drink four or six cocktails without rolling over drunk!” Not to worry, cocktails here are very small therefore are drank rather quickly. We actually started off with four and ended up having six because they were so good and I promise we walked out dignified without tumbling from side-to-side.

Cocktails are seasonal and most of them include fruit. The order in which they are served  is determined by Gen. You can notify him if there is something you don’t like though.

I am simply going to show you the cocktails we had so that your mouth can start to water and your alcohol craving level can increase.

img_8429img_8431

img_8432

 img_8433img_8434

Remember you need to book a seat at Gen Yamamoto.

Tsukji Fish Market – sushi for breakfast

img_8444

Breakfast at Tokyo Tsukji Fish Market isn’t your convencional toast and coffee affair. Tsukji Market wakes up in the wee hours of the morning. The buzzle starts when the produce start to arrive and the internationally known tuna action. If you plan to see the action remember that you need to be in line at around three in the morning to try to get a place to see the procedure.

We decided against waiting in line at three in the morning since we would much rather stay in bed until a more decent hour. Nonetheless, we did want to arrive to the market early in order to have breakfast and get a feel of the morning vibe.

Divided in two parts, the inner part is closed to visitors until 9:00 in the morning because, let’s face it, tourists are a pain when you are trying to get your job done. In the inner part is where you find fish, fruit and vegetables and the outer part is where you can find restaurants, stalls and shops. We found that it was full of weird vegetables, fruit and fish that we had never seen before. We could only guess what it was and what it could be used for.

img_8445

Meals are served among the many sashimi stalls and many people come to have breakfast here. You get your sashimi dish, soup and water in one of the many narrow restaurants where you sit at the counter, entering through one door and then exiting through a door at the back.

img_8447

Great raw fish and a totally different way to enjoy breakfast!

Den – Japanese creativity

img_8921

Den is one of those fun places in Japan that you really don’t want to miss. Spanish Hipster, who by the way has a great blog, urged us to go and he was right. Den is a laid back, fun restaurant where creativity seeps into every dish. Den is a reinterpretation of Japanese classics mixing new and tradition.

As most restaurants in Japan, for us foreigners, they seem to be hidden away. Den is located down a narrow alley with an entrance full of cookbooks, mostly presents from clients, which make your waiting for the table rather enjoyable as you catch up on some browsing. The restaurant itself is rather small like most restaurants in Japan and the decoration is sparse where white and a light wooden shade dominate the space. As in most Japanese restaurants, it is most common to sit at the counter as you watch chef, Zaiyu Hasegawa, and his sous chefs in action. Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa has a playful, funny side which is reflected in his dishes. Not to say that even though he hardly speaks any English, you are constantly cracking up. His staff help a lot as many speak perfect English and are able to explain the dishes and the history behind each one.

We started off with Monaka which is traditionally a Japanese dessert, but they wanted to add a twist and serve it as an entree. The waffle is filled with foie. Right from the beginning you know that this is all about having fun and goofing around.

img_8922

Morning dew collected by the team. Nooo,  it is actually tomate vinegar which you then add to the second dish which is under the lotus leaf which has my beloved passion fruit.

Since they ran out of food they quickly solved the problem by calling out for some KFC.

img_8925

Instead of KFC, we got the much better version of DFC (Dentucky Fried Chicken). These chicken wings are stuffed! How do you stuff chicken wings so that you don’t even realize that they are stuffed? How long does it take and who do you get to perform such surgery? This painstaking ordeals can only be done to perfection in Japan. Inside the box you will find either a plastic chicken which you can take home and who is actually perched on our bookcase now as I write this post. Or you get your country’s flag. They take the time to know where you come from and insert the flag into your meal making for great conversation and letting you feel at home at the same time.

img_8926

Amongst the sage, rosemary and thyme is the marvelous chicken wing. They also explained to us that the reason behind this dish is because apparently KFC is a favorite in Japan and a lot of families like to have it on Sundays.

img_8927

img_8928

Then came the fish which had been marginated for five days with natural wasabi grated on top.

img_8929

Veal with a smoked flavor. Delicious.

img_8930

The next dish is a salad. At Den they serve it as a main dish instead of a side because Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa wants customers to pay special attention to the actual vegetables. Apparently in Japan, vegetables are always added to a dish but they don’t tend to be a dish on their own. At Den they want you to take the time to realize that vegetables are delicious on their own. Can you spot the fun side to this dish?

img_8931

Yes, the fun side is edible.

To finish off, rice with my beloved fish eggs and I believe tiny eel.

This dessert made with cheese mousse and tea is freshly dug up from their garden. Original and delicious and got us wanting to do some gardening in Japan.

img_8934

To finish off, Starbucks coffee?? Noooo, StarComebacks, with truffle, caramel and milk.

img_8935

Fun and surprises are guaranteed at this 1 michelin star restaurant. Congratulations to all the team for making us foreigners feel such at home.

Den Jimbocho
Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa

〒101-0051 2-2-32
Jimbocho, Kanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Tel. 03-3222-3978

Magnolia Bakery – also in Tokyo

As you well know I am a Magnolia Bakery fan, I just wanted to let you know that if you are in or planning on going to Tokyo anytime soon, there is a Magnolia Bakery in Shibuya, near the very popular Omote Sando Street which is great for shopping. A friend recommended this area and I have to say that I loved it. Full of shops, both international and Japanese brands. The streets are lined with cool buildings.

Magnolia Bakery is a bit tucked away in the basement of GYRE which is a shopping center.

 

Sushisho Masa – the place for sushi

Sorry to have been absent for so long but it has been a busy summer. Now that fall is upon us, I hope to share all my new discoveries with you. This summer we went to Japan and I have to say that we were extremely excited about our visit to Sushisho Masa after hearing brilliant reviews from friends who urged us that this was the place for sushi and boy were they right! This was our first trip to Japan and I am hoping that it won’t be our last since we have fallen in love with the country. For all of you who have already been to Japan, you will know that restaurants are quite small, most of them sitting around eight to fifteen. This, for us westerns, comes as a surprise since we are used to big restaurants. Sushisho Masa is no different, there are seven seats and since we were a party of four we almost took up the whole place.

Another thing that will come to a surprise for westerns is that this mecca for sushi is located in a basement, but this is not strange in Japan since you can find michelin star restaurants in basements, subways stations (hence the subway stations in Japan are a world of their own). Once you find Masa, thank God the hotel, who by the way are normally the ones who have to make your reservations in Japan, gave us the address and a picture of the façade. The name is written in Japanese characters, this also quite typical in Japan, therefore making it quite hard to find. We walked down the stairs to a very plane and simple bar, here the protagonist is the fish not the decor. It is a real treat to sit right in front of Chef Oka and watch him and his crew at work.

Chef Oka has a fun side to him bring a sense of liveliness to the whole experience and his crew is charming, trying to make you feel at home even though there is a slight language gap. Some of his helpers speak English and what they don’t know, they make up in effort, bringing out a fish picture dictionary so we could figure out what we were eating. The dinner was laid back and tons of fun. The best part, the food of course. Some people have asked me what is the difference between the sushi we normally eat back home and the sushi in Japan. I have to say that for me the big difference is that back home we aren’t afraid to innovate with sushi and in Japan it is all about product and quality. Would you agree? But I also have to say that there is a huge difference from your typical sushi place in Japan and Masa. To start off with, the quality is superb. I am a huge fan of salmon eggs and here they were so creamy that I wanted to cry.

At Masa, each bite is previously thought out. Let me explain. They have been to the market in the wee hours of the morning to pick out the best possible product, the fish has been cleaned and cut, the rice has been made to perfection and once the piece of sushi is assembled, Chef Oka knows precisely how he wants you to perceive the taste. He will either say, “as is” so you know that you are not to even slightly dip the piece in soy sauce or he will say just the tip so you may procede to adding a couple drops of soy sauce.

As you can probably imagine, the menu depends on what is in season and what fancied Chef Oka’s eye at the market. The length of the menu is up to you, you can make it as long or as short as you want. Once we were half way through, those were roughly around twenty five pieces of sushi, he let us know. We, of course, said that we were fine and that he could keep them coming.

I am not going to go into detail about sushi pieces but I will show you pictures so that you can get an idea of what our meal was like. Some of them are raw and some of them have been grilled.

To drink, you might be wondering?, we went for white wine and sake but there is also beer.

img_8306

img_8307

 img_8310

img_8311

img_8312

img_8315 Continue reading