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“I think you’ve forgotten what a real bagel tastes like”, my husband quipped. I’d brought home bagels from earlier that day–gigantic orbs of boiled bagel flown-in frozen from their mother-land, NY, then baked here in Tokyo. In this case, I’d brought home a winner.

In my break from walking the 20-odd shops within character street in Tokyo Station (no, the Totoro shop does not sell any snacks for two year-olds or their growing-faint with hunger-moms), I began the hunt for something healthy & tasty in the food-court/depachika area of Daimaru department store. Something quick and on-the-go. Ba-da-bam: bagels. Ess-A-Bagel, while newly-opened in Tokyo just two months ago, has been cranking out their beloved bagels in their now-two NYC locations since 1976.

This authentic bagel bin houses nine types of chewy bagels. | Photo by Melissa Uchiyama

While bagel-lovers still have to deal with the fact that these bagels are frozen & flown-in to be baked, they are at least four “mother may-I” steps beyond the hermetically-sealed bagels we’ve come to accept here in Tokyo.

My bagel was pretty dense (how a real bagel should be), but was clearly baked hours earlier that day; subsequently, it was a bit hard. These are not items for your earthquake-kit. A good bagel should not last more than a day. If you want to get the best from your 300 yen Ess-A-Bagel treat, don’t have them prepared on-the-spot with a cream cheese shmear if buying mid-day or at the end of the day, like I did. Get there early for a just-baked breakfast or if coming later, take that sucker home & toast it up yourself. To bring your bagel back to life, refreshing it, drizzle a little water on it, then toast. (If opting to take-home & freeze for later-eating, slice, then freeze. The best way to toast it, then, is to drop it in the toaster while still frozen, with its moisture locked inside). If following these bagel-rules-of-thumb, we’ll all be quite content with our Tokyo bagels from this shop.

Their everything and pumpernickel bagels are straight-up authentic. No edamame or soy bagels here. The only flavors Ess-a-Bagel Tokyo lacks are salt & a good marble rye. Otherwise, the whole bagel-deli line-up is here: plain, cinnamon raisin, whole wheat, everything, sesame, onion, garlic, and pump. (The oat bran is a bit new-fangled, but hey).

I know, Cheapos. These are more than the 160 yen o’s at Bagel & Bagel. These are, however, real, & hence, need to be eaten that day. Authenticity has its rewards. They are boiled, then baked, not simply baked to be those bready, crumbly bagels rolling around Tokyo. They will not keep in a fallout shelter with Christopher Walken in that Brendan Fraser movie, Blast From the Past. You cannot leave these in your backpack or locker. One day–one day is all you have, lest you need to make bagel chips. They are dense, chewy, and make a whole meal. Truly. They are also flown-in from NY, so there’s that to account for. Fly yourself to their Manhattan branch and pay just $1.00 a bagel, but then you wouldn’t have this friendly gal serving you.

Only in Japan is buying a bagel a “kawai” experience. No rude, bellowing New Yorkers (whom I miss), but this young miss. | Photo by Melissa Uchiyama

Take your bagels to-go or dine at Daimaru’s little sit-down area. As the bag above shows, Ess-a-Bagel is part of a five-team counter bringing some US delights to this neck of the woods. Think Philly Cheese Steak, pizza, & the soup made famous by Seinfeld, The Original Soup Man. I didn’t bother with those guys, though. A bagel is plenty.

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