Poised and pretty on the plate (dare we say, Instagram-ready?), a healthy, minimalist Japanese spread might just be the new power breakfast. “My idea of a perfect breakfast involves a bowl of steamed rice, a poached or soft-boiled egg, a variety of fermented and pickled vegetables, dashi broth miso soup, and green tea,” says chef Ariane Aumont, whose Ojai, California-based pop-up, Le Picnic, starts serving Japanese breakfast today at Nocciola, with two more meals scheduled for later in the month. “It’s a breakfast that is balanced in texture, flavor, and color.” Long a staple of hotels like The Peninsula or Mandarin Oriental in New York and the Miyako Hotel in Los Angeles, Japanese breakfasts are making their way onto restaurant tables across the U.S. Here’s a sampling of our favorites.
1 / 5
New York City: Jams Jams, Jonathan Waxman’s new farm-to-table restaurant located in the 1 Hotel Central Park, just launched its breakfast menu, complete with a Japanese offering. Waxman recalls coveting the bento lunches of his Japanese classmates when he was growing up in the Bay Area, and cites the breakfast at Tokyo’s Park Hyatt as the inspiration for this spread. “I would be very happy having this breakfast every morning, and I certainly would lose weight,” he says.
Pictured: Grilled Spanish mackerel, miso egg custard, pickled vegetables, and warm rice with black vinegar.
Photo: Courtesy of Katie Burton
2 / 5
Ojai, CA: Le Picnic’s pop-ups Chef Ariane Aumont and fashion designer Taiana Giefer just added a Japanese breakfast to their Le Picnic pop-up meal series, using Japanese methods on local produce (e.g., pickling eggplant from Rio Gozo Farm) and plating it wabi-sabi style on ceramics from P Space pottery.
Pictured: Yellowtail collar; steamed rice with a medium-boiled farm egg and housemade furikake; pickles; cold, sprouted tofu with grated ginger, daikon, bonito, and ponzu; and dashi broth miso soup with young garlic stem and crispy tamari-marinated mushrooms.
Photo: Nic George
3 / 5
Brooklyn, NY: Okonomi Williamsburg’s tiny Okonomi offers a daily ichiju sansai (“one soup, three sides”) breakfast incorporating regional, seasonal vegetables; rice; fresh fish; and slow-cooked onsen eggs. Chefs Tara Norvell and Yuji Haraguchi adhere to the Buddhist mottainai philosophy in which nothing is wasted—the head and bones from the fish are used to make the ramen broth for the restaurant’s nighttime incarnation, Yuji Ramen.
Pictured: Roasted tuna belly, tamagoyaki, miso soup, brown rice, onsen tamago, corn shiraae, pole bean with soft-shell crab red miso, mustard green with sea cucumber and anise nuta, and tsukemono.
Photo: Courtesy of Okonomi
4 / 5
Seattle: Sushi Kappo Tamura Picking up on a need for a lighter meal earlier in the day—and requests from the local Japanese-American population and customers who’d spent time in Japan—chef and Kyoto native Taichi Kitamura created weekend-brunch gozens based on the morning meal consumed all over Japan: broiled fish, miso soup, rice, and pickled and fresh vegetables from the restaurant’s rooftop garden. “We have fans who come back almost every week,” he reports.
Pictured: Chikuzen-ni (dashi- and soy-glazed carrots, gobo, chicken, and konnyaku), salted and broiled Fraser River sockeye salmon shioyaki, tamago yaki (soy sauce–flavored omelet), yu choy and tofu nibitashi, and dashi-simmered hijiki nimono.
Photo: Courtesy of Sushi Kappo Tamura
5 / 5
San Francisco: Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar On a research trip to Japan in 2013, chef Tim Archuleta found himself drawn to the daily breakfast prepared by his host families in Tokyo. Back in San Francisco, he added his own version of the meal to the brunch menu at his popular Mission District sushi spot, sensing the need for a lighter option for weekend afternoons.
Pictured: Local Japanese mackerel, onsen jidori egg, housemade Japanese pickles, and rice with green onion.