T.Y Harbour Brewery and Big Food in Tokyo

T.Y Harbour Brewery is like stepping in to a small hub of the US in Tokyo; complete with English speaking waiters, classic American menu (with a twist), micro-brewed beers and a bay view.
When I visited on a mid-week public holiday by 12pm the terrace was full, and by 1pm also the large restaurant inside, which is testament to the quality of food and service here.

The menu is packed full of classic sandwiches, burgers, sides and salads. We ordered the caesar salad, which was nothing new, except that the half portion was huge, and not slathered in half raw egg (as is often the case for caesar salads in Japan). This was followed by the tangy and crispy crab cakes, definitely a highlight, and wedges with sour cream and mango chutney. Despite already being full, we got the burger topped with blue cheese (on top of the cheddar cheese which is standard), and the banh mi hot dog. You can choose various sizes for the burger, but even the medium seemed huge! The banh mi hotdog, despite an interesting flavour combination of sausage, shaved carrots, pickles and jalapeno, was spicy and delicious.

And of course, I cannot forget the beer. To figure out which brew you like, get the beer tasting menu, for a gulp of each of the brewery's classics. For me, I'm boring and stuck with the 'easy to drink' version, and yes I gulped it down quickly and happily whilst looking over the slightly murky waters of Tokyo Bay.

T.Y Harbour is situated on Tennozu Isle, just a 10-15 minute walk from Shinagawa Station.
Website with menu can be found here.

Caesar Salad - Add the chicken and avocado please
Wedges to the right, Crab Cakes to the left
Jalapeno-laden hot-dog 
Burger with blue cheese

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Shimokitazawa- Tea, Cake and Eggs

Shimokitazawa, a trendy neighbourhood west of Shibuya, is home to many university students, somewhat over-priced vintage stores, and some of the cutest tea, cake and eggs shops I've ever seen. Although I am more generally a fan of the weekend brunch, I decided it was time to branch out and try afternoon tea in Shimokitazawa instead.

My friend, a local of Shimokita, took me to Second House cake shop, hidden away behind the maze of streets from the station. Originally from Kyoto, I ummm'd and ahhhh'd as I tried to decide which cake to choose. I ended up going for the simple apple cake with cream cheese icing which was a treat, and nicely complimented by the freshly brewed jasmine tea.

Months earlier, my friend had told me of a shop in Shimokitazawa which sells nothing but eggs, intrigued, I was dying to go take a look. Toyonchi no Tamago is for the egg connoisseur,  and like a fine wine, chocolate or square shaped melon, why not pick someone up a gift box of mixed eggs for their next birthday! Although it's in Japanese, you can get an idea from their website about this shops appreciation for all things egg. Personally, I love the idea of bringing a friend a few gourmet eggs and whipping them up a quick omelet, or whichever eggy delight you choose.

Shimokitazawa is only one stop from Shibuya on the Keio Inokashira line and is also easily accessed from the Odakyu line; so if you have a free Saturday or Sunday, pop over for some fun exploring, and no doubt you will find something a little bit different to the Tokyo you know.


Bills (Again): Yokohama

What better way to celebrate Culture Day in Japan than to visit one of my most loved Sydney chef's restaurant, Bills. This time in Yokohama. Surprisingly, many other people in Yokohama seemed to have the same idea! After a 45 minute wait we were taken to our seat amongst the young couples, puppies, and families on the terrace of the Red Brick Warehouse.

This is now my third visit to Bills in Japan (the first two were to his original restaurant in Shichirigahama) and whilst the food was still delicious, the surroundings lacked some of the charm of sitting on the balcony above the Japanese sea side. I resisted ordering the same things as before, and opted for the potato and feta fritters with cucumber and dill which was crunchy, fresh and delicious. The wagyu burger, although on the small side (I swear this was bigger two years ago?), was juicy and nicely finished with home-made zucchini pickles. And of course, I couldn't leave without the classic Bills ricotta hotcakes. Caramel, banana, ricotta, yum.   

A definite positive of Bills in Yokohama is it's easy access from Tokyo. You can take the Tokyu Toyoko line directly from Shibuya to Minato Mirai, which is a five minute walk form the Red Brick Warehouse (Akarenga). Whilst in Minato Mirai, why not check out the art gallery and take a stroll along the water. It's without doubt a nice break from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.

What's in a French Name? Hong Kong Dim Sum: Le Parc Ebisu

Whilst the French name and kitsch French decor may remind you of a bad bistro, don't be fooled by this restaurant's exterior. Le Parc does some of the best dim sum (or yum cha for my Australian friends) in Tokyo. Personally, I am a huge fan of Din Tai Fung but have been disappointed by it's offerings here in Shinjuku, thus I continue on my hunt for weekend dim sum.

Le Parc isn't anything to scream about, but the prawn dumplings, crispy spring rolls, xaio long bao and spinach with garlic were all very satisfying, and being an easy five minute walk from Ebisu station, there is nothing to stop you enjoying some dim sum delights.

Next stop is the Grand Hyatt's all you can eat China Room dumplings. Will report back shortly.




Ahiru Store - A Cosy Wine Bar in Shibuya

On entering this mini wine bar on a street behind Kamiyamacho, you are met with patrons standing at wine barrels, chatting happily whilst sipping wine, and waiting for a counter seat to open.

Luckily enough it only took one glass of wine before we could get a seat overlooking the kitchen complete with large bread oven, pate's cooling on the stove top, and our host carving up cured meats and cheese in front of us.

Don't bother asking for a wine menu; the selection of wine's are lined up along the back window of the store. If you are unsure what to choose, the friendly store owner will happily assist you in selecting the right wine for your taste. And despite initially picking a wine a little too sweet for my liking, he was quick to offer up a dryer option. Whilst the wine and setting are lovely, the home-made French-esque food is tres delicious. Our pork rillette came with a selection of breads made in house, one filled with apricot which acted as a nice compliment to the pork. The salad was crunchy and delicious, and the selection of cheeses varied, fresh and the perfect end to the meal.

Wine bar's seeming to be popping up all over the backstreets of Shibuya and Tomigaya, but this is one of the best I've tried, and is the perfect place to start a Saturday night, or wind down after a long days work.

Ahiru Store can be easily accessed from Shibuya or Yoyogi-koen stations. Just follow Kamiyama-cho until you see a Seven Eleven, turn the corner and the little wine bar it sitting just behind. See map below.



Sunday Wanderings in Daikanyama - Eataly Deli and Surroundings

Daikanyama is a small, trendy neighbourhood tucked between Shibuya and Naka-meguro. On a lazy Sunday, with a hankering for pizza and cured meats, I headed to Eataly for some fresh pasta, pizza, cheese and prosciutto (yes we went a little crazy). Eataly is a casual restaurant serving authentic Italian cuisine made from fresh and imported goods. And if you like what you're eating, just head to the nearest shelf in the deli to find endless varieties of olive oils, wines, pastas, meats, and any Italian staple imaginable.

As the perfect cure to our overly full bellies, we wandered from Daikanyama towards Shibuya passing boutique stores including Dita Eyewear, A.P.C clothing and Kitsune records, and spotted some little cafe's I can't wait to go back and try.

All in all, a very nice way to end a weekend in Tokyo.

Along with the plate of cured meats and pizza we had pesto pasta and a cheese plate. Such piggies

This was an organic cafe we stopped by which looked beautiful. I think it's name is Yemen Cafe

Boutique stores to explore

Eataly is easily accessed from Daikanyama Station



The Real Crepe Deal - Cafe-Creperie Le Bretagne

Tokyo's crepe scene, particularly for those who frequent Harajuku, consists predominantly of street side crepe stands, surrounded by bright plastic models, selling young girls endless variations of creamy goodness. Whilst the crepe connoisseur may gasp at such a display, fear not, as around the corner in Omotesando is what claims to be Japan's first official Creperie, Cafe-Creperie Le Bretagne, serving authentic French-style crepes.

Approaching the cafe, I was greeted with a 'bonjour' from the Japanese waiter. The cafe is decorated with traditional ceramic plates and paintings from Bretagne, which set the scene for our French lunch in Tokyo. This is complemented by the head waiter, who willingly discussed with us the methods they used to make the crepes, as well as the amazing home-made ice-cream. 

The menu is packed full of both savory and sweet crepes, from the simple cheese, ham and egg, to smoked salmon, grilled vegetables and anchovies. The savory crepes, with its sides carefully folded in the shape of a square, are crisp and delicious on the outside, and meltingly good on the inside. The sweet crepes tell a different story. Filled with stewed fruits, chocolate, or simply maple syrup, and topped with a slightly sour ice cream, made from butter milk imported from France. The side dishes, such as salads and soup, are also fresh and tasty. This is all washed down with some sweet and bubbly cider. 

Le Bretagne's website explains how the crepes are made specifically in the Bretagne style with the finest buckwheat flour and ingredients. A perfect lunch spot for those around Omotosando, this is well worth a visit.

Sparkling cider served in little cups
These waiter's spoke to me in French, I was too flattered to mention I didn't speak a word of it
Simple crepe with maple butter - yum
Classic mushroom, cheese, ham and tomato crepe with scrambled eggs
This one had Gruyere cheese and chili on top! 

The creperie can be accessed from Omotesando station.
Details are here.


Tokyo Food - Brunch at Two Rooms Aoyama

On my continuing quest for great brunches in Tokyo, I headed to Two Rooms in Aoyama to try the set brunch menu. I often come to Two Rooms for a late night cocktail on their balcony, which looks out to Yoyogi Park and Shinjuku. On this balmy summer Sunday I couldn't help try Two Rooms' signature brunch specials, the eggs benedict and bloody mary (which I discovered is also wonderful out on the balcony during the day).

The crisp white linen on the tables, suited waiters and open stainless steel kitchen set the scene for quite the decadent Sunday brunch. The brunch menu, only served on weekends, is around 3000 yen and comes with choices from breakfast-style bircher muesli and french toast, to later-in-the-day burgers, sandwiches, meat and fish dishes. Keeping with the brunch theme I went for the sweet corn fritters and eggs benedict.

Despite being warned by one friend of the tiny serving sizes, I did not see this as a problem. The two small, round sweet corn fritters with a mango sauce accompaniment were the perfect start to the meal. And as the mammoth plate of eggs slathered with sauce made its way to our table, I was glad that the starter's were so small.

watching the chefs at work

sweet corn fritters
fruit salad
eggs benedict

signature bloody mary

Two Rooms really is a great spot day or night. Whilst the food is good, what I really go for is the balcony (hard to come by in Tokyo), the bar and the cocktails (they also do a fantastic dirty martini).

Two Rooms can be accessed easily from Omotesando station.

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Trump Room Shibuya - Chandeliers Not Drinking Beers

Yes, you will not find many beer drinking patrons at Shibuya's Trump Room. Through the unmarked door, and beneath the chandelier covered roof and mirrored walls are the electro / techno / hipsters of the Tokyo club scene. Behind the bar stand two doll-like Japanese women with long flowing hair and great free-pouring techniques. And up in the DJ booth, anyone from local DJ's to visiting global guests, who blast heavy based tunes to start your weekend. If you are looking for chart topping hits or a version of Roppongi in Shibuya, this is not the place for you. Come for the atmosphere, the fun and the sometimes crazy fashion.

Weekly events are listed here.

Trump Room is located in Shibuya in the backstreet behind TGIF restaurant. On first glance you won't see it, but keep an eye out for the bouncer close by the door.

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Falafel Fantasy at Ta-Im Ebisu

Ta-Im is the latest cafe to the Israreli food scene in Tokyo, and good news for me, is it lives over in the West Side, Ebisu. Sometimes sushi, a bowl of udon or even katsu, just doesn't cut my weekend food cravings, and as a person who drewls over warm fluffy falafel's I could not wait to get to Ta-Im and give it a try.

A ten minute walk from either Ebisu or Hiroo Station, Ta-Im is set back from the main road on the corner of a quiet street. The green glass bottles and bold blue writing on the shop window make this place unmissable. The small shop fits a bench which seats about 6 people, behind which the owner Dan Zuckerman freshly prepares the tabbouleh, warm pita and falafel to order.

The lunch set, at 980 yen, truly was a feast. Warm pita bread with fresh hummus drizzled in tahini and olive oil comes out (including an amazing spicy coriander accompaniment), followed by tabbouleh, chips, and the king of the set, six freshly fried falafel's. Every part of the set lunch is packed with flavour, and leaves you wanting more and more. Another favourite Middle Eastern dish of mine, sweet halva, was also on the menu, but did not dare try fit it in my overly satisfied belly.

I have been gushing about this place, and despite the myriad of restaurants and cafe's I am dying to try in Tokyo,  I am tempted to return to Ta-Im this weekend.

Delightfully crisp balls of felafel
Lunch set menu 

Ta-im website can be found here (In Japanese but good pictures).


Fuji Rock Festival 2011 - Tips and Highlights

It is impossible to describe in a single blog post the balance of harmony and chaos which is Fuji Rock. The setting amongst the mountains and rivers in Naeba is ridiculously beautiful, the multiple stage set up, not to mention hundreds of food and drink stalls, is awe-inspiring, and of course, the music is unmissable. I therefore will share just a few tips and highlights for those who want to venture on the Fuji Rock adventure in years to come.

Before heading to Fuji Rock I did some research on how to get there and where to stay, and was a little disturbed by people's comments that I would be lining up for hours to get on buses, and having to camp kilometers up on one of Naeba's slopes. Being sufficiently freaked out, my friend and I decided to take a Thursday night Shinkansen to avoid the crowds and get a decent camping spot. This was really the beginning to a flawlessly smooth weekend away. Leaving Tokyo Station around 7:30pm, after some initial tent-set-up confusion we were settled and ready for the first drink of the weekend by 10:30.

It is possible to stay at nearby hotels and b&b's, and despite at times wishing I had a proper bed, and more so a proper bathroom, I highly recommend camping within the festival grounds. There is a thick air of excitement around the campsite, and you are also a lot closer to the action of the festival. Each day in fact, I took a quick power nap around 4pm in the tent to prepare myself for the night ahead. Whilst the portable toilets and showers leave little to be desired, the campsite does have a good onsen where for a small fee you can wash yourself efficiently and revive your sore legs in the steaming hot bath.

But of course, you do not go to Fuji Rock just to camp. You go for the music. Each year Fuji Rock draws huge international acts; this year headlining were Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys and the Chemical Brothers. Their elaborate stage shows were fantastic, but what really excited me were the smaller indie bands and international acts from places like Congo and Sudan (which generally played in the Red Marquee and Orange Court). It was at these shows that people would get out of their portable seats, stop politely clapping and swaying to the music, and start going crazy. One late-night act, Congotronics vs Rockers , really exemplified this to me. There is something drug-like to the African beat which forced everyone to scream and jump around for the whole two hour set.

And after two hours of jumping around there is nothing better than to get a vodka with fresh squeezed grapefruit juice and a tasty cheeseburger from one of the international food stands, relax by the river and take in the atmosphere. Around the many stages, amongst the forest and within the river are various art and light installations which come alive at night. Huge eyes adorned one of the tallest trees, and 10 pointed fluro stars hung from the canopies, amongst the disco balls which glittered from within the forest.

My final tip is bring wet weather gear. It rained almost the full three days we were at the festival, and I survived in my flimsy poncho and cheap Muji rain boots, but learnt a good lesson from the Fuji Rock veterans around me; bring proper wet weather gear. Likewise, if camping, it's good to be prepared for the wet weather with some tarps, and preferably a mattress which is raised off the ground.

Whether you are a music fanatic, or just someone who loves to be outdoors and try new things, there is really no better way to spend a 3-day weekend in summer.

Tent city - better than any hotel in town

A river installation of colourful, friendly-faced rocks

Australian band - The Middle East

Spectacular light show, and bouncy balls at Coldplay

Some Doraemon's enjoying the one hour of sunshine