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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
Tuesday: Ryugin
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.

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  1. For Anago, Anago Tamai in Nihonbashi muromachi is a killa.

    1. 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.)

      1. 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.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Asomaniac

          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.

          1. re: prasantrin

            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.

        2. 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.

          1. 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

            2 Replies
            1. re: shekamoo

              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.

              1. re: Silverjay

                what a great resource is this website, thank you!!

            2. why not change Kanesaka and Sawada for Mizutani and Saito? sure it might be more expensive so try go during lunch!

              yea dont go to Ukai-tei!

              you should definitely put Ishikawa on there.

              1. Tetsuya's guide to the Ginza:

                * Sushiko honten
                * Star Bar
                * Ishikawa
                * Tempura Ten-Asa
                * Ukai-tei
                * Tanaka
                * Beige
                * Bird Land


                3 Replies
                  1. re: anarcist

                    Beige: very overpriced and not that great.

                    1. re: anarcist

                      Wow, he really likes Ginza, doesn't he? Admittedly it's perked up a bit in the last few years, but it's still kind of past its sell-by date...

                    2. I just find it funny that you are eating fugu on your last night. lol

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: Monica

                        I'm not sure what the point is of your drive-by snark, but OP already said they were planning to change that.

                        1. re: Robb S

                          yes I have indeed dropped it and moved Sawada to the last dinner. maybe Monica is thinking of the Last Supper?

                          1. re: Robb S

                            well, I am sorry I didn't read the whole thing but I found it funny that Shekamoo was having fugu on the last night...like he/she said sort of like the Last supper...It was someething that just ran into my head. geez, can't stand some of the narrow minded people here.

                            1. re: Monica

                              Ah, I get it now. I forgot that outside Japan fugu still has a reputation for being dangerous, even though nowadays it's safer than eating an American egg. My association with fugu is simply that it's overpriced, overrated, and underflavored. (Anyway, didn't intend to be narrow-minded - please carry on.)

                              1. re: Robb S

                                On that: why is it that fugu is so popular here? The sashimi is - at least to my primitive palate - totally devoid of flavour, a bit too firm-textured for my taste and overall totally underwhelming.

                                I would love to understand the appeal but I don't get it. I have had some decent fugu as part of multiple course fugu meal, but it was what they did to it that made it enjoyable; the actual base material is uninteresting.

                                  1. re: Asomaniac

                                    I rather like fugu. The way I see it, it's like a Western-Japanese equivalent of what ankou is in Eastern-Japan.

                                    That is, in winter, you can communally enjoy a whole fish. I think it is best just to have three courses: yu-biki (lightly-boiled skin), tessa (sashimi), and tecchiri (hotpot). I've had more on other occasions, but I think this is best.

                                    What I enjoy is the difference in texture between the skin and the flesh, and also the comfort of the hotpot (seeing as it is in winter). I like my sashimi to have a bit of resistance, and I generally prefer shiromi (white-flesh) to akami (red-flesh).

                                    The unfortunate thing is that you can't really enjoy the liver like you can with ankou (for obvious reasons). But for that extra bit of variety, you can have pickled fugu ransou (ovary) or fugu shirako (milt). I quite like the shirako as tempura.

                                    1. re: Asomaniac

                                      I was told people liked the texture and the flavour. Remember, Japanese generally appreciate subtlety, and the flavour of fugu is considered to be delicate and is most definitely subtle (so subtle I, for one, cannot discern any).

                                      1. re: prasantrin

                                        Infinitely more interesting than eating fugu is swimming with them while scuba diving. They've got a funky little propulsion system and can hover around like helicopters and then jet boost in an instant. And of course, they are really cute.

                            2. changes to my list:

                              Dinner: dropped dons de la nature and yamamoto
                              added birdland and kondo
                              lunch: added sushiko honten. nodaiwa for unagi. will try anago as well
                              tsukiji breakfast: sushi dai
                              ukai tei stays on the list because my wife would like to see how teppanyaki is done in Japan
                              this being a February trip we prefer to stay close to our hotel for dinner, will tour the city by day. Tokyo is doubtless amazing at night, we will do more nightly wandering when we go back in september

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: shekamoo

                                I've recently been to Sushi Kanesaka and Sushi Saito, both during lunchtime, both were great. I would rather go back to Sushi Saito if I had to choose one of them, but couldn't you add Saito for lunch and keep Kanesaka for dinner?

                                1. re: Ffromsaopaulo

                                  well I already have 4 sushi meals in one week, 2 dinners (sawada, kanesaka) , one lunch (sushiko honten) and one breakfast (sushi dai). apart from idiosyncratic problems with saito, I think doing more than 4 sushi meals in one week would be excessive. don't you agree?

                                  1. re: shekamoo

                                    I agree. 4 sushi meals a week is a lot, I normally just choose 2 on my trip to Tokyo. Moreover, Kanesaka and Saitou are a bit similar, both were trained in Kyubei and I think Saitou-san was a disciple of Kanesaka-san back then.