Henri Charpentier


Tokyo is filled with many French-inspired Japanese desserts, or perhaps I should it's Japanese-inspired French desserts. Japanese pastry chefs have a special way of incorporating French techniques into Japanese desserts while making tweaks and adjustments to suit the local palate. Even after this sort of cultural amalgamation in the different world of desserts, the resulting taste is not compromised but brought to perfection. In fact, the Japanese is known for their traits in perfecting a task that they are to execute.

At Henri Charpentier, the Japanese-French dessert salon is located in the basement which makes a fabulous spot to getaway from shopping in the luxury shopping area in Ginza. The walk on the stairs is surrounded by a wall made to look like a cookbook library with layers of shelves filled with recipe books and pink hardcover books.

The crepe suzette here stands out in the way it's prepared table side. The server wheels a cart to our table with prep materials for the crepe. The crepe itself is made in the kitchen first but flambeed table side. First, the orange caramel sauce is poured into the saucepan with the crepe. The server uses a spoon and continuously makes sure that the caramel sauce is all over the delicate crepe.

She opens the bottle of Grand Marnier, pours the orange liqueur into a glass, and carefully tilts the glass over the open flame. She then skillfully and gently swirls the glass in a rhythmic fashion over the flame. The liqueur slightly lights up and is poured over the crepe leaving to simmer until the sauce further caramelizes and thickens.

There is no table side showtime for the other item of chocolate crepe with chocolate coffee cream and it turns out to be our favorite among the two items. The level of chocolate is perfect without being too intense or rich; the preserved orange slices add a nice touch to the overall chocolatey-ness of the dessert. We are fans, for sure.

Henri Charpentier
3-6-1 Ginza,  
Chuo, Tokyo


Nagi Ramen Golden Gai

We walk along the very narrow alleyways of Golden Gai in Shinjuku, Tokyo looking for Nagi Ramen until we recognize the signage.  A young male employee in a Barbour jacket is standing at the entrance of the narrow stairs that lead to the ramen shop upstairs. I say to him "ramen?" and he asks if we speak Japanese. T tells him "sukoshi." He then tells us to please head upstairs to buy our ramen tickets first and then gestures us to join the line of customers after purchasing the tickets. We look in the direction of his hand gesture and see what we did not even realize before: a line of customers standing in a very dim alleyway so narrow that it only has space for a single line. The existence of the alleyway is not intentional; it happens to be a tight space between two buildings.

We walk up the rickety and narrow stairs to the ramen shop, each step of the stairs is not wide enough to rest the entire foot on. We get to the top and buy our ramen tickets from the vending machine (it is common practice to "order" and pay for your ramen through a vending machine so that the chef does not have to handle change). Then we walk down the stairs and join the line in the alleyway.

About 30 minutes later, the young man standing by the stairs gestures us upstairs to get seated. Ramen shops in Tokyo are generally tight spaced and Nagi Ramen is literally a hole in the wall. We have no complains, it adds to better socializing atmosphere for us at this 10-seater ramen shop. Once we're seated, we don't even think about moving about. We are there just to enjoy the ramen moment

Nagi Ramen specializes in tonkotsu broth flavored with sardines. The broth is pungent and the sardines flavor is strong. The taste is unlike anything we've had before. We've had quite a lot of tonkotsu ramen but when pork bones and sardines come together in the Nagi way, it transforms the broth to a whole new flavor. Behind the counter are two employees; one prepares the ramen and the other serves the ramen over the counter.

Preparing ramen has to be precise. For each batch, the noodles are placed on a weighing scale to get the right amount of noodles. Then, the noodles are placed in boiling water and the timer starts. Having the right amount of noodle with the right cooking time ensures consistency in reaching the ideal noodle texture. We get the special niboshi ramen and the tsukemen (dipping ramen). The noodle has an addictive chewy texture that shows that the noodle is freshly made. Each bowl has a few sheets of thin and slightly wide "noodle" that is very reminiscent of gyoza skin which I like very much. The pungent broth makes it the most memorable ramen we've had, and probably one of the best we've had.

One of the employees behind the counter asks if we are in Tokyo for vacation. He then says to us, "Working?" (at least he didn't mistake us for being students). We tell him yes, and he makes a guess and says "Engineer?" A wild guess definitely but far from accurate. We tell him it's our second time in Tokyo and the city is tanoshii. He smiles and agrees with us. I point to my bowl of my ramen and say "Best." He nods happily and the other employee preparing the ramen overhears and smiles to himself.

We are more than satisfied after our meal and as we carefully walk down the narrow stairs, the employee who is still supervising the line downstairs surprises us by saying "Take care."

Nagi Ramen
Shinjuku Golden-gai (G2 street) 2F, 1-1-10, Kabukicho