Japanese Markets in NYC

Tokyoshoes has become my own person reference site. In fact the word “blog” derives from weblog, literally a log of websites. The Google can’t help with things like “what is the name of that fabulous Japanese photographer girl who does these crazy self portraits.” (Well, actually that search returns one of her photos in #4 under images, but that’s not my point). Since I wrote about her I could easily find her name on my site. So that I can find them again, here is my list of the Japanese supermarkets in NYC near me:

  • M2M (55 3rd Ave btwn 10th & 11th St) – a good selection of Japanese and Korean staples.
  • Sunrise Mart (29 3rd Ave between 10th St & 2nd Ave) – a great place to pick up some Calpis.
  • Jas Mart (35 St. Marks Place btwn 2nd & 3rd Ave) – Japanese food and beauty products.


Blue Ribbon Sushi

Last night I went to Blue Ribbon Sushi, the SoHo establishment that seems like it has been around since forever. The last time I was there was circa ’97, and I am thrilled to have tried it again. We had a 500ml bottle of the special, seasonal sake drinking from wooden box cups. How elegant! The sushi was Japanese style, smaller pieces, which I prefer, as opposed to the huge slabs of fish common here.

119 Sullivan Street (between Prince & Spring)

Restaurant as performance art

At restaurants in Japan, patrons are generally greeted with shouts of “irrashaimase”(welcome) with the same amount of gusto as fans at a hockey game. (A trend catching on in New York at places such as En and Matsuri). One of the highlights of my last trip to Tokyo was an evening at Inakaya, the perfect embodiment of restaurant as performance art, where the shouting didn’t stop at the door. It is a place where hotels send visiting movie stars and no surprise as it is hard to get out of there for less than $150 per person. A country-style grill, the raw ingredients are laid out in front of you to choose from, and the grill-meisters prepare and pass the food to you on wooden pizza paddles.


Yakitori is grilled, skewered chicken. It can be made with any part of the chicken, which I learned from my colleagues when they took me to one of those Yakitori stalls under the train tracks in Yurakucho, popular with the local “sarariman”.

Nadine’s easy yakitori recipe.
Place 3 chicken wings under oven broiler until crispy then place in sauce pot with:
1/2 cup sake
1/2 cup mirin (a type of sweet sake)
5 Tlbs. sugar (or substitute brown sugar or honey)
1/2 cup soy sauce
Boil together until the consistency of maple syrup (about 30 minutes to 1 hour).
Meanwhile cut (uncooked) chicken breast into bit size pieces, cut spring onion (scallion) or leek into 1 inch pieces. Skewer alternating pieces of chicken and onion. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water first so they don’t burn.
Once the yakitori sauce is ready, brush skewered chicken with sauce. Place under the broiler (or on a grill) and brush a few times while cooking.
Serve with shichimi (7 spice powder), rice, miso soup, and salad or Japanese pickles; beer or hot sake.
Variation: vegetable yakitori. Skewer asparagus, shitake mushrooms, or green peppers. Brush with yakitori sauce and grill.
Those boiled wings are yummy (“oishi”) too.
If you can’t find the ingredients in your local grocery store try the Ethnic Grocer.


A Japanese meal

Japanese food in Japan is so not the chicken teriyaki or California rolls that are often passed off as representational in the west.

A Japanese meal it is as much an aesthetic experience as something to eat. Tiny portions of one or all of a simmered, a deep fried, a grilled, a steamed, or a vinegared dish, served with rice, miso soup, and pickles all usually based on seasonal ingredients. I always leave a Japanese meal satisfied, but never over stuffed.

Below the lunch set (“runchi seto”) is presented in a cube shaped lacquer jewelry box at the Cube Zen restaurant in (where else) Omotesando.


Hip eats on Omotesando

My colleague and I have a goal: eat lunch at a different restaurant every day. So far we have hit over 40 in the Omotesando area. One stand out is Montoak, a very chic, sofa-filled, three story bar and cafenear Kiddy Land, recently featured in the June issue ofWallpaper*. The outdoor deck on the second floor will provide an excellent view of theLink Link “photo wall gallery” that covers the construction barriers of the Dojunkai Aoyama apartments. (via esthet)

Look for a modern smoky glass exterior; the entrance is around the side.montoak

The local

One thing I love in Tokyo is my local izakaya. An izakaya is a casual restaurant similar to a pub or tapas bar, where co-workers go to eat finger food, but generally the focus is more on drinking.

For over a year I didn’t know the name and affectionately called it, “the Local.” It is a homey, comfy place where I can sit alone at the bar and get some solid Japanese fare. Thankfully, there is an English speaker and, while it seems I am the only gaijin ever in there, they have recently brought out an English menu. I practice Japanese with the ever patient owner, Jun-san.

Fish tanks with fugu (blow fish, the poisonous kind eaten as a delicacy in Japan). I call them the little swimming croutons.

Sake bottles line the wall. I drank the hachi-umi-yama brand or eight-sea-mountain.


The meishi map, although note, Toriyoshi is now closed.


Dinner at La Bisboccia

Friday night, I went out for dinner to La Bisboccia, an Italian restaurant in Hiroo. It is the kind of place that is more Italian than Italy but fortunately stops short of Disneyfication like so many restaurants in Tokyo. That said, our Italian waiter was such a caricature I wondered if he was an actor from some other country playing an Italian. They are known for the white truffle pasta and their steak.

A rustic setting with open kitchen.


Fresh food of the day is wheeled out on a cart to your table.




Twice in the last week  I ate at Gonpachi, the restaurant made famous by GWB, who ate there during a trip to Tokyo last year. Inside it feels like you are in a courtyard of a little rustic village. Lanterns hang from the 2 story ceiling.

There is an open kitchen where you can watch the cooks grill up unlimited numbers of yakitori skewers.
gonpachi_01 gonpachi_02