My favourite chic Soba

Soba are buckwheat noodles, very common in Japan, they date back from the Edo period where it was discovered that this wealthy dish, unlike white rice eaten by wealthy citizens, was not developing a disease at the time

there were at least a couple of soba places in every village in Japan. Nowadays, they are everywhere almost, from very basic to very sophisticated. Here is my favourite one, Honmura An.

Located just off the Roppongi crossing in Tokyo, it is very easy to find although in a tiny quiet street. the style is minimalist, modern, light wood, concrete because the owner was inspired by his New York times when he reviewed the place.

This is a family business, when the parents grew old, they asked their son to come back and run the place, which he did. Until then, he was running his own Honmura An in New York and it seems everyone knows that one rather than the Tokyo one.

it is always friendly, excellent service, food is amazing, fresh produce in season, prepared simply to enjoy the taste. I had the best Matsuyama potatoes for example. Every time I have been, it has been a delight! Yukiko San, thank you for introducing me to the best soba

Before that, I was not too keen on soba that I found sticky, tasteless, nothing fancy really. Now, I can tell you I became a fan BUT with high standards

 

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Wakkanai

That’s it!! I can now say that I explored Japan from North to South, from Wakkanai to Ishigaki!!

We spent 3 days at the end of November in Wakkanai, and visited the northernmost point there.

CLIMATE

VERY cold and snowy already

 

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AMBIANCE

SOOOO unique… it felt like there were no inhabitants, very special, hardly any cars, hardly any people outside in the streets, very old fashioned shops. Most of them have signposts in Russian since we are so close.

There was a very limited choice of restaurants in town, so much so that we had to plan our 3 days around that list and booked them, stick to their working hours, etc

it is also the last train station up north, 2 trains a day to Sapporo, first time that we go to a station where you watch the train coming to you through the window as the rail does not go beyond (see above photo)

 

FOOD

amazingly fresh, simple, fish based, excellent, every meal was of very good quality

we had one lunch above the fish market, that was cute, 2 senior ladies run the place, tatami rooms, set lunch with excellent sashimi

we also had a very good dinner in a sashimi/sushi place

 

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overall, great if you like fish

We realised it had been so many years since we could tell the closest restaurant chain was over 3h drive away (no starbucks, no mc donald, no TGI etc,), there were actually no chains at all and it was even difficult to find a Kombini!! On the Sunday, I needed cash and could not find any ATM, go prepared

PEOPLE

really nice and smiling, curious, happy and proud to see us visiting, willing to share

 

HIGHLIGHTS

fish market – a small place but fantastic products, the fishmongers really tried hard to show us, explain, and even took us in the back office to see the crabs

Northermost point – so windy and cold but wild and beautiful, this is a 40mn bus drive from the train station, very easy, there is a bus every 20mn, they dont take suica or pasmo, you have to buy the ticket at the counter in the station or in the bus if you have change. Once there, apart from the monument itself, there is a hill with a windmill, a shrine and a breathtaking view over Russia and the sea, but my god, was it cold and windy that day!!

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this is a great place for a quiet week end – hiking and walking in the summer must be beautiful – in the winter, meditation, peace,

on day 2, at breakfast, there were deers in the garden behind the hotel. on day 3, we saw more of them wandering in the streets. a different Japan all together, we will go again! loved it after all

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Department stores

Japan is a consumer market, people love to spend, buy, they love brands, but they also love details, nice things, brands, luxury, quality. Along with that, for over a century, there have been a lot of department stores (Takashimaya, Matsuzakaya, Isetan, Mitsukoshi, etc)

My favourite remains Isetan for the B1F, food department and the 5F, tableware. I must say I also like Takashimaya historical building in Nihombashi for the architecture and the style.

They sell beautiful cakes made by Dominique Ansel and delicious Swiss Chocolate Laederach that I highly recommend

If you ever read The Ginger Tree, wonderful book written by Oswald Wynd, you will read part of the development of these stores in the early 1900’s

 

Food and more Food – this country is about food

Japan has so much to offer when it comes to food. I have 2 friends visiting currently for 2 weeks and both of them never eat raw food nor seafood. I thought this might be a challenge but we are reaching the end of the 2 weeks and we have not finished yet our wishlist. this is endless and always so delicious, oisshiii!!

I took them for lunch on a couple of occasions, restaurants are a commodity here and you can get a set lunch for JPY750 to JPY900 easily and that will always include a bowl of rice, pickles, a bowl of miso soup and the main dish, sometimes a fruit portion, it is excellent value, almost always good and healthy at all times

 

Kappabashi

This is an area in the north of Tokyo, close to Asakusa and Ueno, walking distance from both and at metro stop Tawaramachi where you can find all you need to cook

This long street is full of kitchen utensils shops, initially dedicated to restaurants but that grew for tourists and individuals. anything you want is there at very good prices

worth a visit, if you are into cooking, I spent 3 hours there wandering on a Saturday

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Dinner (rather lunch) in the sky

What a nice surprise that very last minute, I get a chance to join the afternoon in the Sky at the Cinquantenaire in Brussels. Thank you Villa Massa, Fabienne and Alain!! I wanted to do it, so great!!

dinner in the sky, brussels, cinquantenaire, good food

What an experience – you get a nice welcome in a lounge prior to being “attached” to your seat around the table – I would say 24 pax around

It is a one-hour tour on top of the world – in my case, I found it great as I knew the Cinquantenaire from the bottom, from the roof of the arch and now on top of it. The weather was beautiful and the food just great.