Kanva was one of the best spots I visitied during my trip to Tokyo this year. Kanva specializes in Tanba region (Hyogo prefecture) food. Kanva's owner and chef is a good friend of my best friend and I have met him a couple times before when he was working for a very trendy cafe in Aoyama. He opened Kanva about a year ago and my friend told me how great his food was, so I was very happy when I managed to visit there right before I left Japan.
It is located in the heart of Tokyo, Shinjuku Sanchome. It is just behind the main street in Shinjuku where there are millions of bars and restaurants lined up endlessly.
Kanva only has two 4-seater high tables and the counter seat can fit 8 people so it is always packed. I recommend you reserve your spot if you want to go there.
Marinated grilled Tanba eggplant
Cold whole tomato salad
Octopus dressed with salted Japanese leek
Freshly-fried homemade fluffy satsuma age (tofu pati with vegetables)
I was so bummed out that I could try only a few of his items out of his mouth-watering menu. I picked an octopus dish and homemade satsuma age. I loved his delicate execution to keep the original flavor of the ingredients and still make it so flavorful. His food was so easy and comfortable that it makes you feel at home so that all you want to do is stay longer, eat more, and keep drinking.
Shark cartilage with Japanese salted plum
clams and squid with seaweed cream sauce
Tanba style fried chicken
Dried octopus, Japanese halfbeak, and thread-sail filefish with mirin
Rice and Tanba Yamabuki egg
The chef also uses seaweed (ao nori) in interesting ways. I have never thought of using it in cream sauce, for example. The seaweed was wilted and helped thicken the creamy texture and also added a slight oceanic flavor to the dish.
The miso marinated fried chicken is one of his signature dishes. The chicken was very meaty and juicy.
Dried mirin fish is a very traditional bar food in Japan. Beef jerky would be the equivalent food in the U.S. Chewing this with good quality shochu or sake makes me so much happier.
seaweed cream sauce risotto (not on the menu)
Kanva's hand written menu
Owner/Chef Mr. Shin Yamochi
Kanva did not disappoint me at all even with my high expectations. This is a very small place where you can easily get acquainted with others sitting next to you. We were swapping food and drinks with other customers and had a wonderful time. Kanva quickly found a place on my to my must go list in Tokyo.
3-8-5 B1, Shinjuku
Another place I enjoyed during my trip was Ichiro Ichie in Azabu Juban. This Robatayaki restaurant features seasonal vegetables, seafood and meat from all over Japan. Robatayaki literally means fire-side cooking and it is basically indoor BBQ. It started the Northern part of Japan where the cooking style serves both to prepare food and keep people warm during the severe winters.
The main dining area is a big counter seat and the main cooking section with indoor BBQ and huge wooden steamer is on the other side. In the middle of the counter, they display fresh vegetables beautifuly. Before you order, your waiter brings you a tray of these vegetables and explains what they are, where they were produced and how they can cook with them.
Aji (horse mackerel) sashimi;
Sautéed summer squash with sliced pork belly;
Fried green pepper stuffed with shrimp paste
My favorite dish from this evening was fried green peppers stuffed with shrimp paste. It was really a fantastic dish and I enjoyed it with a glass of mugi (barley) shochu on the rocks. I will definitely try to recreate this at home.
Chef serving our order from the kitchen; Grilled purple potatoes with butter;
Japanese pickles; Grilled corn;
Tsukune (chicken ball) with Japanese leek
Grilled rice ball with miso glazing;
Tamago kake gohan (raw egg and rice)
We ended our meal with these classic rice dishes. These are the ultimate Japanese comfort food. The first one is my husband's favorite, grilled rice ball. No need to explain, just a simple ball of rice was grilled on the fire with miso on top. The charred miso gave such a wonderful savory flavor and aroma. And then my favorite, tamago kake gohan. It is just a raw egg and rice. You whisk the egg with soy sauce and pour on the rice. Obviously, you can only do this with high quality eggs. I only feel like doing this when I am in Japan or near organic farms where I can trust the quality of eggs.
Ichiro Ichie is not awfully expensive but not cheap compared to other high-end izakayas. But I was very happy with their service and the quality of ingredients they served.
2-8-8 Azabu Juban
Ramen is one of the foods I eat at least twice when I go home. I really do not have a favorite place so I like to try different places each time. This year I tried three new ramen shops.
Akasaka Mendokoro Tomo in Akasaka
My husband and I were just passing by this ramen shop one day and we decided to go for it for our ramen fix. It just opened in May 2012 so it was only one month old when we were there. It is in the busy business district and it was on weekend and a bit late for lunch time so it was empty there. But I have heard later that people usually have to wait to get in.
We had two of their signature ramens to share.
Honjun Ago Dashi Shoyu Ramen (left) : This is pork and ago (flying fish) dashi mix base with soy sauce flavor. I am not a big fan of fish stock base ramen but this one was not too strong and had a good balance. It comes with a tiny dish of Chinese chili sauce to add on for a change of flavor. It is quite hot so be careful. If you like to enjoy the ago dashi flavor, it is better not to add any spice. It was certainly an interesting idea to provide the little condiments but honestly, it was a good ramen without it.
Tori shio Ramen: This is chicken stock base with salt flavor. It it very thick soup but the flavor was milder compared to what you can expect from the thickness. The topping was a very tasty tsukune ball (chicken ball) and it worked well with this soup. For this ramen, it comes with shoyu marinated kuki-wasabi but I could not taste much difference when I put it in. Again, I thought it was not necessary.
It was not my favorite kind of ramen but I still enjoyed them.
Akasaka Mendokoro Tomo
Hokkaido Ramen Himuro in Kinshicho
I went to Ramen Himuro with a group of 10 people after a big reunion party near by. It is very common to finish with ramen after drinking in Japan. In our case, we wanted to eat something before we headed to another place for more drinks and karaoke.
Hokkaido ramen is famous for miso flavor but I picked the shio (salt) ramen with extra scallion on top. The soup was pork bone base but it was light and flavorful. I wish I remember more details but I was kind of tipsy at that point. But I do remember it was really good. There are many creative ramen these days but I still love these classic, simple ramen flavors.
Ramen Himuro lets you choose to have a smaller portion of noodles with extra toppings for the same price as a regular ramen. It is a great service especially for women or the late night ramen fix.
We also ordered some gyoza (Japanese pan fried pot sticker) to share.
Hokkaido Ramen Himuro (Kinshicho ten)
Ganso Tonkotsu Ramen Fukuya in Azabu Juban
After Hokkaido ramen, my next and last ramen adventure this trip was Kurume ramen which is ramen from Kyushu prefecture, on the opposite end of Japan. Kurume ramen usually uses thin straight noodles with a strong pork bone stock, topped with some pickled ginger, scallion and sesame seeds. At Fukuya, you can choose how cooked you want the noodle from very soft, soft, regular, semi-hard and very-hard. It is a matter of your taste but for me, semi-hard is the best choice. At this type of ramen shop, you can also order "Kaedama" which means noodle refill. When you order a refill, the cook will put more noodles in the bowl for a small price. If you do kaedame, it is fun to try a noodle that is cooked differently the second time.
The soup was lighter than usual Tonkotsu ramen and I really liked it. Some hard-core tonkotsu ramen fans may not be satisfied though. There was a good-sized helping of pork cha-shu on top and it was good one.
Ganso Tonkotsu Ramen Fukuya
4-3-1, Azabu Juban