Two weeks into the state of emergency, and the picture is becoming clearer for Tokyo’s restaurants. Many have shuttered their businesses, at least for the interim. Others have retooled their operations for takeout and, in some cases, delivery services. And a few outliers are still forging on regardless, albeit with reduced custom and shorter service hours.
Meanwhile, as the city starts to adjust to this new abnormal, the implications are reverberating through the entire supply chain. Farmers, fishermen and other producers are feeling the impact and the most deeply affected are those with the strongest links to the restaurants they supply.
But farm-to-table is a two-way street. Now several chefs around the city are taking steps to make sure those producers do not get forgotten during the current crisis.
Yuri Nomura is one who has worked to search out artisan food producers, organic farmers and small-scale craftsmen across Japan. Long before she opened Eatrip, her mellow, rootsy restaurant in Harajuku, she had built up a wide network of suppliers of high-quality, additive-free produce and traditional seasonings.
Currently Eatrip is closed, but Nomura is not letting that slow her down. Instead she’s refocused, and is producing take-out boxes of appetizers — with a strong focus on vegetables and charcuterie — which she is selling at Eatrip Soil, her new (since late November) retail store in Harajuku’s Gyre building.
Besides these boxes (¥1,500) and the shelves of artisan condiments, Eatrip Soil also offers prepared and ready-to-eat foods, such as sui-gyōza (steamed dumplings), chicken terrine and a lovely rich, thick Bolognese pasta sauce. All are made with the same care and quality ingredients she uses at her restaurant, utilizing many of the same producers.
It’s her way of making sure those producers aren’t left in the lurch. Ditto the wineries. One of Nomura’s recommendations is the Neco line, from Fattoria Al Fiore in Miyagi Prefecture. Pick up a bottle while you’re there.
Eatrip Soil: Gyre Bldg. 4F, Jingumae 5-10-1, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001; 03-6803-8620; nearest station Omotesando. For opening hours, check the latest Instagram posts from @eatripsoil or @restaurant_eatrip.
Locale is another restaurant whose whole raison d’etre — as the name proclaims — rests on its relationship with its farmers and the produce they supply. Chef Katy Cole has developed an avid following in Tokyo for her cooking, which she bases around the seasonal vegetable shipments she receives from around Japan and her native Californian sensibility.
Now, for the duration of the state of emergency, she has switched to a daytime takeout service (also dinner, by prior reservation) with weekly specials such as enchiladas, lasagna or homemade pasta. She’s also started a grocery box program featuring produce from those same “beloved farmers,” as she likes to call them.
The boxes — they’re actually in paper bags — feature a selection from each week’s vegetable harvest, along with prepared items from the Locale menu, such as grain salads, red lentil hummus or Cole’s signature shibazuke yogurt sauce, which gains its vivid pink tint from umeboshi pickle juice — plus roasted free-range Daisen chicken (half or whole).
Meguro 1-17-22, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-0063; 03-6874-6719; www.locale.tokyo; open Wed.-Fri. 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sat. & Sun. from 9:30 a.m.; nearest station Meguro. Latest details on Instagram, @localetokyo.
Grocery boxes are ¥5,000 (1-2 people) or ¥10,000 (for 3-4), available for pickup (Thu.-Sat.) or bicycle delivery within a 3.5 kilometer radius of Locale.