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Tokyo for one night...what foodie spot to go eat?

We are stopping through Tokyo for one night (in fact on Christmas Day) on our way back from Asia to the US. We love tasting menus and gourmet food. Any suggestions?

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  1. Jiro in Rippongi, or the Molecular Tapas Bar at the Mandarin Oriental.

    9 Replies
    1. re: luniz

      Funny to see you post here...have your posts on the Dallas forum. Thanks for the sugestions....will look 'em up!

      1. re: luniz

        We got reservations at the Molecular Tapas bar, and because its Christmas time, their menu is 20,000 yen. Does anyone know if that includes drink pairings or not? Or is it just food? Also, it includes a 10% gratuity...what is the norm in Japan? Is it similar to the US where the average tip should be 20%?

        1. re: pgwiz1

          Don't even think of tipping in Japan. Whatever the bill says it is, that's what it is. And off topic, but this "should be 20%" is a very successful stealth campaign, apparently. When I was growing up, it was more like 10%.

          1. re: pgwiz1

            No that doesn't include drinks. Service charge in hotels is typically 10%; in non-hotel restaurants it's occasionally 10% but usually zero.

            1. re: pgwiz1

              I think the wine pairing is about 7500 or so, but the price is irrelevant. I don't recommend it.
              I went there during Xmas time a few years back and we had between 20 and 24 dishes, with about 6 or 7 wines spread out amongst them. The dishes are small and tend to come one after the other in a fairly rapid manner. This means each wine overlaps a few dishes with wildly different tastes - it just doesn't work.
              I'd suggest grabbing a bottle and splitting it, or taking advantage of the cocktail menu and just drinking something that appeals to you. The only benefit to the pairings is that there*may* be a discount versus ordering the same wines a la carte but that's just a guess.

              1. re: lost squirrel

                We also simply split a bottle of sake (additional cost). Another option is to order a cocktail...the bartender when I was there was almost as fun to watch as the chef.

                If they have xiao long bao, make sure to eat it right (like you'd eat real xlb), don't cut it.

                1. re: luniz

                  Thanks for the input! I didn't think alcohol was included, but when I made reservations, they asked about food allergies and drink preferences, which is what threw me off.

                  1. re: pgwiz1

                    Here are some photos from the current menu at TMB: http://bit.ly/4n0vvX

                    The xiao long bao is made from a lamb chop....

                    1. re: Robb S

                      Hi Robb S,

                      Wow. Lamb Chop XLB! I'm so there. :)

          2. Pick a blow-out kaiseki meal or teppanyaki, either traditional or more modern.
            It'll be a nice single meal to remind you of Tokyo.

            1. We are staying at the Sheraton Miyako. How far is that from the Molecular Tapas Bar at the Mandarin Oriental? What about from La Rochelle in Shibuya?

              Also, any info on what is around the SHeraton Miyako? We'll only have one night there (Christmas day), and so we'll get a chance to see only a few things like the fish market, the "busiest intersection", etc. Thoughts?

              10 Replies
              1. re: pgwiz1

                http://www.bento.com/tokyofood.html was a pretty useful site.

                Also, the fish market can take quite a while to see. What time are you leaving, in the morning? If you get in late, I recommend staying up all night eating and drinking, and eating sushi at Tsukiji in the morning before your flight.

                1. re: luniz

                  I heard from someone that the fish market is only open at night? Is this true?

                  1. re: pgwiz1

                    More early morning than night I think. The first time I went it was 4am and things were already going at full speed

                    1. re: pgwiz1

                      It opens around 3 in the morning for set up but they prefer visitors not come until 5:0 at the earliest iirc and they'd rather you mostly stick to the auction area and not wander around too much. Make sure to have a coffee before you go and keep your eyes open because it's very dangerous for people to be walking around if they aren't used to being in a working food distribution center. This is not a friendly farmer's market it's a major commercial distribution center.

                      That said if you get there by 5, head to the auction area, watch the auction, you can see plenty on your way back to the front and get some pretty good sushi on your way out.

                  2. re: pgwiz1

                    It's a good location, not too far from anything. It's close to Shinagawa station and Meguro but you may end using cabs instead of transferring.

                    I'd stay away from the Tapas Bar if I had just one night. It's good, but it's not very Japanese really. I think something like Ryugin would be a better choice.

                    1. re: lost squirrel

                      A high-end sushi for sure...and sweets in Japan

                      1. re: lost squirrel

                        Exactly, I definitely will not pick the Tapas Bar if I have only one night at Tokyo. It is Japan afterall and I will stay with Japanese food for my one night. Agree that a kaiseki (either traditional or modern) or a sushi place will be my pick.

                      2. re: pgwiz1

                        I also agree that tapas bar isn't necessarily what I'd recommend for your purpose.

                        I don't know what your exact schedule is going to be like. But to be more specific than the list of stuff I recommended earlier... if I were you, I'd definitely do a kaiseki for one meal. Then for another meal (or snack), maybe hit Namja Town at Ikebukuro's Sunshine City for the best collection of gyozas, gelatos and desserts you will find anywhere. This will give you an experience of visiting one of Japan's food theme parks. If you're not into that, you can instead go to a sushi place (can't recommend any specific place; I typically don't do much sushi when I visit Japan). You should also try a Japanese bakery.

                        I'm not a connoisseur of kaiseki places in Tokyo, as most of my kaiseki experiences are at onsen ryokans. However, I have had kaiseki at the Gajoen (a hotel/wedding venue) in Meguro, which is very close to the Miyako Hotel. I wouldn't say it's necessarily the best place for kaiseki, but it was decent. And more than anything, I just think the layout and the ambiance at Gajoen is spectacular, with the garden, fountains and the atrium. And the location is very convenient for you. You'll need reservation. Lunch is probably quite a bit cheaper than dinner.

                        1. re: chowmouse

                          Well, we are questioning our decision to go to the Molecular tapas bar now...I mean there are quite a few molecular places in the US, so it's much easier to do that some other time. I think we're now considering doing the Kaiseki dinner, but there are just too many options. We are staying near Meguro, and am looking at the following places:
                          Kozue, Kikunoi, Kanda, Ryugin, Nihonbashi Yukari, Ishikawa, Koju. Any thoughts?

                          1. re: pgwiz1

                            ive been to Kanda, didn't think it was that great. Ryugin seems to be the place to go?

                      3. This is a tough question because it all depends on what you like. Japan has incredible sushi places and some people love to have the experience of eating sushis by master sushi chefs in Japan... then again one could argue that you can have sushis (albeit inferior freshness & presentation) just about anywhere in the US. Also are you strictly looking for good tasting food or are you looking for the overall dining experience? I will throw out some ideas for the kind of food that I personally think are both to-die-for and difficult to get in the US. Keep in mind, I like cheaper down-to-earth type places and my recommendations reflect that.

                        1). Kaiseki dinner -- a multi-course Japanese meal that really varies from a place to place. I usually have these when I go stay at a hot spring inn (kaiseki dinner is included with the price of the stay) when I'm in my yukata after a long bath, but you don't have that option. There are many kaiseki places all over, typically it'll be 8 to 12-course and the prices really run the gamut. Some places as cheap as 4000yen and other places will be 20,000yen. Keep in mind that one of these meals will get you stuffed.

                        2). Ramen -- You can trek down to Shin-Yokohama's Ramen Museum which has about 10 ramen shops (most are very good and unique) all in one place. You will not find such place in the US.

                        3). Japanese bakery -- I love Japanese bakeries, especially Vie de France and Pompadour; Andersen's not bad either. These are all chain places; you'll typically find them either in department stores or inside/near big stations. Japanese bakeries typically have an amazing selection of savory breads (like shrimp cutlet sandwich, curry nan bread, croquette bread) along with awesome pastries and the most buttery, flaky croissants.

                        4). Department store restaurant arcades -- Some of the bigger department stores (like Ikebukuro's Seibu & Tobu, Shinjuku's Takashimaya) have 1-3 floors of rows of restaurants of all kinds, each with a window displaying the likenesses of the menu items. Although the department restaurants are not the best, they're always reliably good and reasonably priced. And the experience of browsing all the display windows and all the restaurants is something you can't do in the US.

                        5). Ikebukuro's Namja Town complex -- This is a food theme park. Three floors... one floor is dedicated to all kinds of out-of-this-world gyozas; another floor is called Dessert Republic, all kinds of dessert places; another floor is called Ice Cream City (I've spent a month in Italy, but my best gelato has been in Japan). Actually I can't vouch for the Dessert Republic since I've never gotten anything there, but I love the other 2 floors.

                        6). Chunagon (lobster restaurant) -- certainly not a place with any kind of view or special atmosphere, but I always make it a point to go this restaurant. If you're not into lobsters, then there's no point. But if you're like me, you'll love the 8-course lunchtime special called "Ikoi" which comes with an amazing lobster salad, lobster miso soup, among other things.
                        http://www.chunagon.co.jp/shop_detail...
                        The restaurant's in Ginza (Ginza 5-9-16).

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: chowmouse

                          Is "Ginza 5-9-16" an address? Sorry, not familiar with Tokyo at all....first visit... Thanks!

                            1. re: pgwiz1

                              Well, if you do decide to go to this place...

                              You'll take a subway to Ginza station, then exit out to street level via exit A5 (there are many exits, so just keep following the sign for the correct exit. Eventually you will find it). A5 exit basically spits you out right at the intersection between Chuo-Dori and Harumi-Dori (these are street names). You're going to want to walk down Harumi-Dori, staying on the same side of the street, away from the intersection. Take the very first right onto a small sidestreet. Chunagon will be little ways down on your left.

                              I'd probably ask your hotel concierge to make a reservation for you (tel# 03-3571-7121). I've only been there for lunch on weekdays, and they always seem to have tables available. But I think it's still a good idea.

                              Honestly, as much as I love this place purely for its creative lobster cuisines and excellent service, I would only go there if I were going to be in the Ginza area (which is a nice, bustling shopping area). If this is your first time visiting Tokyo and you have a very short time there, it'd probably behoove you to go to a place that truly appeals both in terms of food, atmosphere and uniqueness.

                            2. re: chowmouse

                              I used to love Chunagon and it was a great place to take overseas visitors. However, I went there (the one in Osaka, with a nice view) last year after a 20-yr hiatus. The quality has definitely deteriorated (or my palate has improved?). Probably it's the quality since the price hasn't changed for the last 20 yrs! I took KuidaoresEveilTwin there and he was underwhelmed... It was his first visit to Japan and he had much better food everywhere else.

                              Definitely a traditional Japanese meal over Molecular Tapas, but it's really tough to pick just one!

                              I just realized you're a Dallas CH. Luniz, Webra1 and a couple of other Dallas CHs went to Japan earlier this year. (They can't have sushi in DFW anymore ;-) I helped them with planning, booking, etc. (I just helped someone else who is leaving for Japan tomorrow.) I'll be happy to help you or answer questions by e-mail (or in person over food ;-). Some of us often get together to eat (we just did Sun night.)

                              1. re: kuidaore

                                That would be awesome! Email me at pgwiz1@hotmail.com :)

                                1. re: kuidaore

                                  You didn't enjoy Chunagon? I've never been to their Osaka location, but I'd imagine they're all the same because their Kobe location and the ones in Tokyo are all equally good. I've been going every year for the past 5 years and they've wowed us each time. But I'd not gone there further back than 5 years ago, so maybe they used to be even better as you say. Although I've tried a few of their different courses, my favorite is actually their cheapest - the one that's like 3900yen and it's like six- or seven-course that features incredible lobster salad, lobster miso soup, lobster cream croquette, dessert, a few other items I can't remember.

                                  1. re: chowmouse

                                    Back when I used to frequent Chunagon, there were more locations in Osaka (and there were none in Tokyo). The one I used to go to was in Shinchi (I used to work nearby), which had only private rooms. If I remember correctly, the least expensive course was 15,000 yen. So it seems like the prices have decreased, thanks to deflation or Japan's "lost decade(s)". We had these dinner courses
                                    http://www.chunagon.co.jp/shop_detail...
                                    and I feel I can get better food for less elsewhere, esp. in Osaka. It's probably still a good place for an overseas tourist/lobster lover to go.

                              2. Just wanted to report back... after ALOT of debate and deliberation, we went with a Kaiseki dinner at Kozue at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo. It was excellent! We even got to have a blowfish course, which was fun and delicious!

                                We'll hopefully hit the MTB at our next trip. Thanks for all the great suggestions!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: pgwiz1

                                  I was wondering where you would pick... and was glad to hear you had a great time at Kozue... we're planning on going there as well. Was the blowfish course automatically part of the Kaiseki, or an addition? We're hoping to have blowfish there as well!

                                  Thanks!

                                  1. re: koneko

                                    They had multiple kaiseki dinner menus, and a special holiday one. we picked it because it had blowfish! They also have a la carte as well as other blowfish additions. def. recommend going to kozue... We had a great time! I'll try to load pictures of flicker and post the URL to this thread in the next few days.