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Apr 3, 2008 12:34 AM

Visiting tokyo

Hi there,

I am visiting Tokyo for the first time, was wondering if anyone could help narrow the list of restaurants I have posted below and advise perhaps 5/6 places I should really try out? or add any you think are not there?

Kanda Matsuya
Koju in Ginza
Sukiyabashi Jiro – Roppongi hills
Sushi Morimoto
Sushi Kanesaka
Fukuzushi in Roppongi
Kyubei in Ginza
Sushi Mizutani
Midori in Ginza

Thanks so much!

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  1. I noticed Ryugin isn't on your list. I haven't been, yet, but everyone I know who has tried it has raved about it. I'm hoping to get a reservation for the next time I'm in Tokyo.

    8 Replies
    1. re: prasantrin

      Mine's a dissenting voice for Ryugin. I haven't reported back on all of my recent Tokyo experiences but this wasn't one that impressed. Nothing particularly wrong with it (and it was certainly interesting to view a slice of Tokyo high society dining and to have a 2* michelin chef graciously show you out of his restaurant bowing all the way) but nothing particularly right with it and none of the dishes really wowed me.

      To the OP - the more I eat in Tokyo, the more I am captivated by the less heralded, serendipitous eateries I come across. My advice would be, by all means come armed with a list of places but make sure to give yourself scope to do some auto-discovery. A good way to go would be to pick a couple of interesting neighbourhoods (eg Kagurazaka, Shimo-Kitazawa, Naka-Meguro), head to a pre-selected place there (eg Seigetsu in Kagurazaka), have 1/2 a meal and then roam around the neighbourhood and sniff out a couple of other places for further eats and drinks. Japanese tapas bar hopping if you like. We unearthed two outstanding places around Shimbashi doing it this way on our last trip, I keep meaning to post the details once I get myself organised.

      1. re: oonth

        oonth, I'm pleased that you are trumpeting the izakaya/koryuri-ya/tapas style of eateries, and the idea of stringing them together (if drinking as well, called "hashigo" or "ladder" in Japanese) and discovering new ones in neighborhoods other than Roppongi and Ginza. This is much closer to Japanese chowhound practice and ethos. And hearing about what you discover is certainly more enlightening than the 10 millionth discussion of Ryugin or Kyubei. Hope you can find time to share with us what you have unearthed in Shimbashi.- SJ

        1. re: Silverjay

          Thanks for the words of encouragement and yes I will definitely find time to post about the standout places from my Jan/Feb Japan trip which included those 2 Shimbashi places, a random sushi bar in Nagoya (of the superb nori fame) and a wonderful modern style izakaya in Hakata. I've got all the info, I'm just waiting for my girlfriend to rejoin me in London later this month to take care of the transliterations. I don't like to hoard the info especially as I've gotten some invaluable tips from this board, quite a few from your good self including Roman ya.

          Each to their own I suppose but I'm jaded where Michelin * eating is concerned the world over. And I've spent lots of time in Spain over the years and am a big fan of the way people eat over there. As I discover more of Japan and its cuisine/eating practices, I am intrigued by the commonground I am perceiving between Spain and Japan in terms of both the way people eat and what they eat.

          I was going to ask you what the Japanese word is for venue hopping, you got there first.

          1. re: oonth

            There's a bunch of terms for venue hopping. People also refer to "Ni-jikai" and "San-jikai", which means 2nd and 3rd parties/places. As in "Now that we've finished up here, where shall we go for a ni-jikai". So the next time you make a plan with your Japanese friend, ask what the ni-jikai plan is- which conveys the assumption you'll be venue hopping. You're sure to earn Japanese chowhound merit points.........And you're not the first person I've encountered to draw strong parallels between Spain and Japan. I think you're really on to something....I'm going to post my Izakaya "Hot List" for 2008 soon and the only michelin involved will be the tires on the taxi that takes you to the next venue.

            1. re: Silverjay

              Thanks for the linguistic tips and look forward to seeing your izakaya hot list. I might be spending a fair bit of time in Japan this year if various plans work out so hope to eat, and report back on, a number of places.

            2. re: oonth

              Hi ooth, what is the name of the modern Izakaya you went to in Hakata ? Do they have a website ? Thanks.

              1. re: skylineR33

                Haven't got the info to hand, will be posting full details in due course, fairly certain there's no website. The place had only been open two months, set up by a couple of local guys who had spent the last few years working in Melbourne and Sydney respectively. We came across it in one of those free bulletin/local business publications in which they were advertising, it just caught our eye so we gave it a shot and had a Eureka moment when we sampled their offerings. Like I say full report to follow.

          2. re: oonth

            I have to disagree with oonth on Ryugin. I tried it last October and thought it was an excellent restaurant. Don't want to argue in details as I am sure oonth has valid reasons to dislike it. But there is a big write up on Ryugin last year if you want to read the review here:

        2. Hi HKfood:

          It is always difficult to narrow down the list to 5/6 places. I have been to Tokyo like 20 times in the last 2 decades and I still have this problem. Moreover, we do not know your taste bud, your interest and budget so it will be real difficult to advise on this point.

          It seemed that your list is targeting the very high end of Tokyo dining, at least the names that I recognize, and they will cost around 15-20k Yen per person. Since this is your first trip, my advise is that you just narrow 2-3 to such high end dining, and perhaps have the chance to taste other types of common food. Izakaya is real popular; they are "generalist" that cooked many comfort food with reasonable pricing and some emphasis on alcohol drinking, though I have to disagree with the 2 chows above that in terms of culinary skill, selection of freshness and varieties of the ingredients, most izakaya are not in the same league as the few high end places I tried. Ramen is real popular here, written extensively in past threads so you can do some research there. Seafood is what i like best in Japan, the varieties and freshness that I think is unmatched anywhere else. And then there is shabu shabu, oden, nabe, soba, curry udon, yakiniku, yakitori etc etc. So I think for first timer, you should save 3-4 meals for these places.

          Back to your question of your list, I have tried Koju, which is a contemporary kaiseki, serves about 7-8 seasonal dishes, all incredibly fresh, delicious and mind boggling. It was one of the best meals I ever had. But you probably need to make an advanced 2 months reservation.

          Another chow, skyliner33, has highly recommended Kikunoi in past thread. Skyliner33 is a serious foodie, and I can trust the review there. But Kikunoi is more of a traditional Kyoto style kaiseki.

          For sushi, I have tried Sukiyabashi Jiro, Sushi Kanesaka, Kyubei, Sushi Mizutani. All are legendary names in sushi business. In terms of quality, I would give a slight advantage to Mizutani than the rest. But chef Mizutani does not speak English, nor does his assistants, so for first timer to Japan, that maybe an obstacle. Chef Kanesaka is the most friendly one, smile all the time, able to chat in English, and the quality is really good too.

          I have not been to the rest on your list so not able to comment further.

          10 Replies
          1. re: FourSeasons

            did they have the maguro zuke at mizutani??

              1. re: Lucil

                All sushi shops will serve zuke. "Zuke" just means marinated in soy sauce, which is usually done for pieces that cannot be served as regular sashimi- either because of the particular cut or the age. Like any sushi item, it just may not be available. "Zuke" is probably more common as a lunch time item since it might be made from the leftovers of the previous night.

              2. re: FourSeasons

                Hi HKfood:

                Just another note, for first timer, I really recommend you to go to depachika, the basement food floor of Department stores. The recent thread on this topic : .Another place for first time visitors is the Tsukiji fish market:

                1. re: FourSeasons

                  Hi FourSeasons, you are such a true sushi aficionado !! How's your meal at Muzutani, any highlight you want to share with us ? I would love to hear more details ! Is it hard to get a reservation ? Thanks.

                  1. re: skylineR33

                    Hi Skyliner33:

                    In the past few trips, I have always gone to my old favorites (Jiro in sushi) but decided to try all new places this time based on the recommendation from Chowhound and Michelin Guide. The reservation for Mizutani was made 1 month in advanced for an early lunch spot at 11:30am. There was no problem at all.

                    The lunch was truly amazing, one of the best sushi meal for me. It was probably better than Jiro, or maybe on par. Maybe not fair to make a direct comparison as the meals were 6 months apart, but I really enjoy the sushi under Mizutani's hands. The style and setup is actually very similar to Jiro. I recall I read that Mizutani was Jiro's assistant many years back so that probably explained it.

                    I think we had 19 pieces of sushi. Uni, toro, anago (the anago literally melt in my mouth) were obviously very good, but what I was amazed are some of the sushi (such as kohada, saba) which i normally do not like turn out to be very good under his hands. Ebi (from Tokyo Bay) is different from the usual amaebi that I had elsewhere and tasted much more delicious. Ika sushi was probably the best ika I had; the freshness and thickness balance well with the rice. End up paying a bill of 17k Yen per person (including draft beer).

                    1. re: FourSeasons

                      Hello FourSeasons and skylineR33.
                      My 15 nigiri pieces luncheon at Roppongi Hill's Jiro cost me a hefty15K!. However, based on what you told us, I think the Mizutani's lunch is a much better deal since afterall Mizutani is officially 3 stars whilst the son's outfit in Roppongi is officially starless.
                      I too was serve a big sea prawns that was much firmer in texture than the normal amaebi.but taste equally sweet. It has pale pinkish red stripes and was decapitated infront of me. However, I enjoyed some of the unfamiliar 'clams'bivalves' the most. Again sweet and chewy in some species
                      During our dinner gathering this week, skylineR33 asked me whether my sushi was served individuallly. Were yours FourSeason? Because in my case I was served 2 or 3 pieces at a time ( there goes the correct temperature croteria?! ). May be snce I was the last customer they received and being the last order, they wanted to get rid of me 'pronto'?! so that they can go for their siesta? Ha!

                      1. re: Charles Yu

                        Hi Charles:
                        It seem like Mizutani is slightly cheaper than Jiro. If I recall correctly, we are served with 18 sushi at 15k per person but we ordered an extra uni + draft beer. I have never tried the father's Ginza branch but I thought the one at Roppongi Hill is very good too.
                        Yes, it is the same ebi that I had. That is why I wrote their style are very similar. In Kanesaka, I was served with shiroebi instead.
                        The shellfish/clams I had in Mizutani were akagai, mirugai, kaibashira.
                        My sushi was served individually, both in Mizutani and Jiro. I suspect since you were the last person dining solo, you got the full attention of the sushi chef.

                  2. re: FourSeasons

                    Hey Fourseasons, really I'm surprised to find someone from Singapore who has tried all those great sushi places. I'm a sushi fanatic in Singapore and am considering one out of the places you list, for lunch at my trip to Tokyo this June. I'm not sure what is the best for me though. Kyubei has been recommended and their lunch set is affordable, but I heard from Tabelog that their standard has not been maintained. Mizutani would be great but I might have to abandon my travelling buddies in order to eat there, as they likely would not see the value of it, not being as crazy about sushi as I am. That wouldn't be ideal. Sushi Kanesaka sounds like a possible candidate. Do you mind if I ask how much the meal at Sushi Kanesaka cost you, and if the chef served each piece individually (if you ate lunch there)?

                    1. re: Eldarion

                      Hi Eldarion:
                      I recall I spend about Yen 16k per person for lunch at Sushi Kanesaka. Yes, sushi is served individually.
                      It is not a problem to dine solo in either place. The counter is really small, and chef Kanesaka speaks English and very friendly so you can actually directly communicate with him.
                      Kyubei is a legendary name. I just had one lunch there about one year ago but that experience just simply does not match up to what I had in Jiro, Mizutani and Kanesaka.
                      The big problem that you will have after eating in these top notch sushi houses is that there is nothing in Singapore, even the top sushi houses here, that comes close to the experience in Tokyo. It is just a very wide gap, and I am trying hard to readjust to lower down the standard of my taste bud after I returned back to Singapore.

                  3. TONS! I grew up there, first off randomly diving in to a restaurant in Tokyo means good food...I'de tell you my old local sushi restaurant in Minami Aoyama but I think people would be after me. Are you looking for high class dining only? There is so much to explore, and not just Japanese food. There is a great Dim Sum place in Hiro right off of Roppongi many places to eat

                    1. I so glad noone stood up to tout Fukuzushi (get it? Tout a restaurant in Roppongi? Ha? I guess you have to know the place....) Anyway, I just visited Fukuzushi on recommendations like that you probably saw in numerous Guidebooks. Big mistake. YUCK! True, the sushi bar and gardens are pretty enough, but the fish was AWFUL! Tasteless fish on fall-apart rice, some fish wrapped in konbu to hide its lack of flavor. And the shrimp in the station looked like it had been fermenting there since Bush was President. Perhaps the worst sushi I've ever eaten in my life. Which would be understandable if it was a $1 boat sushi in Omaha, Nebraska, but my bill was well over $7 per piece. Not per 2, PER 1. And I didn't even eat the good stuff. If this place closes tomorrow, that will be one day too late, because I've already dropped a budget buster on something entirely forgettable.

                      Save your money, and you tastebuds. There are two SushiZanMai places within walking distance in Roppongi. Perhaps no garden to look at while you eat, but at least you know everyone will enjoy every bite.