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Tokyo Visit - 3 Lunches 3 Dinners

Hey all,

I'm stopping in tokyo for a few days of eating after touring some other parts of asia. Was planning on trying to visit these places:

(lunches)
hirosaku
mizutani
kondo

(dinners)
shigeyoshi
kawamura
sawada

(snacks)
hidemi sugino

A few questions:

sawada - Is anyone familiar with the various pricing options for dinner? I know i've heard 20k yen nigiri only (not available lunch), 30k with sashimi. but i've also heard mention of a 50k menu as well. Is anyone familiar with what this includes? More rare shellfish? Do you know if you specify your menu preference when you make reservations, or when you arrive?

New Year's - I was planning on visiting January 5-8. I assume restaurants would not still be closed for holiday by now, correct?

kawamura - I suspect will be the most difficult reservation to obtain. Any good alternatives for a steakhouse for a single diner? I've heard most tokyo steakhouses sell cuts for two or more people.

shigeyoshi - I picked this spot after reading a compelling blog post -- I was particularly intrigued by their turtle soup. Is this a decent choice over some of the other more well documented spots (koju, ishikawa, etc?) If i'm choosing one kaiseki restaurant, primarily to sample exotic ingredients, is this my best choice? I've also seen suggestions for tomura. Anywhere more highly recommended?

Snacks - This will be my third time in tokyo, so i'm primarily focusing on high end places, but suggestions for anything really unique or great would be appreciated, especially if they are near ginza or akihabara.

Thanks!!!

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  1. Personally, i do think that the 'maguro(=tuna)' is an exceptionnal ingredient of the sushi-yasan of Tokyo. Actually, the best pieces are to be found only in Tsukiji ans sold directly to the high-ends of Ginza... This is perhaps the reason i am enjoying so much the sushi Araki with its omakase at 23,000.-yens, where different maguro was used in April and in August. This was also true for the other pieces..
    As for sushi Sawada price of 50,000.-yens, sorry, never heard of it. On the net, there is a reference that its price just increased to 35,000.-yens, but can not confirm...
    For a special snack, on morning before the opening of Akihabara megastores, if you want to eat a katsu-sandwich made by a meat specialist 
    CAFE TRIM ( OPEN FROM 7:00 AM ~ ) 
    http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1310/A131...
    http://blog.goo.ne.jp/deuce1121/e/a23...
    Or a cold sweet drink 7mn walk form Ginza, go to the Shin-Marunouchi Bldg for a "chocolat n`est ce pas ?'' :
    JAPANESE CHOCOLATIER PALET D`OR - SHIN-MARUNOUCHI BLDG - TOKYO STATION
    http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1302/A130...
    http://super-sweets.jp/report/japan/j...
    ... Turtle soup is an aphrodisiac...  

    23 Replies
    1. re: Ninisix

      >> Actually, the best pieces are to be found only in Tsukiji ans sold directly to the high-ends of Ginza

      would you say tuna quality is a primary distinguishing feature of top ginza sushi spots?

      >> As for sushi Sawada price of 50,000.-yens, sorry, never heard of it.

      I must have read incorrectly, or remembered incorrectly. anyway, are mizutani and sawada a decent pair, if i want to maximize ingredient variety, especially for shellfish?

      >> ... Turtle soup is an aphrodisiac...

      turns out i likely won't be visiting alone after all, so that is good. :-)

      thanks!

      1. re: Dustin_E

        Turtle soup avoid it, I just wanted to say that it is not food, just joking as it is an aphrodisiac also... Try instead an Izakaya like shinsuke in Okachimachi (=1st floor if you can book it).
        Sushi Sawada-San at around 30,000.-yens, you will have plenty... And beleive me I can be a big eater !! So, this is the reason why I don't understand the 50,000.-yens. Is it with drinks ? If you find the review on it, please share it ! Sawada-san is a seafood genious, he had the idea of using 'uni(=sea urchin)' like eggs and marrying it with other seafoods, steamed them, ... So if you like them ... and the first time I went there, he gave me 4 pieces of maguro !!! Si good, so fondant, so sweet..The onigiri set was not as impressive.
        Sushi Mizutani is a disciple of Ono Jiro (=Sushi Sukiyabashi Jiro), and the omakase in lunch was around 15,000.-yens for a 'nigiri' set of 20 pieces, a graduation of lighter to stronger flavour, white fish, squid, tuna, macquerel, shellfish, boiled prawn...don't expect to have interlocution with Mizutani-san.. Mizutani-san is very proud also of his selection of maguro..standard feature of a great great Ginza Sushi-yasan

        1. re: Ninisix

          Avoid turtle soup because it is gross? tasteless? any other 'exotic' kaiseki ingredients you'd suggest i seek out to take its place? would you instead recommend a place for abalone or crab?

          you're right, I should probably book an Izakaya -- thanks for the shinsuke recomendation.

          Re sawada 50k Yen, I'm remembering the reviews wrong. Here chuckeats said "it costs as much as any restaurant in Europe but it reaches, and attains, a higher perfection.", which i took to mean there is a more expensive menu than 30k yen:
          http://www.chuckeats.com/2010/06/21/s...
          I also might be remembering a Kyubei or Kanesaka review, but even that i might be remembering incorrectly.

          Anyway, if i'm most interested in sushi ingredients i can't find in the US, are sawada and mizutani my best picks?

          thanks!

          1. re: Dustin_E

            Here below a photo of the turtle nabe (not tasty, chewy, and not exactly a pleasure for the eyes !)
            http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1311/A131...
            Nice review by Chuckeats, he seems to have like a lot Sukiyabashi Jiro (=my little master yoda!), the one I prefer over Mizutani-san.... But you can't go wrong with Mizutani or Sawada. On the omakase at 30,000.-yens at Sawada, you 
            might have abalone, just ask your hotel to confirm. 
            Fishes are quiet seasonnal, like sanma in automn, or crab in winter, ... In what season you are planning to visit Tokyo ? And  why not trying the 'ankimo(monkfish lever)', 'tako(=octopus)', 'bazashi(sashimi of horse meat)', 'leverzashi(sashimi of lever)', 'fugu(pufferfish or globefish)', 'ika-somen(squid noodle)', ...  

            1. re: Ninisix

              I'll be visiting in early January for ~4 nights.

              Ankimo is a good idea -- i love ankimo, but have never had it in Japan.

              I visited Tsukiji Yamamoto a couple years ago and loved it. I was considering trying Usukifugu Yamamoto this trip. How different are fugu meals?

              ... that turtle soup does not look good. I remember now i actually had it as one of the courses at Kikunoi Honten in Kyoto a couple years ago, but I wasn't served the blood or broth i've seen shown in other pictures. Regardless, it wasn't particularly memorable.

              I'd prefer to visit Jiro in Ginza, but don't speak Japanese. If I have my hotel book a spot, arrive, nod and pay cash, would he serve us?

              I was hoping to find a Kaiseki spot or two that would serve me most of the seasonal delicasies in a single meal. Any suggestions for that?

              I've never heard of leverzashi. What is it?

              I have mixed feelings about bazashi... But is there a spot for it you would recommend?

              I've had ika-somen only once before, earlier this year at Kappa in San Francisco. Anywhere you recommend for it?

              Is abalone the key rare shellfish you find in only high-end sushi meals? Or are there other uncommon clams and crustaceans they serve? I believe Masa in NYC served a red clam or something that i haven't seen elsewhere.

              thanks!

              1. re: Dustin_E

                Sorry if I'm off base here, since I could only follow one-half of this thread, but if you're looking for raw horsemeat (basashi), I can highly recommend Bakuro in Ebisu (http://www.bento.com/rev/3352.html ).

                It's definitely not high-end sushi or kaiseki though, so maybe not your style.

                1. re: Robb S

                  thanks for the recommendation. Horse meat is not really at the top of my too-try list. but do you think it should be?

                  1. re: Dustin_E

                    Well I don't know what else you've tried. If this is your first trip to Japan, I'd say don't limit yourself to Michelin-starred kaiseki and sushi, but try out some less formal places that serve food that regular people eat on a day-to-day basis. Maybe some gourmet yakitori, some good but not exorbitant tempura, an upscale izakaya/dining bar that does charcoal-grilled meats, that sort of thing. Horse wouldn't be on the top of the list, no.

                    1. re: Robb S

                      i'll have to get around to trying horse at some point, but perhaps not this trip.

                      this is my third trip, and it's a lot shorter, so i was planning on focusing on high-end sushi, kaiseki, and beef. and maybe tempura, izakaya, and a ramen as well.

                      since i'm not traveling solo anymore, my itinerary has become:

                      (dinners)
                      sushi: mizutani, jiro, or sawada
                      kaiseki: tomura, shigeyoshi, or kadowaki
                      beef: dons de la nature or gorio
                      an izakaya -- no idea which one. maybe there is one known for ankimo?

                      (lunches)
                      sushi: miyako, or other similarly priced spot
                      kaiseki: hirosaku
                      beef: ukai-tei
                      tempura: kondo

                      and hopefully a bowl of ramen and some pastries here and there...

                      1. re: Dustin_E

                        Too much to say...'Ankimo' is a must, 'shiro leverzashi(=sashimi of chicken lever)' due to recent restriction on raw meat (exception on horse meat) is not anymore found in yakitori-yasan, 'awabi(=abalone)' can be found in mid range sushi-yasan named also as 'kotobushi', 'ika-somen' is to be eaten like noodles and splunge in a 'tare(=sauce)' last one was at Otaru sushi in the 14F of Takashimaya Shinjuku... And if you are coming in january, it will warm you up to have a 'nabe(=hot pot)' and on a kaiseki course, my best is ones have been at Yamasaki in Iidabashi....

                        1. re: Dustin_E

                          Sushi: I would pick Sawada over Mizutani or Jiro. I prefer the 2 stars over the two 3 stars. But Mizutani is more traditional and Sawada has his own unique style so if you want to stick to the traditional one, Mizutani maybe a better choice.
                          Kaiseki: Never tried Shigeoyoshi. Tomura and Kadowaki are both top notch, can't go wrong with either one, just depend on your taste bud. Kadowaki is more modern style kaiseki, he will include foreign ingredient, for example, his signature dish at the end is truffle rice, a dish to die for. Tomura is more Zen-like, nothing fancy or much decoration in his food. Ebi taste like ebi but you wonder why his ebi taste the best. Both are very expensive though.
                          Beef: I prefer Shabu shabu, sukiyaki, yakiniku over steak. But if steak is what you like, consensus is that Dons is the best choice.
                          Izakaya (ankimo): I will recommend Sawaichi. It is a high end seafood place. The ex chef of Nabura just moved and opened this new restaurant. Just type Sawaichi or Nabura on the Search function and you will get the review I wrote on the past thread. I like to go to this place in the winter time, beside ankimo, I will order shirako, anko nabe, kawahagi, the whole sashimi squid, kinki nitsuke, sharkfin chawamushi etc etc.

                          Kaiseki: Hirosaku is great value for lunch. Very good choice. Soba there is the best I ever tried. They also serve Turtle soup but only for dinner. Unlike others here, I like turtle soup. But Hirosaku gets very expensive for dinner.
                          Beef: again I am not much of a tenpanyaki fan. Seem like this is the big difference between Western and Asian foodies. Westerners seem to look for steak and teppanyaki while Asians prefer shabu, sukiyaki or yakiniku.
                          Tempura: I would opt for Yokota instead of Kondo. Yes, Kondo earns 2 stars and Yokota 1 star in Michelin but IMHO Yokota is way better than Kondo. But I recall Yokota only open for dinner.

                          Hope my comments are helpful.

                          1. re: FourSeasons

                            very helpful, thank you very much.

                            your shanghai recs were spot-on, so i'm inclined to follow your advice. (also, sorry for not giving input for your sf trip -- didn't catch your post until the trip was over. but you ended up hitting most everything i would have strongly recommended, except for una pizza.)

                            anyway, this is the tokyo itinerary i'm leaning towards:

                            (dinners)
                            tomura - kaiseki
                            sawaichi - izakaya seafood
                            ishibashi - beef
                            yokota - tempura

                            (lunches)
                            jiro or mizutani - traditional sushi
                            sawada - modern sushi
                            hirosaku - soba / lunch kaiseki
                            funayado kappo shiokaze - fish
                            hidemi sugino - cake

                            i might be too seafood heavy, so might sub out a sushi or fish lunch for yakiniku or ramen or something else.

                            one question: for tomura, in the michelin guide, i see a wide range of prices. do you have any feel for what the highest levels include that aren't there in the lower levels? do you know if two people dining together can order at different price levels? thanks again. i really appreciate it.

                            1. re: Dustin_E

                              Re Tomura: I recall I ordered the Yen30-35k menu. I know he has a Yen50k menu but don't know what the difference is since that price range is beyond my budget. I don't think he will allow two persons order different price range but no harm asking for such request. Again, just need to emphasize Tomura's style is to focus on the original taste of the ingredients, so his dishes would look very simple. Eggplant looks like eggplant; prawn looks like prawn; unagi like unagi. Not much deco, not much sauce but the food just out of this world. Look simple yet complex. Just to make sure this is what you like.

                              1. re: FourSeasons

                                thanks very much. yes, this sounds like exactly what i'm looking for. it sounds a little bit like kanda, which i visited a few years ago, but more traditional and with higher-end ingredients.

                                1. re: FourSeasons

                                  I had no idea Tomura was so difficult to book. Supposedly they are already booked for every night in december. guess i will have to save this one for next trip.

                              2. re: FourSeasons

                                For Sawaichi, do you suggest a set menu, or ordering a la carte?

                                I was presented with a 10k, 13k, 15k choice of set menu, but i wonder if there are some other items that can be only ordered a la carte?

                                thanks.

                                1. re: Dustin_E

                                  looks like sawaichi only offers a la carte, at least when i'm visiting. hopefully it includes ankimo, shirako, anko nabe, kawahagi, the whole sashimi squid, kinki nitsuke, sharkfin chawamushi etc.

                                  1. re: Dustin_E

                                    Re Tomura: yes, forgot to warn you it is tough to book. Not only that, Tomura-san prefers only regular and may set some condition for new comers. The first time I booked, he insisted to the hotel concierge to confirm the payment if there were no show and cancellation was not allowed.

                                    Re Sawaichi: No, I never order set but it is available. I go to Kaiseki places if I want omakase set but in Sawaichi, I want to order what I like to eat instead of the other way round. Beware that English is not spoken there, only Japanese menu too. Does your GF speak Mandarin since that maybe helpful because the one of the waitress spoke Mandarin on my last visit. If your party is small, I would suggest you sit at the counter as well as you get to see what other patrons eat and can just point and order dishes that look good to you.
                                    I normally started with sashimi where I will pick less popular ones that are not offered on my visit to Sushiya. This usually include the Whole squid (the squid is still alive in their tank), kawahagi, botanebi (or fudoebi), kishiu, akamutsu and some oysters etc. Followed by appetizers like ankimo, shirako, sharkfin chawamushi (if you are poitically correct, can substitute uni instead of sharkfin) and salad. Then kinki nitsuke. Finally end with a hot pot. If anko nabe is not available, you can get kue naba, fugu nabe (both are winter dish, I prefer kue to fugu) or even kinmedai shabu shabu (but if you end up at Kadowaki, don't order kinmedai shabu here as it is served at Kadowaki on my visit there so potentially duplicating the experience). And they will ask you if you want porridge close towards the end of the nabe dish. Just say "yes"; the porridge is very good. That type of order is usually for 4 persons. But I do notice Americans are not crazy over soup-based dishes like Asians do so you may want to omit the nabe. They still have other very delicious such as miso abalone with uni, anago with radish, hokkaido crab etc. I hope you will enjoy the meal.

                                    1. re: FourSeasons

                                      great, thanks very much for the tips.

                                      actually, many of the restaurants we booked told the hotel that cancellations weren't allowed, and we would be charged 100% if we didn't cancel far enough ahead of time. sawada, jiro, hirosaku, yokota, ishibashi also proved to be impossible reservations to make... ah well, next time.

                                      interesting sawaichi told us only a 10k, 12k, 15k set menu was available the night we are visiting -- maybe because we booked through a hotel concierge via email in english? i dunno. my gf does speak mandarin, so maybe we should look into this further.

                                      in all we ended up booking

                                      sushiso masa
                                      kadowaki
                                      7chome kyoboshi (lunch)
                                      sawaichi
                                      ryugin

                                      which is somewhat ironic, because i went in looking for very traditional takes on the various cuisines, and all of these are very modern takes :-) but considering the difficulty of booking right before the holidays, i think this is a pretty solid spread.

                                      also, and i don't know if it is because of their recent michelin promotion, or because we booked for new year's eve, but ryugin offered only a 32,000 yen menu set, which is a lot higher than any other reports i've seen.

                                      should be a great trip!

                                      1. re: Dustin_E

                                        a part of me wonders if sawaichi's set menu is going to be too similar to kadowaki and ryugin, if we should cancel one of the three, or maybe even two of the three and go somewhere else. (something beef maybe.)

                                        we did ryokan kaiseki three nights in a row a couple years ago in kyoto (hiiragiya, kanamean, tawaraya) and by the end, they all kind of just blended together.

                                    2. re: Dustin_E

                                      >> looks like sawaichi only offers a la carte, at least when i'm visiting.

                                      i meant to say they only offered us a set menu. they said they weren't serving a la carte that night:

                                      "Unfortunately, Sawaichi doesn't have any a la caete menu on December."

                                      1. re: Dustin_E

                                        Re reservation: yes, those on your list are tough to book through hotel concierge. First, they really prefer regulars to tourists. Second: they don't speak much English there. Third: they are very small and intimate so a cancellation would easily cause a big drop in sales. But it is not impossible to book. Sawada: if you are willing to confirm the payment even if you cancel or don't show up, I think Sawada-san will accept the reservation. Yokota: they don't want to go through concierge so get one of your Japanese-speaking friends to call on your behalf to book the reservation. Jiro: the Ginza branch insist a Japanese speaking person in your party but this is not an issue with its Roppongi Hill branch.

                                        Re Sawaichi: that is really strange they don't have an ala carte menu for December. I don't ever recall that ever happen to me. I suspect they maybe worried to serve ala carte menu to tourists as they don't speak English. Or could they be facing food supply constraint in late December that they want to keep the inventory low to accept only set menu? I don't know. But the set at Ryugin and Kadowaki are higher end and more refined than Sawaichi, as you can tell from the price. So if you need to cancel one of the three, I would say just cancel Sawaichi. To me, Swaichi is higher end than izakaya but not as refined as the well known kaiseki places, so I go there to order the seafood I like in ala carte menu. Without that privilege due to festive season, may as well settled for the other two. You may look for a beef or yakitori place to substitute this one. They are less difficult to book than sushi/kaiseki anyway.

                                        Re Ryugin & Kadowaki: yes, you are likely to see some similar ingredients in their set. They are both kaiseki so likely to incorporate the same seasonal ingredients of the month. But culinary style is quite different though. Kadowaki is kappo style, so you sit at the counter infront of the chef (Note: please ask for the counter seat, not the private room, the interaction with the chef is quite interesting and Kadowaki san can speak elementary English). He is quite traditional but may use foreign ingredients. Ryugin, on the other hand, is more like fine dining in a restaurant. Not sure what his current style is since the chef likes to experiment so often but there is a lot of art and deco on his dishes. Yes, at Yen32k seem to be on the high side, perhaps it is NY eve, I seriously doubt if it is due to Michelin.

            2. >> New Year's - I was planning on visiting January 5-8. I assume restaurants would not still be closed for holiday by now, correct?

              Nope. Most places stay closed the full week after.

              Tomura - closed through January 4th.
              Sukiyabashi Jiro - closed through January 5th
              Kadowaki - closed through January 9th
              Hirosaku - closed through January 9th

              maybe i'll try visiting a week later or a week earlier.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Dustin_E

                You seem to be a regular visitor to Japan, so this isn't directed at you personally. But for other people's benefits- those who are researching and coming across this thread- the first week of January is the worst week in the year to dine out in Japan. I would recommend avoiding traveling to Japan that week altogether OR booking ryokan/hotel stays with meals included OR doing extra due diligence research to confirm restaurants are open (i.e. contacting the restaurant directly not just asking on the Japan board). Some domestic tourist destinations will remain open through this time, but you need to research thoroughly.

                1. re: Silverjay

                  Thanks, yeah, i had thought the new year's period lasted a few days, not a whole week or two. i was wrong.

                  1. re: Dustin_E

                    It really depends on the size of the shop. Most department stores are open January 2, a few are open January 1. Chain restaurants take a much shorter holiday than small restaurants or high-end places. Don't worry, you won't starve!