First time in Napa Valley! True izakaya run by Californian chef

First time in Napa Valley! Tru... First time in Napa Valley! Tru... First time in Napa Valley! Tru... First time in Napa Valley! Tru... First time in Napa Valley! Tru...
By Eri Shimizu / Editing: Elli Sekine

Although Napa Valley, known for its wine producing, is located in the Bay Area where many high-end and high-quality Japanese restaurants already exist, there was no Japanese restaurant in the valley. Finally, last year in 2016, Japanese restaurants such as “KENZO”, a high-end restaurant, started to open one after another. "Miminashi” is the first restaurant which opened there in May, and gained popularity quickly. The name, “Miminashi” was derived from a well-known Japanese folk tale, “Miminashi Hoichi”, which was chosen by the owner/chef Curtis Di Fede. He wished that the restaurant would last for a long time as a good restaurant just like the character Hoichi in the story who endured hardships throughout his life.

Mr. Curtis is from an American family from Napa, which has continued for four generations, which is rare in the US. He also grew up in Napa. After being trained in Michelin-star restaurants in Napa such as “Bouchon” and “Terra”, he became the chef of “Oenotori”, a southern-Italian style restaurant which was opened in 2010. Their casual menu using local ingredients gained a lot of repeat customers, and “Oenotori” grew to be a very popular restaurant loved by the local customers. However, in order to stay with his principle which is to stick to his original techniques, Mr. Curtis left “Oenotori”, and opened his own place for the first time. But, why a Japanese food restaurant? 

For 3 years after leaving “Oenotori”, he went all over the world to eat specialty foods of each country. His first encounter with yakitori was at an outside vendor in Shinjuku. He was shocked to know that so many different parts of chickens were used, and there were so many different textures and tastes. He also fell in love with the lively atmosphere of izakaya-style restaurants, and wanted to bring it back to Napa, which triggered the opening of this first restaurant. In order to break the stereotypical image of Japanese food which equals to sushi, “Miminashi” purposely does not serve sushi. The heavy white wood door with numerous protrusions designed based on the image of Mt. Fuji is impressive.

Once you step inside, you are surrounded by customers who are filling the place in a noisy and lively ambience. There is a bar counter with wine and sake bottes in the middle, which naturally draws you to liquors first. On your left, there is a yakitori counter and tables from where you can see the Binchotan charcoal burning, and on your right are more private booths.
The main menu items are Binchotan charcoal broiled yakitori, ramen, and a-la-carte dishes. The chickens are brought in uncut, so in addition to regular yakitori parts such as liver and gizzard, they can serve rare parts in the States such as tail, hearts, and gristle. They even serve grilled skewers with ingredients other than chicken such as pork short rib, Maitake mushrooms, etc. The variety is as wide as they are in Japanese yakitori specialty restaurants. They even serve chicken sashimi when French blue leg chickens are available. For the ramen dishes, they serve different flavors such as rich tonkotsu or light seafood base depending on the weather of the day. As their particularity, Hokkaido konbu seaweed is used for all the ramen soup base as a common ingredient. The toppings such as marinated eggs, house-made kimchee, poached chicken slices, etc. are also offered varied depending on the day.  

The ingredients are bought at the local markets weekly by the chef. He creates original a-la-carte menu items using local organic and seasonal ingredients that he buys. Examples of these are “Roasted Beets Salad” ($12) (made with popular Californian ingredients such as beets and blood oranges with nori and wasabi dressing), “Grilled Romanesco Cauliflower” ($8.50) (made with roasted cauliflower topped with yuzu, bonito shavings, and fried tempura batter crumbles), etc., which are a unification of local ingredients and Japanese flavors. The sashimi plate that changes daily is served with original condiments such as blood orange pepper, and fresh wasabi aired from Japan, which is an extra charged item.

The drink menu is selected with food paring in mind. The wide variety includes all kinds of sake brands from Hon-jozo to Junmai dai-ginjo, Japanese and local beers such as Asahi, COEDO, and Hitachino, and European wines.

Mr. Curtis is very particular about the soft-serve ice cream ($7). He encountered Hokkaido soft ice cream in Japan, and was so impressed. He wants to make it a popular American dessert that can surpass the boom of frozen yogurt. He is planning to open multiple soft ice cream specialty shops in the future. The restaurant in Napa is already so popular, and people including tourists wait in line to get in every day.

I asked him his prospects for the future. He said that he would like to keep introducing the charm of the collaboration of traditional Japanese tastes with Napa for now. I would like to see the success of this restaurant in becoming a long-lasting and well-loved izakaya which was finally born in Napa.



しかし昨年2016年、注目されるハイエンドの「KENZO」を始め、日本食レストランが相次いでオープンした。その先頭を切って去年5月にオープンした「Miminashi」がたちまち人気を集めている。日本人ならお馴染みの怪談「耳なし芳一」からとった店名にはオーナーシェフ、カーティス・ディ・フェーデ氏(Curtis Di Fede)の思い入れがある。同店が道中に「芳一」苦難があった時にも耐え、良き店として長く続くように、と。

カーティス氏はアメリカでは珍しい4世代続くナパ出身家系の4代目で ナパ育ち 。ナパバレーのミシュランスターレストラン、「Bouchon」や「Terra」で修行後、2010年にオープンした南イタリア料理店「Oenotori」のシェフとなる。ローカルの食材を使ったカジュアルな料理はリピーターを呼び、同店は地元客に愛される人気レストランに 成長した 。 しかし、シェフの独自の手法 を貫きたい思いから、同店を離任し、今回初めて独自店舗を構えた。でもなぜ日本食だったのか? 

「Oenotori」を離職後3年間、カーティス氏は世界各地の食を食べ歩いた。カーティス氏が初めて焼き鳥と出会ったのは新宿の屋台。鶏にはこれほど沢山の部位があり、食感や味わいが違うのかと衝撃を受けたという。そして活気溢れる居酒屋の雰囲気をぜひ地元ナパにも再現したいと思いが今回のオープンにつながった。カーティス氏はアメリカ人のステレオタイプである寿司 というイメージを一新する如く、あえてMiminashiでは寿司を提供していない。富士山をイメージしたという無数の突起のついた重厚な白木のドアが印象的な店構え。扉を開け一歩中に入ると、満席の客の喧騒と熱気に包まれる。ワインや日本酒のボトルの並ぶバーが中央にあり、まずアルコールに目に入る。左手には備長炭の炎を見ながら食できる焼き鳥カウンターとテーブル席、右手に個室感覚のブース席がある。

メニューの中心は、備長炭で焼き上げる焼き鳥とラーメン、そして一品料理だ。ここ では、丸鶏を仕入れ、店内で捌くため、レバーや砂肝はもちろん、アメリカでは珍しいボンジリやハツモト、ヒザナンコツなどの部位も使用。さらに豚カルビや舞茸など鶏以外の串焼きもまるで日本の焼き鳥屋のように種類が豊富。さらにフランス原産の鶏ブルーレッグチキンが入荷した時には鳥刺しもある。一方、ラーメンのスープは濃厚な豚骨やあっさり魚介ベースなど、その日の天候によって変える。しかし、どのスープも共通してベースには北海道産の真昆布を使うのがこだわりだ。具材も味付け玉子や自家製のキムチ、ポーチドチキンなど日替わりである。

食材はカーティス氏が毎週マーケットに足を運び、 地元オーガニック食材を使った季節感がある一品料理メニューを創作する。野菜料理はRoasted Beet Salad($12)(ビーツやブラッドオレンジなどカリフォルニアで人気の組み合わせに海苔やわさびドレッシング)やGrilled Romanesco Cauliflower($8.5)(カリフラワーのローストに柚子や鰹節、天かすのトッピング)など、ローカル食材と日本のフレイバーが融合した料理が並ぶ。




カーティス氏に今後の展望を聞くと、まずは現在の店を地元の人から支持が得られるように日本伝統の味とナパのコラボの魅力を伝えていきたい とのこと。ようやくナパに誕生したIzakayaが多くの人に長く愛される 店になるのを期待したい。

821 Coombs St, Napa, CA 94559
(707) 254-9464

Mon.-Fri./11:30AM–2:30PM, 5:30–10:00PM (Fri. until 11:00PM)
#alljapannews #SF #Japanese #miminashi #NepaValley #izakaya


How to select and recommend Japanese sake

By Yuji Matsumoto

The number of Japanese sake brands available in the U.S. is increasing annually with approximately 450 brands offered domestically. Compared to the approximately 1,500 sake breweries in Japan with approximately 20,000 brands available nationwide, only two percent is being distributed in the U.S. How to select and recommend Japanese sake from these available brands is the challenge for restaurants in the near future.

How to select sake brands according customer segment and prices
Although Japanese sake is popular, it’s not effective to offer popular sake brands indiscriminately. Doing so could invite potential problems with quality management, leading to possible complaints by customers, thus caution is advised.

Review average customer spending
First, let’s review how to select Japanese sake brands and price setting according to the restaurant’s average customer spending. If customer spending is approximately $25, the average for a full dining restaurant, the food ratio is approximately 80% with drinks (including non-alcoholic) is approximately 20%. (The higher the customer spending, the higher the drink ratio, while decrease in customer speeding tends to decrease drink ratio also) If customer spending is high in a restaurant, it’s possible to offer high-priced Japanese sake by the bottle, while restaurants with low customer spending best consider selling high quality Japanese sake by the glass to lowering prices.

Also, offering a wide range of sake brands slows turnover rate, leading to quality management problems. Therefore, limiting the number of sake brands sold by the glass and thorough staff training is necessary. Sake samplers with dishes sold in sets are recommended to encourage customers to sample sake casually.

Appropriate markup of Japanese sake depends on the restaurant, with many setting the price from 2 to 2.5 times the purchase price. However, for high quality Japanese sake priced at over $50 for 720 ml bottles, pricing at 1.5~ 2 times the purchase price, topped at 2.5 times the purchase price is appropriate.

When selling sake by the glass, costs vary drastically by offering from 720 ml or 1.8L bottles. No matter how high quality a sake brand is, any glass of sake priced over $25 for 5 oz. is difficult to approach for many customers. For restaurants where customer spending is approximately $25, prices for major sake brands set between $5 ~ $7 by the glass makes it easier for customers to sample.

Review customer segment
Brand selection also varies according to customer segments. For restaurants with many young customers not familiar with Japanese sake, sweet sake like nigori (unfiltered) sake is predominantly popular. Therefore, considering nigori-based cocktails for SAKE cocktail nights or happy hours is recommended.







#alljapannews #sake #Japanese #sommelier


Ordinance to kampai (toast) with Japanese sake

By Kosuke Kuji

During hot summer months, we often hear the phrase, “let’s start off with a kampai (toast) with beer!” However, it’s been a long-term effort by our sake industry to request kampai be practiced with Japanese sake, known as “the movement to promote kampai with Japanese sake.” This is because Japanese sake is the “kokushu,” or national liquor, long used since ancient times during Shinto rituals and celebrations, a practice passed down for generations.

However, the changing times prevailed, and sake was replaced by beer produced in overwhelming volumes. Thus, the practice of using Japanese sake to kampai has decreased over time. However, in recent years, the “Ordinance to kampai with Japanese sake” is starting to be enforced in each municipality throughout Japan! The “Ordinance to kampai with Japanese sake” was first enacted in Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture in 2013, when the Kyoto City Council passed the “Ordinance to kampai with Japanese sake” for implementation. This effort was initiated by the Kyoto Sake Makers Association as the first ordinance in Japan to encourage the use of Japanese sake, the “national liquor” with much history and traditions, during kampai, to further evolve the history and traditional culture of Kyoto, a city also with a long history and many traditions. This ordinance does not punish violations as it is more an effort to promote the use of sake during kampai. However, restaurants within Kyoto have started to communicate this ordinance to customers, urging customers to kampai with Japanese sake, increasing the number of people practicing kampai with Japanese sake, since an overwhelming number of customers started to explain during various industry parties that the ordinance stipulates kampai be done with Japanese sake in practice. Also, since the “Ordinance to kampai with Japanese sake” was gradually enacted in each city, town, and village, and following Kyoto, the Saga Prefecture Council became the first Prefecture to pass the “Ordinance to kampai with Japanese sake.” Currently, over ten ordinances stipulating the use of Japanese sake or an alcoholic beverage stipulated as the local city or prefecture specialty to kampai have been passed and enacted. In Iwate Prefecture, Morioka City passed an ordinance to practice kampai with regional sake. We pray this wonderful trend will continue throughout prefectures, cities, towns, and villages nationwide so “kampai with Japanese sake” will be practiced throughout Japan!











#alljapannews #Japanese #sake #kampai #Kyoto


Pioneer of new boom of Japanese food next to sushi and ramen

©Joji Uematsu ©Joji Uematsu ©Joji Uematsu ©Joji Uematsu ©Joji Uematsu ©Joji Uematsu ©Joji Uematsu ©Joji Uematsu Pioneer of new boom of Japan... Pioneer of new boom of Japan...
By Aya Ota

“TsuruTonTan” is an udon specialty restaurant chain which runs a total of 12 restaurants in Tokyo and Osaka. The menu contains over 30 different items including signature Kansai-style udon in bonito based dashi, original cream or curry flavored udon, and seasonal limited edition udon dishes. Each item is served boldly on their large symbolic plate. Each restaurant has its unique concept that fits the region, and offers high-priced items with added values, etc., which makes this chain famous for its unconventional approach in the udon industry. Because of their unique way, the Japanese consumers sometimes say, “We are going to eat “TsuruTonTan”, instead of saying “We are going to eat udon”.
Such “TsuruTonTan”’s first overseas restaurant opened in the summer of 2016 in the Union Square district of New York. They were getting a lot of attention even before the opening, and became a popular place immediately, and you always see people waiting in line.

“Our mission is to expand Japanese food culture to the world. I thought the next thing to sushi and ramen must be udon. I am sure that the concept for TsuruTonTan will be well-accepted worldwide,” says Joji Uematsu, the Vice President of “Dining Innovation USA” who is in charge of the development of the chain in North America. Mr. Uematsu already has experience in succeeding to cultivate a business in North America with “Gyukaku”, and used such experience and know-how plentifully for “TsuruTonTan”’s first overseas restaurant. He created a place where the kind of interior and services that match New Yorkers and true traditional Japanese tastes marvelously unite.

Once inside, you feel as if you were in an art gallery of modern Japanese paintings. You will be drawn to the interior which is both classy and gorgeous. The wide variety of spaces including the waiting bar filled with sake and shochu bottles, counter seats, private looking tables, etc., accommodate various situations.
The udon noodles and dashi are the exact reproduction of the Japanese recipe. The specifically blended flour is imported from Japan, and noodle-making specialists make about 700 servings per day. The ingredients are flour, salt, and water only, and it takes delicate techniques to blend it right depending on the climate and humidity. Bonito and konbu used generously for the dashi are the highest quality from Japan. The menu has a large variety from the traditional bonito-based dashi udon to original udon. The sophisticated presentation on large plates, and the choice between thin and thick noodles are the same as in Japan. The menu items unique to New York are “Cold Uni Udon” ($24), “Truffle Creme with Crab and Mushroom ($22), etc. It is March now, and exactly 6 months since the opening, the menu has just been renewed, reflected by the customers’ reactions. Sushi, sashimi, and the kaiseki-style skillful menu were enhanced. In the beginning, more fusion style cuisine was served to try to suit American tastes, but New Yorkers’ taste palettes are more sophisticated than expected, and they want more true traditional Japanese cuisine. It is interesting that the Asians who account for about 60% of the customers like original or cold noodles with cream or curry, etc. whereas the remaining 40% of non-Asian customers like more traditional bonito-based dashi udon.
The average price for one udon dish is $20, which is surprisingly high to Japanese who know the average price of udon dishes in Japan. Even at the TsuruTonTan in Japan, the average price is only about 1,000 yen. In New York, the high price-setting is accepted because of the good service and ambience as added values in addition to the true taste. The Americans must be enjoying their udon in the same way they enjoy good pasta dishes at Italian restaurants.

“My goal is to open 10 restaurants in North America in the next 5 years. I want to open restaurants speedily in big key cities to be the pioneer,” says Mr. Uematsu. The second restaurant has already been planned to open in 2017 in the Times Square area. This restaurant is supposed to be large with more than 200 seats. I bet this location will also become very popular immediately, and people will form a long line to get in.







TsuruTonTan Udon Noodle Brasserie
21 East 16th Street
New York, NY 10003
Tel: 212-989-1000
#alljapannews #NY #udon #tsurutontan #Japanese #noodle


The glorious third highest ranked ramen restaurant in LA

The glorious third highest ran... The glorious third highest ran... The glorious third highest ran... The glorious third highest ran... The glorious third highest ran... The glorious third highest ran...
By Keiko Fukuda

The ranking contest, “Los Angeles ramen top-10” in the LA Weekly magazine in 2013 awarded Umenoya in Torrance as No. 3. The article read, “You don’t hear the typical loud vibrant greeting as many ramen restaurants here, but you can taste all their efforts in making a bowl of ramen”.

It has been 4 years since the article was published. After gaining new customers triggered by the LA Weekly ranking, Umenoya has been running very successfully, mainly supported by the local customers. I asked Mayumi Kohagura, the manager, what they do specifically to increase repeating customers.

“The space is limited, so in order to increase rotations, we serve as quickly as possible. We cannot do much about shortening the time of customers who are waiting to be seated, but we try to serve hot dishes as quickly as possible after receiving orders by training our staff for it. Another key point is to try to maintain the same taste. Of course, we do make slight changes to improve tastes, however, we strive for serving consistent tasting ramen as much as possible.”
In order to maintain the consistent service and taste, Mayumi is present in the restaurant every day. She says, “Not only do we try to keep the same taste, I also watch out for the consistency in the presentation so it matches the explanations in the menu. My motto is to serve a bowl that satisfies each customer at every visit.”
Surprisingly, the restaurant does not close until 3 after midnight. Not only are they accommodating people who want to eat ramen that late in the day, which makes this restaurant very important for them, but there are also other firm reasons or needs to run until that late according to Mayumi. Many regular customers work in different shifts for a huge hospital called Torrance Memorial which is only a few blocks away. They want to come to the restaurant after the graveyard shift.

The restaurant is not open for lunch except for weekends due to shortage of staff. There are 8 in the kitchen, and 6 in the front serving, however not everyone is working exclusively for Umenoya. Mayumi continues, “The biggest problem is how to keep the number of staff. This restaurant originally opened as a fast-food restaurant, and we cannot apply for a liquor license. We had a plan to open a second restaurant in Long Beach where alcohol beverages can be served, but we had to give up due to a trouble with the lease.

How about the menu? It has indeed a wide variety of items! On top of regular flavors such as Tonkotsu, Miso, Shoyu, Shio, and Spicy Miso, there is a kind called Jiro Ramen, which is made specifically to satisfy lighter taste fans. In the summer period, they add cold ramen to the menu. I myself prefer tonkotsu flavor, but it is an excellent point that there are many choices. For instance, if I bring my son who prefers miso flavor, or my daughter who prefers shoyu, the restaurant can accommodate all of us. All our favorites are listed on the menu. Mayumi says that they receive an equal number of orders of different flavors.

Yasunori Aoki, the sub-manager, who is in charge of the development of the menu, told me about his aspiration for the future. “As for the taste, I would like to keep introducing something new to make the restaurant stand out. For example, I want to discover something that exists in Japan, but not in Los Angeles, and then arrange it to suit the local area here, and make it a new popular menu item. I would like to keep making studious efforts in developing the menu.”


2013年のLA Weeklyの「ロサンゼルスのラーメン・トップ10」のランキングで、堂々3位に選出されたのが、トーランスのUmenoyaだ。その記事には「ラーメン屋によくある威勢のいい掛け声をこの店で聞くことはできないが、すべての労力を1杯のラーメンに注ぎ込んでいるにちがいない」とある。

あれから4年。LA Weeklyのランキングを契機に新たな顧客を獲得した後、今もローカル客を中心に盛業を続けている。マネージャーの古波蔵(こはぐら)眞由美さんに、リピーターを増やす工夫について聞いた。




ただし、人手不足が理由で、週末を除き、ランチは営業していない。キッチンには8人、サーバーは6人いるが、全員がUmenoya専業というわけではない。「人材の確保が一番の悩みの種です。また、この店はもともとファストフード店だった設計上、アルコールのライセンスを申請できません。そこで近郊のロングビーチにアルコールも提供できる2号店を出す計画が進んでいたのですが、 リース契約上のトラブルにより断念しました」



24222 Crenshaw Blvd.
Torrance, CA 90505
Saturday: 12:00pm-3:00am
Sunday: 12:00pm-11:00pm
Closed on Tuesday
#alljapannews #LA #Torrance #ramen #restaurant #umenoya


True Japanese style curry found in a hide-out like place

True Japanese style curry fou... True Japanese style curry fou... True Japanese style curry fou... True Japanese style curry fou... True Japanese style curry fou... True Japanese style curry fou... True Japanese style curry fou...
By Elli Sekine

If you walk through the fashionable Mission District where young people gather, and further through the south big street, you arrive at a low-key district where residential and commercial buildings are mixed together. On one such small street, I found a Japanese restaurant which did not really stand out. The sign says “Japanese curry, ramen, and sushi”, and the menu covers everything you can think of. I almost passed by without stopping because the exterior did not look very appealing; however, I felt something genuine about the “Japanese curry” part, and decided to check it out. There is no consistency in the menu which is filled with various sushi and ramen dishes, but the curry section has 15 different kinds from the regular type to black curry, teppan (iron grill) curry, etc. I did not see any Japanese staff in the front area or in the kitchen, but the curry delivered to my table surprised me with its authentic homemade taste. I felt like I had just found a treasure on an island. In such a quiet looking restaurant in such an isolated area far from the city center, you can still find passion for curry making.

The chef who is in charge of the curry menu is the co-owner/manager, Max Wang, but the recipe is provided by Fumi, a Japanese woman, just as I thought.

Although Fumi-san was the recipe provider and the partner, she does not work at the restaurant. Mr. Wang does everything from running the kitchen to managing the front. I wondered why a Chinese man was able to make true Japanese curry.

Mr. Wang worked at a Japanese restaurant while he was still going to school, and slowly learned the skill of making sushi. He met Fumi-san when he was working at a Hawaiian Japanese restaurant, “Chin’s Sushi Bar” in the financial district.

He tasted Fumi’s curry for the first time then, and became a big fan of delicious Japanese curry. He wanted to learn how to make Japanese curry badly, so he always helped her prepare her curry. During those times, an opportunity to open a restaurant came to him. However, the theme of the restaurant was not curry, but “Sushi” which is easy to appeal to Americans. He took it, and worked as the owner/sushi chef of “Crazy Sushi” for 10 years. After he sold the restaurant, he set his goal for opening that unforgettable Japanese curry restaurant with Fumi. He tried Japanese curry dishes of the Bay area for his research. “Most of them are served either at delis or take-out places. I wanted to open a place where people can enjoy home-style delicious curry in a more relaxed setting,” said Mr. Wang. However, Japanese curry was not well known amongst Americans, and the business did not go well. Until Americans learn to know the true appeal of Japanese curry, he thought it would be better to include sushi and ramen on the menu. They even offered a delivery service. That gave American customers a chance to try curry, and they liked it. One such customer is San Francisco journalist, Chris Kohler. He recommended “Fumi Curry” as his favorite curry restaurant in the Japanese “GQ” magazine.

Their signature curry menu section makes Japanese curry fans excited with its rich contents. Popular items are pork cutlet curry, chicken cutlet curry, and beef curry. Other items include black curry using squid ink, and teppan curry which has eggs on the bottom on an iron plate, then rice, then cutlet and fried shrimp, etc. on top, and curry is poured on top so you eat while everything is still hot. The original recipe of the curry uses spices such as turmeric, cumin, cardamom, chili, and ginger to cook potatoes, carrots, and other vegetables for a long time until all the vegetables no longer hold their shape. In addition, there are other items created by Mr. Wang, with which make this restaurant different, and more unique than other curry restaurants, such as nugget-shaped grated gobo vegan topping, fried crab teppan curry, etc. The curry is well-balanced with the perfect combination of sweetness and sourness, and tastes like home-cooking with richness and umami, yet with a professional quality you cannot easily replicate at home.

Existence of B-class gourmet restaurants are important for San Francisco where the commodity prices are the highest in the nation. The Mission district is only 2 blocks away, and prices are still rising. This restaurant is a hidden gem where you can eat Japanese comfort foods at reasonable prices. The Bernal Heights where “Fumi Curry” is located used to be an area where residents and businesses were mixed together, and a town far from trendy stuff, but it is now changing with an influence of the increase of residents in the IT industry. The old buildings are being modernized, and some tenants are turning them into cafés.

Even in San Francisco, the gourmet city, the typical Japanese foods still mean sushi and ramen, and the main-stream curry is Thai or Indian. The Japanese curry made mainly with vegetables with relatively less oil and spices is lighter and easier to eat, and well-accepted by first-time American curry eaters. Needless to say, curry ranks at the top in home-cooking in Japan. I expect that the number of curry fans will surely rise in the US from now on.



カレーを担当するシェフは、共同経営者兼マネージャーのMax Wang氏。レシピはやはり日本人女性のフミさんによるものだった。しかしフミさんは、レシピ提供者で経営パートナーでありながら店には出ていない。Wang氏がキッチンからフロントまで切り盛りしている。なぜ中国人の同氏が日本カレーを作れるのだろうと疑問に思った。彼は学生時代から日本食レストランで働きながら、少しずつ寿司を握る技術を身につけていった。彼が金融街にあったハワイアンジャパニーズレストラン「Chinʼs Sushi bar」で働いている時にFumiさんに出会った。

その時、彼女が作るカレーをはじめて食し、その美味しさにジャパニーズカレーの大ファンになったという。フミさんのカレーの作り方を覚えたくていつも仕込みを手伝っていた。そのうちレストランをオープンする機会が舞い込んできたが、テーマはカレーではなくアメリカ人にわかりやすい「寿司」。「Crazy Sushi」のオーナー、寿司シェフとして10年経営を続けた。その店舗売却後、あの忘れなれないジャパニーズカレーの出店をフミさんと目指すことになる。ベイエリアのジャパニーズカレーを食べ歩き研究をした。「ほとんどはデリかテイクアウトなので、家庭的な美味しいカレーをゆっくり食べれる店を出したかった」とWang氏。しかし、ジャパニーズカレーはまだアメリカ人には知名度が低く、経営困難をきたした。

「アメリカ人がカレーの魅力を知るまでは」と寿司やラーメンをメニューに追加し、デリバリーも始めた。ラーメンの客がカレーも試す機会もあり、食べたアメリカ人からは好評で少しずつリピーターも増えた。その一人であるサンフランシスコのジャーナリスト、Chiris Kohler氏は、日本の「GQ」マガジンで、一番のお気に入りのカレー店としてFumi Curry」を紹介している。


全米一の物価高といわれるSFでB級グルメは貴重な存在。しかも2ブロック先のミッション地区では値段が高騰しているだけに、ここは日本のコンフォートフードがリーズナブルな料金で食べられる穴場的存在だ。「Fumi Curry」があるバーナルハイツは、トレンドとは程遠い雑居地区だったが、最近IT 関係の住居者が増えている影響で、古い建物がモダンに改装されたり、ビルのテナントがカフェになったり街の様相が変わりつつある。


FUMI Japanese curry
3303 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 757-0901
#alljapannews #Japanese #curry #fumi #sanfrancisco


Casual Pairing of Sake

By Yuji Matsumoto

In this issue, I’d like to report on a secret to enhance pairing of Japanese cuisine with sake.

First, please have three brands of Japanese sake with very different properties. The differences in properties are hard to detect unless you try them, but at first, please select the sake depending on the information on the labels.

For example, select Junmai Daiginjo, Tokubetsu Junmai, and Junmai Kimoto from different regions like Akita, Niigata, and Hyogo prefectures, etc. Japanese sake produced in the U.S. is reasonably priced, so it’s fun to incorporate them into the mix.

Once we have our Japanese sake selections, the next thing on the list is wine glasses (white wine glasses are recommended).

Wine glasses used for the three sake brands must have the same shape. Chill the sake in the refrigerator at approximately 55 degrees F for three hours prior to serving.

As for the cuisine, they can be prepared in advance if time allows. If not, if you want to try several different dishes to compare, then take out is recommend. For example, trying Chinese and Italian cuisine (avoid foods strong in flavor or garlic) is fun.

For the actual pairing, the sense of smell can get confused with the smell of the food. Therefore, please pour small amounts of sake into glasses to first smell the aroma of each, then sample before opening the foods. Take note of and write down any aroma, color, and flavors you notice. I recommend writing down any perceptions gained from individual samplings.

Prepare each cuisine and review their compatibility with Japanese sake. For the order of sampling, be sure to start with sake made from rice with the highest milling: from Daiginjo – Tokubetsu Junmai – Junmai. The most important aspect of sampling sake is to sip the sake, sample the cuisine, then drink the same brand of sake again. This is to detect any differences in flavors by comparing the sake flavor by itself vs. changes in the sake flavor tasted after food is consumed.

The flavors to be savored vary from the sake flavor becoming undetectable to increased bitterness, an explosion of umami flavors, and neutral flavors, etc.
If umami or a wide range of rich flavors are detected, then the pairing is considered a success. Also, if the appetite increases, this is also a good outcome.
Japanese sake goes surprising well with unexpected dishes (like cheese or steak), so please try pairing without biases for interesting discoveries.












#alljapannews #sake #pairing


Iwate Prefecture's New Original Sake Brewing Suitable Rice (Yuinoka)

By Kosuke Kuji

After about 10 years of research and development, Iwate Prefecture announced their new Iwate prefecture original sake brewing suitable rice "Yuinoka".

In Iwate Prefecture, they developed two kinds of prefecture original sake brewing suitable rice for Ginjo usage and Junmai/Honjozo usage 15 years ago.

"Ginginga" for the original sake brewing suitable rice for Ginjo, and "Ginotome" for the original sake brewing suitable rice for Junmai/Honjozo were the two kinds of Iwate prefecture's original sake brewing suitable rices, and even Nanbu Bijin used them to make different kinds of sake.

However, from that time, they were thinking "We would like to develop the highest grade sake rice with Iwate's original rice varieties", and 5 years after "Ginginga" and "Ginotome" were produced, they continued the research for a new variety sake rice that was superior to the highest quality sake rice "Yamadanishi".

Since a variety like Yamadanishiki can not be grown in cold lands, they mixed Yamadanishiki with a variety that grows in the cold land, and after many trial and errors, they were finally able to debut a sake rice that had higher quality characteristic than Yamadanishiki. It's name is "Yuinoka".

Nanbu Bijin was also in charge in experimental brewing for 3 years, and reported that it was an extremely good sake rice, but I am deeply moved that it is now not only Iwate prefecture's original variety sake brewing suitable rice but also it debuted as the highest quality variety.

Nanbu Binju has made a sake prepared with Yuinoka to meet the standards to be entered into the Annual Japan Sake Awards, and having that sake awarded the "Gold Prize" at the Annual Japan Sake Awards held 2 years ago, I couldn't be more proud to show off our variety having superior quality over Yamadanishi at the all Japan level.

The sake that is made with "Yuionoka" is sold by 12 breweries in Iwate prefecture, has the uniform label with different color series according to each brewery, each bottle containing 720 ml, and only 1000 bottles are sold.

We are very far from exporting any overseas but we are increasing our rice productions. In the close future, we hope you can enjoy our Junmai Daiginjo brewed with "Yuinoka" from Iwate prefecture even in the U.S.







#alljapannews #sake #brewing #yuinoka


Take note on American beef steak created by high-quality dry aging technique of Japan

Take note on American beef st... Take note on American beef st... Take note on American beef st... Take note on American beef st... Take note on American beef st... Take note on American beef st... Take note on American beef st...
By Aya Ota

In the Williamsburg district of Brooklyn, stylish and innovative stores are appearing one after another, and you find something new every time you visit. People think that this town is most sensitive about the newest trends. In such a town, extremely stylish exteriors draw your attention. Once you step inside, a sophisticatedly designed interior space opens in front of you. It is “Salt + Charcoal” restaurant. Until recently, this place had been running as a popular robata-yaki izakaya restaurant mostly for local customers, but in March of this year, the menu was completely renewed to kick off a new concept, “Japanese Style Steak House + Brasserie”, and is gaining a lot of attention.

“Salt and charcoal are the basics of cooking,” says the owner, Teruyuki Takayama to explain how the name of the restaurant came about. He has a unique background as a producer/CEO of a film production company. When he became 40 years old, he felt like challenging himself to a completely different field, and started a restaurant business. It took him 2 years to open the restaurant as he struggled through issues including finding real estate, undergoing various building construction problems, experiencing difficulty in obtaining the license to use charcoal, etc. Then, 2 years after the opening, he decided to renew the menu with the change of the chef to make a new start. The concept of cooking with charcoal stayed the same, but the robata grill using Bincho charcoal was removed, and instead he installed a customized charcoal specialized grill with which they offer dynamic dishes of meat and seafood.

The menu renewal was especially focused on the steak section. The new Executive chef, Tadaaki Ishizaki, is a meat expert. Not only had he been displaying his expert skills in a steak house in Japan, but he also has a long career in the sites of meat production, processing, and sales. He has the title of “Japan Dry Aging Beef Promotion Board Certified Cook”. He says, “Compared to America and Europe, Japan has a shorter history of dry aging. However, after studying enthusiastically, Japan now holds a very high standard technique which, I can probably say, has progressed and become No. 1 in the world”. Mr. Ishizaki continues representing his passion - “I would like to serve the best meat dishes by appropriately using high-quality American beef and wagyu beef with the reimported high standard technique cultivated in Japan.”

He is very particular about selecting the meat he uses. He goes to the contracted meat seller to select fresh meat by himself. He then insists on having the meat age for a month. “Porterhouse Steak using such dry aged beef is his proud menu item. The menu has a wide variety of dishes. Other steak menu items include Kumamoto wagyu, T-Bone, NY strip, etc. Besides beef, there is also duck, lamb, salmon, branzino, octopus, lobster, etc. Each ingredient is grilled in the most appropriate way, and served with the best matched sauce. You can also order extra house sauces ($1.50 to $2 each) to differentiate the taste. There are more than 15 different kinds, which makes you feel like trying them all. The unique sauces accentuated by Japanese spices include “Balsamic butter soy sauce”, “Miso garlic butter, “Green onion ponzu chili oil”, “Sansai (mountain vegetables) mayonnaise”, etc.

Other sections of the menu such as appetizers, raw bar, sushi (rice), salad, etc. also contain dishes full of imagination. It would not be easy to skip to the steak menu. “Uni Truffle Pudding” ($16) is a sumptuous item using one whole sea urchin combined with truffle oil, truffle salt, and truffle foam. “Whole Shrimp Croquette” ($21) is a unique dish deep-fried using Kadaif as the coating. The custom-made tartar sauce goes perfectly well with it. “Wagyu “Yukke” Tartare” ($26) is delivered to the table in a bamboo container, and then, your server mixes the ingredients in front of you. Its spicy taste eaten with dried seaweed or potato chips makes you want to drink more sake. Chef Ishizaki has worked for “Joel Robuchon”, a top-notch French restaurant. The elegant and gorgeous presentation he creates, using full knowledge and technique of French cuisine, takes your breath away.

The majority of the customers are locals, and 95% of them are non-Japanese. The renewal of the menu was targeted to invite many new customers by accommodating the local needs. On the other hand, due to the price increase, there is a risk of losing the regulars who have been enjoying the old casual robata-yaki izakaya style. The former popular menu items such as karaage and yakitori are gone from the dinner menu.

Despite of the risk, I can also smell success. I cannot take my eyes off of the new start and the future development of “Salt + Charcoal”.


おしゃれで斬新な店舗が次々と登場し、訪れる度に新しい発見があるブルックリンのウィリアムズバーグ地区。今、ニューヨークで最も流行感度が高いと言われるこの街で、ひときわスタイリッシュな外観に目を奪われ足を踏み入れると、洗練されたデザインの空間が広がる――ここ『Salt + Charcoal』は、これまで炉端焼き居酒屋として、地元客を中心に定着してきたが、この3月からメニューを一新、「Japanese Style Steak House+Brasserie」という全く新しいコンセプトを打ち出して、注目されている。



前菜やローバー、寿司(ライス)、サラダなどのセクションも、創意工夫に富んだ料理が並んでおり、うっかりステーキにたどり着けないのではないかと思うほどの充実ぶりだ。「ウニ、トリュフプディング」(16ドル)はウニを丸々1個分使い、トリュフ油・トリュフ塩・トリュフ泡を組み合わせた贅沢な一品。「海老のクリームコロッケ 」(21ドル)は、カダイフを衣に使い揚げたユニークな一品。特性タルタルソースとの相性が抜群だ。「和牛タルタル」(26ドル)は、具材が竹製容器に盛り付けられてテーブルに運ばれた後、サーバーが目の前で混ぜてくれる。海苔や店特製ポテトチップスに載せて食べると、思わず酒が進んでしまうスパイシーな味付けだ。石崎シェフは一流フランス料理店『ジョエル・ロブション』でも勤務した経験がある。フレンチの技術や知識も存分に活かした、優雅で華やかなプレゼンテーションにも目を奪われる。


リスクは伴うがすでに成功の予感がする『Salt + Charcoal』の再出発――今後の展開から目が離せない。

Salt + Charcoal
171 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY 11249
Tel: 718-782-2087
#alljapannews #brooklyn #salt #charcoal #robatayaki #izakaya


Sushi restaurant welcomes its 14th anniversary in an area where many hot restaurants are gathered

Sushi restaurant welcomes its... Sushi restaurant welcomes its... Sushi restaurant welcomes its... Sushi restaurant welcomes its... Sushi restaurant welcomes its...
By Keiko Fukuda

In Culver City which is located between the city of Los Angeles and Santa Monica, hot restaurants keep popping up one after another in the past few years.
The Sony Pictures Studio is located in this city, and many people in the entertainment industry reside there, and they love sushi.

Sushi Karen which is run by the owner/chef Toshi-san (Toshikazu Shimomura), is a popular sushi restaurant known for its great sushi and Toshi’s cheerful personality, and just celebrated their 14th anniversary. According to him, 97% of the customers are non-Japanese. When I ask my acquaintances which sushi restaurant is the best in the Los Angeles area, more than a few of them appoint Sushi Karen of Culver City. I asked Toshi about the secret for the popularity. He says that he makes sure of the perfect freshness of the seafood he buys, and memorizes each regular customer’s name and face and preferences perfectly to enable him to serve sushi in omakase-style. He changed the place where he buys the fish a few times before he settled with the present seller.

Toshi is from the Kagoshima area of Japan. After learning the fundamentals of sushi-making there, he went to Europe. He ended up in the United States, worked in various sushi restaurants in the Los Angeles area, and then spent 5 years in a sushi restaurant in Santa Maria. After that, he came back to LA, and worked in a restaurant in Venice’s Abbott Kinney district on Ventura Blvd. He heard about this Culver City location while he was thinking about starting his own place. He used his daughter’s name, Karen, to name and open the restaurant.

“The first year was rough. I didn’t have the liquor license, so customers who walked in often left as soon as they found out that they couldn’t drink saké or even beer. It took a year and 3 months to obtain the license. I waited so long for it, so I try my best to have as good a variety of sake brands as possible. American customers like Kikusui or equivalent brands, and we do have about 20 different kinds of sake.”

Including getting the old regulars back who followed Toshi’s tasty sushi from the Abbott Kinney restaurant, the business got on the right track from the second year after obtaining the liquor license. The selling point is definitely Toshi himself. There is another sushi chef working with him there, but the restaurant needs to be closed whenever Toshi is unavailable to work.

Not only the aforementioned fact (Toshi knows every customer’s preference) which pleases the regulars, but he is confident about his speed in making sushi as well. “I serve very quickly. The speed is very important. The door is also open even during off hours. If a customer walks in, and requests sushi to-go, I will do it right there. It doesn’t matter if I am on a break or not.” It seems like he would never say “No,” unless it is totally necessary.

“My motto as a sushi chef is nothing but to satisfy customers. I want them to eat delicious food, and enjoy a peaceful atmosphere.” This genuine thinking and attitude of Toshi’s has resulted in the fact that 70% of the customers are regulars.

At the end of the interview, Toshi treated me to yellowtail carpaccio. The yellowtail is so fresh, and the jalapeno pepper topping effectively accentuated the refreshing yuzu flavor. It seemed to go well with cold saké. “Lately, American customers love yuzu flavor,” says Toshi. I can imagine that customers who enjoyed conversations with Toshi across the counter and spent nice relaxed time like I did will surely want to come back. “I would like to hear customers say “I will be back!” like the Terminator,” said Toshi wearing a carefree smile.



今年で開店14年を迎えたSushi Karenは、オーナーシェフのトシさん(下村敏一:シモムラトシカズ)が握る寿司と、彼の明るい人柄で人気の寿司店。トシさんによると「日本人以外の顧客が97%を占める」そうだ。筆者の知り合いには、「ロサンゼルス周辺で一番美味しい寿司店はどこかと聞かれたら、カルバーシティーのSushi Karen」と答える人が数人いる。その秘密をトシさん本人に聞くと、活きがいい魚の仕入れに徹底的にこだわること。さらに顧客の顔、名前、好みを頭に叩き込んで、客の好きな寿司をお任せで出すことだと語る。魚の仕入先は何度か変えた後、現在の業者に落ち着いた。






取材の最後にトシさんがハマチのカルパッチョを出してくれた。フレッシュなハマチ、爽やかなゆずの風味にトッピングしたハラペーニョのアクセントが効いている。冷酒が進みそうだ。「最近はゆずがアメリカ人のお客さんに受けています」とトシさん。こうして、カウンター越しにトシさんとの会話を楽しみながら、リラックスした時間を過ごした客はまた必ず戻ってくるのだろう。「お客さんにはwe’ll be backって言ってほしいですよね。ターミネイターじゃないけど」とトシさんは屈託ない笑顔でそう言った。

Sushi Karen
10762 Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 202-0855.

Tuesday - Friday: Lunch 11:30 AM - 2:15 PM
Monday - Thursday: Dinner 5:00 PM - 9:30 PM
Friday - Saturday: Dinner 5:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Sunday Closed
#alljapannews #Sushi #Karen #LA #Japanese


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