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Dec 6, 2009 03:12 PM

Have to assume it is me, definitely missing something

Been in Japan for a month now in very varied locales. In all but Tokyo have been eating at homes or in lesser restaurants as unagi donburi. okonomiyaki, and noodle shops and have been very pleased. Intense food, served simply, very hot, and inexpensive. Who could ask for more. Then l came to Tokyo. Been here for a week or so and with another hound went to five Michelin starred restaurants over that period. l sit here scratching my head and feel like have been through Emperor`s new clothes. Is it my palate that is screwed up from too many years in USA and France? What l have been getting here is micromanaged food. Little bits of various things, always luke warm, other than the soups, that are plated really well, but are so subtle for me do not see the point. The price points are ludicrous but that is my governments fault not the restaurant, so should not be issue. Have done kaiseke types three times, a tempura star, and a super sushi, and have come away really crabby. Granted of the five, Hirosaku had every course menuwise spot on. They figured out exactly what l like and did it beautifully. Service was perfect, price was more than fair, food well cooked and presented, but afterwards felt would like to go for a burger or two to really eat. Sure it is me, rest of world cannot be wrong, but this weekend went for ramen with another hound and for 1000 yen, had a meal that l could easily eat once a week forever.

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  1. Understable ! In France, I also have had diners in some stars Michelin or Chateaux Hotel.
    In fact, for visitors, coming to Japan, I will say the local casual food will be at first as shabu-shabu, negima nabe, tempura - zaru soba teishoku, ramen, …
    The sushi, in Tokyo, are to be experienced. What was yours on the ‘super’ sushi ?

    1. I had a number of foreign guests, all devoted foodies, who had similar things to say about kaiseki. The very subtle flavours simply were not their thing; they found it bland. A lot of people who like good kaiseki enjoy the subtle flavours, the texture, the freshness of ingredients, the harmony with good quality sake etc, but it is totally understandable that it's not everybody's thing. You say that you enjoyed "intense" food on your travels in Japan. That suggests you may enjoy stronger flavours.

      Also, some food is meant to be served lukewarm as such temperature brings out the flavours best (don't know if that applies to the food you were referring to; maybe they served it lukewarm when it was meant to be hot, but with lots of food, the temperature matters a great deal and lukewarm does feature quite a bit).

      I hear you were meant to go to Ryugin. Is that right? Ryugin seems to vary in quality (I had some of the best ever kaiseki of my life there, and some quite average stuff), but as I went very recently chances are that the food is now very similar to what it was when I went. It was incredibly good kaiseki. They also do fantastic sake. So if you were underwhelmed by that experience, it may well be that kaiseki just isn't your thing. There is plenty of other great stuff in Tokyo to focus on though. For example, if you want a world class steak (I still have tears in my eyes when I recall that piece of meat), go to Dons de la Nature. It is positively pornographic.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Asomaniac

        It was the sake tasting, 6 of them, that was best part of experience at Ryugin. `supersushi` was Sawada, 34,000 yen later

        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

          Can you tell us more about Ryugin, food-wise? What did you have and what did you not like about it? I am very curious to see if they are experiencing another period of inconsistency or whether you were disappointed because the type of food just did not appeal to you.

          1. re: Asomaniac

            Read Barondestructo`s blog and you will read and see px of everything. Suspect it was me not the place.

      2. The old joke is that many people come home and eat a bowl ochazuke (and I suppose for you, it's hamburgers :D) after having a multi-course dinner at a fancy restaurant. So, I don't think it's you but the way how high-end dining can go in Japan.

        I generally go for okonomiyaki, soba, udon, donburi (the anago don I had in Miyazima was one of the best thing I've ever eaten and it set me back 1500 yen), grilled fish and other simple home cooking dishes, and if I can find seafood only based soup, ramen. I skip French and Italian as I don't see the point of it as I spend more time in France these days than in Japan and Italy isn't that hard to get to from Paris.

        If I am in the mood for something a bit more "refined," I prefer a kappo restaurant that only has counter seats and I rarely pay more than 10,000 per person including quite a bit of alcohol.

        Anyhow, a place I think you'd have liked in Nagano:

        In the fall/winter, they do mainly mushroom and game dishes. It's a slow food inn so they source most of their ingredients locally including salt and the owner collects honey in the mountains himself. What surprised me the most was how simple things like tea, rice, and miso soup tasted so much better because of the water quality; I think if I died and went to heaven, food and drinks would or at least should taste like that. Unless it's matsutake mushroom season, a night stay there costs 15,000 yen including dinner and breakfast. And trust me, you wouldn't have either inclination or room for hamburgers after dinner.

        2 Replies
        1. re: kikisakura


          This sounds amazing - I am going to try to book a w/e there in February. Thanks.

          1. re: Asomaniac


            I'd imagine that the winter scenery would be lovely but the whole village probably will be buried under the snow in February. I'm also guessing that the heating at the inn may not be sufficient as is the case for most old Japanese houses.

            Their high season is fall (as people flock there for the mushrooms and foliage) and reservation for weekend nights might be difficult as they only take two groups at a time but I prefer to stay during late spring/early summer as iwana is in season.

        2. I agree that Kaiseki is not something that is appreciate by everyone, just like abalone and shark fin of chinese food. I have seen from your profile that one of your favorite sushi restaurant is Sushi Yasuda in NYC. How does it compare to the meal you have at Sawada provided price is not an issue ? I guess most of the food you get from these two restaurants are served luke warm like as well.

          3 Replies
          1. re: skylineR33

            Sushi Yasuda is definitely not in the same league as Sawada...not even close!!!

            1. re: FourSeasons

              Yes Yasuda generally pleases me, but is a totally different experience. Yasuda is like sushi Daiwa with more time and comfort, very fresh fish not messed with.
              Virtually everything ate at Sawada had been smoked, aged, marinated, fumed, dipped, and when not, we were ordered, nicely though, to put on lemon juice or wasabi or whatever. Not implying bad, just not in my experience and for the present not in my pleasure zone.

              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                Sushi are sophisticate, not only raw fish ! Different sort, diferent season hot winter, cold winter,... This conclusion is just a shortcut, far from reality.

          2. Maybe a good idea if you name the 5 restaurants that you went and the reasons why the 4 that did not impress you at all.

            3 Replies
            1. re: FourSeasons

              Fukimachi, l never liked tempura and thought if l went to a top tier place l would give it a fair shot, l did go, l still do not like. La Bombance, owner very warm and welcoming, but food was interchangable with any of the other places, cod and monkfish sperm was served three times that night, no biggie but once would have been enough. Ginza La Tour, again perfect service, but no interaction with the client, huge lack of fun, very proper, too proper. Sawada and Hirosaku were mentioned already.

              1. re: FourSeasons

                Forgot Miravale, perhaps thattells something also

                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                  The last day before your flight, why not a back to basics as a very hot smoky ramen ? Slurp !!!!!