Conversations with Gen-san 

“I disappoint some first time visitors, I think” Gen-san says, “because everything isn’t made with rare whiskeys and the bar isn’t decorated with expensive spirits.” I hold up an imaginary shaker and swing it back and forth, “You don’t have big movements either.” I add. We laugh then he disappears into the back of the bar, returning with two bottles. Placing them in front of us he states rather matter of factly: “I have rare spirits too. I just do not use them for my cocktails.” 

Bar Gen Yamamoto is far from a typical experience. But for those who care about food, you will not be disappointed. There is no other like him, no place like his bar anywhere on this planet. 

Bar Gen Yamamoto
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東京都港区麻布十番1−6−4
アニバーサリービル1F
*reservations are required

office@genyamamoto.jp // 03-6434-0652

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Kitchen Essential: Champagne Vinegar

Champagne vinegar is spectacular and every home cook should have a bottle stocked. For substitutions, various sites recommend Sherry Vinegar, White Wine Vinegar, Chardonnay Vinegar or even ‘Organic’ Apple Cider Vinegar.

The answer is: NO.

Champagne vinegar is made from the same grapes champagne is made of, and if you’re the type who substitutes sherry, ‘white wine’ whatever that means, chardonnay or apple cider for champagne, then perhaps an alternative is for you. But if you care about food then investing in a bottle is a must as champagne vinegar brightens dishes without an overpowering sourness. Think pink grapefruit vs grapefruit, lime vs lemon. The acid is very light and it is a quiet, subtle tart, extremely suited for delicate or bland ingredients.

My all-time favorite salad dressing recipe is Ina Garten’s vinaigrette (which calls for champagne vinegar). This dressing is so simple, I default for most of my salad needs and so versatile, I switch up the dressing and ingredients depending on mood or what’s in my fridge. There are two basic recipes I make the most (which I share here) and as of late, I’ve been making a more tabbouleh-Panzanella inspired version.

The core ingredients are still the same: tomatoes, red onions, English cucumber or Japanese cucumber kyūri because they have nice, crisp bites compared to the common American cucumber, American cucumbers work just as well, just scoop the seeds and cut into quarters. The only caveat is the salad needs to be served chilled otherwise the cucumbers lose their crispness.

I then add fresh mint, parsley or scallions and pita bread, brushed with olive oil and toasted in a skillet with champagne vinegar, salt, pepper, olive oil, with some lemon depending on the amount of herbs I add. (Apologies for the ambiguity, I barely measure.)

As the weather warms, Ina Garten’s vinaigrette and the variations will come in handy for sure. Recommended to all!

Enjoy.

Embarking into the Depth of Tokyo

In the middle of the train wreck that is Roppongi, where the women dress scantily and the men freely catcall, there is a small alley way and an iron gate protecting an entrance to an ivy covered wooden door that swings open only with a security card.

A security card? Really? I wondered, as my host hits her card and we head down into the basement.

At the bottom of the stairs a young man in a crisp white shirt and bow tie greets us and escorts us into the room revealing a lair resembling an extra large sitting room filled with dark oak furniture, bookshelves and cushy chairs. Rows of whiskey, bourbon and cigar boxes line the bar. It is smokey and dark but I can make out well dressed couples at the tables, gentlemen in tailored suits sit at the bar, the conversation level a mere murmur and it feels like I’ve stepped into the private home in a New England estate. I can’t help but gawk.

“The master (head bartender/owner) is an expert in smoking foods” my host says, as she curls into one of the padded chairs.

I want to know everything about this place and the man but it’s only my first visit. Unraveling the depths will most likely take a while because this is Japan. Where everything takes time and double the effort…

*The name is withheld because I don’t know the name.

Another ‘Only in Japan’: Insane Wine List

So I get a text to meet at this restaurant and when I looked it up I could barely find information on it. I decide to put myself in his hands because this guy knows food and wine, more wine than food but he knows enough about food to be a good dining partner.

I walk into the restaurant and a bit taken aback, it makes zero sense. If a thrift store for theater companies threw up the furniture and props into the room, this place would be it. The interior is cluttered with tchotchkes of gnomes and Japanese figurines, empty bottles of DRC (Domaine de la Romanée-Conti) and magnums of rare Dom Pérignon. The table has a bell to ring for service.

I am confused.

Well. I open the wine menu and I finally got it. Here is only part of it (not even a 1/3).

I’m no wine expert but even I was able to pin-point some rare names and vintages. But, I think the best part of the menu, was ‘other country’ sections and some of the best wine producers from countries other than France were added towards the end of the menu like an after-thought. LOL.

This weekend was full of firsts; more to come on my Saturday.
Ahhhh Japan, you are the best!

By the way, this is what we had:

Comtes de champagne and Corton-Charlemagne 2005

Mirror Pancakes in Aoyama

Mental flapjacks I fondly nickname ‘egg shell pancakes’ because they’re so crazy smooth, the surface almost mirror like. Located in Aoyama, you’ll definitely wait an hour or two but go during off-peak hours on a weekday and you may just skip the line. Pro-tip: this spot is known for the pancakes but if you look at a local’s table, everyone has an order of the soufflé. And for good reason: it’s another perfect soufflé in perfect Japan Land! 🥞🥞🥞

Ginza West Aoyama Garden
1-22-10 Minami Aoyama
Website click this
*no reservations

Precision at its Best

Perfect strawberries on a perfect parfait. Everything served at Ginza Shiseido Parlor is precise and perfect, using prime ingredients from all over Japan. This day, the Fukuharu-ka strawberries, an original species from Kagamiishi Farm in Fukuoka, were of course … perfect. White table clothed tables, Christofle silverware and custom flatware in the restaurant the omurice (on my Insta) is served. The Salon de Café, where the parfait is served, has a retro-glam feel. Pamper yourself with simple perfection that is another ‘only in Japan’ type spot. A Tokyo must visit 🍓🌸💞 福島県 鏡石農遊園産「ふくはる香」のスペシャルストロベリーパフェ、まいうー😭

Shiseido Parlor Ginza
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東京都中央区銀座8-8-3 東京銀座資生堂ビル

Tacubo 


It’s no longer a secret the Japanese make unbelievable Napoli pizza (David Chang just filmed a segment for Mind of a Chef in Tokyo) but don’t write off the Italian food cooked with Japanese ingredients. Take this stunning primi piatti from Tacubo in Daikanyama. Open for less than a year, they have already attained a Michelin star and quickly rated a top 5 Italian in Tokyo. The antipasti and pastas are beautiful but the real stars are the meats cooked to perfection in the maki yaki (薪焼き) firewood grill. The lamb is 💯🐑🐑🐑

Bookings are still not impossible but pretty soon, they will become another restaurant with hard-to-acquire reservations so if you are planning a trip here, I suggest visiting sooner than later.

Tacubo
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東京都 渋谷区 恵比寿西 2-13-16 ラングス代官山
03-6455-3822

*Reservations are a must