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Matsukawa - Probably (the current) Tokyo's greatest restaurant

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I like Sushi, but I love Kaiseki more. This is one of the main reasons why, given available time and budget, we only visited 2 elite sushi-yasan. In addition to Ishikawa, we ate at Matsukawa. When talking about Matsukawa (prior to our visit), 3 things came to my mind: 1st, introduction-only restaurant. Similar to Kyo Aji and Morikawa etc. newcomer needs to be invited by the restaurant’s regular patrons. Fortunately, Matsukawa did not apply this rule strictly or at least I got no problem when asking my hotel’s concierge to make reservation for us (perhaps, we could be lucky). 2nd, Michelin, go away please. Tadayoshi Matsukawa, the chef-owner, seems to be allergic to any publicity and media attention. For many restaurants, Michelin award can make or break their business. However, Matsukawa is confident with his cooking and happy with his current clientele base. 3rd, creating pure and simple washoku at its highest quality. Matsukawa-san, a former leading chef at Seisoka, is a master of preparing Japanese traditional cuisine. He selectively chooses the highest possible quality ingredients and apply minimal touch to these pristine produce to ultimately generate dishes with utmost refinement. There’s only one-menu available, but guests are welcome to notify their food preference and allergy (if any) in advance. Normally, Matsukawa will serve 10 courses before the desserts and tea.

The main highlights of my meals were:
- The Crabs: late Fall or early Winter is the main season for Japanese snow crab, and among them Taiza kani is arguably the most precious one. Matsukawa-san is the master of preparing crab dishes. My favorite was the owan mono. The soup, with clean and light dashi, contained a generous amount of delicious red snow crab. On top of it, there are a few slices of aromatic Matsutake mushroom and green yuzu to enhance the dish. Excellent! I can eat this soup every day. Apparently, this was one of Chef Matsukawa’s signature dishes and deservedly so. A strong candidate for the best dish in my Japan’s trip.
The other two crab dishes were: lightly cook Taiza crab (the meat and the eggs) prepared on its shell. It was fresh and exquisite. Matsukawa brought it to another level by creating a little sour sauce (a mixture of komezu, shoyu an dashi) on the side. Another fabulous crab dish was a lump of tasty crab meat served with creamy and flavorful kani miso. I even tried to scoop up this greenish sauce left with my chopsticks. I like Japanese snow crab very much - as much as I love Brittany blue lobster.
- The Sashimi: at first, I expected to eat Maguro or Tai, like what I often had in other restaurants. Our mukozuke happened to be more interesting: crunchy and fresh Filefish with its rich liver was very good; the red shell clam was deep in flavor and chewy but soft enough to bite through; blowfish ‘meat’ and its skins had great texture and refreshing when consumed with daikon and ponzu sauce; the ultimate sahismi for me was the beautiful spiny lobster – the meat was inhenrently sweet while the ‘Lobster’s’ brain was even more umami without any bitterness.

Honestly, there was pretty much no bad dishes here; I liked nearly all of them. The yakimono dishes were also excellent. I enjoyed the grilled Tai, Awabi and Mana-Katsuo. The rice might look simple, but each side dish was of high quality even the pickles and miso soup. The star was, of course, Ikura – I love when the roes’ burst and dish out immense flavor. Also, make sure to get Matsukawa’s signature dessert called Azuki bean jelly; under the light, this yokan turned semi transparent like a piece of art. Tastewise, it’s ethereal and incredibly delicate with the right amount of sweetness (Initially, this sweet was not part of the meal. I requested the waiter and the cook about it and was politely declined. I kept pressing on and asked Matsukawa-san himself who immediately prepared us this awesome yokan). A typical dish of Matsukawa: simple, pure and umami. For me, a meal here was a life-changing experience. I ate plenty of dishes with unique ingredients. Besides those mentioned above, for the first time I ate: Bottarga (robust and salty), Iwatake mushroom (rare and often associated with longevity), Konoko (intense brininess), Fugu shirako (soft and creamy) and Nametake (a decent mushroom). There are still plenty more dishes not yet mentioned and I will let you read my more detailed review if you really want to know all of the stuffs that we had.

By the way, I forgot to mention that I got so many different dishes because I came here twice. The first one was for dinner, seated at the counter. The second one was at lunch, seated at the private room (I reserved late, that’s why I could not get the counter that only has 6 seats) – a good way to have different experiences. I haven’t been to Matsukawa before and there was not that many (English) info available out there (at least I could not find any at that time). The 2nd booking initially happened because I could not find any good kaiseki restaurant for my lunch (sounds kinda crazy, right?). I would like to try either Esaki or Seizan, but neither opened for lunch on Thursday. Then, I decided that Matsukawa should be worth it for a 2nd meal within a week (L’Arpege and Le Louis XV were the other 2 restaurants having “the honor” where I ate there more than once during the same trip). After having fabulous dinner, it was an easy choice that returning here is a “must”. The service was overall good, but not in the Ishikawa’s league. They’re friendly and helpful, but hardly took initiative to re-fill our water, sake or change the hot ocha. Somehow I often found that kaiseki restaurants often have great service when the Chef’s wife/daughter acts as the “Okami”.

The true star of the service was actually the hospitable Chef Matsukawa himself. He’s modest, amiable and charming despite hardly speaking any English. We communicated with my limited Japanese and during dinner, fortunately there was one lady staff who spoke fluent English. When I stated that his restaurant was Tokyo’s best, he humbly refused and said that Kyo Aji was (still) the real Tokyo no 1. During lunch, Matsukawa-san came to our room twice to serve the dishes. After each of our meal, as we expected, the Chef, accompanied by 1 waiter, escorted us out and bid us farewell. Matsukawa might appear shy, but he surely possesses extra ordinary talents in preparing Japanese traditional cuisine: from sourcing out-of-this-world ingredients to consistenly producing sublime dishes executed with high precision. It’s almost certain that I would love to return here should I get a chance to visit Japan again in the future. The main challenge is probably: can Matsukawa outdo himself? It would probably be difficult especially if I visit outside Autumn season. For Kaiseki, it’s generally agreed that Autumn generates the best quality produces – at least, it’s true for me since I love snow crab and Matsutake very much. I doubt if I will like Ayu or Takenoko more. Matsukawa scores 98 pts for the food only perspective; it’s been a while since I ever bestowed such high score to any restaurant. The last time I did this, if not mistaken, was in 2010 for my meals at L’Arpege (due to Challan duck and Pigeon ala dragee), L’Ambroise (due to pastry containing black truffle & foie gras and (lightly cooked) scallop with truffle) and Gagnaire Paris (due to Turbot steak and Lozere lamb)

If you want to read detailed reviews (sorry but yes, it’s longer than this one), please visit:
http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspo...
If you want to see the pictures only (lots of them as if I eat at Sushi place), please visit:
https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

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  1. No doubt, Matsukawa is stellar. The one thing that bears mentioning is the price. The last time I ate at Matsukawa the food was twice the price of the most expensive menu at Ishikawa. IMHO it is worth it, and Matsukawa San is a wonderful host, but comparing any ¥20,0000 meal to a ¥40,000 meal is not a fair comparison. Matsukawa San is very friendly, the food is unbelievably precise, the ingredients are top-notch, and the technique is impeccable. That said, for those who are not familiar with high level washoku ingredients, and Kyoto cooking in general, be forewarned that Matsukawa San's food can be very austere. I was expecting things to be very lighty seasoned and I definitely got them that way, some things being so light that I wondered if there was any salt added at all. I have been twice, both meals very memorable, and I recommend it highly to many people, but it's probably not for everybody.

    5 Replies
    1. re: la2tokyo

      Thanks for your comments
      The price is still the same as you mentioned, but I thought that's only happening in the season of snow crab and Matsutake? Have you been to Matsukawa outside Fall season? I'm wondering what the ingredients were like

      True, it may not be that fair to compare (about the pricing), in this case, Ishikawa vs Matsukawa. But then, if Ishikawa charged double, he might not be able to attract that many customers. Likewise, had Matsukawa charged half, he might not have been able to produce as many stellar dishes as he does now. Any thoughts? Honestly I think Ishikawa can charge 25% more so that he can use more luxurious produce and give 1-2 extra dishes. The rental in Kagurazaka should not be that expensive either

      Also, some notes about the food taste: Matsukawa's dishes taste light focusing the natural taste of the ingredients, but by no means they're tasteless. Not sure if it's a good analogy: Like Passard, Matsukawa has such expertise in seasoning the food. For example, his "yaki/grilled" stuffs were very flavorful even without sauce. However, when he prepares sauces (for instance, the kani miso or taiza-kani sauce), they're simply umami, somewhat rich but not cloying at all

      1. re: Bu Pun Su

        I love both restaurants. I don't really feel the need to compare the two - they are both favorites of mine for different reasons. I don't think Ishikawa wants to charge that much, regardless of if he can fill the restaurant at higher prices, or even if he can make more money. Ishikawa has a very large number of regular customers, and they are very happy doing what they are doing at the price they do it at. I felt the price at Matsukawa was fine for what I got, and I also think the price at Ishikawa is fair too. The only difference to me is that I can be a regular at Ishikawa, and I can only afford to go to Matsukawa once a year or so. I guess it all depends on the individual's budget though. Both are great restaurants.

        1. re: la2tokyo

          True that the restaurants should operate as they are because that's what make them unique. Not every chef given "unlimited" budget will be able to prepare dishes as stellar as Matsukawa or Bernard Pacaud; likewise only a few chefs can use "more common" produce and elevate them to higher level the way Ishikawa or Alain Passard does.

          For my case, it's quite unlikely to visit Japan once a year (every 2-3 yrs perhaps more realistic). Given every opportunity, I always cherish it and try to make the most out of it including the last visit in which I picked the Autumn season - a season that many chefs and connoisseurs seem to agree that is the best/most interesting season as far as Japanese kaiseki's concerned

          1. re: Bu Pun Su

            can you please let me know where Matsukawa is located?

            thank you!

            1. re: johnrocca

              You can find their address and a map on their Tabelog page.

              http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1307/A13070...

    2. wow that looks amazing!! i want to try it next time i go to tokyo (although i'm the opposite of you, id rather eat sushi than have kaiseki)

      Btw 40,000 yen while not cheap doesn't actually sound that egregious for a 10 course meal using top notch ingredients

      18 Replies
      1. re: Lau

        Yes, I think you should put a priority to visit Matsukawa the next time you're in Tokyo
        I have not been able to confirm it yet, but generally in any Japan's kaiseki restaurants - the omakase menu will cost more whenever they serve Zuwai gani and Matsutake. Maybe, if neither of this ingredient is available, it would be cheaper

        I like kaiseki more because I feel that the dishes are more elaborate and test the chef's skills in many aspects: beautiful presentation, different dishes with different preparations (soup, sashimi, grilled, simmered and so on), and of course the taste. The (formal) kaiseki also reminds me of my love for French haute cuisine

        1. re: Bu Pun Su

          how far ahead did you make the reservations?

          i agree there is probably more skill involved in kaiseki meal, but
          from a pure just taste / enjoyment of food i like sushi better (personal preference obviously). although for my tastes while i like haute cuisine type of stuff, its not something i crave very often...i think i find the mid range or homestyle stuff most enjoyable, but again this is just my tastes.

          1. re: Lau

            Approximately 2.5 months before my selected date for the dinner; for lunch, it's 1+ month in advance as I was undecided earlier
            Japanese food (or even the fine versions) is easier to eat daily compared to the western food (French or Italian) - at least for me
            Sushi is actually my 2nd fav. type in Japanese cuisine. How important is the non-sushi part (i.e. tsumami/sashimi) when you eat or select your fav. sushi-ya?

            I guess your comfort food will be Chinese cuisine then? I, thankfully, adapted quite easily in the new place given the food is good. 6+ years ago, I traveled to western Europe with my parents for nearly 3 weeks and I had no problem to never eat any rice at all in spite of having grown in SE Asia. But it's not the case with them after 7+ days, they had to eat rice at least once which I thought already quite incredible ..

            1. re: Bu Pun Su

              2.5 months thats not that bad for tokyo standards i guess...ill def check it next time

              the non-sushi portion to me is somewhat less important than the actual sushi. the reason being is that i really shari. shari combined with whatever fish or shellfish is a 1+1 = 3 kind of situation for me. good shari is amazing, the flavor, texture etc and combined with a great piece of fish or shellfish and whatever they garnish with for flavor (soy sauce, salt etc) is just so good to me

              i consider most chinese cuisine to be comfort food to me although at the high end of cantonese cuisine, i consider it on par with any other haute cuisine out there although you can only find this level of cooking in HK

              i'll eat any kind of food and i think all cuisines certainly have at least a few things i'll probably really like. That said i much prefer food in Asia to the rest of the world's food (prefer japanese, chinese, taiwan, singapore / malaysia, korean to a lesser extent). I start to crave it fairly badly if i haven't had it like when i was in spain twice this summer for over a week each time and i was dying by the end for some sort of asian food. In western europe i like french food the best (i've spent alot of time there), but i like italian food as well

              1. re: Lau

                So, like, what does shari mean?

                1. re: Gargle

                  (vinegar) rice?

                  1. re: Bu Pun Su

                    That would just be su-meshi, wouldn't it? Why is it shari?

                    (I was just poking some fun at the recent chow trend of calling various things by non-English names so as to appear knowledgeable)

                    1. re: Gargle

                      yes all the same definition...and yes people do do that for sure

                      1. re: Gargle

                        As far as I'm aware, sushi-meshi is vinegared rice, and shari is the name for the small balls of rice pressed into the neta to make nigiri.

                        I understand your cynicism. As chuckeats drolly tweeted recently, "in the post-Tokyo Bourdain world, critics speak of "expertly aged" fish as if they've known all along". Word!

                        1. re: wekabeka

                          'Shari' means simply 'cooked rice', at first was the white rice, but also 'rice material' of sushi..

                          1. re: Ninisix

                            A Japanese person aged 64 tells me this is true.

                          2. re: wekabeka

                            Yet the chef calls for shari from the kitchen, and it's not in ball form at that point. At least the etymology is interesting.

                    2. re: Lau

                      Good points
                      Possibly, in many sushi establishments is not so much about having the best neta, but more on how to find the most suitable fish/seafood to be paired with (each) chef's unique shari recipe. I used to care more about the sushi, but then the recent experiences have somewhat changed that paradigm

                      For instance, the best thing I ate at Sushi Mizutani was mushi-awabi in "sashimi style"; Yoshitake HK was abalone with its liver & braised tako with 'sweet' sauce; Kanesaka Singapore was uni don with ikura & negi toro. I guess I'm not too picky/particular about how the sushi morsel has to be prepared

                      I can appreciate the Chinese cuisine high end ingredients, but not to the extend they will create the ecstasy when I savor top dishes in French/Japanese cuisine. Also, I usually only notice a very subtle variety among restaurants: braised shark's fin with "superior stocks - chicken broth+yunnan ham"; dried abalone with "special brown sauce" - probably because I prefer fresh abalone than the more complex dried version. This being the case, often it's not easy for me to pick any distinguished Cantonese restaurant

                      1. re: Bu Pun Su

                        yah that abalone at yoshitake was really really good; actually i found that the biggest difference in japan was the quality of the shellfish; like the fish was better than the best places in NY, but the shellfish was lightyears better

                        i hear you, i think my love for cantonese food is pretty well known on the board at this point, but personally i consider it up there with the best although for high end food japanese is def my fav (well its actually my fav in general, japanese and chinese food are my fav food)

                        1. re: Lau

                          Spot on regarding the shellfish quality
                          Before eating in Tokyo, I hardly noticed/remembered the shellfish in any sushi-ya - I'm sure I ate them (in LA, NYC, Singapore) but perhaps they're not too memorable. Any favorite season to eat sushi? Where would be your favorite kaiseki places outside Japan (if any)?

                          For Cantonese cuisine, I enjoy more on the cooking with "more humble dishes" such as crispy chicken, suckling pig or sauteed lobster than the once prepared using the priced ingredients I mentioned before. Perhaps, I should continue this part sometimes in the China's discussion board

                          1. re: Bu Pun Su

                            i agree, sometimes i have shellfish in the US where im like yah this is good, but i almost never get an piece of shellfish where im holy crap this is good (maybe oysters) and i def had many pieces where i had that reaction in tokyo. actually next time you're in tokyo go to dai san, its much more reasonable than the top tier places but it was really very good and the shellfish were so good

                            hmm im not like some kaiseki expert and i wouldnt say i have a favorite place per se bc i simply don't go to them that much

                            well for cantonese i like from the bottom all the way to the top, so congee, bbq, homestyle all the way to the expensive delicate stuff, but i would agree with you although thats the case in almost all cuisines i generally tend to really like the more mid ranged or simple stuff...i think thats the stuff you end up craving

                            1. re: Lau

                              +1 on the shellfish. I am here in tokyo now. This morning at Iwasa at the tsukiji market I had the kai set. 7 or 8 pieces of shellfish most of which I have never seen in the usa and all mindblowingly delicious. This breakfast put all sushi restaurants in SF including my favorites to shame. Light years of difference. Please don't make me leave Tokyo!

                              1. re: pauliface

                                go try to walk into dai san early like 6pm my friend did it and it was fine or go for lunch...thank me later

                                and yes the breadth of shellfish in japan is amazing, i probably hadnt had like maybe 70% of the shellfish i had in tokyo

            2. Bun Pun Su, I am a big fan of your food adventures but Matsukawa is, to me, a private club as confirmed by your statement ''''newcomer needs to be invited by the restaurant’s regular patrons''. They seem to do great and I am glad for them, but as a private initiative they are useless to the most (I mean, normal diners who are looking for a normal / non exclusive dinner).

              32 Replies
              1. re: MichelinStarDinners

                Regardless of stated policies, they accept reservations from newcomers.

                1. re: Gargle

                  This was not my experience this last week.

                  My hotel concierge called, and was told that they do not take reservations through hotels.

                  Following this, my friend (who speaks fluent Japanese) attempted to make a reservation. But he was told that the restaurant is invitation only...

                  1. re: pauliface

                    Maybe your friend has an Osaka accent?

                    Just kidding. These things are fluid and it no more surprises me to hear contradictory reports about reservation policies here than it is to be told by a restaurant they only take reservations one month out, but that they're fully booked three months out anyway :)

                2. re: MichelinStarDinners

                  Thanks for having followed my "gastronomy tour" (reports)
                  About Matsukawa - that's what I learned as I did my restaurants research. Then, I thought I got nothing to lose by asking the hotel's concierge to make a reservation there and it turned out to be great. Again, I wasn't 100% sure whether we're lucky or Matsukawa no longer holds "introduction-only" policy. We would need a few more people to confirm this. But, why not trying it yourself? Even if they had rejected me, I would not have been too disappointed as there were plenty of top kaiseki restaurants in Tokyo I could visit such as Yukimura, Ryugin, Kojyu and so on

                  For me personally, I'm fine when people reviewed introduction-only places. It might be "useless" since we could not eat there anyway, yet from the positive side I'm quite happy to know what the dishes' pictures and their experiences were like. I could sort of tell whether I will like the places just in case I would have the opportunity to dine there in the future somehow. In fact, I really look forward to reading the reports of people who had a chance to have meals at Morikawa or Kouraibashi Kitcho Honten

                  1. re: Bu Pun Su

                    Well, I can tell you with certainty that if you speak even marginal Japanese Matsukawa will let you book. The post-Lehman collapse of the super-high-end, invitation-only dining market is a global phenomenon after all - one that allows us to get dinner reservations at l'Ambroisie and Kyo Aji, but also one that will lead to no good.

                    1. re: Gargle

                      "but also one that will lead to no good" - why is it so? Or what do you mean?

                      I didn't know that l'Ambroisie used to be a "private club"
                      I ate there pre-Lehman for the 1st time and got chance going there a couple more times. Never got any difficulties to book there whether through direct call or ask the hotel to do it on my behalf. Also, not even once the restaurant was packed; at most only half seats were filled

                      1. re: Bu Pun Su

                        Getting a dinner table there used to be impossible. Lunch, yes, easily, but dinner was nearly unheard of. Did you eat dinner there before 2008? Then you were very lucky.

                        1. re: Gargle

                          p.s. according to the bu pun su gastronomy adventures blog, your first visit was for lunch, I should have clarified I was talking about dinner.

                          1. re: Gargle

                            Ah yes, I only went for lunch. A meal at l'Ambroisie is usually shorter than in any other 3-star places. I saved the longer ones for dinner. Moreover, la place des vosges is much more beautiful during the day. I often walked around there when eating at l'Ambroisie

                            1. re: Bu Pun Su

                              Lunch is certainly shorter, yes. But then you don't get to meet the same people or have some of the same food :)

                              1. re: Gargle

                                Isn't the menu the same between lunch and dinner? Unless you talked about the off-menu such as wild duck pastry during the game season. The length of the meal should depend on how many courses we order, right? Unless it's like some resto which has different and longer dinner-only degustation menu (though you can almost always order dinner menu at lunch nowadays)

                                1. re: Bu Pun Su

                                  All I can tell you is we usually sit down for dinner around 19:30 and stumble out just before midnight. The menu is the same but the food is not.

                      2. re: Gargle

                        -> Gargle
                        openly discussing invitation only restaurants (but rule not strictly enforced) on global forums makes chefs less wanting to accept 1st timer foreign guests , if the number of foreign guests outweighs local ones??

                        1. re: Lucil

                          You mean it should be just our little secret? ;)

                          1. re: Gargle

                            Actually a question , if this was the meaning that you think might lead to no good, ;)

                            1. re: Lucil

                              Oh, I see. No, I mean the fact that restaurants that once could operate as a super-high-end dining room for some classes of vips now largely have to cater to everyone who can afford to drop 100000 JPY on dinner for two will lead to no good.

                      3. re: Bu Pun Su

                        "Again, I wasn't 100% sure whether we're lucky or Matsukawa no longer holds "introduction-only" policy. We would need a few more people to confirm this."

                        I have made reservations for clients there on three occasions, before finally dining there myself in August. So it would seem there is no "introduction only" policy in place.

                        FYI: Tabelog will often state whether a shop has a restriction on reservations. The red characters 非公開 (hikoukai) means that the establishment is not open to the public.

                        1. re: wekabeka

                          Thanks for the clarification Wekabeka
                          It seems that Matsukawa is not an "introduction-only" kind of restaurant after all
                          So everyone who is interested in coming here can do so any time

                          If you don't mind sharing, what was your meal like in August? What were the "superstar ingredients"? Was it 'cheaper' than during Matsutake/Crab season or it's the same price? Lastly, the rice dish - was it still rice with ikura, pickles & nori? Thx

                          1. re: Bu Pun Su

                            They declined my reservation last year, less than a year after the restaurant opened, claiming they had a referral only system. So the referral system was definitely in place for the first year. Now they seem to be open to everyone.

                            Most dishes are the same from his time at Seisoka, which is also and excellent restaurant.

                            1. re: babreu

                              Sorry to hear that. I hope you didn't give up and finally had a chance to eat at Matsukawa. It's interesting when you said most dishes were still the same. I thought the dishes would be the rights of Seisoka. Is it still common high end places in Japan where the head chef is not the owner of the restaurant? Talking about Nihon ryori here

                              1. re: Bu Pun Su

                                Yes, I went to Matsukawa in october and had the matsutake kaiseki.

                                I didn't return to Seisoka this year, but chef Matsukawa said he's implementing new dishes while keeping some of his creations from Seisoka.

                                1. re: babreu

                                  Good to know you could eat at Matsukawa in the end
                                  Thanks for sharing some info about Matsukawa & Seisoka
                                  I assume you tasted Matsukawa-san's dishes during his 'old' days at Seisoka? Do you like his cooking better now or then? Was snow crab available yet during your Oct meal?

                            2. re: Bu Pun Su

                              It was a wonderful dining experience: the food, service and ambience were all flawless. I usually find kaiseki dishes overly complex and ornate - it really irks me when beautiful ingredients are fiddled with too much, so I appreciated the seeming simplicity of his dishes.

                              It was the height of summer, so naturally the menu was focused on eel. Our course included two preparations of grilled wild unagi (Lake Shinji): with tare sauce & as shioyaki; and three dishes of hamo (conger eel): thin slivers of sashimi (hamo segoshi), shabu-shabu, and zousui (a thin rice soup/porridge) made with the hamo dashi from the shabu-shabu. So if you aren't a fan of eel, I would perhaps avoid Matsukawa between July and early September. To be honest, I could have done without the zousui; it was the low point of the meal in terms of flavour, and it filled me up too much before the rice course. As well as the ikura and nori that you mentioned, our rice condiments included fresh karasumi (bottarga) and jakko (fried baby sardines). The latter of which we were given a jar of as our omiyage (souvenir).

                              I adore fish liver, roe and intestines - the umami flavour works brilliantly with sake, so my favourite dishes were the morsel of sticky rice topped with Awaji-Shima uni and Kazakhstan beluga caviar, the braised awabi with a sauce of its own liver and a dried crisp of kuchiko (sea cucumber ovary), and the surume ika "ruibe" (a sliver of frozen squid stuffed with its liver) - Matsukawa's signature dish.

                              I was escorting clients so I didn't see the final bill, but I guess the food would have been around ¥30,000 p/p, with the total being closer to ¥40,000p/p once the sake we ordered was factored in.

                              As far as I'm aware, the course menu during matsutake season is priced between ¥35,000-40,000, and when matsutake is at its peak the price spikes to ¥40,000-¥45,000. Ouch!

                              1. re: wekabeka

                                Yes, the menu in october was ¥40k, at lunch time, with lots of Matsutake.

                                1. re: babreu

                                  It's 40k now too, with several species and genders of crab, uni, karasumi, japanese lobster, wild fugu and so on, and so forth.

                                  1. re: Gargle

                                    Are you sure he served karasumi? He seems to use only konoko (dried sea cucumber ovaries), one of the most expensive delicacies in Japan.

                                    1. re: babreu

                                      According to the comments on tabelog, karasumi ochazuke is a recurring menu item.

                                      1. re: babreu

                                        I know kuchiko when I see it.

                                        Two large slices of lightly seared karasumi (of course the least salty mullet roes short of fresh smoked versions you'll find in the southern US, but still salty compared to the rest of his food) sitting on top of some hand made mochi in daikon sauce.

                                  2. re: wekabeka

                                    Thank you so much for your detailed reviews - awesome!
                                    It seems that Matsukawa should be a great place to go to at any season. How's the Hyogo's uni (i.e. in terms of taste/texture or color) different from its Hokkaido counterpart? I like anago and hamo, but not sure whether I will enjoy 5 eel dishes like you mentioned - maybe 1-2 too many. Is awabi in the summer that much better than any other season & why? I only know and tasted Otoro in the winter' it was the 'best' (due to acquiring the most body fat)

                                    I also need to accept the "fact" that Matsukawa's rice dish is always the same - I like Chef who's doing seasonal/more creative thing with his gohan. Lastly, it's interesting that Matsukawa also embraced caviar for his dishes, not sure if he would go as far as truffle in the future.

                                    1. re: Bu Pun Su

                                      Plunging deep into my sake addled memory, the Awaji-Shima aka (red) uni was a little firmer and more briny than the Hokkaido ezo-bafun & kita-murasaki uni that I had eaten at sushiya during summer.

                                      In regards to awabi, it's associated with summer as that's when most species are at their peak here. Ezo-awabi (a different species to the madaka awabi I had at Matsukawa), peak later in the year, so that's probably what you were eating.

                                      If you want to learn more about the regional and seasonal differences in uni & awabi, I suggest you refer to Nagayama-san's detailed posts on the subject:

                                      http://harumi-sushi.sakura.ne.jp/d09_...

                                      http://harumi-sushi.sakura.ne.jp/d04_...

                                      Or pick up a copy of his bilingual book, Sushi.

                                      1. re: wekabeka

                                        Cool info, thanks

                              2. re: Bu Pun Su

                                Thanks Bu Pun Su and Gargle for the extra infos about Matsukawa. Absolutely, I'll try it myself (In Autumn, if all things go well) and sorry for using the word 'useless' (sounds rude). I am not against reports of exclusive restaurants, just thought that their exposure will lead to disappointments (for eg, you see all that beautiful description about a meal, but no..ain't gonna happen for the most ;p). But I absolutely respect your opinion on the matter, Bu Pun Su. @Wekabeka - Glad to hear that they seem to have dropped that introduction-only policy. PS: regarding L'Ambroisie: it was same experience as Bu Pun Su, for me, which means normal reservation process (opened to public / I just called and booked).

                            3. Hi all, I attempted to book Matsukawa through my hotel but they seem to have reverted to an 'introductions only' policy. Has this been the case for others too?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: robs87

                                Basically, yes. I have been able to book before on my own, but I recently called and was told they were fully booked even though I had been there before. I had a friend who is a high profile customer call for me and they took the reservation immediately. Regardless of what they tell anyone on the phone, I believe they regulate who is permitted to book pretty severely. And, in case anyone is wondering, yes, IMHO it is still worth the hassle. Although the reservations policy is not democratic, Matsukawa San in one of the most hospitable chefs I have met in Tokyo and the food is second to none.