May 10, 2018
Hearty sandwiches in Marunouchi
Wise Sons, an artisanal Jewish deli from San Francisco, is hitting a sweet spot for customers craving bagels, pastrami and matzo ball soup. It’s a few minutes from Tokyo Station in the basement of the Marunouchi Building, accessible by the underground mall, with seating for about 40. The counter has a display of bagels, sweets, meats packaged to-go and beverages, including Anchor Beer, also from San Francisco. There is an open refrigerator for salads and bagel bento boxes. Family photos line one wall and another wall features a mural, a mishmash of San Francisco and Tokyo by artist Amos Goldbaum.
The American-sized salads were popular with other diners on my visits, but I came to get what I couldn’t find anywhere else. One of my favorites was the liver toast: rich chicken liver paste on thick-cut toast, dusted with hard boiled eggs and pickled onions the shade of dark pink rhododendrons. A Japanese lady sitting next to me was so curious about it I ended up giving her one of the pieces of toast (she said she would order it the next time). Obviously, many of the flavors and dishes will be new for Japanese.
The corned beef sandwich was just the right amount of meat to rye bread, with mustard served separately. The pastrami had a nice balance of spice to counter the richness of the meat. The potato salad, unlike creamy Japanese potesara, was served with big chunks of potatoes in a mustard-mayonnaise dressing. Julienned strips of carrots and red and green cabbage came together to make the coleslaw. The matzo ball soup took me back in time. The bagels freeze well, so I’ve been picking up some to go along with schmears that include salmon and scallion. Babka, rugelach and other pastry sweets round out the menu.
If the shop is busy, it may take a while for the food to come out. Grab a seat and wait for the staff to call out your number. The shop opens at 7:30 am on weekdays and 8:30 am on weekends and holidays for take-away bagels and coffee until 11 am. Friends recently stopped by in the morning and picked up a bagel with avocado before jumping on the shinkansen.
Evan Bloom, one of the owners of Wise Sons, answered our questions via email. The only changes made to the menu for the Japanese market is that chicken is served instead of turkey for sandwiches “as it’s much harder to come by in Japan.” Also, the bagel sandwiches are “open-faced and you can get just a half-bagel since the portion size and appetites of the Japanese consumers are different than in the States.”
This summer, Wise Sons hopes to introduce Japan “exclusives,” Bloom says. “I am personally really excited for a bagel with yuzu cream cheese, marinated ikura and shiso.” Regarding the Japan opening, Bloom explains that “none of the cooks or servers had ever tried this food, there was and continues to be a lot of education around how things should taste. It’s also a positive as there are no bad habits for them to break or predispositions. Finding the right type of flour was tough for the bagels, as was finding malt powder for the dough, but our team wouldn’t accept shortcuts and eventually found the right products.
“For matzo ball soup, we could not find matzo meal in Japan, so the team is making their own matzo and grinding it into a powder to make the matzo ball. Instead of shipping over mustard from the U.S., we have found a comparable spicy mustard made in Japan to pair with the pastrami and corned beef.” Bloom added, “We have a wonderful partner in Japan so we are very lucky to be able to have constant communication and the desire to improve daily.”
Wise Sons Tokyo. B1 Marunouchi Bldg 2-4-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. Nearest Station: Tokyo Station or Nijubashimae Tel: 03-6551-2477 Monday–Friday: 7:30am–9:00pm. Saturday & Sunday- Public Holidays 8:30am–8pm. Sandwich set ¥1,200 (+tax) wisesonsdeli.com/location/tokyo/
All photos courtesey Giraud Restaurant Systems.