It’s hot right now. A wall of drenching humidity slams into you as soon as you step outside the cool confines of anywhere with air-con. So… why would Saori, my Sunday best pal, and I think it’d be a good idea to walk down to Naka-Meguro and visit Sidewalk Stand. Good question, but the answer is fairly simple. Sidewalk Stand has fucking great coffee and fucking great sandwiches.
Occupying a tiny triangle shaped space in Nakameguro, Sidewalk Stand serves AllPress Coffee and hand made toasted sandwiches. I kinda had forgotten what a decent toastie tasted like so the D.T.C (¥850) with Dry Tomato, Chicken Breast, Fresh Basil and Mozzarella Cheese had me salivating from the second I read the menu. They are small in size for the price but hey, these aren’t Japanese ingredients man.
Clientele is trendy 25-35 year old locals. Fit out is timber counter tops and black and white minimalism on the customer space and cluttered black and aluminium in the kitchen.
There’s no seating apart from outside, which in this heat will get you heatstroke in about 2 seconds so stand under the air-con inside, get a iced latte and a D.T.C and engage in friendly banter with the staff. Like Saori and I did much to the detest of the other customers wanting to get in on that air-con.
Sidewalk Stand is located at:
Saito Building 1F,
1-23-14 Aobadai, Meguro-ku
I might not be the only person who think’s that Nigo’s foray into dining with Curry Up in Jingumae may be a stretch from his street wear label days but hey, at least you can’t counterfeit a meal like you can a Baby Milo Hoodie. Maybe Nigo finally had enough and thought there’s money to be had in Curry. Whatever it is, it’s a fashion icons new venture and I’ve had weaker premises to visit a restaurant.
Curry Up is a strangely understated offering from the Japanese fashion icon and given his new(ish) label Human Made isn’t that too far away, it’s even stranger when any passerby would chalk this up as just another Indian Curry shop that just got lucky with a newish building and shopfront that was for rent. It doesn’t scream, shout or even demand you come in. It’s serving curry. Come and get it.
Clientele is a slather of bucket hat wearing Japanese, Bape fanboys and quiet diners. Shop fit out is greys and monochrome with just enough wood panelling.
I took the Combination Curry (¥1000) with Butter Chicken and Spicy Beef Curry. It had a bit of a kick to help it on its way down but it was more mild than I was expecting. I’d recommend kicking it up a notch by ordering one of the higher chilli rated Curries.
♫ Hello Donuts, my old friend ♫
Meg is looking at me weird again with half a Blueberry Bourbon Donut in her hands.
‘What?’ I say with the other half of it smeared across my face. I guess she just doesn’t get the cultural aspects of Simon & Garfunkel mixed with my addiction to Donuts. In a way, Camden’s Blue Star Donuts in Daikanyama, Tokyo feels like a similar case study.
When something new, on trend and hyped arrives in Tokyo you can guarantee there’ll be lines for weeks and weeks. Taco Bell recently opened and saw a 7 hour wait.
SEVEN HOURS? I’ve never even had Taco Bell so I’ll leave it up to those more accustomed to it to comment on its questionable contents but it gives you some idea how easily things get over hyped. It’s Taco Bell for gods sake.
But why am I talking about Taco Bell in a Donut shop Review?
Camden’s Blue Star Donuts is originally from Japan’s current obsession, Portland and now finds itself nestled in the architecturally interesting Log Road in Daikanyama. The interior palette is an always pleasant white and blue and clientele of mostly trendy types and couples with dogs instead of kids trickles through as Meg and I comment on how their dogs are giving their owners a walk.
And here I go again by saying that Camden’s Blue Star Donuts aren’t bad Donuts. In fact, that Maple Bacon Donut (¥380) up there was one of the best donuts I’ve had. This is just me once again, as I so often do to the disdain to my friends, comment on cultural differences in Japan that no one but me cares about.
Camden’s Blue Star Donuts founder Micah Camden alluded to it in this recent interview about starting a business in Japan. Everything has to be done bigger and better to get any attention. Camden’s is selling its culture here… not so much it’s donuts. Haritts Donuts in Yoyogi is a fine, wonderful example of a donut shop in Tokyo that doesn’t constantly have a 30 person line out of the front clambering to say they’ve had those donuts.
Yes, I’m aware I fall into this.
But Haritts Donuts is so uniquely Japanese and not a cultural commodity like Camden’s is in Tokyo. It’s kind of weird to support the idea of cool and culture being a commodity. But here’s the thing. I didn’t think about any of this while I was at Camden’s Blue Star Donuts.
All I thought was…
♫ Bacon Donuts, eating Bacon Donuts, Bacon Donuts that’s what I’m gonna eat. ♫
Camden’s Blue Star Donuts is located at:
Log Road Daikanyama #2
13-1 Daiknyama, Shibuya-ku
+81 3 3464 3961
Eating a meal and posing the question ‘If you could die any way, how would you do it?’ may not sound like the best lunch conversation but it was the question I posed Meg, todays lunch companion at Mugi to Olive located off the main road in ritzy Ginza.
‘I dunno… old?’ She answers with hesitation. ‘How about you?’
‘I would lower my head into this bowl of ramen and drown myself.’ I respond with little to no hesitation.
I’m not saying Mugi to Olive is the best ramen I’ve had. It’s just that like my donut obsession… well… it’s an obsession. Having said that however, Mugi to Olive is an innovative concept run by a french chef that seems to be unlike any ramen shop I’ve been too but at the same time being oddly familiar. The shopfront is no more than a dozen feet across but if you have trouble finding it it’s probably because a line of people are blocking it.
So, just look for that line.
Listed in the Michelin guide for 2015, this is it’s original location that opened in early 2014 and a second location has recently opened up in Manseibashi. Service is efficient with no chit chat and the interior is aluminium and industrial white wash in the kitchen with spattering of timber on the dining counter.
‘You get the Clam and I’ll get the Chicken…’ I propose as we look at the traditional ramen ticket machine with the idea to swap halfway through.
‘…then we’ll swap halfway through’ she says.
Man… she read my mind.
The ramen is the best I’ve had in Tokyo to date but not the best I’ve ever had. That honour belongs to the holy trinity of ramen shops in my Japanese hometown of Nagasaki. I’ll get into that another day.
All dishes come with the best and yolkiest boiled egg I’ve ever eaten as well as three extra pieces of freshly cooked Chasu. The Clam Ramen (¥1130) is a little salty but possess a unique flavour that packs a little bit of a punch but is still refined enough to be fresh. The clams sent it over the top as a tasty as fuck dish.
The Chicken Ramen (¥1030) is just as good, actually probably better. The broth is dark and rich with taste and holds own against the competition around Ginza enough for me to want to go back. I actually was a little disappointed they crammed so much stuff in the broth that it decreased available mass for the broth.
If either of us were more game and not comfortably sitting middle tier on the ramen scale we would have tempted fate and ordered The Three Soup Ramen which combines the Clam, the Chicken and strangely enough, dried sardines.
That’s it. No witty ending this time. Just if you want delicious ramen drown yourself in a bowl at Mugi to Olive.
Mugi to Olive is located at:
+81 3 3571 2123
Donuts. When asked about my relationship status my answer is ‘I’m in a very complicated relationships with donuts’. Why? Because I’m acutely aware of how frustratingly bad they can be for you. ‘Cold fats. It’s because they are cold fats’ Vlada, my partner for my trip to Shortstop Coffee & Donuts explains. The blank expression on my face probably informed her that I had no idea what she meant. This was probably confirmed when it took me about 5 seconds to finish the Banana and Hazlenut donut in front of us.
There is a huge hype behind Shortstop Coffee & Donuts for a place that has only been open for all of 3 months. I’ve seen it tagged multiple times on the five people I regularly stalk but don’t follow on Instagram as well as almost all of my friends. It was also recently bought to my attention that even before Shortstop had even opened its doors it had amounted some 16,000 followers on its instagram. Such a place warrants a visit so I may crack open its skull and consume its power, I mean eat its donuts. Vlada and I ventured there for its last day of operation for 2014.
$5. The price jumped out as probably the first thing I noticed, which is a shame because that little price text was below eight mighty fine looking donuts that were laid out in the open on the counter so you can choose. ‘These better be the best damn donuts I’ve ever tasted’ my inner monologue demands before we order 3, a flat white and a cappuccino. The aforementioned Banana and Hazlenut, a Cinnamon, Cardamom and Sugar and Peanut Butter and Rhubarb Jam, all of which are promptly delivered to our wall mounted counter. The coffees though looked the same.
‘Hey, which ones which?’ We ask.
‘Oh! We serve all our white coffees the same. It’s just so we can ensure the consistency is the same across what we do.’
What? That… actually makes sense.
Also, they’re pretty good donuts.
In case you can’t tell, I’m underselling it here trying to play it cool.
‘Did you get some good photos?’ The man behind the counter asks as we stand up to leave. He introduces himself as Anthony, shakes my hand and engages me in some banter about specialty donuts in Japan. I find out later while researching this article he’s the owner.
I forgot about taking photos to be honest, part of the reason I chose to come. Donuts have caused me to once again become distracted.
‘I think we need to talk about our relationship.’ I whisper to the last bite of my donut.
Shortstop Coffee & Donuts is located at:
12 Sutherland Street, Melbourne (map)
+61 3 9642 0807
© 2017 Carey Ciuro