U.S. eats: A taste of America in Tokyo
The harvest moon often appears in early October and to celebrate, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo has rounded up 54 restaurants and cafés across the metropolis for its Taste of America event, which runs until October 16.
Each of the widely varied eateries imports at least some of its ingredients from across the Pacific for an authentic flavor of the United States, so here are five of our favorites from the Embassy selection.
Devil Craft: Deep-dish Chicago pizza
When three Americans from California, Oklahoma and Florida decided to add some homely cooking to their vast selection of craft beers, the choice of cuisine seemed obvious. Chicago, of course.
Opened this July and a short hop from Kanda Station, Devil Craft's vast selection of beer is complemented by deep-dish pizza which co-owner Jason Koehler describes as "the culmination of subjecting my wife to practice pizzas twice a week for a long, long time."
As the restaurant’s tagline goes, it's "a match made in heaven, served up in HELL" and the pie-like pizzas are not only heavy on tomato sauce, but "The Devil Daddy" (¥2,000 large/¥1,000 small) includes fresh, hand-ground sausage that creates a homemade feel.
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The harvest season inspired Devil Craft to offer a range of unique fruit beers when we dropped by, including succulent apple cinnamon, but with two or three beers changing every night, even regulars can expect a different menu with each visit.
For "Taste of America", Devil Craft will produce a Chicago pizza with a special Philly cheesesteak twist. And, although the bar is on the small side, even if the two floors of seating fill up customers are free to spill out onto the streets of Kanda, glasses in hand.
Devil Craft, Ishikawa Bldg., 4-2-3 Nihonbashi-muromachi, Chuo-ku, +81 (0) 3 6265 1779.
Flavors: Authentic Hawaiian cuisine
While the majority of Tokyo's Hawaiian eateries limit themselves to the popular loco moco, Shigekatsu Iha of Harajuku's Flavors is on a mission to provide authentic and upscale Hawaiian food in a natural setting.
With its light wood interior and airy feel, Flavors is a hidden side street gem just two minutes' walk from the Harajuku crossing.
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The menu is split into two -- "Surf" for the seafood dishes, such as Hawaiian Fish Mahi Mahi Sauté with Black Bean Soy Sauce (¥2,100), and "Turf" for the heartier meat dishes like Grilled U.S. Beef Prime Rib with Rosemary Flavor Mango Natural Sauce (¥2,630).
To get a taste of it all, our recommendation is the combo lunch set, which brings together the best from each dish on one huge a plate.
Flavors, Jingumae 6-12-4, Shibuya-ku, +81 (0) 03 6418 2518.
Oregon Bar & Grill: Charcoal-grilled steak
It might not be the most obvious combination, but Oregon steak with a panoramic view of Tokyo is a dream ticket for meat-lovers.
Located on the 42nd floor of Shiodome City Center in Shinbashi, the expansive restaurant allows customers to watch their steaks being chargrilled by the chefs, with tenderloin and sirloin options ranging from 6 ounces (¥4,500) to a massive 25 ounces (¥13,500).
Our pick of side dishes for the imported U.S. natural Angus beefsteaks is the creamy horseradish-flavored mashed potato.
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Oregon Bar & Grill also serves Viridian wine, whose color is described as “halfway between the deep blue of a cloudless Oregon summer sky and the dark green leaves of a vineyard.”
With a new menu daily and a buffet lunch, there are plenty of options. For diners with a big appetite, the stiffest challenge is called "The Big Plate" (¥8,800), which includes charcoal-grilled scampi, sea bream, salmon and Sonora prime beef sirloin with vegetables.
Oregon Bar & Grill, Shiodome City Center 42/F, Higashi Shinbashi 1-5-2, Minato-ku, +81 (0) 3 6215 8585.
Frijoles: Burritos & Tacos
Frijoles founder Roy Miyano is determined to show that burritos don't have to be junky fast food, but can be "great tasting real food, served fast."
With two eateries in Tokyo firmly targeting Americans who want a taste of home, Frijoles imports beans and dried chilies and eliminates preservatives, making all dishes on site each day, including guacamole.
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"We want people to feel like back home,” says Miyano, who spent eight years in the United States. “I do all the recipe making and on our menu you can mix anything you want, so there is lots of variety.”
One of our favorite aspects of Frijoles is the price -- for less than ¥1,000, each burrito can be stuffed full of fresh ingredients, such as black or pinto beans and lime rice. That’s after you've made a choice from grilled chicken, steak and vegetarian options as well.
As an added bonus, for ¥600 you can top your meal off with a generously proportioned margarita.
Frijoles, Pyramid 1/F, Roppongi 6-6-9, Minato-ku, +81 (0) 3 6447 1433.
Journal Standard Burgers Café: Sweets Burger
Journal Standard has been building up a range of cafés across Tokyo since 2000, starting with its Burgers Café and now through a chain of J.S. Pancake Café and Coffee & Bake Shop outlets springing up mostly on Tokyo's west side.
J.S. has also teamed up with silent-film era cartoon character Felix the Cat for something called the "Happy Flavor" range, which features the new Pumpkin Halloween burger (¥1,180) alongside the standard bacon cheeseburger (¥1,180).
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But what really captures our imagination is the Sweets Burger (¥380), a custom-made and, according to owner Minori Miki, New-York inspired dessert special.
Served in a large pot, the Sweets Burger is a cross between a cake, a cookie and a burger, with a mix of ice cream, hazelnuts and ground cookie mix wedged between two chocolate-chip cookies.
The mix of textures from the freshly baked chewy exterior to the crunchy cookie mix and smooth ice cream is almost addictive, and J.S. has previously experimented with strawberry, vanilla and chocolate fillings. Just be advised that it may be hard to leave without trying them all.
Journal Standard Burgers Café, Jingumae 6-6-2, 2/F, Shibuya-ku, +81 (0) 3 6418 2586.