Archive for the ‘Food & drink’ Category

J-blip: Doraemon hard boiled eggs soften your heart

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Doraemon1

Doraemon, everybody’s favorite blue robot cat, could be coming to a salad near you in the not-too-distant future.

Doraemon2

Anyone can turn a hard boiled egg into the shape of the Japanese icon, and the good news it doesn’t require Doraemon’s magical gadgets, nor high tech.

The simple four-step process is:
1. make a hard boiled egg
2. peel off the egg shells
3. put the egg in the Doraemon-shaped mold
4. leave it inside cold water for 10 minutes.

Voila! There you have it.

The special mold will be released, in Japan only, on Jan. 30, for ¥100 and will come in both Doraemon-shaped and Dorami-shaped (Doraemon’s little sister) versions.

J-blip: Pink Pepsi appeals to Nippon

Friday, October 31st, 2014

 

Not to be outdone by Burger King’s black cheeseburger or McDonald’s white chicken sandwich, Pepsi is pumping some color into your liquid diet with its new pink drink.

Pepsi Pink Cola will feature a new bottle design and have a strawberry milk flavor that the company claims is the perfect drink for “party season.”

Pink Pepsi Cola

Pink Cola follows a line of flavored sodas including Pepsi’s Ice Cucumber in 2007 and its Pepsi White in 2012. And who can forget Pepsi-flavored Cheetos.

The drink will be released on Dec. 9 and cost ¥140.

J-blip: Cornered by strong men and sweet pudding at ‘kabe-don’ cafe

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Ah, the classic kabe-don move.

Many young women daydream about having their school crush pull them aside and slam his arm against the wall to create an intimate scene. Kabe- (wall) don (the onomatopoeia for a loud thud) has become so established through numerous TV shows and manga series that the move itself has spawned a spin-off meme and its own Wikipedia page.

Girls tired of waiting for their own kabe-don moment can now take matters into their own hands. Morinaga Milk has concocted a promotional campaign that involves a suave man for the coffee shop Cafe Marriage in Harajuku posing for perfect photo kabe-don photo opportunity. Mind you, the said man is silicone based, but for those wanting a good laugh or curious to experience the magic of kabe-don, he’ll do.

Morinaga Milk installed the mannequin to help promote its new line of pudding treats so visitors can melt over (or is it melt under?) the handsome statue while tasting its melted treat.

Patrons can be wooed starting Oct. 11 at Cafe Marriage in Sweets Paradise on Takeshita-dori. Visit Morinaga Milk’s website for more information.

Hanami! Sakura! Spring snacks have also sprung

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

I am not one to require too much of a reason to throw a mini cream puff party in the office, but Beard Papa‘s announcement of karintō cream puffs was a good one; so, I take the liberty of starting this spring snack write-up with our impressions.

If you’re not familiar, karintō are those things in the snack aisle or local dagashi-ya (sweet shop) that look like dirty twigs. The dirt, however, is brown sugar and the twig is best explained as “fried.” Not fried “something” but just . . . fried. The main ingredient besides sugar is flour, and they’re crunchy like cookies despite being cooked like doughnuts. By the time you get that far, it’s only a couple leaps to the cream-puff idea.

Beard Papa‘s surprisingly delicious karintō cream puffs

Beard Papa‘s surprisingly delicious karintō cream puffs

The website copy calls it a “masterpiece confection that can be confidently recommended to karintō fans since it captures the flavor of the real thing.” Here are some comments from our tasting panel . . .

CONTINUE READING about spring snacks →

Chocolate & honey mustard: the Valentine’s Day pair to avoid

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

“But there’s mole sauce, right?” my boss remarked when I expressed my initial disgust at Lotteria‘s chocolate & honey mustard grilled chicken burger. There is mole sauce, it’s true. And I love mole! Spicy chocolate is great! In fact, why not just do a mole burger? That would have been fine. What was not fine was . . .

burger choco

Honey mustard grilled chicken and Ghana Chocolate sauce, the horror.

It could just be that I am not built to eat Lotteria. The chicken sandwich was offensive before I even opened the chocolate. Half of the meat was actually fat and skin, and the bun was already getting soggy from the mayo splotch and sweet mustard sauce. The lettuce was entirely too biological in its sliminess.

CONTINUE reading about Lotteria's chocolate & honey mustard grilled chicken burger

Tokyo Eggs Benedict Bingo

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

What is it about fall this year that seems to warrant a dribble of Hollandaise sauce on every egg? OK, that’s, uh, an eggsaggeration, but I feel like Eggs Benedict or Eggs Benedict-”style” dishes have been maybe following me around, or at least popping up in more places than I can fit in this blog post. That said, I’m still going to fit a bunch, so if you’re in the mood for an emulsion, read on.

Most unfortunate: Lawson’s “Egg Benedict,” ¥320

lawson1 lawson2

Let’s just get this out of the way. While I appreciate the asparagus accent and the black pepper (less so the olive, but it was barely there), this 307-calorie package is not only strange, but also kind of yucky — confusing as it is convenient. Rather than nestling the egg on top of a half of an English muffin, Lawson gives you the whole muffin, which is itself sandwiching . . . cheese? Really? The sauce is (well, should be) made of butter so I don’t understand how cheese would improve things.

More vexing than the limp bacon, and the drizzle of creamy yellow, was another saucy aspect. It might have been something mayo-based, or maybe it was just the poached egg losing control of more than its yolk, but the fact that I couldn’t figure it out grossed me out to no end. If, for some reason, you do feel compelled to eat this, make sure it gets a thorough zapping in the microwave because you do not want to deal with this thing lukewarm.

Least eggy: Denny’s “Pancakes and Salmon Patties, Eggs Benedict-Style,” ¥940 (drink included)

dennys1 dennys2

A word of caution: you may or may not be able to get this for breakfast. It seems to be a positioned as more of a lunch dish despite the pancakes and egg. That egg! Thrown in as if a complete afterthought, and a thoroughly unnecessary one at that. This 476-calorie (is that all?!) meal wormed its tasty way into my heart by teaching me that Hollandaise goes better with salmon. Also, Denny’s managed to buck the trend of the fast-food versions I had had up to this point and be more of a sauce than a whip, with more lemon flavor, too. The scattering of white onions (or perhaps their preparation) was the perfect amount to accent the fish and citrus without overpowering them. While the sweetness of the pancakes might bother some people, I was pretty happy with it. As a novelty dish, this stood out.

Most . . . Hawaiian?!: Freshness Burger’s Salmon Egg Burger, ¥480

fresh1 fresh2

Back after a successful run last year, this burger may be trying to set the Hollandaise sauce x Autumn trend. Or maybe when it starts to get cold, Japan longs for the warm temperatures associated with this “Hawaiian Taste.” (If Hollandaise sauce is somehow Hawaiian, please let me know. Otherwise, perhaps we can say there is no accounting for advertising?) The 463-calorie burger showed up looking very “fresh” indeed, thanks to the mini-jungle of green, green lettuce. I was hoping for a repeat of the Denny’s lemon-salmon goodness, but the sauce in this case came across pretty sweet. Before I could get a good handle on it, though, the white onions blew any nuance of flavor away (and gave me sensational breath for the rest of the night).

Most Japanese: Eggcellent’s A.M. Eggcellent Benedict, ¥1,500

maguro egg1

Opened just recently, Eggcellent is a cafe in Roppongi Hills, many of whose dishes feature a secret ingredient you’ll never be able to guess. What? How’d you know?! Not content with Original Eggs Benedict (scroll down) they’ve come up with a handful of newfangled concoctions like Bouillabaisse (that’s fish stew) Benedict and Texmex Benedict (daintier than you’re imagining).Where it starts to get really funky, though, is where they become the Mos Burger of Benedicts by doing away with the English muffin and busting out the rice. And in this case, the raw tuna. And avocado. And because plain old Hollandaise sauce would no longer do, a mugi-miso version. Wafū, wahoo!

Yes, it’s a bit wacky. I did polish them off, though. There is no unpleasant flavor, but there is the question of whether the flavors meld or not, and to me, they did not. The mugi-miso sauce, although tasty, feels unaccustomed to the egg, the egg feels weird around the tuna (especially once you pop it and the yolk oozes all over) and the tuna. . . Well, cutting it with a butter knife seems less than effective, so it’s basically a giant pink tongue sticking out at you till you eat it whole. If you want to ingest this selection of ingredients in one meal, enjoy a stacked-up visual presentation and can reign in expectations of cohesion, by all means give this a shot. It’s fun that it exists, but there are other, better and more lasting reasons to eat at this cafe.

Most Eggs Benedict: Sarabeth’s Classic Eggs Benedict, ¥1,400

写真

Sarabeth’s is a New York bakery and restaurant that opened its first Japanese outpost in Shinjuku last year. Recently, another has sprouted up in Daikanyama, and since Eggs Benedict is an American breakfast, it seemed appropriate to sample their version. Note that it’s ham in there, not bacon. They also have a smoked salmon version, which in retrospect might have been more interesting. This version was delicious, just in an unmemorable way. I’m not sure if that means it transcended the classicism in its name and arrived in a realm where it is indistinguishable from some daydreamy archtype (“Oh yeah, Eggs Benedict, not bad.”) or if it was just average. The sauce did not stand out to me as either “Quite lemony!” or “Rather sweet!” It just was. Sarabeth’s gets best marks for presentation and I credit a lot of that to the stoutness of the muffin.

Shout-out to Bacon (Most . . . American?): Eggcellent’s Original Eggs Benedict, ¥1,200

hillz1

I promise the reason I’m mentioning two from Eggcellent is not because The Japan Times is currently tied up with them and offering morning English seminars (consider this your disclaimer); as a breakfast-lover at any time of day, I’ve been staking out this place out since before they even opened. No, the reason they receive this special attention is because they have great bacon! It’s not fried crispy, but neither is it a wet noodle of pork fat — just solid and meaty. Maybe the exuberance of the lemon in the Hollandaise sauce is a frustrating if you’re more of a bacon person than a Hollandaise person, but nevertheless, bacon. It comes in some of their other meals uninhibited by the sauce, too.

Most DIY: “Grand Hyatt Tokyo Totteoki no Chōshoku Reshipi” 

book hyatt

Intrepid Japanese-speaking home chefs may want to look into the new cookbook from (¥1,600 from Parco Publishing) that unveils the Grand Hyatt Tokyo’s Eggs Benedict recipe, along with other breakfast specialties. In the end, it might be that nothing beats a cozy brunch at home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sauce guide

Here is approximate (and subjective, not to mention subject to my powers of memory — or lack thereof) ranking of the Hollandaise sauces in a range from sweet to lemony (*Mugi-miso and Grand Hyatt Tokyo are not listed):

  • Royal Host [Bonus! I ate this before starting the project proper so I don’t have a picture, but the Hollandaise sauce is sweet and has texture reminiscent of shaving cream.] 
  • Freshness Burger [It might be tied with Lawson, but is possibly sweeter, so I put it here.]
  • Lawson
  • Sarabeth’s [even-keel]
  • Denny’s
  • Eggcellent [the bacony original]

All photos by Emily Balistrieri except book cover. 

Autumn crop of pumpkin, purple potato and pear products

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

JT's new pear juice contains pulp with the distinctive flavour of Japanese pear

JT’s new juice contains pulp with the distinctive texture of Japanese pear

This autumn sees the shelves of convenience stores throughout Japan groaning under the weight of a bumper harvest of new flavor sensations. Here’s our round-up of this year’s crop:

Pumpkin is of course a classic autumnal flavor and true to form, this year Nestle has released a limited edition pumpkin-flavored Kit Kat for Halloween. Häagen-Dazs, too, has jumped aboard the pumpkin bandwagon by releasing pumpkin-flavored ice cream earlier this month along with a murasaki imo (purple potato) flavor. Purple potato has also popped up in Kinoko no Yama’s roster of seasonal flavors this year, along with maple and roasted chestnut.

According to Mainichi, crunchy Japanese pears (nashi), as opposed to the differently shaped and softer-textured European pears, are quite literally the flavor of the autumn months this year. Last month Japanese pear-flavored Fanta went on sale for a limited time only and beverage maker JT also brought out a pear juice with a pulpy texture that’s distinctive to the Japanese pear. In addition, Gari-Gari Kun’s pear-flavored ice pops have also proved so popular since their initial release in 2010 that this year they’re being sold in packs of seven.

As surely as the trees will soon be bare of leaves, many of the limited-edition items mentioned about will be sold out by the end of autumn, so those who don’t want to miss out on these novel nibbles and drinks ought to hurry.

Inside Nazo Tomo Cafe

Friday, August 16th, 2013

The other day we brought up the nazo toki (puzzle solving) trend that appears to be building even further with the appearance of Nazo Tomo Cafe in Daikanyama, Shibuya-ku’s Theatre Cybird. Though I’ve played “Professor Layton” and used to get a kick out of logic exercises as a kid, I can’t say I am “good” at puzzle solving, so it took some guts for me to walk into the quirky pop-up cafe.

I thought I would warm up with a “cup dessert,” a perilously sweet parfait-like affair with heart-shaped cake, generous amounts of whipped cream, marshmallows, cornflakes, etc., but my true warm-up was the puzzle that came with it.

nazo

Strawberry sauce cup dessert ¥500

The event is put on in collaboration with a romance sim mobile game for girls by Cybird (under the same company group that runs the theatre space) called “Ikemen Oukyū Mayonaka no Shinderera” (something like “Hottie Royal Palace: Midnight Cinderella” in English). In the cafe puzzle, you’re a princess 30 minutes before a ball and you’ve received a letter announcing a crime will occur. However, the message is in code, so you need to get hints from the game’s handsome young men to discover what the criminal is after.

coaster

Coaster prize featuring Leo from “Hottie Royal Palace: Midnight Cinderella”

Now is perhaps a good time to note that you can’t expect to do any of this without good working knowledge of Japanese. The code itself is written in katakana, but you need to be able to read and understand the instructions, too. And don’t waste precious puzzling time looking for furigana. Of course, even though my Japanese was cutting it, the other parts of my mind were embarrassingly dull. Luckily the staff are friendly and will give you further hints until you feel almost as if you solved it yourself — definitely the reason for the 100 percent pass rate compared to the actual missions, of which when I went most did not reach 20 percent.

After picking up my prize coaster, I decided to pass on the rest of the side mission in order to get down to the real business at hand. I wanted to get inside one of those “mission cubes”!

The main draw of Nazo Tomo Cafe is not the cafe at all, but the puzzles awaiting inside each of the six mission cubes. Participation costs ¥1,000. Having never played a Real Escape Game or solved any similar real-life puzzles, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but more in the mood for science fiction than murder or romance, I picked mission six, “Taimu Mashin 765~Mirai wo Sukue~” (“Time Machine 765: Save the future!”).

[Mild spoilers ahead]

Led up some stairs to a short hallway-like room, I was told not to touch anything until after the countdown started. All the puzzles are designed to be solved within 765 seconds (a number too close to na-mu-ko in Japanese, i.e. producer Namco, to be a coincidence), but I knew at first glance it would be impossible for me alone. After a short video explaining (in Japanese with Japanese captions) how the world would end as the culmination of a series of unfortunate events beginning with some guy stubbing his toe, I was faced with a seven-step brain teaser with no hints in sight. How would I push the button to save the planet from certain doom? One of the steps involved playing the Japanese word game “Shiritori,” an example of how cultural fluency can matter as much as the linguistic kind.

[End mild spoilers]

Of course, once I had failed magnificently I thought of various ways I could have tried to proceed in a swifter, more orderly fashion, but so it goes. If nothing else, know that this is not a pencil-pushing game; you’ll be pacing your cube, manipulating objects and hopefully talking things through with your friends along the way.

That’s why it’s called “Puzzle Friend Cafe.” Even just two heads are better than one, so don’t be like me showing up alone. The staff will welcome you gladly (one of them confessed player numbers had decreased a bit since they opened on July 31), but you’ll have more fun, and more of a chance for success, with a pal or five (it seems up to six can play together). I paid once and received a free ticket to try another day, so maybe I’ll see if I can round up a posse for sometime next month; although the cafe closes briefly starting Aug. 25, round two runs Sept. 6-23.

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