Monday, June 27, 2016

Tokyo Eats - Roppongi Area Part III

It's taken us a while but hubby and I are slowly exploring the Roppongi area for good food ^.^

This Hainan Jeefan Shokudo in Azabu-Juban was a discovery from last fall. Hubby and his colleagues stumbled upon it and that was that. Funny enough I don't like the Singapore chicken rice, but I'll give them due credit that the chicken rice here is out of this world! My god that breast meat is unbelievably tender and juicy. How do they do it?! Anyway, I prefer their curry to the chicken rice, because it tastes like mum's curry ^.^

Hubby just can't have enough of this chicken rice, while I can't have enough of this curry.

Gonpachi is totally touristy, and honestly I think the food here is meh at best. Supposedly, this is the restaurant that inspired Quentin Tarantino's House of Blue Leaves in Kill Bill Vol 1, where Uma Thurman's The Bride battles and defeats Lucy Liu's O-Ren Ishii.

But as you can see, the restaurant looks nothing like the one in the movie. The tiniest resemblance I see is the balcony that runs the entire second floor (third photo down), but that's about it.

Hubby's been here a few times for work related functions, and I've been twice. The second time I went we had the course meal, which was a little better than the a la carte menu but still nothing special. Also, it was extremely loud there, because the waitstaff constantly shouts and screams because they think it's entertaining or something. We won't go back if we can help it.

Aside from Hainan Jeefan Shokudo above, Roti Roppongi is another great find this past spring. They also have a branch in the Midtown building, but we've never been since they have a different menu and we like the Roppongi menu better.

For the past month we've been finding ourselves lunching here a lot, like one a week, kind of embarrassing ^.^" Ironically enough, we haven't ordered their rotisserie chicken yet even though this is their signature dish. Every time we go, hubby keeps ordering a burger while I stick with my favorite chicken salad (...and stealing his fries). Burgers and fries are our measure of homesickness, so I guess that just means we're a little homesick xD

Lunch comes with a drink, and among the choices includes this rose lemonade (left). One time I ordered the caramel latte (right) and regretted it, not because it wasn't good but because it was gigantic. Huge. I wish I'd put my hand next to that cup to show you how big it was. That cup must have been as big as my face. It was ridiculous.

Here's my favorite chicken salad. I hate salads, but I love this salad. It's very flavorful and the chicken is super tender. May be one of these days I'll order the rotisserie chicken after all!

These are all the different burgers hubby's tried so far. There are more because they change their weekly specials but I haven't gotten to those photos yet. Will post later.

Gotsui (okonomiyaki) was a recommendation from a friend who'd traveled Osaka and said she thought the okonomiyaki here was better than what she had in Osaka. That's a huge praise, because as you know, okonomiyaki is a regional cuisine of Osaka. So of course hubby and I have to give this place a try.

...And sadly, I can't really decide if it was because our friend had raised our expectations too high or what, but the food here didn't leave any particular impression with us. We might go back and try it again.

Having spent too much time in the Tokyo Midtown building last fall, I switched to loitering at the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower instead. Who would have thunk I'd be a mall rat at this age? Ha. Here are some photos of the beautiful blooms this past April.

Hubby and I grab lunch together even more often now, 3-4 times a week versus twice weekly before. Sadly enough, further exploration of this building only prove our initial impression correct, that many of the food options here are just underwhelming. Don't ask me why or how. I'd like to know the answer myself. That's not to say I don't like anything, there are a few places I love, but I'll start with the bad first.

First terrible choice: Blue Lily. I don't have a food photo for this place, because the one time hubby and I ate lunch here, the food made us ill. And it didn't even look appetizing. Our lunch arrived and we cringed just looking at it--everything was swimming in grease! We felt gross eating it, and our stomachs gave us hell afterwards. Never again.

Second terrible choice: Kasumi-cho Soba Masudaya on the restaurant (5th) floor. Hubby and I tried this place twice, and each time we were disappointed. It didn't taste like Japanese food at all but more like something we'd get at home trying to pass for Japanese food, below average at best. In a dense city with some 88,000+ restaurants (as of 2011) and more Michelin stars than Paris, below average food is terrible food. I'm not being snooty or harsh. That's just statistic.

Third terrible choice: AS Classic Diner. I've actually been here 3 times with different people who insisted on trying it. I hated it every single time. The third time I went I ordered the "buffalo wings," and the wings came out soggy and not fully cooked or fried, soaked in some sort of runny, clear garlic sauce that didn't remotely resemble buffalo wing sauce, and yes, it tasted gross. That was the last straw for me. Will not go back. Ever. Not even for friends.

Blah choice: Il Ritrovo. Been a couple of times with hubby. He thought it was average. I thought it was blah. Moving on.

Another blah choice: Betjeman & Barton Tea Room. This place isn't terrible, but it's not good either. The menu is very small and limited, and it doesn't change much, if at all. Seasons be damned. I've tried several items on 4 visits and nothing's wowed me so I stop going.

Now the good stuff: E.A.Gran on the 4th floor. This cafe serves lunch (soups, salads, burger, pastas, etc.), coffee, alcoholic drinks (beer, wine, etc.), and desserts (cakes, pies, tiramisu, ice cream). That's a huge menu to undertake so I won't blame them that their burgers, pastas, and most desserts don't impress. I don't order anything alcoholic here, and they also have very few tea options (in tea bags, not loose leaf).

However, their "Salad Plates" and "Lunch Plates" are fantastic! Here are 2 examples of the "Lunch Plates," and you get a little bit of a lot of things. At left are 2 small slices of yummy flaky toast (tastes like a croissant actually!) with sweet cream, a tiny cup of delicious cream of mushroom soup, a few bites of great salad, good potato salad, good pickled carrot salad, and either boiled egg and meatloaf or the Japanese version of meatloaf, aka the "hamburg steak," either choice is delicious because I've had both as you can see. 

The tiramisu (left) is great also, not too sweet with a great balance of mocha. Avoid the seasonal mango shortcake (right) if you can. I can taste the artificial flavoring in the cream and frankly, it tastes like plastic. Yuck.

Funny enough, the seasonal mango mint sparkling is quite tasty!

Their mocha (left), cappuccino, and latte (both at right) are adequate for me but might provoke a snort from other coffee buffs.

As usual, I'm saving the best for last: Harbs is a cake shop, tea room, and cafe all in one. And surprise, surprise, I love this place ^.^ Let me count the ways: big cake list with ever changing seasonal options, big tea list also with seasonal options, nice tables and comfy seats, and lovely serving staff. Can't complain!

One of my favorite teas they served is this fresh fruit tea. It's literally a pot of black tea steeped full of cut fresh fruits, so you drink the tea first and then you eat the fruits! They'll also serve a side of honey, with which I sweeten my tea and then I use the leftover for my fruits. Heaven!

Clockwise from top left: genmai, herbal, lavender, and orange mint teas. You bet I've tried almost all of their teas!

This sakura tea was a seasonal offering in the spring, and if I remember correctly it was strong green tea with pickled sakura blossoms, two each in the pot and the cup. When I poured the tea, the sakura unfurled and floated as I sipped. Beautiful, hmm?

The current seasonal offering is this honey lemon tea soda (left), which is literally black tea, Perrier mineral sparkling water, and slices of lemon steeped in honey. Tasty, but not worth the 880yen they charge, especially when I can make this at home using better ingredients. I'd rather pay for something I can't make or don't have. The royal milk tea (right) is good too but is super heavy, and I suspect they use cream in it instead of milk. I've ordered it a few times now and regretted it every time.

Okay, the cakes. It's no secret I have an insatiable sweet-tooth so you bet I love the cakes. But I have standards, and no I don't love all their cakes. To be honest, I think many Harbs cakes are loaded with mere heavy whipped cream as oppose to butter cream, etc., which I think is kind of cheating. Most cakes in Japan are this way so Harbs' hardly unique, but everyone's doing it doesn't make it "right." That said, when Harbs does get it right, they hit it out of the park.

Hands down my favorite cake there was the seasonal white chocolate cake: vanilla cake moistened with liqueur and sprinkled with bits and pieces of nuts throughout, white chocolate butter cream icing, white chocolate shaving on top. Just divine. I ordered it every time I went until they stopped serving it :( Bring it back, Harbs!

This was another seasonal offering that I sadly only got to try once before it went away. It was called the chocolate berry king or something  like that. Listen, I love chocolate but dislike chocolate cake, and yet they won me over with this chocolate cake. Got to respect that. Also the chocolate butter cream frosting was delicious, smooth and chocolatey but light and not too sweet. After I had this cake I took hubby back a few times, and every single time they turned us away with a mile-long line. By the time I decided to get it to go once and for all so he could try it, they had stopped serving it :( Bring this back too, please?

The below were also seasonal offerings though I didn't like them as much as the two above: mocha (or was it coffee?) cake, so strongly flavored of coffee that it was bitter, strawberry queen cake (or something like that...), good, but again just strawberry loaded with heavy whipped cream, key lime cheese cake, good, but a tad too tart.

I'll note that Harbs serves a few lunch items also, variations of this sandwich below. I made the mistake of ordering lunch here once and learned a hard lesson. First of all, it's white bread in Texas toast cut (read: super thick). Secondly, their "bacon" is actually Canadian bacon, i.e. thickly sliced ham, very fatty, pork belly ham. When my "BLT" sandwich came out, my arteries clogged up from me just looking at the plate--the whole thing was swimming in pork grease still dripping from the "bacon." I ended up using the bread to mop up the grease and cut out half the fat from the under-cooked "bacon." Because it wasn't bacon to begin with so they didn't cook it to a crisp like we do at home. Finally, for a "BLT" I got all of 1 slice of tomato and 1 leaf of iceberg lettuce, a terrible joke. For the sake of your heart, don't repeat my mistake.

Still love Momodori, although the service here's wearing my patience thin. Several times now I asked for less rice and my order came out with a full bowl of rice, which I then had to dig out half and save myself the bloating afterwards. I love rice, but I can't eat a lot of it, and I'm resentful they keep messing up my orders.

Hubby and I still frequent the North Tower for lunch, especially Afuri Ramen. We prefer Afuri over Ippudo, because while they're both ramen, one has a much lighter taste than the other. 

Hubby loves the signature broth with yuzu that's unique and unlike any ramen broth we've had. There's also a spicy broth that sells out all the time, so I still haven't had the pleasure of trying it yet.

My favorite so far is the tsukemen with spicy dipping broth, and I always order extra pork belly to share with hubby ^.^

And we still love Dashi Chazuke En of course. The current seasonal offering has unagi with sashimi (bottom), so I just give all my sashimi to hubby and he loves it ^.^

Since this past January, we've stopped going to Midtown so often (got sick/bored of it...), especially when Saikabo is no longer there. Now we only go for quick Uniqlo or grocery stops on the way home from work. Here are the last of the holiday lighting and decoration.

There's a Dean & Deluca store there as well as a Dean & Deluca Cafe, which is odd because the store itself already has a cafe in it. Here's my cafe latte, matcha latte (left), salted caramel latte, and coffee jelly (right).

Toraya is a Japanese sweet shop and cafe/tea room with a bigger branch in Ginza. They also serve a few items for lunch. I've been here only once to tried their signature anmitsu. Meh. Nowhere near Kanoko's quality or taste and way more overpriced. Will not return.

There's also a tiny in-and-out-lunch-stop branch of Senriba Nangshang Shorong (千里馬 南翔小籠). I came in once and ordered the standard mapo tofu for lunch. The mapo tofu was really good, but they must have dumped an entire container of salt in there. It was so salty I picked out just the tofu to eat and left everything else. Will not return.

See my previous posts:
- Tokyo Eats - Roppongi Area
- Tokyo Eats - Roppongi Area Part II


kuri said...

Hainan Jeefan Shokudo is great! Did you try the crab legs? Yummy too, and easy to eat, haha. Have you gone to Five Star Cafe in Nakameguro? I really like their Hainan rice too - and they have some yummy flan-like dessert (like mexican flan, properly done in my opinion). It's always super crowded, but if you go at odd times they can often squeeze you in - especially if it's one person or after work, haha.

Totally agree on Gonpachi! Touristy and noisy.

Roti is good, but I never went back after an experience where this loud American(?) was cursing up a storm - and there were all these families with kids dining there! We should have said something, but his group was clearly tipsy and obnoxious so we just got out of there as soon as possible. Also, in the corner there were some sketchy "organized" looking people so I wasn't crazy about the atmosphere in general, haha.

I really enjoyed getting lunch at Roy's in Roppongi Hills - luxurious and yummy, with a great view.

Heh, I prefer Ippudo over Afuri probably precisely because it's heavier, haha. Afuri is too light for me. Have you tried the tori soba at 156 Ichikoro in Azabu Juban? It's not as heavy as Ippudo but heavier than Afuri so you might not like it, but I still miss it.

And, I will encourage you to go to Piao-xian 飄香 in Azabu Juban for lunch (they have one in Ginza too, but the menu is boring there) - wish I could go there!

Okay, last rec is BOUCHERIE AmiaBras on Aoyama dori - the chef used to run our favorite French bistro in Nakameguro. We were devastated when it closed, but he opened his own new place! Top recs are the メルゲーズ lamb sausage (hubby doesn't like lamb, and I am a weakling about spice, but we both adore this spicy homemade sausage) and the juicy flavorful hamburg steak (if you find any place that does it better than here, let me know!), although I love the crispy chicken and duck, and the beef tongue is amazing... I will write a post - I forgot I didn't do that after the new restaurant opened. Lunch is a ridiculous steal at 1000 yen for many options.

I can't read your food reviews too often because it makes me miss it all!

D. said...

Hi kuri,

What crab legs?!? OMG I love crab legs!!! But in all my time at Hainan Jeefan Shokudo for lunch I've never ever seen any! Is this the dinner menu?

I looked up Roy's but it seems the Roppongi Hills branch has closed :(

You know what's really interesting with Roti? Their clientele has changed! Now, it's mostly the techie crowd (read Google and Apple) that lunch there, along with an occasional tourist family or two.

I really love Afuri because the tsukemen is just a tight heavier than their signature soup ramen, but still not as heavy as Ippudo. Though I like Ippudo too!

Will note Five Star Cafe in Nakemeguro, Piao-xian 飄香 in Azabu Juban, and Boucherie AmiaBras on Aoyama dori in Shibuya. Hubby and I are always looking for new places to try ^.^

Thanks for the recos!


kuri said...

Ah, the crab claws are probably only on the dinner menu :|
They look like this

So sad about Roy's T_T

I've never been to Roti at lunch so that may make a difference too. And I think we used to go there before Google moved their office to Roppongi, haha. Glad it's more wholesome now!

Heh, I don't usually like tsukemen because the noodles tend to be a tad chewier than I like. Guess I should have tried it at Afuri!

Tell me what you think of the other places! I do think they're reliable, but stuff changes over time :/
Oh, there's a great sundobu place in Azabu Juban - 田舎家 or something like that. The cheese sundobu is usually pretty reliable.

D. said...

OMG now I cannot unsee the crab claws--will go for dinner tomorrow! And will take copious photos and post on next Roppongi eats post!

Gah you make me crave tsukemen now too! So many things to eat, so little tummy (and too much fat...) T.T

Ah yes, thanks so much for the sundubu recos! Will add to my list!


kuri said...

Haha, sorry! That's the trouble with yummy photos - too yummy!
So jealous! Look forward to your next post!

Seriously, so little time and space, so much food. At least you walk a lot living in Tokyo, and portion sizes tend to be more reasonable.

D. said...

For some reason, walking a lot and smaller portions still don't help my harabukuro... =.="

kuri said...

Can you imagine how bad it would be if you didn't have the walking and smaller portion sizes? (  ̄- ̄)

D. said...

That's why when people at home tell I'll be losing weight living in Japan I think to myself, "well, actually..."

P.S. Had the Singaporean chili crab claws tonight. Will have to go back for the black pepper version. LOVED every bite ^.^ Thanks again for telling me!

kuri said...

Yay! So glad you enjoyed it! Super jealous :)

D. said...

Wait, but California has awesome food too, no?

By the way, I looked up 田舎家 and found this instead-- --it doesn't look like sundubu but a grilled skewers place?


kuri said...

Yeah, but the food is different, you know? Great for Vietnamese food and Chinese food (especially dim sum), but there's nothing like Piao-xian 飄香 in Northern California, and I don't think the clientele would support it. I think LA is a different story though. Have found some unique, consistent restaurants here though.
I think NYC is probably closer to Tokyo - you just have a much greater concentration of restaurants, so there are a lot of good ones you can find everywhere. Here, it's all much more spread out - I can find excellent Korean bbq, but I have to go to SF to get it. I guess I had years to find the restaurants that we liked in Tokyo, and not so long in CA. I need to find a good gamjatang place - there were so many excellent options in Shin Okubo. The really consistent places are mostly at least half an hour away or more, or really pricy, when we used to be spoiled for options in our neighborhood or work offices (Nakameguro, Azabu Juban, Shibuya heh).
It's an adjustment - slowly finding favorites! I had some yummy yakitori today (but the tsukune was average :/).

Sorry, this is the restaurant I meant: 純豆腐 田舎家

D. said...

Oh I hear you my friend. Whenever we move, it always takes hubby and I at least 1 year to find good places to eat. The problem is that we never stay long enough at a place to find more things we love about it. Very sad :(

Really? I know LA has great Vietnamese and much better Korean BBQ than SF too I've heard! But you know what's funny? The best Korean BBQ I've had was in SF LOL! xD

Will try Pao-xiang possibly tomorrow if we can get a spot. I've only lived in the outskirt of NY and not within NYC so I can't say much here.

Thanks for the tabelog link!!!


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