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May 4, 2009 05:13 AM

Pig Out in Tokyo

Dear fellow chowhounders,

Staying for 4 days next week and would really appreciate any suggestions on our eating schedule, especially on Sunday night when options dwindle:

Sunday dinner (any cuisine and no resto booked this night): Yukimura (幸村) or sushi places Kanesaka, Sawada (さわ田) or Quintessence
Monday lunch: Hamadaya
Monday dinner: Ryugin

Tuesday lunch: Saito (鮨さいとう)
Tuesday dinners: Kojyu at 5:30p, then booked at Aroma Fresca at 9p

Wednesday lunch: Quintessence (will go to Koji Shimomura if we end up at Quintessence on Sunday)
Wednesday dinner: Unkai-tei Ginza (business guest request but open to other Teppan ideas)

For Monday snack we're heading to Hiro (ひろ作) in Shinbashi for soba but if anyone has a good place in Ginza (where we are staying/working) we'll check it out. Thank you!

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  1. Just some comments:

    1. I don't know if you have made the reservation but some of those on your list are really hard to book: Quintessence, Ryugin, Kojyu, Aroma, so if you have not done so, perhaps you need lots of luck to get one for next week.
    2. Not sure if you are a sushi fanatic and willing to splurge on sushi. If you are not, then skip Sawada because it is very expensive place though very high quality. Be prepared to pay more than Yen 30,000 per person, even for lunch. If you are just willing to pay Yen 20,000 for high end sushi, then perhaps settle for Sushi Kanesaka since it is located in Ginza area which is convenient for you. Sushi Saitou is further away at Akasaka.
    3. That is a lot of food for Tuesday night for Kojyu at 5:30pm and Aroma at 9pm, two full dinner meals. Are you sure you can handle it?
    4. Just beware English is not spoken at Hirosaku. The place is simple but dinner can be very expensive (be ready to pay more than Yen 30k per person). Lunch is much more resonable. It is best known for soba but I am not sure if you can go there just to settle for soba as snack. The meal has heavy emphasis on seasonal natural stuffs, so again I am not sure if it caters well to westerners taste bud.
    5. You seem to settle for all Michelin high end stuffs. Don't you want to have some simple comfort food?

    16 Replies
    1. re: FourSeasons

      Good points. Other than Sunday, we secured all the reservations last week before the 3-day holiday. Just shifted my Ryugin booking to Wednesday without any problems after confirmed for Yamada Chikara on Monday night.

      Thanks for the heads up on Hirosuke. I'm going with a Japanese associate who recommended the place. But if you have another place in mind that's not far off, we can head there for lunch before our flight on Thursday.

      The money spent will not be an issue. Unfortunately, being based in the states we fork out US$400-500 per head on premium fedex fish at Urusawa, Sawa or Masa. And quality isn't better than a Y15,000 place in Tokyo. Y30,000 is a lot of dough but in retrospect is quite the bargain from where I come from. That, and a generous expense account.

      On Tuesday night, I'll be heading to Kojyu alone before gathering with friends at Aroma, where we'll share everything. Regardless, I suffer from a ghastly pig-like appetite and my cravings aren't easily satiated by the standard 3 meals a day, which brings me to your other point about "simple comfort food"...

      I confess I did not show you guys the other half of my list: Tsujita, Maruichi bagels, Isehiro, Ponte Honke, Ogawaken (tempted to do their formal restaurant chef Ogawa's kitchen counter dinner too), Yamanoue, and Morinoen for desserts... It's more like a wish list, and will manage to find time for 2 or 3 of them. Yeah, not exactly simple.

      1. re: jackkirby

        I always have a huge list when I travel and maybe only make it to 10% of the places. Oh to have a stomach as big as my eyes!

        If you're from the US, why bother with Maruichi bagels? I can't imagine it would be better than anything you could get in New York (or have sent from NY). It was on my list for this trip, too, but I had to settle for buying some bagels at National Azabu. They at least look more like real bagels than the ones from Costco!

        I hope you report back on your trip. I want to know how many places you ended up at!

        1. re: prasantrin

          Haha! Yes, I know, I know. It's kinda like a kid at a candy shop and vowing to consume everything only to finish a bag of sweets, and after getting sick at the end, vowing not to visit a candy shop ever again.

          But you know what, Prasantrin, it's too late to turn back now, after what we've all been through- a teasingly brutal exercise of mouthwatering talk and no chu-toro in sight. I've got this mountain of three star food to climb. It'll be long, lonely and arduously... delectable journey. Even if it takes my bones, every muscle, every nerve and fiber in my body I will continue on and not stop until i finally conquer my beastly appetite in the hallowed halls of Ryugin.

          Back to bagels. Have you tried a Maruichi bagel? We're not taking about Noah's here. Ok, I might invoke the wrath of anyone from the Big Apple but I have to say it actually tops any heavenly dough I've had in New York, including my favourites Murray's (great fluffy donuts too) and Absolute. Funny thing is New Yorkers are really proud of their bagels but if they open up a Maruichi (with all their amazing filling choices) by all the young kids at Columbia or NYU, you'll see a line stretching for blocks from dusk til dawn.

          1. re: jackkirby

            To: jackkirby:

            Don't know much about Maruichi bagel but I feel the same way about the high end dining scene, that those in Tokyo easily tops the best I had in NYC. I went with high expectation to the highly acclaimed Per Se/Babbo's/Keens/Yasuda, and I know I will invoke the wrath of NYKers as well, having done that before on the New York Board, but the standard just fell short against Tokyo, There is nothing there that can be comparable to Ryugin/Aroma/Quintessence/Koju/Sawada.

            1. re: jackkirby

              No wrath here - worked in NYC (midtown and upper east side) for 14 years prior to coming here - so I go through Bagel Withdrawal Syndrome every 2-3 months or so - Maruichi is at least on par with the best in NYC without a doubt. The rock salt ones are my favorite although I wish she would use the smaller not-so-hard salt - when I went to the reopened Maruichi in Shirokane last month I ate a freshly-baked yakitatte one right outside the door while I waited for my coworkers to buy theirs and Inagi-san (the proprietress laughed as she watched me wolf it down)... I actually don't even bother with the H+H from Nissin anymore. I would gladly front her the money for a second store somewhere, if only so that I didn't have to wait on line for my bagels...

              On the Chinese buffet in a hotel, the Hotel Pacific in Shinagawa has a pretty good Chinese buffet that I have been to a few times for business lunches. Also if you are willing to limit it to dim sum then I think there was a thread here a couple of months ago on that.

              1. re: kamiosaki

                Ah, they moved from Yoyogi. Thanks for the heads up. Love how they give you the option to fill a side of the bun with one filling and the other side with another.

          2. re: jackkirby

            15 places in 4 days ?! I hope you know the complexity of finding places in Tokyo. Good luck on finding all these places and on time for your reservation in these 4 days. I am sure you will have lots of fun.

            1. re: skylineR33

              Thanks, I hope so too. My associate and company driver know the city well so I'll be in good hands.

              1. re: jackkirby

                So how were your multi-dinner nights? I ask because I'm considering following your lead with either multi-lunches (11:00 and 14:30) or multi-dinners (17:30 and 22:00). I'll be in Tokyo for 2 weeks November-December but have trimmed my list of preferred restaurants from 96 to a much more doable 45.

            2. re: jackkirby

              Hi jackkirby:

              You are my role model; I wish to have your pig like appetite with generous expense account!!!

              In that case, you may want to try Sawada. It is an amazing sushi place, actually my personal favorite.

              Don't get me wrong; Hirosaku is also my favorite. I think you can settle there for lunch; the elderly couple will serve a min-course for lunch with soba as the ending dish. The best soba I ever had, and every dish pays attention to natural seasonal ingredient. Very refined and exquisite.

              I just had perhaps one of the best meal ever for me in Ryugin last month. Chef Yamamoto keeps improving himself.....I personally think it deserves a solid three stars. Quintessence is another amazing French meal with heavy emphasis on natural Japanese ingredients. Kojyu and Aroma...another two great meals.

              You are going to have a great feast: you just complied all my favorite restaurants (in the world) in just one 4-day trip. I just hope your approach of slow eating will not overstuff your appetite.

              1. re: FourSeasons

                Good to know about Sawada and Hirosaku. Thanks for helping me decide. I've heard nothing but great things about Sawada and my associate hasn't told me much about Hirosaku other than that I'll like their soba. Hopefully, I can still get a seat at Sawada..

                I was originally thinking of skipping Quintessence since I've been to Kishida's old workplace, L'Astrance before and plan to stop by again in the summer. However, people who have eaten at both places are telling me that Kishida's current work even surpasses that of the Paris restaurant and should not be skipped under any circumstances. And with your enthusiastic blessing, FourSeasons, I hope I won't hype myself up too much.

                Once the trip's completed I'll report back next week.

                1. re: jackkirby

                  You are so lucky, my saliva is dripping just the thought of your list. Again, you should not miss them if price is not an issue. Just some of the best meals you can have in this world. Sawada is a small place with only 7 sitting but it is not full on both occasions when I had lunch there. Be ready for 10 sashimi and 13-15 sushi, each one of them he takes great care and detail attention to the freshness and cutting. His "aburi" (seared) approach, he will use coal to slowly burned the surface rather than the quick approach by other chefs of using gas flame. Hirosaku, yes best known for soba as consistently ranked the top by Tabelog, but all its other dishes are excellent. Hirosaku tend to pay attention to the texture and the refinement of natural ingredient (seafood) that I am worried some westerners may find it monotonous and lack of flavor. The way he prepares abalone is just so good, even top the standard by Mizutani. Quintessence seems to get mixed review on website; some food critics are not ready to accept his style but I find his approach refreshing. The way he prepared the fish buri is just so delicious.

                  Look forward to your report. Just hope I don't hype your expectation too much...

                  1. re: FourSeasons

                    Forgot to mention Ryugin/Saitou/Kojyu/Aroma. They are all excellent, all are my favorite restaurants. I am beginning to suspect that you get this list from my favorites on my profile. Ryugin's Yamamoto-san is a perfectionist; Michelin will be making a mistake not to promote it to 3 stars in next upcoming guide. Sushi Saitou is probably my second or third favorite sushi place in the world, Saitou san is cheerful and friendly. Kojyu serves outstanding modern style kaiseki ryori but the portion may not be as small as you think; Aroma Fresca has its own Japanese interpretation of Italian cuisine, very popular though I noted less appreciated by western critics. Just hope your description of pig like appetite is spot on because you really need that bottomless pit stomach on that evening for Koju/Aroma. Other than that worry, I think you are going to have a great time!!!

                    1. re: FourSeasons

                      Haha, you really know how to eat your way through the city! Some of my favourite chow haunts in Tokyo, which I've sadly missed on my last few trips and this time around, are Chinese joints run by Japanese chefs. I'm talking about simple places off the streets - no fancy dynasty decor. If you know a fantastic place, I'll put it on my next list during my fall stopover.

                      On a side note about Chinese in Tokyo, do you recall any older hotels - Keio, Crowne Plaza, etc... that had a Chinese restaurant in the basement, serving buffet? I remember frequenting that buffet every year with my grandparents during the 80's and early 90's but just can't recall the hotel. It was the highlight of my visits as a kid, that and causing mischief inside the Buddha statue at Kamakura. I know Keio and Crowne have remodeled their Chinese restaurants since then. Not sure if the place is still around.

                      1. re: jackkirby

                        Just realize you a re a regular visitor to Tokyo, another trip in fall??? I envy you. I thought this was your first trip when you started the thread...

                        Actually, I never try Chinese food in Tokyo, other than Nanxiang Xiao Long Bao in Roppongi Hill and some snacks in Yokohama. I live in Singapore, and a regular visitor to HongKong/Macau/Shanghai/Beijing so on a 5 days visit to Tokyo, Chinese restaurant is never on my list. Unable to advise on this issue.

                        My saliva still dripping non-stop at the thought of your list...

                        1. re: FourSeasons

                          I visit Tokyo here and then but normally for a night and head back out again the next morning. Got lucky this time with meetings spread out over a few days.

                          I visit HK often too but still crave Chinese in Tokyo. It's how the Japanese playfully re-engineer the cuisine to fit their taste buds - like they with with alot of other foods: Italian, French, etc... It may look similar but it has its own distinctive flavour - something you can't find anywhere else in the world.

          3. Sounds like a bit much to me. So many large meals in succession--will you be able to appreciate them all?

            I'm with FourSeason--stick a few simple meals in there. Nothing wrong with good simple yakitori or tonkatsu.

            5 Replies
            1. re: prasantrin

              FourSeasons and you brought up a very interesting point - the idea of too many restaurants back to back for enjoyment. In my case, it depends entirely on the type of meal and the reasoning may be counter-intuitive. I think the key - at least, for me and several foodies I know - to avoid being stuffed easily is to eat slow, very slow in long meals with small portions, giving the body time to burn off the food. In my case, Kaiseki fulfills this criteria. However, opposite holds true in short meals with more substantial portions (pork chops, fried chicken, burgers, steaks, or other comfort food). You don't spend an hour on a burger or chop. It's consumed within minutes before the food gets cold and the meat turns stiff. The body can't burn the food as fast given the same amount of time. Thus, although there maybe more food in a Kaiseki set than a burger meal I'll walk away from the Kaiseki less stuffed. At least, for me enough room for another meal an hour later.

              1. re: jackkirby

                i would say skip ponta honke...

                  1. re: Lucil

                    I've actually been frequenting the place every other time I'm in Tokyo. It's not mind-blowing but their pork is so plump and juicy. The batter is so rich and satisfying. I also love their katsu eel and oysters (do darn fat). However, if you prefer a katsu place other than Ponta, please share :)

                    1. re: jackkirby

                      I'm a Ponta Honke fan, too. Aside from the obvious similarities (deep-fried breaded pork), the preparation and resulting dish is really not comparable to tonkatsu. They even refer to it as "cutlet" on the menu.

                      I'd like to try the other stuff on they have on the menu, but gotta have that pork!