Category Archives: Eating Out

Eating Out

Taster’s Choice

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Take Five

Upwards of forty downtown Tajimi establishments are teaming up for this first annual upcoming event, similar to a barhopping “machi-kon,” called “Yume Machi.” Over the course of two days, for the ¥3500 price of one ticket (¥4000 the starting day of the event), you can eat, drink, shop or otherwise partake of services at any five participating shops, restaurants, cafes or bars at no extra cost. You get a map of all the stops and a special hand fan to encourage walking from place to place and identify you as a participant.

It’s a good value, a way to try out some places you thought were out of your price range, and maybe even a chance to make some new friends. Event menus for each spot are here. Tickets are available at participating stores and through the website.

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The event flyer and website are also touting a smartphone app that seems to feature coupons and information on area events and businesses. It seems to be a web app and is called “Tono App.”

Lots to Do

In case you’ve lost track, the weekend has an impressive lineup of events including:

  • The first of three live music Saturday beergardens tomorrow evening at the Sakazuki Art Museum in Ichinokura
  • A “machikon” beergarden atop a two-storey public parking lot in Tajimi to view the fireworks there on Sunday
  • A similar konkatsu (mixer) type affair at Secret Time Cafe on Saturday, where if you bring a date, there’ll be a special chance to enjoy Toki’s fireworks festival (not sure if it’s in their parking lot, but that would definitely be a nice spot); by reservation only. They’re still looking for takers last I heard
  • Something called Kokeizan Dining on Sunday, which sounds like a beergarden from one of Tajimi’s most scenic spots (advance purchase tickets required)
  • Neu Cafe, while itself closed after lunch Sunday, will be offering outside the shop draft beer, Okinawan food, curry, tandoori chicken sandwiches and more in the buildup to the fireworks
  • And of course Toki’s (Saturday) and Tajimi’s (Sunday) fireworks festivals with stalls set up all along the river (and Chuo Dori in Toki; Nagase Dori in Tajimi) all afternoon and evening; Tajimi’s festival is part of its Gozasse Natsu Matsuri

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These are just goings on I happen to be aware of. I’m sure there are plenty of others as well.

Sounding Board?

I’ve written before about the serendiptous effects of background chatter in public places, but this article at Grubstreet.com made me wonder if the wooden slats you often see in area restaurants are part of this New York-born noisier-is-neater trend the article chronicles.

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These boxes on the wall at Secret Time Cafe are the closest thing to slats I have handy on my camera roll (more typically slatlike boards along and behind the counter at this post).

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Another place that comes to mind is Shinsui Cafe (the rounded corner between one whole wall and the ceiling is made up entirely of slats with gaps).

I don’t know. I think there’s a tradition of using wood slats in Japan, whatever the reason. I’ll ask some architect friends. In the meantime, though I often make use of the ambient indiscernable “rhubarb,” I think I’m glad I don’t live in New York.

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A Novel Lunch at Cannery Row

Reader’s Digest

I went to a pasta/pizza restaurant in Meito-ku, Nagoya, called Cannery Row recently. Here’s a condensed recollection as I try to get a few words in while tonight’s lightning seems kept at bay.

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To start, all lunches include the loaded salad bar, which is really an antipasto bar. Very nice variety, all good. I realized I must not have had vichyssoise very much before because it was an enjoyable taste I wasn’t really familiar with. You may need two trips to the buffet. A drink bar is also included.

The regular pasta lunch menu offers several pasta dishes, many quite original, in each of several categories, ranging from around ¥1300 to ¥1800. Pizza lunch menu choices, all about ¥1600 to ¥1700, number eight.

There are also fondue, chicken and fish course lunches available at a premium of around ¥4000. “Dessert sets” are a simple matter of tacking on either ¥150 (one item) or ¥390 (three items) to any lunch set.

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Mm, Mm, Good

From the special Summer Fair Menu, I chose the avocado and shrimp chilled spaghettini. Cold soba noodles are a common cool option in the summer heat, but this was a rare pasta version. I guess I was expecting something like gazpacho, but what I got was a truly new taste sensation I’ve never had before. The mango-pineapple fruit vinegar-infused tomato sauce worked very well with the cold thin pasta, accented with a zingy kick of fresh basil. I might not have thought a cold tomato sauce spaghetti would work, but this definitely did.

Despite its name, Cannery Row doesn’t particularly specialize in seafood (the locale in the Steinbeck novel was a major canning center before the surrounding waters became overfished). Lunch is served from 11 to 3, open year-round. Map link here.

Curious City

Wednesday was Morizo, today is Mozo, and tomorrow’s anybody’s guess, but probably a day off from the blog, given the publishing pattern I’ve come to adopt lately.

A Bustle in Your Hedgerow

Mozo. After years of only hearing about it, I finally got to Mozo Wonder City shopping mall in Nishi-Ku, Nagoya. I can see now why people sometimes seem to prefer it to other area retail options. As the website explains, with typical Japanese non-committal, open-to-interpretation ambiguity and flowery language, the concept is one of a murmuring, a tiny rumbling/trembling/rustling/fluttering/nudging; sensing the beginning of a movement (literal or figurative – again, it’s up to you), perhaps being on the cutting edge or being present at the birth or sprouting of a trend, indulging your curiosity and growing like Tajimi roadside vegetation in June. My description is beginning to get as overgrown as their concept page, or the ivy nurtured outside their buildings, but you get the picture. It’s got lots of cool stuff.

As it happens, I mainly went to see a movie at the theater there. Besides feature films, this playhouse shows things you might not see anywhere else. Case in point: Three Idiots, the highest grossing Bollywood film ever, showing three years after its release. It was quite the romp. Be warned, unless you speak Hindi, you’ll have to be quick on your toes. There is a 5% mix of English in the dialogue, but the subtitles are all in Japanese. Don’t worry if you don’t catch every detail; Just repeat to yourself: All Is Well, All Is Well. You’ll get it if you see it. No, none of the idiots are called Moe, zo.

I only had time to linger in a few stores. There’s a Village Vanguard with a better selection of architecture and interior design books than other “VillaVans” I’ve been to, and Kitano Ace natural peanut butter mother lode imported food store. The anchor store is Aeon. The whole place is having big sales through Sunday, and even the regular prices I saw were pretty good. There was a very healthy, but not smothering, throng of customers well into the evening. Roads there don’t tend to get jammed, but if you don’t go by car, you can get there on the Meitetsu Line, getting off at Kamiotai Station and walking five minutes.

Guides to Good Times in Gifu and Beyond

Sitting here at the counter at Neu, I pick up this magazine, and the first three pages I randomly open up are places I immediately recognize, though two of them I only went to once, five and nine years ago. Not bad. This has got my attention.

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I’ve never seen this magazine before, but it’s clearly a kind I like. Beautiful photography introducing area shops, inns, restaurants, cafes, hot springs…any way or place to spend quality leisure time. Every new season there’s a different theme. This summer the focus is on “the view out the window.” (The cover story is on summer fun, then and now).

Then Neu’s owner brings out another magazine, this one from the publishers of Cheek, highlighting cafes, bakeries and sweets shops in Gifu, Mie, Aichi and Nagoya, as well as Shiga, Nagano and Shizuoka. Again, irresistible photos and presentation make me want to head out and try as many of these places as I can.

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Actually, Neu appears in both of them, so their being here is no coincidence. Anyway, I’d say I’m sufficiently piqued that I plan to go out and pick up my own copies soon and do a little cafe-cruising, at least on paper. Both are available in bookstores, with Hitomi even in convenience stores. Cheek’s July issue, below, also checks out Gifu hotspots.

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Lady Be Good

Too many cafes in town? Never. Just keep ‘em coming, and I’ll keep coming.

I’ve written before about Kumi Hirano and her plans to open a cafe, and now along with her husband, she’s forged the dream (if you’ll pardon the mixed metal, mortar and mortise) into stone, beam and plaster.

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Named after the legendary composer of Great American Songbook fame, Gershwin opened just a month ago in a quiet, secluded corner of Onada-cho in Tajimi. It’s since been gaining a word-of-mouth reputation as a go-to choice for a leisurely break and chat with friends.

Summertime, and the Livin’ is Easy

The emphasis is on simplicity, from the uncluttered architecture and furnishings to the menu of lovingly brewed coffee, tea and light sandwiches and sweets. There’s also a “morning service,” as is a local custom: breakfast for the price of coffee. If no one is using it, grab the table on the patio deck. They say it’s the best seat in the house, nicely shaded in summer by a thick bamboo grove across the way.

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Premium Audio is Standard

Though Kumi is happily and permanently retired from singing, there will be occasional live performances by local artists in addition to the fascinatin’ rhythm of choices from her extensive collection of jazz recordings day to day. That’s a piano toward the back in the top picture.

Get to Gershwin by taking route 381 (the Autobacks/Jazz Inn Papa’s/Akariya road) past the post office and (non-flashing) traffic light, and turning left at the bakery that’s on the left. Then take the first right just past the bakery, and the cafe will be immediately on the left. Hours are from 9 to 6, with Sundays and the first & third Mondays off.

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While a lot of folks spend their days toiling to realize their hopes with precious little or no success, Kumi has made not one, but two life dreams come true – being a full-time professional jazz singer, and building from the ground up and running her own cafe, which also happens to be her new home. Oh, and how can I forget dream number nine three: becoming a mom. Let us know where you found that magic lamp, Kumi. Congratulations and best of luck to the Hiranos on their new venture.

Cool Off With Tea in the Woods

Up a slope in the middle of the woods in Kokeizan-cho, Tajimi, well sheltered from the summer sun, is “BAum De Foret Patisserie & Salon de Thé” (sic). After several times making the trip only to find it closed, I’m happy to report I finally made it beyond a fly-by in the parking lot.

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Inside, it was more spacious than I thought. Antique-style sofas are in the waiting area, as well as at some tables, reminding me of nearby Akariya. Going past the bakery cases (you can just buy those goodies without eating in) to the dining room, I saw couples, chatting friends, and a few families, though I was the only person by myself. I’d have to say it is the kind of place you’d want to go to with someone. Besides locals who stop in for coffee and cake, tourists from farther away combine their visit to Kokeizan and Eihoji Temple with a relaxing lunch retreat here.

Among the lunch choices are the very nice assorted plate you see here for ¥1200 (not including drink, unless the staff just forgot about me; They also took a while to get everyone’s checks to the tables, at least this day), a curry plate, pasta plate, and a Hida beef steak bowl. Sweets are made by sister shop Saint d’Ore French pastry, Kanayama-cho, downtown Tajimi (across from Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank, photo below). BAum De Foret (curiously katakanized as バーム ド フォレスト), on route 381 past the junction with route 385, is open 10-7, with lunch from 11 to 2:30. All non-smoking.

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If They Build It…

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I put a nice bright spot in a soggy afternoon with a visit to a hot new place in Toki (yes, Nothing-To-Do Toki) today.

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Since opening just this month, Secret Time Cafe has quickly become quite the in spot, having been supported by lots of folks along the way to realization. Many who had a hand, including a couple of acquaintances of my own, are recognized with their names painted on the floor. Apparently the opening was rather a smash, word of mouth rendering Secret Time no secret at all.

The cafe feels like a bit of Nagoya or other city right in downtown Toki. Near the intersection of route 421 and local (not regional) route 19, it shares an ample parking lot with the second hand shop with the big Santa sign.

The menu has a pretty wide selection to choose from (more galettes, for one thing), everything sounding tasty, eye-pleasing and healthy. I had the taco rice lunch for ¥980 including what you see here and a drink.

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They’ve devoted a lot of attention to the atmosphere here, and did a nice job, especially considering this space has been a revolving door for a number of cheap, seedy or somehow unappealing outfits in the past. That is, emphatically, history now. I didn’t have a chance to look completely around, but I’m sure I’ll be stopping by often enough. More photos and info (like what the “art” on their business card refers to) to come.

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Secret Time Cafe, bar and zakkaya (notions shop) has these very welcome broad business hours: Tuesday through Thursday, and Sunday, 11:30-3 and 5 PM to midnight; Friday and Saturday, 11:30-3 and 5 PM to 1 AM. Closed Monday and the third Tuesday. They have smoking and non-smoking sections.

Make Your Old Art Prof Happy

If you enjoy seeing art, you don’t want to miss the nice collection of three centuries of masterpieces by French artists showing at the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art at Aichi Arts Center in central Nagoya until June 23.

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The exhibition features 66 works spanning periods from Baroque and Rococo to Cubism, from Poussin to Picasso, all from the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. As such, it’s a good chance to review your art history knowledge from that college survey course you had to take. The significant changes in each period are outlined in Japanese, and audio guides explaining eack painting are also available in Japanese for 500 yen.

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One of the highlights is a captivating Renoir portrait being shown in Japan for the first time, visible on the poster and admission ticket above. The whole show was a pleasure to see. One painting that especially brought France and French painting home was one called (translation of Japanese) “Paris at Dawn” by Luigi Loir.

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Besides museums, the twelve-storey Aichi Arts Center has a performing arts theater, a library, spaces for contemplation, art shops and restaurants including a Wolfgang Puck Cafe.