Complaining about Japanese bread is a time-honoured and still very relevant pastime for many a Tokyoite, but it's an utter fallacy to claim that proper baked goodies can't be found in this great city of ours. We recently featured Tokyo's best sandwiches, and have now turned our sights to the humble bagel. This classic breakfast staple has recently been undergoing a revival in New York, and Tokyo bakers have been quick to take notice. Here are our top 10 picks of trendy bagels from all over the city, ranging from classic NYC-style creations to fluffy goodies tailored to local tastes, including some truly mind-boggling flavour combos.
The bagel top 10
Nakameguro's Bagel Standard prides itself on producing bagels with an authentic New York flavour. The shop’s owner learned the trade back in the Big Apple and uses North American flour to create bagels with an appropriately firm feel. The triple nut and cream cheese (¥280) works nicely as a midday snack, while sweets lovers will enjoy the PB&J variety (¥220).
Found on a Shimokitazawa side street, Kaiso is a tiny, old-school bakery best known for its unboiled bagels (¥160). This simple but delicious creation features a slightly crispy surface and tends to get sold out long before closing time. Perfect for making your own gourmet lunch sandwiches.
'Born in New York, raised in Tokyo' is the concept at Maruichi Bagel, the Shirokane bakery that makes bagel sandwiches so delectable that they've become the talk of the neighbourhood. You can freely choose fillings for your sandwich or pick directly off the menu – the vegetable sandwich (¥750) is highly recommended, comes with bell peppers, carrot, pumpkin, eggplant, onion and tomato, and gets its characteristic flavour from a paste made with honey and sesame seeds.
Owner Masako Takahashi opened her own bagel shop after gaining recognition with her baking classes and cookbooks, and her attention to detail shines through at this cosy shop, located close to Yoyogi Park. The bagels come in three varieties, namely the chewy 'mochi-mochi', the soft 'fuka-fuka' and the in-between 'mugyu-mugyu', all of which are available in multiple flavours. We can't help recommending the bacon-filled Fuka Spinach-Bacon (¥250).
Found a few minutes' walk up the hill from Kugayama Station, Honey’s Bagel bakes its firm, fluffy goodies with wheat sourced all the way from Hokkaido. Clearly catering to those used to soft, white Japanese bread, Honey's shines with its refreshing blueberry and cranberry bagel (¥210), a real homemade treat.
Poko Bagel Café specialises in Montreal-style bagels and scones, made with all-Canadian wheat. In addition to the always popular plain and sesame versions, they also play around with flavours such as a very lightly sweet chocolate chip. As for the bagel sandwiches, first-timers will do well to try their original smoked salmon and cream cheese combo (¥750).
Pour-Kur is the collaborative venture of Shonan bakery Pourquoi and the Kurkku group of eateries and businesses. Made with homemade yeast, their bagels are lovingly crafted, and the croissants, pizzas and pastries are worth seeking out too. We liked their banana bagel (¥220), a firm, well-crafted creation that tastes far better than it looks.
You can choose from 10 flavours of rice flour-based bagels at this small but sturdy bagel shop that sources its flour from Shimane and Hokkaido and its salt all the way from France. Their firm goodies include daring combinations like rum raisin and chocolate chip, but also localised flavours such as red bean paste (¥330).
Deep in the heart of Yanaka you'll find Tabi Bagel, a specialist bakery so small that you'd easily miss it. The tiny front room shop serves simple but lovingly prepared bagels, made from ingredients imported from as far off as Manitoba. Try the raisin variety (¥200), a soft and flavourful creation that effortlessly balances the sweet and the savoury. Tabi's reputation is wide spread, and unless you get in there early, you're likely to miss out on the treats.