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Last Hurrah--where to go?

I'm leaving Japan at the end of March and am planning my eating for that last month. I live in Kansai (Nishinomiya), but will be bookending the month of March with stays in Tokyo.

Here's what I've got lined up so far:

Feb. 27th lunch???
Feb. 27th dinner--Ryugin
Feb. 28th lunch--Michel Troisgros
Feb. 28 dinner???

March 23 dinner--???
March 24 lunch and dinner???
March 25 lunch????
March 25 dinner--Aronia de Takazawa
March 26 lunch???

We're doing Tsukiji the morning of Feb. 27th or March 24th, 25th or 26th (probably March 24th). We're not huge sushi fans, so we're basically going for the experience (you'd think after spending 11 years in Japan, I'd have already visited Tsukiji, but unfortunately not!), but of course we'll have sushi somewhere. Have to get that last taste of super fresh ikura, hotate, and uni.

And I'll probably get a final tempura meal at my favourite place in Kyoto, so I won't be having tempura in Tokyo.

But what else is there? Background--I'm moving back to Winnipeg, Canada, a city more-or-less void of good restaurants in anything but the cheap ethnic category. So I'm pretty open to anything--Italian (including excellent Napoli-style pizza), French, curry rice, tonkatsu, ramen, etc. I can probably fit one more slightly higher priced meal in (Y10 000/person, at most--I was thinking of lunch at L'Osier for that), but Aronia and Ryugin will pretty much wipe out my high-end budget, so cheaper suggestions would be much appreciated.

Where would you go and what would you eat?

For ramen, would the Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum a worthwhile stop in lieu of waiting in line for hours at other very popular ramen spots? (I was thinking of trying Ivan Ramen, in part because I could chat in English there. . . ) I can't really eat more than 1 regular-sized bowl of ramen, or maybe 2 small bowls, but I'm sort of attracted to the thought of a one-stop place.

I was also thinking of Ukai Toriyama, in part to get some sight-seeing in. I can't have all my last days in Japan be about food, can I? :0) Any comments for or against it?

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  1. In case the dates change for when you want to do Tsukiji, I always find this useful:

    Also, I would strongly advice to go to Tsukiji early, in fact take the very first subway or maybe even go by taxi. I would definitely try to be there by 6am at the very latest. Know that Tsukiji is basically split into three area: restaurants in the front, then wholesale fish/veggies and all the way in the back the tuna auctions and the warehouses.

    they always have a "show" auction for tourists with low quality tuna and unmotivated traders as well as the real auctions further in the back. while this is officially off-limits it's a lot more interesting and i found that the traders actually don't care as long as you don't get in the way.

    i would however be extremely cautious with regards to the fork-lifts, especially in the south-western part of the market.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Scharn

      I read on their website that the tuna auction was closed to tourists until the middle of January, but there was no indication that it had reopened. I don't mind just wandering the market and warehouses and skipping the auction. We just like to look at food. :-) But we are planning to get there early.

      1. re: prasantrin

        It may still be closed. Problem is that some of the tuna sell for a lot of money -- $100,000 for a single fish, often much more -- and hungover english-teacher from Roppongi interfered with the auctions. Also, it seems some people took flash pictures during the auctions. It have no idea why anybody would to that, but that is what apparently happened.

        Anyway, there are no security/identity checks because the market is a very open space. So you can easily go anywhere. Helps to wear a hoodie =)

        1. re: Scharn

          I look Japanese, so I might have an easier time blending in. But I suppose the big SLR might give me away as a tourist. :-) I'll have to use my little camera surreptitiously.

          Thanks for the advice!

    2. Hi prasantrin,

      I'm sorry to hear you're leaving Japan (I hope you'll go back for visits and continue to provide your great insight on places :).

      Since you're asking for not-as-pricey suggestions, I would say a few things to get in before you leave would be:

      * Ramen: You don't realize how bad the Ramen is in North America until you leave Japan. :( I miss a good bowl (not even great bowl) of Ramen on a daily basis here in the States. :) I'd recommend showing up early (before they open) and trying Menya Kissou (my favorite) or Rokurinsha (Silverjay has a great review of this place - I loved it as well). Ivan Ramen is a place I can't wait to try. :) If you go, be sure to say "Hi" to Keizo, Ivan's newest assistant and a dear tomodachi of mine.

      * Soba: Even something as simple as Soba is something to be appreciated one last time before you leave Japan. Luckily in LA we have a few Teuchi Soba places, but the great places in Tokyo eclipse that.

      * Tonkatsu: One of my favorite comfort foods is simply gone here in the States (probably in Winnipeg as well?). Sure you can find "Tonkatsu" in a variety of Japanese restaurants here, but they are so underdeveloped (fry technique, succulence of the Pork, etc.) that I can't bring myself to order it any more until I go back to Japan. If you love Tonkatsu, get your fill in before you leave. Uncle Yabai and many others have great recommendations on places. :)

      * Izakaya / Kappo: If you like the wonderful small plates from an Izakaya or Kappo restaurant, be sure to get your fill as well. :)

      And prasantrin, "Yes," you can have all your final days in Japan be about food. (^_^) I wish I had a 2nd stomach so I could've squeezed in a few more meals before I left last time.


      1. For French lunch, how about something like Viron in Marunouchi?
        For me, I don't know when that will be, but my last lunch in Tokyo will consist of a round at Isetan depachika and a picnic at Shinjuku Gyoen.

        1. Thanks for the suggestions so far.

          I forgot I also have a solo lunch on the 26th, and dinner for 2 that evening. That's two more meals!

          With that in mind:

          26th lunch--Menya Kissou or Viron (I really want to try those frites!)
          26th dinner--tonkatsu at either Tonki or Butagami. I'm leaning towards Tonki because it's more accessible from Shinjuku, and I'm not sure what time we'll get in from the airport.

          Ramen is definitely on the list, although I'm not really a huge fan. That's why I'm wondering about ShinYokohama Ramen Museum. I don't think my companion will be eager to spend half an hour or an hour waiting in line at some of the other places.

          We're also making ramen at the Ramen Museum in Ikeda. I thought it would fun. :-)

          9 Replies
          1. re: prasantrin

            If you're not really a fan of ramen, definitely stay away from the museum in Yokohama. The lines, in my experience, tend to be worse than at the regular shops.

            I would pick 1 or two places, and just go for an early lunch or dinner. I think you'll have a much better chance of a better bowl with less wait. Make sure to think a bit about what type of ramen you like - it'd be heartbreaking to spend some time waiting in line and end up with thin, straight, uniform noodles (at least for me!)

            1. re: lost squirrel

              I like ramen, just not loads. Good to know about the lines at the museum. I thought if I went on a weekday during off-peak times, it might be OK, but I think Sunday Feb. 28 might be the best time to go, and it will probably be very busy then. Darn!

              I'll just do Menya Kissou on my own, then. It's convenient to where I need to be that day, anyway. Does anyone know if their regular ramen is as good as their tsukemen? I prefer regular ramen, but most of what I've read talks about their tsukemen.

              1. re: prasantrin

                I was there (Ramen Museum) last Sunday at 5:30pm or so and there was only one line, at the most popular place. I think other places had lines by 6:30 or 7pm though.

                1. re: prasantrin

                  Hi prasantrin,

                  I've only had their Tsukemen, but no matter which one you order, be sure to get their Hanjyuku Tamago and Chashu. Totally worth it. :)

              2. re: prasantrin

                Tonki in Meguro? Love that joint! They have a smaller 10-seat counter place in Kojimachi too.

                1. re: prasantrin

                  Keizo, who is interning with Ivan at Ivan Ramen, raves about a ramen joint in Shibuya called Basanova? Looks pretty interesting.


                  1. re: gkanai

                    I've been reading Keizo's site and read about Bassanova. It looks interesting, but it's more fusion-y than what I want. The gyoza looks really good, though!

                    1. re: prasantrin

                      If you're a gyoza fan, I'd recommend Ebisu Gyoza near Ebisu. Worth the wait, imo.

                      1. re: gkanai

                        That will definitely go on my list! I love gyoza!

                2. For your "higher priced meal in (Y10 000/person, at most)" meal, I would recommend Hirosaku or Quintessence for lunch. Dinner are expensive in those two places, but I think you can spend below 10k for lunch. Hirosaku is operated by an elderly couple, serves the best soba I ever tried, and the mini-kaiseki at lunch is very good. I recall it cost me 8k pp. Quintessence's lunch is a bargain too at 8k pp, and I much prefer my meal at Q over L'Osier (noted this is just a personal view, I know many here rave about L).

                  Oh, another note, Ristorante ASO offers lunch below 5k pp, very good deal as well for high end Italian. That maybe another option.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: FourSeasons

                    Quintessence was an option, too, but I thought it would be easier to get a reservation at L'Osier, even if I end up on the waiting list. I haven't tried to makes reservations at either, yet, so I suppose I should try.

                    I was thinking of Ristorante ASO, too. It's difficult--there are so many places to try, and I know all of them will have good if not great food, but I only have a few days and a limited budget!

                    Hirosaku sounds interesting. I must confess, I don't really like soba, but I do feel I should give it one more try before leaving. I was thinking of trying Owariya in Kyoto, but a mini-kaiseki sounds like much more fun.

                    1. re: prasantrin

                      Here's my 2 cent's Kinoshita near Odakyu sangubashi station. used to be impossible to get a reservation but seems no problem to get in at lunch, I used to call ahead and request a dinner set. for lunch. The 7,600 is a ridiculous amount of food, no surrender no retreat. very masculine cooking in a good way, not showoffy.


                      1. re: prasantrin

                        BTW, the basic 6-course lunch at Hirosaku is 2,000 yen.

                    2. For two lunches l would do Hirosaku, my favorite of the kaiseki palaces. Simple, private room, fabulous old time service, wonderful food and not badly priced. For my other, Pachon, great food, super bargain, and felt you were in the French countryside.

                      1. OK, I've booked my very last meal (lunch on the 26th) at Ristorante Aso. Now I'm wondering, though, if Argento Aso might have been better in terms of convenience. It's just one train line to Ginza (I'm travelling with my mother who has some mobility issues), and then we can wander around Ginza for a bit. We could have tea at Lauduree or a drink at the Mandarin Oriental until we have to go back to Shinjuku to pick up our stuff and catch the NEX. Any thoughts about AA vs. RA?

                        I might still try to get into Quintessence or L'Osier. Hirosaku is still in the running for a meal somewhere.

                        I'm trying to co-ordinate my meals with some places I'd like to visit. There aren't very many, but I'd like to see Jiyu Gakuin (Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings--I just saw Yodoko Guest House very recently) in Ikebukuro which is reasonably close to Aigre Douce pastry shop. I need to get my pastries in, after all. :-)

                        Now my list looks like this

                        Feb. 26th solo lunch--Menya Kissou, then maybe frites at Viron if I have time
                        Feb. 26th dinner--Tonki (if it's not too late when we get in, otherwise???)
                        Feb. 27th lunch??? (Butagami if I don't make it to Tonki, otherwise maybe Baggio or Savoy??)
                        Feb. 27th dinner--Ryugin
                        Feb. 28th lunch--Michel Troisgros
                        Feb. 28 dinner???

                        March 23 dinner--???
                        March 24 breakfast--Tsukiji (Daiwa, Sushi Dai, Sushi Bun. . . wherever is OK with me)
                        March 24 lunch and dinner--Ukai Yoriyama (late lunch/early dinner), then maybe a snack at an izakaya in Shinjuku
                        March 25 lunch????
                        March 25 dinner--Aronia de Takazawa
                        March 26 lunch--Ristorante Aso

                        I'm going to have to put some good donburi in there somewhere. I still have my list from the other thread I started.

                        Nothing is set in stone, of course, and other suggestions or cautions are always welcome.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: prasantrin

                          I think Ristorante Aso is much better than Argento Aso, worth the extra "shlep".

                          1. re: prasantrin

                            if you have not been and are going to Ikeburako anyway, the Japanese Traditional Craft Center is the best and most authentic shipping l saw in Japan, and l looked. Great things at fair prices, very high quality. Great knives, cooking vessels, leatherware, etc.

                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                              Good plan!

                              When I lived in Tokyo, it was always on my list, but for some reason, I never made it there.

                              There's supposed to be a pretty good depachika in Ikebukuro, too, isn't there? I think I tried to find it once, but I got lost. Oops.

                              1. re: prasantrin

                                Seibu Ikebukuro has a good depachika, and it's quite large.

                          2. It's the beginning of the end.

                            I arrived early this morning and had planned to go to Menya Kissou after going to Echire and Viron. Unfortunately, my late arrival left me short of time, and I decided to have lunch at Viron since i was there anyway.

                            I had the crab terrine, frites, and baguette (without butter).

                            The crab terrine was fine. At first I thought the crab was really crab-flavoured pollock sticks, but it was probably real crab. After seeing my neighbours' rillette and cheese salads, I had wished I had ordered that instead, though.

                            The frites sucked. I'm almost 100% sure they use frozen fries, and I'd almost be willing to bet they're the same fries McD's uses. They've got roughly the same shelf-life--they're pretty good when fresh, but if allowed to sit for more than 5 minutes, they become hard and stale-tasting. And they cost twice as much for about the same size as McD's supersized fries. Plus they serve them with ketchup. What kind of French bistro serves frites with ketchup?

                            The saving grace was the baguette. Had I not been full from the terrine and frites (even though I only ate about 1/3 of my frites, and only ate that much because I didn't want to waste my money), I'd have gotten more baguette. It was frickin' good. Excellent crust, nice and chewy mie (is that what bread innards are called?) with a very nice flavour. I even liked them more than Donq's, and I love Donq's french bread.

                            In the future, I'll stick to Viron's bakery, and maybe only go to the restaurant for dessert or coffee.

                            This evening, we went straight from the airport to Shinjuku Staiton, left our stuff in a locker, and then went to Meguro to try Tonki. I got a little lost. I started going the right way, then doubted my choice and backtracked, only to find out I was going the right way to begin with. Oops.

                            I really like Tonki. The restaurant is much larger than I had imagined, and they have a very efficient set-up. The guy who took our order was a little no-nonsense at first, but I sensed he was really quite sweet, and by the end of our dinner, we found that he was.

                            We both ordered the rosu-katsu teishoku. The cabbage was quite sweet, everything else was OK. I found the rosu-katsu to be a bit flavourless, and although the breading was very crunchy, it lacked the lightness I associate with larger-flaked panko. I think the katsu was good, but I don't think I'd return for it.

                            But I would return just for the atmosphere. I liked that it was a family operation, and it was pretty clear just from appearances that almost everyone working there was related. When we left, the guy who seated us gave my mother an English menu to take with her. That was a nice touch, I thought, as he noticed that my mother didn't speak Japanese but wanted to know more about the place (she was questioning our neighbour--who incidentally didn't speak English either--about the owners). I couldn't figure out if any of them spoke English, though I did notice the eldest guy was sometimes listening to our conversation (whether he could understand us or not, I'm not sure).

                            The eldest gentleman working there must have asbestos hands. We were right in front of the fryer, and we took great pleasure watching him work. I don't think he ever waited more than 5 seconds between taking katsu out of the fryer and slicing it. I can't even turn a crepe over in the pan, much less touch freshly fried katsu.

                            And we found out they dip a lot. Flour-egg-flour-egg-flour-egg-panko is their routine. That must be why they get such a nice crust on their katsu. I will have to experiment at home.

                            And one long stick is for rosu katsu, and shorter sticks are for hire katsu. I think.

                            Anyway, I'm glad I went.

                            1. Btw: Don't go to Rokurinsha. It was great, but the wait is crazy. This is how it looked at the time when they opened.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: Scharn

                                Rokurinsha was actually on my list, but we ended up at Menya Musashi in Nishi-Shinjuku. My mother had the one with a whole egg and three big pieces of pork, and I had the musashi ramen which had half an egg and two big pieces of pork. We were lucky enough to arrive before 11:30 (we would have arrived shortly after 11 had I not gotten us lost), so we snagged the last two seats.

                                Question--they ask if you want kotteri or assari, and something else--oomori or some other kind of mori. What does the oomori/~mori one mean? I ordered us the ~mori even though I didn't know what I meant because I thought "oomori" might mean "large serving".

                                Both my mother and I liked it, but as I mentioned before, I'm not really a ramen connoisseur, so I don't know that my opinion would hold much weight. The noodles were nice and spongy/chewy (I ordered katamen), and the broth was not too strong. The pork was quite tender, too.

                                I think I liked the atmosphere of the place more than the ramen, though. The workers were friendly enough, and I especially appreciated the decor (and the upholstery on the stools!).

                                My mother had her first experience with an annoying Japanese adult female whining about something being too spicy. That was another fun aspect of our lunch. :-)

                                Tonight we had dinner at Ryugin. My how it has changed in the last two years! I liked the look of the place even more--very sleek, very refined. The food was still delicious, but the whimsy seems to have disappeared. It seems the food is more "serious". That's not necessarily a bad thing; it's just different. My mother was really quite thrilled with the experience.

                                It's interesting that although the food seems more classically Japanese in spirit, Chef Yamamoto still uses modern techniques and puts his own spin on very traditional ingredients.

                                The highlight for me tonight was the strawberry sorbet. And of course, the service is just as friendly and personable as ever. I only recognized one face of the many waitstaff there tonight, and it also seemed that they all spoke English. A big change from two years ago. And I discovered some of the FOH are also BOH, so they have great insight as to how the food is prepared. Wonderful idea, but they must be pretty tired by the end of the evening!

                                1. re: prasantrin

                                  Most Menya Musashi branches offer "regular", "larger than regular" and "big" portions of noodles for the same price - "nami mori", "chuu mori", "o mori" respectively.

                                  1. re: prasantrin

                                    "Question--they ask if you want kotteri or assari, and something else--oomori or some other kind of mori. What does the oomori/~mori one mean? I ordered us the ~mori even though I didn't know what I meant because I thought "oomori" might mean "large serving"."

                                    I have not been to this shop yet, but anything -mori should almost certainly refer to size. Depending on the shop lingo, normal size should be something like 普通 or 中 or 並 while large size is almost exclusively referred to as 大盛り. If you don't say anything you will just get normal size.

                                    When there is a choice between こってり vs あっさり I would always take kotteri, because the latter one is most probably not the original recipe but some lighter version. At Tenka Ippin it has literally nothing to do with their signature broth anymore.

                                    Oh, if you still want to eat more ramen i would strongly recommend Koukaibou on the Mita-line in Koto.

                                    1. re: Scharn

                                      I didn't think about the differences in broth. The guy explained こってり was greasier than あっさり, and although we both like greasy food, we weren't in the mood, so we both chose あっさり.

                                      I'm glad I chose namimori, even though I didn't know what it meant. . . It took us a long time to eat our ramen (people who were waiting in line after we arrived actually finished eating before we did), so I can't imagine how long it would have taken to eat the oomori!

                                    2. re: prasantrin

                                      Hi prasantrin,

                                      Thanks for the report back. I'm sad you didn't get a chance to eat at Menya Kissou before you left, but it sounds like you still got one more good Tokyo Ramen fix before leaving. :)

                                      Ryugin: I'm glad that Chef Yamamoto is still knocking it out of the park, but like you, I'm a little saddened to hear that it's more traditional instead of his earlier creations. I still can't wait to go back, though. :)

                                    3. re: Scharn

                                      Hi Scharn,

                                      That doesn't look too bad compared to when we went (which the line seemed about 3 times that length) and we showed up ~30 minutes before they opened! (~_~) :) Glad you liked it.

                                    4. Third and last day (for this segment).

                                      We had leftover croissant and pastries for breakfast, and the awesome jersey milk I got from the rest stop on my way up to Tokyo.

                                      For lunch we had reservations at Michel Troisgros. We both enjoyed the meal, but unfortunately, neither of us was particularly hungry after our meal at Ryugin. There were a couple of memorable dishes (or parts of dishes)--one of the amuse--thinly sliced pear atop pureed spinach atop a savoury sable--was really excellent, as were the mashed potatoes. But for us, it was overkill. Had we not been satiated at Ryugin, I think we would have enjoyed our meal at Michel Troisgros even more.

                                      Neither of us wanted to eat much for dinner, so we skipped my plans for sukiyaki and bought a ham and cheese cassecroute from Isetan and some bananas. It was the perfect meal for us that evening.

                                      So. . . it appears I am no longer able to enjoy food in excess, and this means I'll have to rethink our final few days in Tokyo at the end of the month. I'm not giving up Aronia, though. I just have to rethink everything else.

                                      1. Would anyone be able to give me an idea of the price of a taxi from Higashi Shinjuku (near Isetan) to Tsukiji? We will have to take a taxi if we want to get their early enough, and I'm just trying to figure out distance/costs.

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: prasantrin

                                          I guess this should take around 20 minutes by local roads, so my *guess* would be you end up paying around 6000Y?

                                          That's a ball park figure: Shinjuku--Tsukijishijo is about 8 km. I know that from Shinjuku to where I live is around 5 km and I pay about 4000 Yen. However I'm not sure if early in the morning still costs extra (as does taking a cab after midnight). Anyways, there is a direct subway connection by Oedo-sen, which takes about 45 mins and arrives shortly before 6AM. So if you want to save some money this may be a good choice.

                                          1. re: Scharn

                                            Thanks! I think that's probably what we'll do. I thought I should try to see the tuna auction (which is probably closed to visitors, anyway) and it finishes just after 6, but I'm not really that keen on it. I just want to browse and eat sushi.

                                            1. re: prasantrin

                                              I don't think it does. I sometimes (not often) get Sushi in morning at Tsukiji, and I'm almost certain that well after 6 AM some of the auctions were still going on. Then again, besides the auctions and the Sushi, the actual market is open until noon I think. And just walking through that area, seeing the guys prepare the tunas with their sword-like knives is probably as exciting as the auctions -- if not more so.

                                              1. re: Scharn

                                                I read the tuna auction is from 5 to 6:15. But I think it was an old post somewhere, so I don't really know what's going on now.

                                                1. re: prasantrin

                                                  5:00-6:15am seems to be what the official site says (at least that's when it's open to visitors and tour groups):

                                                  And don't forget to check the wholesale market's holiday calendar before you go!

                                            2. re: Scharn

                                              It's only about a 8km drive and the first 2km are just 710 or so. My guess is about 3500 to 4200 depending on traffic - which shouldn't be too bad if you're super early in the morning.
                                              Usually, a 5-6km taxi ride costs me about 2300-2800 (after midnight!)

                                              1. re: lost squirrel

                                                You're lucky! In any other country I would guess the cab drivers just rips me off, but in Tokyo i can probably blame it on where i live. =)

                                                1. re: Scharn

                                                  They'll definitely rip you off here too!

                                                  I have to tell them where to turn (they always refuse to use the navi system!) or else it'd be much more expensive

                                                  1. re: Scharn

                                                    They'll definitely rip you off here too!

                                                    I have to tell them where to turn (they always refuse to use the navi system!) or else it'd be much more expensive

                                                    1. re: Scharn

                                                      They'll definitely rip you off here too!

                                                      I have to tell them where to turn (they always refuse to use the navi system!) or else it'd be much more expensive

                                              2. We arrived back in Tokyo late afternoon on the 23rd. We were really exhausted from the last touches of cleaning and packing, so we decided not to go out at all. I made a quick trip to Isetan and we had bread, friulano salami, and some kind of cheese. I also picked up a porcini arancini from the temporary food purveyors--it was really good! It was from an Italian restaurant somewhere in Tokyo, but I can't remember which.

                                                The next day was an early day. We made the trip up to Ujiie (used to be Ujjie-machi, now part of Sakura-shi) in Tochigi to visit some old friends. This kind of put a wrench in our eating plans, but saying good-byes was more important than food in this case!

                                                We had lunch at Italian Shokudo Kamiyama. When I lived in Ujiie, this place was called Giovanni's, and they gave me my first taste of Neapolitan-style pizza. I heard they closed for a bit, then re-opened recently. The food was OK--I think I've expanded my frame of reference since my first taste of their pizza, so it wasn't as good as I remembered. But it was fine. One dish we all liked was Pasta with butter, lemon, and soy sauce. It was very simple, but very tasty. It had mushrooms, but I can't remember which.

                                                We arrived back in Tokyo around 5:30, so we went straight to dinner. Had we gone back to the hotel, we wouldn't have wanted to go out again!

                                                Imahan was convenient, so we decided to have sukiyaki. I've only had sukiyaki once in Japan, at someone's home, so I was curious as to what it was really like. My mother hadn't had sukiyaki in probably 30+ years, so she was looking forward to it.

                                                We decided against ordering any of the sets, and we had one order of 上, and one order of 極上 for sukiyaki. The non-sets included rice, miso soup, pickles, vegetables (to be cooked), and three slices of each type of meat. The 上 was the lowest grade of beef offered (not "low" by any means), and the 極上 was the highest--we wanted to compare the two. I think the beef was from Akita.

                                                I was expecting more home-style sukiyaki, so I didn't think I'd have to do all the work myself. That was a bit off-putting. I hate working for my food. But it was delicious nonetheless. I think I prefer Kansai-style, from what I remember of it, but I certainly wouldn't turn my nose up at Kanto-style.

                                                With regards to the beef, the 極上 was definitely more tender, but was it more flavourful? Hard to tell because it was cooked as sukiyaki. That brings me to the point that if you want to try Japanese beef for the first time, it's really a waste to get it as sukiyaki. Get yakiniku or teppanyaki--some style of cooking where you can appreciate all aspects of the meat.

                                                Regardless, I'm glad I went to Imahan. The food was satisfying, and reasonable for the quality of beef used. The day we went, the 極上 was on special, priced just a little higher than the middle grade of beef.

                                                For those who need it, they do have English menus, and some of the staff speaks some English.

                                                I've got pics up on flickr--username rona_y. Will report on the rest later.

                                                1. The next day we had lunch with a friend of mine from grad school. We needed to keep it close to Shinjuku, and relatively cheap, so we went back to Takashimaya Times Square for Taiwanese at Din Tai Fung. It was OK, but I didn't think most of the food was very flavourful. We had xiaolongbao, lo bak go, siu bao, wonton soup (for my mother), and pork chops and rice. The only thing I thought was good was the pork chop. Everything else was relatively flavourless. It wasn't terrible, just not spectacular.

                                                  After lunch, my mother went for a nap (we had a big night ahead), and my friend and I went for tea at Mariage Freres. I'm going to miss Mariage Freres tea shops. We both had cakes and tea--mine was sakura green tea. Interesting, but I don't think I'd order it again. The fraise cake was quite nice, though the richness was a touch overwhelming.

                                                  Dinner was at Aronia de Takazawa. I'd been trying for a long time to get reservations here, and we finally got in!

                                                  I've got pictures up on flickr (username rona_y) if you'd like to take a look. I really enjoyed our meal here. It reminded me of Ryugin the first time I went--very well-prepared food made with excellent quality ingredients. Japanese base with French influences, and a touch of playfulness. I think I preferred my meal at Aronia to my last meal at Ryugin (although both were excellent) because of that playfulness. My mother is of a different generation, however, and she preferred Ryugin. She doesn't appreciate playfulness and molecular touches as much, but she did still enjoy the meal.

                                                  For those of you who have eaten at Aronia before, we had some repeats (Smoked Tuna, Spring Vegetables, Hot Balloon, Strawberry Short Cake), and some new dishes (Veal and one more I can't remember).

                                                  My least favourite dish was the veal. It was served with smoked milk something. I'm not a big fan of smoked dishes outside of barbecue, so I just didn't care for the side. The veal was nicely cooked, but I was too full to really enjoy it. I ate my cheese tuile (who doesn't love fried cheese?) and one slice of veal, but I shared the rest with my mother.

                                                  One surprise was the friend that joined us for the smoked tuna dish. Picture and commentary is on Flickr. For those who can't or don't want to access Flickr, I can say that Aronia uses organic vegetables.

                                                  My favourite dish was the dessert--strawberry short cake. I was very full by dessert, but it was light enough not to make me feel like Mr. Creosote. Althought the strawberries weren't very sweet, they were packed with strawberry flavour. I'm going to miss Japanese strawberries.

                                                  I think Aronia was the perfect "last supper" for us. It was a nice blend of east and west, of traditional and modern. I'd definitely return.

                                                  I've got one more lunch to write up, then that's it!

                                                  1. I've been looking at a bunch of threads in preparation for a possible December trip to Japan, and I realized I never finished this one!

                                                    Our last meal in Japan was at Tempura Kondo. I can't remember much of it now, but I think we had the largest set, plus the sweet potato. We were seated at the counter, but at the corner, so while we could watch the cooking, we couldn't really see that much. The chef was quite friendly with the woman seated directly in front of him--she was very interested in the ingredients and asked a lot of questions. I wished I could have heard more of the conversation, but no such luck. I do remember that the bamboo shoots (a la carte) were quite expensive--the woman asked about them, and was surprised at the cost, but ordered it, anyway.

                                                    We did enjoy our meal at Tempura Kondo, but I still prefer Ten-you in Kyoto. Tempura Kondo is a comparatively large operation compared to Ten-you, so it lacks intimacy. I thought the tempura was greasier, too, which surprised me as the oil was changed frequently. I think during our meal, I watched the oil being changed 3 or 4 times. Maybe even more.

                                                    About the sweet potato, I'm not a huge fan of Japanese sweet potatoes, but my mother really loved it. It was worth the Y1000 (or however much it was) for her. For me, meh.

                                                    And that was the end of my tenure in Japan!

                                                    I do very much miss the food in Japan (and many other things). Hopefully I'll make it back in December, so I can make another report! And bring back some macarons! And kouign aman! And donburi! And karinto!

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: prasantrin

                                                      You had a very decent last hooray with all those fabulous restaurants! I am glad you enjoyed Aronia.

                                                      I see you lived in Nishinomiya; I used to as well. Did you have anything to do with Kwansei Gakuin Daigaku?

                                                      What are you after food-wise in December?

                                                      1. re: Asomaniac

                                                        I've been to KanGaku a few times for speech contests and tours--does that count? I was up the road at KCHS. Our students used to get together with KG students a lot for volunteer activities (and dating, of course :-) ). (Were you a teacher there?)

                                                        My plan (which always changes once I'm there) is Butagumi for tonkatsu, Tsukiji for sushi or chasiu plate, Savoy or Baggio for neapolitan-style pizza, Ristorante Aso because I missed it last time (went to Kondo instead). . . Isetan for macaron and pastries galore. . .

                                                        That's all I have on my list so far. Always subject to change, of course. I'm debating ramen at Menya Kissou, but since I'm not a big ramen fan and I have such a short time there, I might skip it. I'd love to do Ukai Toriyama, but again, not enough time.

                                                        If planned right, I'll have Saturday dinner, Sunday all day, and Monday all day, then upon return, I'll just have Sunday breakfast and lunch. That's 9 whole meals! A lot of restaurants are closed on Monday, though, so that puts a bit of a damper on my planning. So far, the Tsukiji auction calendar looks like it'll be open both weekends I'm in Tokyo, but that can always change since it's so close to the holiday season. But I just really want to eat, anyway, so if the auction is closed, I'm OK with that.

                                                        I'm definitely going to Jiyu Gakuen, too. We were too tired to go last time (plus it rained a couple of days we were there).

                                                        1. re: prasantrin

                                                          That sounds good. Definitely try Butagumi!!

                                                          I am very sad to say though that I have had a disappointing report from Ristorante Asop. I have not been for a very long time, and a friend whose judgment I trust was quite unimpressed. He also said that they announced before they started that the chef was out for the night... That really should not have a perceptible impact on the quality of food in a 2 star restaurant! Hope chef is in when you go!

                                                          KwanGaku: I was a student there many many moons ago. When I was 19, I went there as part of my university course (I studied Japanese in the UK).

                                                          1. re: Asomaniac

                                                            Were you one of those ryugakusei who used to drink beer on the trains? Used to see a lot of those. :-) (an aside--a former co-worker started working at KG, and her co-workers there used to get very annoyed with her whenever she said Kansai instead of Kwansei. But all the kCHS students say Kansai instead of Kwansei, too!)

                                                            I changed Ristorante Aso and will probably do Edition Koji Shimomura instead. They don't accept December reservations until the beginning of November, but so far their calendar shows they'll be open my last day in Japan--hopefully they'll be open for lunch!