On my first day in Tokyo I went to Akihabara to visit my favourite sushi store, but sadly that branch has closed. To console myself, I picked up a snack from the delicious-smelling Jack in the Donuts store near the entrance to Yodabashi Camera. The doughnuts are baked fresh each day, and look gorgeous in the window too. There are plenty of flavour choices, including cronuts, but I couldn’t go past the simple Premium Strawberry donut (¥162), which was so perfectly iced it looked too good to eat! The doughnut was about the size of my hand, and was clearly a baked not fried style – there was no grease or oil, and the dough was nice and firm. The flavour wasn’t as rich as a fried doughnut, but certainly felt healthier at breakfast time. The strawberry icing had a sweet, familiar flavour without being overly artificial. Basically I just devoured this, and while the quality wasn’t on the same level as Dumbo, it was still a fresh, delicious doughnut snack. Yum.
Jack in the Donuts, Yodabashi Camra Akihabara, Chiyoda, Tokyo, http://www.jack-donuts.jp/#
One of the best things about Tokyo is stumbling across hidden foodie gems – Sakana no Gogo was one of these finds. It doesn’t really look like a restaurant, and isn’t English-friendly, but if you have some Japanese (or are happy to eat anything) it is worth finding. A robata restaurant, once you’re seated you receive a bowl with hot coals and a grill plate above to cook dehydrated appetisers – squid, bonito fish and peppers. So, so good. The rest of the food is cooked in the kitchen, but you can see it clearly from the counter. We ordered a few yakitori dishes (asparagus, chicken) but the real stand-out was the eel. Creamy, tender and rich, we both started and finished with this dish (the clear favourite). We also tried the eggplant dish topped with bonito – it was tasty, but not the pick of the menu. We thoroughly enjoyed the flying fish – served lightly battered, salted and whole, we slowly picked our way through the meat (I couldn’t quite bring myself to eat the ‘wings’) which had beautiful flavour and was perfectly tender. All up with drinks the meal was about ¥3500 each – great value for such a fabulous dinner.
Sakana no Gogo, Kagurazaka 4-4, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Oh my. This cafe is joining the list of my must-visit recommendations for Tokyo. Hidden in the back of the Minami Aoyama branch of Aoyama Flower Market, the Tea House is definitely worth the queue (we waited around 45 mins). Full of live plants and the flower of the week (peonies, when we visited), the cafe offers brunch/lunch and dessert plus tea. I ordered the Flower Parfait (¥918) and the Kimono green tea with apricot, peach and rose (¥756). The tea came out in a beautiful clear pot, and was surprisingly strong (and a little bitter) for a green tea. I would have liked to be able to add some more hot water to dilute it a bit. But then came the parfait. Layered beautifully with rose jelly (not overpowering), cherry mousse (also nice and subtle but with a great texture), vanilla icecream (mmm, creamy) and cereal (yes, the perfect way to add crunch) it was tasty, pretty and quite filling. Oh and there were rose petals scattered on top too. Swoon. Just being in this space was a pleasure – it’s the perfect escape from the city bustle and a chance to be surrounded by beauty. Highly recommended.
Aoyama Flower Market Tea House, Minamiaoyama 5-1-2, Minato, Tokyo http://www.afm-teahouse.com/
I spent a lot more time exploring Ginza on this trip, and I’m glad I did, because in the basement of the Mitsukoshi department store I discovered the new Tokyo branch of New York’s Dominique Ansel Bakery. I arrived late in the day so there were no cronuts left, but I did snare this little guy – a strawberry and sake daruma cake (¥756), which was so Japanese I couldn’t resist. The cake was a reasonable size, and (being in Japan) packaged carefully to avoid any damage while being transported (no dine-in at this location). The daruma is traditionally designed to help with wishes – one eye is filled in when you make the wish, the other once it is fulfilled. Luckily I could just eat both. They were white chocolate discs, and a perfect start to the flavour festival of this cake. The majority of the inside is made up of a strawberry gel, plus sake lees and lime zest mousse, which was creamy, tangy and with a subtle sake flavour. The textures were soft and springy, and when I wanted something firmer, I could slice into the almond financier cake at the bottom for balance. Yum, yum, yum.
Dominique Ansel Bakery, Mitsukoshi, B2F, 4-6-16, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, http://dominiqueanseljapan.com/en
You know you’re onto something good when you’re the only foreigner in a restaurant, and, when it comes to ramen, the only woman. This was my experience walking into Musashi in Roppongi, and it was one of the best decisions of my trip. Mostly a tsukemen restaurant, I chose the ramen option and have zero regrets. This is one of the best ramen I have ever eaten. The noodles were thick and actually had pepper inside them, which I’d never seen before. You can choose your quantity of noodles (size doesn’t change the price) and it comes with bamboo shoots, spring onion and two pieces of char sui pork. Watching the pork being cooked on a special grill plate, I knew this would be unlike any other ramen pork. Full of flavour, incredibly thick and tasty, this was without a doubt the best I’ve ever had. Oh and the broth – the broth was unctuous, thick and buttery with such a beautiful flavour I didn’t really think about how to describe it or break it down, it was just there to be enjoyed. Definitely a must-visit for ramen fans.
Menya Musashi Kosho, 4-12-6 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan, no website
I have been crushing on the Dumbo Instagram account for a while, so made a point of visiting when in Tokyo. The little store (seats about 6 people along the window) also offers takeaway, and is clearly a popular spot. I ordered a raspberry doughnut, (¥350), although there were a great range of flavours on offer, including passionfruit, almond caramel, maple vanilla and plain glazed (there were 11 options when I visted). The doughnut itself is huge! It was approximately the size of my hand, and there was plenty of glaze to ensure enough raspberry flavour to cover it (plus two raspberries on top). The doughnut was really soft and springy, the kind of treat you sink your teeth into and it just crumples into compressed layers of deliciousness. Mmm. This actually made it possible to eat a whole one by myself, given how light the texture was. The raspberry glaze was incredibly tasty, with just the right balance between the sugary glaze and the sharp, tart raspberry taste. There was literally nothing about this experience I didn’t love, including the cozy atmosphere and friendly staff. Highly recommended – I can’t wait to go back.
Dumbo Doughnuts and Coffee, 2-17-6 Azabujuban, Tokyo, Japan, http://www.dumbodc.com/
There’s dedication to food, then there’s this. Ever wondered what Michelin-starred ramen tastes like? So does pretty much every other person in Tokyo. We arrived at Tsuta around 11am and put a ¥1000 deposit down per person, and were told to come back for a 2pm sitting. We did, and finally got a seat at the counter at around 3:40pm. The atmosphere here is serious – no-body speaks, you just focus on enjoying your food and appreciating the passion and skill that has gone into making it. I ordered the Ajitama Shoyu Ramen (¥1200), with a soy sauce-based broth, seasoned egg, pork slices, bamboo and Japanese leek, plus a puree of mushrooms in truffle oil. You can smell the truffle oil as you walk in, and whilst the flavour doesn’t stand out in the broth, it serves to enhance the other flavours, including the beautiful mushrooms and roast pork slices. The noodles themselves were thin and had great bite to them, and the broth was beautifully balanced. Yes, it was a lovely bowl of ramen. No, it was not worth the incredibly long wait time. Be warned – there’s no tonkotsu (pork bone broth) option, so all the ramen here are of the lighter variety. A unique experience, but one I’m unlikely to repeat.
Tsuta Japanese Soba Noodles, 1-14-1 Sugamo, Tokyo, Japan, http://www.tsuta.com/