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Sep 12, 2012 09:46 AM

Trip Report - Tokyo Part 2 (Tsukiji, Konaya, En, Jean Francois, Pierre Herme, Butagumi, Takazawa)

Day 2 -
Early morning at Tsukiji. We weren't motivated to wait on line for sushi after yesterday's meal at Sawada, so we just got a rice bowl topped with tuna, uni and ikura at random place near the inner market that was filled with Japanese people. Was tasty.

Konaya - Curry udon from chain restaurant. We went to the one near our hotel in Shiodome. I got shrimp tempura, my husband got one with fried tofu and scallions. We really enjoyed it, would recommend for an affordable lunch.

En - Maybe we ordered wrong, since we weren't in the mood for any raw fish? Anyways our meal here was very average. We had cooked food (pork and yuba hotpot, egpplant, some kind of fried seafood cake, braised fish). Decor and view were lovely, and our server was very nice.

Day 3-

Omotesando station - Amazing puff/bun stuffed with whipped cream from a stall in the station (Something with an "H" - Hitori? Hirota?). Croissant and breads from Jean Francois in food court were good but not great - maybe we got there at an off time when they weren't as fresh.

Pierre Herme - We love PH so went in Omotesando and then again in Shinjuku. Our favorites were the hazelnut/asparagus, orange/carrot and vanilla/basil, which were unreal. Also had a macaron/ice cream sandwich which I thought was just ok, but my husband loved.

Butagumi - Wandered here for lunch. Unfortunately, they did not have the Iberico which everyone talks about. I got the Tokyo X (fatty) and my husband got the premium lean one. His was very tasty but honestly mine didn't have that much flavor. This was good but next time we would probably just go to a cheaper joint for tonkatsu.

Takazawa - I enjoyed this a lot but thought it was the tiniest bit over-priced/overrated. My husband vehemently disagreed, this might have been his favorite of the trip. We did have some wines (not a full tasting), and it looked like they also added some kind of service charge and tax above the fixed menu price. It ended up being significantly more expensive than any of our other meals. Takazawa recently took a trip to Mexico and some of the courses were inspired by his trip (we really enjoyed the Mexican-inspired courses). He and his wife were very friendly and charming as well, and eager to talk about food and restaurants. Since there's been some discussion on this board about changes to the menu, here's what we had (many items had dates of creation listed on the menu, so I'll list them here as well):

Amuse - Jellied drink of melon and prosciutto. Ikura with salmon and rice. "Grand canyon" chip made our of scallop and other seafood/vegetables. Oyster with lemon foam.

Ratatouille (2005) - Mosaic of tiny vegetables. Tasty little bite.

Vegetable parfait (2011) - Vegetables layered in a champage glass with tomato gazpacho, tomato water, caviar, edible flowers. I think some kind of parmesan cream?

Bouillabaisse with beer (NEW) - Deconstructed. Platter of cold seafood from Hokkaido with small glass of jellied seafood consomme (the "beer").

Powdery dressing (2006) - Matsutake, mackerel and pumpkin topped with a powder that turned into dressing. Dressing tasted like your basic olive oil and balsamic.

BIEI salad (NEW) - Various raw and grilled vegetables, sauce that was like a romesco but with blue cheese added, olive tapenade, edamame tofu.

Candleholder (2007) - Foie gras brulee with mango compote and rosemary. Delicious.

Breakfast at Takazawa (2008) - Poached egg with white truffle and fried potatoes. Egg was a little hard-cooked but otherwise very tasty.

Reds (NEW) - Dish inspired by trip to Mexico. Amadai with tomtato salsa, jalapeno, and variety of "red" sauces on the side. This was lovely.

Inspiration from Mexico (NEW) - Another dish inspired by Mexico. Pigeon cooked in mole accompanied by skewer of pigeon innards and corn taco.

Bellini (NEW) - Plum sorbet with peach and plum foam.

Carbonara (2010) - Pineapple and apple slices, coconut ice cream. I wasn't wowed by this.

Mignardise - Western-style mignardise with Japanese flavors. Very delicious.

There was also a bread course with delicious bread with edamame in it, served with pork rillete.

Again, the food was great, but I am reviewing it overall in light of the price and genre of food as well. I don't think, for example, that Takazawa was better than a meal at Per Se, and a few of the dishes felt a tiny bit outdated (again, compared to other restaurants in this category all over the world). Having said that, the food was delicious and we loved the space, so I would still recommend with the caveat that it is very expensive.

See my replies to this post (below) for pics.

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  1. Tsukiji:

    1 Reply
    1. Takazawa pics part 1:

      4 Replies
      1. re: The Cookbook Addict

        Takazawa pics part 2:

        1. re: The Cookbook Addict

          Your reports are so fantastic! And the pictures are great, too.

          May I ask what the bill with the new charges was at Takazawa? No worries if that is too intrusive a question. I'm trying to plan something special for my husband's birthday and I keep thinking this is a place he'd really like. But it's gonna take me some doing to save up my yen! Just wondering what my target should be.

          Again, thanks for all your reports!

          1. re: tokyopix

            Hey tokyopix, glad you enjoyed the reports! I don't remember exactly how much it was -- but I think with wines (including champagne at the beginning and a few Japanese wines during the meal), and the added charges, the bill was over 80,000.

            We're already trying to figure how we will be able to afford another trip to Japan...

            1. re: The Cookbook Addict

              Ouch! Well, he threw down for Robuchon so I guess that's in line. Thanks for the info. I'm using your reports to assist a visitor from the US right now. I think we owe you our modest guest room in Azabu Juban for your next trip!!

      2. Great report. Have to agree with your impression of En. In my opinion it gets far too much praise on these boards and English language restaurant websites, which means that visitors make it a destination, when it really is just a moderately good izakaya chain. The benefit for non-Japanese speakers is the English menu and convenient locations, but there really are better izakaya options for English speaking travelers - Nakamura, for example.

        7 Replies
        1. re: wekabeka

          Hey Wekabeka, yeah I kinda wish we had worried less about places with an English menu and gone to some more interesting izakayas and casual spots. When we did wind up in a place with no English menu, we always managed. Next trip...

          1. re: wekabeka

            Nakamura is quite a bit more expensive than En.

            1. re: Robb S

              Thanks, Robb, that's a fair point. En was definitely one of our most affordable dinners, and the place was gorgeous. I also think we ordered badly.

            2. re: wekabeka

              Wekabeka, very much with you on En. Perfectly fine izakaya, user-friendly etc, but weirdly overrated. It's just a decent izakaya.

              1. re: Asomaniac

                Lunch in Tokyo are very affordable, but dinners less.. Good Izakayas, a bit upscale, are typically double the price of an Izakaya En. Cheaper ones will have limits for drink time that I can’t understand !!! I have had diner last year at Izakaya En, it cost me less than 3500yens, including some seasonal dishes of 'chiayu' tempura... I have to take more notes on the specialty to taste, so I would be able to provide more comments ... 

                How much was your tonkatsu set at Butagumi ? Myself, I eat tonkatsu only 1-2 times a year. In my opinion, at cheap tonkatsu, the meat is sometimes dry, so I now always  chose thick cuts. Iberiko pork seems too fat to fry, Mangalitsa Hungarian pork will be my next choice when I go.

                Crème brulee made of sweet potatoe pieces is not that tasty, sweet potatoe and sweet heavy cream brulée have no contrast… and I have to admit I am not a big fan of crème brulee. The ‘daigaku imo(sweet potatoe fried with syrop)' is a classic dessert for students. I enjoyed the new version, slightly iced, with cube of different potatoes (different color, different sweetness)!!

                1. re: Ninisix

                  Ninisix, I think the Tokyo X at Butagumi was about 5,000 yen for lunch? Wish I remembered what my husband got, it was much tastier.

                  Would definitely be interested to hear about the seasonal specials people have enjoyed at En, I wonder if part of the problem was that the English menu doesn't have those specials listed?

                  1. re: The Cookbook Addict

                    Seasonal menu changes every month, and except for some nuances, is the same menu in English. Usually the seasonal menu is different from the main menu! 

            3. Though these reports are interesting, certainly hope you got to go to the typical izakaya the average Japanese would eat at. Otherwise, why bother? The meals you've described could easily be had in NYC or any major city. Missed the point. Totally.

              3 Replies
              1. re: jmatt

                Sure, if you say so. If all you wanted was an average izakaya, then any place in NY would be just fine.

                1. re: jmatt

                  As a long-time New Yorker, I would be thrilled to hear about where I could find any of the following in NYC:

                  (i) a breakfast that includes a copious amount of high quality uni

                  (ii) Pierre Herme macarons (NYC macarons are not comparable to PH, sorry)

                  (iii) curry udon as good or better than Konaya

                  (iv) a counter restaurant serving unpretentious kaiseki based on greens and herbs foraged by the chef in nearby mountains (Nakahigashi)

                  (v) egg yolks marinated in sake for 3 years (Mitsuyasu)

                  (vi) subway station vendor serving exceptional cream puffs filled freshly whipped cream.

                  Alternatively, jmatt, perhaps you could list some of you favorite typical izakayas in Tokyo and Kyoto that the average Japanese would eat at, that you would recommend to first-time visitors to Japan? Such a list would be very helpful to people consulting this board to get information for planning future trips.

                  1. re: The Cookbook Addict

                    Haha, nice. You can't mess with a New Yorker- native or transplanted...Think you've done a great job of planning, executing, and documenting your Japanese culinary adventure. Cheers!