Issue Index

Features
  Mini Features
  Cultural Features
  Life in Japan
  Big in Japan
  Rant & Rave
  Cars & Bikes
  Health & Beauty
Jobfinder
  Money Talks
  Tokyo Tech
  Web Watch
  Food & Drink
  Features
  Restaurant Reviews
  Bar Reviews
  Word of Mouth
  Travel Features
  Japan Travel
  International Travel
  Travelogue
  Art
  Artifacts
  Fashion
  Tokyo Talk
  In Store
  Buyline
  Japan Beat
  CD Reviews
  In Person
  Concerts
  Clubbing

Tsukishima is accessible by the Yurakucho and Oedo subway lines. The closest exit to Monja Dori is number seven, which also leads directly to the Tsukishima Monja Association's information center. The staff there can provide recommendations based on your preferred taste, style, atmosphere and budget. The Tsukishima Monja Shinkokai (tel: 03-3532-1990), a separate coalition, is located around the corner and offers free maps and information services. Both are open until at least 8pm.

 

The following are a few suggestions for your next monja outing:

Monkichi
Brad Pitt's monja spot, this popular eatery is located in a narrow alley off Monja Dori. It's worth the wait for the friendly, shitamachi atmosphere.
Open 11am-10:30pm daily. 3-8-10 Tsukishima, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-3531-2380.

Mu no Shison
Close to the station, this place is always hopping thanks to its ¥1,490 tabehodai (all you can eat) and ¥2,900 nomitabehodai (all you can eat and drink). Also a good spot for people watching on Monja Dori.
Open 11:30am-11pm daily. 1-9-8 Tsukishima, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-3533-7799.

Oshio NST
Reportedly a favorite with the ladies, this spot offers a slightly upscale monja experience with tables and chairs, as opposed to low tables and zabuton.
Open noon-11pm daily. 1-20-4 Tsukishima, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-3532-9595.

Monja boat
A different take on the yakatabune, this boat is outfitted with tables and hot plates for floating monja. Available for parties or two or more for ¥4,900 each, including two hours of tabenomihodai cruising.
Contact the Tsukishima Monja Association at 03-3533-6699 or visit www.4900yen.com.

bar news and views
word of mouth
602: The Kanten craze
A popular new diet shows jelly isn’t just for kids
601: Six Little Secrets
Our sommelier recommends his favorite wine bars
600: Healthy Options
Organic restaurants and shops are sprouting up all over Tokyo
599: Dive in
Aged sake is worth exploring, but the good stuff is forever young
598: Latin Flavors
Give thanks for Brazilian appetites
597: The Italian Job
Mitsuru Sakuraba is out to persuade Tokyo’s coffee drinkers that quality counts
596: Brilliant bakeries
Because man cannot live by rice alone
595: Golden Grains
One type of rice sticks out above the rest
594: Pietro Androsoni
Pastry Chef at Riva Degli Etruschi
593: Ripe for a Comeback
Australian Shiraz enjoys new-school cool
592: Down under and all over
When all is said and done, marcus yip just loves to cook
591: Cool foods
Chill out this summer with some traditional—and innovative—warm-weather treats
590: Mastering the art
Changing times bring new challenges for sake’s master brewers
589: French twist
Chef Thierry Voisin lands on his feet at the revamped Les Saisons
588: The heart of europe
Dry and unabashedly pure, the wines of austria make for a perfect summer quaff
587: Nutty About Natto
Don’t turn up your nose…this infamous goo is an acquired taste
586: Smoke-Free Feasts, Part III
Stub out and eat up at Tokyo’s no-smoking delis, cafes restaurants
585: Josef Budde
Executive Chef of the Grand Hyatt Tokyo
584: The Earl Arrives
... And he’s delivering gourmet sandwiches to Tokyo’s overstretched office workers
583: Stand and Deliver
Get a quick hit of sake at two of Tokyo’s top tachinomiya
582: Smoke-Free Feasts, Part II
As World No Tobacco Day Nears, Celebrate at Tokyo’s organic and ethnic eateries
581: Yoshiaki Abe
Executive Chef at Kakyu
580: The Donburi Diary
A foodie goes in search of the perfect partner for lunch
579: In Praise of Pinot
Our sommelier salutes Hollywood’s homage to the world’s most glorious grape
578: Eat up, don’t light up
The smoke is slowly lifting in Tokyo’s dining rooms
577: Keeping it Real
Unpasteurized sake is like uncensored film: Risky but irresistible
576: The Man from Lavazza
Tadahiro Iwahashi wants to change the way Japan drinks coffee
575: Aarin Teich
Maitre ‘D and Manager of Stellato
574: Demystifying the Market
Kanji-ridden packages often hide delicious treats not to be missed
573: Open for Debate
You’d be a fool to turn up your nose at a wine just because it’s sealed with a screw cap
571: Tipple Trips
Visiting a sake brewery will enhance your appreciation of the drink and its craft
570: Art in a Glass
Mixologist Douglas Ankrah says Tokyo needs to be shaken and stirred
569: Mario Frittoli
Creator and head chef of Ristorante Luxor
568: Get Saucy
Simple japanese sauces can dress up otherwise bland veggies for a healthy diet
567: A Matter of Concentration
How a wine’s sweetness is achieved will help determine its value
566: Look Before You Slug
Cup sakes can be more than they’re cracked open to be
565: Hot Topics
The pick of Japan’s culinary magazines
564: Culinary Resolutions
This year, pledge to explore more of the world of food and drink on your doorstep
563: Losing Its Pop
Champagne makers need to face facts to put the fizz back in their bubbly
561-562: Seasonal sipping
This New Year's, drink sake the traditional way with the herbal mix known as otoso
560: Comfort Food
Healthy and hassle-free nabe warm the soul through winter
559: A bright Thamara
Canela’s young new chef brings a taste of Latin America to Tokyo
558: Mac attack
Our sommelier chews the fat with former roommate and Supersize Me creator Morgan Spurlock
557: Warming trend
As winter approaches, sake makers and drinkers alike get a taste for the warm stuff
556: Turkey Day delights
Tokyo restaurants serve up classic Thanksgiving fare
555: Harvest festival
Reap the best of the season as autumn’s fruits, vegetables and more reach their peak
554: Sugar and spice
Last year’s hot summer made some wines suffer and others truly shine
553: Tricks and treats
Tokyo bars and restaurants get into the Halloween spirit
552: Legends of the fall
Japanese brewers usher in autumn with traditional seasonal offerings
551: Master Glass
Sommelier Glenn Tanner crafts an award-winning wine list at Olives
550: Soy right
There’s never been a better time to try the impressive array of Japanese soybean product
549: Say cheese
Tokyo offers some tantalizing prospects for cheesecake lovers
548: White knight
The noble Chardonnay holds it own against a rush of New World upstarts
547: Zest for life
Cookbook author and culinary school director Elizabeth Andoh shares her passion for Japanese cuisine
546: Drinking fountain
Shinbashi's Sake Plaza overflows with information and examples of its namesake beverage
545: Top shelf
Once a rough country spirit, shochu is now the most sought-after drink in Japan
544: Style guide
A new book aims to single out the coolest restaurants in Tokyo
543: Tasting notes
An Italian wine show offers a chance to savor some of the country’s top offerings
542: Behind closed doors
Akira Ishibashi has made a second career out of hiding hip bars in nondescript locales
541: A matter of taste
Today's brewers carry on the tradition of the summertime sake sampling
540: Must-eat TV
Yukari Pratt feeds her yen for Japan's eclectic menu of food programs.
539: In the raw
Veteran sushi chef Takashi Ono takes Carlo Niederberger behind the scenes at Roppongi Hills’ Sukiyabashi Jiro.
538: Spanish lessons
Sommelier Ned Goodwin studies the wine and cuisine of the "New" Spain to see what all the fuss is about.
537: Red, white and brew
American Bryan Baird is the brains behind one of Japan's most popular craft beers. Bryan Harrell meets the brewmaster.
536: The nihonshu express
John Gauntner disembarks at Tokyo Station and finds a wealth of fine sake.
535: In the market
Depachika denizen Yukari Pratt gives us the inside scoop on the scrumptious world of department-store food floors.
534: Branching out
Looking for a gourmet meal that won’t empty your wallet? Steve Trautlein visits the less-expensive outlets of some of Tokyo’s elite eateries.
533: Think pink
It’s pretty, it’s tasty and it’s perfect for summer. Ned Goodwin reveals why wine lovers should take another look at rose.
532: Taste of success
Pizzafest winner Makoto Onishi tells Ai Uchida about the highs and lows of becoming Italy's most famous foreign pizza chef.
531: Toast of the town
John Gauntner reveals why Niigata reigns supreme as Japan’s top sake region.
530: Cha cha cha
529: Growth complex
Tokyo is seeing a surge in new buildings that cater to curious chowhounds. Tama M. Lung tours three recent arrivals.
528: Workaholic
Ned Goodwin stretches the limits of his sommelier skills at one of the world’s largest wine fairs.
527: Moveable Feasts
Matt Wilce's pick of Tokyo delis make a Golden Week picnic a walk in the park.
526: Grains of truth
John Gauntner sets the record straight on the diverse variety of sake rice.
525: Prost!
Bryan Harrell raises his glass to the beers of Germany, and the best places to quaff them in Tokyo.
524: Spices of life
Get your pho and dried mango fix at these five international food stores in Tokyo. Hanna Kite goes to market.
523: Que Syrah
Sommelier Ned Goodwin heads to his homeland to sample the latest darling of the wine world.
522: Shanghai surprise
Chinatown's newest attraction gives visitors a chance to sample the delights of the Middle Kingdom. Steve Trautlein chows down.
521: Spring fling
John Gauntner ushers in the warmer weather with a host of seasonal sake.
520: Luck of the Irish
Chef Dorje Heavey has become Japan's latest culinary sensation by bringing a taste of traditional Ireland to Japan. Aodhan O'Faolain hears his story.
519: Golden bowls
Carlo Niederberger tours Tokyo's newest "ramen town" and gets his fill of noodles from across the nation.
518: The sweet stuff
Resident oenophile Ned Goodwin tracks down some Tokyo chocolatiers whose wine lists match their bonbons.
517: Down to earth
A charter member of Japan's environmental movement, Hideo Fujimura serves up organic goodness at his down-home izakaya. Bryan Harrell pays a visit.
516: By the numbers
John Gauntner delves into the pluses and minuses of selecting sake.
515: Star gazing
When only the best will do, serious gourmands look to the stars in the esteemed Michelin guide. Tokyoites can also get a taste of its award-winners' fare, as Tama M. Lung reports.
514: Let them eat bread
Hanna Kite checks out the hot new bakeries making yeast lovers rise across Tokyo.
513: Bubbling over
Resident oenophile Ned Goodwin rediscovers the joys of Champagne with a little help from Dom Perignon.
512: Frugal feasts
Tokyo's finest restaurants offer affordable lunch sets for a fraction of the dinner bill. Hanna Kite takes lunch outside the office.
511: Some like it hot
Just in time for those frigid winter nights, John Gauntner debunks the claim that the only good sake is a cold sake.
509/10: Fresh meat
Matt Wilce dishes up 2003's best dining debuts.
508: Just desserts
Tokyo's latest theme park is a temple to all things sweet. Lisa Sekiguchi pays a visit to Jiyugaoka Sweets Forest.
507: 'Tis the season
With all the winter beers and holiday ales around, the amber brew's not just for summer anymore. Bryan Harrell throws a few back.
506: Talking shop
John Gauntner reveals the city's best-stocked but little-known sources for premium sake.
505: Haute chocolates
Top-class European chocolatiers avec cafés have oozed onto the Tokyo gourmet scene. Hanna Kite handpicks the city's best.
504: Home on the grange
Ned Goodwin toasts Penfolds, the prized winemaker of his native Australia.
503: Hot turkey
Hanna Kite finds out what's cooking for Thanksgiving this year.
502: Just for fungus
Bryan Harrell sniffs out matsutake, autumn's culinary delicacy.
501: Strange brews
And now, nihonshu wizard John Gauntner brings you sake completely different…
500: Masks and flasks
Carlo Niederberger counts the treats as Tokyo’s restaurants and clubs bewitch their tables for Halloween.
499: Import experts
Ned Goodwin talks shop with three of Tokyo's top foreign sommeliers.
498: Rise and shine
Whether continental or buffet, Western or Asian, Tokyo's hotels offer great ways to kick-start your day. David Chester breaks the fast.
497: Dining by design
Tama Miyake Lung digs into this week's slate of designer events and finds that even the eating is getting creative.
496: Sake and the city
Tokyo is filled with places to sample and study nihonshu. Resident expert John Gauntner offers a few pointers on where to begin.
495: Mexican dream
Tokyo is a tequila lover's heaven, with restaurants and bars serving up a margarita for every taste. Jenny Chen throws a few back.
494: A winning pair
Ned Goodwin expounds on the union of wine and washoku.
493: Big appetites
With yet another skyscraper thrown in the mix, Shiodome offers a world's worth of dining options. Chris Betros digs in.
492: A cook's tour
Matt Wilce joins Josef Budde at his chef's table to discover what brought him to the Grand Hyatt Tokyo.
491: Triple crown
Self-described "Sake Guy" John Gauntner kicks off a new column with three simple tips for enjoying good sake.
490: Rebel with a saucepan
Former Tokyoite Eric Gower pushes the boundaries of Japanese cuisine in a new cookbook, Tama Miyake Lung reports.
489: A place in the sun
Ned Goodwin casts his sommelier's eye over the best wines for summer.
488: California dreamin'
Tokyo restaurateurs are getting a taste for the Golden State. Jenny Chen reports.
487: Dean's list
Manhattan's most famous deli has begun its global expansion with a new outlet in Marunouchi. Martin Webb samples the selection of goodies.
486: Join the club
Tokyo's illustrious membership clubs are gaining momentum despite the recession. Carlo Niederberger reports.
485: Through the roof
Rooftop gardens aren't the only thing growing on top of our metropolis. Carlo Niederberger heads skyward and finds a new café culture blooming across the city.
484: Westward bound
Ned Goodwin travels across the Pacific and discovers an oenophile’s paradise.
483: Independent spirit
Carlo Niederberger scours the city for gourmet celebrations on the Fourth of July.
482: Hot flash
Summer’s here and suddenly there’s a “bar and grill” around every corner. Tama Miyake Lung explores Tokyo’s newest nightlife sensation.
481: Island hopping
Tama Miyake Lung navigates a sea of tropical dining spots in search of the endless summer.
480: Private eyes
Get out of the glare and sup in secret-Matt Wilce hunts out the most secluded restaurant seats in the city.
479: Iron supplement
Matt Wilce gets a gourmet dose from TV's Iron Chefs.
478: Chill factor
Summertime and the drinking should be easy. Ned Goodwin tells you what to sip when the heat soars.
477: Food for thought
Mohammad Yunos Hassani now wows Tokyo diners with Afghanistan cuisine. Carlo Niederberger reports.
476: Tapping the ivory
David Chester tells you where to sip and sup to the sounds of live piano music.
475: Top of the world
Haute drinking and dining is an elevator ride away. Carlo Niederberger reports.
474: Toque of the town
Roppongi Hills is teeming with innovative new restaurants and cafés. Chris Betros takes a look.
473: Historical present
Hanna Kite takes a tour of Tokyo’s oldest restaurants
472: Heavenly dining
Georgia Jacobs looks up the city’s best restaurants with a view.
471: Flavor favors the brave
Forget boring wine lists, says sommelier Ned Goodwin, Tokyo is full of oenological adventures, if you know where to look.
470: Spring to your lips
Sink your teeth into the season’s traditional fare. Carlo Niederberger tells you where to find it.
469: Homemade
Wow your dinner guests with recipes from the stars—that’s star chefs. Georgia Jacobs gets cooking.
468: Let’s meat
There may be nothing new under the sun, but in Tokyo there’s plenty doing between two buns. Steve Trautlein wolfs down the city’s best burgers.
467: On a Clare day
Tucked away in the hills of South Australia is a wine-lover’s paradise—the Clare Valley. Ned Goodwin samples the delights.
466: Haute dining
The top two floors of Shinjuku's My City store have become a gourmet's delight. Chris Betros samples the cuisine.
465: Home and away
Already a success in the US, Mako Tanaka looks to bring his distinctive fusion cuisine back to Tokyo, he tells Steve Trautlein.
464: Pearl one
Shell out for the one you love this Valentine’s Day at the city’s top oyster bars. Add a bit of bubbly to the mix and you have a sure-fire aphrodisiac for a night of romance. Matt Wilce picks some piscine pearls.
463: Eat your heart out
Japan's brand of Valentine's Day is more about chocolates than hot dates
462: Wok around town
Matt Wilce celebrates the coming Year of the Ram with a taste of Chinese regional cuisine
461: Where the heart is
Ned Goodwin visits fellow oenophile Karla Pratt to discuss life, loss and love of wine at Tochigi's Coco Farm & Winery.
460: Soup's on
The mercury's falling and comfort food is calling. Before you get chilled to the bone, David Chester helps you find some solace for the soul.
459: Winter warmers
There's nothing like a steaming hot pot to keep out the seasonal chill. Stephen Cotterill comes to grips with chanko nabe, sumo-style.
457/8: Cream of the crop
Matt Wilce serves up the dining world's hottest debuts in 2002
456: Food's the fashion
Martin Webb shops then drops at these stylish in-store cafés
455: Bottle tops
Ned Goodwin seeks out the city's best and brightest sommeliers
453: True to life
Matt Wilce meets Don Foley, the man behind Ebisu café Good Honest Grub
452: Talking turkey
Carlo Niederberger gets ready to gobble it up on Thanksgiving Day
451: Steeped in tradition
Love it or hate it, steaming oden signals the start of winter in Japan
450: Thinking inside the box
Tama Miyake investigates the ubiquitous bento with help from culinary expert Elizabeth Andoh
449: What lies beneath
Resident wine expert Ned Goodwin delves into the depths of Tokyo's cellars
448: Devilish dining
Matt Wilce scares up some horribly different dishes for Halloween
447: Tour de France
The toast of Paris, chef Eric Frechon is no flash in the bain-marie
446: On a roll
Onigiri is being rediscovered as a culinary delight in its own right
445: Chow down
Tama Miyake makes tracks to Tsukishima, home to the shitamachi specialty known as monja
444: In the mix
Steve Trautlein goes on a not-so-fruitless search for Tokyo's best juice bars
443: Pop stars
Matt Wilce tastes the good life at Tokyo's toniest champagne bars
442: New York's finest
Tama Miyake takes a bite out of the Big Apple without stepping outside the Yamanote line
441: Gaga for gyoza
Tokyo's newest theme park for foodies
440: Into the fire
Few things say summer like a steak on the barbie in your own backyard
439: Kitchen confidential
Tokyo restaurants are branching out by teaching customers how to whip up their own creations
438: Mix and match
Top tips for pairing food and wine
437: Divine dining
436: Hot plates
435: Sundae school
434: Rare vintages
433: Oodles of noodles
432: Secret gardens
431: Eat your heart out
430: Bottle shop
429: The Italian job
428: The water table
427: For the love of the game
426: Life before Starbucks
425: Show time
424: Hot spot
423: Gift of gusto
422: Crossing the Rhine
421: Mamas' boy
420: Tales of tofu
419: Top of the food chain
418: Small awakening
417: Feeding unfrenzied
416: Sakura sweets
415: Modern master
414: Star turns
413: A sip of style
412: Digital bites
411: The loving spoonful
410: Fried & tested
409: California Drinking
408: Puff daddy
407: Let's do brunch
406: Spice world
404: Party poppers
403: Roll with it
402: Festive feasting
401: From bush to bottle
396: Gastronomic expolorations
395: Gourmet to go

394: Gourmet to go

391: Imperial Cuisine
390: Pizza pizzazz
389: Eat elite
388: Don't eat the scenery
387: Niku nashi
386: Shanghai Surprise
385: Uncorked
384: Cake walk
383: Gastronomic nomad
382: Short fuse
380: Eating eelectric
378: Through the grapevine
375: Culinary dancer
372: Roy raves
359: Love feast
354: Fugu Ryotei
351: Gateau de Noel
350: Seasonal specials

ISSUES 349-
ISSUES 299-

Chow down

Tama Miyake makes tracks to Tsukishima, home to the shitamachi specialty known as monja.

Monja is one of the few Japanese cuisines that has yet to captivate the Western palate. A close cousin of okonomiyaki and tako-yaki, this blend of floury batter, shredded cabbage and all manner of ingredients grilled and eaten off a communal hot plate isn't likely to be gracing tables in New York or London anytime soon. It is, like natto and yamakake (grated mountain potato), an acquired taste even for Japanese diners.

But thanks to the efforts of some enterprising restaurateurs, this shitamachi staple is alive and thriving in at least one corner of old Tokyo: Tsukishima. Hailed as the Mecca of monja, this stretch of reclaimed land in the Sumida River east of Ginza has no less than 60 eateries specializing exclusively in this gastronomic oddity.

Walk down Monja Dori, aka Tsukishima Nishinaka Dori, any night of the week and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of families and friends partaking in one of the most social eating experiences in town. Throughout the summer festival season and long into winter, Tsukishima is alive with the scents of sizzling batter. And now that the crowds have thinned and nights have gotten cooler, it may just be the perfect time to gather around the griddle and get a taste of the old town.

 

Kids' stuff

Monja may look and smell a lot like Osaka's famous okonomiyaki, but it's actually a Tokyo original. Believed to hail from the Meiji Era (1868-1912), it was originally known as moji-yaki, from the word for "character." Shopkeepers would pour a mixture of udon flour and water into the shapes of kanji on hot steel plates and sell them as snacks to the neighborhood kids. Popular throughout downtown Tokyo, moji-yaki became known as monja-yaki during the Taisho Era (1912-1926). It completed its transformation following WWII, when shopkeepers began flavoring the batter with Worcestershire sauce and adding vegetables, squid, and a range of fried ingredients.

This Tokyo tradition has survived in large part due to the efforts of Tsukishima shopkeepers, who got together in the mid- to late-'90s to create a neighborhood styled after Yokohama's Chinatown. And while the rest of the metropolis has succumbed to trendy tidbits from overseas, Tsukishima's residents have committed themselves so fully to preserving and promoting their unique fare that the area is now affectionately known as Monja Town.

Today, the variety of monja is as wide as the imagination. It includes old standards such as squid, shrimp, curry and corn, and more adventurous versions like pizza, cheese, mochi and kimchi, and sometimes all of the above. But it all starts with the same mixture of flour, water, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and dashi-served in a bowl and topped with a heaping pile of shredded cabbage and your choice of toppings.

When it comes to cooking, it's best to seek the help of a professional, who will spread cooking oil over a steaming hot plate before dumping the cabbage and toppings onto it and then attacking it all with a pair of metal hera (spatula). Once the ingredients have been sufficiently mixed and mashed, the monja master will make the shape of the donut and pour the remaining batter into the center. The mixing swiftly resumes and the bubbling blob is spread across the hot plate like a big pancake.

Most aficionados like their monja on the crispy side and will wait until the underneath turns a burnt brown. But it's literally every eater for himself-simply pick up your miniature hera, aka kobera, and scrape off bite-size servings at your will. You can use the kobera to press the mixture into the plate to crispen the outsides or scrape the crispy leftovers off the grill.

 

Taste test

Perhaps the burning question is, how does it taste? It all depends on what you order and how you cook it. And that, say the folks at Tsukishima Monja Shinkokai, is the beauty of monja: You can have what you want, exactly how you want it. If you like your monja with pork and seaweed and smothered in cheddar cheese, it's yours. If you prefer mentaiko and squid burnt to a crisp with a fried egg on top, just ask.

They all share the same basic Worcestershire and dashi base, but in terms of flavor the sky's the limit. Just ask Brad Pitt. He came to Tsukishima three years ago to try monja for himself. No word on what he thought of the bubbly stuff, but he's smiling from the walls of Monkichi. And if this bustling shop is any indication, perhaps a New York monja boom is not so unlikely after all.

Photo by Tama Miyake

top