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Mar 26, 2013 02:27 PM

Nice Leisurely Higher End Lunches in Tokyo

My husband and I will be going on our second trip to Japan in September. We are main meal lunch diners in general. But even more so in a city like Tokyo because: 1) the jet lag is awful and lunch time feels like dinner time to us*; and 2) we're older now - my 67 year old husband has MS and some difficulty walking - and we like to break up days with lots of walking with a leisurely mid-day meal so we can rest.

Any suggestions? Cuisine doesn't matter (I would prefer any type of Japanese cuisine but if l'Osier were still around - it would be perfect). Price doesn't either. Nor does the part of the city (we'll be doing a lot of sightseeing in various parts of the city and can always find things worth seeing in a city as large as Tokyo). I guess about the only thing I want to avoid in Tokyo is outposts of famous non-Japanese chefs whose cuisine I can eat elsewhere - unless they're really really good. I've taken a look at Pierre Gagnaire and it seems like a possible based on the limited information I've read. Also - we're not big beef eaters - so no steak houses.

Note that my husband speaks some pretty basic Japanese (he learned some for our last trip and is studying more now). OTOH - he can't read Japanese. But we get along ok in restaurants where English isn't spoken unless they require at least one fluent Japanese speaker in the dining party.

Any suggestions would be much appreciated. Robyn

*I've read some messages here where people who seem to be coming from places like the east coast of the United States are making late dinner reservations. I don't know their itineraries - or their jet-lag tolerances. But 12-13 time zones is an awful lot of time zones. On our first trip - we were pretty much awake at 3-4-5 am the first week (our first trip was 3 weeks) - and dead to the world by 8-9 pm. I'd keep the jet lag in mind when making dining reservations. FWIW - the only reason a trip to Tsukiji is an obligatory first day trip is when you're wide awake at 4 am - there isn't a heck of a lot else to do!

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  1. Takazawa. I found it incredibly relaxing for lunch. And since you have a couple months lead time you might have a chance at getting a reservation. Compared to Gagniare on rue Balzac I found it much more my speed (comparing lunch to lunch - the Gagniare lunch can involve a lethal amount of wonderful food).

    It has elements of the more playful high end american vanguard cookery (stuff that looks like other stuff, dishes that change over the course of eating them) but less flashy than what you might get in Spain at certain restaurants.

    5 Replies
      1. re: killersmile

        Ah that may have changed, it was when I went about 5 years ago.

      2. re: WrathofJingisukan

        If you're talking about Aronia de Takazawa - it doesn't do lunch now.

        Also - in countries abroad - especially those with cultures/food we don't understand very well (or at all) - my husband and I are really enjoying eating at counters these days - and interracting with other guests and the chef(s) best we can. I understand that none of the "French" restaurants we're looking at in Tokyo have seating like this. Robyn

        1. re: pvgirl

          Robuchon's Atelier in Roppongi people sit at a counter, but (a) you probably knew that already, (b) aren't looking at that as an option (I wouldn't either), and (c) although the Atelier in Tokyo was the first Atelier, it's so 2003.

          1. re: Uncle Yabai

            You're right on all counts :). FWIW - the only l'atelier I've ever dined at was the one that used to be in the Four Seasons New York. Only because we were staying at the hotel - and the hotel would deal with the restaurant to accommodate us if our flight was delayed.

            I've been working up a list of possible places to dine. So far I have - in alphabetical order:

            Ginza Okuda
            Joel Robuchon
            Les Creations de Narisawa
            Sushi Saito

            The list is subject to additions and deletions. And I will have to cross check locations and types of cuisine. To make sure we get to different parts of the city - and that we get a variety of cuisines. I'm not sure about a French place like Robuchon. If we dine there at all - it will be mid-week when I feel like having some great bread and great desserts (it has very reasonable lunch menus that are basically starters and a fish main and desserts - more than enough food IMO).

            We have 5 dining slots (6 if any of these places is open on Sunday - will have to check).

            I am using the Michelin Guide - because it really simplifies things. Instead of being paralyzed by 125,000 dining choices - I am only looking at 200-300. I honestly don't know enough about Japanese food to appreciate what might be the best restaurant in Tokyo for X,Y,Z that isn't in the Michelin Guide - the kind of place where you need an introduction. So no reason to find those places. OTOH - we're not on a budget - so I don't have to find the best values either (although many of these restaurants are priced *very very* reasonably at lunch IMO).

            If anyone has any comments about any of these "possibles" (from great or bad food to very convenient or very out of the way) - I'd appreciate them.

            I'm going through a lot of food blogs I've visited before. Since our first trip in 2006 - many of these bloggers have visited Japan at least once (some have visited more). I've used many of these blogs on prior trips to other destinations - and I pretty much know whether I generally agree or disagree with the people who write them when it comes to their opinions of food. OTOH - when it comes to Japan - it seems that many western food bloggers seem to favor the food in Japan that most closely resembles western food - food that is familiar. I guess that is understandable. But - when I go to an exotic place like Japan - I very much look at it as a learning experience. A trip into the "unknown". If I wanted "familiar" - I would just stay home. Robyn

      3. Hi Robyn! I enjoyed my meal at Gagnaire, and I think you'd enjoy it, but you would be able to eat his food elsewhere. When my mother and I went, we did have a very nice leisurely lunch, though. And the food really was very good.

        Another option is something like Tempura Kondo--if you get the last seating, you may have more time.

        On the low-end, but a very fine lunch, was the gindara hohoniku set at Aoyuzu near Tokyo Station. And of course there's always tonkatsu at Katsukura (they have English menus).

        I hope y'all have a great time, and I'm happy to hear you're going back! (and I owe you an email!)

        3 Replies
        1. re: prasantrin

          Hi there - these talks are like a reunion with old friends :).
          Am down to < 20 restaurants now. Was pretty easy once I eliminated all restaurants that didn't serve lunch and that didn't take credit cards (sorry - I am not going to carry around the cash I'd have to pay to eat at 7chome Kyobashi).

          I think we will do French one day. One restaurant that popped up on my radar screen is Equisse. New 2 star Michelin (since when did restaurants go from no stars to 2!!!). Even Jamin went from 1 to 2 to 3. I guess I'm showing my age here <sigh>. Not much has been written about it because it's so new - but I haven't read anything bad. And it is "local French" - not "chain star chef French".

          We're both pretty bad at email. Note that we'll be in Toronto in June (family wedding in Michigan - and I demanded a side trip to get me to go to the metro Detroit area ;)). If there's any possibility you'll be in that neck of the woods then - perhaps we can get together. Robyn

          1. re: pvgirl

            If you can let me know your dates, I'll see what I can do! We're planning Thailand in August (or December), so a short trip to TO in June might be do-able.

            1. re: pvgirl

              Esquisse, the French chef is Lionel BECCAT, that used to work at Cuisine Michel Troisgros, here a link of a review of a chowhounder:
              A note on Trois Gros, for the son Ceasar Troisgros - if he is coming to Tokyo again, i would go for it. but for Esquisse, I am not tempted.. In 2011, i went back to La Table Robuchon and it was a deception from my previous Taillevent Robuchon lunch there. After, I have heard that the chef Ryuta Iizuka left just few months before and opened a restaurant Ryuzu Tokyo, that at first gained one star, and got a second star this year... I heard good things about it, and the chef certainly uses Japanese ingredients... it might not be a 'all earth cuisine' in 2 plates, as Esquisse pretends, but just influenced cuisine..

          2. I just re-read and noticed you said higher-end lunches. Cross out Aoyuzu and Katsukura (though they would make for nice leisurely lunches :-) ).

            1. I highly recommend Esaki. Unlike other places where the lunch menu is much less elaborate and refined than the dinner menu, Easki serves pretty much the same dishes in lunch as in dinner. The dishes are less traditional their normal keiseki meals but they offer a wide variety of flavour and texture.

              FOr a more traditional and refined fare, Kikunoi Akasaka wont disappoint. They have counter seatings and you can see the many chefs hard at work. I was particularly impressed by their Hassun.

              I am a fan of Japanese vegetables (which is synonymous with freshness and excellence) and if you are not a meat-eater, I couldn't recommend Daigo enough. It serves a vegetarian meal. (Shojin) Each dish is a refined creation and full of flavour.

              Lastly, Sushi Iwa is a perfect place for a reasonable sushi fare. Great quality and variety. DO NOT ORDER A LA CARTE.

              1 Reply
              1. re: CWFOODIE

                Thank you very much for your reply.

                This was my original list of "possibles":

                Ginza Okuda
                Joel Robuchon
                Les Creations de Narisawa
                Sushi Saito

                As of today - I have ruled out Joel Robuchon and Narisawa. Not because they aren't good. But - because - where we live - it is impossible to get even ok Japanese food. A trip to Japan is - to us - all about Japanese food.

                Esaki and Kikunoi are definitely on our list.

                I had not noticed Daigo before - but it is on our list now. We are not vegetarians - but like to eat vegetables. A question about Daigo. There are pictures in the Michelin guide showing "traditional seating" without details. Is this the seating where your feet are "in a well" - so you sit kind of normally - or is it really traditional seating (where you sit on the floor). My husband wears a big leg brace and can't dine in a place with real traditional seating (where you have to cross your legs).

                Sushi Saito is our preferred sushi restaurant (some friends have recommended it). The concierge at our hotel has told us that it's a difficult reservation. If we can't get a reservation there - we will look at other sushi places.

                We will have 6 lunches in Tokyo - and our goal is to eat at 6 very different but all excellent places that specialize in Japanese cuisine.

                For dinner - assuming we are still awake at 7 pm :) - we will explore lesser places near our hotel. Robyn