Even though it’s been a while since sakura season’s passed, the sakura near Kanazawa castle were too good to pass up for too long.
The end of March is still a bit early for somewhere as far north as Kanazawa, but there were still far more blooming than expected.
One major draw to Kanazawa, which I didn’t even really know about before going, is their large fish market called Omicho.
Comparing the crab I’ve had in Hakodate and the crab in Kanazawa, I’d have to vote for Omicho’s beating out Hakodate’s. In the case of uni (sea urchin) the fresher the better, not only was what I had incredibly fresh tasting but it also was firmer than most uni which usually has a bit of a strange immediately melt in your mouth texture.
Of course if this is all too real for you, you can always jump into a sushi restaurant in the area.
Coffeeshop Tera Coffee is a place that was sadly closed on my two trips back to Utsunomiya but I finally made good on an instagram promise I made over a year ago and made it there. Despite the name, this shouldn’t be confused with Tera Coffee in Yokohama.
The owner of the cafe came from Manu Coffee in Fukuoka and still uses their roastery for his beans, so there’s a lot of similarities between the two.
The espresso is well balanced with a medium body. It prominently has dark chocolate flavor and is very slightly tart.
Hakodate is a port town that’s well known for its crab and squid. There are quite a few choices for markets in the city, but Jiyu Ichiba seems to have all that you would need.
The best part is the ability to buy sashimi directly from the vendors and fins a nearby seat to eat at, though you could always just choose to go to the sushi restaurant in the building as well. If you do take the former option, there is also the ability to order some rice and miso soup by calling a number, in case you’re not big on just fish and daikon.
The crab is still a bit expensive, but still far cheaper at the vendors than any restaurant could offer. There’s also a good variety as far as scallops, tuna, red snapper, and of course squid are concerned.
Who could guess that a little shop two seconds from a major station like Ebisu, a place consisting of mostly large brand branches, could have such amazing espresso? The place is called Sarutahiko, and is almost like the Japanese answer to giants like Blue Bottle, Allpresso, Fulgen, and even Gorilla (yeah really, they can’t even pay their employees in New York) trying to dominate the Japanese coffee pie. Though I would love to have coffee pie from any of those shops.
The name is a pretty old Japanese style, 猿田彦珈琲, which makes it come off as some kind of kissaten (old style Japanese cafe). It really is, but this is a kissaten from an alternate universe where instead of shirking espresso and encouraging chain smoking, espresso is a focal point and no one smokes. They even continue the tradition of interestingly over-designed cups.
So how about that espresso? It has a pretty prominent salted caramel flavor and a medium body. It’s very bright, a bit juicy and slightly sour.
Some things in Tokyo make you wonder if Japan just really has some festishistic love of crowds. The Tokyo Coffee festival is one of them but is actually not so bad in the first three hours after starting. I had gone last year and went again this year earlier and with a mission. The festival’s not only a great time to sample coffee, but also a way to find great cafes outside of the Tokyo area.
There were some big ones there like And Coffee Roasters and Switch Coffee, as well as my favorite from last year, Otomoni Coffee (they were the only ones serving espresso last year). Considering the amount of cafes I sampled and the fact that they’re quite likely the best of thier respective areas I figured I’d list them freely, north to south.
Nagasawa Coffee (Iwate)
Foret Coffee (Nagano)
Tera Coffee (Yokohama)
Otomoni Coffee (Mie)
The Roasters (Wakayama)
And Coffee Roasters (Kumamoto)
Cafe Lulu (Taichung, Taiwan)
This is definitely going to be a bit contentious, but while the world has flocked all over Ippudo and the hundreds of other Tonkotsu ramen places, or even the fusion ramen places, shoyu (soy sauce) ramen has rarely been in the spotlight. Sano ramen is generally considered to be the best shoyu ramen and is the most popular in Tochigi and the neighboring prefectures.
The best shoyu ramen however, isn’t in Sano, but in Oyama (and Utsunomiya). The place I’m speaking of is Ippinko.
Ippinko is a common name for ramen places, so lets make it very clear that there are only 3 locations, 2 in Oyama and 1 in Utsunomiya. They were even voted the best ramen in Japan in 2014.
Besides beautifully clear ramen where vegetables actually add to the flavor instead of give people some false sense they’re eating something healthy, Ippinko is well known for its huge and delicious gyoza.
The Utsunomiya location is quite a trek and if you’re up for the challenge I would recommend just going to the original location in Oyama. However, while Oyama’s citizens will argue forever which location is the best, all three are quite amazing.
People really love Sapooro, and I think I’m starting to get it. Sapporo is a city where food and drink flourish, and where there’s that flourishing there’s usually good coffee. On my way to Sapporo through vigorous research (looking at instagram) I was able to find a third wave coffee shop in Sapporo: Baristart.
Baristart seems to be a one man operation run by the awesomely chill barista, Yuki, and uses beans from And Coffee Roasters in Kumamoto. Yuki was also able to give some information about a ramen spot that he likes as well as another third wave shop, both of which I’ll be writing about here.
At the time I went there were two blends on offer for espresso, and as you could imagine I made myself try both. The blends were labeled as all arabica and robusta blends, though the differences in flavor were more complex than that.
The sans-robusta blend had a heavy body with a slight citrus flavor note at the start. In the middle of the shot there was a good amount of brown sugary goodness and a bit of black tea flavor notes all around.
The robusta blend was a bit more heavy on the salted caramel flavor note. The body is obviously heavier and the main flavor I found was more of a bitter-sweet dark chocolate with some slight macadamia flavor notes as well.
To people in Tokyo, the beach usually refers to the Shonan area in Kanagawa a few minutes past Yokohama by train. That area has many hotspots for different things, but one spot that has it all is Chigasaki. You’ll find a lot of beach campers, wind surfers and traditional surfers in the area, and you’ll also find i don’t know coffee roaster.
It’s definitely a name that catches interest and invites one to say that despite the name they really know how to roast. During the weekdays they’re only roasting and there’s no option for coffee unless you brought a hand grinder and an aero press. But on the weekends you can try any of the recent, but not too recent, roasts in drip form or get a nice espresso. I’ll leave you to wonder which I chose.
The espresso is a bit dark which I’ve been noticing is a bit of a trend in Kanto’s third wave shops. This means that the espresso has a thick body and is very heavy on the salted caramel flavor. Beneath that, it is a bit dark chocolatey and tart.