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Tokyo Review

l
lennardy May 7, 2012 09:56 AM

So I got back from my 10 day trip to tokyo a few days ago, I managed to do a pretty decent amount of eating, for anyone that might find this useful, here are my thoughts, I'll list the restaurants first:

All pics are here: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?se...

Sushi Kanesaka: I cancelled my reservation at Mizutani and 'replaced' it with a lunch at kanesaka. I had the 10,000yen menu. I enjoyed it, I had the whole bar to myself. I felt the rice overpowered the fish a little, but I thoroughly enjoyed the uni, kuruma ebi, hamaguri, chutoro. I struggled with the Chako or mantis shrimp, really really bad texture imo. Im not a fan of tamago but I was surprised by the texture of the one served at Kanesaka. Service was very professional yet friendly, I did feel a little stressed out eating alone with what I felt was the whole waiting staff team staring from behind.

Atelier Joel Robuchon: I had no intention of coming here initially, I walked in to Sushi Saito only to be (very politely) turned away. I called Robuchon to make a last minute reservation and got in. I should say first and foremost that I have never dined at a robuchon restaurant, and I was very glad I made the decision to dine at the Atelier. I had the degustation menu which I felt was a steal at 14200yen. A lot of japanese influence and ingredients. I had a starter of dublin bay prawns with blood orange and carrot, the combination of flavors was mind blowingly good. Both mains I had (Amadei and lamb) were very nicely cooked, the lamb was one of the best cooked proteins I've ever had, I was trying to figure out if it was done sous vide, if it isn't, im pretty sure its very slowly roasted at low temp, melt in your mouth tender. Very happy with my meal here, staff didn't have a very good grasp of english, but were always willing to check and answer my (many) questions

Akasaka Kikunoi: This was lunch with chowhounder Asomaniac, it was born out of my previous thread where I was desperately looking for someone to go to Les creations with me. I cant fault what akasaka served, but most of it didn't stand out to me. One major criticism was the texture of the Tai sashimi they served, very chewy and difficult to break down. The grilled tofu with miso was one of the best things I ate on the trip though

L'Effervescence: Alot of dishes felt uncompleted, few components in each dish and they didnt really spark to life. I was a little disappointed when i bit into the signature 4h cooked turnip, but when I started to eat it together with the parsley sauce and iberico croutons, the dish started to make a lot of sense, the parsley worked really well with the turnip, by the time i was done eating it, it was easily the best dish of the meal. Another standout was an amuse of lemon-thyme granita that they served, the texture of it was nice. Everything else was alright. Service was excellent, place was nice

Tapas Molecular bar: Felt like a 101 class to Molecular cuisine. I had the whole bar to myself, and met two of the most friendly chefs out there. The only issue was that the food simply wasnt that great. I have been to El Bulli and the Fat Duck so maybe a lot of the novelty was lost on me, there were 2-3 good dishes, the drunken shrimp, spring landscape(batter used to fry the vegetables was amazing), maybe the sizzling beef were all good. The signature xiaolongbao could have used more stock to give a bigger burst of liquid when you bit into it. I disliked the spherified clam soup. The view is definitely worth going early for, just to sit down and have a drink while overlooking the tokyo skyline. You can also overlook the tokyo skyline while taking a leak at the bathroom on the 38th floor

Kondo: I was surprised by how much I liked the meal. I thought the batter wasn't crisp enough intially, its very light and when I was being served the ebi, I thought the batter was too light. But I quickly realised that the batter is light so as not to detract from the quality of the ingredients used. All proteins(fish) were perfectly cooked, the asparagus, shiitake were standouts. I honestly didnt get their "signature' sweet potato, it had a nice crust but seemed mediocre to me, plus that thing could feed 4 people, I was sweating just trying to finish half of it, save room for the rice set because it is quite tasty. The lunch is of great value, I left feeling very bloated but satisfied

Ryugin: I expected to be blown away right from the start, I must say that after the first half, I was a little disappointed, there were no misses, but only 3 standout components from the first 5 dishes. The abalone cooked for 8 hours had an amazing texture but had lost a lot of its flavor, its a good thing they served the "abalone stock" it was simmering in, a sauce made from corn and tofu served atop white asparagus was delicious, chawanmushi had a texture that was simply out of this world, the softest I've ever had. Dashi soup with greenling fish had very subtle flavors, but I felt it shouldve been pushed to the first or second course so that there was a better progression of flavors. It was only when the mains started coming out that the meal just took off and never looked back. The last 5 dishes were absolutely delicious, it made Ryugin the best meal of my trip by a mile. I paid about 28000yen without any alcohol, which is a lot of money that I would willingly pay for the quality of food i received, but I felt that they were pushing out plates much too quickly. I would finish a dish, pull out my notebook to write my thoughts, before I even complete one line, they would already be serving the next course, it was only during the main courses that they started to slow down, this was the main blip in my meal. Its going to be hard for a 3 star restaurant to hold 3 sittings a night.

Sant Pau: Alot of whimsical, fun dishes- the tapas starters and array of petits were quite a contrast to the posh setting(possibly the poshest restaurant I went to). Fish dish was terrible but was saved by an excellent tomato basil soup/sauce. I enjoyed the Iberico pork shoulder, it was cooked very rare though, easily the rarest pork I've ever eaten. The other mains and dessert were forgettable(although dessert included a pairing of nori with strawberry, very interesting and conflicting tastes) Quite an enjoyable meal

Daisan harumi: Asomaniac recommended this place to me, I would never have heard about it otherwise. I went for the 10000yen lunch menu over the weekend, I preferred the sushi here compared to Kanesaka in general, with the exception of the uni. The decor of the place is terrible though, and the plates, despite being made by the chef himself, are incredibly ugly(No offence, I have alot of respect for the chef and even bought his amazing book), I think these are the reasons why they dont have any stars. But the sushi is on point, if I were living in Japan and I needed my fix for good sushi without breaking the bank, Daisan would be it.

My restaurant recommendation, listed in order of preference:

RyuGin
Atelier Joel Robuchon
Kondo
Daisan Harumi
Akasaka Kikunoi
Restaurant Sant Pau
Sushi Kanesaka
L'Effervescence
Tapas Molecular bar

I also ate at Blacows, Great Burger, and Bakers bounce. For what its worth, that would be the exact order of preference for me too

  1. q
    quddous Jul 29, 2012 07:57 PM

    Thanks for the reviews and listing them in order of preference! I am really hyped up on going to Ryugin!

    1. a
      Asomaniac May 21, 2012 06:32 PM

      Thanks for the write-up of your restaurant visits. Completely agree on Kikunoi. The tofu / miso dish was really remarkable, the rest was so-so. Totally unremarkable. I don't actually remember the other dishes anymore. Would only go back there if it is a client lunch or dinner not organised by me. Place clearly lives off its famous name.

      1. a
        akated May 8, 2012 07:16 PM

        you're not the first person to complain about the texture of tai. there was someone else who made the exact remark regarding tai at ryugin in a previous thread. so i guess that's the nature of tai (i.e.: "chewy"). hmmm.

        unlike yourself, i thoroughly enjoyed myself at l'effervescence when i was there. i thought the balance of flavours really worked for many, if not all the dishes, and for a multi-course dinner, the pacing and amount of food was spot-on. (which reminds me i have yet to sort out my photos for l'effervescence to post here. argh.)

        what was it about the sushi at daisan harumi that you liked over kanesaka? was it the quality of the fish? or the rice?

        4 Replies
        1. re: akated
          n
          Ninisix May 13, 2012 11:40 AM

          I have repeated sushiyasan, and checked in books, so I thought I could share a bit of experience on this topic of white fish tai. For exemple, sukiyabashi jiro do not have tai nigiri!! In my opinion, having complains about quality of tai is not wrong ! Quality differs from Kyoto and Tokyo, and the taste, the color, the texture is very different. Some Japanese are also picky about that one !! The best ones I ate are from the setonankai(inland sea), and are really expensive. 
          Most sushiyasan chose what will be the highlight of their omakase. When you look at the color of the amadai sashimi of Yoshitake-San, you understand why he decided for it to highlight his high grade selections: tai (amadai in this case) can be high grade fish. Some tai, are more bony, and in cutting one millimeter thicker, it will be more firm !! So this topic is not wrong.

          1. re: Ninisix
            n
            Ninisix May 21, 2012 03:35 PM

            Oops ! Amadai is not a 'tai', but 'madai (red sea bream)' yes.

            1. re: Ninisix
              l
              la2tokyo Jul 30, 2012 12:56 AM

              I have been served Tai in a few kaiseki restaurants the day it was caught. When it is served that fresh it is extremely hard. Tough. I don't really have an opinion about it - but the reason they serve it is because it's special to some chefs to serve it that way. It's not a defect to them, it's the reason to serve it.

              1. re: la2tokyo
                n
                Ninisix Jul 30, 2012 01:53 AM

                La2tokyo, I have had also tai sashimi, and mostly in Kyoto. But, unfortunately, I won't go for it, if raw !! I am sure there is good  'madai', but they are very rare. As mentioned above, not only the freshness, a slice of one - two millimeters difference changes the texture. 

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