Sunday, June 5, 2016

50 Hours in Tokyo: Morning in the Kitchen Town

I began the day wandering through the northern part of Tokyo on foot and later by streetcar, beginning in Asakusa (浅草), perhaps most famous with the giant red gate and lantern in front of Sensoji, perhaps one of the most recognizable tourist landmarks of Tokyo. It must have been years since I walked by this area and despite being early in the morning, the place was swamped with tourists eager to take a snap or fetching an item or two at one of the souvenir shops.

The golden statue of "kappa", the "mascot" of Kappabashi
I continued heading west to a neighborhood called Kappabashi (合羽橋), better known as the kitchen town with a few blocks of street lined with shops selling all kinds of kitchen supplies to professionals and amateur cooks alike. That, to me, was like a giant toy store filled with goodies I wanna take home with.

But before the shopping, I walked into Kappabashi Coffee, a trendy coffee shop at the northern end of the kitchen town. The outside may look just like any other restaurant, but the interior was spacious and nicely decorated - the smoking section on the left resembles a jazz club with dark wooden decor with high ceiling and the non-smoking section in the room on the right has an injection of zen-like atmosphere with an irori (the traditional Japanese hearth) in the middle of a communal table and the window looking out to a small garden and the quiet street outside. In the morning it was so quiet and comfortable - an old gentleman was sitting there reading newspaper while sipping on his cup of tea, a housewife taking a break with her toddler while running daily errands, or a few tourists enjoying the breakfast while plotting their activities for the day.

The café specializes hand-drip coffee, with a choice of beans that rotate regularly. Plus a small food menu – for breakfast it’s butter toast and salad (served with housemade sesame spread on the side) The coffee I had (I think the beans were from Tanzania) was balanced and slightly acidic with just a hint of nuttiness. With good location and ambiance and coffee, I thought this is a great place to start or end the tour to Kappabashi.

Kama Asa Shoten - one of their store fronts at Kappabashi - they got excellent collections of cookware and knives
A soba specialty shop - selling everything from the dough cutting knives to rolling pins to the lacquer bowl for serving
Pots and Pans - or to me, kitchen toy!
I have been here a few times before already but with time to spare I just took my time going through store by store nonetheless. Kama Asa Shoten (釜浅商店) is always one of my favorite stores (and one frequented by a lot of foreign chefs apparently) – one of their shops focus on pots and pans and the other one next door on knives. A few shops on one of the side streets also got a good collection of knives and with friendly staff who could help you pick the right one depending on your need.

Shopping yippie! Better yet now they just lowered the threshold for a VAT refund! No problem at spending 5000 yen and get a refund of 8%! 
I did have something specific in mind that I need for my kitchen, "Yatoko Nabe", or a dimpled aluminum pot using special clamps as handle which was commonly used in Japanese restaurants for general cooking purposes. And I found a good collection of them at a shop called Iida, which carried a good collection of kitchenware in general, with a mix of Japanese and western goods.

Inujirushi Kaban (犬印鞄製作所) - the Kappabashi branch of this 60-year-old canvas maker.
Love these food "model" (a.k.a.sampuru) seen at the display window of many Japanese restaurants! Omakase please!
Inujirushi Kaban (犬印鞄製作所) was one of the non kitchen-related stores I loved to drop by on the street, selling colorful canvas bags and stuff. One I really wanted through was the canvas roll for knives - not that I carried 10 knives with me all the time, but the thought of being able to in a fancy knife roll is always nice. (No, I again didn't get it this time) I also love window-shopping at those stores selling food model – those you commonly saw outside Japanese restaurants with the plastic model of the dishes on their menu. They all looked so real!

It’s almost noon by the time I finished walking through the block and bought what I needed/wanted. No matter how many times I was here, this is still my favorite neighborhood in Tokyo!

Check out the rest of the travelogue series: 50 Hours in Tokyo!

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