Lots of places in Tokyo claim to sell New York-style items – everything from pizza to doughnuts. For any New Yorker away from home, one of the items most missed is probably a proper, chewy-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside bagel. Even for those who have only visited the city, they may find themselves longing for another bite of bagel from that deli they stopped at in Midtown. That’s all about to change: a bagel shop selling authentic New York tasting bagels is now open for business in Naka-Meguro.
Bagel Standard, a New York-style bagel shop is a short 10-minute walk from Naka-Meguro station along Yamate-dori in the direction of Meguro, next to the Porsche showroom.
Owner Minoru Yabushita, may only be 29 years old – but don’t be fooled by his youth. Before opening his own shop he’s amassed a wealth of different experiences. After withdrawing from university in 2002, he travelled to America where he studied both English and cookery whilst working part time at a restaurant in New York. In 2003 he enrolled at a culinary college and after graduating in 2005, he travelled to Spain where he continued to gain culinary experience in a Spanish restaurant before returning to Japan later that year. From there he spent a year working as an assistant chef at the American ambassador’s residence before going on to work as a consultant at a company that advises on menu production, before returning to America in 2009.
Once back in New York, he spent three months learning to make bagels at Kossar’s Bialys, a bakery that’s renowned for making some of the best bagels in the Big Apple, before returning to Japan to open his own bagel shop in March 2010.
There were two major motivations for Minoru to open a bagel shop in Tokyo. ‘I remember thinking that although there are a number of places in Tokyo that make bagels using ingredients such as natural yeast and domestically produced wheat, there are also plenty of people who agree that the bagels they produce don’t taste authentic. With so many international people in Tokyo, it's a shame that there aren’t more places that bring foreigners into direct contact with the Japanese people, too.’
Although Minoru’s bagel shop only opened a little over two months ago, it’s already attracting many of the local foreign residents. According to an American customer exiting the shop with a mouth full of freshly baked bagel, ‘Bagels like these remind me of mornings in New York.’
We asked Minoru about the secret to his bagels, and he replies that ‘Japanese people have faith in the all things white: white sugar, white bread, etc. Consequently, many of the foods produced here are made from ingredients that have been purposely produced to be white, with bagels being no exception. The flour used in most bagels here has been produced from only the centre, or endosperm, of the wheat – giving them a soft texture and a kind of overly ‘clean’ flavour. However, at less than a dollar a shot, genuine New York bagels aren’t made from this kind of refined flour, and neither are the bagels I make. My bagels have a kind of ‘unrefined’ or ‘rough’ feel, a more natural colour and a slightly harder consistency. I can’t guarantee that absolutely everyone is going to like them, but I’m pretty sure that I’ll get consensus from anyone who has tried a genuine New York bagel before’.
Bagel Standard normally offers about five or six types of bagel, including plain, sesame seed, cinnamon-raisin, blueberry, and poppy seed varieties. Additionally, they also offer a range of filled bagels including tuna salad, dried tomato cream cheese, smoked salmon, and fig cream cheese. Bagels here are relatively large (about 11cm in diameter), dense, have a natural wheat flavour and a pleasingly firm consistency.
Since the shop is still in its early days, Bagel Standard doesn’t yet cater to the bagel quirks (such as toasting) of individual customers, however, once things settle down Minoru plans to gradually start up more services.
After the bagels are in the bag, have a look in front of the shop. There are two benches that are not only just nice place to sit down and enjoy your authentic New York-style bagel, but they also make for the perfect setting in which to spark up a conversation or two with some of the locals – no matter where they are from.
Bagel Standard: Full details & map
Translated by Brin Wilson