Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Great New York style bagels in Yokohama (Tokyo)

I've been here for over 8 years now and a decent New York style bagel has been hard to come by. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of "bagels" being sold here in Japan, but all are pale comparisons to bagels you would find in New York.

However, I recently stumbled upon a bagel shop located between Tsunashima and Okurayama stations in Yokohama on the Toyoko line. The place is called Kitate Bagels (see their link and Facebook page below). It is a small shop, but I think is the closest I've seen to a true "New York" bagel (see my photo). I think that if they only cooked the outside a little more to give it a harder "crust", it would be perfect (a couple minutes in your toaster oven can fix that). The shop offers a variety of bagels such as onion, everything, salt, plain, blueberry bagels (and others on a rotating basis apparently), bagel sandwiches and a couple other breads and rolls. My favorite is the Everything bagel and I plan to get my bagel fix at least once a week.

If you are craving a decent NY style bagel, check them out if you are in the Yokohama area.

Kitate Bagels Okurayama page

Kitate bagels FACEBOOK page

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, January 17, 2011

Authentic New York Style Pizza by the slice is finally in Tokyo.

For as long as I have been here in Tokyo (thats over 5 years now) I have always been on the look out for the best and most authentic New York style pizza. Pizza (and Bagels) are probably the 2 things that a native New Yorker misses food-wise here in Japan. There have been some (over-priced) decent pizzas here and there but nothing that comes close to a real NY slice.

However that changed recently when I had my first taste of what I consider a true New york style pizza at Rocco's New York style pizza in Oji, Tokyo. The place opened in June 2010 and I'm ashamed to say that it took me this long to find it (January 2011).

Needless to say they serve up a good pizza that is on par with what I would consider a good slice back home in New York City. Rocco's sells pizza by the slice or by the pie (they have 2 different pie sizes) and offers a variety of toppings, "traditional" New York standards or Japanese style. And the best part is that the prices are reasonable if not cheap compared to the usual Japanese pricing you find on most "non-Japanese" food here. A regular cheese slice sells for 350 yen and toppings are 25 yen each.

I had a regular slice and a slice topped with sausage. Both were surprisingly good slices with sweet and flavorful sauce as well a perfectly baked thin crust that cracks nicely when you fold it. The cheese was cooked perfectly, not burnt, and stretched with "strings" of mozzarella cheese with when you took a bite. All important points for me when it comes to a true New York slice. You can even top off your slice with the usual staples of condiments found in every pizzeria in NY such as garlic powder, crushed red peppers, oregana, parmesan cheese...

Up until I came across Rocco's pizza, I thought it was just impossible to make true New York style pizza here in Tokyo or Japan for that matter (something about the water, ingredients, etc.) but now I know it just required a dedicated foreigner. Sbarros and Costco were the closest (sad to say, but I think other foreigners would have to agree), but Rocco's pizza is a much better and truer slice of New York style pizza, and I know I will be back often. Rocco's New York style pizza restaurant (owned and operated by New York expat Dan and his wife Keiko) is located under 5 minutes from the Oji station in Tokyo and has a classic corner pizza place feel, minus the fat sweaty guy making the pizza.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Used English books at Blue Parrot and Book-Off book stores

When it comes to used books Blue parrot book shop is probably one of the most popular in Tokyo. The store, which specializes in used English books is located near the JR train line's Takadanobaba station in Tokyo, in an area that is densely populated by students due to its proximity to Waseda University.

The store is famous among the English speaking and Expat communities because of their fairly large collection of used English books. However, on my visits, I'm always a little disappointed since their books were all somewhat expensive and their selections, from what I noticed, seemed dated. To pay almost close to the original cover price for an edition that has been through numerous publishing cycles since then isn't much of a good deal for me.

If they priced their books cheaper or at least fairly they would move a lot more products off the shelves faster and have more space for newer books.

My usual favorite for English books is the Book-Off book store chain of used books, videos and music.

Although most of their stores (which are located all over Japan) carry an impressive collection, their Shibuya store seems to stock an impressive supply with many current titles. Their selection also seems to be replenished frequently with new books, and their pricing is surprisingly low. I picked up a barely read copy of "An Inconvenient Truth" by Al Gore for 200 yen last year.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, April 8, 2010

NYC style Pizza by the slice in Japan... service ain't cutting it.

The pizza by the slice at Sbarro in Shibuya didn't disappoint. Although, I didn't have my expectations too high either to begin with. The slices are thin and crispy on most occasions (I've been there 6 times in a span of 2 weeks) and a little small (see it compared to a napkin in my photo), but I must say from my experience so far, the service seems a little inefficient.

In my first trip I gave them the benefit of the doubt, but after having been there on my sixth trip, I should say that they seem to have an disorganized way of doing things.

When you enter and look at the pizza pies presented, you make your selection then tell the staff member who takes your order and writes it down for you on a piece of paper.

You then take the paper to the register, pay and get your drink, or any other "non-hot" item, while you wait in front of the register for your order. On three of the six occasions I was asked to pay again while I waited for my slices.

The otherday, when I went at 8pm I asked for a "supreme" slice and the girl taking orders (Machida) told me they have none and that I "had" to choose something else. I told her I will wait for the next pie and she said they will not make any more which prompted me to ask the men behind the counter making the pies, who told me it would take 10-15 minutes for the next "supreme" pie. This showed me that this particular staff member doesn't seem to know much about customer service.

I then ordered a regular slice and a "supreme" telling them I will pick up the "supreme" after it is finished. Surprisingly, by the time I paid for my order, they said both my slices were actually ready and gave them to me. However it was one regular slice and one pepperoni slice, not the "supreme" I had ordered. I told the staff that it was not a supreme, they actually insisted to me it was, and it was only after I had to point to a photo of a supreme slice in their menu, that they acknowledged the difference.

Was it a mistake or were they just trying to pass off a pepperoni slice as a supreme thinking I didn't know any better?

With this type of service and inefficient methods of order taking and placing, I worry about Sbarro Japan's big plans of having over a 1000 stores in Japan within the next 20 years.

However since they did just open I have to give benefit of the doubt. But then again I would have thought that Sbarro and, at the least, JCI, the company managing the Japan stores would have been better prepared for order processing routine and at the least offer better service where they don't tell a customer that they do not have a particular food item they want.

Another observation made by a friend of mine is that they probably need to change their order counter procedure. It is a system that isn't very Japanese, and may actually intimidate many Japanese from this particular method of order fulfillment. He too noted that it seemed like an inefficient process.

That said, I do hope Sbarro does improve and thrive in Japan, because I am sure they can do well, as long as they implement a better system of running their operations.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sbarro in Shibuya. Has real NY style pizza finally come Tokyo Japan?!?

I've heard about Sbarro's (an Italian fast food chain from NY) plan to open stores in Japan over a year ago, and finally noticed one preparing to open right by JR Shibuya station by the end of March.

Hopefully the pizza at the Japanese-run Sbarro will be somewhat close to what I used to get back home.

Up until now I've had to make do with pizza by the slice at Costco to even come close to NY style pizza. Will I be able to enjoy thick melted mozzarella cheese, sweet and tangy tomato sauce, on a thin crispy crust with maybe some chunks of sausage or slices of pepperoni piled on a slice bigger than the palm of my hand? My hopes are high. But then again, this is Japan so I shouldn't be surprised if the pizza ends up small, overpriced and piled high with corn nibblets, and squid.

Sbarro Japan News release
Sbarro wiki
スバーロ日本 Sbarro Japan site

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, April 19, 2009

More Hub pubs in Yokohama

After years of steering clear of the Yokohama Station area, a spacious Hub Pub recently opened up with an outdoor seating patio just minutes from the Yokohama station. Another Hub is planned to open next month a little more into the heart of Yokohama drinking and eating area, which is only a few minutes further in a different direction.

The location of the second Hub pub will surely give the old standby English pub in Yokohama "The Tavern" a run for its money, since that one will open up around the block from it. Another English pub in that area "Green Sheep" will probably see a drop in customers as well, but I think the Tavern will probably struggle to keep customers much less attract new ones. My opinion for this is because the Tavern and Hub pubs are both socially "open" establishments with standing areas and tight spaces making them somewhat of a pickup scene. With the Hub being more of a well known and popular chain establishment, it may pull a good chunk of their business from the Tavern. However, the Green Sheep, unlike the Hub and Tavern, often features live music and has more table seating which gives it more of restaurant feel and attracts a different crowd.

With all these drinking options Yokohama is becoming a better place to go and party. I recently stopped by the new Hub on a Friday night and the place was jam packed, which has been hard to say for the other English bars in the area.

On a similar note the posh W Hotel with their stylish W bar will open a hotel in Yokohama in the next few years, which should bump up the party scene a notch above the usual pub and izakaya scene.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Hub in Yokohama

The Hub (the English Pub) will finally open a branch in Yokohama of Kanagawa.
This popular chain bar/pub has many locations throughout major cities in Japan, but has long been missing from the Yokohama nightlife scene. However, this Hub probably won't take any customers away from the Tavern, Green Sheep or the Captain which are the current popular pubs found near Yokohama station. The reason being that this particular Hub pub will actually be located on the campus of Keio University in Hiyoshi, Yokohama. Hiyoshi is a station that lies somewhere in between Yokohama station and Shibuya station of the Tokyu Toyoko line, so it is a bit removed from the what is considered the Yokohama station nightlife area.

It is however very close to where I live so I'm not complaining. I'm also not complaining that it's located on a college campus, if you know what I mean.

The Hub pubs that I've been to serve a good selection of beer and their food selection is decent, so it is always a good spot to meet friends. It's definitely a welcome additon to my current list of places to drink within the Yokohama area. They have a point card that is worth getting if you plan on going there somewhat frequently. It gives you a discount on all food and drinks and also adds up to give you usable credits within any Hub bar redeemable for drinks and food in cash value.

The Hub in Hiyoshi, Yokohama is opening on October 31st, 2008 (Halloween, for those of us who care) so I'm imagining there'll probably be some people dressed in costumes. I'll be dressed as the old drunk dude ogling young college girls.

If you can read Japanese, check out the details of this new Hub in Yokohama.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,