Nomono Kitchen at Akihabara
"Seasonal, locally-sourced food."
That's the concept behind Nomono, a restaurant and food retail outlet new to Akihabara, dedicated to introducing and sharing the diversity of cuisine from across East Japan. And does it deliver. With JR East behind the venture, you can expect a food range on offer as vast as their train network, with seasonal food products from Nagano, all the way up to Aomori.
Like the Ueno branch that opened in 2012, Nomono at JR Akihabara Station is a hybrid vision: a food market and restaurant (Nomono's Kitchen) in one. As you enter the shop, you'll quickly appreciate the depth of culture on show and the wide range of food products available.
Take your time to peruse what's on offer: look out for the Aomori cider, Yamanashi tofu, Iwate kaitouzuke (marinated abalone and salmon roe), Nagano Shichimi Tougarashi spices, Wagyu jerky from Niigata and Ibaraki natto via Mito city. The last item here sits proudly amongst this month's special campaign area, promoting food exclusively from Ibaraki, alongside regional breads, rice, miso paste and confit. A new prefecture takes over the spotlight each month. You can't miss the alcoholic drinks sections, so if Aomori cider is not you're thing, don't worry — craft beer from Miyagi, Hitacho Nest from Ibaraki and a wider range of beer, cup sake and wines are also available.
Heading upstairs takes you to a small, intimate restaurant, complete with a clean, minimalist design. It's a world away from the bustling commuter traffic just outside on the JR station concourse, and the food available certainly matches the serene calm that Nomono's Kitchen offers. The wholesome, simple dishes are excellent value and have that home-cooked feeling you may expect from their regional provenance.
Choose from Shinshu wild game curry (¥1,000), Yamagata hokobo pork, rice and vegetables (¥790), or one of many other options from Niigata, Fukushima and the Tohoku area. Iroha-do oyaki (roasted dumpling with vegetables) from Shinshu (¥250) make a great side dish. For dessert, try their pancakes, served with Aomori kougyoku apple jam and Tochigi tochiotome strawberry jam (¥590). They also serve a morning set of pancakes, bacon and scrambled egg - definitely a reason to go back!
The Nomono concept is really strong and a welcome addition to the one of the busiest stations in Tokyo. It's certainly a logical move by JR East. Nomono not only serves to bring regional food to Tokyo, but also promotes these regions as standalone destinations. From a tourist's perspective, it is the culinary equivalent of the JR East Pass, which invites short-stay visitors to travel across Kanto and Tohoku on a 4 to 5 day flexible pass. Here, you can sample food from all of these regions, if not pick up regional products that you'd be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Of couse, if you did make a recent trip across Kantou/Tohoku and happened to forget, Nomono can sort you out for souvenirs too...