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Jan 31, 2008 06:34 PM

On-line Michelin list of Tokyo restaurants

I've been to Tokyo more than 10 times in the past 5 years, stayed for months, eaten at dozens upon dozens of fantastic & fabulous restaurants. Just had a look at the on-line list of the 150-odd Tokyo restaurants that made it into the Michelin list, and realised that I've tried only 5 of them!!

So many new restaurants, so little time! Where do I start?

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  1. Which are the five of them? Why don't you write a review on them?

    Jiro, Kyubei, Ryugin have been extensively written and received rave review in previous threads. You may want to start there if you had not tried before. But in my opinion, there are just as many great restaurants in Tokyo that do not appear on Michelin. It would be vain just to rely on a French guide book.

    4 Replies
    1. re: FourSeasons

      I'm afraid I share Charles Yu's opinion regarding the "total package" experience of European-style restaurants. The Michelin-starred restaurants in Tokyo I tried were two restaurants by Joel Robuchon (my fave is L'Atelier at Roppongi Hills - been there umpteen times but will still not miss it I'm in Tokyo again); Paul Bocuse; Les Saison & Sukiyabashi Jiro (that's coz my Tokyo foodie friend happened to be an Ono, too).

      I'm still puzzled why some fantastic restaurants never made it to the Michelin list, e.g. New York Grill at Park Hyatt. But its former restaurant manager, the suave urbane Jean-Phillipe Joye is now F&B Manager at Singapore's Raffles Hotel.

      1. re: klyeoh

        I respect both Charles and your opinions but my preference is "total Japanese package". Just simply too many delicious varieties to fit in my one-week trip and always depart dreaming about those I miss!

        Just wonder did you try Sukibayashi Jiro in Ginza or Roppongi Hill branch?

        Maybe you can try Ryugin (2 star) next time. It is Japanese fusion Michelin style restaurant, getting rave reviews here. You can read the details here :

        1. re: FourSeasons

          Hi FourSeasons, I guess we have the same preference, "total Japanese package" is the way to go in Japan for me too !

          1. re: FourSeasons

            My regular hangout is Roppongi Hills, so I was at Sukibayashi Jiro a couple of times there - that's run by the son, right? But I'm still finding it hard to reconcile giving Michelin stars to sushi restaurants, especially those tiny, spartan ones. In France, I've been to at least 28 2- & 3-Michelin star places, where I noticed many of the owners spend an arm & a leg to renovate their restaurants just to gain or retain that extra "star"! But I guess the marvellous Japanese service must have won over the inspectors.

      2. I've just received my 'English' version of the guide ordered thru May be you too should get a copy, take a look at the photos of the establishments and the FOOD, then read the write-ups and then decide! Apart from the 'Japanese' establishments, I noticed quite a few very appealing French, Italian and Spanish places. I'll be heading out there in March. This time, rather than eating Japanese, I think I might give the likes of Sant Pau (2* Spanish), Twenty One (2* French), La Cave Hiramatsu (1* French) and Aroma-Fresca ( 1* Italian Contemporary) a try. With the weak JPY, some of those tasting menus look like a steal!

        10 Replies
        1. re: Charles Yu

          Hi CharlesYu: just for my curiosity, why would you want to taste European food in Tokyo? There are just so many GREAT Japanese restaurants that in my opinion overwhelmed even the best European food, especially when it comes to seafood, the freshness and varieties that is not matched by European chefs. It would be such a waste to simply eat just European food and miss the best cuisine in the world.

          1. re: FourSeasons

            Tokyo is a great international food city with many great chefs working in different cuisines. Why WOULDN'T a frequent visitor here eat at a restaurant like Sant Pau, which has world-class chefs preparing a fantastic, creative menu. And it's more convenient than making a separate trip to Barcelona!

            1. re: Robb S

              I travel to Tokyo twice per year, each time about 5-7 days. My problem is to fit in all the great Japanese food into my itinerary: sushi, shabu shabu, yakiniku, oden, seafood, fugu, curry udon, kaiseki, kobe steak, ramen, yakitori, nabe, sukiyaki... etc etc. You will never get the same quality, the same freshness, the varieties in anywhere else, be it in North America or other parts of Asia. I am sure there are excellent European restaurants there, but I am really curious why CharlesYu would want to miss the Japanese food and devote exclusively to European food on his trip? Obviously, I am biased too as I do personally prefer Japanese food to European ones. I would rather have a meal in Jiro or Nabura rather than Robuchon or Saint Pau when I go to Tokyo.

            2. re: FourSeasons

              Hello FourSeason. Please don't get me wrong. I do love Japanese food. For my upcoming trip, for sure I will be gulping down tons of sushi, munch on multiple skewers of Yakitoris and slurp a few bowls of Tonkatsu ramen. However, for some high end dining, I beleive I can obtain a better 'total' package experience by eating European. A well exercuted multi course tasting menu with wine pairing from say Sant Pau should offer me better enjoyment than say a monotonous themed high end Tempura dinner or even a multi course Kaiseki dinner ( which somehow I find its long on presentation, a bit too timid in taste and lacking the 'bold' factor ). Furthermore, I love to finish off my dinner with a few desserts, which I beleive European theme restaurants can do a better job. Finally, be it Japanese or European, I beleive all Michelin star chefs will go out of his/her way to source the best and freshess ingredients. That said, I am more inclined to find out how the Tokyo based European restaurants are going to use high end ingredients such as Wagyu beef or fresh Hokkaido seafood in their dishes. No matter what my final destinations are going to be, I think I'll have a great time!

              1. re: Charles Yu

                Hi Charles: Fair comment. Enjoy your trip. Don't forget to review them on Chowhound when you return home.

            3. re: Charles Yu

              Hey Charles, looks like a great list for non-Japanese food, no 3 stars this time ?

              Italian food is a very strong in Japan as I notice the 1st place of the recently released Top 500 list of Tabelog for the whole Japan is an italian restaurant in Tokyo !

              1. re: skylineR33

                Hi skylineR33. My 'Quintessence' option is still open. Waiting for feed back from my Tokyo buddy.

              2. re: Charles Yu

                Charles, I have been to the four you mention, and I would recommend that you consider replacing one of them (or even better, add to your list) with Ristorante Aso, which is better than all of them. Sant Pau is interesting and does some great (and extensive) deserts, wonderfully combines cheese and other things (you get five cheeses, each combined with a different and unsual ingedient, like marzipan), and I had easily the best pork of my life there. You also get very good and unusual Spanish wines. But it is like a less good Catalan version of Aso. La Cave Hiramatsu is very good (and belongs to the same group as Aso - the Hiramatsu group has five or six Michelin starred restaurants in Tokyo!), as is Twenty One (but maybe a little soulless, tucked away in teh Hilton). Aroma Fresca is, like Aso, contemporary Italian, but has more Japanese elements (it is more of a contemporary Italian / Japanese fusion) and qualitatively short of Aso. It has always been very popular and if you do not have a reservation yet, get it NOW! It sometimes takes two or three months to get a table, unless you are willing to eat very late.

                1. re: Asomaniac

                  Hi Asomaniac: Look like I will have to bend my rule of "total Japan package" after reading your description of Aso. I would love to try contemporary Italian with Japanese elements as per your description. But just wonder what is the difference between Ristorante Aso and Argento Aso even though I know you prefer Ristorante? Also I will want to visit for lunch instead since so many other places are available only for dinner and wonder if the lunch quality is as good as the dinner meal?
                  On another note, what is your personal favorite sushi place? I have tried both Sukibayahi Jiro at Roppongi Hill and Kyubei at Ginza. Personally prefer Jiro and want to go back there again but tempted to try a new place to gain more insight to high end sushi houses. Another chow recommended Jiro at Ginza but noted next to impossible to get a place unless invited by a Japanese. Do you have such experience? So any recommendation on other Michelin starred sushi house? (actually not necessary Michelin but since this thread focus on this topic so I just added it)
                  Thanks in advanced first on your recommendation.

                  1. re: Asomaniac

                    Many thanks for your input! I'll let my Tokyo foodie friend know straight away. He'll be handling the reservations.

                2. Banrekiryukodo (usually called simply Banreki) is wonderful. You have to book ahead but the proprietor speaks English. He'll go over the menu with you when you call and you can tell him if there's any particular ingredients you don't like or if you'd like something done slightly differently.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: grounded

                    Interested to know more about Benreki. Can you provide a preview of this place, what type of food they serve, and what is so wonderful about it?

                    1. re: FourSeasons

                      FourSeasons: Both Asos are absolutely excellent, and there are several similarities, the structure of the menu is the same. However, the actual dishes are just a tad more refined and memorable at Ristorante, the magic they create with foam and froth is sublime, and what they do to crab is positively pornographic. As an example of the higher complexity, while the beef main course at Argento Aso is just tongue (mind you, the softest, most deeply satisfyingly tasty beef tongue you'll ever eat, and I am not normally a huge beef tongue fan), the Ristorante equivalent is 'beef in three ways', which involves tongue, beef cheek and tripe (I don't normally like tripe much, but again, this is the best you will ever taste). You can't go wrong whichever you choose, but Ristorante is just this little bit more special. Wine-list wise, Ristorante is much better (though one minor criticism, if there had to be any, would be that both Asos have comparatively few Italian wines - very few at Argento and not many at Ristorante. They focus on French wines, which I don't understand, given that they are high end Italian restaurants).

                      Sushi-wise, I agree with you: Sukibayashi Jiro at Roppongi Hills is also my favourite. I would love to be able to tell you what the Ginza branch is like, but trying to book has proved about as difficult as trying to reserve a table at Quintessence.

                      1. re: Asomaniac

                        hi asomaniac, did u try Fogliolina della Porta Fortuna before?? it is rated no1 italian in tabelog..

                      2. re: FourSeasons

                        Banreki is run by a lovely guy called Kenji Miyoshi. When you call to make a reservation, he goes over the night's menu with you. When you get there, he shows you a beautifully-arranged basket and tray with the raw ingredients of your meal. If you want anything done differently or if there are things you don't like, you can let him know and he'll make changes for you.

                        Banreki has a front room with a gorgeous wood counter and a few small private rooms. I like to sit at the counter. The room is very quiet with low lighting, all very relaxing. Miyoshi speaks good English and describes each dish to you.

                        The food is varied and often quite subtle in the Japanese style. (It's a great place to try things you've been uncertain about trying.) This review from the Japan Times gives a good description about what to expect and enjoy at Banreki.

                        1. re: grounded

                          Thanks for the review. It certainly sounds very interesting. But probably have to miss it on this trip as I already decided to have just two contemporary kaiseki style meals, one in Aronia de Takazawa and the other Koju. But definitely will have to try Banreki on another trip in future.