The Joy of Getting Lost in Kagurazaka: Part II

At the time it felt completely normal but looking back at the day I spent in 神楽坂 Kagurazaka I am amazed by the amount of food and beverages I consumed.  It’s no wonder I gained so much weight in Japan… but when in Rome, right?  I have no regrets whatsoever.  Well, maybe just a little now that I’m trying to lose some of the extra pounds.

Kagurazaka was turning out to be a “fusion” neighborhood that seamlessly combined both traditional Japanese ways of life with modern Western touches (a bit like a quieter, smaller version of 삼청동 SamChungDong in Seoul).  So far I’d had a really delicious Japanese lunch and a cidre break at a French bar.  Before the clock struck midnight on this long but fun day, I would add both traditional Japanese snacks as well as “fusion” sweets, Japanese craft beer at a British bar, and a seafood feast at a typical Japanese joint.  I sure do have a lot of energy and capacity to eat & drink…

In between all those tempting treats, we managed to continue our stroll around the back alleyways.  We came across these two lovely ladies in gorgeous kimonos (I don’t think they were geishas but I’m told that there are still some in Kagurazaka) navigating the narrow and steep stairs.

IMG_4758T couldn’t help but take a quick photo of this little guy who seemed to be content watching the passersby.

IMG_4757T had told me about this traditional Japanese store that sold condiments and foodstuff.  Just the other day she’d gone to a special event they held Ginza where she was able to try different types of rice and various rice related products.  She raved about them.  Of course we had to check it out.

IMG_4712As always T was totally right.  This shop was amazing.  I learned a bit about this product called 塩糀 shiokōji (rice malt fermented in salt) that has become a popular ingredient in the Japanese kitchen in the past year or so.  I did end up getting some to experiment with it myself- supposedly it’s great to marinate meats and fish, make quick pickles, etc.  I also got a pouch of mountain vegetables, with its stalks and ferns in liquid, to make 山菜そば sansai soba (hot buckwheat noodle soup with mountain vegetables).  I didn’t know at the time but they also have a store much closer to Roppongi, in Azabu-jūban.

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shiokōji

T said that since we were in Kagurazaka we HAD to sample the this famous dessert called 抹茶 ババロア matcha babaroa at KinoZen, which is a 甘味所 kanmi dokoro, a Japanese cafe serving sweets and tea.  I could tell that in the summer they would sell lots of kakigori, Japanese shaved ice, but their signature dish is matcha babaloa.  The name suggested an adaptation of something Western but I had no idea what babaroa meant…  Well, babaroa comes from bavarois, crème bavaroise, otherwise known as Bavarian cream.  This dessert was a combination of Japanese green tea flavored bavarois, tsubuan (chunky azuki beans), and whipped cream.  The shop was really packed (apparently it always is) but they offered takeaway matcha babaloa so we did just that.  BTW, it’s 100 yen cheaper if you take it to go.  But it’s pretty pricey at $8 USD, no?

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On our way back to Uppie Service, we saw this cafe that was straight out of one of Aesop’s fables.  I didn’t know whether a rabbit would hop out or a princess would peak through the window.  We only takeaway manjū(s) (sweet Japanese dumplings) but I really would love to revisit it and spend an afternoon sitting inside this gem.  Must check it out!

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After we were once again satiated with sweets and praises about this cute neighborhood, we started to plan our evening activities.  We decided to have some pre-dinner drinks at The Royal Scotsman.  Again, I was pleasantly surprised that this very British pub didn’t feel so out of place in Kagurazaka.  The staff was very friendly and they carried quite a few Japanese local microbrews as well as standard British beers.

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I know it’s shocking but we were looking forward to more food.  One of T & J’s favorite places is called 蓮 REN in Kagurazaka but we opted to try a place they’d never been to and wanted to try.  It was a seafood specialty pub called チチュウカイ ウオマル Chichukai Uomaru, which was right on the main drag and couldn’t pass by without noticing all the fresh seafood displayed outside.

IMG_4795IMG_4791IMG_4790More beer… and here comes another table-side fire.

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J shows me how to enjoy these large prawns even more by making a little dipping sauce with mayonaise (by the way, I don’t normally eat the stuff but when I do, it’s Kewpie mayo all the way) and soy.  J knows his beer and his grilled prawns…

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IMG_4781Thought the appetizer was good.  We SCORED with this uni (sea urchin) pasta.  So. Love. Japan.

IMG_4783But the best was yet to come!  Pièce de résistance, if you will, of our meal was this GIANT slab of grilled tuna on the bone.  It’s not something one would find easily outside Japan…  With the fatty and almost beef-like texture, I dare say it was infinitely better than any T-bone steak.  The green paste was yuzu-kosho, not wasabi, another one of those Japanese condiments I love.  It’s citrus-y, salty, and peppery.

IMG_4786The aftermath.

IMG_478911:30PM.  That time of the night in Japan when one needs to decide whether to make a run for the last train or choose to enjoy the evening well into late night.  My choice?

IMG_4788The table next to us and we became quite friendly, and I had some serious food envy…  They let me snap a few photos of what they were eating.

IMG_4792 IMG_4793 IMG_4794Too bad that I missed the famous Kagurazaka Awa Odori festival this year but even without the festival, Kagurazaka is a great neighborhood in Tokyo.  Since my fun day in Kagurazaka, I met and became friends with a young woman who lives and works there.  Now I have another reason to go back.  I can’t wait!

 

千年こうじや Sennen-Koujiya: For various Japanese condiments and foodstuffs.  東京都新宿区神楽坂2-6−1; 2-6-1 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku, Tokyo (map)

紀の善 KinoZen: Famous Japanese sweets like matcha babaloa and shaved ice.  東京都新宿区神楽坂1-12; 1-12 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku, Tokyo (map)

ムギマル2 Mugimaru 2: Adorable cafe.. might be a bit hard to find.  東京都新宿区神楽坂5-20 (神楽坂上 交番向かい); 5-20 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku, Tokyo (map)

The Royal Scotsman: For authentic fish & chips, and British vibes.  東京都新宿区神楽坂3丁目-6-28; Kagurazaka 3-6-28, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo (map)

チチュウカイ ウオマル Chichukai Uomaru: Seafood feast at a fun, casual setting.  東京都新宿区神楽坂3-2; Kagurazaka 3-2, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo (map)

 

RELATED POSTS:

The Joy of Getting Lost in Kagurazaka: Part I

Home Sweet 六本木 Roppongi

Mother of all Shopping Areas: Ginza

Drinking in Japan: Japanese Beer (Biiru)

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3 Responses to The Joy of Getting Lost in Kagurazaka: Part II

  1. Hello, just a word to congratulate you on your writing as well as the pictures. I was curious to know what camera you are using. We had exchanged email a couple of years back about India. Glad to see you are still enjoying the road. Blessings. Frederic.

    • It’s really nice to hear from you again Frederic. Yes, I’m still traveling and appreciating my life on the road. I’d actually just heard from a friend (whom I met last winter in India) told me he’s going to a 10 day silent retreat soon and my mind was on that when I saw your note. I remember your going to Vipassana when we were corresponding a while back… I trust that you are in good health and all is well? Thank you for your kind words about my writing & the photos- as you can tell, I’m far from being good at either but I’m enjoying the process. As for the camera- I’ve been more or less using my iphone this year. If I’m hiking and whatnot, I sometime use my small Lumix DMC-TS3 which is almost indestructible and also waterproof. 🙂

      • Thank you for the answer. I have done 2 ten day Vipassana retreat and am very much looking forward the third one sometime in December/January. I am willing to share more about it if you are inclined. I saw that you might be in California in the foreseeable future. I reside and work at a biodynamic winery on the central coast . Would love to show the vineyards and have you taste the wines! Safe travels.

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