“No Ramen, No Life” has mainly focused on Japanese cuisine, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t check out non-Japanese food options in Tokyo. One of these places came to my attention via the blog RocketNews24 earlier this week — a brand new shop called And the Friet in the Hiroo neighborhood, which specializes in Belgian frites (or friet in Flemish). So, several of my friends and I went to check it out earlier today.
And the Friet, which opened just a couple of days ago, has a multi-step process for ordering a personalized set of fries:
- You have to choose from six different types of potato. For example, there are Bintje potatoes from Belgium, a local Japanese variety, purple Satsuma from Okinawa, and small round potatoes. Depending on which one you choose, you must also specify how you want it cut, such as straight, shoestring (crispy), wedge, or curly.
- Then you select your dipping sauce. There are currently ten options: standard mayonnaise, ketchup, tartar sauce, three cheese, salsa, jalapeno salsa, mustard mayonnaise, basil mayonnaise, sweet chili sour cream, and avocado paste. You can also order multiple sauces at an additional cost.
- You choose from several salt options: sea salt, herb salt, or no salt.
- You also have to decide what kind of set you want: a funnel of frites with a dipping sauce on the side, or a box set that includes frites, sauce, pickles and your choice of either a piece of fried chicken, fried fish, popcorn shrimp, pork sausage, falafel, or chili con carne.
When several of my friends and I arrived at about 11:30, there were already about 10-15 people lined up outside waiting to put in their order. We also found out that most of their potato options were unavailable except for the Bintje and small round potatoes (petit ball frite), which is interesting given that they’ve only been open two days.
I ordered the large box set with the straight cut Bintje frites, basil mayonnaise sauce, fried fish, and a honey lemon soda. The food came in a nice, rectangular white box made of recycled paper decorated with drawings of what I assume are Belgians. (I wondered if they might be the faces of the owners/operators of And the Friets, but I saw no Caucasian faces behind the counter or in the narrow kitchen).
One of my friends lived in Brussels for a couple of years and was eager to see if they were as good as the stuff in Belgium. He highlighted how one of the keys to good frites is double frying, which means first frying at a lower temperature, cooling them, and then frying at a higher temperature to ensure that the inside is well cooked while the outside crispy is crispy without getting burned. After trying a couple, he declared them to be “the real deal.” The frites were perfectly and authentically fried — hot and crispy on the outside, soft in the middle.
The basil mayonnaise dipping sauce was really good — heavy basil flavor that mixed very well with the creamy mayo. The sweet chili sour cream was good too, with a Southeast Asian-type flavor, but everyone seemed to agree that the basil mayonnaise was tops of the ones we tried. The fried fish was also very delicious — it tasted like cod and was perfectly fried on the outside, without being oily. The soda was tasty and refreshing, too.
It’s an interesting twist of history that these long pieces of fried potato would be called “French” fries, despite their Belgian origin. Actually, there continues to be disagreement between France and Belgium about who invented them, and it probably doesn’t help that about 40 percent of Belgium is French speaking, thus reinforcing the perception of the fries’ “Frenchness.” In any case, the Belgians love their frites and excel at making them. And you can enjoy an authentic taste of Brussels in the heart of Tokyo at And the Friet.And the Friet Location: 5-16-1 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Business Hours: 10:00am-9:00pm. From December 3-8, 2013, business hours are 11:30am-7:30pm. Getting there: Take the Tokyo Metro Hibiya line to Hiroo station. Take Exit 2, which will lead to a street corner. Turn right and walk down the block. And the Friet is on the left, next to a Subway sandwich shop.