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Nov 24, 2013 08:13 AM

Trip report November

Trip report mid november exhaustive

Da Isa (lunch)
Food :1.5-2 /5 , CP 2/5
Very famous, and i went on sunday, so no 1000yen pizzas available today, had shiori and magherita dop, tomato sauce was too acidic, also the pie is too burnt and bread like and heavy, tasted very different from 4 years ago, when hisanori was still at napule with the light and crisp pizza base.. this tasted crappy.. and queues just because of fame?? also the shiori is just fried shrimp on pizza, just really bad.

Yakinku Jumbo Hongo (dinner)
Food 3.8/5 CP 4/5
last minute reservation made here when Yoroniku was fully booked.

special cuts ordered
Shinshin + zabuton , shinshin tastes not too fatty and has a smoother texture and it is rather easy to eat without feeling too full , so i preferred shin shin more, while the other partner preferred zabuton, which i guess the most fatty part and preffered by most people.
other dishes ordered, heart ( quite good ) , , tongue (no more jo tan) karubi , vinger cooked pork knuckle , kimchi , steak cut meat(rosu?). the service staff here will advise how long to cook the meat, the sauce tends to be a little more spiced/meatier tasting and less acidic/tart than other yakiniku places, i tend to prefer the latter. they have a some photographs of a yakiniku competition ( not very sure on this, but they won one few years ago, and in recent years consecutively won by yoroniku )

Sushi Sho , yotsuya
food : 4.8/5 CP: 4/5

some notes,
- compared with shinji by kanesaka ( 1 month prior to trip ) and mizutani and saito ( about 4 years ago) and harutaka ( current same trip )
- shari quite balanced in taste, not too sour/salty or too firm ( ranks middle in profile, more flavourful than saito (from memory few years ago it is the most bland shari when compared to others) but less sweet and vinegary than mizutani (from memory comparison) , so it matches most of the fishes quite perfectly , some were made in red vingared rice some in white.
also the rice is moderately firm and sticks nicely, less firm/a little moister and less saltier than kanesaka(singapore) and less firm than mizutani (firmest and stickiest) ( i have not tried jiro, but my observation is that it jiro style rice is very firm like al dente?) , shari much firmer than saito(memory from few years ago) and harutaka(current)
- high quantity of aged fish sushi here ( some aged 10 days ), and i am pleasantly suprised, buri and tuna shimofuri were standouts.
- use of oboro(grated egg) on some sushi, its the yellowish dusting on ebi ( done 2 ways , head and body) etc.
- sake pairing might be good here, the first sake i had was a thick cloudy white sake, i have no idea what name is it, but chef owner nakazawa san explains it is a little bubbly, and it tastes a little like champagne/white to me. which i thought was very good. after i finished it, i stopped as i thought i was halfway thru the meal, and my partner stopped me from getting the 2nd sake. i wish i did, because towards the last few pieces, i asked if they had any more different types of sushi and i was served more than 5 other sushi from the last sake. :(
- the flow is quite random and i notice not everyone gets the same pieces, some had more some had less(maybe requested by customers?)
- sauce for anago tastes pretty similar to kanesaka, saito, considering all were trained at kyubei.

in short, best sushi experience i had, above mizutani , saito , harutaka,

Marugo tonkatsu akihabara (lunch)
Food : 3.5/5 CP : 4/5
currently most famous tonkatsu in tokyo?? lightly fried, i guess the pork is fried in low temperature, the breading looks lighter in color, and they have a special name for this techinique.
had toku hire and toku rosu. hire(fillet) is juicy , and not all dry when people think of lean meat in tonkastu.

Kabuto (dinner)
Food 3.5/5 CP 3.8/5

still don't quite get it when it comes to top end unagi places, had some skewers , including beating heart , inner body(what ever it is) , head, etc.. which i thought was not bad , unaju sauce less sweet than normal places. same feeling like when i went to obana few years ago. also only farmed unagi that night.

Ginza Shimada (dinner)
Food 2.5-3/5 CP 3.5 /5
had the char grilled chicken pieces with sansho, fish(forgotten what fish) cooked sakamushi , shirako butter yaki and gyusuji with daikon , zuwai kani croquette, ise ebi gelee with uni, most famous soba with karasumi ( quite heavy on the palate, i thought it was average)
fish sakamushi was overcooked, not sure whether this is meant to be like this , but i thought this was below expectation. the rest of the dishes mostly were average in my books, maybe some were made with expensive ingredients etc , but most tasted pretty normal to me, bill was around 12k yen for 2 pax(for standing meal), which i thought was pretty expensive but nevertheless maybe we ordered too much. but i think the level is about that of an izakaya.

Kyo Aji (lunch)
Food : 4.5/5 CP: 3.8/5
past kaiseki experiences Ryugin, DEN ( current )
most of the dishes had matsutake considering the season. very good considering quality of the ingredients. high level of execution , memorable dishes, ebi imo(very good, not greasy at all) , tai sashimi ( very good, no gristle and muscle in the flesh , just good chewiness) , starter of unagi and mochi rice , fried matsutake ..wish i had the salmon rice, but got matsutake rice. imo, deserving to be called best in traditonal kaiseki in japan, on par with experience at ryugin ( ryugin is more technical and sophisticated) . Price 90k yen+ for 2. most expensive meal i had , but owner chef nishi actually passed me back some money himself at the end ( still unsure of reason, i think this is highly uncommon ) , he says its service (if i had not heard wrongly with my caveman japanese) .

Harutaka ( dinner)
Food: 4/5 CP 3.8/5
i think they had double booking for the night, so me and my partner was seated on the edge of the table on different sides, and the other party was having their tsumami inside the waiting room, and later moved to the main area when the other parties left.
tsunami, katsuo, octopus , not too bad for tsunami, above average
shari, much more bland when compared with mizutani and sushi sho, also shari less firm than mizutani , kanesaka(singapore) and sushi sho. so i thought the shari was pretty average.
most of the fishes performed above average, comparable to kanesaka (singapore)
memorable pieces, akagai ( good) and anago( texture very soft, tsume/sauce sweet/thick like mizutani, i suppose this is jiro style)
tamagoyaki, imo from my memory, mizutani had better tamagoyaki.

Convivo (lunch)
Food 3.8/5 , CP 4/5
not bad , no particular standouts.

DEN ( dinner)
Food 4/5, CP 4.2/5
the food here is presented differently, but most of the time i feel it is just funny or interesting presentation with a little sophistication, as opposed to technical means to acheive best taste( for eg ryugin ) , i think the food is not bad, i think 2 michelin stars is a little excessive when considering level of sophistication of food here and the ingredients are good but (not on same level like ryugin or kyoaji)
also this feels the least like japanese kaiseki in terms of taste, for example, char grilled beef with beets sauce for main(which i think is nothing special), and a cream/milk based chawamushi.. also i was served whale meat soup , i was thinking above the movie "the cove" when i was eating this and the meat was from wakayama, the meat tasted very irony and meaty, much meatier than beef , and the texture was a little rubbery and oily. desert, bavarois with roasted tea leaves dusted, again more presentation , taste wise about average, next was baked manju with white beans paste(average). memorable dishes, maybe monaka and rice course, salmon roe with buri . overall, i felt ryugin(from memory) and kyoaji (current ) were much better

toriki (kinshicho)
Food 3.8-4/5 CP 4/5
backup plan after torishiki reservation failed.
memorable dishes, chochin( yolk bursts once you placed inside your mouth) , overall good. but as i imagined it to be. this place is lightly seasoned and less saucy.

Food: 3/5
Soup tastes heavily of mackerel base. i think its a little too fishy even for my taste even thou i tend to prefer niboshi based soups as opposed to tonkotsu. decent ajitama and chashu. noodles thick cut chewy.

aux bon vieux temps oyamadai,
rouge tart, tart tasting, i think its good, but partner thinks its too tart..
ali baba , (rum baba), was soaking in rum , too much alcohol for my taste
quartette, chocolate mousse cake, good but nothing special.

M koide (jiyugaoka)
mousse cakes , the fruits mousse taste is much more intense when compared to hidemi sugino, depends on what you like, i think both are equally good, had the pistacho mousse and cassis mousse at mkoide.
price is very attractive, at around 400 yen per piece.. when hidemi sugino is now 600yen-700yen a piece.

hidemi sugino
revisted, finally tried ambrosie , good, not too heavy on the palate like most chocolate mousse cakes.

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  1. thanks for a great report Lucil

    sorry ... what does the term "CP" mean in your 'grading' system?

    1 Reply
    1. Thank you for your detail report.. Oh I wanted to try the Pizza Da Isa, but I will pass, as the waiting is impressive. I was at Naka Meguro one month ago, and the queue was very impressive.. So, your best sushi during this trip, was it sushi Sho.. If you liked as you described the shari, then Jiro San is not hard : it is blended and served at temperature, so the taste of vinegar just appear as some fragrance, not overwhelming.
      I didn't have a good experience at sushi Mizutani, personally, unfortunately... And I have to say, I have difficulties to go to the disciple of Jiro San, but I did prefer Harutaka-San, but something might have changed, sushi Harutaka lost a star last year(?)
      A full diner at Ginza Shimada, yes, eating with your own space will be difficult, I usually go to Ginza Shimada just for a snack, and a glass of sake,. 'Karasumi' is salted dried mullet, did you have it before ?

      18 Replies
      1. re: Ninisix

        I had karasumi a few times in pasta, or as appetizer at other places, the one at shimada is pretty standard, not much any different or better than on pasta for the experience.

        I always thought jiro would use much firmer shari , no?

        1. re: Lucil

          Yes, Jiro San's shari(rice) is not hard. Jiro San rice is blended, and the rice broker works exclusively for him.

          1. re: azntenshi

            Yes, sushi Harutaka was a 2 stars, but, in the 2013 edition, is down to one star. They used to have late service, although it seems no more the case. Too bad, the late 22:00-23:00 PM late night was something amazing,

            1. re: Ninisix

              Ninisix: Thanks. Is sushi harutaka still very good for dinner? or are there better alternatives? We are going to Iwa sushi and Sawada sushi as well

              1. re: azntenshi

                If you want something radically different, go to sushi Kimura at Futago Tamagawa, the speciality is white fish, you won't miss the 'maguro(tuna)' !!

                Harutaka-San is an apprentice of the famous Jiro-San, sashimi is more traditional, but not less efficient in my opinion..

                Others sushi listed in the board are as good also, like sushi Taichi, sushi Shimizu (at lunch),..

                1. re: Ninisix

                  what does "less efficient" mean for Harutaka?

                  1. re: azntenshi

                    Sashimi are relatively simple - compared with more 'elaborate' combination like sushi. They are not without impact as an introduction, but not his strongest point. The best of Harutaka San is the nigiri menu that follows Jiroo's style, with priority to warm shari, and attention to serving order, typically white fish first, proper order per piece, per season...

                  2. re: Ninisix

                    and what about between sushi taichi and sushi sho? which is better? I don't necessarily need something very different but would like great sushi

                    1. re: azntenshi

                      Sushi Sho, if you want to try it, I recommend to go to Yotsuya sushi Sho,
                      For sushi, in my opinion, you need to try a classic high end sushi like sushi Taichi, loved by locals, loved by Tsukiji fish brokers..

                      1. re: Ninisix

                        I canceled the reservation at Harutaka and made it for dinner at Sushi Taichi. is dinner better than lunch? is it omakase?

                        1. re: azntenshi

                          Sushi Taichi, at diner, is difficult to reserve, but at diner you can have more time and drink some sake with your sashimi/tsumami.. at lunch, there is pre fixed menu, and the 'omakase' begins from 8000yens, ..

                          1. re: Ninisix

                            this is the right link for sushi taichi right?

                            what is the best way to find the place? It looks as bit difficult to find

                            1. re: azntenshi

                              Sushi Taichi, the link is correct, the place is located in a alley, the landmark is the shop Reiko, and when spotted, look for an alley by following the Sotobori Dori and in staying in the same block!!

                          2. re: azntenshi

                            i think you should book jiro style sushi ... maybe mizutani or jiro honten or his son .. or maybe sho style sushi

                            taichi looks a little generic( looks like bordering kanesaka or kyubei style, maybe ninsinix can shed some light) considering you will go to iwa( kanesaka, saito style) , sawada ( distinctive maybe?)

                            1. re: Lucil

                              I don't mind generic if the sushi is amazing but is mizutani or jiro better than sushi taichi?

                              1. re: azntenshi

                                No, I really do not think about sushi Taichi as a 'generic' sushi, I believe it has its own character... The chef loves fishing, he (re)searched old recipes, so for ex. in spring you can eat some baby 'anago' nigiri... He's getting so famous, I had difficulties to reserve at lunch one month ahead ! But, all the sushi I loved have their own style, even if some of them might be linked to recent trends. I would say sushi Taichi is modern classic.

                                On the other hand, I understand that months in advance reservation difficulties for a restaurant, it might be frustrating. I would imagine our good very 'Junior Kim' country (joke) ! Having said that, following only the stars of Michelin, that quickly creates this kind(genre) of situation....

                                Sushi Taichi is a good sushi, and there are many good high end sushi-yasan in Tokyo that are not listed. I recommend you to try sushi Taichi !

                              2. re: Lucil

                                Surely Sushi Jiroo Honten is the best place to try his style. Personally, I found nigiri at Mizutani more compact, heavier,... Sorry I am a bit too busy at the moment, so can't really comment on his mistake of the way of eating : fingers vs hashi.
                                IMHO, Sushi Taichi has nothing to compare to sushi Kyubei - Kanesaka style. Taichi's nigiri/tsumami are very different, shari base is red vinegar, not hard, tasty and light.. Not seasoned lightly as Kyubei Kanesaka, not as small as Ikkyuu, the counter is so small that you will participate to the all show..
                                Obiwan Taichi's (=chef) is a second generation chef - his father still has his own shop at Chofu - and he did his first years as an apprentice of Sushi Ikkyu in Futago Tamagawa. Nowdays, sushi Ikkyu is the same group of Sushi Ko Honten Ginza... but at this time it was definitely not.

              2. I agree with you on everything, except maybe I'd give a discount to Den for their prices. I think you'll like Ishikawa, Yukimura, Ginza Okuda, Bingo...

                Service == on the house.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Gargle

                  DEN is high CP , but ingredient quality and cooking shows.. chef only helped out at ishikawa for a short stint i suppose( from what i heard at DEN), he worked in another restaurant in kagurazaka, but i did not quite get the name and it did not stick to me.

                  1. re: Lucil

                    I don't think he's Ishikawa's favorite, and I don't disagree on quality being borderline for 2 stars or on the excess focus on jokes etc., just that it's a bit difficult to judge him by the same scale as places that give you 5 times more in ingredients.

                    1. re: Gargle

                      Downgraded to one star for Den in latest edition

                2. Hi Lucil:

                  How did you get your booking at KyoAji since I thought he insisted one has to be fluent in Japanese language before he accept the reservation (since you wrote yours is caveman like :-) )?

                  Just like you, I have no idea why Kabuto gets such a high rating.

                  I have more favorable rating on Den than you do. As to Harutaka, I agree with Ninisix that his nigiri is much more impressive than his sashimi. In fact, I was down right disappointed in the beginning of his meal when the sashimi was served. Sushi Sho wins in its varieties and some good mix but technically not in the top tier. I like to go there for its more lively atmosphere as well.

                  Have you been to Yazawa in Singapore? Similar to Jumbo, I was told.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: FourSeasons

                    Times are hard in the upper echelon$ of Tokyo. Even a caveman can get into Kyo Aji for lunch, and sometimes for dinner.

                    1. re: FourSeasons

                      About the same as yazawa in Singapore without the higher prices