The San Francisco-based deli is now offering its bagels, sandwiches and nourishing Jewish-American comfort food in the heart of Tokyo, and we visited them on opening day!  

Tokyo is certainly a city with no shortage of eateries, but we at SoraNews24 are always eager to welcome new options when it comes to food, so when we heard that San Francisco bagelry Wise Sons was opening shop here, we were naturally excited to visit their new and very first overseas location.

Known for their hearty Jewish comfort food as well as excellent bagels and pastrami, Wise Sons chose the Marunouchi area, one of Tokyo’s largest business districts and situated right next to Tokyo Station, as the location of their first branch in Japan.

▼ Here’s the Tokyo store that opened just this week! As is the Japanese custom, the store front was decorated with lovely celebratory flowers for the opening on Feburary 26.

The menu showing the variety of bagels, sandwiches and salads certainly looked appetizing!

The deli is one of many shops located on the first basement floor of the Marunouchi Building and doesn’t occupy a huge space, but it’s still roomy enough for 42 seats.

They also have some counter seats (with power outlets too, which is always very convenient).

You can place your order at the cashier counter.

Here we have a look at the items they have on the shelves.

Oh, yes, the bagels look glorious!

But which bagel flavor to choose? A truly difficult decision!

Of course, we need the creamy shmears to spread on the bagels too!

And we certainly can’t forget the divine-looking cheesecake!

You can also buy their specialty corned beef and pastrami. Yum!

There are also various drinks you can grab from the shelf, including smoothies and Wilkinson Ginger Ale!

And if you’re in need of something a little stronger than juice, they also have a nice selection of beers, including several varieties of San Francisco’s Anchor Steam.

If you want to grab something quickly, there are also pre-packaged bento boxed lunch-style meals, the ones here containing a bagel, a shmear, a side item, some salad and pickles.

If you’re in the mood for vegetables, the colorful mixed green salad should be an attractive option.

There are plenty of delectable-looking baked goods on offer as well. Here we have babka in a Japanese matcha flavor…

… and in chocolate flavor as well!

And here’s some more baked sweetness, starting with the Jewish rugelach pastry

… followed by cookies,

… macaroons

… and honey cake! Yup, that should take care of our sugar cravings.

They also have standard types of bread too, like this rye bread, so it’s not all sweet.

And if you want to take back a memento with you, there are several souvenirs you can choose from. They have drink bottles and mugs …

… as well as tumblers in two sizes.

There are T-shirts in several designs too.

It was great to see all the food and merchandise, but we were especially excited to have the chance to meet Wise Sons co-founder Ari Bloom, who kindly took the time to sit and chat with us while we tried some items from their menu.

▼Ari Bloom, who co-founded Wise Sons with his brother Evan and friend Leo Beckerman.

Lucky for us, we got to have some of the deli’s tasty offerings while speaking with Ari.

Here’s the Manhattan open-faced bagel toast, made with a plain bagel, plain shmear, smoked trout salmon, onions and capers. Offering open-faced bagel sandwiches by the half is something Wise Sons has done for the first time specifically for the Japanese market, as food portions in Japan tend to be smaller.

The salmon was just salty enough to combine delightfully with the zest of the fresh onions and the slightly sour vinegary taste of the capers. Plus, the shmear was incredibly rich and creamy without being too heavy.

The fries, which Ari boasts are “addictive” and definitely look the part!

And here’s the matzo ball soup, a Jewish comfort food which Ari told us is often given to someone who is ill and is even called Jewish penicillin. The recipe calls for chicken soup containing a ball of the Jewish matzo flatbread, something we certainly don’t see often in Japanese restaurants.

The chicken soup was flavorful yet not too rich, and interestingly, the matzo ball had a soft consistency very similar to Japanese fish cake. It was easy to see how it would be considered a nourishing dish.

While we tasted the bagel sandwich and matzo ball soup, we asked Ari why the franchise decided to expand into Japan and what challenges there were in the process.

Ari told us that he and his family have traveled multiple times to Japan and know the Japanese market well, and they felt that the American “quick serve” style of casual food using fresh ingredients which they offered was becoming increasingly popular in Japan.  And since Japan has always been fond of American food, including bagels and coffee, they decided it made sense as a new market to venture into. He mentioned that they were planning on their Marunoichi branch to be the first of many in Japan.

As to the challenges of launching the franchise in Japan, Ari explained that things were actually not so difficult, as it was possible to locally source quality flour, meat and fish, which were the most important ingredients for their products.  He did mention, though, that finding a year-round source for matzo in Japan proved to be impossible, so they decided to make matzo in-house from scratch.

Finally, we asked Ari for a message to the customers in Japan, to which he said that his whole family has been a fan of Japanese culture for a long time, and he grew up eating authentic Japanese food in Southern California, so he really is excited to be in Japan, and he’s happy to be able to bring the food he cares about into a market he loves.

Well, we’re certainly glad Wise Sons have brought their fare to Tokyo, as we thoroughly enjoyed the food we tasted during our visit. And we know we’ll have to come back for the pastrami sandwich, which we were told is their best-selling item in the U.S. You can see their full menu and price range on the Wise Sons Tokyo site here, but their bagels run around 250 yen (US$2.30), their open-faced bagel toasts between 800 and 1,200 yen (full size) and their sandwiches  between 1,500 and 1,750 yen.

If you’re looking for casual, hearty American fare in central Tokyo, the Wise Sons deli is certainly an option well worth considering. Here’s a huge thanks to Ari for chatting with us and to Wise Sons for bringing a taste of classic America to Tokyo!

Restaurant information
Wise Sons Tokyo
Address: Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 2-4-1 Marunouchi Building basement level 1
東京都千代田区丸の内2-4-1 丸ビルB1F
Open: 7:30 a.m.- 9 p.m. (weekdays), 8:30 a.m.- 9 p.m. (Saturdays), 8:30 a.m.- 8 p.m. (Sundays, holidays)
Take away menu only until 11 a.m.

Photos ©SoraNews24