6 Dinners in Tokyo. What would you change on this list?
Staying a week, in Ginza, late February. we are both a single-major-meal-per-day kind of people, so the main planning is for Dinner. Of course there will be a Tsukiji morning ritual. for lunches I want to rely mainly on Depachika, but maybe also some of the small places for Unagi or Anago(I should check out these for seasonality of course), and maybe also some sampling of yakitori(fuku or birdland). nothing definite there. but for the dinners:
Sunday: Sushi Kanesaka
Monday: Ginza Ukai-tei
Wednesday: Dons de la Nature
Thursday: Sushi Sawada
Friday: Yamamoto (for fugu)
to repeat the title, what would you change on this list? my great regret with this list is the absence of a traditional kaiseki meal, but I decided to leave that for a summer trip to Kyoto. there is also of course a side trip to Hakone for that. my less emphatic regret is the absence of 3 star sushi place, but I am convinced my two choices are definitely good enough.
With regard to lunches, among the vast lunchtime choices available in Tokyo, depachika are one of the weakest options. Unless you're talking about picking up assorted interesting-looking foods and bringing them back to your hotel, which can be fun and adventurous (but maybe not something you'd do all six days).
Also yakitori places are a subset of izakaya and are built around drinking and eating - it's an evening sort of meal. The few yakitoriya open at lunchtime usually have donburi and similar simple offerings; Fuku and Birdland are both open only in the evening.
As for dinners, I think all your choices would be suitable for business entertaining, but not a big barrel of fun. Unless you really like huge formal dinners all the time, at the very least I'd add yakitori in the evening, and maybe an upscale dining bar or a good sake specialist, maybe tempura, and move one sushi to lunchtime (when the fish is fresher). (Personally I would skip one or both of the beef dinners and skip the fugu.)
Depends on what you want to get out of the dinners. For example, there are better sushi places than Kanesaka in the same price range, but Mr Kanesaka speaks English and is very friendly, which may make a big difference to your evening.
Likewise, Ukai-tei is fine for teppanyaki, but I'd probably skip it in favour for something Japanese that is less available abroad. Plus you have Dons de la Nature on your list, which has much better beef than Ukai-tei.
You say there is no traditional kaiseki meal on your list, but unless Yamamoto-san has decided to change back to his more innovative stuff (I have not been for a while), then Ryugin is pretty much a traditional kaiseki restaurant - not so much in terms of the setting or Ryugin's large wine list, but the food is traditional kaiseki. It did not use to be, but maybe two years ago or so the chef decided to abandon his very modern take on kaiseki in favour of a much more traditional approach. Really great sake list as well.
Do you like sake? If so, I recommend Sake no Ana in Ginza. Despite the Ginza address, this is a relatively inexpensive sake restaurant with izakaya food and prices. There are cheaper sake places around, but for variety and knowledgable staff you'll struggle to find too much better.
I wouldn't call Ryugin traditional kaiseki, though the food is much more traditional than it used to be. He still has some tongue-in-cheek plays on the traditional, though it helps to have a very good understanding of Japanese cuisine to understand those plays (I don't have that understanding, so most of it is lost on me). The portions are also much larger than traditional kaiseki.
I'd call it traditional kaiseki with a modern slant, definitely no more of a departure from the traditional, unless he is changing again. He actually said himself that he had always planned to be a traditional kaiseki chef, enjoyed the experimentation but now he is back to mainly traditional kaiseki. That was less than a year ago, not sure if he has shifted further since.
Someone said that he is now considering becoming more modern / unconventional again, but I don't know how much truth there is to that.
You are right that some (though certainly not all) of the dishes come in quite healthy portion sizes. Not a meal for small eaters.
Totally agree with Robb. I would ditch both Ukai and Dons and replace with upscale dining bar/ izakaya where you will be served seasonal Japanese specialties as opposed to, ugh, steak- twice! If you're dead set on eating beef, maybe seek out a high end shabu shabu restaurant. Teppanyaki is so dated. It's what foreigners will get taken to for non-threatening, hefty expense account dinners. I would also consider a hot pot, motsu nabe, or perhaps oden restaurant since it will be winter and these are common and unique Japanese specialties for that season. You might also want to think about one or more of your evenings spread out over two small plates restaurants as this is part of the Tokyo dining ethos...If you want a 3-star sushi restaurant, just go to Mizutani....Lastly, unless you have some heath factor involved that is keeping you close to your hotel, I would consider spreading your wings beyond Ginza for dinner. Tokyo is a large, dynamic city with very distinct and interesting neighborhoods. And many of them are really better visited in the evening or at night. The public transportation system is very easy to use and since 2002 World Cup, is especially English-friendly.
thank you everyone. what I hear you say in sum is that the list is too Ginza, too expense-acounty, and too beefy. ok. what if I change ukai tei to birdland, and yamamoto for an izakaya joint outside Ginza. that would be a step in the right direction, right? then I should think about sake specialists
Birdland, which I hear is tasty, is also in Ginza. There are a ton of good yakitori shops throughout the city- although the oft-mentioned Fuku is clear on the other side of town in a residential neighborhood. Might want to explore another option in another part of town you plan to visit for sightseeing or shopping. Ginza/ Yurakucho is a nice commercial area (a la Midtown 5th Avenue in NYC), but I'm not sure how repeatedly interesting anyone would find it.
Have you checked out Robb's site bento.com? You can search by type of restaurant- i.e. izakaya, nabemono (hot pot), oden, yakitori, etc. There's a lot of good places listed there. Michelin is fine for highend dining, but the heart and soul of Japanese cuisine is probably better represented elsewhere.