Tuesday, March 6, 2007

27. Shop Review: Kasuh Kobo

Update:  Kasuh Kobo looks a little different now, but the fish are still just inside the entrance.  Clothing is now sold on the 1st floor, but the jewelry can still be found on the 2nd.

Kasuh Kobo declares itself a 'Japanese silver accessories' shop. The shop resembles a traditional Japanese home and all of the jewelry has a 'Japanese' theme or symbol. Cherry blossoms, dragons, frogs, Kabuki, fish, samurai swords,... are all part of the designs. I bought a pair of earrings that look like miniature ancient coins, and a matching pendant with another coin and a piece of kimono trapped in silver. The store is properly named as 'kobo' means craftsman. Everything in the store is unique, and I would love to own almost every piece they make. The reason I don't is that it is a little pricey for silver. Earrings are about 1500 - 2000 yen each, pendant charms start around 5000 yen,... That said, I plan to shop there again and again.

The first floor is jewelry, the second floor is all traditional style hair sticks (chignon pins), that are usually worn with kimono. They will put your hair up with one if you let them.

The earring and pendant I bought were wrapped up in a traditional looking wooden box. It is light and easy to mail, making a perfect gift for someone back home.

Kasuh Kobo is located very close to the west exit of Shimokitazawa Station, across from the 7-11.
155-0031, Kitazawa 2-26-8, Setagaya-ku
Tel: 03-3466-4126

Hours of operation: 12:00 - 20:00, open 7 days a week.

*There are also locations in Daikanyama and Harajuku.

For more information: http://www.kasuh.jp/

Monday, March 5, 2007

26. Cafe Review: Gopal

I walk by Gopal all the time; it always has a healthy number of patrons inside. Upon reading that one of its lunch specials was grilled chicken in a gorgonzola sauce, I decided to give it a try. Glad that I did.

Gopal is street level, with two walls of glass overlooking the crowds walking by outside. Another good place to 'Shimokita fashion' watch. The interior is all earth tones, with sienna colored leather chairs and wood grain tables (seating for 36). Toward the front, next to the cash register, is a DJ booth. During my lunch, the music was great; the Beatles and a mix of American oldies.

There are about 6 lunch specials that change daily. On the day I visited, the choices included the grilled chicken, pasta in tomato sauce with bacon and eggplant, BLT sandwich,... The lunch specials include a mini appetizer, soup, a drink, and dessert (choice of three). All for under 1000 yen.
I was given a slice of potato croquette and vegetable & bacon soup. Small, but tasty portions. The chicken in gorgonzola sauce was delicious and was served with a salad and choice of rice or bread. It was as good sized main dish.

There are a number of drinks to choose from, I was happy to see that a small glass of wine was one of the options. For dessert I had a piece of cinnamon chiffon cake topped with whip cream. I paid an extra 600 yen for some iced chai.

I felt that I really got my moneys worth. Everything was delicious, and the staff was friendly. The only problem with Gopal has to do with smoking. There is no 'non-smoking' section, so if you get a heavy smoker nearby, you are out of luck.

Gopal's menu is the same all day, except for the lunch specials that run from 11:00 - 16:00. There are soups, salads, pizzas, pastas, rice dishes, 'bread' items (hamburger, hot dog, roasted chicken sandwich), and some main dishes. There is also a selection of side items that can be ordered while drinking (cheese plate, chicken wings, french fries,...).

Desserts are homemade and there is a different selections daily. They also serve pancakes and waffles (plain, banana & chocolate, fruit topped, smoked meat & egg) and french toast.

Gopal is a popular evening hangout, and there is a full bar. Most mixed drinks are around 650 yen, with specialty cocktails around 800 yen. They also have beer - draft and bottles, and wine - by the glass, carafe, or bottle.

There is also a large selection of non-alcoholic drinks. Espresso, lattes, almost 20 different teas, juices, and soft drinks. Some interesting choices include: iced tomato spice tea, apple mint soda, orange latte, Oriental smoothie,...

The entire Gopal menu is translated into English, including the lunch specials.

Hours of Operation: 11:00 - 12 midnight, Fri. & Sat. until 3:00 am.
*A 10% surcharge is added after 11pm in the evening.

Address: 2-14-16 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku
Phone: 03-5433-2351

This website focuses on the company that runs Gopal, there is little information about the restaurant itself.

25. Food Delivery Review: Kamatora

All I can say is WOW! I have never seen delivery like this before. Kamatora is a delivery service for Japanese 'kamameshi'. A 'kama' is a metal rice cooking pot. 'Kamameshi' is prepared in individual 'kama', it is rice topped with a variety of ingredients such as prawns, scallops, salmon, chicken, shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots,...

I have eaten kamameshi many times, but only in a restaurant. A pamphlet was stuffed into our mailbox, it looked good, so we decided to give it a try. I will definitely be ordering from them again!

My husband ordered the 'Gomoku' kamameshi - a mix of almost all the standard kamameshi ingredients (1380 yen). I had the 'Tori' kamameshi, full of delicious chunks of marinated chicken and some accompanying vegetables (1180 yen).

To see what was most impressive, take a look at the photo. This was restaurant quality food served on exactly the same 'dishware' that it would be served on in a restaurant. It even came with a hot pot full of tea broth. The idea is eat the kamameshi, but leave just a bit of rice. Put the rice in the small bowl, cover it in the broth, and add the wasabi, dried seaweed, and sliced onion provided (ochazuke). An absolutely delicious twist to the meal.

Kamameshi takes a bit of time to cook, so you must wait about one hour for delivery. Our total cost for two was 2,560. It was delicious, healthy, and convenient. Another bonus is that there is almost no waste as everything comes in re-usable dishware.

For those who have never tried kamameshi, or who are picky eaters, order the chicken. There are no exotic ingredients and it is so delicious. I would even recommend it for children.

The service closest to Shimokitazawa is in Sangenjaya. Their phone number is: 03-5779-3877. They take orders between 10:00 - 21:30.

I believe Kamatora has locations all over Japan. For more info, check this website (only in Japanese): http://www.kamatora.jp/

Friday, March 2, 2007

24. Cafe Review: Kate Coffee

Kate Coffee is a really welcoming 2nd floor cafe with an 'open' feeling; due to its corner location and floor to ceiling windows. There are nice views of the main street below. A cream interior, with chocolate brown sofas and chairs, is accented by an eclectic collection of glassware, books, tiny plants,... There are four tables for four (two of which have low coffee tables instead of regular tables), two tables for two, and four counter seats. There is a lot of space around the tables. Jazz and uptempo 'island' music set the atmosphere, very nice!

The lunch set is a choice of curry (Keema or Indian chicken) or pasta (carbonara or bolognaise) with a small salad, choice of drink, and mini dessert for 980 yen.
I tried the carbonara, it was very creamy and had a nice peppery flavor. The lettuce, tomato, and cucumber salad was tiny, but topped in a really tasty dressing. My drink was ice coffee, and it came with a very cute set of pitchers for the milk and gum syrup. Dessert was a very small scoop of delicious vanilla ice cream. It was actually the perfect size for a ladies' lunch, and there were only ladies eating there.

The lunch set is available from 11:00 - 15:00. The pastas (800 yen) and curries (850 yen) are available for dinner as well.

Their side dishes are:
*Slice of vegetable quiche 480 yen
*Ham & Egg Sandwich 550 yen
*Caesar Salad 450 yen
*Garlic spring roll 500 yen
*Meatballs 500 yen
*Sausage Plate 600 yen
*Mixed Nuts 300 yen
*Tortilla chips w/ salsa 350 yen

For dessert:
*Cheesecake 450 yen
*Tart 450 yen
*Chiffon Cake 400 yen
*Scone 350 yen

There are many drinks, including their specialty, 3 types of 'Kate Blend' coffee (mild, light, or bitter) for 450 yen. The caramel chai (600 yen) sounded good, and there was also a selection of other coffees, teas, juices,... For those interested in some alcohol, there is a long list of cocktails (all 700 yen) or bottled/draft beer.

The menu is completely translated into English.

Hours of Operation: 10:00 - 24:00
Address: Kitazawa 2-7-11, Koji Shimokitazawa Bld. 2F, right next to the Kitazawa Town Hall.
Closed on Mondays.
Phone: 03-5454-5436


This is the nicest cafe I've found so far in Shimokitazawa. A great place to relax, unwind, and have a drink.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

23. Restaurant Review: La Verde

Shimokita is full of Italian restaurants, and now one more has been added to the mix, 'La Verde'. I don't believe they are a national chain, but there are 9 locations in Tokyo.

Peach walls are accented with a dark ceiling, floors, and chairs; tables are covered with red tablecloths. Upbeat, jazzy music plays in the background.

'La Verde' has a number of lunch sets to choose from.

1) Pasta Lunch (salad, your choice of pasta - 170 grams, and a drink). Prices range from 850 yen to 1350 yen, depending on the pasta you choose. There are about 20 pastas to choose from, and they are separated into these categories: tomato sauce/white wine taste/cream sauce/other. Customers can also choose from a selection of Gnocchi.

2) Pizza Lunch (salad, your choice of pizza - 30 cm, and a drink). Prices range from 900 to 1780 yen. There are about 20 pizzas to choose from, with a tomato sauce or cheese base.

3) Ladies Pasta Lunch (salad, bread, pasta of the day - 120 grams, mini-dessert, and drink) 1050 yen.

4) La Verde Lunch (Appetizer, pasta of the day - 120 grams, salad, bread, mini-dessert, and drink) 1480 yen.

My friend and I both had the pasta lunch. The salad was iceberg lettuce and shredded cabbage with too much of a mayonnaise based salad dressing. My pasta was spinach and bacon in a white wine sauce (900 yen). I was surprised, but not disappointed, that the spinach was raw. It soaked up less of the white wine/olive oil/garlic sauce the pasta was cooked in. The dish was very tasty, but don't order it if smelling like garlic for the rest of the day is a problem. My friend had 'peperocino' (850 yen), which was spaghetti noodles and some large chunks of garlic in a chili flavored olive oil sauce. Tasty, but again heavy on the garlic.

The servings were very big, if you are having bread with your meal, or dessert, I would recommend getting the smaller portion (-50 grams for -50 yen). Hungry men can order an even larger portion for 100 yen (+50 grams).

The pasta was good, but overall I don't think lunch was that special. Again, I recommend one of the privately owned Italian restaurants instead (Ms. Claudia, Over Take,...).

Lunch is from 11:30 to 17:00. The sets are not explained in English, but are mostly katakana. The ladies set and 'La Verde' set are only advertised outside. I didn't see them on the menu itself. The pasta and pizza list, however, was in English.

'La Verde' is open until 23:30. with last orders at 22:30. I don't know if the menu changes for dinner, or not.

They do have 3 party courses for 2,900/3,700/4,500. And the offer 'all you can drink' for two hours for 1,600 yen.

Address: Kitazawa 2-13-4, 2F. One minute walk from the south exit of Shimokita Station. Straight down the main shopping street and off to the left, just above 'Com Pho'.

Phone: 03-3419-6615

22. Shop Review: Dorobou Nikki

Recently 'traditional Japanese style' influences are making there way into modern clothing, it seems to be especially popular among the college crowd. 'Dorobou Nikki' is a shop that is completely dedicated to this style. T-shirts, jeans, jackets,... are all decorated with traditional images (Kabuki, dragons, cherry blossoms,...) or traditional materials have been added the garment (ex. Kimono fabrics). The jeans are especially cool, although sizes are limited.

The items are a little expensive, but it is evident that a lot of work went into the clothing. And, they are unique. Like 'Robber Gabriela' mentioned in a previous blog, everything here would be especially popular with teenage/college aged foreigners.

Unless you read Kanji (Chinese characters), you won't find this shop by name. Try to remember what the photo above looks like. It is about a one minute walk from the north exit of Shimokita Station, just across from the Deli/Sunday Brunch cafes I also mentioned in earlier blogs.

Address: Kitazawa 2-26-19
Phone: 03-3485-2681

Hours of Operation: 12:00 - 20:00

There are two other locations, one in Harajuku and one in Nagoya.

This website has some good photos of some of the items for sale:

21. Cafe Review: Nan Station

Nan Station is closed and has been replaced with a Hawaiian restaurant.

Nan Station doesn't really have the look of an Indian restaurant. It is bright yellow and orange, and has more of a 'fast food' look to it. I had walked by it a hundred times, but I was surprised once I finally made it inside.

Right inside the entrance is where you order and there are also 5 counter seats. An Indian gentleman is making the nan, a friendly man of unknown nationality takes orders (he spoke English and Japanese), as does a Japanese man. Step through a side door and there is an outdoor, covered patio with 5 round tables. The patio is heated in the winter and it has a really comfortable, cozy feeling. What I didn't realize is that there is another dining room in the back. This one is completely indoors, with 26 seats (tables of 2 or 4) downstairs, and 28 seats upstairs. This area was tastefully decorated with beige wood tables/chairs/bookcases and white walls. Jazz was playing softly in the background. Nan Station is more of a cafe as it offers a limited, but convenient menu. The 'Station Set' is 680 yen. Nan or Rice + Your choice of curry + drink.

In the nan/rice category: for an extra 100 yen you can choose a specialty nan (cheese, garlic, raisin/nut, cinnamon); or for an extra 170 yen you can have rice and nan.

In the curry category, choose from: mild chicken, mild vegetable, shrimp, green (spinach + cottage cheese), spicy keema, and spicy mutton. For an extra 200 yen you can 'supersize' it.

In the drink category there are many choices: chai, lassi (yogurt drink), coffee, teas, coke, melon soda, ginger ale, orange juice, cappuccino. Make it a large drink for an extra 50 yen. Make your lassi - mango or strawberry for an extra 50 yen as well. Also, for an additional 200 yen, choose from: draft beer, Corona, rum & coke, Cassis lassi, Cassis orange, or Cassis soda.
I had garlic nan with the green curry and an ice chai. They gave me my drink and a number, and I went to sit down. The chai was average as it was probably instant. When the nan was ready, they brought me my food. No complaints there, it was delicious!

There are also sides you can order with the set:
*Salad with Italian dressing 240 yen
*Tandoori Chicken 290 yen (2 for 550 yen)
*Sweet Potato Samosa 240 yen
*French Fries / Chili Fries 240 yen
*Spicy Chicken Chili (m) 490 (l) 950
*Mango Pudding 240 yen

Customers can also order any of the nan, rice, or curries separately.

Another option is the 'cheese nan hot dog'. Served with a drink 600 yen, with a salad and drink 780 yen, or with french fries and a drink 780 yen.

They also serve all types of crepes and ice cream.

Nothing is in English, but it is all written in Katakana and there are some photos.

Take out is available for everything! You can just order it and wait, or you can call and pick it up 10 minutes later. The menu is the same during lunch and dinner.

Also, be sure to take the advertisement that comes on your tray. It has a number of food and drink discount coupons on it.

Address: Kitazawa 2-30-2, 1 minute from the north exit of Shimokita Station

Hours of Operation: 11:00 - 22:30 (last order at 21:00)
Phone: 03-5465-7182