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Naomi Pollock's Favorite Things

Where do you live and why do you choose to live there? We no longer live in Japan but over the course of our multi-year stay, we lived in different parts of Tokyo: Shimouma, Nanpeidai, Moto Azabu, Minami Azabu and, finally, Minami Aoyama. After bedding down in low-scale apartment buildings, we opted for a high-rise for our last hurrah. As an architect, I probably would have protested the construction of our building. But our views of Tokyo Tower and, especially,… Read more »

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Natsuko Toda’s Favorite Things

1. Where do you live and why did you choose to live there? I was born in Tokyo and lived in Setagaya ward until I was about 20. When Hiroo Garden Hills was developed, it looked like a good place to live. Back then, you could only buy an apartment there if you won a lottery. I was lucky I won the lottery and was able to buy an apartment, probably because it was on the fourth floor. (The number 4 in Japanese is… Read more »

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Okadamae – a Feast for Carnivores

When Kenichiro Okada worked at a grilled meat restaurant in Tokyo’s Nishi-Azabu neighborhood, customers would often ask to sit at the counter right in front of him where they could watch the diminutive chef wield his knife and expertly slice choice cuts of meat while offering nuggets of culinary insights. Those loyal customers coined a phrase for that special spot – Okadamae, or “in front of Okada.” As chef Okada tells it, when he decided to open his own restaurant… Read more »

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Mamianazaka Honoka – Traditional Cuisine Meets Contemporary Cool in Azabu

Tokyo has no shortage of high-end restaurants but sometimes a simple meal of sophisticated but unpretentious dishes served in stylish yet comfortable surroundings is preferable to an elaborate multi-course kaiseki meal, meticulously prepared and painstakingly presented. So, it was a great joy to discover Mamianazaka Honoka, a Japanese restaurant tucked away in a residential neighborhood in Higashi-Azabu. In a reminder of what the area used to be like, the unwieldy name literally translates as badger hole. Honoka is hidden from street… Read more »

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R.N.S.Q. – Refined French Cuisine in Relaxed Surroundings

An eatery with a name like R.N.S.Q. (pronounced “erunesque” in Japanese) which claims to be neither a bistro nor a restaurant but a “bistaurant,” might sound too puzzling for the average diner to want to check out. Does it serve French cuisine or some unfathomable new style of  fare? And what kind of atmosphere could you expect in a place that is, presumably, more formal than a bistro yet more casual than a restaurant? But don’t let such minor matters… Read more »

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We are the Farm – an organic restaurant run by farmers

There has been a flurry of building activity this past year in Tokyo’s Azabu Jyuban neighborhood, where long-time mom-and-pop stores have been steadily replaced by flashier outfits. But it is not just the small, family-run businesses that are being pushed out – in the past year, one of the few, local supermarkets in the area was replaced by upscale French frozen and organic foods stores and a Tully’s coffee shop turned into a Dean and Deluca outlet. Among the more… Read more »

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Ma-suya – a Salty Heaven in Azabu Juban

I used to wonder about my salt obsessed friends. Why didn’t they worry about high blood pressure and hypertension? Instead, there didn’t seem to be a meal during which they didn’t fret over which salt to best lavish on what. And then, it happened to me. It began with flakes, progressed to powdered varieties; pink, crystal forms from far-away lands; deep sea — including the widely-revered Maldon flakes; and eventually, a romance with more exotic flavors such as truffle infused… Read more »

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Eclectic Japanese cuisine at Kafuka

It is unusual for japonica to write twice about the same restaurant but Kafuka deserves a follow-up. We recently managed to secure seats there at short notice, and were rewarded with an eclectic meal that was both impressive and entertaining. Chef Ito, who greeted us with a friendly smile and a warm “konbanwa,” or “good evening,” served a tasting menu of creative dishes and comfort food that was a steal at Y6,000. From where we sat at the counter, we were… Read more »

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Kafuka – Innovative Japanese Cuisine

  Tokyo has no shortage of high quality Japanese restaurants but rather inconveniently, most of them only offer full-course menus, complete with dessert. The problem with set courses, though, is not just that some of us, myself included, end up eating much more than we would like to. Because portions tend to be of identical size in any professional restaurant, regardless of whether the guest is a big or small eater, this practically guarantees that some food will be wasted…. Read more »

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There are a number of theories about the invention of soy sauce but at least one legend has it that tamari soy sauce was invented in Wakayama, the prefecture at the tip of the Kii peninsula, south of Kyoto. Tamari, which is a specifically Japanese soy sauce, is made almost entirely from soy bean. The story goes that Kakushin, a Zen Buddhist priest who had traveled to the Kinzanji, or the Temple of the Golden Mountain, in China, returned not… Read more »