Tokyo's best unexpected international dish

Tokyo's best unexpected international dish

Long a haven for international cuisine, Tokyo can still surprise with its international offerings. We're not talking French or Italian fare here, instead something hors commun

Recommended: PAO Caravan Sarai’s grilled haloumi

PAO Caravan Sarai, TokyoCypriot haloumi and grilled and spiced tomatoes take you right out of Tokyo.

Specializing in the cuisines of northern Pakistan and Afghanistan, PAO offers great food and a fun atmosphere, attracting a hip local crowd.

Author and manager of Bento.com Robb Satterwhite sat down on the thick carpeted floor and found himself perched over tiny tables, and subject to a steady stream of Afghan music. 

“The grilled haloumi is the highlight,” says Satterwhite. He also suggests the stir-fried lettuce and garlic and grilled kebabs as reasons to visit one of Tokyo’s best unusual eateries.

Open Monday - Saturday, 5 p.m.-midnight (last order: 10:45 p.m. for food, 11:30 p.m. for drinks). Sunday and public holidays, 5-11 p.m. (last order: 10 p.m. for food, 10:30 p.m. for drinks). PAO Caravan Sarai, 2-25-6 Higashi Nakano, Nakano-ku, tel. +81 (3) 3371 3750, www.paoco.jp/caravan

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Recommended: Café Ano’s bramborak

Cafe Ano, TokyoBramborack just must be Czeched out.

Café Ano's two Czech chefs turn out meaty Eastern European fare.

Author and manager of Bento.com Robb Satterwhite is especially keen on their hearty goulash and local-style pork cutlets. 

“But don’t miss the excellent bramborak,” he says.

Bramborak consists of thick, garlicky potato pancakes served with sausage and sauerkraut or spinach and hard-boiled eggs. 

Just as important as the food are the Czech beers. You can choose between eight varieties from breweries such as Staropramen and Pilsner Urquell, or a very good Czech-style microbrew pilsner from Ishikawa. 

The dining space is a modern cafe-style setup on a quiet Harajuku back street. 

Open Tuesday - Sunday, lunch: noon-3 p.m., afternoon tea: 3-6 p.m., dinner: 6-10 p.m. Café Ano, 1/F, Wise Wise Bldg, 5-12-7 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, tel. +81 (3) 5467 0861, www.checkczech.jp/cafeano/

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Winner: Aquavit’s foie gras ganache with cured and dried duck and apple compote

Aquavit, TokyoA real viking lunch in a Tokyo riddled with imposter viking lunches.

Contemporary Scandinavian cuisine was woefully underrepresented in Tokyo before the opening of Aquavit a few years back by chef Marcus Samuelsson. 

“The cooking is inspired and full of pleasant surprises, and a welcome bit of diversity in the French- and Italian-dominated world of Tokyo's European restaurants,” says Bento.com's Robb Satterwhite.

The lunch menu celebrates Aquavit's Scandinavian roots, with skillful renditions of classic dishes like toast Skagen (Danish-style shrimp salad), Swedish meatballs (served with a creamy gravy and lingonberries), and beef Rydberg (diced beef tenderloin with sauteed onions and potatoes, egg yolk and mustard cream). 

The menu gets more elaborate at dinnertime, with offerings like the foie gras ganache with cured and dried duck and apple compote, Satterwhite’s top recommendation.

Other winners include marinated Norwegian salmon with smoked avocado, lumpfish caviar cream and zucchini.

“Any discussion of Aquavit would be incomplete without mention of their signature drinks list,” adds Satterwhite. Homemade aquavits include exotic flavors such as pear-vanilla-black pepper; horseradish; and mango-chili pepper.

“An Aquavit tasting of three varieties is a very refreshing way to start or finish the meal," says Satterwhite.

The aquavit and aquavit-based cocktails are best enjoyed while seated in a gigantic Austin Powers-style chair in the formidably stylish lounge.

Both lounge and dining room feature sleek Japanese- and Scandinavian-inspired design, with contemporary art hanging on the walls.    

Open daily, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 6-11:30 p.m. Aquavit, 1/F, Aoyama OM Square, 2-5-8 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku, tel. + 81 (3) 5413 3300, www.aquavit-japan.com


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