Whenever I visit Tokyo, I look forward to meeting newborns... especially when I've followed the progression of their parents. No, I'm not talking about newborn babies. I'm talking about new places to eat.
On our first full night in Tokyo, Kayoko and I visited Jicca, our friend Tori-chan's place. She opened Jicca last August in Hatagaya, just west of Shinjuku. Prior to Jicca, Tori-chan spent six years at Newport, a cafe/dining spot in Yoyogi-Hachiman, where she created the menu and was head chef. It was a dream of hers to open a place of her own, and she did it!
In Japanese, jikka means hometown. Her own hometown is Minami-soma, one of the hardest hit places during the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, and very close to Fukushima nuclear plant. Minami-soma City is a place known for its rice and vegetable farms. At Jicca, Tori-chan serves dishes with fresh vegetables grown on sustainable, organic farms -- locally and afar.
Jicca is on the second floor of a side street off of Nishihara Shoutengai. Look out for the little flag hanging off the second floor.
Follow the sign here to go up a flight of stairs. Jicca is open for lunch and into the night. This woman does not sleep!
The space is small and super cozy. We sat at the bar, with a wide counter made from repurposed wood from a ranch in the states. Once we sat down, Tori-chan offered us a plate of jamon.
And then came a series of small plates showcasing the bounty of the winter season here in Tokyo:
Daidai citrus shochu cocktail. Full of refreshing seasonal citrus for us weary travelers.
Shaved carrot salad that had a really light olive oil dressing. Again, very refreshing after a long day blanketed with some serious jet lag.
The bread she bakes on site has a crispy, rustic texture on the outside and a chewy, mochi-like consistency on the inside.
This was one of the highlights of the meal. It is nagaimo (mountain yam) first grilled then marinated in shio-koji for four hours. She then topped the nagaimo with a drizzle of olive oil. The shio-koji really brought out the umami in the nagaimo.
Lotus root kinpira with peppercorns. A wintery dish.
These fukinotou (fuki blossom) fritters had a quick bitterness that complimented my daidai cocktail. The texture was reminiscent of squash blossoms.
Mackerel, garlic and onions are sauteed and then blended for this pate. This was so savory and satisfying on top of the house made bread.
I love how small places in Tokyo don't have any large appliances like dishwashers and mixers. It really feels like I am visiting someone's home kitchen.
At Hour 5, on Wine #4:
Steamed clams with nano hana (dandelion greens). We asked for more bread to soak up all of the sauce.
The Extreme cocktail.
This is a shochu cocktail with ginger syrup and an explosive togarashi topper.
You break the togarashi, discard the seeds and rip the pepper into small pieces and mix them into the drink.
It was Hour 6 at this point and things were definitely being taken to the extreme.
For shime (ending) we ordered the keema dry curry.
This photo makes my mouth water. The tender ground lamb colliding with the dry curry rice was born to soak up all the wine that was enjoyed throughout the evening.
My favorite part about Jicca was that even as a newborn, it had such a presence -- like it had been there for a long time, hosting its regulars night after night. It's the Cheers of Hatagaya, with great comfort foods... and lots of wine.
Nishihara Hikaru Bldg 2F 2-27-4
Shibuya, Tokyo 151-0066