TOKYO, THREE WAYS

DINE'S res­i­dent Ja­pan expert, Adam Wax­man, shares his don't-miss picks in the city now

DINE and Destinations - - SARA SAYS: WHERE TO DINE NOW -

1CAFÉ SOCIETY It’s not easy to sip an espresso with a Burmese python wrapped around your neck. Why not pet your own goat? Feed a bunny? Let an owl perch on your head? An­i­mal cafés are found around Hara­juku where kawaii girls dress like life-size Pez dis­pensers and shop­ping ranges from Goth fash­ions to dresses made of pop­corn. The 3-D latte art trend is still a nov­elty, be­cause it’s al­ways fun to have a frothy bear or gi­raffe pro­trud­ing from your mug. But, if all you want is an ex­cel­lent brew, Tokyo’s “third wave” cof­fee trend is worth a flight. Ar­ti­sanal cof­fee houses abound for hip­sters and cof­fee geeks, rev­er­ently tend­ing to small batches, and grind­ing beans to or­der. They are the finest in the world. En route to the Tsuk­iji Fish Mar­ket, I en­ter Tur­ret Cof­fee, so named for the three-wheeled de­liv­ery trucks in the mar­ket. Their peanut but­ter latte mac­chi­ato tempts me, but when the espresso passes my lips it sets off a sym­phony for all to hear. So richly tex­tured and mel­liflu­ously bal­anced, there is such smooth mouth-feel, and an en­liven­ing fresh­ness on my palate. Ja­pan has given the world in­stant cof­fee and canned cof­fee. I was not ex­pect­ing this high level of at­ten­tion to de­tail and qual­ity, and I have not en­joyed an­other espresso in the same way since.

2STREET EATS Tokyo has more Miche­lin star restau­rants than any other city in the world. Slightly less el­e­gant, but just as au­then­tic, are the glow­ing red lanterns of the pop-up Yoko­cho res­tau­rant scenes un­der bridges and along nar­row al­ley­ways in ev­ery neigh­bour­hood. From Piss Al­ley to Mem­ory Lane, town­house-style yak­i­tori stalls seat­ing up to 10 of­fer skew­ered meats, fish and vege- tables cooked on char­coal burn­ers and paired with cold beer and saké. Th­ese make-shift iza­kayas have a unique charm for the forced so­cia­bil­ity of their cramped spa­ces, and ev­ery­thing is de­li­cious. I de­vour steam­ing hot morsels of soy-glazed grilled chicken and scal­lions with a bowl of rice. We ea­gerly hop from one pod to the next. For a dif­fer­ent taste-of-place, Ebisu Yoko­cho is lo­cated in­doors, and in Yu­raku­cho, look for it un­der the train tracks.

3MOTHER NA­TURE We think of Ja­panese cui­sine as healthy. It is, de­pend­ing on the in­gre­di­ents. As Ja­panese farm­ing prac­tices meet the de­mands of glob­al­iza­tion, an or­ganic move­ment is bud­ding in the health con­scious and eco­log­i­cally minded. Dr. To­rako Yui’s Toy­ouke Or­gan­ics Res­tau­rant in Tokyo is on the van­guard of home­o­pathic nat­u­ral farm­ing meth­ods. Dr. Yui’s or­ganic farms in Hokkaido and Shizuoka cul­ti­vate prac­tices that op­ti­mize the life force of the har­vest. Vis­it­ing her farms, I am awestruck by the size and vi­brancy of her crops. In the rice field we be­gin each row of plant­ing with a Shinto prayer. Farm­ing here is sa­cred. Vegeta­bles, herbs and ce­re­als all dis­play more vi­tal­ity. Din­ing at the res­tau­rant we are seated around the open-style kitchen in the cen­tre. Each dish is clean, pure and spirit-nour­ish­ing. Never would I have imag­ined let­tuce could be de­li­cious. Chicken, fish, greens and herbal teas are all in­struc­tive with re­spect to health, but also to the po­ten­tial de­li­cious­ness and en­joy­ment of a meal. Dr. Yui’s warm charisma, and grow­ing recog­ni­tion as an agri­cul­tural guru, at­tracts an ar­dent fol­low­ing. In her spe­cialty shop ad­ja­cent to the res­tau­rant, and be­neath her school, she gen­er­ously gives me a bot­tle of “ac­tive plant broth” com­prised of 75 kinds of fer­ment­ing plants. “Take this home to your mother,” she smiles. This is the elixir of life.

Cat Cafe MOCHA

Herbal Tea, Toy­ouke Or­gan­ics Res­tau­rant

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