We are booked to pay a visit to Ishikawa next month. It seems that the restaurant has not been discussed on this board (unless my search abilities are sub-par, which is entirely possible). Has anyone ever been? If so, what did you think of the food and sake?
I went to Ishikawa on my last trip and had a wonderful meal. Highlights included my very first duck tempura, snow crab with broth jelly topped with crab liver, a charcoal grilled kinki fish, and steamed rice with dried mullet roe. I'd provide a link to my blog for the full details and pics, but providing links to personal websites is frowned upon by chowhound (unless you happen to be a moderator in which case they'll let it slide).
Anyway, in addition to the food itself, the service was exceptional and Ishikawa-san himself made it a point to stop by (we had a private room) to serve us, chat, and eventually see us off.
From an interview with Tetsuya Wakuda:
“Ishikawa is just so refined,” says Wakuda. “You can eat so many dishes, but each one comes out perfect; other places, over the course of a meal, something will be too salty or too sour. Not here. Whatever he uses, he nails it.” One of Tokyo’s first non-sushi Japanese restaurants to score three Michelin stars, Ishikawa consists of a handful of small, minimally decorated rooms in which chef Ishikawa Hideki presents contemporary kaiseki-style dishes of subtle brilliance in the vein of yuzu-scented shiitake broth studded with torn scallops, shreds of fried beancurd or the extraordinary cod milt, oyster and spinach with melted beancurd-skin sauce. His cream cheese soup with persimmon and jellies of rum and brown sugar is the Japanese dessert raised to new art. A healthy selection of both white and red Burgundy doesn’t hurt, either. Book way, way in advance, and do whatever you have to to secure that table – this guy is some kind of genius. Takamura Bldg, 5-37 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, +81 3 5225 0173
I went earlier this year and had a very nice meal. The food was very good. It was among the best kaiseki meals I've enjoyed in Tokyo, and the service I enjoyed there was the best service I have ever experienced at any restaurant in my life. The food was imaginative. The ceramics they used were beautiful. Ishikawa has collected ceramics his whole life and put them to use in that restaurant, and if you are a ceramics aficionado as I am you will love the dishes. I would go back in a heartbeat.
That being said, I was not aware of the reputation they have or the fact that they got 3 michelin stars until weeks after I ate there. The night I dined there my friend just told me to meet her at the train station and I had no idea what to expect. I must say I was at least a little surprised at the three star rating. Although I thought it was a great restaurant, I cannot put it on the level of a place like Kanda. Although some dishes were admittedly perfect, for three stars I expect to be blown away. I can't say I got that wow factor. Surprisingly dessert was the most memorable course. They made a sort of panna cotta with green tea mouse, but they poured a loose jelly over it that was made from rice crackers that was unbelievable. It was a great idea that I've tried in vain to replicate. Regardless, you are in for a great experience. Sit at the counter if you can. I think I talked to the chef and Ishikawa-san for almost the full three hours I was there. They were so unbelievably hospitable I can't even describe it. The hospitality alone was worth the price.
The sake list was very good, although a little small. Some cultish labels. I think I drank a bottle of Ju-Yondai that was great.
re: Uncle Yabai
I'm sorry I don't remember which juyondai it was. In addition to bottles I know they have at least one kind of juyondai by the glass, but we drank a lot and my memories are too cloudy to recall what they were. That's why I didn't post immediately after you put this thread up - I can't write a precise review of the restaurant because it was so long ago. Nobody else responded so I thought I'd go ahead and put in my two cents so this thread at least had a couple responses.
Asomaniac are you sitting at the counter?
Uncle Yabai are you guys going together?
Please give us a review and tell us how it goes.
Thank you again for getting the ball rolling - very helpful contributions from you and the other posters. Really makes me want to bring the dining date forward!
Indeed - cranky old Uncle Yabai and I are going to be dining together. I have not specifically asked the restaurant, but assume that we will not be sitting at the counter - we will be accompanied by our other and no doubt better halves, and if I am informed correctly, Ishikawa only accept a party of 3 or less for the counter. (In any event conversation among four would be hard at the counter so it makes much more sense to get a private room, though it is a shame we will miss out on seeing the chef in action.)
Will post a review after the event.
It’s been more than 3 years or so that I’ve not done my serious foodie trip. Many things, mostly positive, have happened within those years. A few weeks ago, finally I had a vacation in which food was the integral part in our schedule and this time I didn’t travel and dine alone anymore. Previously, it’s no brainer that Europe especially France would be my main destinations. But, this time was different; we decided to go to Japan, a country with the most Michelin-star restaurants. The last time I came here was 6 years ago – just before Michelin invaded the land of the Rising Sun. And I would begin the review of our “serious” restaurants visit (more to come later) with Kagurazaka Ishikawa, a place that many people are probably familiar with.
As warned by friends, restaurant in Japan is generally not easy to find unless it’s located in the hotel. Things were even more complicated if one’s not familiar with how to read Tokyo’s address. To reduce the hustle, make sure that you have the picture of the restaurant’s entrance. Ishikawa is located behind Bishamon temple; it’s tucked away in a black timber of (Takamura) building. Once you find it, just enter a corridor where you can see a small garden at the end; the entrance is on your right. As we entered the building, the waitresses in kimono greeted us and took care of our coats and other stuffs. We’re happy to be seated in middle of the counter that can occupy up to 7 diners. There are 2 menus and we opted for a more expensive selection; the set menu consisted of 9 courses and ‘gaikokujin’ were given the English description what we’re about to eat that night.
There are plenty of delicious dishes here. I liked the first 2 items:
- Fresh and sweet snow crab with refreshing ‘sauce’, jelly-like that’s a mixture of dashi and vinegar
- Deep fried rice cake stuffed with simmered turtle. I enjoyed this tempura-style dish, in particular its texture (crunchy and a bit chewy). Also, it’s not oily at all
Some other memorable dishes were,
- Seared puffer fish. We liked its freshness and interesting texture; the dish’s flavour should mainly derived from the grated radish sauce and ponzu
- The grilled Nodoguro was fragrant and very tasty, and so were the Maitake mushroom. Together, they’re a good combination from the sea and the forest
- The specialty dish combined plenty of delicacies in a small cup. The snapper was succulent while the shirako was stand out. The sauce was umami with some sweet and salty flavor. An excellent dish
I heard that Ishikawa’s rice dish is often spectacular. For instance, he put lots of uni, hotate or awabi before. However, I was slightly disappointed knowing my rice dish was “only” served with Tai paste and Japanese pickles. It was not bad but I had expected something more elaborate and delicious. The positive note was that the rice was freshly harvested since it’s an Autumn. The service was world class. Guests could easily feel and notice the enthusiasm of the waitresses as well as the cooks & chef. Ishikawa-san is very modest, funny, easy-going and observant. He gave us a spoon when he thoughts that we might struggle eating the rice with dashi. Our communication were mixed of my elementary Japanese and the chef’s basic English, but his genuity mattered more. The restaurant’s ambiance is relaxing and friendly, very far from a rigid feeling that one may encounter in other Japanese places. While the counter still got an empty seat, all of the private rooms at Ishikawa seemed to be fully occupied. Overall, the food is oishii and the service is impeccable; a very pleasant experience indeed. In my note, it’s 95/100 (the equivalent of Michelin 2 ¾*)
Hi MichelinStarDinners, thanks for reading.
Better than Ishikawa? On top of my head, I would say Matsukawa in Tokyo and Kitcho in Kyoto. Possibly one more place that I kinda forgot ..
The thing is Ishikawa has better value of money than the 2 restaurants I mentioned above. It's also more English-friendly to guests. Well, Kitcho's staff for your 'room' will almost certain speak fluent English, but you may not have many interaction with the chef