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Japan Trip in February 2009

w
winenipper Nov 13, 2008 09:02 AM

I'll be going to Japan with a couple of friends in February 2009. We will be in Tokyo for four days and the purpose of this trip is to experience Japan’s finest cuisine. I read all the recommendations that are posted on this site and I would like to thank everyone for some GREAT information and a special thanks to Exilekiss, Four Seasons, Silverjay, and HKTraveler.

I plan to visit the following restaurants:
Roman-ya for Izakaye
Menya Kissou for Ramen
Sushi Saito for Sushi
Kondo or Mikawa for Tempura
Fuku or Toriki for Yakitori
Sazanka or Romantel for Teppanyaki
Maisen or Tonki for Tonkatsu

I’m open to any other suggestions. Please let me know If you have other places that you would recommend.

I would also like to visit the following high-end restaurants. From what I’ve read, it is really difficult to get reservations; can anyone provide me with their fax or email address, so I can try to make advance reservations?

Aronia de Takazawa
Sushi Mizutani
Ryugin

I’m also looking for recommendation for restaurants in Kyoto.

Winenipper

  1. e
    exilekiss Nov 13, 2008 09:34 AM

    Hi winenipper,

    It sounds like you're going to have a great time in only 4 Days in Tokyo. :) You have some great picks in the list.

    Sushi Mizutani is very old-school; I don't think they take e-mail reservations. Your best bet would be having your Hotel Concierge call for you (or someone who speaks Japanese call ahead for you).

    Ryugin recently debuted an English side to their website and are taking Online Reservations now(!) (surprising). You can check it out here:

    http://www.nihonryori-ryugin.com/en/r...

    2 Replies
    1. re: exilekiss
      w
      winenipper Nov 13, 2008 07:09 PM

      Hi Exilekiss,

      I’m going to ask my Japanese-speaking friend to call Sushi Mizutani to make reservations. I checked out the Ryugin web site, they wouldn’t take a February reservation at this time. I’ll try again later.

      Thanks again.

      Winenipper

      1. re: winenipper
        c
        ChristineBerenger Jan 11, 2010 07:07 AM

        Hi Winenipper

        First of all - lucky you. We had such a lovely time in Tokyo. It is an amazing city for the foodies... I loved Mizutani and I truly hope it works out for you. They were able to squeeze us in a lunch resie while we were there. They were completely booked for evening reservations, but we didn't care. We planned our entire dining experiences and trip around Mizutani. This is a foodie website, so you get it. I'd also add Volontaire to my list for an after dinner cocktail/scotch.

        Exilekiss, Four Seasons, Silverjay, and HKTraveler are superstars with their suggestions and won't lead you astray. I included my Tokyo dining and random experiences on my blog and hope it helps your trip be as fun and memorable as possible: http://favabeansandchianti.com/2010/0...

        Enjoy your trip! I can't wait to go back.

    2. Silverjay Nov 13, 2008 09:51 AM

      Where will you be staying in Tokyo? It's a good list and even though Tokyo is easy to get around, there may be better alternatives in terms of location and neighborhoods for travelers.

      Also, Roman-ya is pretty much a yakitori place, so you might want to consider a seafood izakaya, a contemporary style izakaya, sake/shochu pub, or a regional cuisine restaurant as an alternative or addition to your list.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Silverjay
        w
        winenipper Nov 13, 2008 07:18 PM

        Hi Silverjay,

        We will be staying at the Grand Hyatt in Roppongi Hill. We will arrive at around 3:00 PM, so our plan for the first day is to go to a casual place for dinner and I do love Chicken Yakitori. From what I read on your posting, I would like to visit the Sake Bar Sasagin afterwards. Please let me know if you have any other recommendation for places near our hotel, especially a decent Ramen place that is open late at night, that we can go to after an evening of Sake drinking.

        Thank You,
        Winenipper

        1. re: winenipper
          Silverjay Nov 14, 2008 07:45 PM

          So Fuku, Roman-Ya, and Sasagin are all in the same neighborhood- Yoyogi-Uehara, which is a nice upscale residential part of town. If you can manage a tour through all three in one evening, more power to you. On Sasagin, it's not actually a sake bar but more of a nice izakaya/ restaurant with a top sake selection. If you can get a seat at the counter, the owner (can't recall his name) can help best with sake recommendations. It's very crowded there on weekends. To get to Yoyogi-Uehara from Roppongi, it is probably most convenient to walk to Nogizaka Station and use the Chiyoda LIne.

          Near your hotel are a couple of old favorites for tonkotsu ramen. Just down the street toward Nishi-Azabu is "Aka Noren", which has been around for a while. They were an early adapter to the tonkotsu scene in Tokyo. They're not really at the top of the game anymore, but it's close to your hotel. Closer to Roppongi Station, next to the Oedo Line entrance and across from the Hotel Ibis is a branch of the Ichiran chain, which is also a tonkotsu specialist. It's on the second floor above a convenience store. I think their soup is better, more balanced. Mind you, I haven't eaten at either place in a few years though. My go to place used to be Zabon, which is down at the end of the alley just past AM/PM, off of Gaien Higashi Dori and through a gaggle of annoying African touts. I used to love Zabon's miso ramen. But the last couple of times I've eaten there, spread over a couple of years, it wasn't quite as good as it used to be. And the charming old Japanese guys who worked there were replaced with younger, gruff Chinese guys. Maybe things have changed. Also, near the Hard Rock Cafe is a branch of the Tenka Ippin chain of thick chicken soup style ramen originally from Kyoto. It's cheap and good. There are many other ramen places in the neighborhood as well. Most of the shops are open until the wee hours. For more of a destination, top level ramen shop for lunch, you may want to consider Suzuran in Shibuya- http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/365264 . It's a dynamic, must see part of town for tourists, where as Menya Kissou is a little bit out of the way- though by no means inconvenient if you are checking out the Imperial Palace or old Shitamachi areas...

          Since you are close by and on the same train line, you may want to consider a trip to the Tsukiji markets. I also recommend checking out Bento.com and look up recs for the Ebisu neighborhood. It's close by and a great chowhounding nexus. There are many good regional Japanese izakaya/ restaurants.

          For sushi, be sure to call in advance to reserve for Sushi Saito. They have even fewer seats there than Mizutani.

          Ramen Links:

          Akanoren 赤のれん
          http://ramendb.supleks.jp/shop/398

          Ichiran 一蘭 六本木大江戸線駅上店
          http://ramendb.supleks.jp/shop/81

          Zabon ザボン 六本木店
          http://ramendb.supleks.jp/shop/3698

          Tenkaippin 天下一品 六本木店
          http://ramendb.supleks.jp/shop/485

          Chuka Soba Suzuran 中華そば すずらん
          http://ramendb.supleks.jp/shop/70

      2. FourSeasons Nov 14, 2008 10:39 PM

        Hi winenipper:

        Below is the website of Aronia de Takazawa with its contact number and email address. You need to book now as they were booked 4 months in advanced when I visit on April. Also note it is not traditional Japanese food; the chef himself called it "New French", it is just a new trend by some very creative young chefs (including the one at Ryugin) that reinterpret kaiseki with their own signature style.

        http://www.aroniadetakazawa.com/contact.html

        I replied another guest at Roppongi Hill about 8 months ago about the dining scene in that area. Perhaps still relevant.

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/490605

        If you are interested in really fresh seafood, there is a high end seafood izakaya that is about 15-20 minutes walk away from Grand Hyatt called Nabura. I wrote a review 1 year ago, just search it on this board. I am actually going back there again next week.

        As to teppanyaki, nobody replies the thread I started on Romantei, so I guess no CH has eaten there before. But we decided instead to try Keyakizaka at Grand Hyatt on this coming trip, reported to be one of the best teppanyaki in Tokyo.

        BTW, Grand Hyatt is an excellent hotel; you will enjoy staying there.

        10 Replies
        1. re: FourSeasons
          j
          judithinjapan Nov 17, 2008 02:51 PM

          Hi Four Seasons, I ate at Keyakizaka recently. My meal was excellent but do not expect traditional teppanyaki. It is more Japanese western fusion. Enjoy.

          1. re: judithinjapan
            e
            exilekiss Nov 18, 2008 07:31 AM

            Hi judithinjapan,

            If I may ask, what was Fusion about the Teppanyaki? I'm curious (having never tried this variant). Thanks! :)

            1. re: exilekiss
              j
              judithinjapan Nov 18, 2008 07:57 AM

              Sure exilekiss. When I think of traditional Teppanyaki, I think of some sort of shellfish (shrimp or abolone) on the grill (seasoned with salt , soy sauce, followed by a vegetable on the grill, and then beef and rice (for me garlic rice). At Keyakizaka they prepare everything on the grill but they use, for lack of a better term, western ingredients, like balsalmic vinegar, bread, tomatoes, (they serve creme brulee for dessert), etc, and it all works very well but it is not what I would call traditional teppanyaki. Because they use western ingredients combined with traditional japanese ingredients using a teppanyaki cooking method, I called it fusion. There clearly may be better terms!! :)

              1. re: judithinjapan
                e
                exilekiss Nov 19, 2008 06:55 AM

                Hi judithinjapan,

                Naruhodo. :) Thanks for the clarification.

                1. re: judithinjapan
                  FourSeasons Nov 19, 2008 09:54 PM

                  Hi judithinjapan:

                  Oh no, that is not what I had in mind when I made the reservation for Keyakizaka. Let me write back what I think of the place within the next few days.

                  1. re: FourSeasons
                    a
                    Asomaniac Nov 19, 2008 11:28 PM

                    FourSeasons, have you considered Morimoto for teppan yaki?

                    1. re: FourSeasons
                      j
                      judithinjapan Nov 20, 2008 12:02 AM

                      Hi FourSeasons, It was not what I had in mind either when I went (which is why I wrote the original note) but it was a very good meal. I am interested in your opinion. Please let me know.

                      1. re: judithinjapan
                        FourSeasons Nov 20, 2008 11:24 PM

                        Too late for me to change the restaurant since we went there last night. We eventually picked Keyakizaka over Morimoto and Ukai tei due to the more favorable rating at Tabelog.

                        My review is rather bias since I am not a big fan of Teppanyaki. We chose a teppanyaki meal because my brother wanted to try a premium Japanese steak, and we decided to choose a teppanyaki over a steak house as there are more varieties in a tappanyaki meal. The service at Keyakizaka was top notch, the staffs were very friendly and attentive. The highlight of the meal was the premium tenderloin beef from Iga and the garlic fried rice. It was also a delicious but expensive meal, and quite frankly, I would have preferred to spend that money for high end sushi, high end seafood or modern kaiseki meals. But that is just my personal preference. But I will highly recommend this place if you like teppanyaki.

                        1. re: FourSeasons
                          e
                          exilekiss Nov 21, 2008 06:29 AM

                          Hi FourSeasons,

                          Thanks for the report. :) How would you say the Beef from Iga compared to the nicer cuts of Wagyu you've had at other top-end places in Tokyo? Thanks.

                          1. re: exilekiss
                            FourSeasons Nov 21, 2008 06:49 AM

                            Hi exilekiss:

                            I am not able to answer your question; the last time I had beef at top end teppanyaki in Japan was like one decade ago. I don't think I can make a fair comparison with other experiences as I had Japanese style steak, yakiniku, shabu shabu, sukiyaki on most other occasions. It is not exactly an apple to apple comparison. Moreover, this is the only top end beef I have on this trip, and the previous top end experiences were more than 6 months ago. All I can say is that the beef from Iga was very good. Sorry not able to answer your question directly.

            2. w
              winenipper Dec 7, 2008 12:09 PM

              Hi Everyone,

              I'm planning the second part of my trip (4 nighs in Kyoto). Here's a list of restaurants that I'm interested in. Please let me know if you have any other suggestions.

              Nishiki Market for street food
              Katsukuru at Sanjo for Tonkatsu
              Ten-Kou for Tempura
              Kokkekokko at Kyoto Station for Yakitori
              Tankuma Kitamise for dinner

              Esilekiss - If you had a choice between Hyotei or Kikunoi, which would you choose?

              Thank You

              2 Replies
              1. re: winenipper
                e
                exilekiss Dec 9, 2008 09:30 AM

                Hi winenipper,

                I unfortunately haven't been to Kikunoi yet, so I can't tell you if it's better or worse than Hyotei. The only thing I can say is (as in my review of Hyotei :), it was one of the most beautiful, stunning meals I've ever had - your own private Japanese Garden and private Room... it was etched in my memory forever. :)

                1. re: winenipper
                  c
                  chazzerking Dec 16, 2008 04:48 PM

                  For the yakitori-ya in Kyoto, I'd recommend Kushikura, a very traditional but excellent place on Takakura Dori just north of Oike Dori. The chicken hearts, the pork belly, and the sweet peppers were great. In Tokyo, the sushi inside the Tsukiji market is very nearly as good as Sukibayashi Jiro or Sushi Mizutani, that may be explained by the fact that we had it at 7 in the morning instead of lunchtime. But the Ark shell,abalone and baby hamachi were relevatory, and the o-toro and chi-toro were transportive; I've never had anything that was close(except at the above mentioned 3 star joints). and since it was about 1/6th the price, I would suggest subbing it for the high price spreads. We ate at the first place on the north side going east from the main entrance( I can't find the paper that I wrote the name on.)

                2. FourSeasons Dec 7, 2008 08:16 PM

                  Just notice the previous thread I refer to on Roppongi Hill is slightly outdated. The Maimon Oysters Bar has closed down. But I will recommend a few others for comfort food around that area in case you are tired from the tours and want to stay around your hotel.

                  Modern izakaya : Aburi Fudo at Azabu Juban. It focus more on grilled meats. Just 15 minutes walk from your hotel. http://www.wid.co.jp/tenpo/fudo-azabu/

                  Yakitori: Imaiya. a yakitori chain with a branch at Roppongi, just right opposite Midtown. http://www.imaiya.co.jp/omise/roppongi.html

                  (I would suggest you to pick either one of them as both are grilled in nature. In general, Imaiya's chicken is more tasty but Aburi has more varieties

                  )

                  Fugu: wild fugu is very expensive but this chain serves farmed fugu, price is much more reasonable. Another branch at Roppongi area too, also opposite Midtown, very close distance to Imaiya above. http://www.tettiri.com/

                  Shabu shabu: if you are willing to splurge, go for kobe beef in Seryna Roppongi. About Yen 10k per person. I personally think kobe beef is best served on shabu shabu rather than steak or teppanyaki. http://www.seryna.co.jp/restaurants/honten/index.html

                  Sumiyaki + wine: notice on the Hong Kong Board you are a lover of red wine. You may want to check this cozy sumiyaki restuarant called Les Vinum, previously recommended by HKT and Aso. Just type on search above, you can read their reviews. Just 10 minutes walk. http://www.les-vinum.com/

                  For Korean: I love Jap Cho Ok, perhaps 20-30 minutes walk, first recommended by Robb S., I wrote a brief review: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/496620

                  And don't forget for yakiniku, the Toraji at Roppongi Hill is pretty good too. And I notice you are formerly from Hong Kong, then I assume you have a love for fresh seafood too, then don't miss Nabura Roppongi if you are willing to splurge for high end fresh seafood. And if you want to try creative modern fusion style Japanese kaiseki but not willing to pay the high end price at Aronia or Ryugin, you may consider La Bombance, which consistently ranked very top at both Tabelog and AskU, not an easy accomplishment.

                  On another note, Sushi Saitou is just right opposite the American Embassy. Chef Saitou-san is very friendly, spoke English well, serves excellent sushi, has been promoted with 2 stars on Michelin recently and consistently ranked among the best in Tabelog. But need to book as it is a very small counter. If you just want to stay within the hotel area, then you can try Sukiyabashi Jiro, within 5 minutes walk from your hotel.

                  Also don't worry about the direction. The concierge at Grand Hyatt is excellent; they are patient and friendly, will be able to print the map and explain very clearly to you on the direction.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: FourSeasons
                    w
                    winenipper Dec 8, 2008 09:23 AM

                    Hi FourSeasons,

                    Thanks for the update.

                    1. re: FourSeasons
                      l
                      Lucil Dec 8, 2008 06:52 PM

                      hows the sushi at saitou?? is it better than kanesaka??

                      1. re: Lucil
                        FourSeasons Dec 8, 2008 09:34 PM

                        Both are very good; I was actually very surprised when Saitou-san proudly told me that Kanesaka was his mentor.

                        1. re: FourSeasons
                          l
                          Lucil Dec 9, 2008 08:07 AM

                          was it dinner or lunch?? mind telling me how much in total, im going saitou in Jan for dinner.

                          1. re: Lucil
                            FourSeasons Dec 9, 2008 06:12 PM

                            Be prepared to pay Yen 20,000 per person for dinner; I had 12 sushi, 1 toro roll, 8 sashimi, half a crab from Hokkaido, miso soup, beer. You just hope Yen does not strengthen too much for next 2 months. But I am sure you will enjoy the sushi meal at Sushi Saitou.

                            1. re: FourSeasons
                              w
                              winenipper Jan 25, 2009 11:51 AM

                              Hi exilekiss and silverjay,
                              Happy New Year. I have most of my reservations set thanks to you guys. Maybe you could help me with one more suggestion. I will be going to a concert at Nipon Budokan. Is there any good izakaya or yakitori that you may recommend in that area?

                              1. re: winenipper
                                l
                                lost squirrel Jan 25, 2009 08:26 PM

                                Jusanya is relatively close, maybe a JPY1000 taxi away (1-2 stops on the subway) and it got good reviews on Bento. http://bento.com/rev/1875.html
                                I don't think it's quite as good as Fuku, but it's still a good place to try.

                                If you're willing to give it a try before a concert, the number 1 rated Japanese curry shop in all of Japan (based on: http://currydb.supleks.jp/) is in the area. Manten:
                                http://currydb.supleks.jp/shop/86
                                http://www.bento.com/rev/2842.html

                                1. re: winenipper
                                  e
                                  exilekiss Jan 26, 2009 07:27 AM

                                  Hi winenipper,

                                  Happy New Year to you, too. :) I'm not very familiar with the Budokan area. lost squirrel's suggestions sound good - I have to try Manten next time to see how good it is. :)

                                  1. re: exilekiss
                                    l
                                    lost squirrel Jan 26, 2009 06:01 PM

                                    It's amazing! just don't go for the 'extra large, everything' dish unless you're absolutely famished. I've never seen so much food in my life for under jPY1000.
                                    1 pork cutlet
                                    2 potato croquettes
                                    3 mini weiners
                                    3 Chinese shumai
                                    and a extra huge helping of rice and curry

                                    1. re: lost squirrel
                                      e
                                      exilekiss Jan 27, 2009 07:08 AM

                                      Hi lost squirrel,

                                      Kuyashiii~ :) I can't wait to go back and try this place now. :) Thanks.

                      2. r
                        rie_aka_m Feb 2, 2009 12:32 AM

                        Hi winenipper,

                        I think we met today at Sushi Saito.
                        If you have a chance to come back to tokyo, you are more then welcome to ask me.

                        In fact, I would suggest you should come back and try Ryugin.
                        It is very expensive, but worth to try, especially if you are interested in ultra modern japanese.

                        cheers,
                        /rie

                        1. u
                          Uncle Yabai Feb 13, 2009 09:16 PM

                          One place that hasn't gotten much play here in CH (actually, no play whatsoever) is Aoyama Esaki. Two Michelin stars, and prices are very reasonable. For lunch, there is a 5 course lunch for 3,500 yen and a 6 course lunch for 5,000 yen. Dinner is 10-15,000 yen for a lot of very high quality food. Just went there for lunch (3 minute walk from my house, he he) and was very satisfied, noticeably better than La Bombance for the same money.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: Uncle Yabai
                            FourSeasons Feb 13, 2009 10:18 PM

                            I was thinking of trying Esaki on my last trip but notice the rating was rather neutral at Tabelog, so end up at La Bombance and Hirosaku (both just 1 star but score much higher rating at Tabelg). Why do you think it is "noticeably better than La Bombance for the same money"? Would you care to elaborate? And how is the 6 course lunch different from the dinner, is it a much better proposition to go there for lunch due to the price difference?

                            1. re: FourSeasons
                              u
                              Uncle Yabai Feb 14, 2009 12:00 AM

                              I just felt that the quality of the ingredients and the care and skill in preparation was higher at Esaki than at La Bombance. At La Bombance, everything was good, but nothing really stood out as particularly memorable and the flavors kept on repeating too much, after a while it all kind of tasted the same. At Esaki, every dish had a pretty distinct approach and different taste, ingredients seemed fresher or more carefully picked. La Bombance doesn't open for dinner (I believe), so the 5 course 3,500 yen lunch set at Esaki is a particularly good deal and a good way to try the place out without much $ risk.

                              As for Tabelog, sometimes their rankings have to be weighted by the number of responses. Esaki ranks #2 for nihon ryori/kaiseki in the Aoyama/Omotesando area, number 1 is a Michelin 1-star restaurant that is a short walk across the street from my place. It is also twice as expensive for lunch, so value for money may be different.

                              1. re: Uncle Yabai
                                FourSeasons Feb 14, 2009 05:50 PM

                                Thanks for the reply.

                                1. re: Uncle Yabai
                                  u
                                  Uncle Yabai Jan 8, 2010 05:45 AM

                                  I just came back from dinner at Esaki. My initial view still stands. We had the 8,000 yen course dinner, which had 7 courses, plenty of food, but not excessive. I think it is great value for money in comparison to what 8K will get you elsewhere. It isn't Ryugin or Hyotei, but then you can't get out of those places for less than 30K a person for dinner.

                                  1. re: Uncle Yabai
                                    FourSeasons Jan 8, 2010 06:30 AM

                                    Esaki has earned 3 stars in latest edition. At Yen 8000 dinner set, must be the cheapest dinner for 3 stars category...good reason for me to try this place on my next trip!!!

                                    1. re: Uncle Yabai
                                      e
                                      exilekiss Jan 12, 2010 07:20 AM

                                      Hi Uncle Yabai,

                                      Thanks for the report back. This sounds great. :) Can't wait to try it.

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