Posts Tagged ‘Lawson’

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. 

B-kyu boom: The magnificence of the mediocre

Friday, August 5th, 2011

“Not exceptional, not bad, just middling” is one definition of the phrase b-kyu (b class), but this term has lately come to mean so much more. From B-kyu gourmet to B-kyu sightseeing, B-kyu fans are appropriating the phrase to mean something more positive, which ranges from “no frills” to “fabulously kitsch.” With the recent release of a new book, the latest B-kyu mindset is being applied to toys.

"Super B-kyu Transformating Robot Great Battle Dagangu"

Wikipedia Japan states that the phrase B-kyu has its origins in the English term “B movie” — a subpar, cheaply made film. Just as in the West, B-movies also have ardent fans in Japan who embrace the term. B-kyu moviegoers relish the celluloid output of directors such as Yoshihiro Nishimuru, who delights them with lashings of blood and guts in titles such as “Tokyo Gore Police,” “Suicide Club” and “Machine Girl.” If you also have a fondness for bad dialogue and blood splatter, check the B-Class Movie Blog.

The biggest B-kyu craze since B-kyu movies has been the B-kyu gourmet trend. While you might think this is all about retro food such as cheese and pineapple chunks on cocktail sticks, you’d be mistaken. B-kyu gourmet simply means no-frills home cooking that utilize local ingredients. The trend even has a B-kyu gourmet cooking competition called the B-1 Grand Prix. Convenience stores have got in on the act too, with Circle K and Lawson both bringing out special B-kyu meals for limited periods.

But B-kyu hasn’t totally lost its kitschy connotations. Being a B-kyu fan entails seeking out stuff that doesn’t register on most people’s radars. We really love the B-kyu sightseeing website, which features great suggestions on weird and wonderful places to visit. A quick browse through entries for Tokyo brought up a fabulous shop in Akihabara that is heaven for fans of instant ramen, as well as the Toto Toilet museum.

The latest B-kyu movement is focused on the B-kyu toy, or the Fukkutoi, as it’s also been dubbed by the author of a book on cheap plastic toys. “Super B-kyu Transformating Robot Great Battle Dagangu” was published on June 18 and features full color illustrations and commentaries on a variety of cheap plastic playthings. These products, which faithlessly copy the merchandise of bigger toy companies, can be bought in gas stations, souvenir shops and near the cash registers of family restaurants across the country. Until recently, they hadn’t really caught the attention of hardcore adult toy fans, but perhaps it’s time for this cheaply produced tat to emerge from its place in the back of the toy cupboard and enjoy its moment in the spotlight.

China: the next frontier for konbini

Friday, May 13th, 2011

A local 24-hour convenience store in the city of Shenyang, Liaoning Province.

Aiming to export Japanese convenience store culture, four big Japanese companies are laying plans for expansion into China. Seven Eleven, Lawson, Mini Stop and Family Mart are all intending to open more stores in the near future, going up against both domestic and other foreign competitors for a lucrative slice of China’s convenience store pie.

While China has its own convenience store chains, such as Kedi, which has over 700 outlets in Shanghai and other parts of China, there’s no particular chain dominating the market nationwide, leaving the field open for Japanese names, as well as Tesco and Wallmart (who operate under the name of Smart Choice, or Hui Xuan in Chinese), to take the lead. And it’s not just the big players who are competing; China also has an abundance of privately run local stores.

According to Nikkei Trendy, big convenience store chains in China have the image of being cheap and rather fashionable. In addition they stock foreign goods unavailable in locally run stores. Japanese convenience chains stock items like bento pack lunches and onigiri rice balls which are perceived by the Chinese public as being high-quality products. The Chinese media, who’ve been taking note of the convenience-store wars, have been impressed with the standard of service at Japanese convenience stores compared with that of locally run small businesses.

As in Japan, convenience stores don’t just limit themselves to selling everyday goods; it’s also now possible to pay utility bills and make purchases over the Internet using a Lakala terminal. These terminals are proving very popular, and there are now over 40,000 spread across 246 towns and cities in China. Having one of these terminals available in-store appears to be a key factor toward winning over the market in China.

Plans for expansion by Japanese firms are as follows: Lawson aims to have opened 10,000 stores by 2020;  Family Mart wants to increase the number of stores from the existing 400 stores into 4,500; Seven Eleven, who opened 100 stores in Beijing and Tianjin in 2010, wants to open 50 in Chengdu by the end of 2011; and Mini Stop is slated to 200 shops within five years.

One difficulty that Japanese businesses might encounter is anti-Japanese sentiment. At the end of 2010 when tensions were running high over the Senkaku Islands issue, Japanese retailers Ito Yokado and Isetan suffered damage at the hands of protesters. However, at present, the market looks set to expand throughout 2011.

Photo: Prince Roy

 

Some konbeni snacks with your favorite anime?

Friday, November 12th, 2010

K-On! goods displayed in Lawson convenience store

K-On! goods displayed in Lawson convenience store

Pop culture and junk food are a perfect combination: Both are brightly colored, easy to consume and totally moreish. Personally I can while away whole afternoons watching anime while stuffing potato chips and chocolate down my gullet. Sure,  I end up feeling a little sick and ashamed at the end, but while it lasts, the experience is sublime.

Space Battleship Yamato drinks at Family Mart

Space Battleship Yamato drinks at Family Mart

That’s why convenience-store tie-in campaigns that target anime and movie fans make so much sense. A limited-edition K-On! Choco Snack has proven to be hugely popular, so popular that Gigazine discovered that it had disappeared off the shelves of the local Lawson within hours of going on sale Nov. 9.  In addition to the K-On! Fair at Lawson, this month Seven-Eleven and Family Mart are also running campaigns. Here’s a round up of what’s on offer:

  • K-On!, an anime about five high school girls who form a band, is the focus of Lawson’s campaign. K-On! fans can purchase special yaki-soba sandwiches, cold cocoa drinks, sticker sets and caramel corn. Fans can also accumulate points by buying Gogo no Kocha drinks, which then qualifies them to win lottery prizes that include T-shirts, K-On! figurines and a custom-made electric guitar.  Lawson is also selling K-On! phone cards, K-On! figurines (from Nov. 16) and tote bags (that can be purchased on Loppi). The campaign runs until Nov. 29.
  • Fans of One Piece should set sail for Seven-Eleven. Customers who spend over ¥700 can enter into a prize draw to win special pirate-themed One Piece booty. Some drinks also come with a free cell-phone strap.
  • To promote the upcoming release of “Space Battleship Yamato,” Family Mart is running a special campaign until Nov. 29. Customers who spend over ¥500 can apply for a special lottery to win movie-themed goods. Sweetening the deal, Yamato-themed pastries and drinks are available.

Last chance for cheap smokes

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Red Bull and smokes

Buy today or pay the price tomorrow

To smokers in some Western countries, Tokyo’s looming all-time-high tax hike is a pittance – with prices increasing by ¥110 to ¥140, cigarettes here will still cost less than half as much as in New York or London. But everything’s relative, and an increase from ¥300 to over ¥400 has smokers planning strategies and convenience stores cashing in.

For years, single or double packs of cigarettes have come packaged with trinkets, from directly useful products like lighters and pocket ashtrays to more tangential goodies like sparkly makeup mirrors and canned coffee. (What’s that? You wish someone had compiled a site with photos of all the trinkets that come packaged with Japanese cigarettes for the last 10 years, sortable by brand or by type of giveaway? Done. ) Now some cartons, packs of 10 boxes, come with tote bags (buy three boxes, get a bag), the better to haul the goods home with. And people are stocking up. Convenience store cigarette sales this month have been double the sales of last September, according to Jiji Press. At Lawson, some 30% of cigarette sales have been in cartons. Signs for advance orders of cartons are ubiquitous at tobacco shops, convenience stores and even supermarkets. Orders made before the end of September will be charged at the pre-hike price, even if the cigarettes are picked up after the beginning of October.

There seems to be increased interest lately on Internet message board 2chan.net, too, in private importers like my-tobacco.com and Gala Store.  However,  people buying through these sites seem to have had varying levels of satisfaction with the buying experience, with some having to pay tax on delivery.

Lawmakers say the purpose of the increase, and future increases already being eyed, is to reduce the number of smokers and cut down on the 100,000 deaths caused by smoking each year in Japan. While anecdotally some people are saying this increase is enough to prompt them to quit, some are taking a different tack: Kyodo News quoted an economist as saying he’d stockpiled 1,000 packs already.

Japanese Twitter marketing campaigns make some noise

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Twitter’s little blue bird has landed in Japan and looks like it might stick around to build a nest: The microblogging site had almost 10 million views in April from Japan. Ninety-five percent of people polled in a recent survey said they knew about Twitter. Granted, goo Research and japan.internet.com surveyed 1,077 people who were already online, so we’d expect higher recognition than if they polled people on the street. But still, a huge increase from 12% in a similar survey taken at the same time last year. The tweet designated as the 15 billionth this past weekend was in Japanese. For the final nudge, Twitter will come pre-installed on 13 of SoftBank’s new phones this summer, and a free Twitter app for NTT DoCoMo’s keitai has just been announced.

From a marketer’s point of view, that’s a lot of potential consumers. How to grab their attention and keep it? The first wave of Japanese corporate Twitter accounts to play with the medium mostly chatted a bit aimlessly and offered Twitter-only discounts. Many of the accounts replied automatically to messages about the company’s product or shop that were posted in the common format “I’m at FamilyMart/eating udon/drinking coffee now.”

Continue reading about creative Twitter campaigns in Japan →

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