Japan Pulse » » Food & drink http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse Taking the pulse of trends, trend-watchers and trendmakers in Japan. Thu, 30 Jul 2015 09:48:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.3 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/wp-content/themes/orange/favicon.ico Japan Pulse Dominique Ansel caters to Tokyo’s (semi)sweet tooth with cronuts and s’more http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/dominique-ansel-caters-to-tokyos-semisweet-tooth-with-cronuts-and-smore/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/dominique-ansel-caters-to-tokyos-semisweet-tooth-with-cronuts-and-smore/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 10:34:15 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=20253 The treats at Dominique Ansel Japan are as whimsical as they are delicious. The Cookie Shot — chocolate-lined cookie cup filled with milk. Drink up and then eat your cup! Cute color-matching graphic works by Vahram Muratyan look down on customers from the staircase. A mock Paris subway map that names Ansel’s creations in place of stations. Never thought we was say this, but ... one pinecone, please. Mini Me's — meringue "kisses" are a colorful treat. The kitchen is heating up with the Frozen S'more. The toasty results. The banana bread tiramisu has some East Asian influences.

Dominique Ansel Bakery opens June 20, but expect extremely long queues because Ansel has brought to Japan not only his famed Cronut, but also a vast array of unusual and creative desserts.

Though Ansel has said that he’ll be toning down the sugar levels for the Japanese clientele, this is still definitely a must-do for people with a sweet tooth as we discovered on a recent press preview event.

The bakery’s celebrated Frozen S’more — huge chunks of toasted marshmallow-covered vanilla ice cream on sticks — and Cookie Shot — chocolate-lined cookie cups filled with milk — are being served alongside several Japan-only treats.

Among the exclusive items is the Paris Tokyo. Inspired by the circular metro sign and Japanese bamboo, Paris Tokyo’s small balls of vanilla cream and matcha ganache have a dab of passion-fruit jam and are sandwiched between rings of choux pastry and topped with white chocolate ginkgo leaves.

Then there’s the Maneki Neko Religieuse filled with vanilla cream and yuzu jam, and fashioned in the shape of a smiling lucky cat. If you’re looking for something a bit more mature, though, the traditional Japanese sweet-inspired Mont Blanc Wagashi is a chestnut-paste covered meringue that sits on a bed of gold leaf.

Most of the desserts may be rich and aimed at adults, but the space is for the fun-loving child in everyone. Even the bakery’s brightly lit interiors uses candy-floss colors in a mock Paris subway map that names Ansel’s creations in place of stations, while cute color-matching graphic works by Vahram Muratyan look down on customers from the staircase.

If you need a break from the sweet stuff, the second floor also serves light savory dishes, salads and drinks, and if you’re brave enough to take your kids there’s always the Mr. Roboto melon pan — it’s filled with Hokkaido milk cream, but it can’t be any worse than a regular Japanese melon pan pastry.

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Save your breath and let ‘Suimasen!’ make the call http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/save-your-breath-and-let-suimasen-make-the-call/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/save-your-breath-and-let-suimasen-make-the-call/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 09:44:57 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=20203 suimasen3

Getting the attention of a server can make some people feel a little anxious. Should I raise my hand? Do I wait to make eye contact? How loud should I yell?

Well rest your nerves (and your voice) because there is a new app that makes eating out a little less stressful for soft-spoken diners.

Suimasen Daikō” (“Excuse Me Agent”) is an application where users simply tap a button and their phone will let out a hearty “すいませ~~~ん!” (“Excuse me!”)

Users can choose between a female voice, a male voice and even an ikemen voice for the cool kids. In addition, there is a bell and buzzer button to grab someone’s attention.

Need to adjust the volume? The app comes with three scene settings ranging from quiet cafes to noisy izakaya.

Suimasen Daikō is now available on iTunes.

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Grow a new boyfriend with ‘ikemen’ seeds http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/grow-a-new-boyfriend-with-ikemen-seeds/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/grow-a-new-boyfriend-with-ikemen-seeds/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 10:50:10 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=20168 ikemen-seeds

Sick of waiting to meet your dream man? Why not grow your boyfriend from the ground up?

That’s the idea behind “Tabegoro kareshi Ikusei Setto” (“Ripe Boyfriend Growing Set”), a line of vegetable seeds that are adorned with cute ikemen.

The manufacturers hope to turn up the heat in the greenhouse as each vegetable features a handsome animated character (Mr. Habanero Pepper has fiery red hair, Mr. Eggplant as smooth purple hair, and so on). Girls are encouraged to buy their favorite boy and watch him grow right before their eyes . . . after some tender love and care.

Gardeners might have to turn the hose on themselves to cool down after reading the salacious details and backstories behind each boy. Spoiler alert — Mr. Mint likes to eat mint chocolate ice cream.

The mail-order males can be purchased for ¥900. Available vegetables include cherry tomatoes, arugula, baby carrots, mint, habanero peppers and eggplant.

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Takashi Murakami + Frisk = super-artsy breath http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/takashi-murakami-frisk-super-artsy-breath/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/takashi-murakami-frisk-super-artsy-breath/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 10:31:08 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=20117 //www.youtube.com/watch?v=NR_mFlWWmR0

For a limited time you’ll be able to freshen your breath by popping a piece of contemporary art into your mouth.

On March 16, Belgian confectionary Frisk launched a special collaborative line of art candy, called Frisk Neo, to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

The collaborator is none other than Takashi Murakami, that superfamous creator of superflat pop art.

Though Murakami’s most expensive art pieces have sold for more than $4 million, the Frisk Neo decorated in his original Kaikai Kiki characters and signature skulls cost less than ¥400.

“We basically bring a piece of art into the pockets of normal consumers,” said chief marketing officer Jan Heelinn in the Frisk Neo x Takashi Murakami official video.

Murakami likens the candies to sculptures in the promo video. Though we shouldn’t expect them to be auctioned at Sotheby’s any time soon, every tin bears the text “Designed by Murakami.”

The local buzzsphere celebrated the pop artist’s foray into breath mints with exclamations of “kawaii!” (cute) and “getto shimashita!” (I got one!).

Not only are the tins customized, Frisk went a step further by reshaping their pellet-like mints into original Murakami motifs. The Blooming Cherry mints are pink and flower-shaped and, as the name suggests, taste like sweet cherry. Pop open the Frightening Mint tin and you will see white-and-blue skulls. You might taste a hint of chilli in the mint — eccentric, like the artist himself.

Frisk Neo is supposedly available in convenience stores nationwide, but our guess it’s a hot-seller so good luck finding a tin.

A photo posted by Tomoya Yamashita (@_txmxyx_) on

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Is Burger King’s ‘Flame Grilled’ fragrance a hoax in a bottle? http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/is-burger-kings-flame-grilled-fragrance-a-hoax-in-a-bottle/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/is-burger-kings-flame-grilled-fragrance-a-hoax-in-a-bottle/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 09:04:02 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=20101 //www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BB6B2Y2G7E

Burger King Japan has developed quite the reputation for its imaginative gastronomic creations, including the black Kuro Burger released last year. However, the result of the fast food chain’s latest experiment isn’t exactly edible.

burger-king-perfume-bottle

Smell it your way

Starting in April, the company will launch a fragrance that will allow fast-food lovers to smell just like their beloved burgers.

The perfume, named “Flame Grilled,” will be sold for one day only and exclusively at Burger Kings in Japan. A free Whopper is included in the purchase (at the high price of ¥5,000), so now you can eat your meal and smell like one too.

The scent will be sold starting at precisely 10:30 a.m., just in time for an early lunch. As only a limited amount of bottles are being produced, Burger King fans will only be able to mist themselves with one bottle per customer.

Many media outlets say they smell a long-game April Fool’s joke, but we’re tempted to believe that their aim is true.

Burger King has even petitioned the Japanese government to make April 1 the unofficial “Whopper Day,” a move that suggests this may not all be pure mischief.

Still skeptical? This isn’t the first time Burger King has tried to appeal to a sense other than taste. In 2008 the chain released “Flame,” a cologne hooked as “the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat.”

Take a look at its disturbing video as proof.

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Mister Donut went berry picking for its newest line of treats http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/mister-donut-went-berry-picking-for-its-newest-line-of-treats/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/mister-donut-went-berry-picking-for-its-newest-line-of-treats/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 09:15:16 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=20030 mister donut strawberry

Spring is the sweetest time of the year, and Mister Donut is celebrating with its Strawberry Donut Fes.

From now until May, the dessert chain will have a special selection of five sugary sweets for customers, including a custard-filled strawberry croissant donut and a strawberry and whip pie.

mister donut strawberry donut

The standout of the collection though is its strawberry donut, created in the shape of a real strawberry. The treat is topped with green-colored chocolate to resemble a strawberry stem.

The move comes at a time when Seven-Eleven is rolling out its own line of donuts, including a strawberry flavor.

With all treats under ¥200, there’s no excuse not to indulge your sweet tooth. Plus, some of them are covered in real freeze-dried strawberries, meaning there are a few vitamins hidden among all of those calories.

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J-blip: Doraemon hard boiled eggs soften your heart http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/j-blip-doraemon-hard-boiled-eggs-soften-your-heart/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/j-blip-doraemon-hard-boiled-eggs-soften-your-heart/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 06:06:22 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=19986 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.

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J-blip: Pink Pepsi appeals to Nippon http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/j-blip-pink-pepsi-appeals-to-nippon/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/j-blip-pink-pepsi-appeals-to-nippon/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 05:49:00 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=19900 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.

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J-blip: Cornered by strong men and sweet pudding at ‘kabe-don’ cafe http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/j-blip-cornered-by-strong-men-and-sweet-pudding-at-kabe-don-cafe/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/j-blip-cornered-by-strong-men-and-sweet-pudding-at-kabe-don-cafe/#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 07:53:01 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=19881 //www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hj6gJ3q72g

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.

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Hanami! Sakura! Spring snacks have also sprung http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/hanami-sakura-spring-snacks-have-also-sprung/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/hanami-sakura-spring-snacks-have-also-sprung/#comments Thu, 27 Mar 2014 09:07:23 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=19636 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 . . .

Mark: “The mega sugar hit is almost too much, but the consistency of the cream — not too light or gooey — is perfect. What makes them great is the crunch of the karintō, and I doubt they’ll get soggy and limp like the regular cream puffs.”

Rina: “It was really tasty! The outside is crunchy, but inside it’s smooth and creamy, so it’s a good combination.”

Andrew: “These are bound to be a hit with Japanese folks nostalgic for a corner-store sugar rush.”

Mizuho: “There wasn’t enough. I want to eat more! If you eat a couple karintō, you’ll want to keep eating and be unable to stop. In that way, this was very true to [the real thing].”

Alan: “This cream puff is full of yumz!”

Kate: “I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to be a guinea pig! I was a little bit concerned with the aesthetics of its look, since my mind drew a parallel with a certain brown substance, but the taste was worth ‘the risk’!”

By the way, if you are wondering what the flecks are in the cream, they’re azuki (red beans)! An appropriate extra, but hardly noticeable in the overall caramel-y sweetness. For me, the overwhelming impression was the nostalgic taste of pancakes with syrup. The cream gives it that buttery finish. I wonder if eating karintō themselves dipped in whipped cream would produce a similar effect . . .

Beard Papa will pack your puffs with cooling pouches, so they are definitely transportable to your favorite blossom viewing location.

Here are some other snacks that might be fun under the cherry trees:

Two great tastes ... but do they belong together?

Two great tastes … but do they belong together?

Ghana chocolate-covered Kappa Ebisen? These limited-time-only shrimp chips are not new, but they are rather elusive in the konbini wild. It’s possible that someone in your hanami party might be impressed with your hunting and purchasing skills if you bring them, but it’s also possible that you open the bag and no one takes a bite. The shrimp flavor is mostly eclipsed by the chocolate coating at first, but there is a bit of a hazy aftertaste.

Who or what is The PotericanKoikeya‘s latest potato chips boast “American taste” and a wavy shape. Don’t let the hokey, red-nosed sheriff mascot stand between you and the “Sour Cream Onion” and “Cheddar Cheese” flavors, if they’re your kind of thing. Before that, though, take a moment to place your tongue firmly in cheek to applaud the website copy (an example of which can only be fully appreciated in Japanese): サワークリームの濃厚なコクと、さっぱり酸味がオニオンの香りとマッチしてSOOOO GOOOOD!!! MyワイフもFAVORITE(大好き)さ!(Translation: “The depth of the rich sour cream and acidity of the onion flavor match and are so good! My wife loves them!”) At least, they will go better with hanami booze than candy.

But speaking of candy, if there are kids to sugar up entertain, Kracie Foods has a couple new items that might keep them busy for more than a minute. One is Pazuru Choko (“Puzzle Chocolate”). Don’t expect anything so fun as a solution featuring all the jigsaw-y pieces in the bag, but “You’ll find yourself wanting to put them together.”

Secondly, the Petitte [sic] series has grown. These tiny soft candies come bunched together so little fingers can enjoy ripping them apart and sharing. With flavors mainly consisting of fruit, it makes you wonder if a bunch of actual grapes or bananas wouldn’t accomplish the rip-and-share goal just as well.

Another new snack under the “Why not just eat real food?” umbrella is Calbee‘s asparagus-bacon Jagariko. If you were really serious about hanami, you might undertake the challenge of actually wrapping some asparagus in bacon, but in a pinch, this flavor of potato stick snack might be interesting to try since it’s the result of a Jagariko fan brainstorming session.

OK, OK, enough with the random munchies. It’s cherry blossom season for crying out loud, so we know what you’re here for . . .

Sakura-themed food and drink 2014 (an in-no-way exhaustive list)

Craft beer made using cherry blossom petals from SanktGallen Brewery

•Spring Blossom sakura-flavored peach tea from Kirin

•”Melty” Sakura royal milk tea from Coca-Cola

•Sakura amazake from Morinaga

•Sakura Häagen-Dazs

•Sakura tea latte and sakura cream doughnut from Krispy Kreme

•Will the Sakuranbo (Cherry) Mocha and Sakuranbo Frappe replace the Sakura Cherry Mc -Float and -Fizz at McDonald’s? Either way, they’re pink. Don’t forget the Sakura Teritama.

•Nihonbashi Sweets sakura pudding with chunky red bean paste from Meito

If store-bought items don’t quite do it for you, take a tip from Higuccini (in Japanese) and make your own sakura-maple mixed nuts!

Finally, before you head to the park, check you local Don Quijote for the latest seasonal party wear . . .

hanami costumes

Decisions, decisions: Cho! O-hanami Afro or the Sakura Ranger?

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Chocolate & honey mustard: the Valentine’s Day pair to avoid http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/chocolate-honey-mustard-the-valentines-day-pair-to-avoid/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/chocolate-honey-mustard-the-valentines-day-pair-to-avoid/#comments Wed, 12 Feb 2014 03:53:29 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=19581 “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.

ugh

Do you have the will to sauce this monster?

The chocolate itself, a collaboration with Lotte brand Ghana Chocolate, is a consistency between shampoo and pudding. If that meant something silky and luxurious, maybe it would be okay, but instead it significantly upped the grossness factor of this sandwich, without really adding anything so mind-blowing.

blergh

There, there. The nightmare is almost over.

As I bit in, it was as if a blister popped. Was this thing advertised with a “juicy hot chicken oil center”?! I don’t think so!

After the initial shock I tried to focus on the interaction of the mustard and the chocolate, but quite frankly, the mayonnaise got in the way. The bit of spice might have been the beginning of something interesting flavor-wise, but if that were the object, why honey mustard? Wouldn’t the chocolate have been sweet enough?

Lotteria has been doing fries with the Ghana Chocolate sauce for a couple weeks now, but we didn’t go there. Neither did the Ghana Chocolate pie seem terribly appetizing after this wreck of a sandwich. So, my advice to you this Valentine’s Day week is to go stand in line for a box of real cacao lovin’, because the chocolate honey mustard grilled chicken burger is only fit for batsu game punishment.

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Tokyo Eggs Benedict Bingo http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/tokyo-eggs-benedict-bingo/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/tokyo-eggs-benedict-bingo/#comments Wed, 27 Nov 2013 05:52:10 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=19348 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

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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. 

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Autumn crop of pumpkin, purple potato and pear products http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/autumn-crop-of-pumpkin-purple-potato-and-pear-products/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/autumn-crop-of-pumpkin-purple-potato-and-pear-products/#comments Wed, 30 Oct 2013 08:55:02 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=19285 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.

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Inside Nazo Tomo Cafe http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/inside-nazo-tomo-cafe/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/inside-nazo-tomo-cafe/#comments Fri, 16 Aug 2013 05:11:16 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=18983 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.

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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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Nazo toki trend goes mainstream http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/nazo-toki-trend-goes-mainstream/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/nazo-toki-trend-goes-mainstream/#comments Wed, 14 Aug 2013 08:51:53 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=18953 The Nazo Tomo Cafe in Daikanyama

The Nazo Tomo Cafe in Daikanyama

A pop-up shop with a difference appeared on the fashionable streets of Shibuya last month. Open until Aug. 25, and again between Sept. 6 and Sept 23, the Nazo Tomo Cafe is a mystery waiting to be solved. Inside, for ¥1,000, customers can team up with strangers or friends to solve a puzzle of their choice. For us the appearance of this cafe is an indication that the trend for real-life puzzle games is really booming.

It all started back in 2008 when SCRAP introduced The Real Escape Game. A real-life version of popular escape games for the PC, players are trapped in a room and have to figure out clues in order to free themselves within a time limit. The idea of making these virtual rooms a physical reality was hugely popular and really took off in Japan. Indeed, SCRAP has even exported the game overseas, holding their first event in San Francisco last December.

Part of the success of the game could be due to the social aspect — players have to collaborate to escape in time. Indeed, as with paint balling, companies sign up employees to play as a team-building exercise. The idea of solving puzzles in a real-life, real-time setting has clearly taken off. Escape games are now held all over the country by a number of different companies. Different kinds of puzzle games have also begun to become popular (for example, games in which teams hunt for treasure) and amusement parks have become popular venues for these larger-scale events.

Sites like Nazo Toki provide information on upcoming events around the country. Indeed, the word nazo toki (puzzle solving) now appears to refer to the wider range of puzzle games that includes escape games. Nazo Tomo Cafe reflects this diversification and the games on offer vary to suit all tastes. Choices include diffusing a bomb or a murder mystery, as well as the classic room escape game.

Produced by Namco and managed by the Nazo Tomo website, Nazo Tomo Cafe has some impressive backing behind it — perhaps an indication that big name companies want to get in on the nazo toki trend. Check back soon for our hands-on report!

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