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Dec 31, 2012 03:11 PM

Dining near the Grand Hyatt

We are a family of 4 (the "kids" are 29 & 25) visiting Tokyo for the first time beginning January 19th. We're celebrating my 60th birthday and would like a good sample of different types of Japanese dining experiences. Plus, one night we would like to splurge a little (but since Dad, meaning me, is paying, I can't go completely crazy in the spending department). Not sure if we want to start jumping on the subway after full days of touring, so I'm guessing we should stay relatively near the hotel for dinners. Also, non-smoking sections would be a plus.

I've gotten the following recommendations from the hotel:

Keyaki Kurosawa
Two Rooms

Plus - in my own digging, the following seem interesting --

Tofu-Ya Tokyo (the atmosphere interests me)
Sushi Tsu

In summary -- the goal is to have dining experiences that reflect Tokyo as the dining mecca it's supposed to be, but hopefully without having to rely on Michelin rated prices. Does that make sense?

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  1. Given your goal, sounds like your list has issues. Here you go, one by one:

    Keyaki Kurosawa - A middlebrow soba place, owned as part of Kurosawa's son media empire, which has nothing to do with Kurosawa's movies. Certainly convenient to the hotel, since it is right outside. Not a splurge, but probably not worth going either.

    Toricho - Never been, but looks OK. Walking distance.

    Higashi-Yama - It's past out Daikanyama. If you're going to trek all the way out there, there are a dozen better choices that meet your requirement.

    Cicada and Two Rooms - Purge these two dumps from your list immediately. They serve middle-brow and expensive food for homesick White Water Buffalo, and only exist because there is a market for them. And Two Rooms is "walking distance" if you like a 30+ minute walk, which I do, but I wouldn't walk across the street to eat at Two Rooms.

    Tofu-Ya Tokyo - Do you mean Tofu-Ya Ukai, never heard of Tofu-Ya Tokyo? Yes, definitely excellent choice. Not cheap, and a good 30+ minute walk from your hotel, but a good choice.

    Dazzle - A crappy "Western" restaurant with prices to match. Dozens of better choices, considering it is in Ginza, nowhere near walking distance. Drop it.

    Zanmai - A cheap sushi chain. Not bad, but doesn't quite "reflect Tokyo as the dining mecca it's supposed to be", not a dining destination but a good place to fuel up if you happen to be near one and didn't have anything else planned.

    Sushi Tsu - Excellent place, walking distance. However, if you think $200+ a head is "reasonable" for dinner, then go ahead. Certainly representative of the best Tokyo has to offer.

    Inakaya - Oh avoid this place like the plague. Atmospheric indeed, with the shouting staff and the fresh food cooked in front of you. Tokyo has few tourist traps. However, this is definitely one of them. For the privilege of this atmospheric experience, you'll be made $300+ lighter per person. I would only eat there if somebody else was paying, and that person had no concept of the value of a shekel.

    27 Replies
    1. re: Uncle Yabai

      Thanks, I think, for dumping on almost every restaurant recommended to me. Any alternatives would certainly be helpful.

      1. re: class act

        Don't know how many nights you're spending in Tokyo, but your list did have two great choices, so that should give you something to work with.

        As for my recos near the Grand Hyatt, here would be some choices for you to consider:

        Ryugin - One of the world's best restaurants, in my opinion.

        Omae XEX - Solid teppanyaki, great service, get a dinner set that includes coffee and dessert in the annex upstairs. Memorable.

        Butagumi - If you like tonkatsu, no better place.

        If you want sushi but don't want to break the bank, Pintokona in the Metrohat at Roppongi Hills is solid. Zanmai quality and prices, but nearby.

        Mikawaya - Fine tempura in the Keyakizaka down the street

        Atelier Joel Robuchon - Just like any other Atelier, but always a dependable quality experience. The one in Tokyo was the first one.

        Anyway, that should get you warmed up.

        1. re: Uncle Yabai

          Excellent recommendations from Uncle Yabai and to my mind mostly spot on comments, though a bit harsh on Cicada I thought! However it is tough to get a reservation at Cicada since the recent change of location.

          1. re: Markintokyo

            I hadn't realized it had moved, somewhat farther away from its Gaien Nishi Doori location. Fair enough, I would certainly prefer Cicada to Two Rooms, but if I was in for a short time inTokyo and wanted to "reflect Tokyo as the dining mecca it's supposed to be" Cicada wouldn't even make the list. It's mostly comfort gastro-pub food for homesick foreigners not worth making a detour for, unless you'd been living in Tokyo for a while and just wanted to reset your taste buds.

            And even then Cicada wouldn't be my first choice. I'd head to Roti first, which is conveniently a two-minute walk from the Grand Hyatt.

            I also find it odd that the hotel would recommend Two Rooms, which is nothing but the evil spawn (literally) of The Oak Door, which is right at the hotel...

            1. re: Uncle Yabai

              Nah that is comparing apples and oranges. Roti does Steaks, Oysters, Burgers etc. whereas Cicada is all about Mediterranean dishes - Tagines, 20 types of Sherry, various dips and flat breads etc. I otherwise agree that neither are basically anywhere near the best at being representative, but that depends on what the questioner is really looking for.

              1. re: Markintokyo

                I alcohol is what you're looking for, you can do no better than Elevage, which is right off the Nishi Azabu crossing.

                As for Mediterranean dishes, nothing comes to mind right now, but I'm sure somebody out there in Tokyo has a killer place. Cicada is probably OK for that, and yes the menu is different from Roti, but I was viewing them both as Western comfort food, even if from different regions of the world.

                1. re: Uncle Yabai

                  Thanks everyone. Just to clarify - we're looking for places that won't break the bank, that are interesting from a space standpoint, with atmosphere that's not what we're used to in New York, (for example we've never experienced horigotatsu (did I get that right?) seating), and a variety of food styles - tempura, teppanyaki, sushi, etc. The only real concern is smoking - we find it really annoying! So if I'm spending good money for dinner, I would prefer that the guy next to me isn't a human chimney.

                  That being said, I care enough to do some legwork ahead of time rather than depend on the concierge to just tell me where to go. But I'm finding Tokyo to be rather intimidating - THERE'S JUST SO MANY RESTAURANTS!!!!!! - and I trust comments from folks like you rather than the typical guides.

                  We find that what makes a trip memorable are not just the places we visit. Ending the day at a restaurant that has good food, good service and a nice atmosphere not only makes each day special but adds to our memories when we get home. So I appreciate the feedback.

                  1. re: class act

                    What's your budget? There're too many restaurants to recommend, and too many in your hotel area, Azabu.

                    You won't find a restaurant that serves everything, like tempura, teppanyaki and sushi. At least not a good restaurant. Restaurants in Japan are specialized in one cuisine type, so if you want tempura, you will go to a 100% tempura restaurant.

                    The best idea if you want to taste a larger variety of food is to go to a kaiseki.

                    If I had to chose just one for atmosphere, service and authentic japanese food, I'd take a taxi and go to Ishikawa, the 3 star restaurant. The tasting menu begins at ¥15k, and it's a very good value for the outstanding quality of food and service.

                    You can find cheaper kaiseki during lunch time. But for dinner it's usually over ¥10k.

                    Most high end japanese restaurants are non-smoking (and they also request not to wear perfume). Actually, the only restaurants you're likely to have problems with smoking customers are cafes, fast-food restaurants and some izakayas.

                    1. re: babreu

                      Sorry for the confusion - I'm not looking for one restaurant that serves everything. We have four nights and looking to experience different types of cuisine. Right now, I'm leaning towards Omae XEX, Tofu-Ya Ukai, and maybe Fukuzushi(?) or Uoshin(?).

                      1. re: class act

                        Uoshin, the fish izakaya in Nogizaka? That's like eating in a warehouse (which is what it used to be), and the food is fine, but nothing to write home about.

                        Fukuzushi is mediocre and survives because it has a steady stream of foreigners eating there. You'd feel like you were in New York with all your compadres stepping only slightly out of their boundaries. If that experience is what you're looking for, you should try Yasuda then, which is a not too far walk from your hotel. Yes, Yasuda of New York Yasuda, he's opened a place in Tokyo and is struggling to get himself noticed, while in New York it was almost a religion. The game in Tokyo is at a much higher level.

                        If you're looking for good sushi, you'll have to pay, I'm afraid. The previously mentioned Sushi Tsu is a very fine choice. There's also Jiro Roppongi, which is also expensive and controversial, but pretty good. Sushi Zo in Roppongi was also excellent, and not a bank-breaker, but it has closed, unfortunately. Sushi Taku is also highly regarded, although I wasn't impressed, and cheap it wasn't.

                        Actually, I am not an expert on Sushi in Roppongi. For that you'll need the wise counsel of Yoda Ninisix. If we're lucky he'll post in this thread.

                        1. re: Uncle Yabai

                          Oy Vey Uncle..... You're a tough one to please. Eventually, I may actually stumble on a place you may actually like.

                          1. re: class act

                            What do you mean? You've already landed two fine places, and one of them I suggested to you, so don't take it personally. Think of your cranky Uncle that is cranky for your own good.

                            1. re: Uncle Yabai

                              I'm actually enjoying your comments. If you ever come to Philadelphia, I can tell you which cheesesteak places are worthy and which are dreck. (Hopefully, you know what a cheesesteak is.)

                              1. re: class act

                                He he. Lost squirrel, who posts here regularly, is a friend of mine, and lives in Philadelphia. He's an expert in all meats, cured, jerked, smoked, dried, pulled, grilled, and barbecued, as they go into hoagies, heros, subs, grinders, and sandos. Whenever I'm in Philadelphia we'll hit the South Side where apparently the best grub is to be found.

                                1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                  A bell rings over my bed (next to my grill) every time I'm mentioned in the same sentence as a hoagie.

                                  Crazy Uncle here is a valuable resource, you should listen to him. I try, but my bank account doesn't often let me.

                                  One of my most favorite things to do in Japan is reach for the excess at an izakaya. Check out for one that strikes your fancy, preferably with a star next to the name. Uoshin could fit the bill, but he's right that it's not amazing.

                    2. re: class act

                      A couple of nice mid-priced izakaya in the shopping complex next to your hotel are Rokuzo, which specializes in fish, and Hachibei, which serves Kyushu-style yakitori. (I'm not sure about smoking arrangements, but since they're so close you could just stroll by and ask.) Also Potager on the hillside portion of Roppongi Hills is a fun lunchtime spot for their vegetable sushi.

                        1. re: class act

                          Well why not, with a more open space ? ? Are you interested to seek good 'uni(sea urchin)!?? It will only cost a 1000yens ride by taxi for 4, sushi Suzu is near the Roppongi Avenue(20mn walk), at 12,000-yens for diner.. The seating is on tatami(hanging legs, not crossed), and on a counter in front of the master!! Confirm special orders on uni(sea urchin) like 'omelet topped with sea urchin'.. And, as big stars will be more than 20,000yens for diner in Roppongi, sushi Kurusu will answer it better as one special dining (=14,000yens), the most enjoying part are the 'soft' nigiris.. and the counter is very small like private dining.. Tokyo at lunch is usually cheap, you don't need to spend more than 2000yens(lunch at 1500yens>=expensive), so your only splurge will be at night.. a sunny night !! 
                          Between, can't recommend Potager, a whole vegetable sushi course is too too much..

                        2. re: Robb S

                          I don't believe Rokuzo is non-smoking, although their ventilation is above average. Their food is also above average, for an izakaya. But at the risk of sounding like a broken record, not worth a special trip.

                          1. re: Uncle Yabai

                            It's literally a trip of approximately 30 seconds from the hotel though....

                            1. re: Robb S

                              Actually - Hachibei seems interesting to me. As does Potager.

                              1. re: class act

                                Potager, well, I won't insist, but no, simply no. The sushi are just made out of simple vegetable, like sweet and sour tomato, and the chef is actually a patissier, so the set has a French touch in my opinion!! In general not an issue, but we are speaking sushi here. I have heard recently that a major company is backing her. Heh, expect something as "authentic" as 'Smap' band ... 

                                1. re: Ninisix

                                  When someone bandies about the word "authentic" when referring to a Japanese restaurant in Japan, it's a sure sign that they've gone off on the wrong track.

                                  Nobody who's been to Potager would think that they were trying to do traditional sushi; I don't think of it as "sushi" at all and certainly wouldn't compare it with sushi restaurants.

                                  (It's also weird that anyone who's been there would describe the ume-marinated gobo or the curry-infused tomato-cream assemblage as just "simple vegetables.")

                                  The chef has created a unique, playful and intriguing menu using the finest vegetables from around Japan and a variety of preparation techniques designed to bring out their best.

                                  Someone who sees the word "sushi" in their name and complains that they don't uphold the same standards as a real sushi restaurant is being far too literal-minded. (It's like seeing SMAP and complaining that they're not "authentic" because they don't sound like the Ramones.)

                              2. re: Robb S

                                Let me put it to you this way. If you had four nights and only four nights in Tokyo, and were looking for four dinners that "reflect Tokyo as the dining mecca it's supposed to be" and within walking distance of the Grand Hyatt, would Rokuzo be one of those four choices?

                                1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                  Hey Uncle, I happen to have a similar post on the China page regarding Hong Kong if you, or anyone else, wouldn't mind adding your thoughts. It's called "Three Nights in Hong Kong". Thanks

                                  1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                    No, Rokuzo isn't one of the four best restaurants in Tokyo, but it's a decent example of an above-average izakaya, with a convenient location that doesn't require running a gauntlet of aggressive touts and prostitutes.

                                    (I would visit Hachibei and Potager first though.)

                                    1. re: Robb S

                                      I would extend that to say that Rokuzo isn't one of the four best restaurants within walking distance of the Grand Hyatt.

                                      As for Nigerians, prostitutes, and Nicola Zappetti, if you make a left on Roppongi Doori instead of a right, plenty of choices without having to deal with the human cesspool that is Roppongi crossing...