I woke up from my previous night’s sleep well-rested, with ten hours of uninterrupted snoozing under my zzzzz belt, ready for a big day.  The  great thing about traveling to Asia is that jet lag actually works to your benefit provided you’re not a night owl looking to party.  By the time 10:00 p.m. rolls around, you’re utterly exhausted but when the sun comes up at 7:00 a.m., you’re ready to go!  Or, in  my case, update my blog!  One of these days, I’m going to take the aryl morning stroll down to the Tsukiji Market for a sushi breakfast or actually hit the hotel gym for a rare vacation work-out or, at the very least, put on my running shoes and sweat pants and walk down to find out where the gym is located.

Anyway, yesterday, following a leisurely morning lounge, I met up with my good friend Moro-san, my guide on this day…

We headed to Naka-Meguro - a first for me.

It was my first time visiting the Naka-Meguro neighborhood which, I suppose, I would have enjoyed more had it not been so damn cold outside.  And windy!  Moro-san was surprised, assuming I’d be used to this sort of weather coming from Canada and all.  I informed her that, while certain parts of Canada are certainly much colder, Vancouver is actually much more pleasant – minus the rain.

Moro was calling the shots on the day and suggested we go have pizza for lunch.  I’d had pizza for dinner the previous night so I wasn’t as enthusiastic as I could have been but, hey, I’m just a guest.  And so, we wound our way through Naka-Meguro to find the unassuming little Pizza Serinkan…

We were greeted by a gentleman - the owner I presumed - presiding over a pizza oven who directed us up the spiral staircase to the second floor...
Our menu choices were simply: Margherita or Marinara.

Although the menu offered  host of starters, when it came down to the star of the show – the pizzas – there were only two choices: Margherita and/or Marinara.  No “pepperoni and cheese” or “well-dressed” or “with corn and mayonnaise”, the topping I’ve heard the Japanese enjoy but that every Japanese person I’ve ever mentioned it to denies having ever eaten.  I needed some convincing…

Moro-san - also notoriously camera shy.
The Margherita
The Marinara

And boy, was I ever convinced.  I guess simple is best because the pizza at Pizza Serinkan was the best pizza I’ve ever had.  Fresh tomatoes, cheese, garlic, basil and olive oil topping an astoundingly tasty pizza dough.  It was all about that delicious, slightly chewy dough!  These pizzas were nothing short of revelatory and I vowed I’d be back!  Provided I could find the place again!

Chef and Owner Kakinuma Susumu

We headed downstairs to thank Chef and Owner Kakinuma Susumu.  I waited patiently while he manned the oven, carefully turning a pizza, eyeing it’s progress, before pulling it out and depositing it onto a plate – then moving onto the next one.  He took a break to say hello.  On my second day in Tokyo, my French came in handy as most of the chefs I ended up speaking to – including Le Bourguignon’s Japanese head chef – spoke French.  In this case, thank goodness for my Italian as Kakinuma-san had evidently spent some time in Italy and we were able to communicate just fine.

Anyway, there you have it: the greatest pizza in the world.  And it’s in Tokyo.  You’re job is to find it.  I leave you this clue: 聖林館 (せいりんかん)

After lunch, we ventured out into the Tokyo cold for dessert at Cacahouette, a tiny little patisserie on a side street in Naka-Meguro.

I didn't know the next time I'd be in the Naka-Meguro area so (as I often do when I'm on vacation) I made the most of our visit, ordering us two desserts each and a yuzu hot chocolate (which, in retrospect, sounded a lot better than it tasted. And it tasted VERY sour!). Unfortunately, I can't provide a thorough rundown of what we ate as none of the descriptions were in English - nevertheless "delicious" transcends many languages.On the left, a deconstructed/reconstructed Paris Brest and, on the right, a delicate, multilayered chocolate dessert with a praline base. Both of these were outstanding, especially the latter.
My chocolate cube filled with maple cream (left) and the Baba au Rhum (right). Both were very good - although I think Moro-san's selections were superior. That little plastic thing behind the strawberry actually contained a shot of rum. Once squeezed, the rum was released, injected into the cake and giving it a rum wallop!

We worked off our meal and dessert by grabbing the metro to Roppongi where we checked out a ukiyo-e (Japanese wood-block prints and paintings) collection by Utawa Kuniyoshi.

The place was packed!  We wound our was through the gallery, taking in the 420+ works on display.  A truly impressive body of work.

One of my favorite Tokyo landmarks: the Roppongi Spider!

Having worked up an appetite walking around the exhibit, we headed over to Tokyo Midtown for a quick pick-me-up at Sadaharu Aoki…

The Bamboo has long been my favorite Tokyo dessert. I loved it so much on my very first visit to Midtown that I actually considered buying a cake and transporting it back with me to Canada. Had customs stopped me, I would have happily sat down and eaten the entire thing there. While still very good, however, I'm not quite as enthusiastic about it as I once was.

We also sampled some chocolate-dipped macarons which sounded a lot better in theory than they actually tasted.

Fortified, we caught the escalator up to the next floor to visit the Pet Station, a pet boutique offering pet food, treats, outfits and – the reason I was there – spa services for dogs.  You can watch the dogs being clipped, manicured and blow-dried behind a glass wall.  Well, my gamble paid off.  As I walked in, two dogs were being walked out of the spa area – an English bulldog mix and a boxy French bulldog with who I instantly bonded!

We ended up running into Akemi and her mother who were spending some quality catch-up time together.  We said our hello’s, then went our separate ways, they to enjoy a vegetarian meal at Yasaiya Mei, we to enjoy a sushi dinner in Ginza.

Akemi doing her own thing.

For dinner, Moro and I went to Harutaka.  The sushi was very good.  Rather than give you the blow by blow, why not just check out some snaps of the evening’s offerings…

By the time we were done, it was still early.  I asked Moro-san if she wanted to grab a dessert and, not surprisingly, she declined.  And so, we went for dessert of another sort instead, heading over to my home away from home in Tokyo – no, not The Imperial Hotel…Star Bar.

We arrived early enough that we were the only ones at the bar.  We chatted with Yamasaki-san who made us our drinks (a Moscow Mule for me, natch).  About a half an hour later, Master Bartender Hisashi Kishi arrived.  He’d just come back from an event in Osaka where he’d been mixing drinks to accompany a special meal at one of the city’s 3-star Michelin restaurants.  For my money, I couldn’t think of a better person to do the honors.

Apparently, Kishi-san has been checking out my blog, on and off, since I lasted visited with Ivon (both he and Yamasaki-san say “hello to my tall friend” by the way).  Being a dog lover himself (he has a six year old Shiba who greets him without fail upon his late-night returns home – while the rest of the family sleeps) he asked about my brood.  I told him about Maximus and he was very sympathetic, passing along his condolences – and almost choking me up.

We stayed for two drinks and then called it a night.

Back at the hotel, I checked out some chocolates I picked up from a Kyoto-based chocolatier…

The chocolates are little edible works of art.  Much prettier than they were tasty.

Today, it’s L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon for lunch and Ishikawa (third visit!) for dinner.  Wish me luck!

26 thoughts on “January 31, 2012: Tokyo Day #4! I discover the world’s greatest pizza, check out some ukiyo-e, partake in more desserts than most eat in an entire week, do some sushi, then cap the night off Star Bars style!

  1. JeffW: it takes them a few days but they usually have a link for the winning recipes. L.D.P. needs a cookbook too.

    Mr.M.: I’m loving the food pictures! Akemi looks very beautiful, as always.
    Last year you lost weight on your trip, right?
    Keep having fun!

  2. JeffW: p.s. L.D.P. has been giving some recipe tips on twitter. At least he did for the Turbo Ribs.

  3. Today work supplied some of Chicago’s best (pizza), but I think I would have enjoyed your selection a bit more. I need a nice salad to cleanse the palette. A nice easy and light dinner like sushi would be order but I think the only fish found here may be asian carp. I wish to find a comparable restauranteur in Bangkok. Plenty of fresh basil, but catchup just doesn’t quite cut it (to quote Cutter John).

  4. Just wanted to brag that here in Indianapolis the temp is ranging from 50-60F. We’ve had 250,000 visitors to Super Bowl Village in the first 3 days & the teams just arrived this morning. Weather forecast couldn’t be better & our town looks great. The biggest attraction is a 3 block zipline down one of the busiest streets downtown. Who’d have thought an outdoor zipline in Indianapolis in February would actually turn out to be a GOOD idea??

  5. That last little box of chocolates is beautiful. I don’t think I could eat them. Too pretty. I would just display them.

    @ Luis – I’ll bet ya! Joe usually is good for only about a 5 pound gain at the most – believe it or not. Must be all the walking he does. I’ll bet 0 – 3 pounds and that’s all. Now let’s see if you can get him to admit how much he gained when he comes back.

  6. I have to say the last thing I thought I would see im Tokyo is margarita style pizza looks very good

  7. More yummy stuff, thanks for sharing,my diet is really not working anyway, so I am loving you posts. Did you find the gym yet> Sounds like a whirlwind trip so far, take care of yourself. Hello to Akemi! Have more fun.

  8. I am both amazed and envious of all you can eat and not be roughly the size of a bus. sounds like you are really enjoying your trip– but no quality time with Akemi’s parents for you?
    The food looks amazing.

  9. That spider in Roppongi is actually just one of many worldwide. We even have one here in Ottawa.

    I was very surprised to see it on my recent visit to Japan a few months ago, and barely remembered to look it up when I got back!


  10. Hey Joe,

    The artwork chocolate is amazing! All of your photos are special. I’ll never make it to Japan but I’ll have seen so much. You really care about sharing your experiences….I love seeing your view. *smiles*

    I’ve been watching “Lie to Me” and “Detroit 186”. I’m laid up for awhile…so it is fun to have such great TV to catch up on.

    Best to you Joe,
    Cheryl 🙂

  11. Yes, LDP won. King of the Jungle, king of the kitchen. So proud of him. He called his restaurant Blessings and in delivering a great night with great food became a blessing to many children, winning $50,000 to feed every kid (who is hungry, except my kid who is always hungry). It was exciting as David Cook versus David Archuleta or Kris Allen versus Adam Lambert for who was winning on American Idol.

    Joe–I’m so happy that you are having as good a time as you possibly can under the circumstances. I am glad Akemi is loving being back in Japan.

    Do you notice any changes from your last trip (didn’t the nuclear thing happen after your last trip?) until now? Jet lag sucks and gets worse as you age.

    All of the chocolate looks amazing. You are making me hungry. I have to get up in 4 hrs, get Patrick off to school, shower, head off to his school myself (time to send out those invites to people for the big gala. I think we send out about 2000 invites and we had 320 ppl come last year). So I’ll be there all day I think. Then come home and work at night.

  12. Sounds like you are having a great trip so far. Thanks for taking the time to share it with us. Your blog is a great travel narrative!

  13. Sounds like you’re having fun, and I drool every time I see a food picture. Wow, you find some of the best food. Hubby was telling older son about how Italian pizza was different from American pizza last night.

    Have a great day!!!!

  14. Those chocolates… Not sure whether I’d eat them or put them on a window-sill (the non-Sun side).

  15. Wuau, as we say in spanish. Awesome pics, amazing looking food and c’mon, how excellent is that picture of the spiral staircase with that big window and the red sash? Looks like a still from Blade Runner or Cowboy Bebop. I love that image; the chairs are soooo cool looking. If you go back more pics of the design of Pizza Serinkan please.

  16. @ melinda ward

    Isn’t the city doing a superb job? They’ve staged world-class sporting events for almost 30 years, and it shows. Even the volunteers are old hands at this. Am so glad Indianapolis got the chance to host Super Bowl 46.

    Patriots QB Tom Brady saw the huge outdoor poster of Dwight Freeney on his way to the hotel and said he was glad he wouldn’t be facing Mr. Freeney on Sunday. If we couldn’t have the Colts and Peyton Manning in the game when we hosted the Super Bowl, it seems we’ve been compensated. We’ll get to see his brother Eli Manning and the Giants play against his buddy Brady and rivals the Patriots. This will be a fun, fun game.

    I was supposed to go w/ friends Saturday to do The NFL experience games, walk through Super Bowl village, hear the free headliner concerts, and watch the folks on the Zip line, but I had a bad cold and the low temps and high winds last weekend made it a no-go. They are forecasting crisp football weather and flurries for this weekend though.

    Today is Media Day. The quotes should be interesting. 😀

    Super Bowl festivities —

    The Zip line, 4 across:

    NFL-themed race cars, in a field of 33:

    And a restaurant after Joe’s heart: 😀

    Photos by my bro, Eric Hoffman

  17. Heeeeeyyy Joe!

    Looks like it’s just cold everywhere right now. Good for me, because I found a place for me in Bremen and I’m so unbelievably happy, yet at the same time feeling down. Down just because schedule is tight and I still got 7 exams till the internship, the next 4 within 3 weeks… if I ever find the person making these plans… he’d better be a good runner. But also because I will be 6 moths away from family and all my friends, even my new ones from uni. Distance is such a pain, but I bet you know all about that 😉

    Keep enjoying your Japan trip and keep posting pictures!!


  18. So, the guy with the pizza paddle stands on the staircase and hangs the jacket on an impossibly high hook before his shift starts. That way, no one can mess with his jacket because they don’t have the pizza paddle.

  19. “I’ve narrowed it down to Roppongi or Aoyama, but am leaning toward the latter because the former, while a beautiful neighborhood, is full of henna gaijin ” —

    If you have the cash and dont want to outright plop down in roppongi hills residence then Hiroo, and Azabujuban (my home) are close enough to be in the gaijin area but removed enough from roppongi to leave that behind if you want… but it still has a very similar same vibe in those areas as well (hiroo, azabujuban, roppongi, aoyama, aoyama 1-chome). Its a very different feel when you get into Shinjuku-ku, nakano-ku suginami-ku. Likewise going the other way to Ueno, and uenokakimachi are also different.

    I hated the idea of living anywhere close to roppongi for years but realized you can take the good and leave the bad and Im very happy in Azabujuban

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