Category Archives: Shibuya

It never gets old

It never gets old.

Cinematic Japanese Food

Have you seen Kill Bill?

Remember the restaurant that housed the big fight scene when Uma Thurman killed all those guys?

Did you know that is based on a real restaurant in Tokyo?

This is how many conversations begin, which culminate in a trip to Gonpachi. As one of the most well-known Tokyo establishments, Gonpachi offers a casually minimal, though consistently adequate foray into non-sushi Japanese cuisine. Of course, they have a sushi bar as well, though the real draw here is the atmosphere.  Gonpachi, run by the massive restaurant company Global Dining, has locations in Ginza, Shibuya, and Odaiba as well, in addition to Fukuoka and Bevery Hills (!) but any Tokyoite can tell you that the one to wow visitors with is the Nishi-Azabu branch.

The soba is not only homemade, but arrivers can watch chefs knead the soba dough through big pane windows. The tempura is perfect, as are some of the “grilled things-on-sticks”. We recommend the duck with wasabi, the toro (bluefin tuna belly), the foie gras, and especially the Gindara, a stupendous black cod glazed with miso and grilled so the consistency is soft and flakes off into bite-size morsels like sea bass. Everytime I’m there, I ponder just asking for 10 orders of gindara.

The drink menu is not only extensive and covers all the basics, but they threw in a few interesting cocktails to wow your parents. The dessert menu was created by Stephane Vieux, which means the presentation always competes with the combinations of tastes; for an unforgetable end to your Japanese barn dinner, indulge in a Warm Chocolate Cake & Sesame Ice Cream or the Kuzumochi & Kinako Ice Cream with Black Sugar Syrup.

Ok, I need to admit something. Almost all my Japanese friends hate this place. Seriously. To them, this is not fine dining, barely Japanese food, and overpriced stereotyped Lonely Planet fodder. I don’t necessarily disagree in premise, it is after all, a big wooden barn decorated to look like a Japanese restaurant on a movie soundstage. Although for visitors, Gonpachi may just fullfill the basic Japanese sterotypical dishes which are so often lost in the modern Tokyo of nouvelle and fusion. This is the kind of restaurant that your family will write group emails to their middle-aged European friends about. Just ask Quentin Tarantino.

Gonpachi

03-5771-0170

1-13-11 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0031

http://www.gonpachi.jp

Girly desserts with a view

LOHB

I hate to say it, but this is the girliest restaurant I have ever been to. I have more than once noted that all the patrons are groups of young women, with the exception of the occasional couple on a date. Why is this, are women more susceptible to the promise of healthy dining? Perhaps. Case in point: the last time I dined with so many women was at a “detox tabehodai” (all you can eat). An oxymoron of course, made only more ridiculous by the fact that it included hearty beef curry amongst its buffet.

But back to Lohb, a restaurant with the so-called “Natural&Healthy[sic]&Beauty” theme: in addition to be generally populated by women customers, there is a true sense of pretty in the décor, which incorporates water, crystal, plants, and lush, cushiony seating. The upstairs couches (pictured above) seem like they’d be ideal for a date, although I have not tried them out. Seated by the window downstairs on my visit, I recognize immediately at least one feature that should be attractive to any visitor. The full glass walls of both floors of this restaurant look directly out onto Shibuya Station crossing. My tourist friend was delighted, however, when she immediately began snapping pictures on one visit, we were told—both in English and Japanese—that photos were not allowed. When we pressed the matter (after all, we were not taking photos of the restaurant’s interior), we were told that the buildings across the street would make the restaurant pay money if they allowed visitors to take photos of the very public and often photographed square.

With a good fifteen photos already in the can, we shrugged off this odd rule and checked out the menu. There did seem to be some genuinely healthy dishes, as well as a great selection of unusual cocktails, many boasting high vitamin content. The most interesting and healthy choices came from the changing seasonal menu, which featured a few different dishes using wild rice, and we enjoyed a smooth risotto. Off of the year-round menu we liked the beef carpaccio, although how it would benefit our beauty, I’m not quite sure. We also had a light, albeit unremarkable proscuitto and rucola pizza, and some nama harumaki (fresh spring roll), which fit the healthy bill, but did not wow us .

We finished off with the dessert plate (pictured above), which was definitely the highlight. Everything on it was just as it should be: sweet, rich, and probably pushing us on the road towards heart-attacks. So do not come to Lohb for the healthy food. Do not come for the photo opportunities. Come when you want a great view, food of a solid quality with some seasonal stand-outs, décor done all the way, and maybe when you want to impress a girly-girl.
LOHB

渋谷区道玄坂2-3-1 LikesBldg 4・5F
TEL 03-3464-1919

Crepes: the slow food version

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Au Temps Jadis Creperie

Tucked away on a little side street between Shibuya and Harajuku, it is not a surprise that the existence of Au Temps Jadis Creperie was passed down to me through a string of friends, each showing it to the next as a secret, sweet discovery. I, for one, hate the fake whip-cream-filled crepes sold in stands all around Shibuya and Harajuku both, and when I was invited to meet a friend for a crepe brunch; I agreed only to be polite.

She took me to Au Temps Jadis, of course, and as soon as we climbed down the brick staircase into the airy dining room, past the red-checkered tablecloths and out onto a patio table by a marble fountain, I realized that dining here had not been an idle suggestion. The fragrant smell of cheeses and eggs cooking was phenomenal, and we settled into our menus, choosing between savory crepes such as salmon and cream cheese, and sweet ones such as banana chocolate.

I settled in to my Orangina and spinach, cream sauce, and ham galette, savoring the richness of the flavors, freshly combined as to still remain distinct. The lunch set comes with a salad and a little dessert of a small sugared cream puff. Although it started to rain and we were moved inside, the early afternoon atmosphere of this busy place so delighted us that we moved on to after-lunch hot cocoas, which were creamy and a perfect finish.

No matter when I return to Au Temps Jadis Creperie, each time the decadence of flavors and homey atmosphere feel like the perfect Sunday morning retreat.

http://www.many.co.jp/jadis/salon.html

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Let’s go to my house

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Apres Midi Cafe

Living in Tokyo, one of the things I miss most is the ease of hanging out at friends’ houses; in my hometown, friends were close-by, and cars made last-train considerations irrelevant. Apres Midi Café in Shibuya is like the home of a very cool friend, that is, if your very cool friend has DJ’s come over to spin regularly.

A little bit difficult to find for the first-time visitor, the café is located on the fifth floor of a rather non-descript shabby white building. Inside the atmosphere is very casual, with mismatched chairs and worn-down couches. The food is minimal, but tasty. A very light, albeit small, crunchy gorgonzola pizza makes a good snack, as does the salad, but the drinks are really what this café does best. My pick is the soda and tea-mixed apricot cocktail, my favorite summer drink. Desserts here are French-inspired and reasonably good.

On a hot day, there doesn’t seem to be air-conditioning, but the windows are opened, people are relaxing and grooving, and I almost start looking for my cool friend to compliment her on this great house party.
http://www.apres-midi.biz/

All’s whale that ends whale

As long as you overlook the fact that every country in the world except Japan and Iceland have ratified the anti-whaling laws, you are in for one of those rare meals that can only be found in this, quite possibly the most culinarily-adventurous cities in the world. And in this particular corner of Shibuya (right next to 109), there is no attempt to hide, or even downstate the whale.

kujira.jpgOn a recent visit, I experimented with the waiter’s suggestion of getting whale prepared 5 different ways. There are a few other things (like fried chicken!!) on the menu, but why would you want to do that to yourself? We started with whale sashimi, which was a bit bland but evoked faux-memories of sailing in the high seas with pirates chasing whales with rusty harpoons. It wasn’t bad, was soft and meaty, just didn’t have the bite that I had hoped. Whale blubber and bacon were next: white rectangles of fat which were so chewy and succulent that I regretted loading it with wasabi and soy-sauce.

We tried whale heart and whale brain, both of which I won’t detail here for purposes ofwhalebacon.jpg creating a little bit of mystery (Do order it though!). And to finish, the waiter brought out fried pieces of karage whale, which though seemingly just chicken in disguise, allowed us to fully taste the fatty vastness of whale, dipped in tangy something sauce, bringing me back to Moby Dick, pirates, and eventually, the street of Shibuya, with lights spinning a bit under my drunken shochu brain. I half-expected to emerge from Kujira-ya in the middle of a bunch of hippies protesting whale-eaters like me. But luckily… this is Japan, where eating is never a crime.

Kujira-ya

Shibuya (right next to 109)

Dogenzaka 2-29-22. Open 11am-9:45pm (LO) daily.

Tel: 3461-9145.

Do you hate sushi? 鮨 嫌いですか?

Midori SushiMidori SushiWell believe it or not, there are people here in Japan that actually don’t like sushi. Fair enough. But the other day I talked a friend, who doesn’t like sushi, into trying it out one more time before giving up, in a place of my choice.Midori Sushi - Umegaoka So I took her to Midori Sushi in Umegaoka, a sushi restaurant which gets a top grade in my black book for taste.

ねえねえ信じられる? 鮨が嫌いな人が日本にも住んでいることを。そんな人でも大丈夫。先日私のお勧めの場所で鮨の嫌いな友達と鮨にチャレンジして食べてみた。梅ヶ丘の美登利寿司は私の一番好きな寿司屋だから彼女と一緒に行きました。

This trip ended up turning my friend’s sushi disliked mind 180 degrees towards the raw fish! (Hint: make sure you try out the aburi maguro ) Not only is the sushi in Midori Sushi extremely delicious but also very cheap. This combination of taste and low cost attracts people all over, so prepare to enter a queue. We had to wait in the queue, outside, for about 15 minutes in the pouring rain before getting into the queue inside the restaurant. This place is on my regular list and I have had to wait up to one hour!

この小旅行の終わりに友達の鮨嫌いは180度生魚党に変わっていた!(ヒント:例えば炙り鮪)美登利寿司の鮨は凄く美味しいだけでなく安い。この美味しさと安さで人々は遠くから来ます。だから長い列を待つ準備をして下さい。私たちは雨の中、店の外で15分は待った。私はこのレストランの常連ですがだいたいいつも一時間は待ってます。

Umegaoka 1-20-7 [Map],[web] Open 11am-2, 4:30-10:30pm (LO) daily. Tel: 3429-0066, 3429-1166

Midori Sushi is also in Ginza, Shibuya and several other locations but can’t guarantee the price nor the taste.

梅ヶ丘1-20-7。[地図],[HP] 開いている時間は毎日午前11時から午後2時までと4時半から10時半がLO。電話:3429-0066, 3429-1166

美登利寿司はこのほか銀座渋谷もありますが味値段は分からない。