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October 21, 2011 10:22 pm
Park Hyatt Hotel
When I think of starting the day in Tokyo I think of two very different ends of the food spectrum: grabbing a rice bowl with salmon and a fried egg from Matsuya, the Japanese equivalent of McDonald’s, and sitting down to an exquisitely presented spread at the Park Hyatt. On the upper floors of one of the city’s skyscrapers, this hoteliers’ hotel (immortalised in Lost In Translation) has the most deluxe version of a classic Japanese breakfast you’ll find. A tower of lacquerware and an array of ceramics arrives with grilled fish, miso soup, omelette with spring onions, assorted pickles, the most delicious tofu with a soy dipping sauce and grated daikon, little sheets of nori that you wrap mouthfuls of rice in and freshly cut fruit with a hot pot of green tea. The full works cost around 3,800 yen (£25).
3-7-1-2 Nishi Shinjuku, Shinjuku; www.tokyo.park.hyatt.com
These little kiosks are dotted around the city. They specialise in onigiri, little rice balls or pyramids that come in a range of different combinations, the classic being seasoned rice with pickled plums. You’ll also find them made with octopus, salted salmon, brown rice and – one of my favourites – tiny whitebait-like fish called shirasu, with sesame and shredded shisho leaf. Onigiri are typically served with sides of miso, pickles or tomago (slices of sweet egg omelette), which you can also buy from Omusubi Gonbei. Onigiri are widely available in Tokyo, but the difference here is high quality rice, always the perfect temperature and freshly made. Onigiri are one of the cheaper options, with prices averaging 140 yen (£1.20) each.
30+ branches; 1-7-3 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; 03 3498 2556; www.omusubi-gonbei.com; open 8am to 8pm
In the heart of Roppongi (Tokyo’s answer to London’s Soho), this restaurant’s unconventional hours – 11am till 8am – make it the perfect place for an early breakfast if you’ve decided to go with the jet lag or need to catch an early flight. Specialising in the most enormous bowls of udon noodles in broth (served 50 different ways), it also offers English menus, so it won’t be so hard to choose between, say, kitsune, tempura or tsukimi (where the noodles come with raw egg yolk on the side that poaches when stirred into the hot soup). If you’re really hungry you can get an extra large portion for no extra charge. On a hot, steamy summer morning you can opt for chilled udon, and they also sell beautifully packaged boxes of dried noodles.
3-14-12 Roppongi, Minato-ku; www.tsurutontan-udon.jp
Tsukiji Fish Market
I’ve had some of my most memorable early morning meals here, sitting among stall traders and, curiously, immaculately dressed old ladies eating delicate plates of sushi chased with mugs of cold beer. The market, open between 5am and 9am, is a spectacle in itself, but try to catch the tuna auction, which started again recently after the earthquake. Then find a perch at one of the many little bars, for the freshest sushi and other Japanese breakfast classics such as omelette rice, a curious East-West hybrid of rice wrapped in an omelette served with tomato ketchup.
5-2 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku; www.tsukiji-market.or.jp
As much as I love the Japanese tradition of green tea in the morning, breakfast just isn’t breakfast to me without coffee, and this little gem serves some of the best I’ve tried in the world, let alone Tokyo. Owned and run by Eichii Kunitomo, the modern steel and wood structure, cleverly slotted into a traditional Japanese house, is actually a pop-up which will move to another location next January. For now it’s hiding in a charming back street in Aoyama, and it serves the most expertly made hot or iced coffee all kinds of ways, accompanied by little baked custard squares.
4-15-3, Jingu-mae, Shibuya-ku; www.ooo-koffee.com; open 10am to 7pm
‘Bill’s Everyday Asian’ by Bill Granger is published by Quadrille (£20)
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