Roppongi toilet art
Roppongi toilet art

We sure are experiencing a lot of turbulence, I thought to myself in my sleep-addled state.  Suddenly, I stopped brushing.  Wait a minute.  I’m in my hotel room.

“Did you feel the earthquake?”asked Akemi as I stepped out of the bathroom.  The national news was already reporting on the 4.0 quake, a relatively minor that, to me, felt a little more significant.  But business as usual here I suppose.

Eggplant so purple they're black.  Or maybe just black eggplant.
Eggplant so purple they’re black. Or maybe just black eggplant.

Yesterday, Akemi and I headed over to Roppongi for a little pre-lunch stroll through Roppongi (it of the giant spider art, Das).  The plan was to check out Le Chocolat H but, alas, our favorite Japanese chocolatier had packed up and moved to Shibuya.  So, instead, we walked back to Mori Hills and checked out a two-day farmer’s market.  It was just like back home complete with food trucks and guys dressed up like giant vegetables.  I am a sucker for samples and try to avoid them as much as possible, especially here in Japan where everything is delicious.  On this occasion, I didn’t – and ended up buying a bag of oranges to take back to the hotel with me.

Not a lot of trunk space in this baby.
Not a lot of trunk space in this baby.
Eggplant and turnip = BFF
Eggplant and turnip = BFF

Oranges in tow, we made the fifteen walk over to Nishi-Azabu where we were meeting Akemi’s family for lunch at Butagumi, my favorite tonkatsu restaurant.  Situated in a quaint old building in a back alley, Butagumi specializes in crispy, almost ethereal, fried pork cutlets from all over Japan – and beyond.  On this day, we enjoyed three different varieties along with the traditional slaw, pickles, rice – and one of my very favorite dishes: the braised pork appetizer.

Butagumi, where pork is king!
Butagumi, where pork is king!
I would come to Tokyo for this dish alone: the braised pork appetizer at Butagmi.
I would come to Tokyo for this dish alone: the braised pork appetizer at Butagmi.
Crispy pork tonkatsu
Crispy pork tonkatsu

The talk of the table was, of course, Akemi sister’s, Hiromi’s, upcoming wedding.  The ceremony will be steeped in tradition.  Everything will be exact, from the exchanging of the vows to the specific envelope in which the money gift is presented.  Unfortunately, Akemi hadn’t a clue which of the dozens of money envelopes on display at the local Ito-ya would work, so she had her sister and mother pick one up for us. Elaborate, no?

The personalized wedding envelopes Akemi's family prepared for the wedding. is this a subtle hint?
The personalized wedding envelopes Akemi’s family prepared for the wedding. is this a subtle hint?

After lunch, we sent Akemi’s family off with some oranges, then Akemi and I headed back the way we came, making our way over to Tokyo Midtown…

Jean-Paul Hevin chocolate art
Jean-Paul Hevin chocolate art

I was in the mood for a little dessert but, it being the weekend, the place was so crowded I gave up in favor of some chocolate-covered waffles at the little stand-up shop in Ginza.  Which also had a line-up, so we returned to the hotel where I ate a couple of oranges.

But not before taking a stroll up Ginza dori that is shut down to car traffic on weekends.  Here I snap a picture of a crowd snapping pictures.  What’s so interesting?
This family of cats hanging around.

For dinner last night, I paid a return visit to one of Tokyo’s most dynamic restaurants, headed by one of its most creative chefs: L’Effervesence.  It’s a bit of a walk from Omotesando, tucked away in a little alleyway – but if you can find it, it’s well worth the trip!

Yep, keep going, right past the cemetery.

I met up with my good friend, Tomomi. who introduced me to the place last year.  And, like last year, the meal was nothing short of spectacular.  Some of the highlights included:

This McDonald’s apple pie-inspired appetizer comprised of oxtail, taro and rosemary – that, nevertheless, possessed flavors surprisingly similar to the original.
Pan-fried scales-on tilefish “Amadai” and mussel from Mont SaintMichel, kohlrabi, Manganji pepper, chanterelle, and kabosu. The fish was crisp and tender, the broth subtly sublime, but those mushrooms stole the show.  


Other standouts included an appetizer mousse made up of Hog’s head cheese and Japanese sweet potato, the restaurant’s signature whole cooked turnip (slow-cooked for four hours before being simmered in butter and served, incredibly flavorful and, amazingly, still firm), roast Hokkaido venison served with a fig and red wine reduction, chanterelle mushrooms, and yarrow leaves and –

Pictured above, the house signature salad that includes 50 different salad, fruit, vegetables, and herbs.

For dessert, a ginger milk mousse with Darjeeling tea ice cream, apple jelly, lemon preserve, and this favorite:

Fragments of chestnut creme brulee, rum raising ice cream, wild grape jelly, and olive oil steamed buns.  

And, to end things:

Pop rock chocolate pops, macarons, and a lemon meringue dessert you assemble yourself by squeezing the lemon custard out of a tiny tube and into a tiny pie shell.

After dinner, the ever-humble Chef Shinobu Namae stopped by the table for a quick chat before heading back to the kitchen to complete the evening service.  It turns out Chef Shinobu will be heading to our North American neighborhood to take part in the Culinary Institute of America’s World’s of Flavor conference alongside the world’s culinary elite:  Now THAT sounds like fun.

Alright, time to get ready.  I have a Japanese wedding to attend. Apparently, I’m going to be asked to sign my name name in hiragana today.  With a calligraphy brush no less!  So, let’s practice…

Picture 1Fish hook with eyes, small L wearing a sun visor, bent t.v. antenna, big-nosed 3, and fish hook with eyes.

25 thoughts on “November 10, 2013: Tokyo Day #5! Shaky shaky! Pork and promenades! Dinner at L’Effervesence!

  1. 1. When I first saw this entry I scrolled very fast over the pictures, and thought the eggplant and turnip were the soon-to-be happy couple. 😛

    2. Love the money envelope – I need to get one of those for the next wedding I attend. 🙂

    3. KITTIES!!!


    Fish hook with eyes, small L wearing a sun visor, bent t.v. antenna, big-nosed 3, and fish hook with eyes.

    That spells ‘Joey’, right? 😉

    Have fun you two!!


  2. Hmm – Akemi Mallozzi. That has a nice ring to it. Um… so to speak.

    Regarding your food adventures for today (yesterday for you, I guess) – NOW we’re talking. All that stuff looks delicious, especially the braised pork.

    I hope you don’t misprint some of those characters and wind up saying something completely out of place.

    Have fun at the wedding!

  3. those cats seem to be taking all of the attention well.

    the desserts look good.

    did they look up how to do your name in hiragana? or did you already know it?

  4. Was that vehicle a car or a tractor? Or maybe a tractor-inspired car!

    I love your adventures in Tokyo, Joe. So much to do in so little time…

  5. @ gforce – Didja notice that Joey’s going to be asked to sign his ‘name name’? I wonder if we should point that out to him…


  6. Love the wedding envelope. Akemi Mallozzi? A subtle hint? Are you sure you don’t need to tell us something. Who’s wedding is this again??

    @ Janet – Very sorry about your Mother-In-Law. My prayers for the entire family.

    @ Deni – It’s a shame about the dog. But you can’t have a danger for your grandson in the house. I bet while volunteering you will find another one to try to give a good home to. Keep us posted.

  7. Joe, thank you so much for teaching me new words that I need to look up the meaning for, keep the brain hopping, and for pictures of dessert (and the chest chocolate) and money envelopes, and YES I think thats a BIG hint,,hmm. Akemi’s family is so much fun!

  8. I am with gforce – the pork looked great. The eel not the other day not so much. And the salad with 50 different items looked amazing. Looking forward to more food descriptions and to hearing about the wedding. The money envelope by the way was a work of art itself.

  9. Joe, Earthquakes can be fun. I got to experience a 5.0 in San Diego one year, just after Comic Con. I was on the 7th floor of my hotel when everything started rolling around. As it continued and I looked out of the window at the street below, no one seemed phased by it. Californians are so nonplussed about Earthquakes. Anyway, after it stopped, and I was still all there, I realized it wasn’t so bad after all.

    I wonder if Akemi’s mom thinks her daughter is already married to you…

  10. G’day

    My Mum-in-law passed away 1115 local time (AEST). They took the breathing tubes out at 0900 and Betty was breathing was on her own for a bit. She went peacefully in her sleep.
    R.I.P. Betty (Nana)

    @ Deni – Michael is way too cute 🙂

  11. Thanks for today’s pictures. The desserts look delicious, as always. The money envelope is fantastic. I think the envelope skipped past subtle hint and went straight to done deal. The cats look bored with being the center of attention. My favorite today, however, was the description of how to write your name. Good luck. 😀 I hope Hiromi has a beautiful wedding and you and Akemi have a great time.

  12. I am fascinated by those carrots. They are like the carrots you’d draw as a kid or see in a cartoon, only real.

    Hope you finally find that chocolate dessert you’ve been hunting for, an orange just won’t cut it unless it’s dipped in chocolate. The muscle bound chocolate bod doesn’t count, I like my chocolate a little less ripped.

  13. I hope they don’t mind if you post pics of the wedding!? It will be so interesting to see a Japanese wedding if they do. I’ve seen weddings in the States that provide little cameras to all the guests. Then they have a large amount of candid shots of the wedding/guests. That sounds like a fun idea.

    Sad that Japan has homeless cats there too. 🙁

    Janet: Sending {{{hugs}}}} and prayers.

    Deni: Volunteering helps me have an “extended” feline/canine family. Everyone else has 20-30 cats/dogs at home but so far, we’ve stayed at 3 cats. So sorry the adoption didn’t work out. Sadly, I’m sure you will have plenty of changes to find a more perfect match.
    I wish they would tighten up the spay/neuter laws. There are a lot of organizations that provide low cost spay/neuters but people don’t seem to know about them. I try and spread the word.

  14. @ Janet – My condolences to you and your family. No passing is easy but to pass peacefully in one’s sleep is a gift. I hope that memories of happy times bring you comfort.

  15. Are those carrots the size of an eggplant?!

    You know, I wonder how the majority of Japanese people stay so thin given all the delicious chocolate and dessert that seems to abound everywhere. (Admittedly, they probably eat less friend chicken or french fries than

  16. @Joe:

    Chiming in here with the others; that pork looks amazing.

    And how did the hiragana signing/calligraphy go today?


    Praying for peace for you, your husband and your family.


    Sorry for the upheaval with the pet shelter; I hope you’re doing okay. It’s a shame, but I don’t think many shelters qualify their dogs’ behaviours. When we took our Lucy home from the shelter, we were told she was good with kids (toddlers make her antsy), that she was housebroken (she wasn’t), and that she was docile with small animals (she killed three rabbits in our back yard in the first three months).

    Needless to say that I won’t be putting much faith into anything a pet shelter tells me about a prospective dog’s behavior. Not all of it is the shelter’s fault though. I think a dog’s behavior while in the care of a shelter is probably not indicative. In a shelter, a dog is in a constantly changing environment with a lot of other dogs, different handlers, and over-whelming stimuli. Some of the dog’s normally bad responses (nipping/biting, anti-social behaviors, destructive chewing) are suppressed by the environment at the shelter (at least it was in our dog’s case).

    We went into this expecting we would have some issues to deal with and so we kept her, house-broke her, and obedience trained her. Now she is a much loved and mostly well-adjusted member of the family (she is still a little antsy around toddlers and small children, but we manage that by not exposing her to young children). If our kids were younger at the time, we would have had to do the same as you and return her to the shelter.

  17. Time to come clean with us Joe. You guys are married, aren’t you? We won’t be upset. We think you are perfect together and would only be ecstatic for you. I immediately saw the Akemi Mallozzi. Forget the rest of the beautiful presentation.

  18. @Janet <<>> You know I am serious when I say that death can just take a holiday for the rest of the year because I’m tired of it. Sending prayers and hugs and support to you and your family.

    @Deni Anakin is getting so big and just gets more and more cute as he grows if that is possible.

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