Archive for March, 2012

Coffee House Rouen: Siphon brewing outpost in Tokyo’s Omori

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Many coffee connoisseurs swear by the “neru” (felt filter) drip brewing method with its steady slow stream of newly boiled water drizzling over the soft mound of coffee grinds.

Others prefer the chemistry class approach of the siphon method with the single flame of an alcohol-fueled wick licking at the lower glass ball, heating the measured volume of fresh water until it suddenly boils and erupts upward into the top glass cylinder merging with the freshly ground coffee beans. The master will then extinguish the flame and stir the brew carefully, once or twice, until the newly created vacuum in the lower glass ball sucks the brewed coffee back earthward through the filter disk. A marvelous lesson in physics and aesthetics.

The crowded work counter in Coffee House Rouen in Omori is lined with half a dozen siphon apparatus. And the 70-something master turns out exceptional cups.

“Wiener Coffee” in the gaudy gilded cup is of my favorites. With each sip, the layer of cool, slightly stiffened cream floating on the surface, blends sensuously with the hot brew underneath.

Another winner is the “Cappuccino” in a tall narrow cup topped with foamed milk, a dusting of cinnamon, and a few slivers of orange zest. Each day a different straight bean coffee, such as Mandheling or Kilimajaro, is offered at a “sabisu” discount price of 320 yen.

Rouen is worth seeking out. It is only a few minutes walk from the East exit of JR Omori station. It is also only two-minute walk from Maru-ichi tonkatsu restaurant, one of Tokyo’s best. (More on this joint later.)

Coffee House Rouen. 1-36-2 Omori Kita. Ota-ku. Tel: 03.3761.6077. Open daily 7am to 9pm. Sundays 7:30am to 6pm. Holidays 7:30am to 8pm.




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.