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att steamer, silverjay and robb s, i'm lost in translation

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susan robin Aug 1, 2007 03:59 PM

fellow hounds, i have been all over the board and need some help, first time nyc hounds in japan. need restaurants in tokyo and kyoto, here's what i've been looking at. budget not an issue, it is our vacation and we want memorable dinners. and if this helps, we went to urosawa in LA and had a fabulous evening and food. for locale purposes, staying at park hyatt and grand hyatt in tokyo and the hyatt in kyoto. tokyo --- we're looking at sushiko, ryugin, toyoda, tempura tenshin, daiwa, and in roppongi, a restaurant called inakaya? i have two nights in kyoto,how about warajei tei (found on chowhound) and a place called nanzengi ginmondo, a friend who is there a lot loves it. give me some help and i will do the same for you in nyc ... we are overwhelmed

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  1. steamer Aug 2, 2007 06:12 AM

    Susan no budget, then tokyo be your oyster, I just got back from my 250-yen-beer meat mart/yakitoriya and am a bit hazy so give me a day or so to mull this, you've got some good places in Tokyo though Inakaya was pretty touristy when I first went there 20 some years ago.

    1. s
      susan robin Aug 2, 2007 10:12 AM

      thanks, really appreciate it. we'll be in tokyo for three nights, then kyoto for two, then one last night in tokyo, since we are staying in roppongi that night and have an early flight the next day, thought we'd eat in that area and check it out. i thought inanakya sounded touristy also but was recommended by some good sources in nyc, and after all, we are tourists! also have three other recommendations in roppongi, these come from a local --- roppongi wazan, restaurant morimoto XEX, shabu zen roppongi. we 're flying to SF for a few days on saturday morning and then from there to tokyo, so i'm trying to get all this set up by the respective concierges before we leave. one last thing --- we were given the name of a restaurant at tsujiki market called ichiba no chu-bohest, is this a dinner thing or do we go in the morning after auction?

      1 Reply
      1. re: susan robin
        steamer Aug 3, 2007 11:33 PM

        OK I just wrote lots and then lost it so here goes again.
        Ryugin is in Roppongi and not to missed.

        Il ghiottone, amazing looking Italian food with touches of kaiseki and temple cooking haven't been yet but it looks brilliant, one in Tokyo at maronouchi and one in kyoto.
        http://www.ilghiottone.com/home.html

        Your suggestions in Roppongi are the sorts of corporate restaurants I usually stay away from because they are long on concept and way short on substance, it is a big problem in the Japanese restaurant biz.

        Waketokuyama is near hiroo station and is another not to miss if you can get a seat.

        Kaikaiya in shibuya is big fun, cheap and delicious. Love this place.
        http://www.kaikaya.com/

        Finally Bongout noh, a great standing bar in Shibuya ,
        great food and wine in a friendly atmosphere
        Bongout noh

        http://www.bento.com/rev/2537.html

      2. Silverjay Aug 4, 2007 07:02 AM

        Hi Susan. Here are my thoughts-

        From your hotel in Shinjuku, I would consider making your way to a place called "Roman-ya", which I reviewed here- http://www.chowhound.com/topics/365267 . It's located 1 express stop or two regular stops from Shinjuku on the Odakyu Train line (less than 10 minute ride either way). "Roman-ya" has great food, a good shochu selection, and a good neighborhoody vibe. As per many great places in Japan, it's run by one passionate chef-owner. The neighborhood is nice, cozy, and fairly cosmopolitan. It wouldn't be unusual to meet other patrons who speak English here, so you might have a chance at striking up a conversation or two with locals. Afterwards, I would stop in at "Sasagin", only 1 minute away and in front of the train station. Sasagin is revered as one of the best sake bars in Tokyo (and the world for that matter) and the proprietor there is passionate about the drink and educating on it. The food there isn't bad either- certainly better than you will find in NYC. Why these places? To me, this is much closer to how people in Tokyo enjoy eating and drinking and is really a better example of Japanese dining ethos - whatever that means. Mostly though, you'll be impressed with the quality of the food and you'll have a great experience. There will always be high-class Japanese tasting menu places and authentic tempura shops in New York, so I don't quite see the point in going out of your way for those type of places for every meal while in Japan for such a short time. On to sushi...

        You said budget doesn't matter, right? I would consider Sukiyabashi Jiro or Kyubei or one of the other highly regarded sushi places for one of your meals. Reservations are essential. A requisite visit to Sushi Dai or Sushi Bun in Tsukiji would be a good contrast to the high-end experience, not to mention another reason to consume fresh fish, so I'm all for that.

        For other options, I might try "Tofu-ya Ukai", which I haven't been to myself, but am kind of interested in. It's done up like an old-fashioned Japanese estate.

        Regarding "Inakaya", I've never been, but I'm sure it's probably a great place for a meal and a wonderful spectacle to behold as well. I believe you are the second or third person lately to use the "well, we are tourists" line about eating there. My personal thoughts- I wouldn't go. Three days in Tokyo, four total, I would spend as little amount of time as possible in Roppongi. It's the most non-Japanese part of the entire country, save for the U.S. military bases. Don't get me wrong, it's a wonderland for expats and there's some quality, much ballyhood restaurants there. But the area is an abberation in the context of the rest of Japanese society. Maybe the Roppongi Hills branch of Sukiyabashi Jiro or Ryugin is worth checking out and sticking around for. Otherwise, if you're interested in Japan, steer clear. And I agree with Steamer, many of the restaurants are expense account destinations. I know Japanese who would feel embarassed and disappointed if someone said they spent part of their short time visiting Japan in Roppongi.

        A great lunch spot worth checking out would be this "youshoku" or Japanese-Western style food place- http://www.chowhound.com/topics/352892 . There are also plenty of ramen and soba recs on this board worth exploring for lunch.

        If you want to see how Japanese not only make a better car than us, but a better chicken as well, you should go to a top yakitori restaurant. Try Imaiya, with several branches and an English website- http://www.imaiya.co.jp/english/index2.html .

        I would also check out depachika, which are the underground food markets in the large department stores (http://metropolis.co.jp/tokyo/535/din...). I think Isetan in Shinjuku has one of the best. The "Raumen Museum" in Yokohama or the Ikebukuro ramen alley would make fun lunch time excursions. The "Ameyoko" market in Ueno is also fun. I've never been to Kaikaya, but looks like a good rec and if you don't go here, at least make your way to one izakaya or "dining izakaya. Since it's August, you might as well try an unagi-ya. "Obana" in Minami-Senju is revered to be the best. The eel are prepared fresh that day and cooked long over a charcoal grill. You can't get this type of thing in New York.

        Unfortunately, this isn't the best eating season in Japan, but I'm sure you'll have great meals all around. "Sasagin", "Sukiyabashi Jiro", and "Obana" are perhaps best in class for their type of place in the world. "Imaiya" and "Kyobashi domPierre" are also both up there for their respective cuisines. These places are worth considering versus the world tasting menu circuit in the pursuit of having a memorable time in Japan... I'm sure there are other Japan board regulars with suggestions as well.

        21 Replies
        1. re: Silverjay
          Tripeler Aug 4, 2007 06:58 PM

          Correction: Roman-ya is at Yoyogi Uehara on the Odakyu Line, one express stop (five minutes) and FOUR regular stops (eight minutes) from Shinjuku, the terminal station. I totally agree with Silverjay's assessment of this slightly upscale but "regular" neighborhood. No corporate restaurants here, except some fast food in the station. Thanks for the great and very useful post, Silverjay.

          1. re: Tripeler
            oonth Aug 12, 2007 10:46 AM

            Went to Roman-ya ("Dream Shop") last week and was overall impressed even though there were a couple of misses amongst the dishes that we ordered and/or were recommended. Best dish of the night was the chicken sashimi served with negi and raw quail's egg; other hits included tsukune, nasu with wasabi and mini pork sandwiches consisting of grilled pork belly with dab of mustard and sandwiched into small pieces of bread which had a starchy, crumpet-like texture. Misses included a plate of something akin to chicken sausages recommended by the owner and yuba which was more custardy than anything else. Very pleasant owner as already pointed out.

            And did the nightcap (and some dessert) at Sasagin on route home. Definitely worth stopping in especially if you like your sakes. Had been here before earlier in the year as part of a sake course that I attended so was nice to revisit.

            1. re: oonth
              oonth Aug 12, 2007 11:03 AM

              Having belatedly read Silverjay's extended report on Roman ya, I now realise that the dish I refer to as chicken sausages was in fact chicken skin gyoza. Definitely interesting but didn't excite myself or my dining companion. And Silverjay's report also clears up the mystery of the yuba that wasn't actually yuba, we hadn't picked up on the yuba tofu nuance when scanning the menu. I did get a tamago tofu complimentary upon being seated and that was more impressive.

              And yes the egg yolk accompanying the tsukune was superb, I'm thinking maybe that was a duck egg.

          2. re: Silverjay
            steamer Aug 4, 2007 10:14 PM

            Silverjay makes a good point here, that though these blockbuster restaurants are great, the treasure of the Japanese dining experience lies in the smaller places where a dedicated owner puts his or her mark on the place. Also a normal night out might include stops at 3 or more places for small bites to eat and different drinks. Agree too that if it wasn't for Ryugin I would never set foot in Roppongi, it's sleazy but not in an interesting way. Also Bongout noh is part of a group of standing bars (buchi, buri etc.) where a low to moderately trendy crowd of all ages hangs out. The people are friendly and the proximity makes it easy to strike up conversations.

            1. re: steamer
              oonth Aug 13, 2007 05:59 AM

              I agree that multiple smaller venues per evening is a great way to go. I just got back from a few days in Tokyo and did quite a lot of that. One evening we started off at Hasegawa sake shop in Ometosando Hills for sake tasting and bar snacks, great place for sake lovers; then we moved on to Buri where 3 of us shared 5 or 6 items and some very good one cup sake from an extensive list, I liked everything about this place and will definitely go back on future trips; finally we wound up at a place around the corner from Buri called Manpachi which is a small, dimly lit 5th Floor Shochu and Vodka lounge with mostly counter seating. We got stuck into some shochu and also were pleased to find a food menu comprising various kushiage and oden options and we enjoyed the various items that we ordered.

              The linked article I came across yesterday speaks to this way of discovering the Tokyo food and drink scene:

              http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2007...

              In contrast to Buri, I think that Bongout Noh has a French bistro style menu, perhaps others on the board can elaborate on their offerings.

              1. re: oonth
                t
                taryn Aug 13, 2007 05:55 PM

                I"ve been to Bongout Noh several times and have yet to be disappointed. Now they have an english menu as well. Highlights include the cheese moriawase, the grilled iberico pork (it is served with a trio of items to dip in) and the stewed horse meat served with daikon (sort of oden style?). also delicious, the homemade pasta, the bread basket (there are little popovers that are addicting, the smoked scallops, and the apple and gorgonzola salad. i did have the desset moriawase once and it was fine, but nothing special. Anyway its my favorite place to go for a late night or dinner and drinks before going out. The vibe is so laidback and I love the intimacy of the kitchen bar.

                1. re: oonth
                  steamer Aug 13, 2007 09:44 PM

                  Interesting link, looks like Charlie has a pretty good hustle going on there, taking people to your favorite places and having them pay you 45 pounds an hour (+45 pounds booking fee) to hang out with them. Why didn't I think of that?

                  1. re: steamer
                    oonth Aug 13, 2007 10:34 PM

                    Agreed and I would certainly not advocate paying money to do this kind of soiree. Sure, Tokyo might be a little bit less penetrable than some other metropolises but with some solid research and admittedly in my case the quality knowledge of local food+drink loving and japanese speaking friends, you can find a lot of these fine yet tucked away places.

                    1. re: oonth
                      steamer Aug 14, 2007 01:24 AM

                      Who knows, that kind of money is probably small change to anyone that would consider using that service. It is a clever idea and I'm sure it requires a lot of skill to package and market himself like that. I'm just envious.

              2. re: Silverjay
                s
                susan robin Aug 6, 2007 10:53 AM

                thanks to all of you, we're in carmel and i just got all of these recommendations. defintely going to ryugin and will work through the rest of this. i loce chowhound!!!

                1. re: Silverjay
                  e
                  EarlyDrive Aug 10, 2007 09:32 AM

                  Silverjay, I'm interested in the seasonality of Japanese eating. What's the best season, and what do you say about September/October?

                  1. re: EarlyDrive
                    Silverjay Aug 10, 2007 07:41 PM

                    I probably shouldn't have said it's not the best eating season in Japan as it really boils down to personal preference. I tend to like autumn to winter- nabe-mono (hot pot), oden, fresh oysters, scallops, and some good fish, not too mention amazing persimmons.

                    1. re: EarlyDrive
                      i
                      I make my own pickles Aug 31, 2007 12:53 AM

                      September October generally is regarded for (among things with less than 3 months seasonality):
                      iwashi-Japanese sardines
                      katsuo-bonito
                      sake-salmon
                      saba-mackeral-chub mackeral
                      sanma-pike fish
                      ebi-shrimp (from Oct-Jan)

                      most potatoes and mushrooms--most famous are
                      satsuma-imo potatoes and matsutake mushrooms

                      Vegetables and the like:
                      chingensai--bok choy??
                      carrots
                      tail ends of season for
                      nasu -eggplant and
                      kabocha--Japanese pumpkin season

                      1. re: I make my own pickles
                        r
                        repartee Sep 10, 2007 06:30 AM

                        I would definitely not bother with Inakaya - fun atmosphere with guys passing irori things on paddles, but boy is it expensive. Had a rather bad experience there ages ago with one couple from our group refusing to pay their share because the 'didn't know it would be so expensive'. Who knew??

                    2. re: Silverjay
                      ponocat Feb 5, 2008 09:56 AM

                      Silverjay, when I click on the imaiya link, I get only Japanese, not English, and when I google it, I get Imaiya Honten in Shinjuku. I am guessing that the Honten one is not the Imaiya you referred to, right? I am interested in knowing more, as I want to go to a really good yakitori restaurant when I am in Tokyo in May. Thanks for any help you can give.

                      1. re: ponocat
                        Silverjay Feb 5, 2008 12:44 PM

                        Looks like the English is down. It's a mini gourmet chain. The one I went to is in Ebisu. What part of town do you want to eat in and what's your budget? There's a bunch of attractive places that I've never been and would love to get a report on.

                        1. re: Silverjay
                          ponocat Feb 5, 2008 02:03 PM

                          I am staying at a hotel in Ginza. My budget is open. For lunches, I am willing to travel far. For dinner, I prefer to be closer to my hotel. (I like to drink wine or beer with dinner and I don't like to travel very far after that.)

                          BTW, I am really interested in the Yakitori options because I have been raising my own chickens the past couple of years. It was a revelation to me how very, very different my chickens taste from what is available in supermarkets. I hear that the Japanese have very high-grade chickens available in some restaurants and I'd like to see if they taste anything like what I have been raising.

                          1. re: ponocat
                            Silverjay Feb 5, 2008 05:29 PM

                            See my "Best of..." thread. Though, yakitori is a dinner time option. Most (nearly all) of these shops will be closed during lunch time or have only donburi or fried chicken lunch specials. Recommend going outside of Ginza for dinner. Traveling on the subways in Tokyo under the influence of alcohol is a national pastime. I have a black belt in it...

                      2. re: Silverjay
                        e
                        exilekiss Mar 21, 2008 11:57 PM

                        Hi Silverjay,

                        Your wonderful and informative posts never cease to amaze me! (^_^) You have me excited to try a few of these places you list, but I can't seem to find addresses. Can you give me (or anyone that knows) the addresses for:

                        * Roman-ya

                        * Sasagin

                        Thanks!

                        1. re: exilekiss
                          Silverjay Mar 23, 2008 09:46 PM

                          Here are the address/map pages:

                          Roman-ya (block or two from the station)
                          http://www.asku.com/RV/110R/?_item_id=6061195&area_id=13

                          Sasagin (right next to the station
                          )http://www.asku.com/RV/110R/?_item_id...

                          I recommend sitting at the counter at Sasagin. I'm pretty sure the master can speak some English.

                          1. re: Silverjay
                            e
                            exilekiss Mar 23, 2008 11:16 PM

                            Yay! :)

                            Thanks so much Silverjay! Can't wait to try out your recommendations.

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