Spring is in full effect here in NY now. Most of the flowering trees are shedding their blossoms. And thanks to a healthy breeze, today was a doozy for allergies. Ahchoo. I decided to hibernate inside hoping to avoid the onslaught, despite it being simply gorgeous outside. After a bout of post-vacation laundry (finally got through it all) decided it was time for a cocktail and a snack. So I dipped into my stash of Tokyo omiyage.
Karin Coron is located at the end of the arcade and on the cross street just before the Hozomon, the last gate, approaching Sensoji temple in Asakusa. They specialize in traditional karinto and bean snacks. And if you are looking for a great treat and are in need of omiyage, gifts to bring back from your vacation, then do not miss stopping by this shop.
I picked up three packages to try a sample of their different goods. Today’s selection was wasabi mame (beans.) They are so delicious. Just enough wasabi to give them punch. A perfect crunch; not to hard not to soft. And a hint of nori gives them flair.
What originally drew me into their shop was their packaging. The paper used to wrap each snack bag is a gift in itself. I plan to iron out the folds and perhaps frame them. Such beautiful designs.
Karin Coron is officially added to my “I’ll be back” list for Tokyo. You can learn more on their website karin-coron.blogspot.com and here is the street view from Google maps if you plan to visit.
Taking a minor detour from my vacation photo log. But not really. Here we are back home and our first weekend “to do” is a trip to Mitsuwa the Japanese market in NJ. It isn’t the same, but is the closest you can get to Japan here on the East Coast. I figured it was also a good day to try out a new Japanese fashion style.
Its a pretty big departure from my first love, Lolita. Have to say I don’t miss the petticoat. This is the outfit I picked out at Wonder Rocket in Harajuku. I was very nervous wearing it out for the first time. In Mars (my favorite shop for cute Japanese goods) the shop girl told me she really liked my style. That totally put me at ease. So a big Arigato goes out to Stephanie for boosting my confidence.
I went for what I hope is a mix mostly of mori girl with touches of natural and otome kei. How did I do?
Outfit Breakdown: Skirt, sweater, cardigan, collar and socks are all from Wonder Rocket. Purse is from Ahcahcum Muchacha. Bracelet is from Baby the Star Shine Bright. Watch fob necklace and butterfly pin are vintage pieces from my Grandmother (and 2 of only a handful of items I still have from my childhood.) Pretty sure I found the shoes at Nordstrom Rack of all places.
So where did we leave off. Oh yes, the sake was flowing…
… and flowing…
And the food was still flowing as well. And the proportions suddenly grew making me wish I had worn an elastic waist skirt that night. Course 5 included sashimi adorned with daikon cut in the shape of falling cherry blossom petals served on dish featuring a willow and a bridge. So appropriate for the season. The sashimi was accompanied with a seaweed soup and a small side dish which my memory has failed to remember exactly what it was. I do know it was very very tasty.
Up next was a few bites of grilled eel. We were all chatting and interested in the technique used to prepare the eel. It was very soft and not chewy at all. At which point Kimiko magically produced a book full of incredible photos from the restaurant. She showed us a 2 page spread featuring preparation of this specific dish. The cutting technique is critical to its success. And the flavor imbibed from the grilling was extraordinary.
Up next was a tuna sushi roll and a piece of pickled myoga ginger. Forget the typical slices of ginger that are served with everyday sushi. That little chunk of ginger was spectacular.
I am not an anime otaku by any stretch, but when this single piece of sushi arrived I couldn’t help but channel Haruhi from Ōran Kōkō Hosuto Kurabu. FATTY TUNA!!! Need I say more?
Surely, I thought, the fatty tuna must be the climax of the meal. I was wrong. More dishes were still ahead of us. Next up, a slice of grilled fish. The grilling gave it a wonderful bouquet and a distinct texture. Still soft on the inside but moist on the outside. Adi raved about this dish the entire cab ride home. As he is our resident chef, I think that says something.
I confess, when this mystery bowl arrived I was nervous. How on earth am I going to eat any more.
And then more and more and more plates kept coming. And then a giant nabe of rice too! The good news, we had reached the grand finale. The bad news, it was a delicious conclusion and I just couldn’t eat it all. Lucky for me, Asumi had no issues and helped me out. Dōmo Asumi, dōmo.
Ah, but wait, there’s more. No meal is complete without dessert. This evening it was a slice of musk melon and a strawberry topped with a sauce and mint. おいしいですね！
Maybe I should have split this post into 3 parts. Cause even dessert was turning out to be a serious affair. This dish has a little story to it. On the surface it looks like a straight forward manjū, bun filled with anko bean paste. But this little treat was especially made using Dassai sake lees. A very thoughtful and special touch for our dinner party.
What is Going On???
As I mentioned in the last post, while this all looks very posh and proper, the giggles in our little private room were anything but. There were jokes relating those in our party’s ability to consume sake as compared to Starbuck’s serving sizes. I am a “tall” if you must know. And some very interesting attempts at translating using a combination of Japanese, English and French. But those are our secrets and shale not be spoken about further.
However, it seems I have some gaps in memory not just about the food. My camera captured a few shots where I am still not exactly sure what was going on. Looks pretty serious!
And so that concludes our evening at Aoyagi. I’ve been fortunate enough to dine at some of the best restaurants in NYC. Sorry Daniel, but I did just find my new, most favorite restaurant on the planet.
Minato, Tokyo 106-0041, Japan
I cannot rave enough about Aoyagi restaurant in Minato-ku. If you are fortunate enough and in a position to invest $500/person on a fine dinning experience, then Aoyagi is not to be missed when visiting Tokyo!
The evening began with popping the cork on a bottle of sparkling Dassai sake. One of my absolute favorites. Sparkling sake is having a second life right now. It has been around as long as sake has, but went out of favor. Thanks to some very clever marketing (positioning it as Japan’s sister to champagne) it is becoming quite popular these days. And that is a good thing.
The minute we sat down in our private room the chef got to work. That is some pretty impressive knife work. And so the night was just beginning.
I should of had a notebook with me to jot down what all the delicacies were during the meal – but I didn’t. So I hope my photos are enough to make your mouth water as you accompany me on this food-porn journey. What I can say about course 1, it was a fish in a lovely silky gelatine. And it melted in my mouth.
The attention to detail is incredible. For example, even the o-hashi (chopsticks) are thought through. They were moistened before being placed at our table settings. If the chopsticks were used dry, then the flavor of the food would impart itself on them never to fully be removed. Which would spoil the subtlety of the dishes we were about to enjoy.
This one I do remember. It is ebi (shrimp) with white asparagus topped with a raw egg yoke sauce. One of my pet peeves is America’s fear of raw eggs. Thank heavens the Japanese do not share this paranoia… because course two was out of this world.
Of all the dishes served that evening, this one is my favorite. While others had more interesting flavors, none were as charming. When the dish is served, the long narrow o-bento box is closed. I slowly opened mine to reveal what I can only describe as a treasure chest full of miniature edible jewels.
Accompanying the bento was a small side dish with scallop and a dried piece of bonito (I believe). The dried fish is not to be mistaken with “jerky”. It was still silky and so packed with flavor – I have never had anything like it.
And tucked in yet another secret compartment of the dainty bento was a single piece of delicate sashimi adorned with a single daikon pearl.
At this point in the meal, the sake had been flowing generously. So what started out as a very prim and proper occasion was about to relax into a much sillier affair.
And the chef continued to turn out the most amazing dishes all the time. Here he is preparing wasabi for what looks to be a heavenly sashimi course.
The sake is taking its effect now. I believe this was a dumpling in a gelatine topped with daikon and adorned with a bitter flower blossom. But your guess is as good as mine ;)
The dinner was approaching halftime but I had no idea how many dishes were yet to be served. It was clear though that this was no ordinary meal and that there was no rush. We were in the right place to enjoy exquisite food and the company of dear friends. All in our own private room with our personal chef and very attentive but never interfering service from older sister Kimiko and younger sister Sachiko.
So I must keep you in suspense a little longer regarding the rest of the meal. The post will never load if I continue with my photo euphoria. So for now consider this part 1 with part 2 to soon follow.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Aoyagi or Dassai Sake. But I am very good friends with Dassai’s sales and marketing director.
After visiting Tsukiji we came back to the apato to freshen up. Then were off again to meet Asumi in Harajuku for a some fun before dinner.
Adi was smart and his first stop was Starbuck’s across from the Takeshita-Dori arch… must be well caffeinated to face the crazy crowd. Also, doesn’t he look smart in his Yohji Yamamoto jacket! He got it in Paris, wears it in NY, and now it has come home for a visit.
For me this was a stealth mission to get a feel for where to shop when I return later in the week. Having Asumi as a guide was awesome and it meant we could do purikura with someone who (is a pro and) can read all the instructions.
I want to save my money for BTSSB and AP… but could have easily gone crazy in Smile Camp. It is like being wrapped in a rainbow. So cute!!!!!!!!
I bought a cloth chain necklace from the new Kate Spade Saturday. There were several dresses also that caught my attention. I had fun chatting with the shop girl. She said that it won’t be until next year that more locations of this hip new shop open up in other cities.
Someday, just someday, I might actually grow up. But here I am, 40 years old, and still madly in love with crazy colors and loud fashion. So on that note, here is the rest of the photospam from our walk down Takeshita-dori and around Ura-Harajuku.
And if you can believe it, there is still more to Day 3…
I wasn’t brave enough to get to Tsukiji market at 3am and line up in the queue in the hopes we might get to see the tuna auction. I know it is a once in a lifetime experience, but a little jet lag and a whole lot of “that’s crazy” kept running through my head. But all the same we did have an amazing time walking around the market.
And in the end we did find a tuna!!! It was gigantic. The people from the shop who bought it were so friendly and one gentlemen (in the photo) spent a great deal of time chatting with us. His English was amazing and he was telling us about the price and the different cuts of the tuna. We took a video of them cutting the tuna, hope it turned out ok.
Now we can’t forget to pick up the knife Adi bought. Check it out!
Just kidding!!! His yanagi is a bit more manageable and will fit his suitcase fortunately.
We meet Asumi and her mom and went to explore Tsukiji market. First order of business was for Adi to find and purchase his very own yanagi knife. He did all his research before coming and so it was just a matter of finding the Masamoto stand. With Asumi and her mom’s help it was so easy. They were able to translate and help us navigate around. They are so sweet!
More about the knives later, the next mission was breakfast!!! Must find some sushi!!!
It’s all smiles after a yummy breakfast. Wish I could read the kanji, love the restaurant. Not only was the sushi amazing, the tea was some of the best I have ever had. The O’baa-chan was very very proud of her tea.
Too many photos for one post (hehehe). To be continued…
I think we overdid it on Day 2. My feet are killing me from so much walking! But it was all worth it. We started the day exchanging currency. We brought cash with us. Banks typically offer better exchange rates than the small exchange kiosks. Looks like travelers checks would have given an additional advantage.
First stop was Roppongi. We intended on going to Muji but they were closed. So instead we bought a department store bento and had a very yummy lunch. Walked around a bit and got a good view of Tokyo tower in the distance.
Next stop was Shibuya. My travel buddy needed an extra layer – it was really cold. So we knew that Uniqlo would have something guaranteed. And they did. In fact we walked out with 3 big shopping bags!!! We made sure to visit Hachiko. He is so cute. What devotion.
We will be back to Shibuya. This was just a tease. So much more shopping to do. Come on feet you can make it. がんばれ.
And so the photospam begins! Day 1 we arrived safe and sound at Narita airport. We booked our flight with United but the carrier was ANA. They fed us a ton of food on the flight! Watched lots of movies too. Nana on my iPad and The Hobbit, Breaking Dawn Part 2 and Rise of the Guardians on the plane entertainment system. After clearing immigration and customs, picked up our portable WIFI. A service we used shipped it to the post office in the airport. And finally, took the NEX – Narita Express train – to Shinagawa and then a cab to our apartment in Ebisu.
This train package was great: It is a very comfortable and efficient way of travel between Narita Airport and Tokyo Station. We opted to get off at Shinagawa as it is closer to where we are staying. With the Suica & NEX package, available for 3500 yen to foreign tourists only, you can travel by Narita Express from the airport to Tokyo and receive a Suica prepaid card worth 2000 yen (500 yen refundable deposit plus 1500 yen worth in train fares). A round trip version is available for 5500 yen. You can purchase it in the basement of Narita airport. http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/suica-nex/
Suitcase – check. Travel buddy – check. Passport – check. Boarding pass – check.
Tokyo – 行きましょう!!!!!
Credits: Sakura | Illustration my own
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