Minamoto Kitchoan, London

I first discovered this lovely little Japanese store a year ago, and have been in love with the store ever since. The store describes itself as a Japanese confectionery store which sells “wagashi” – which are traditional confectioneries served during tea ceremonies. Wikipedia has more information on wagashi here, if you’re interested.

One of the reasons I am fascinated by wagashi is the fact that so much thought and effort is put into each piece, from the actual food item down to its packaging. I have a weakness for anything that is packaged beautifully, which is not always a good thing when you’re in such a store! 😛

When you first walk into this store, you will realise almost instantly that each type of wagashi is represented by a “model” wagashi, once again beautifully presented. It’s a nice touch as you get a rough idea of what to expect inside the individual packages.

Kuzukiri – Japanese jelly made using high quality arrowroot. 2 flavours: Brown sugar (comes with brown sugar syrup), and green tea (with green tea syrup). The store says that the jelly should be mixed with the syrup, and enjoyed cold.

Oribenishiki – chesnuts and sweet red bean paste wrapped in a Japanese crepe

Sherbet – 3 flavours: mascat, white peach and grape. It can be enjoyed in two ways – either pop it into the fridge to enjoy a cold jelly, or into the freezer to enjoy a sherbet.

Sakuranbo – Japanese cherry covered with lightly sweetened jelly, packaged in spring colours. (I’ve tried this in the past and it’s delightfully light, with just the right amount of fruitiness)

Mochi – black sesame flavour, with red bean filling

Kasutera – green tea flavour (also available in chocolate and vanilla)

The kasutera pictured above is one of my favourite cakes. It’s essentially a Japanese sponge cake made from sweet rice. The texture of this cake is dreamy, as it is very light and airy… which means that one can easily consume quite a few slices of the cake in one sitting. 😀

However, all nice things come at a price. The wagashi sold here range from approximately £2-£5 per item (they can also be bought in box sets), whilst a “log” of  kasutera (~15 thin slices) costs £14. Some of the other cakes cost up to £25. Having said that, the wagashi is definitely worth a try, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Minamoto Kitchoan (London Branch)
44 Piccadilly, London W1J ODS
Tel:  44 (207) 437-3135

Opening hours: Sun-Fri 10am-7pm, Sat 10am-8pm

Note: There are also branches in Tokyo, Taipei, Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, New York and San Jose.

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Toku Restaurant, Japan Centre

I had a sudden craving for Japanese food last week, so R and I decided to go to Toku, the restaurant in Japan Centre. It’s one of our regular Japanese haunts, partly because the food is pretty good, and reasonably priced. It’s located in a brilliant location, smack in the middle of Piccadilly Circus, which probably explains why there are always people in the restaurant.

We were given complimentary wasabi peas, which are nice to snack on whilst browsing through the menu (especially if you’re starving!).

Cold oolong tea – approx £2 per can (if I remember correctly)

Pork katsu don (served with miso soup) – £12

The pork katsu don is one of my favourite Japanese rice dishes – deep fried breadcrumbed pork fillet, served with rice and an organic egg cracked over the top. It did not dissapoint, with beautifully cooked pork, and a egg that was just the right amount of runny (if that makes any sense). It’s served alongside a bowl of miso soup, which is nothing out of the ordinary.

Unagi (eel) don – £15

The unagi don is another one of my favourites, and my parents declared this dish the best when I brought them here last month. Even my sister, who is normally quite a fussy eater enjoyed this thoroughly! I think that they first grill the eel, and finish it off with a blowtorch to give it the nice random “burnt” bits, which really do add so much more to the dish. Like the pork katsu don, this is also served with miso soup. I always think of the Friends episode where Ross tries to convince Rachel and Phoebe that they need to have “unagi” to be “always prepared” for any harm that may befall them. I do try to refrain from using Ross’ unagi “hand symbol” in public though. 😛 Such a brilliant show, Friends.

Rainbow roll (8 pcs) – £15

The rainbow roll is basically a sushi roll filled with prawn and avocado, and topped with a range of fresh sashimi – eel, salmon, prawn and squid. It’s good, but not as good as another one of their rolls, which is essentially the same roll with a different topping (fresh white fish sashimi and fish roe). I didn’t have that this time around but will definitely be having it some time in the near future, so stay tuned for a photo of that! I love the plates used to serve the sushi in this place, and am still on a hunt to find something similar to add to my ever-growing plate collection.

I’m always completely stuffed when I go to Toku for a meal, and this time was no exception. Nonetheless, it did not stop me from going to Minamoto Kitchoan, which is one of the prettiest shops I’ve ever set my eyes on… and I shall blog about that next. 🙂

Restaurant Toku
The Japan Centre, 212 Piccadilly, London W1J 9HX
Tel: 020 7255 8255 Fax: 020 7434 0313
http://www.toku-restaurant.co.uk/restaurant.html