Kuumba Du Falafel (Falafel and Hummus), Shinsen

I know I shouldn't blog about eateries outside of Shimokitazawa, but there are few occasions when you get excited and want to talk about it. "Kuumba Du Falafel" provided me with such opportunity, so please bear with me on this post.

"Kuumba Du Falafel" is a 5mn walk or so from the "Shinsen" station on the Inokashira-Line, that is two stops from Shimokitazawa (or a good 30mn+ walk) or Shibuya. I have passed by the year-old restaurant so many times, it's hard to believe I never saw it. Sometimes it's really just about always walking on the "wrong" side of the street.

some dried fruit in glass jars on the nice "marble" counter

According to the Japanese owner, Kuumba means "to create" in Swahili, so "Kuumba Du Falafel" is an East African x French x Middle Eastern words to designate what simply is a Falafel joint. By the way, the shop manager I talked to is also the proud owner of "Kuumba International", a company specialized in the manufacture, import/export of essential oil and incense (an "olfactory", should you let me make this pun...), so the guy knows what he's talking about when it comes to smell and aromas.

The shop is clean, classy, light-filled thanks to big windows, with limited furniture, a single big marble counter for eating in and a kitchen in the back. The menu revolves around its specialty dish, the Falafel, served either in a HUGE pita sandwich or on a wrap all the ingredients yourself plate. They also have a Hummus plate that has to be good.
Should you not be versed in the Falafel, here's your Wiki article on the wonderful dish.
For your reference, the owner is a big Falafel fan who devoured the said dish in the four corners of the world, then tried all the Falafels he could find in Japan until he decided to cook them himself as he couldn't find his ideal version of the balls anywhere else here.

The plate, which is not cheap at ¥1,260 but oh so worth it, comes with two halves of Pita bread, a serving of hummus (chickpeas paste), a Tahini-based sesame sauce, five falafels, (what I assume to be) pickled Daikon radish, some marinated red cabbage, a HUGE salad composed of several herbs as well as cubed fresh tomato and cucumber, and last but not the least quickly fried eggplant slices. The picture doesn't give you any idea on the size of the dish, but believe me, it's quite big. If that doesn't fill you for the rest of the afternoon or the entire evening, well... there's a famous tonkotsu (pork carcass based broth) Ramen joint across...

the "balls"

The Falafels are an Israeli version (according to the boss), supposedly meaning that they are crunchier outside than say the more tender Egyptian version. The texture aside, the balls are aroma bombs of parsley, onion, garlic and god knows what and if you're into anything middle-eastern, you will LOVE them. The salad is fresh, BIG (too big), varied and topped with a spoonful of pleasant Genovese basilic paste.

the hummus

There is a generous portion of delicate and not too garlicky hummus on the side which I put into my pita bread under the Falafels. On that same note, there are so many ingredients to fill your pitas with that it's almost like a puzzle when trying to do it correctly. You will most certainly end up finishing your salad on the plate, and not in the Pita.
By the way, should you not be into the idea of wrapping this whole thing by yourself or just don't want to eat everything separately, the gargantuan brick-like sandwich is the easy solution for you.

You can also see on the lower righthand side of the above picture some Tahini-based sauce that you can add onto your stuffed Pita. The sauce is rather liquid and probably thinned with water but still rich enough with sesame flavor, letting you enjoy some of its aroma without conflicting with the numerous other complex tastes. The pink dots you see are fantastic pink peppers.

the homemade pita

Lastly, a quick mention of the ocre tinted wholewheat Pita (and not the usual plain white ones) which the owner proudly presented me as homemade. What can I say, they're tasty, and though very thin are great in the literally supporting (the other ingredients) role.
Which reminds me that all the sauces, from a fantastic chili hot red one, the beige Tahini one or the basilic green paste are homemade.

It's not the easiest access that I have featured in this blog but it's really worth it. They also do take-out.
By the way, if you're into middle-Eastern fares, don't forget the cheap and good eatery Uchimura which also has Falafel, hummus and other delicious fares!

Kuumba Du Falafel is open everyday (for now, though they were saying it was time for them to take at least one day off per week, so please call them in the future to make sure they're open. They speak English) from 11:30am to 14:30 for lunch and 17:30pm to 22:00pm for dinner (close at 19:00pm on Sundays)
Shibuya-ku, Shinsencho 23-1
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Nasu Oyaji (Curry), Shimokitazawa


I was walking the other day on the south side of Shimokitazawa when a tiny sign at the entrance of a little street caught my eyes, advertizing a restaurant located "63 steps" from there. Pushed by curiosity and hunger, I started walking towards the mysterious joint carefully counting my steps until I got there after 59 steps (have you ever wondered why your steps seem to become suddenly smaller when you count them?).

The cute shop I got to is "Nasu Oyaji" (probably best translated as "Uncle Eggplant"), a curry shop that's been exactly 20 years in business, with a very limited menu of about four different curries. The interior is wood based, rather charming and looks like one of those numerous cafes in Shimokitazawa, simple and arranged with good and humble taste. You can see on the righthand side of the picture a rack with a hundred or so vinyl records which the Eggplant Man plays as a nice background music. Some old american pop was playing when I was there and it does seem like music is one of the boss' passion. It looks like the place is patronized by a lot of musicians as well as music industry people, and there were two guys sitting at a table that clearly were from the biz.


As I said earlier, the food choice being limited, it wasn't too hard to make a decision between the Chicken, Beef, Vegetable or All-mix curries: loving vegies for their taste and for the inner peace they give me when confronted to the gargantuan amount of food I usually ingest, I quickly opted for the Yasai Kare (vegetable curry).

After my order, I started reading a couple of news items on my phone and stepped outside the building to check-in on Foursquare when the waitress got out to tell me the dish was ready. That's how fast I was served.

Vegetable Curry

The regular serving of curry and rice is larger than an average portion somewhere else and should be enough provided you're not starving. The ingredients topped were cuts of boiled eggplants, carrots, broccolis, mushrooms and a quarter of fresh tomato. The boiled egg you see in the middle is a topping I added for ¥50.
I have recently been eating a lot of eggplants that were quickly fried before being additionally cooked so the simply boiled eggplant felt a little "British" and watery but that's basically my only complain.

The curry was hotter than I thought, and probably too spicy for anyone disliking hot stuff. It tastes like a crossbreed of old-school Japanese Kare and authentic Indian curry, with the former one being dominant. The not-too-pasty sauce has this undeniable sweet aroma characteristic of the curries your Japanese mum cooks but with a hot accent of pepper.
The boiled egg was a good idea as the yolk smoothens the curry to a really nice degree when and where mixed. Recommended.

I am attaching for your information a paragraph about addiction from the Wiki article on Curry which I found interesting as I had no clue there were talks of dependance on it.

Curry addiction

A number of studies have claimed that the reaction of pain receptors to the hotter ingredients in curries, even korma, leads to the body's release of endorphins and, with the complex sensory reaction to the variety of spices and flavours, a natural high is achieved that causes subsequent cravings, often followed by a desire to move on to hotter curries. Some refer to this as addiction, but other researchers contest the use of the word "addiction" in this instance.[28]


Nasu Oyaji offers rather basic curries but I somehow understand that some people get addicted to the place and its dishes. A simple menu with good food that's not too expensive in a nice cafe-like atmosphere, that's probably the secret to two decades of successful business in an ever changing and competitive environment that is Shimokitazawa.
They're also serving curries all afternoon, so if you feel a little hungry around 4pm, it is definitely an option!

Nasu Oyaji is closed on Thursdays and serving curries the rest of the week from noon to 22:00pm (L.O. 21:30). They do close when out of sauce, so good luck!
Setagaya-ku, Daizawa 5-36-8
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Com Pho (Vietnamese), Shimokitazawa

I'd like to feature today this Vietnamese restaurant which we used to patronize quite frequently five years ago or so, "Com Pho". We stopped going there when we felt like somehow the great food quality had gone down (and I believe the cooks had changed) and because of an appetite inhibiting bathroom odor that used to float in the air and which was getting stronger and stronger at the time.

So we hadn't been paying much attention to the restaurant for years until we recently saw a sign outside the restaurant advertising its "Tom Yam Kung Pho". I am a HUGE FAN of the Tom Yam Kung Ramen at Tinun Shibuya so I got tempted, knowing how exciting it would be to discover closer to home the Vietnamese remix of the dish.

You can imagine how quickly I gave my nostrils the odor test when entering the classy restaurant. This is by the way one thing that has not changed from the beginning: the decoration has always been quite upscale for a Vietnamese in Shimokitazawa. There still subsists a suspect smell but I couldn't tell whether it came from the condiments used in the kitchen or from you know where...

We sat down and (in spite of all the prior fantasy over the Tom Yam Kung noodle) ended up ordering the Pho Ga (Chicken Pho) which we thought was a better approach to knowing whether they had a decent cook or not, just like you should always order the Tamago (sweet egg omelette) in a Sushi joint to have a better idea on the house abilities.

In case you're not aware of what Pho is, here's your wiki article for a basic notion.

Quickly after ordering, the waitress put a dish of Moyashi (bean sprout) in front of us, which you can help yourself from as a free topping on your Pho. Too bad Com Pho doesn't also bring you all those herbs and leaves you can top on your dish, like they do in Vietnam.

The bowl that got to us was rather large and smelling good. I have to say that the first aroma didn't come close to what we had in Vietnam, but it was still a good reminder of what we had in that incredible country (should you be interested, here is a photo collection of our trip there).

The preset toppings were boiled chicken, chopped leek, long cuts of Nira garlic chives and bean sprouts.
The soup was pretty basic and tasted a bit too strong in what I think was chicken bouillon so I added lemon juice to smoothen it and a lot of hot chili sauce to add a kick to it.

As you can see, the rice noodles Pho are flat and their tenderness (I probably let them in the soup too long, busy that I was taking pictures) combined well with the soup. I supersized them for ¥100 and it was just enough for my hungry stomach so please do so if you think you can handle it no problem.

So, it's definitely not like what we ate in south-east Asia, but for ¥830 (when supersized) I think this makes for a very decent lunch when you're tired of eating Japanese food or simply want something slightly exotic.

They also have a rather extensive menu for dinner that's not expensive, so please give it a try and let me know how it was! In the meantime, I will definitely try the Tom Yam Kung Pho...

Com Pho is open everyday from noon to midnight (L.O. at 22:30)
Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa 2-13-4
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Hachibunme (Izakaya), Shimokitazawa

This Japanese restaurant, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in April is probably the most closely associated to our lives in Shimokitazawa, as we started going there around their opening right before we moved to this neighborhood, and continued using it almost like a canteen way after we settled in.

Hachibunme is owned by Jackpot, a catering company I mentioned before in the posts about "Tom's Kitchen" and "La Befana", managing about 15 restaurants in Tokyo, mostly in Shimokitazawa. You will recognize its restaurants by the wooden board outside saying "やってます" (We're open). Except for an improbable exception, you are almost guaranteed great service and good cost performance if you ever visit one of their businesses.

Hachibunme's manager since the opening is Shoji-San, an always smily, happy-going man who's always 120% about what he does, mainly trying to make you feel as welcome as possible. He is a football aficionado who will be very happy if you start talking about the Beautiful Game in general and probably stoked if you mention the Joga Bonito.

Hachibunme's characteristic resides in the fact that although they're a pretty basic Izakaya (Japanese style food serving pub), they have a very decent wheat-flour noodle Udon menu to choose from. I suggest that whenever you visit them, you leave yourself a little space for a bowl of noodle at the end. By the way Hachibunme means 80%, and is often used as part of the very wise expression ~Hara-Hachibunme (eat until you're 80% full)~ .

On our last visit, we started by ordering the "Taberu Rayu" (the "solid" Chinese-style chili infused vegetable oil), a condiment that has been one of the biggest food hits nationwide in 2010. This seasoning or appetizer (depending on what you want to do with it) is Rayu mixed with chopped garlic and crushed almonds. You can add that on pretty much anything, tofu, rice, noodles for an easy Chinese Sichuan-style dish. We just nibbled on it with our beers, though I do not recommend it for non Japanese beers. We had Bass Pale Ale and it did NOT go well with the it. "Saltier" Japanese beers should be good.

Next came our favorite Okinawa dish "Goya Champuru" (stirred bitter Gourd). Goya is a vegetable indigenous to the sub-tropical southern islands of Okinawa and is known for its very bitter taste and crunchy texture. The Okinawa people cook the gourd by saute it with tofu, pork, scrambled eggs before topping generous amounts of KatsuoBushi (dry Bonito shavings) and it's always a great recipe difficult to screw up. The one in Hachibunme is slightly salty but plentily satisfying.

Before attacking the noodles, we had the tasty calorie bomb "Sasami no Cheese Age Wasabi-Iri" (deep-fried chicken breast with cheese and wasabi). As you can see from the picture, it's big pieces of juicy white chicken breast meat stuffed with cheese and chopped fresh wasabi leaves, battered and then deep-fried. The cheese gets to you completely melted, and the combination with the batter is a complete sin. The cuts are relatively lower on salt than what you might expect or imagine so feel free to add a little salt that's served on the side of the dish.

My last dish was a large serving of nice KamaAge Udon, wholewheat noodles served in a hotpot with steaming hot water and hot Tsuyu dipping sauce. The noodles are served in a traditional large wooden box from which you help yourself, before dipping them in the dark brown Tsuyu broth in which you can add chopped leek or grated ginger to your likings.
As per the below movie, the noodles come to you quite hot and it's a pleasure to see the steam coming out of the miniature Hinoki bathtub like box. However, the hot water keeps on cooking the noodles so just quickly devour them, as they lose their Koshi (firmness) fast. Be cautious when helping yourself, as the Udon are slippery and you might splash everyone at your table when they escape from your chopsticks.

My wife had a really good bowl of GomaKara Reimen (cold noodles in a sesame and chili sauce), which is definitely an option if you want something more chewy and less Japanese than the Udon. The slightly spicy sauce is a Korean style one which you will probably like if you're into that cuisine. The cold noodles are VERY al dente so if you ever order them, you are on for an extensive jaw exercise.

Those four mains and a couple of British beers cost us ¥4,580 so it's quite nice at little over ¥2,000 per head, isn't it?

The restaurant is pretty big and even has a large tatami room at the back so they can handle quite some people. Even if they are full when you get there, which might happen sometimes as they're pretty popular, you shouldn't have to wait too long.

Hachibunme is open everyday from 17:00pm to midnight (L.O. at 23:00pm) and start from 16:00pm on Sundays and National holidays
03-3467-7412 ( or free dial 0066-9673-28949 for reservations only)
Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa 2-4-10
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