Japanese Pop Star Utada Ponders Giant Sandwiches and Lobster Crackers

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Singer-songwriter Hikaru Utada at Lure Fishbar in New York. Photo: Melissa Hom

Singer-songwriter Hikaru Utada is one of Japan’s biggest-selling pop stars, but she was born in Manhattan. The daughter of musician parents, she was raised in the East and the West, but her new album for the American market, This is the One, drops March 24 (the single “Come Back to Me” came out this month). Check out where she ate while promoting her latest work in this week's New York Diet.

Thursday, February 12
Breakfast was room service at the Mandarin Oriental. I had plain, non-fat yogurt, blueberries, and dry muesli. I just drink tea. I used to drink coffee until about three months ago, when I stopped because a follower of Eastern medicine in Tokyo, sort of like a doctor, told me drinking coffee wasn’t very good.

For lunch I had takeout from Vynl. I had the tofu wraps with chicken, lemongrass, tofu, and rice, wrapped up. And potato chips and pickles.

I had a dinner party at Lure. A lot of people showed up, 25 or so. I had a bit of their sushi, a salad with beets, and some kind of swordfish that was grilled with cilantro. I love cilantro. I had a couple of glasses of Chardonnay.

Friday, February 13
Friday, I rolled out of bed at 9:45 and was supposed to leave at 9:45. Late for work, I skipped breakfast. Thursday and Friday, I was doing a bunch of interviews and visiting radio stations and doing camera interviews for music channels and Internet sites.

On my way to Long Island to visit a radio station, I grabbed a tuna-salad sandwich at the Carnegie Deli. It was huge. It wasn’t very easy trying to eat that in the car, and I ended up with enough tuna for another sandwich.

For dinner, I just went to the Whole Foods and picked what I wanted from the hot-food table. I think I had chicken, curry, some ravioli stuff, and a lot of salads. I’m pretty disciplined; I get just enough.

Saturday, February 14
Saturday morning I had a banana.

Lunch, I had plain, non-fat yogurt and muesli.

For dinner, I went to a couple of places in Soho. There’s a Spanish tapas bar called Boqueria. I had to eat at the bar counter because the whole place was full with reservations for Valentine’s Day. I got a really nice bottle of Shiraz, salted shishito peppers, and a small beef plate with celery sauce and grilled vegetables. I had one other thing: shrimp with garlic and olive oil and some bread. I was on a date. I have a Japanese boyfriend.

After that I went to Ed’s Lobster Bar. I got a bottle of French white wine and a bunch of oysters and a boiled lobster. It came with a little bag of lobster crackers. I find them really ridiculous. I guess they were tailored to go with lobster — they didn’t taste like lobster at all. I ate those.

Sunday, February 15
Sunday morning I woke up late and kind of skipped breakfast. I had a banana past noon.

For dinner, I went to Omen in Soho and had the sashimi-deluxe menu. It came with lots of appetizers. There was one with uni — does that translate? — yuba tofu, spinach oshitashi, and this really nice little shrimp soup. After that there was this very delicious small crêpe with ginger and potatoes — bellissimo. There were some others I think I’m forgetting. After that, the sashimi came in a big bowl, and then the signature udon. And then I had the green-tea-matcha ice cream. I started with a sake-tini and after that I went with the hot sake. I find it better for my stomach, and it’s winter — nothing like a little hot sake to warm you up. I had some green tea at the end of the meal. My parents used to go there a lot before and right after I was born. Actually, my first name, Hikaru, came from an episode there. My mother wanted a name that meant "strawberry" and my father wanted to name me Hikaru, which means “light.” As they were arguing, they looked on the wall and saw a single character in calligraphy that means “light.” I’m glad I’m not named “Strawberry.” I’ve hardly been there the past twenty years, but I when I was looking for some good Japanese food that’s where I thought to go.

Monday, February 16
Monday morning I skipped breakfast again because I woke up late.

I had a banana around noon and walked down to the Met museum, and before walking in I grabbed a hot dog with the whole deal: chili, onions, mustard, ketchup, relish. My fingers were smelling like mustard so much. My first stop was the ladies' room to wash my hands. I ended up running around in the medieval-art section and looked at the samurai armor.

On the way back to the hotel, I stopped at Tavern on the Green. I had a couple of glasses of Merlot, a lobster bisque, and then the baby arugula. For the main dish, I had chicken with root-vegetable risotto. That was rather early, like 6.

Later on, I ordered room service. They had a great wonton noodle soup and it comes with a side of very hot, hot, sauce. I tend to use all of my hot sauce. It brings tears to my eyes, but I like it. I opened this vintage Dom Perignon my staff members got for me for Valentine’s Day. I was very surprised, like wow, thank you. It was a 1998 vintage. We also ordered a lemon tart with some vanilla ice cream and both were very good.

Tuesday, February 17
Tuesday morning I was supposed to take a flight from New York to Tokyo, but I woke up and completely missed the flight. Feeling a bit disappointed and ashamed, I just went back to bed. I didn’t have anything until 5 or 5:30, when I had a banana.

After my regular gym, jogging routine, I had room service. I had a spa bento box. There’s a tofu one and that’s my favorite. It’s crusted tofu with braised shitake mushrooms and spinach and comes with mozzarella, tomato, avocado, a green salad, a nice little pudding and with grapefruit on the side. I also had some miso soup.

After that I began packing to fly the next day. I watched Late Night With Conan O'Brien and had a rice-cracker mix, a very Japanese snack, from the minibar.

Wednesday, February 18
When I got into Tokyo, I just stopped at the supermarket to do nabe at home. You just get the dashi broth in a big pot and throw in things like vegetables, mushrooms, and chicken. And I threw in some udon noodles. You have a bowl of ponzu sauce, pick out things from the nabe, put it in the sauce, and enjoy.