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Dandelion Chocolate Kamakura
San Francisco-born 'bean to bar' chocolate purveyors Dandelion opened their first Japanese shop less than a year ago in Kuramae, but they're already branching out to shores further afield. This second incarnation is perched in pretty Kamakura, where they'll be selling chocolate bars made from scratch at their Kuramae factory, alongside chocolate-rich drinks, pastries and more. Don't forget to also browse their range of items sold only at this store. It's an easy walk from Kamakura Station, so definitely consider popping by if you're in the area. Open February 2017
These Singaporean salad specialists made their Tokyo debut in November with the opening of an Omotesando outpost, and are now gearing up for expansion. SaladStop! Roppongi will be housed on the ground floor of the Grand Tower Residence building near Roppongi-Itchome Station and feature a selection of 15 'signature salads', customisable with a wide range of toppings and 18 different condiments. Open January 30, 2017
One of the main movers and shakers behind the city's 'bean to bar' chocolate trend – which, by the way, is showing no signs of slowing down – Minimal set up their third Tokyo outpost in Shirokane-Takanawa in January. They've got their chocolate factory right behind the store, meaning that you'll likely be greeted by wafts of cacao upon entering and have the chance to witness a chocolate bar being created from scratch. They'll be offering their daily-made chocolate dip too, so don't miss out. So far, they plan to only offer take-out and merchandise at this location, so you'll have to practice some proper delayed gratification techniques before sitting down somewhere else to savour your chocolates.
Gonpachi Asakusa Azumabashi
Famous as the restaurant that inspired Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill (and as the place where George W Bush dined with ex-PM Koizumi), not many people know that Gonpachi is actually a small chain of restaurants, each with their own, distinctive theme and atmosphere. This one is their 11th in Japan and their first in tourist-heavy Asakusa, just a few steps away from the Kaminarimon and next to Azumabashi, with a great riverside view from the second floor. At first glance, their menu focuses on pretty standard izakaya fare (some yakitori, some appetizers, some noodles), but the execution is definitely better than run-of-the-mill. It's also somewhat East-meets-West, with their Bagna Cauda having a kani miso dipping sauce instead of a traditional Italian anchovy-based version, and their fried shrimp dumpling coming with a salsa-esque topping. If you happen to like oysters, they also carry seven different types, including four domestically sourced varieties, which are all quite resonably priced and again in a slight twist, come served with both lemon and soy sauce for you to choose from. They place high emphasis on crafting everything from scratch: their soba is hand-made in store every day, and if you're seated on the first floor, you might have the chance to see one of the chefs in action, rolling out a massive slab of buckwheat-based dough and then expertly cutting it into thin noodles. It definitely adds to the experience. The same goes for their temaki - in the words of the
Upcoming food events
Koenji Hot Soup Festival
February is usually the coldest month of winter in Tokyo, so the timing is perfect for this festival that lets you sip a wide variety of hot soups under the open sky. Taking place on the plaza just outside Koenji Station's north exit, it sees local restaurants team up with eateries from neighbouring Asagaya and Ogikubo to serve everything from Thai tom yum goong and gumbo soup to Mexican menudo, made with beef tripe in a spicy base, alongside a range of old-school nikomi. And with the Koenji Engei Matsuri for performing arts going on during the same weekend, making the trip should be well worth your while.
Yokohama Strawberry Festival
A real crowd-pleaser every year since starting out in 2013, Yokohama's berry celebration returns with a bang in February. In addition to free tastings of seasonal strawberries and sales of similarly themed sweets, jam and pastries, the Red Brick Warehouse will see plenty of kid-friendly fun taking place. If you're looking to taste free berries, we recommend arriving well before 11am, which is when the sampling starts on each day.
Dassai Sake Weeks in Ginza
One of the most popular sake brands at the moment, Yamaguchi's Dassai, is getting a spot in the Ginza limelight with this two-week stint that sees 40 local bars and eateries creating menus that should pair perfectly with Dassai. The first week is focused on sweets that go well with the Dassai Junmai Daiginjo (polished until 39%), the Dassai Sparkling (polished until 39%) and the Dassai Nigori Sparkling (polished until 50%). The Dassai Store in Ginza will also be offering original sweets to 100 people every day during the event, so queue up to grab yours. TimesFebruary 6 - February 12February 13 - February 19 Participating venues vary by week – check the details when buying a ticket through the website or at the reception area in Ginza.
Hokkaido Special Dinner Buffet
Hokkaido is one of the nation's most plentiful regions for seafood and many other delicacies, and winter is the best season to enjoy this splendour. Have an exclusive Hokkaido dining experience without leaving Tokyo at the ANA InterContinental in Akasaka, where a festive dinner buffet is available at the Cascade Cafe restaurant through March. Inviting executive chef Hisayuki Niregane from ANA Crown Plaza Hotel Kushiro, its group hotel in Hokkaido, the ANA InterContinental offers almost 50 kinds of dishes including steamed crabs, grilled lamb and hearth-baked pizza made with Hokkaido's famed dairy. You'll also find specialities usually only offered at the Hokkaido hotel, such as cutlets of deer and octopus shabu-shabu. Milk soft serve, melon bavarois and raw caramel pudding will be waiting for the sweet of tooth, and even the drink menu has been given a Hokkaido makeover. Note that there is a ¥590 (¥510 for seniors, ¥200 for children) surcharge for the buffet on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
Nabe Hut at Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse
Warm up your innards at Yokohama's Red Brick Warehouse in late January, which is when this 'nabe hut' will be opened on the facility's main plaza. The hot pot haven offers a wide range of mixtures, from the standard pork and cabbage version to oyster nabe and a soup made with sake lees. Motsunabe (hot pot with pork tripes) and Akita's kiritanpo (with roasted rice skewers) should also rank among the most popular offerings, which can all be combined with fine nihonshu.
You'll be able to indulge in your fair share of swanky boozy fizz at The Strings Hotel's Valentine's dinner event, set in their Bubbles Bar on the 26th floor. The star of it all is the Louis Roederer champagne, which you'll get to enjoy with a sweets buffet over three days. The sugary edibles will include the hotel's signature lollipop-style sweets, as well as sweets specially made by pâtissiers for a total of ten different options. If you're looking for a fancy and sweet place to spend Valentine's – either with friends or that special someone – then head up to this spot high above Shinagawa.