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The World’s Best? April 23, 2008

Posted by fukumimi in Food and Drink.

Just came across the 2008 The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list (sponsored by everybody’s favorite fizzy water, San Pellegrino)

I love lists like this. Especially when they are as flawed as this one.

4 restaurants in the top 50 outside of Europe and the USA?

Since the list’s inception in 2002, only 2 restaurants in Japan have been on this list. Sukiyabashi Jiro, and the New York Grill….. The New York Grill???? (up at the top of the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku) OK, the NY Grill isn’t that shabby, but as far as Tokyo restaurants go, there must be dozens which are better.

OK, so the voting mechanism is flawed, it wouldn’t be too difficult to imagine that European and North American foodies tend to concentrate most of their time between these two continents….

But still….. I’m sure most of the restaurants on this list are great, but unfortunately I’ve only been to a small handful, mostly the ones in London.

And, to be honest, I really can’t see how places like Nobu London, Hakkasan and St John deserve regular spots in the Top 50. Unless the others on the list are equally average.

I mean, the food at St John (#16 this year) is great, I’ve always enjoyed my meals there, but would it cross my mind when considering a venue for my last supper? No.

And the other two…. Neither would get into Shin’s Top 50 restaurants in London, let alone the world.

Nobu London (#30), where the markup on their sake (compared to Japanese _retail_ price) is above and beyond 500%. Where the (mostly Eastern European, when I went last) waiters were really rather clueless. And most distressing of all, on each and every occasion, at least some part of the food was grossly sub-par for the price. Not being one to make a scene, I didn’t object to the piece of sashimi which would have offended customers at a cheap Izakaya chain here in Tokyo. Or their apparent use of industrial soy sauce on another occasion.

Hakkasan, what can I say. Cocktails? Perfect for the UK binge drinking culture perhaps. You’d need to be smashed to think that these cocktails were anything a real bartender would admit to mixing. Food? OK, but definitely not worth the price. You could have much better Chinese food in a dozen restaurants in London.

If you thought the Michelin Guide to Japan was bad…….

The GM crops issue April 21, 2008

Posted by fukumimi in Economy & Business, Environment, Food and Drink.
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Reading the IHT today, couldn’t help but notice that the headline replaces what I thought was the usual GM tag for the more high tech, less sinister sounding?, “biotech” “In lean times, biotech crops are less taboo, IHT


What if the surge in prices isn’t just about hedge funds pumping up the commodity markets and the criminal non-cellulosic bioethanol drive, but also partly due to the fact that GM crops are directly contributing to this trend due to lower yields, as a University of Kansas study has found (Independent).

If any academic institutions were able to be bought out by the agribusiness lobby, surely this one would be an easy target being situated right in the middle of the US grain belt…..

Krispy Kreme expansion and the redevelopment of Ginza September 2, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Food and Drink, Japan.

The second Tokyo location for Krispy Kreme has been announced, it will be located in the new ITOCiA development on the east side of Yurakucho (on the other side of Sotobori-dori from Printemps department store)

ITOCiA is a 21story (+4basement levels) 75,900m2 development, the cornerstone tenant will be Marui department store taking up a full 8 floors.
ITOCiA is hot on the heels of the new Marronnier Gate development which had its official opening yesterday (with Tokyu Hands the headline tenant here), which is located next to Printemps and across Namiki-dori from Ginza Velviakan, another development which opened earlier this year. Printemps, the traditional mecca for Marunouchi and Ginza OL fashion, is not being left behind, and is in renovation mode with a re-launch set for later this month.

The flurry of new developments in the north west corner of Ginza is likely to have an impact on the area’s center of gravity.

Whilst Printemps, Marronnier Gate and Velviakan appear to cater to the traditional Ginza shopper, the arrival of Marui in (or near) Ginza is likely to split opinion. Whilst Ginza has already seen low priced players such as Uniqlo, Zara, Gap, Shoes retailer ABC Mart, etc establish a presence (and Scandinavian powerhouse H&M expected to make an entrance next year), none have been on the scale of Marui’s attempt. Marui’s target market is the mainstream young female market, which traditionally has not been catered to in Ginza. Some traditionalists worry that Ginza will lose some of its individual flavour.

Marui’s foray into the Ginza/Yurakucho area is due to the development of the East Tokyo Bayside area. Marui has always had a strategy of targetting terminus (and major interchange) stations and has a network of stores in a ring around central Tokyo. Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Ikebukuro take care of the west side, and Kitasenjyu, Kinshicho, and Oimachi took care of the East side and North-South axis, complemented by stores in Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa.

However, the redevelopment of the East Tokyo bayside area (east end of the Yurakucho line) and the JR Keiyo line catchment area (highlighted by the resurgence in popularity of the Shin-Urayasu area – an area which was popular back in the bubble era but left half-developed when the bubble burst), has given Marui an incentive to build a store to capture these customers.

That the JR Keiyo line’s Tokyo terminus is actually located at the far south end of Tokyo station and is within easy walking distance from the Yurakucho/North end of Ginza, and with Ginza 1-chome and Yurakucho stations on the Yurakucho lines are also close by are consistent with Marui’s typical store location strategy.

The Yurakucho store also allows Marui to close down its store in Oimachi, which is declining in status as a teminus station (and was too close to the redeveloping Kawasaki and had overlapping catchment areas)

By moving the south east Tokyo location up from Oimachi to Yurakucho, it also increases the ability to capture customers who live on the central western bayside area (e.g. Hamamatsucho/Tamachi/Shinagawa down to the Tamagawa river) which is also being redeveloped with a significant residential development component.

The redevelopment of the east side of Tokyo will accelerate with large projects like the New Tokyo Tower project and the redevelopment of the traditional financial district around Kabutocho in the pipeline. The area from Nihombashi (Nihombashi Mitsui Tower next to Mitsukoshi) south to Ginza already is seeing extensive development (the Yaesu side of Tokyo station being a prime example), and as development spreads east, the center of gravity of the Tokyo metropolis may be starting to swing back towards its traditional center.

Burger King returns to Japan on June 8th June 2, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Food and Drink, Japan.

Burger King returns to Japan this Friday, with the first store opening in Nishi-Shinjuku. (previous mention about the return of Burger King here)

The Burger King is located within the Shinjuku Island Tower building, taking over the premises of a Lotteria burger joint (the BK franchise is being developed by Lotte which owns the Lotteria chain).

Interesting to note, the Island Tower is home to McDonalds Japan’s head offices.

The second store opens in Ikebukuro’s Sunshine Building complex on June 22nd, and Lotte and Revamp plan to have 50 Burger Kings in Japan within 3 years.

The Japan only  “teriyaki whopper” will be making a reappearance.

Personally I look forward to the fries and onion rings at BK which are better than at their competitors.

I’m sure no one will begrudge me a trip to a fast food burger joint once in a while. Once I’ve come off my diet anyway….

Burger King to return to Japan December 15, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in Food and Drink, Japan.

Adamu @ Mutant Frog reports that the Nikkei Newspaper is reporting the return of Burger King.

It’s the same Lotte and Revamp combination (Lotte will take a majority stake), which brings us Krispy Kreme, whose first store opened in Shinjuku this morning.

Lotte has its own Lotteria hamburger chain (which isn’t particularly great IMO), and it looks like Burger King will be priced higher than Lotteria.

Adamu says 700 yen for a “meal”, which is a bit higher than the prices at McDonalds, which are typically about 10 to 20% lower, and 30-40% higher than Lotteria.

It’ll be competing with the local Mos Burger and Freshness Burger chains at the price point targetted. Mos Burger is my favorite fast food hamburger chain. Although for really good burgers in Tokyo, I recommend Brozers in Ningyocho (around the corner from where I live, actually).

700yen is nearly $6, but it is a lot cheaper than Burger King in the UK, from memory. But then everything in the UK seems to be outrageously expensive these days….

First Krispy Kreme store in Japan opens this friday December 13, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in Food and Drink, Japan.

Krispy Kreme‘s first Japanese store opens in Shinjuku this Friday (15th December). The website has a countdown thing going.

As I’ve written before, Lotte and Revamp are behind the Japanese franchise roll out.

I guess there’ll be queues like when the NY Donut Plant and Cinnabon first came to town.

Hopefully they will open some more stores elsewhere soon, as I am not about to queue just to buy some doughnuts.

I think the right strategy for Japan is a similar approach to the strategy adopted for the UK, where they have small stalls at stations and airports and the like, as well as cabinets in supermarkets (there was one in the local Tesco), with a smattering of larger retail stores (like the one in Harrods).

The power of the blogosphere – 40% off all wine and champagne (UK only) December 1, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in blogosphere, Food and Drink, Internet.
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Talk about a cliche’d title. [shudder]

Anyway, the story: Stormhoek, the South African winery, advertises a “private sale” at Threshers, the UK offie. The offer? 40% off all in stock wine and champagne (up to a total purchase of 500 pounds) at their stores. Yes, all wine and champagne, not just Stormhoek, although I’m sure Stormhoek wouldn’t mind people buying a bottle or two of their product within that 500 pound budget….

[Update: For the lingustically challenged 😉

Offie = off license = liquor store or whatever non-English people call them

“Off license” comes from the fact that these stores have a license to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises]

[Click here to download the Threshers coupon….. ]

Stormhoek has got pretty widespread recognition on the blogosphere due to the efforts of Hugh Mcleod (I’m sure virtually everyone has seen the wicked (not in the evil sense) – and sometimes profound – drawings he does), and is one model of how to do Marketing2.0 (or whatever…) in the age of the blogosphere. Hugh has got a lot of visitors to his site too, and word about the sale is spreading quickly.

Yes, it is very interesting from an academic perspective, power of the blogosphere, viral marketing, blah blah blah, but way more important, 40% OFF ALL WINE AND CHAMPAGNE!!!! It would be crazy not to take advantage of this offer if you live in the UK or are planning to visit before December 10th (and drink wine or champagne…).

I’m pretty sure that this cheaper than buying at the airport Duty Free….

As luck would happen, I’m flying over there tomorrow. We’ll see how well Threshers are stocked up….

They must have one or two bottles of decent wines in stock in one or other of their stores…. Their website is loading slooooowly today, the marketing virus spreads…

And Threshers haven’t spent a penny for this marketing effort (you do have to give an email address, but you can always use the one you give out to marketers and the like – the one you never use except for when you sign up for things).

Sure, margins are slashed, but it’s the holiday season. Early Xmas present for all UK boozers.

I’m sure the other offies are feeling the hurt right about now….

Japanese convenience stores in the US June 8, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in Food and Drink, Japan, Shopping.
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via Springwise

Springwise has a piece about Japanese convenience store chain Family Mart (aka Famima) in the US.

Famima USA seems to be a lot plusher than the Famima down the street from where I live (which is pretty much identical to all its other locations I've ever been in, including the ones in Taipei).

Japanese convenience stores seem all to feature ultra-bright in-store lighting, which apparently draws potential customers in off the street. None of the dark wood interior that Famima USA advertises on its website.

Not a premium convenience store in Japan by any stretch of the imagination.

I guess the nearest we have (had?) to the premium convenience store concept was high-end supermarket Seijo Ishii's "Seijo Market" store. They remodelled that store after 6 months because they found that it didn't attract the F1 and F2 segments which they had hoped to target. Apparently the store was too much like a convenience store. The store has been remodelled and is a "Seijo Ishii Select" mini-supermarket. Seijo Ishii is great for buying foreign sweets and condiments as there are plenty of convenient locations (for the even rarer to find stuff you'll probably have to go to Kinokuniya or Nissin World Delicatessen or National Azabu). Seijo Ishii has long had ready to cook/eat type foodstuffs catering for the busy/lazy.

Of the potential players looking to target the market, Seijo Ishii's parent company Rex Holdings is probably the best placed having required mid-to-high end brand name recognition with Seijo Ishii (which has the name of a prestigious Tokyo neighbourhood (Seijo) in its name), and also having the convenience store chain am/pm in its portfolio which would mean minimal additional logistical costs and low sourcing costs compared to starting from scratch.

Back to the Springwise story, I had a look around the Harrods 102 when I was in London last month, wondering around my old neighbourhood in South Ken/Brompton/Knightsbridge. I have one major complaint. Yo! Sushi. I know it is popular in London (the one in Selfridges was packed and there were people waiting to grab a stool!!!), but the stuff they were serving looked awful. The sushi bar in the Harrods food hall didn't look much better either, come to think of it.

Yo! Sushi? Crap! Sushi, more like. I guess they aren't to blame though. They can get away with what they serve because no one offers anything better. Do someone want to throw money my way so I can set up a better sushi chain (even if it is conveyor belt sushi with the rice molded by machine) around Europe? Surely it can't be hard to better Yo! Sushi.

And Wagamama, well, that certainly is NOT Japanese ramen. Which is ok, if they didn't try to pass it off as such.

VC coffee April 27, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in Food and Drink, Japan.
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Rick Segal's post turns me on to a new type of coffee.

Kopi Luwak (made from stones reclaimed from civet droppings) I knew of, but Chon Cafe, aka Weasel Coffee is something new.

Edible.com describes it as being more chocolatey than Kopi Luwak. Sounds right up my street. Next challenge, trying to find this in Tokyo….

ドーナツファンに朗報 April 13, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in Food and Drink, Japan, Japanese.

Krispy Kreme 日本上陸決定!

ロッテとリヴァンプがKrispy Kreme Japanを5月末までに設立するそうです。5年で30-50店舗の出店を予定しているとか。(日経新聞報道)

Krispy KremeもIPO後色々ありましたが、個人的にはここのドーナツが好きなので期待大。

ミスドなんて論外です。最近首都圏で出店攻勢をかけているDoughnut Plant(Dean&Delucaでも購入可)も、いまひとつピンとこない。


早く東京でもKrispy Kremeが食べたい!