Tofu

Full of protein, healthy, tofu is a paste made out of soja. In Europe, it is usually considered as a boring item, diet oriented or special for vegan.

Here, it is part of the cuisine, and you can find all sorts of different tofus at the supermarket as well as hundreds of ways to prepare it. There are tofu restaurants, usually quite expensive.

My friend Francoise and I found one that we really enjoyed, in the Shimbashi/Ginza area, on the Ginza corridor. that was very accidentally that we spot it as it has a tiny entrance in between 2 large steakhouses and is on a 2nd floor. however, it is traditional, you are accomodated in small individual rooms separated by sliding rice paper doors and has a great menu.

With our little knowledge, we went to try out a bit of everything and it turned out to be a great dinner, we were full but not heavy. I recommended it

 

The only thing is that I am not even able to read the name of the restaurant!! it is located in Ginza corridor 7-2 on 2F – tel 03 6274 6933 – it is called Ohashi Ginza – post code is 104-0061 – you can book online!!

IHG Foodie – Singapore

Internationally acclaimed gastronomic connoisseur, Takanori Nakamura, explores Singapore’s Michelin-starred restaurants and street hawkers in “Sophistication: A Sensory Experience”, part of the ‘Stories of the InterContinental Life’ video series http://bit.ly/2rTNZTO

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Nagoya – a great hotel guests love

Thursday was business trip for me to Nagoya.

As this is the beginning of the Obon week, you can imagine that train stations and airports were packed. Even though JR has planned shinkansen in the Tokaido line every 4mn (how do we do in France that they cannot manage to get one train every 90mn to arrive on time, it always intrigues me), I had to let a large number of trains go until I could get a seat!

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I approached this trip with a pure business focus in mind and hardly any expectation on Nagoya. I have been there years ago and had not found anything special to it. I knew I would have an interesting afternoon as we had to review a specific segment of clientele where we need some work done.

Let me tell, what I found was extraordinary. Although the hotel does not enjoy the best location out of all luxury business hotels in town, it is a gem!! Fully renovated, beautiful restaurants and what a team!! So far, all I heard was that Nagoya people are “different” and they don’t like to spend. Instead, it was a friendly and outgoing bunch of people, all extremely competent and professional, smiling, attached to service, client oriented.

First surprise happened upon arrival. there was a meeting to taste the winter menu, each chef for each of the 6 restaurants was describing his new menu, the recipe, the preparation, the presentation, the ingredients. All the newcomers (young people just out of university) were religiously taking notes, at the end of the session, all could taste. When I asked whether it would be too early to try the December menu in August, all looked at me astonished, they explained this is why they do it, all have notes and have time to review, learn, ask questions and the chef to prepare orders, suppliers, produce etc.

 

We then moved to our meeting. After that, I was lucky enough to be here for the welcome celebration party for the new General Manager and again what I found was amazing – a great atmosphere, a buffet that some of our clients would envy, fantastic team, the owner present and mingling with his teams, the GM very open and approachable, the employees smiling and coming naturally to me asking questions, so refreshing

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Nagoya indeed has not got much too offer in terms of heritage and monuments BUT you could consider it as a stop on the way to Kyoto (only 30mn train), to enjoy the Nagoya Meshi, great cuisine, based on red miso, eel, deepfried meat, chicken wings. and enjoy the people!! thank you ANA Crowne Plaza Nagoya for this experience.

The Boston Museum is linked to the hotel, nice place, there is a shrine, the port to visit and the Toyota site of course.

Supermarket

This very basic chore never stops to impress me, every time I go for groceries, I discover new items, try out new food, here are some differences

Beer – Coming from Belgium, I thought we had a huge choice of items in a long shelf, well, here, all beers are stored in fridge sections, in a long shelf, but 90% comes in cans and you get god knows how many different type of strength, color, flavour, mostly from a couple of brands!! I only recognise one so far (Asahi grey can) and only this one comes in 4 different formats, S, M, L and XL

Fish – as you would guess, there is plenty of choice, one thing to remember, in Japan, sushi are displayed in the ready-meal section while sashimi come in the fish area, it sounds logical but good to know. Fish is almost always great value for money and much cheaper than in Belgium or Europe in general. To give you an idea, I can get a large sashimi plate with 12 to 15 pieces for 400 Yens (3.50 euros), 2 portions of salmon fillet would come around 300 Yens (2.50 euros)

 

One thing that I enjoy a lot here are the pickles, they are healthy, tasty, not to vinegared and there are so many different choices. for a guilty pleasure and more quality and taste, I pay trips to Isetan monthly to buy the best of all

Rice is still very difficult to choose and it comes better from a rice cooker, which I have not got yet. So, I buy a different one each time and make notes to be able to discern (maybe one day). During my trip to Niigata, where rice is at its best, I could really taste the difference, it is excellent up there, trust me!! try it!

choix de riz

 

so, all in all, nothing to do with what we are used to, here is how a typical shopping day looks like

Niigata

Niigata is in the North West of Tokyo, along the ocean, 800.000 inhabitants and is a calm prefecture, the area mostly lives from agriculture. It is said that Niigata enjoys the purest water and therefore has the best sake and the best rice in Japan.

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I could spend the afternoon with 2 of my colleagues who took the time to show me around and here is what I liked

There is the beautiful Hakusan shrine with a lotus park (hasu in Japanese) around, it reminded me of the south of France when I saw all these pine trees and the blue sky

 

It was a nice opportunity for me as Hirokawa San took the time to guide me on how to pray at the shrine. Now I know the order between the bows and the claps, the wish and the bow, etc.

What was spectacular was the observatory on the rooftop of the Niigata congress center (up to 3000 people, great site). it gives a view over the city, the access to sea, the river Shinano (longest river in Japan) and in the back Sado Island. so one more thing on my to do list, ferry boats take 2h40mn to reach the island though so not a short trip!

I heard it is a beautiful place and World Heritage will decide this Monday whether the island becomes listed

 

 

We finished the day in style with great sashimi and sushis, a lot made of seafood and not only fish, very very good, thank you!!!

 

 

Needless to say that along the way, I gathered a few additional new words for my vocabulary.

Did you know that the enblem of the region is the Japanese Ibis bird, named Toki in Japanese, reason why I took the Toki Shinkansen to come to Niigata, now, I will need to investigate the reasons behind every other Shinkansen name!

A salad factory

We knew Japan was lacking space, we also knew that many of the Japanese corporations had to diversify their competences to survive (Fuji film, Toshiba, Sony, Hitachi among others)

Did you know that #Toshiba and #Sony at least have developed technology to produce salad in a “factory”, they are also making use of former factories to convert them into green houses under LED. There is a mini sample at the #Itoya shop in Ginza. I could see this on Tuesday.

This made me think, am I eating healthy, properly in Japan? What is in my plate? Am I overtrusting Japan?

 

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salad factory

Sendai – food

The Tohoku region is known for the good food (Osaka remaining the hotspot for food in Japan).

Sendai and the Miyagi Prefecture have a lot to offer. Their main one is beef tongue

I did not get a chance to try it as there were some many other items to try that I simply had no time to fit it in the menus, next time

Seafood is recognised and I would highly recommend it, the fish was excellent as well as the oysters. fun thing, they sell seafood in vacuum pack as omiyage in the train station!

We went for sushi on the Friday evening in the west wing of sendai station there is a lovely sushi place good value for money, we had great fun and the quality was remarkable, arigato gosaimasu.

You can see on the plate that we got the classic ones but also raw almonds sliced thinly. the weird black thing in the middle is a pickled aubergine. they have them every where and we were not too enthusiastic about it. (we found it in our bento, at breakfast and during this dinner, clearly a common thing in the area)

One thing that Sendai is known for is Zunda and that is A MUST!! I absolutely loved it. Now, as a westerner, if you tell me, I will have a soya bean ice cream, I dont think I will go for it instantly however I highly highly recommend it.

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here is a bit of explanation and the Japanese version with nutrients explanation zunda

 

For those of you who do not plan a trip to Sendai, Zunda is available at Daimaru Tokyo and Haneda Airport.

I tried the shake and the pudding and both were equally delicious

BREAKFAST

Now, finally, I could have a Japanese Breakfast at the hotel with an explanation and it was fun.

Of course rice is on the menu, in my case I had rice with mentaiko from Aomori (one of the Tohoku prefectures), excellent

We had a roll that looked like vine grape, long and thin, sweet with meat taste

There is a Chinese origin rice that is stewed and that you can top up with seaweed, fried onions, pickles, excellent, anyone has the name? a very good option

there is also miso soup and I have been told that miso soup is excellent for hangover (resaca)

you will find the typical natto that I avoid at all cost, pickles, omelet, fish cakes (the white thing on the plate) that you find everywhere and can buy as omiyage, not very tasty and a bit chewy, the one at the hotel was the best we tried of all

Udon are also reknown in Sendai (see photo) and the famous Zunda this time is cream with mochi (rice ball)

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