Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Japan >
Aug 15, 2009 10:42 PM

Your Culinary Opinions Sought...

So, after weeks of exhaustive research, I narrowed my restaurant list from 96 to 45 and, finally, to an oh-so-close 23. I only have 14 days and so will try to visit some of my choices for lunch. Now, my question to those in the know:

Of the restaurants listed, which would you strongly recommend I go to for dinner and which would be just as fine for a lunch visit? In other words, would I really be missing out if I were to only go with the limited lunch menu?

Argent Aso
Ginza La Tour
Les Creations Narisawa
Pierre Gagnaire
Ristorante Aso
Tateru Yoshino Shiba

Any of the aforementioned you'd steer clear of or replace with a better choice?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Let me help you narrow things down a bit for you. I wouldn't hit Argento Aso and Ristorante Aso in the same trip. Drop Argento. Fine to very good, but not quite the rarefied home office in Daikanyama.

    For sushi, Kyubei is fine, but you can do quite a bit better, I think.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Uncle Yabai

      Thanks. For sushi dinners, I'm eyeing Saito, Musashi, Masa, and considering a return visit to Kanesaka (which I loved but, as I said, I've already sampled). What are your thoughts on Sawada?

      Is there an Italian restaurant you'd recommend in place of Argento?

      Thanks again.

      1. re: BaronDestructo

        Never been to Sawada, so I can't comment. I found Kanesaka only OK, not a match for Mizutani or for Dai San Harumi. As for Italian, the head office in Daikanyama, of course: Ristorante Aso.

        1. re: BaronDestructo

          The "sushi masa" at Kudanshita, It is a "edomae-sushi style". The price/value is good. The thing is the sushi base rice referred as "shari" is different in each sushi place and you will be proud to aknowledge it. "Sushi masa" use red vinegar and salt. The course is orthodox. I was very surprised of the chef honesty on the phone and on the choice they have on the day. Hope it helps.

          1. re: Ninisix

            A little precision on the previous post, the value/price is to go for lunch at 1st at "sushi masa", it will cost you under 10,000.-yens for the makase onigiri. For the second choice, you can try one of the best the perfectionist "sukiyabashi jiro Ginza" or the expert Tuna "Mizutani". I really think "Sukiyabashi jiro" is a perfectionist. You will have to speak or have a friend who speaks japanese.

      2. Pick either Argento or Ristorante ASO but not both. They belong to the same restaurant group, so there are some similarities. I tried lunch on both places; Argento has lunch set and ala carte menu but Ristorante just served lunch set (very good value for money for lunch, I recall). Argento has a more urban and sophisticated atmosphere while Ristorante is more relax and charming. I probably agree with Uncle Yabai that Ristorante has a slight edge. But I had slightly better Italian experience at Aroma Fresco but that is for dinner only.

        I would suggest lunch for Hirosaku and Quientessence. The reason is simply better value for money. Dinner at Hirosaku is very expensive, be ready to spend close or more than 30k per person. If you have 14 days left, I don't think you will be able to get a table at Quintessence; it is one of the hardest place to get a reservation in Tokyo; you should have done so 2 months ago.

        Sawada is my favorite sushiya. It is way better than Kyubei, in my opinion (based on one visit to Kyubei 2 years ago). But just warning: Sawada is very expensive, even for lunch too. I think you can budget 10-20k for Kyubei but get ready to spend close or more than 30k at Sawada.

        9 Replies
        1. re: FourSeasons

          Hi FourSeasons,

          Thanks. I considered Aroma Fresco but heard mixed opinions, from those who loved it to those who were disappointed. How long ago was your experience? If recent, then I'll certainly slot it in.

          I don't get to Tokyo until the last week of November so I'm finalizing my restaurnat wish-list 3 months in advance so I can contact my hotel and have them ensure I can get a table when I blow into town.

          1. re: BaronDestructo

            I was in Aroma last November. I think it is fantastic; probably not fair to compare to both ASO as I had the dinner tasting menu there.

            Ok, misunderstood your original post. Thought you will be leaving in 14 days time.

            To reply your post again, I think you will certainly miss something in lunch set menu (my guess is 20-30% or so in ingredients/quantity) but you will save 50-70% on your wallet. (This rule does not apply in Sushi places)

            1. re: FourSeasons

              Which part? The missing ingredients/quantity or the savings?

              1. re: BaronDestructo

                What I mean is that you probably won't get that much saving for high end sushi at lunch time.

                1. re: FourSeasons

                  FourSeasons, nice post. Yes, in fact, the prices for lunch and for dinner on high end sushi are the same. If you go for lunch, or for dinner, the cost will be the same. What do you think about the choice of a classic orthodox sushi place at 1st and a high end sushi as 2nd. Not on the same day...

                  1. re: Ninisix

                    What would you recommendin either case - classic and high end?

                  2. re: FourSeasons

                    So the variety of sushi will be no different if I go at lunch then? If so, that opens things up considerably.

                    1. re: BaronDestructo

                      Hum... The sought on the "classic" and the "high end" was an experience things Your experience might be different, as I undestood the sushi made for your taste is Kanesaka... If you try it again, you will remember the fit to your taste and after then try another one.
                      The "classic" one, I will say the classic Edomae at Akasaka Bentenyamamiyakozushi souhonten and the Sukiyabashi Jiro Ginza.
                      The Sukiyabashi Jiro Ginza will begin with the "shiromi" piece and "ika" as a first light pieces with the vinegar accent... and after you will have for example the "aji" (some accent of ginger),....

                      1. re: Ninisix

                        Asakusa not akasaka ( the remember of todays =Aronia)


            this sushi place has been rising in tabelog... sushi hashiguchi..

            may i recommend aroma fresca, the whole experience seems very enjoyable... i seem to miss this place now(the basilico ravioli, beef steak and the strawberry soup)... much more than ryugin(although the food was imho better than aroma) quintessense , mizutani , saito , kondo tempura... the 3 months advance booking seems to be the hardest among all...

            1 Reply
            1. re: Lucil

              Basilico ravioli sounds great. Sold!

            2. I've only been to a few on that list <sniff> and would say
              - Yonemura is worthwhile for dinner (though potentially very fast if you're at the counter, so you could do one of those horrible 2-dinner nights if you paired it with something like Koju or l'Osier that's close by)
              - Quintessence left me cold. I would only go for lunch, since I think you'll get his famous dishes (at any rate, ask for the cheese bavarois with macadamias, and especially the meringue ice cream)
              - If La Tour is anything like its sister, La Tourelle, you might get a tasty history lesson in Japanese French cooking from days gone by, but it won't be very exciting.
              - Tateru Yoshino in Shiodome is again the cheaper sibling; I only had lunch there and thought it was very attractive but not especially delicious. Dinner might be better, especially if you go to Shiba.
              I wasn't yet writing about meals when I went to La Tourelle and TY Shiodome...

              19 Replies
              1. re: jem589

                Hey jem,

                Where were you writing about meals? Is it a site? If so, a link would be muc appreciated.

                Thanks for the input, everyone. So far, my list breaks down thus:

                DINNERS: Aroma Fresca, Aronia de Takazawa, Les Creations de Narisawa, Ristorante Aso, Tapas Molecular Bar, Yonemura, Yamada Chikara.

                LUNCHES: Sawada and Quintessence.

                They're shaping up nicely. Will do more online research on some of my other choices. Are there any must-eats I'm missing? Any egregious dining errors above?

                Thanks again.

                1. re: BaronDestructo

                  the goat milk bavarois or meringue ice cream did not hit a high note on me.. quintessense is still famous in japan for its meat courses and his boudin noir wif foie gras.. i like the fish main ( which was the best dish i had in japan..the accompanying sauce was great, i think it was dill and seaweed.. cant remember) ..

                  also i mentioned about kyoaji (touted as the best kaiseki ryori in tokyo and rejected michelin 3 stars).. not too sure if fourseasons had tried it yet....

                  try and fit ryugin into the list.. it is a must try for me as well... every ingredient is top end..

                  for lunch u can try mid end italian joints( like la bettola da ochiai, the most friendly waitress in japan, note: friendly, not polite :).. u can see her profile in the website, kei...) , tempura(kondo , tonkatsu , udon , and pizza places(the pizza at partenope looks good, i tink uncle yabai mentioned this as well) ... is ur list all high end???

                  1. re: Lucil

                    No, my list isn't all high end. I'm trying to mix it up. I'm eyeing Kimukatsu for their unique take on tonkatsu as well as well as some ramen and izakayas.

                  2. re: BaronDestructo

                    Hi BD:

                    Just my thought after reading your selection:

                    1. Your dinner list is full of western restaurants with heavy Japanese influence. Do you have a particular bias for such food? I thought perhaps you can select some "pure" high end Japanese restaurants. Wonder why you left out Hirosaku...that is an excellent small restaurant operated by an elderly couple with the best soba I ever had.
                    2. You seem to focus just on "Michelin" type...

                    1. re: FourSeasons

                      I used the Michelin guide book as a base, then followed up with some food blogs and restaurant review sites. To be perfectly honest, what piques my interest more than anything is the description of a trademark dish like Muroi's wild mushroom set or Ginza La Tour's four hour slow-cooked foie gras with Sauterne.

                      I'm going to Hirosaku for lunch. In know, I know, it sounds crazy, but this is an annual tradition and I want to make the most of my trip. I'm not as crazy as a friend who is a chef and, when visiting New York, booked three lunches and three dinners a day. Almost though. I'm thinking of a very early Tsukiji breakfast, an early 11:00 - 12:00ish lunch, a later casual lunch/snack (ie. ramen, tonkatsu) or trip to one of the city's spectacular pastry shops - followed my a later dinner. This way, I can sample both high end and more casual fare.

                      After several more days of research, my list looks like this -

                      Dinners: Monnalisa Marunouchi, Aroma Fresca, Aronia de Takazawa, Dazzle, Kadowai, Les Creations de Narisawa, Muroi, Reikasai, Ristorante Aso, Ryugin, Tapas Molecular, Yonemura, and Yamada Chikara. Two slots still open and I'm torn between Miravile and La Bombance. Any opinions?

                      Lunch: Sushi Saito, Sawada, Quitessence, Ginza La Tour, Chez Matsuo, Dai San Harumi, Faro, Gordon Ramsay, Hirosaku, Kimukatsu, Kyubey, Piatto Suzuki. Two slots left to fill (3 if I shift Kimukatsu to a late casual lunch).

                      My selections break down accordingly: 7 French, 4 sushi, 4 Italian, 3 fusion, 3 Japanese, 1 Chinese, 1 soba, 1 tonkatsu.

                      What am I missing?

                      1. re: BaronDestructo

                        I think you miss the comfort food...seafood izakaya, shabu shabu, sukiyaki, yakiniku, yakitori, oden, unagi....BTW, how many nights are you going to be in Tokyo?

                        1. re: FourSeasons

                          15 nights, but the first one is a write-off. My flight gets in at 5:30 p.m. If it gets in on time, that's a 90 minute bus ride to the hotel. By the time I decompress, I'm eating dinner at 8:00ish. I'll probably hit the hotel restaurant or maybe take a stroll down to the tracks and have some yakitori.

                          I was thinking of trying some of the more casual fare in the late afternoon (3:00ish and then I'd eat dinner at 7:30ish). Are there any restaurants in the aforementioned categories you'd recommend. I heard good things about Jap Cho Ok, Akachiritei (that serves a habanero chicken so hot you have to wear surgical gloves to eat it), Birdland, Gokyu, Hibiki, Matagi, and Saisei Sakaba.

                          Yes? No's? Maybe's? Anyone know what Matagi's hours are? The only information I could find online was in Japanese.

                          1. re: BaronDestructo

                            I am a foodie but I don't think I can follow your schedule of heavy lunch, late afternoon casual and heavy dinner...just too much for me.

                            Jap Cho Ok is a nice Korean restaurant; I actually tried non-BBQ stuffs there. For yakiniku where I focus on BBQ beef, I like Ayanokouji that is walking distance from Midtown. One place that I never miss whenever I travel to Tokyo is Nabura, a seafood izakaya. (I wrote a review about 1-2 years ago so just go to above search function if u want to read for more details) December is a good time for seafood. My only concern is there is no English menu there, not much English is spoken too so maybe intimidating for tourists.

                            1. re: BaronDestructo

                              Matagi is supposedly open 6-11 PM, and I can see it being a late-night drop-by.
                              It's a fun experience, what with the fire-pit ambience and all. I made the mistake of not ordering bear the first time I went, and the second time they didn't have it - should be in stock by the time of your trip. Basically you should get a plate of deer (shika) a plate of boar (inoshishi) and some shiitake, and you'll get the experience.


                          2. re: BaronDestructo

                            Hi Baron,

                            This looks like a great list! :) I'm drooling in anticipation of your report back after your trip. :) I can't wait to go back as well.

                            1. re: BaronDestructo

                              i would do quintessense for dinner... i suspect some of his seasonal specials are in dinner time...
                              i wouldnt want to miss this restaurant the next time i go.. kyo-aji ( no english is spoken thou)

                              1. re: Lucil

                                Hmmmm. Really? If I shift Quintessence to dinner, which of my dinner options would you move to a lunch?

                                What fun! This is like doing one of those puzzles with the shifting pieces.

                                1. re: BaronDestructo

                                  reikasai sounds like a good bet for lunch .. i dont know much abt kadowai.. nv heard of it before..and i would certainly drop muroi for kyo aji...

                                  1. re: Lucil

                                    Am unable to read the Kyo-aji write-up. What does it say?

                                    1. re: BaronDestructo

                                      since ur list includes muroi.. this is a kaiseki place... the ratings for kyo aji is definately higher.. this is the place that rejected 3 michelin stars.. and they speak absolutely no english... i tink this place requires a 3 months advance or 4 months booking... not too sure..

                                      1. re: Lucil

                                        Okay. Will switch out Muroi for Kyo Aji. Is it open for lunch?

                                        1. re: BaronDestructo

                                          in the tabelog comments, seems like some ppl went there for lunch, but the operating hours stated by tabelog seems to be only 1730-2200.. i would tend to reserve top class restaurants for dinner ....

                          3. re: BaronDestructo

                            Shocking, I forgot to self-promote!
                            Lots of pictures in these two, and some hyperbole.

                            If you poke around the site you'll find more stuff, but I write about my daily lunches too so there are a lot of mediocre places. The map is the easiest way to find recommended places.

                            1. re: jem589

                              Ha! Thanks for the link. I've actually been using your site as a reference as I've put my list together.

                        2. Aronia de Takazawa is available for two, Oct 2.
                          Be hurry!

                          3 Replies
                            1. re: BaronDestructo

                              not sure if i'm too late with my post (relatively new to posting but have been an avid reader) last visit to Saito for lunch a couple of months back was underwhelming. i ordered the bigger/more expensive lunch set available and even though it was good, it wasn't exceptional and i was hungry again after 2 hrs! personally i will stick to dinners at such sushi places if i can get reservations.

                              1. re: muttley

                                Thanks muttley. I'm more interested in the quality of the sushi over the quantity at lunch only because I've scheduled early lunches and late dinners so I can possibly squeeze in a late meal afternoon meal or dessert blow-out. When you say you were underwhelmed, were you referring to the quality as well?