Archive for the ‘Ginza’ Category

Donpa: Cold water Dutch drip coffee in Ginza

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Donpa exterior

Tokyo is awash with delicious hot coffee brewed drip by drip through paper filters, “neru” flannel filters, vacuum-powered drip filters, and even pressed through those French contraptions. But precious little coffee is produced by the time-consuming, cold water “drop-by-drop” technique known as the “Dutch” method here in Japan.

Donpa glass containersFor seven hours, cold water moves from the topmost bowling ball-sized glass globe, held secure in its four-post wooden frame and held aloft by a woven rope net, down into a smaller beer can-sized cylindrical vessel, then lower down into the bottommost baseball-sized chamber, which empties abruptly horizontally right and left through some metal plumbing and then vertically earthward again through two needle valves each regulated by a control knob to allow a certain number of drops per minute.

This cold fusion of water and ground coffee produces a soft brew free of aku, the scum or foam that forms when cooking a nabe pot, declares the explanation posted below the apparatus.

Unlike the short aggressive chemical reactions produced by scalding water and bean, the cool lengthy commingling of still water and bean produces a milder, less bitter, and less acid brew.

Donpa coffeeOf course, this concentrated coffee essence must be diluted and reheated before serving. And this year, Donpa celebrates 40 years of serving such mizu kohi, or water coffee, in Tokyo.

Besides the unusual Dutch drip method, Donpa adds another touch to their coffee experience: natural cinnamon essence which marries very successfully with their soft mellow brew.

The place is a comfortable oasis from crowds of the Ginza. The flooring is with well-worn black hardwood. The dark tables and chairs are chipped and smoothed by decades of use.

Customers of all persuasions and generations stop by Donpa. The menu offers uncinnamoned coffees as well in all styles, plus tea, milk, and juices. Cinnamon toast or cheese toast or jam toasts of various seasonal fruits are served, as are house-made cakes and cookies.

Unfortunately, smoking is allowed in the large open room. Nevertheless, the room is well ventilated and keeping your lungs and taste buds relatively smoke free is not an issue.

donpa customer sleeping

Napping seems to be allowed. Just order a coffee, put your head on the table, and catch forty winks.

Donpa also sells beans, ground coffee, and the cold-brewed coffee essence if you want to make some at home.

Donpa: 3-4-16 Ginza, Chuo Ward. Tel: 03.3567.3189.

Open daily 10am to 10:30pm. Saturdays 11am to 10:30 pm. Sundays and holidays 11am to 10pm.

You can fine Donpa two backstreets behind the Apple Store and Chanel.

Ten-yo-ne tempura: Under the tracks in Yurakucho

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013



I have a soft spot for these hard places under the tracks in Tokyo. They scratch out an unglamorous life in the shadows of this gargantuan city.

Tenyone close up tendonTen-yo-ne is a minute or two from Yurakucho station and a world away, in a few hundred meters, from the glamorous Ginza.

For decades, Ten-yo-ne tempura has been serving up Edo-style tempura, dark and savory, cheap and delicious.

It’s a tiny place, of course, with a pale blond counter of smooth hinoki seating six.

On the other side of the narrow kitchen are a few small tables filling an unadorned dining space illuminated with the thin timeless wash of fluorescence. Every once in awhile, you can make out the rumble of trains passing overhead.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREA rack of newspapers and manga are available for free reading while you wait for your tempura to fry.

The jo-tendon (¥1450) is the dish of choice here. Glistening in their burnished gold batter, atop a bowl of freshly prepared rice, are two large prawns, a kisu white fish, some mushrooms, a shishito green pepper, a shiso leaf, and a small kakiage “dumpling” of sliced, mixed veggies and tiny shrimp.

The teishoku set menu includes a small dish of well-made pickled vegetables, a bowl of miso soup, and a tiny dish of seasonal vegetables sprinkled with sesame seeds.

A counter seat over on the right side is the most interesting place to sit.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREPositioned there, you can see the crowd of fresh vegetables waiting in the wings for their turn on the tempura stage.

Plus you can observe the master while he cuts, batter-dips, fries and assembles your tendon bowl.

The lunch for about ¥1000 is a great deal at Ten-yo-ne.

You can sit elbow to elbow with salarymen, office women, and sales staff from the nearby department stores and shops.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREIf you are up for an adventure, stroll down the underground passageway to the left of Ten-yo-ne. This narrow, tunnel-like alley is perhaps a kilometer or so long, filled with tiny restaurants, bicycles, and the ghosts of Tokyo past.


2-1-10 Yurakucho, Chiyoda Ward. Tel: 03.3591.0926. Open Monday to Saturday 11am to 9pm.




Nagoya-style Miso Tonkatsu at Yabaton in Ginza

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Tonkatsu, a slice of deep-fried breaded pork, is one of Japan’s most loved dishes. The arch-type dish features a crisply fried, mahogany-brown cutlet—either the luscious “ros” (loin) or the leaner “hi-re” (filet)—nestled against an airy mound of raw cabbage filaments, freshly shredded. A small pot of Worchester-style usuta sauce is always on the table to ladle over the cutlet and cabbage. And a dab of hot yellow mustard is usually swiped onto the edge of the plate for those who want a bit of fire to flavor their juicy morsel.

Some sixty years ago in Nagoya, the tonkatsu shop Yabaton started serving its cutlets enrobed in a slightly sweet, red soybean miso sauce. It was a huge success. Yabaton’s lone church of the miso katsu gospel is in the Ginza, a few streets away from the glitz and crowds of the high street.

The most popular order is the Teppan Tonkatsu (1365 yen). The deep-fried cutlet comes on a bed of freshly shredded cabbage sizzling and steaming on an iron plate. Some of the cabbage is softened, slightly sauteéd by the iron plate, but the cabbage under the tonkatsu remain crisp—providing both a textural and taste contrast.

Of course, extra red miso sauce is in the pot, and if you order the set menu (1765 yen), you’ll also get a bowl of miso soup, rice, and some small pink pickles.

For neophytes, Yabaton provides a tiny placard on the table with a set of instructions on how to proceed eating this novel dish:

•First, take a bite of the tonkatsu just as it has been served.

•If you feel the red miso sauce is a bit sweet, add a dab of mustard.

•For those who want to change the taste a little, add some freshly-ground sesame seed from the grinder.

Togarashi, red chili pepper flakes, goes very well with this miso katsu, try some if you like.

•Finally, there are many ways to enjoy eating miso katsu, enjoy them all.

How can you go wrong with instructions like that?

Yabaton: 4-10-14 Ginza, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03.3546.8810. Open 11am to 10pm. Closed on Mondays.