Japan Eats

The Perfect Christmas in Tokyo

Senior Yuletide Correspondent Garrett De Orio shares his tips for Christmas in Tokyo.

To begin this piece on Christmas in Tokyo, I attempted to add to what I knew by sending out a request for recommendations to a number of long-term expat residents – usually a surefire way of getting ideas.

This time, every single person who responded either pined for the Western locales they knew from days of yore or quipped that the best place to celebrate the holiday in Japan was New York (or London, or Miami, or Munich, or Monowi, Nebraska—you get the idea).

Indeed, Tokyo is not seen as a Christmas destination. For the parents of young kids, it’s a time to buy toys, which is a lot less endearing when not experienced through the hoary brume of a Burl Ives record. For young couples, it’s almost identical to Valentine’s Day in the Anglophone world. In this light, my expat friends’ response isn’t entirely unfair.

Well, put on your Bing Crosby, your Nat King Cole, or even your Chipmunks or your Percy Faith if that’s what floats your boat, and get into the spirit, friend. There is hope.

DECK THE HALLS

The giants Costco (¥4,200 annual membership required) and Ikea carry a variety of holiday items, including real fir trees, Ikea’s being a particularly good deal at ¥1,990 plus a coupon for the same amount if you bring the tree back.

In-town favorites Tokyu Hands and Don Quijote have numerous locations and an array of artificial trees, ornaments, lights, and decorations ranging from classic green saplings to huge tacky light-up giant Santas to items best-suited to decking the halls of your bordello. The always handy Foreign Buyers’ Club can also help with décor if your order soon to account for shipping time.

For those of you of a creative bent, Yuzawaya and Shimojima carry myriad supplies for the craft-inclined – from wreaths to cloth by the yard to wrapping paper and holiday decorations.

NOW FOR THE FOOD

Christmas display

A Christmas display at a Shinjuku department store.

If you’re being traditional and cooking at home, you’re in luck. Many of the dishes you love are just as possible here as at home. Check the aforementioned FBC or The Meat Guy to order a ham or turkey. Both also carry appropriate sides and pies. Niku no Hanamasa also carries whole turkeys and hams. Import mini-market chain Seijo-Ishii carries a respectable assortment of holiday dishes, including turkeys (by order), pie crusts, mixes, and more. Import markets Euroseed and Jupiter, a relative newcomer to Tokyo, but long popular in the Chubu and Kansai areas, have similar offerings. Of course, the good old depachika (department store basement) near you is sure to carry a selection of seasonal items, especially desserts, albeit at a price.

It’s worth keeping your eyes peeled, too. In years past, roasted turkeys have popped up for sale in locations as unlikely as fashion retailer Comme ça du Mode.

GOING OUT?

Tokyo is a veritable paradise of date spots around Christmastime. Virtually any restaurant with even a vaguely Western menu, and many without, will offer some kind of Christmas course for couples.

If you and your date are looking for something special, the city’s top tier hotels are a good place to start. The Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel has options ranging from a European Christmas Buffet (¥3,500 lunch/¥5,200 dinner) to a Christmas Dinner Course (¥15,000). Special room packages are also available, from the “Joyful” or “Shiny” Christmases (¥20,000-¥25,000) to the “Christmas Dream” in the Presidential Suite (¥300,000). (All December 23rd to 25th.)

In addition to its “Stylish Christmas” illuminations and décor, the Hilton Tokyo Bay offers room packages and dining options ranging from a Christmas Buffet (¥3,900 lunch/¥5,500 dinner) and a World Christmas Dessert Buffet in the lobby lounge (¥2,700 weekdays/¥2,950 weekends and holidays) to a Chinese Christmas Special Course (a Christmas Day tradition for a number of Americans, ¥3,800 lunch/¥10,000 dinner), all of which run from the 22nd through the 25th, except for the Dessert Buffet, which starts a week earlier.

The Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi offers an elaborate six course dinner in its Executive Dining Room (¥30,000) from the 23rd to the 25th. Also available, from the 19th to the 25th, are a Christmas Dinner (¥13,000) and a three course Christmas Lunch (¥3,900). From the 1st of December, sample a Christmas Cocktail (from ¥2,100) or Christmas Afternoon Tea (from ¥3,500).

The Park Hyatt’s New York Grill offers a five course Christmas menu (¥22,000), and selections from its 1,600-bottle wine cellar, served in its famous 52nd floor premises overlooking Shinjuku from the 16th to the 25th.

Stylish Swedish establishment Aquavit has an artful holiday menu on offer (¥12,000) from the 22nd to the 25th. For a meal cooked by a proper Swedish chef in a more relaxed atmosphere, Kokubunji’s Lighthouse is offering a Christmas dinner for a bargain ¥2,000, in addition to their fine collection of regular and guest beers and ales.

Of course, the much-touted four course Christmas dinner at Wine Bar Davis (03-3440-6007), which boasts roast goose and British Christmas pudding, is available for one sitting on the 23rd and 26th and two sittings each night on the 24th and 25th.

For those who want something more casual, the Pink Cow will be serving its customary popular Christmas dinner (¥4,200) on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. One of the highlights is that the Pink Cow’s holiday feast includes vegetarian-friendly offerings. If a communal feel, tofurkey, and some live entertainment appeal to you, this would be the place to go.

Good Honest Grub also serves up a traditional meal, with vegetarian-friendly options, in a casual atmosphere. This has long been a favorite not only with hungry expats, but with those interested in organic food or in knowing whence their fare hails.

The ever-popular Hobgoblin has a three-course ample Christmas dinner available on Christmas Day (¥5,000) and is also hosting a Charity Pub Quiz on the 14th at which a turkey dinner will be available.

 

This article first appeared in the Tokyo Weekender.

Magazine Review: Lucky Peach, Issue 1 – Ramen

Garrett DeOrio reviews the first issue of the new food quarterly, Lucky Peach.

The first thing to know about Lucky Peach is that it is inspired and co-edited by David Chang, best known for his New York noodle bar Momofuku. (Get it? Momofuku Ando, Momofuku, Lucky Peach).

The second thing to know is that it’s a McSweeney’s joint. (Knowing that will let you know why I was all but required to call it a “joint”.)

A familiarity with either one of those things, and the extent to which you’re familiar with them, will greatly influence the way you see this welcome new quarterly.

The first issue of Lucky Peach

The first issue of Lucky Peach

(Before I go any further, Lucky Peach is co-edited by Peter Meehan, perhaps best known for his food blogging for the New York Times Magazine, and Zero Point Zero Productions, which produces the Travel Channel show Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and is doing the iPad app.)

McSweeney’s traffics in a kind of self-aware, ironic, post-modern cool; the kind that might have you drink PBR not because you’re a hipster, but because you’re making fun of PBR-drinking hipsters, while actually calling yourself a “beer snob”, but not so much that you can’t appreciate a PBR from a can now and again. Only with a lot more passing references to deep cuts.

See what I mean? If you stick with it, you will, and you’ll feel like an insider, like you know me. That’s the appeal of McSweeney’s. That’s why someone like me, who has numerous issues of McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern; books by Dave Eggers, Rick Moody, Sarah Vowell, et al.; an 826 Valencia T-shirt (from like ten years ago, before everyone knew about it); and more, feels like he kind of knows what Lucky Peach is going to be when he first sees the cover.

Heck, McSweeney’s are the kind of folks who would put out a print quarterly magazine.

David Chang brought high-end ramen to America, took it further, then moved on to mixing Japanese, Korean, Southern, and more, always with an adventurous bent. He’s a master of high low-brow, while at the same time being as much artist as scientist as chef. The kind of chef who describes his chicken soup recipe as not the simple chicken soup you make for your sick “boyfriend, girlfriend, whoever”, but “still pretty goddamn easy” and is perfectly willing to write up even his complicated recipes in a clear, friendly manner, but whose recipes include Methocel™ F50 and an espuma gun and nitrous-oxide chargers (both in a recipe for puffed eggs). It’s a bit like watching Norichika Aoki take batting practice. (No? OK, Testuharu Kawakami.)

That’s who’s behind Lucky Peach, now for the magazine itself.

This premiere issue focuses on ramen and opens with a piece by Peter Meehan about his trip, with Dave Chang and a film crew, to Tokyo in January. While Chang had lived here years ago while learning to make ramen, Meehan was on his first trip and it showed. Plenty of ramen, some Chang vomiting, but not much to grab onto unless you’re a Dave Chang groupie. Travel writing by people who don’t know a place is interesting only if the writer has a particularly interesting take on things. The essay, with the quintessentially McSweeney’s title “Things Were Eaten”, does give a nice intro to some of Tokyo’s most famous noodleries, though.

The idea behind the issue – getting to know David Chang – is made perfectly clear by the next piece: Anthony Bourdain’s entertaining piece on his imaginings of the influence of three films: Tampopo, House, and The Ramen Girl.

This is followed by a collection of nifty woodcut and antique typeface posters of a few “Tokyo Ramen Gods”. Cool and all, but at this point, I was starting to get disappointed. Nothing bad so far, but nothing worth going out of the way for. Nothing worth ordering the magazine. A bit too much inside joking and back-patting and very little actual content.

Ivan Orkin saved the day with his piece about his own shop. Finally, something exciting.

Orkin’s article on his rise to fame and success in the world of ramen and his place in it provides the insider perspective so necessary to a food quarterly on the topic and is Lucky Peach‘s only item by someone actually in the business in Japan. It also benefits from the gorgeous photography of the highly sought-after Noriko Yamaguchi. (Disclosure: She’s a long-time acquaintance, but I’m not completely biased. If you live in Japan, you’ve probably seen her work and it’s probably influenced your decision to go to an exotic resort in the Maldives or to indulge in a top-notch meal at some point.)

For the hardcore ramenista, Orkin’s article sits nicely alongside a brief piece on Momofuku Ando and his achievements, “A Specificist’s Guide to the Regional Ramen of Japan”, and Harold McGee’s scientific “Outré Space” pieces “On Alkalinity and Alkaline Noodles” and “On MSG and Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” – the former fascinating because, well, I had no idea why people, including me, were wont to describe some noodles as “eggy” knowing full well that no eggs were involved; the latter because I love a good debunking explained. I get the feeling “Outré Space” is going to be a regular feature of the quarterly.

If it’s ramen you’re after (and that’s presumably the case if you’ve picked up a ramen magazine), you’ll appreciate the wealth of detailed recipes that make up much of Lucky Peach: Noodles, seven ways to do eggs – including how to slow cook them, broth, dashi, tare, uses for instant ramen, and more. There’s no shortage for the keen cook.

Also ramen-related, but less interesting, was Ruth Reichl’s brief rundown of the instant noodles, and only the noodles, she found at a market near where she lived. This is a great guide if you happen to live with Ruth Reichl and have access to the wonderful soups she says she makes for these noodles.

Also not making my cut would be Matthew Volz’s “Bigger Than You” – the illustrated story of a Japanese boy-turned-giant, who eats the world’s largest bowl of ramen. It wasn’t awful or anything, it just seemed pointless.

The last negative thing I’ll say is that the transcript of a drunken conversation in Spain among Anthony Bourdain, Dave Chang, and Wylie Dufresne on the topic of mediocrity would have made great video or audio and would have been even better in person, but is just kind of flat on the page.

On the non-ramen front were Tood Kliman’s thought-experiment of an essay “The Problem of Authenticity” and some pretty cool photos of Kay & Ray’s Potato Chips being made that accompanied a “recipe” for “Potato Chips and Oriental Dip”, which was to put the seasoning from instant ramen into sour cream and eat it with Kay & Ray’s Potato Chips: “The Best Potato Chips in the World”.

Lucky Peach closes on a strong literary note, with the well-chosen short story “The Gourmet Club” by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, possibly Japan’s greatest writer of all time. Every magazine should end with a Tanizaki story.

In short, Lucky Peach has put out a fine first issue. It’s a bowl of excellent ramen accompanied by frozen gyoza: certainly worth recommending, but maybe without the mediocre side dish. Read it, you’ll like it. Better cooks than me will be able to give it a real workout, too.

Lucky Peach: Issue 1 – Ramen
Chris Ying (Editor-in-Chief), Peter Meehan & David Chang (Editors)
176 pages. McSweeney’s Insatiables. US$10

Book Review: “Drinking Japan”

Garrett DeOrio reviews Chris Bunting’s Drinking Japan

I tend to approach tomes of this genre with a fair dose of skepticism as they often fall into one of two categories, even when they’re not bad: a. strong on one drink or area, weak on the others, or b. written by authors who don’t know the turf and focus on spots tourists would find anyway.

Drinking Japan

Drinking Japan by Chris Bunting

Thankfully, my skepticism was dispelled within moments of cracking the cover on Chris Bunting’s attractive new release. He included a few places I know and love (which shows he has good taste!) and listed many more I either didn’t know or hadn’t tried. What better way to give a drink or travel book a fair shake than to road test it?

Bunting’s motivating premise, as he sets forth in his introduction is, simply, that “Japan. . . [is] the best place to drink alcohol in the world.”

He allows that the denizens and partisans of other capitals might be irritated by his proposition and grants them their due. He’s being too nice – those who put forth other locales, especially other cities against Tokyo (where the majority of the bars Bunting includes are located), simply don’t get it, which is why his book is so welcome.

Drinking Japan reads like a travel book – not a touring handbook, mind you, but a travel book, replete with anecdotes and impressions, which not only gives the reader a better idea of what they might be getting into, but also allows Bunting to establish a voice. And that voice is one that will make most readers feel like having a beer, or a whisky, or a glass of wine, or shochu, or awamori, or sake, or even makkori, with the man.

After a brief introduction to Japan’s drinking culture, complete with both a few warnings for the neophyte (or for those who just haven’t yet learned their lessons) and some history, Drinking Japan is divided up into chapters based on the sort of drink each of the 112 establishments he includes specializes in or is most-worth going for. These being: Sake, Shochu, Awamori, Beer, Whisky, Wine, and then others. Each of the seven drink-centered chapters is preceded by an introduction to the drink and its history and place in Japan’s tippling milieu.

The drink chapters are followed by a chapter on liquor stores and other retail establishments and a brief appendix on “Bar Japanese”.

Drinking Japan is focused on the good stuff and written for people who are interested in drinking, as opposed to people who just drink. While not every place he includes is pricey, this is far from a guide for the budget traveler. If you believe that you get what you pay for or don’t mind paying more for better drinks and good atmosphere, Bunting has something you’ll like, if not 112 things. On the other hand, if a cheap happoshu nomi-hodai is all you want out of your drinking life or don’t care how knowledgeable the bartender is or how friendly the clientele might be, you probably won’t get much from his work.

As with any effort of this breadth, Drinking Japan has a handful of minor shortcomings. First and foremost is geography: Of the 112 establishments included, 75 are in central Tokyo and a further nine are lumped together in “West Tokyo”. Yokohama, Japan’s second-largest city, rates only two entries – both beer bars. The entire Tohoku and Chubu regions merit just one each: Sendai’s Isshin and Takayama’s Pub Red Hill, which means Japan’s fourth-largest city, Nagoya, is overlooked entirely. Likewise, the entire island of Kyushu is represented only by two shochu bars in Kagoshima – nada for the Fukuoka metropolis – and lovely Shikoku is passed by.

Being centered on the drinks themselves, the book also omits a number of neighborhoods known for their charm more than their pure liquid gourmet appeal, although he does include the venerable Lion Ginza 7-chome (the old one) solely for its mosaic and its place in history. Similarly, the inclusion of the cheap izakaya Kaasan – a chain shop for the cheap gourmand and notable for its ability to host sizable parties seems odd. Nothing wrong with the place, and its branches tend to have a more relaxed atmosphere and fewer screaming kids than other chains, but it does raise a question: Why Kaasan and not any of the numerous more worthy entries of the same sort?

That said, I still eagerly took a number of Bunting’s recommendations and largely agreed with him. He doesn’t mind spending a bit at times, but he knows whereof he speaks, gets the details right, and won’t steer you wrong.

If you’re unfamiliar with Japan, especially Tokyo (and that seems to be the target audience), Drinking Japan is a great place to start. If you live here, you’ll still find some new gems.

If you pick it up and decide to try it out, let us know. If you have a beloved haunt Bunting missed, let us know about that, too. Heck, invite us to try it out with you sometime. (We bark a lot, but we rarely bite. Except for that one time, and Pellegrini is really sorry about that.)

Drinking Japan
by Chris Bunting
Tuttle, US$24.95/2,130 yen (may vary), 272 pgs.

Update: Why We’re Having Hanami

In April of 2003, near the beginning of a trek through China optimally-timed to coincide with the outbreak of SARS and the resulting hooplah and chaos, I paid a visit to Nanjing and, being a resident of Japan, to its massacre memorial and museum. The effect was striking: the setting was bare and bleak, sculptures of hands and cowering mothers dotted an unbroken expanse of white gravel. The first indication of oversell was the need of Chinese museums to drive in nails with sledgehammers: piped in scary music. Wordless choral wails over an ill-fitting drum beat emerged tinnily from behind every large rock.

I chided myself for approaching such a memorial from the perspective of a film critic and braced myself for the excavation site, where the remains of tens of thousands of victims have been and are still being uncovered. As I descended the stairs, I noticed that not only had the music not stopped, stage directions flanked the doors. In Chinese and English, signs directing visitors to be somber, respectful, and more were placed periodically in front of the glass walls of the corridor.

What I realized then was that the government agency that built and laid out the memorial had blown it by trying to dictate how people experienced it. They had taken an event that would elicit sadness and sympathy from anyone and then taken responsibility off the visitors’ shoulders and blunted the discomfort, fear, sorrow, and sympathy people would naturally feel by telling them how to feel and when to feel it, then how to show it.

What on Earth does this have to do with Japan Eats?

Well, as one of Japan’s most-celebrated seasons begins its all-too-brief roll up over the country, Governor Shintaro Ishihara asked Tokyoites to refrain from the centuries-old custom of picnicking under the city’s sakura trees and from drinking alcohol in public.

“Why,” you might reasonably ask, “would he make such a recommendation when so many voters have been cooped up indoors, upset by the relentless news of the country’s worst recorded natural disaster, or even worse? Don’t people need some icon of normalcy?”

Well, the 78-year-old Ishihara, never known to have considered another person’s feelings before, has decided that Tokyoites need to show that they are in mourning for the dead and missing and in sympathy with the bereaved in Tohoku.

See where I’m going?

Ishihara, who was quick to call the earthquake and tsunami divine retribution upon a selfish, greedy people and slow to insincerely retract his remarks, needs such instructions. Ishihara, who has a decades-long record of boastful ignorance and gratuitous offense seldom mitigated by any expression of sympathy or human decency, needs to be told how to feel, when to feel it, and how to display it. The people of and in Tokyo do not.

Governor Ishihara, I shall hold my metaphorical tongue.

In addition to celebrating the coming of Spring and the beauty of nature, hanami has long been also a collective appreciation of that beauty’s ephemerality and the fragility of that which we all love and admire. Hanami is marked not only be the enjoyment of the season and the moment, but by nostalgia for the seasons past and wonderings on the seasons yet to come.

What better symbol could there be for our present moment?

No one (except the Governor, who may be trying to make up for his gaffe in hopes of being reelected) needs to be reminded of the suffering of our compatriots in Tohoku. It holds a prominent place in almost every conversation, it dominates all media, it tugs with an awful weight in every heart.

Hundreds of Tokyoites are volunteering every day to go to the stricken areas to help. Thousands more are helping from Tokyo. Millions more are donating money, blood, and supplies. Everyone is in mourning. Everyone sympathizes.

It helps no one to focus on your own appearance, to make a show of how sorry and sad you are. That is self-centered.

Merchants, vendors, brewers, cooks, and people in blue plastic tarp factories still have and need jobs. Tokyo is not dead and won’t be dead until its people decide to make it so.

The people of Tohoku are in our hearts and on our minds. We are giving all we can and we urge all of you to do the same. However, we are going to the park, drinking sake from Tohoku, eating delicious Japanese fruits and vegetables, and appreciating another hanami season, just as people throughout Japan have done, in good years and bad, for centuries. We might even attempt some bad poetry. We hope you’ll do the same.

After the Disaster: How You Can Help

Everyone reading this knows, probably far better than they’d like, that the Eastern coast of Japan’s Tohoku region was devastated by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami with waves in excess of ten meters on the afternoon of March 11th. In the aftermath of this unprecedented disaster, Japan has endured roughly 600 further quakes, of which nearly half have been of magnitude 5.0 or greater, ranging from the area surrounding the epicenter of the original temblor, off the coast of Sendai, in the North, to Shizuoka, southwest of Tokyo.

First and foremost, thank you to all of you who have been kind enough to ask after our well-being and to offer help. All of us here at Japan Eats and, as far as we have been able to ascertain, our friends and colleagues, were spared the worst.

As of this writing, on the evening of March 24th, Tokyo is inconvenienced more than anything. Insofar as you worry, do so for the people up North who are no different from us but that they are undergoing a trial that even their friends and compatriots but a short distance away can barely begin to imagine.

Readers outside of Japan may have come close to having the worst natural disaster in Japan’s recorded history pushed out of their minds by one of its pernicious side effects: the extensive damage to and ongoing emergency at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Despite what you see on TV, it is inarguably the horrific loss of life, livelihood, property, and peace of mind in Tohoku that is the larger tragedy.

Japan, as anyone reading, watching, or listening to the Anglophone media knows, was just about as well-prepared as it could have been and is a wealthy country with the infrastructure and know-how to get back on its feet as fast as any other place on Earth. The earthquake itself was a triumph for Japanese engineering. It is safe to say that the time, money, and effort spent designing buildings and infrastructure to withstand earthquakes saved thousands of lives and allowed for a better response to those areas in which the truth that mankind will always be smaller than the inexorable forces of nature was brought so relentlessly to bear.

Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands of people need your help. Young and old; men, women, and children; rich and poor – they have lost, in some cases, everything, and in nearly all cases are suffering through the bitter Tohoku winter without power, without water, without sanitation, without privacy, without creature comforts and, in far too many cases, without information about their situation and prospects, or even all of their friends and relatives.

Japan Eats is a food and drink site and we, as much as anyone, know the value and rewards of seeking quality, but in these extreme circumstances, we join many, many others in asking everyone who is able to give as much as possible. People in Japan’s Kansai region are cutting down on power consumption and donating the savings to disaster relief. Bars and restaurants in the country’s more fortunate locales have hosted parties and donated the entire day’s takings, and more, to the people who need it most.

Right now, aid organizations say money is the most effective gift as transportation is difficult and needs change from place to place, day to day. There are things most of us can do to squeeze a bit more out. Maybe the reverse-Jesus, for example. Pass on buying that lovely bottle of wine you’d been dreaming of and turn that money into clean water for the people who need it. Or a change of (warm) clothes. Or a book to read to stave off the tedium and fear. Whatever you can do, it will help.

Here’s a list of groups doing good work in Japan who could use your help:

  • Japanese Red Cross Society – Primarily focused on disaster relief, emergency medical treatment, and health and sanitation issues.
  • Oxfam Japan – Primarily focused on mothers and children, as well as on getting assistance to foreigners/non-Japanese speakers.
  • Second Harvest Japan – A foodbank distributing food to shelters and serving meals to disaster victims and the homeless.
  • The Salvation Army – Primarily focused on the provision of basic needs and coordination with other groups to get victims’ more specific needs taken care of.
  • Rescue Japan – A specific relief coordination effort begun by a group of Tokyo-based small businesses. Primarily focused on getting daily necessities, such as drinking water, toiletries, and clean underwear to shelters in addition to distributing items such as books and toys.
  • Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support – A coordination effort between three established animal protection groups in Japan. They do just what it sounds like.

Of course, another way to help that might appeal to our readers is to remember that the people in unaffected areas of Japan are doing all they can to help their stricken compatriots and, while they don’t need charity per se, normalcy helps them. So, if you were considering a trip to Tokyo or anywhere West of Tokyo, or to Hokkaido, please come – it’s still one of the safest, cleanest, best-functioning places in the world. The hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops still have employees and Japan’s economic recovery will only be helped.

We will be back very soon with more specific information about the situation in the Tokyo area, particularly as it relates to safety and, our favorite, food and drink.

World Cup Sake, Match 1

Hasegawa, purveyors of fine sake and savvy marketers of products such as the Tokyo Swallows baseball beer, have outdone themselves for the 2010 World Cup.

Rather than produce new libations, Hasegawa has repackaged some popular sake, shochu, and umeshu in fancy 2010 World Cup South Africa-themed bottles. While there were 13 different sake, two shochu, an umeshu, and a lemon liqueur thus bottled, we here were able to get our hands on six nice sake selections. Read more

What We’re Drinking: England vs. Germany

Yes, the 2010 World Cup is infecting Japan Eats, too. While we have a little Japan-centered FIFA-related tippling on the way, tonight England, home to a good chunk of our friends out there, take on Germany, also a quite Japan Eats-friendly country.

So, what’s on tap tonight is not only what’s on tap, but what’s in bottles: the least scientific head-to-head imaginable. Battle of the beers! Read more

Restaurant Review: Il Cantuccio (Shimo-Kitazawa)

In the interests of being up front with you, dear readers, I stumbled across Il Cantuccio looking for a quick bite before going to a play and had no intention of reviewing it. However, that quick bite turned into such a great experience that I quickly realized I should write it up. Here goes.

In a neighborhood packed to the gills with little, interesting eateries, the Italian restaurant Il Cantuccio took my surprise for a few reasons. First, once you get inside, it’s surprisingly big. Not chain family restaurant big, but at somewhere are fifty, it seats more people than most of the local restaurants in Shimo-Kitazawa. Read more

The 1st Japan Eats Recipe Tournament

Welcome to the first ever Japan Eats Recipe Tournament, the 2010 Winter Olympics Edition.

With the 2010 Winter Olympic Games set to kick off in Vancouver on Friday, we here at Japan Eats have decided to give all of you gourmets, gourmands, foodies, epicures, and cooks out there a chance to compete alongside the athletes.

We’re looking for snack recipes – original, unusual, or little-known treats and tidbits of which you know, tweaks and twists on old favorites – from the fancy to the simple, fingerfoods to salsa, we want to see (and eat) what you’re cooking. Read more

Japan Eats on Livestream

As part of our neverending quest to bond with you over food and drink as much as possible, we here at Japan Eats are expanding into live broadcasts (or, rather narrowcasts) as well as our existing recorded shows: Japan Booze, Blind and the forthcoming Tokyo Bites.

For now, it’s just fun and games, though. Join us early Thursday afternoon (exact time TBA) to participate in the first ever Japan Eats Live Throwdown, or whatever we end up calling it – everything is up in the air and open to your suggestions at this point.

So, please come around and join JBB Host Christopher Pellegrini, Japan Eats video Director Marcus Lovitt, and Producer Garrett DeOrio  for some food and drink and, more important, to help us decide what should come next in the future of live video for Japan Eats.

So come visit our Livestream page.

We’ll be talking about what’s coming up for the site and taking questions and comments about all things food, drink, and Japan. We hope to see you there.