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Tokyo eating trip

Finally booked tickets to head to Tokyo in late August. It has been almost six months since I have been to Tokyo and there are lots of grounds to cover given all the recent reviews of great places. These are the places that I am thinking about and would appreciate any thoughts and suggestions (especially on dishes):

1) Sushi: two sushi meals planned since this is my wife's favourite food. Was originally planning on Mizutani and Kanesaka. But Sushi Taku in the Michelin guide looks quite attractive especially given the possibility of wine pairing. Trying to pair sushi with wine has been a big challenge and would love to see what the experts can do. Has anyone been to Sushi Taku?

2) Steak: would like to have some excellent Japanese beef though not shabu shabu or sukiyaki style. Am debating between Dons de la Nature (highly recommended by Asomaniac), Shima in Nihonbashi and Steak Shiozawa in Ginza. Find the other two names radomly on the internet and even though they are probably both very good, would like to see if anyone has been there. Would have picked Dons but really wanted my steak teppanyaki style as opposed to grilled.

3) Yakitori: does anyone has a good recommendation? happy to head back to isehiro but wanted to see if others have been a good one recently

4) Tempura: this one is easy, will head to Kondo again to try some of their vegetables tempura

5) Contemporary Japanese: I really like contemporary Japanese style a la Ryugin, Mutsukari. The Michelin guide listed Yonemura as another similar restaurant. Has anyone tried this place? Alternatively, are there other similar restaurants that you would recommend?

Thank you for everyone's help in advance and I will of course report back to let you know how it went!

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  1. As always, for yakitori I recommend Fuku in Yoyogi-uehara. I think the care and attention given to each piece is above and beyond what you can expect just about anywhere else.

    Sorry I can't comment on any of the other options. Good luck!

    1. For yakitori I really enjoyed Imaiya http://www.imaiya.co.jp/ , but it was a few years ago that I dined there. The foie gras yakitori was outstanding!

      1. Hi HKT:

        1. Re Sushi: I have not been to Sushi Taku, but my next target is Michelin 1 star Sushi Saito, which is ranked no. 1 at tabelog. I would be curious to try this place that achieves even higher rating by Japanese internet users than Mizutani and Kanesaka. Would appreciate if anyone who has experience there to post any review here.

        5. Re Contemporary Japanese : Yonemura has been reviewed by a Singapore blogger. You may want to read it here : http://numbnymph.blogspot.com/2008/01...
        But on my next trip, I want to try La Bombance which was rated very highly in both tabelog and asku, no small achievement as few get acknowledge so highly on both sites. Ariona de Takazawa is outstanding too but if interested, you better make a reservation NOW. I think dinner would require 4 months advanced reservation; lunch spot is more likely now for your schedule. There is a review at Chowhound : http://www.chowhound.com/topics/507444

        Anyway, your list looks interesting; be sure to share your experience with us when you returned from the trip.

        5 Replies
          1. re: FourSeasons

            Definitely, definitely book ahead at Saitou, even for lunch. The place is even smaller than Mizutani- like 7 seats. It's located in a parking garage directly across from the American Embassy in Akasaka/Toranomon. I tried to walk in twice in December as I had errands at the embassy, but they couldn't fit me in. Chef is very young, which probably accounts for part of its' popularity.

            1. re: Silverjay

              It is always incredible to me how some Japanese chefs forgo extra profit despite its popularity just to maintain the quality in such a very small setting. I am sure Saitou, and Mizutani, can double their size and profitability easily. I guess it must be a cultural issue.

              1. re: FourSeasons

                japanese value quality more than profit. serving sub standard stuff is a disgrace to them, and nobody in their society will giv them a 2nd chance. this however is a directly opposite in a chinese mindset, where they value money more than anything else

                1. re: Lucil

                  Used to be true to a large extent but "the japanese value quality more than profit." thing is changing; witness all kinds of food labeling scandals (beef, unagi, provenance of different sea foods etc.)

          2. Thank you for all the recommendations. Will give Fuku a try since I have been to several branches of Imaiya before. I like Imaiya but wouldn't mind some varieties.

            FourSeasons> Thank you for always being resourceful. The Yonemura and Bombance comparison is exactly what I needed. Will give Yonemura a try.

            5 Replies
            1. re: HKTraveler

              Hi HKTraveler:

              I guess you will be in Tokyo in the next 1-2 week. Have you made up your mind yet which two sushi houses and which steak house you will try on this trip? Or any restaurant that has never been mentioned in Chowhound?

              1. re: FourSeasons

                FourSeasons, have decided on Mizutani and Taku for sushi. Should be interesting contrast though I won't expect Taku to be at the same level as Mizutani. Might not be able to make it to a steak house though it is one of my fav food. Will have to see since the "eating schedule" is already quite full! Will be trying Yonemura as well. On tempura, turns out we need to change our reservation and Kondo is booked. May be trying out Rakutei instead. Will be trying to visit several patisserie as well to see if we can find a fav one. Am thinking about Pierre Herme, Toshi Yoroizuka, Mont St. Clair and SadaHaru Aoki. Have you been to any of these?

                1. re: HKTraveler

                  Mizutani is very good, probably the best sushi I ever had. It would be interesting to hear your review to compare Mizutani vs your favorite Dai San Harumi.

                  No, I have not been any of the patisserie that you mentioned.

                  Have a nice trip!!!

                  1. re: FourSeasons

                    I'm going to Taku in a couple of weeks with a Japanese friend of mine who I get together every once in a while to one-up each other at picking sushi spots. He took me to Kyubei, and then I fried his mind at Dai San Harumi. Now his turn, and he's picked Taku. Let's see what awaits us.

                    1. re: Uncle Yabai

                      Just went there last night and it was excellent. We picked a Puligny Montrachet and the chef managed to match the wine with very good sushi. Especially enlightening is a mini uni tasting with 3 kinds from Hokkaido, Kyushu and another part. There were also many kinds of white fish that I am not familiar with. Will leave more detailed notes when I am back home. But you are definitely in for a treat!

            2. teppanyaki is pretty gimicky, best saved for when you are wearing an aloha shirt, no? the best wagyu yakiniku in japan (previously rated #1 by yahoo japan) is KINRYUZAN in shirogane. but you better make reservations immediately as they only have 2 sittings per night in a 5 table restaurant. it is a rather modest place frequented by the local celebs. best to stay with the regular beef as the KYOKUJO can only be described as so good its wrong.

              as to yakitori, #1 is masuda in komagome but could be challenging to find. they also have sakes direct from the sakakura, heavy on the rarest JUYONDAIs. #2 in my extensive yakitori repertoire (including the yakitori capital: nagoya) is JUSANYA in JINBOCHO which can be found on www.bento.com. friendly setting, friendlier master, easy access from ginza (get a taxi with car navigation), excellent quality ingredients - get the OMAKASE course and ask for the sliced horse fat appetizer. for the record, IMAIYA is a ripoff chain restaurant that is sub-standard at best, be especially careful of their maimon oyster brand.

              havent heard of any of those sushi places, but what do i know. sound like Nobu ripoffs to me. i prefer the variety of sushi that makes me cry, who cares about the frigging wine pairing! two favorite places are in akasaka and share the same name as they were taught by the same chef. unomaru near tbs is the cheaper and more casual, the other unomaru is in the grounds of a shrine more meant for business dinner or taking a hostess before drinks. ironically, tsukiji sushi remains an enigma.

              enjoy!

              5 Replies
              1. re: nkc

                I'm going to disagree with Jusanya in Jinbocho, especially about the 'friendly master'. I went on a weekday, there were about 4 other people in the restaurant. I ordered the large omakase, and the master refused. He kept telling us it was a lot of food. I'm 192cm (6'3) and 91kg (200+lbs). Eventually, we gave up and ordered the smaller option. About 3/4 of the way though, I was still very hungry and tried to order more food. The man behind the counter refused once again, telling us that I had to wait until the omakase was finished before I was allowed to order anything else.
                It left me with a bad bad taste in my mouth, I'll never go back. The food wasn't good enough to warrant all those ridiculous rules.
                Stick to Fuku in Yoyogi Uehara, it's phenomenal and nobody will tell you you're ordering too much.

                1. re: lost squirrel

                  fair enough, but he has never had anything but a big goofy smile for me. will take your advice and try fuku though.

                  by the way, i meant to mention that few tokyo gourmands, japanese or foreign, have much faith in michelin ratings. i think it is rather arrogant of the french to think that because they can rate their own food, they are qualified to rate the rest of the world as well. check out the NYT article saying as much http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/24/bus...

                  1. re: nkc

                    Between your assessment of Sushi Mizutani as a Nobu ripoff and Michelin's assessment of it as a 3-star restaurant, I think Michelin was closer to reality.... And I think we all recognize that these ratings and rankings are pretty bogus, but they are a double-edge sword in that we learn about high quality places and how Tokyo has become publically validated as a gourmet center of the universe- something both Japanese and foreign gourmands were aware of and may have secretly longed for recognition of......Ahhh, a 6-month old topic that has been well beaten. Times are slow on the Japan board these days...

                    1. re: Silverjay

                      in a way, i wish that there isn't a michelin guide since it makes all the good restaurants so much more accessible and difficult to make a reservation. hope that doesn't change HK too much or else I won't be eating much anymore!

                      thank you for the recs but a friend of mine wants to check out chateau robuchon and doesn't look like i will get to try any other places. definitely next time!

                      nkc, while i share your opinion about Nobu, wine pairing with sushi is difficult. probably something lost on anyone who is not a wine nut though.

                      1. re: Silverjay

                        sorry, my bad. i was thinking of another place, not mizutani.