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Please Bestow Your Wisdom

Visiting Tokyo in about two weeks. Getting in on a Wednesday evening, and leaving on a Sunday morning.

This doesn't leave very much time, and I want to truly make the most of my dining while there.

The only place that I've decided on for sure is New York Grill the night I arrive (By the time I get to my hotel on Wednesday evening, the Park Hyatt, it'll be 8 PM, and I doubt that I'll feel like venturing very far).

That leaves Thursday-Saturday, and Potentially Sunday if anyone has any breakfast recommendations. I was thinking of visiting Kyoto either Thursday or Friday (Leave in the morning and return to Tokyo in time for dinner) - worth it?

Basically, I just want to know - What are the must dine at restaurants? Let's say you have three dinners and 2-3 (depending on if I go to Kyoto) lunches left in life, and you were limited to restaurants in Tokyo - Where would you dine?

(And before anyone says "Go do a search" - that's all well and good, I have, but the problem is that I have TOO MANY possible options. I kind of want a "Must visit before you die" kind of list. Also, I'm not one of those people who believes in the "Japanese cuisine only!" mentality. Fusion, french, etc. are fine if you think that one simply must experience it).

Also keep in mind that I'll be there solo, so any restaurants that don't accept groups of 1 are out of the question, unfortunately (unless anyone here would feel like dining with me).

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  1. If you are staying at the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku, why don't you go to Michel Troigros instead of the New York Grill? Michel Troisgros is in another hotel (I think the Hyatt Regency) in the same area in Nishi Shinjuku, almost next door to the Park Hyatt, and while the New York Grill is totally ordinary and ludicrously overrated, overhyped and overpriced, presumably for the view and because gaijin have heard about it, Michel Troisgros is a spectacular french place with two Michelin stars that may yet get the third star. The New York Grill is a total waste of time.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Asomaniac

      Now Aso, don't be coy, do tell us how you really feel. (BTW, I agree with Aso, maybe not as strongly, but in the general direction. The worthwhile deal there isn't the New York Grill, but the New York Bar.)

      1. re: Asomaniac

        I would like to try Michel Troisgros, but the final seating is at 9 pm and I'm not sure if I'd make it in time.

        Edit - Nevermind. Just checked and they're closed on Wednesdays. Any other nearby alternatives to New York Grill for my first night there are certainly welcome.

        1. re: KA1555

          From the Park Hyatt, it literally takes 5 minutes to get to the Hyatt Regency which is where Troisgros is. I think you could make it no problem, even if it took you 40 minutes to check in. If you're not sure about it, I personally in that area, would hit Kyubey (branch in the Keio Plaza) or Kozue, or Seryna (in the Sumitomo Building) before the New York Grill. All of these restaurants are 5 minutes from your hotel.

          1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

            Thanks for the recommendations. I wasn't sure about Kozue but now I suppose I'll definitely go there over New York Grill.

            As for Troisgros - I actually edited my previous post because I found out that it's closed on Wednesdays.

        2. re: Asomaniac

          I don't know about Michel Troisgros (iv'e heard a lot of great things) but I totally agree....I'm from NYC, and NY Grill is so overrated....and overpriced...but its like one of those places you have to go to because it was in Lost in Translation and Gaijin friendly....but so many other nice places to go besides there....Like Uncle said, better to just go get a drink there at the bar...
          I gotta recommend again Creation de Narisawa....one of the best meals I ever had..but it is pretty pricey....

        3. Here is a crazy suggestion. For lunch walk over to the Shinjuku Nomura Building. It is about a 10 minute walk from your hotel. Walk down into the basement level of the building and you will find a number of small,inexpensive restaurants that cater mainly to the people who work in the building. One of them if a spaghetti place called Hashiya Spaghetti. If you go at around lunch time there may be a line but it moves fast. They have an English menu and they will seat you at a counter where you can watch them make the pasta. I worked in that building for 6 years and have always loved Hashiya for it's Japanese take on Italian pasta. If you are adventurous try the Sea Urchin, Cod Roe and Squid Spaghetti. . In Japanese: Tarako, Uni, Ika Spaghetti. Very unusual and delicious. The price will be around US$10.00 or so.

          Although there are many opinions on this board about where to get the best Tonkatsu in Tokyo I have always loved Tonki which is right next to the Meguro Station. From Shinjku Station take the Yamanote Line about 6 stops to Meguro and then ask someone to direct you to Tonki Tonkatsu (Fried PorK). It is about the only thing they serve and they do it very well.. Ask for the Hire Katsu (pork tenderloin) which is less fatty than the regular cut they use.

          Enjoy

          1 Reply
          1. re: RoyRon

            If I had one night in Tokyo, the Hashiya is the last place I would go to. Tonki, on the other hand, would be up towards the top of the list.

          2. Thanks for your help guys.

            I've decided on the following schedule:

            Wednesday:

            Dinner - Kozue

            Thursday:

            Lunch - Misoguigawa (in Kyoto)
            Evening Snack - Ivan Ramen
            Late Dinner (11 PM) - Yamada Chikara

            Friday:

            Early Breakfast - Sushi Dai at the Tsukiji-Market
            Lunch - Beige by Alain Ducasse at Chanel
            Dinner - Tapas Molecular Bar

            Saturday:

            Lunch - Maisen
            Dinner - L'atelier de Joel Robuchon
            Late Night Snack - Basa Nova

            In my opinion I think this is a fairly good mix of well-known vs. lesser known, a good mix of cuisine, etc.

            I'll be sure to share photos/a report if anyone is interested.

            8 Replies
            1. re: KA1555

              Considering the breadth and depth of Japanese cuisine, I'm not sure I'd call eating French three times and molecular gastronomy once in a four day trip, a particular good mix of choices. You seem to be a little hung up on foriegn food. You're also eating ramen twice and tonkatsu once. The sum total of these meals means your are spending the majority of your eating time disregarding the seasonal and regional aspects of Japanese cuisine. Why don't you replace one or two of your French meals with a regional izakaya or specialty place (seafood, pork, beef, oden, hot pot)? And swap out a ramen shop for another sushi or soba, etc. The Ivan Ramen excursion isn't something I would recommend for short time visitors. It's not that far from Shinjuku, but there's plenty of great ramen shops in more interesting and convenient parts of Tokyo.

              1. re: KA1555

                I dunno, like Silverjay before me, I think this list is very similar and very safe. I also think that there's better french to be had in Japan by far than Robuchon and Ducasse, (L'Osier, Troigros, Quintessence, Aronia De Takazawa) if you want to go that route.

                There are a great deal of things I would eat for lunch in Kyoto as opposed to a french restaurant. I personally would just eat Wagashi all day and drink Matcha but that's just me.

                I would personally swap out Maisen for Tonki.

                To be totally honest, Tapas Molecular Bar was a decent value but I wasn't that impressed with it as far as MG goes. I don't know where you're from but if you have an MG restaurant near you, chances are they're doing similar things. If I had only four nights in Tokyo I would personally replace TMB with Japanese cuisine. Besides, you're also doing Yamada Chikara which also utilizes a lot of MG techniques. Yamada worked for Ferran Adria no?

                As far as Ramen goes there are a lot of great choices but I suspect that the allure of Ivan Ramen's story and the people around him is part of the reason you're going there, and then to Basa Nova, No? If you're captivated by their story and want to eat at their shop and then eat at the shop that they eat at then hey, I'm sure you will have a great experience. If you're going strictly for the noodles there are great shops everywhere without having to travel at all.

                1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                  Hi Notorious P.I.G.,

                  "I personally would just eat Wagashi all day and drink Matcha but that's just me."

                  [Applause] Watashi mo. :) What's your favorite Soba-ya in Tokyo? Thanks.

                  1. re: exilekiss

                    Hahahahaha, Dai Suki Des. It's so true. I ate everything at Turuya and the top three rows in the Wagashi section in one day. I was like Kobayashi, breaking them in half and stuffing them down my throat.

                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/42140802...

                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/42140802...

                    I admittedly haven't tried much Soba in Tokyo. The best place that I tried was a small locals only type place and I don't even really remember what area it was in or the name. (Most helpful answer of all time)

                    I will ask my friend's dad and try to get back to you. It was really good tho. They had an Umeboshi Soba Chu that was awesome. Soba water/Shochu/Umeboshi.

                    1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                      Hi Notorious,

                      Oh my... the Wagashi looks *so* good! I miss Japan dearly. (;_;) Is Turuya your favorite Wagashi-ya? :)

                      Thanks for trying to find the name and address of that Soba-ya; much appreciated if you can find it. :)

                      1. re: exilekiss

                        I like different Wagashi Ya for different reasons but Turuya's home branch in Kyoto is very nice. They have a Wagashi bar and a garden upstairs to sit around and have Nihoncha/Wagashi. I personally always sit at the bar to watch them prepare the wagashi right in front of me. Like a Wagashi sushi bar.

                        Will get back to you about that Soba Ya when I hear something.

                        1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                          Hi Notorious,

                          Thanks! :) That sounds lovely. And to double-check, but is this the Honten you're talking about for Turuya?

                          http://www.turuya.co.jp/tenpo/index.html

                          Thanks.

                          1. re: exilekiss

                            That's it. You walk in the main entrance right through to the back. Walk up the stairs to the right and you'll be at the seating area. Their Matcha is really insane as well. They'll wisk some up for you at the end of your Wagashi tasting.

              2. Thanks for the input. As for Beige and L'atelier, I have my reasons for wanting to visit them.

                But, I think I'll take your recommendation and switch out Ivan with something else. Perhaps a Soba place. Any recommendations?

                I had put Basa Nova because I had heard good things. Is there a Ramen place you would recommend instead?

                And is Tapas Molecular really not worth it?

                3 Replies
                1. re: KA1555

                  Cool about Beige and L'atelier. I figured so.

                  For Soba what about Owariya in Kyoto? As far as a substitute for Ivan I would do the Soba in Kyoto and do Menya Kissou instead of Ivan for lunch as it's quite amazing and not open for dinner. As for a substitution for Basa Nova, I mean, there are so many Ramen places in Tokyo and it would come down to what your preferences in a bowl of Ramen are. Basa Nova is as good as any I suppose, just keep in mind that it's got a fusion element to it with their Green Curry Ramen and their Tom Yum Ramen.

                  I didn't find anything to be totally wrong with Tapas Molecular Bar but I just wasn't wowed with the food there. I found their techniques to lack any context other than to say "We've deconstructed this dish using these MG techniques" or "this is our take on this classic dish using these MG techniques" I found the dinner to be more about the techniques themselves than the food and some of their techniques weren't executed very well. If you're not familiar with MG than it would be a perfect introduction, almost a beginners guide to MG but I figure you're going to Yamada Chikara as well so why do two MG restaurants?

                  Maybe someone can chime in with a comparison between Yamada Chikara and TMB as I have not been to Yamada Chikara.

                  Also, don't take my word as gospel on this stuff, try to get a second opinion. I could be totally off with my recommendations.

                  1. re: KA1555

                    Oh, I forgot, near your hotel there are two Ramen shops that I really like I don't know if you'll have time to go but just in case I figure why not mention them.

                    Kaijin for their Shio Ramen is great. They list whatever fish was used in the broth that day on the wall on white paper strips.

                    http://www.ramenate.com/2010/03/kaiji...

                    Xian for their Ton Ton Toshoumen.

                    http://www.ramentokyo.com/2009/07/xia...

                    1. re: KA1555

                      I hope your reason for visting Beige is a personal one that has nothing to do with the quality of the food (especially if you consider the price). Beige = pretty average for a Michelin starred French restaurant (and rather expensive), even the other Ducasse place in Tokyo, Benoit, is better (and I am no huge friend of Benoit).

                      Tonki is a good choice if you want tonkatsu. An alternative is butagumi - great quality, but much much more chocie of difefrent cuts of tonkatsu.

                    2. Asomaniac, one of my other great passions, perhaps even greater than that for food, is fashion, and that part of me can't say no to a combination of Ducasse and Chanel. I'm afraid I must visit.

                      Notorious, Thanks for the rec on the Soba place. If anyone has any other recommendations on a must-visit Soba place in Tokyo or Kyoto, it would be appreciated.

                      And the fusion element of Basa Nova is something I was looking forward to, to be honest. Although if anyone has a recommendation for a great soy-based Ramen place...

                      As for Yamada, my understanding is that it is a Japanese take on MG, fusing Japanese cuisine with MG, which is why I was intrigued by it (that and the fact that I'm unsure of whether or not I'll ever have a chance to eat at El Bulli, so I figured I might as well experience the cuisine of someone who has trained there).

                      And this actually is an introduction to MG for me. I split my time between Nashville and DC. There's obviously nothing in the way of MG in Nashville and I have been unable to secure a reservation yet for the Minibar in DC (José Andrés' place, and I believe the only MG restaurant in the area). And while I do visit NY several times a year, unfortunately I'm usually either pressed for time when I go, or the people I'm with aren't foodies.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: KA1555

                        And there it is. Chanel. I can't argue with that my friend.

                        but I do have a recommendation that's right up your alley. At Omotesando Hills, on the outside, street level there is a juice bar called Forbidden Fruit. Forbidden Fruit is actually a nice cafe to stop and grab a drink but in the back of the cafe there lies a winding staircase leading to a secret store called Bedrock.

                        Bedrock is probably the most impressive store from a group called Maniac who are responsible for the lines If 6 was 9 and LGB (Le Grand Bleu) they don't advertise, don't allow their clothing to be photographed, and don't allow photos in their stores but let me tell you, they have some of the most amazing shops in the world. Other than their own lines they carry Rick Owens, Lanvin, Galliano, Ann Demeulmeester, Givenchy, etc.

                        I don't want to ruin it for you so I will not go into detail about the shop but I will say that I wish I was you, about to discover this shop for the first time.

                        Food and fashion, no greater a combination really. Something Maniac has surely figured out.

                        http://www.maniac-co.jp/en/

                        http://www.forbiddenfruit.jp/

                        P.S. You can visit this shop if you end up going to Maisen, on the way to Comme De Garcons, Loveless, Neil Barrett, etc...All basically the same area.

                        1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                          Thanks PIG, I always walk buy forbidden fruit but I never ventured inside - I think it's time to explore!

                        2. re: KA1555

                          Also, funny you mention Minibar as that's what TMB is modeled after.

                          1. re: KA1555

                            And I am afraid I can't argue with you. Fair enough, enjoy!