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Ultimate Tokyo foodie trip 2!!

Hey guys, am planning on another foodie trip to tokyo in April, and would like to seek your opinions on which restaurants I should check out! (post from my last visit http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/873423

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Anyway will be there for 6 days and will have 10 meals! Am thinking along the lines of maybe around 4-5 sushi meals, 2 kaiseki, 1 tempura, 1-2 french, and maybe 1 unagi.

My last trip I went to Sawada (was my fav), Yoshitake and Sushiso Masa. For this trip I am considering the following:

Sushi Saito
Sushi Umi
Sushi Sho
Miyakozushi

Other than Saito, I would like to get your views on the other 3. I quite enjoyed it last time at Sushiso Masa, and knowing he honed his skills under Keiji Nakazawa at Sho, how do the 2 shops compare? Ive heard that Masa has better tsumami, while Sho has better nigiri? Also for Umi, I understand its a favorite amongst many Hong Kong and Taiwanese people (and it does have 2 stars), but its tablelog ratings are incredibly low so just wondering whether it is still worth going? For Miyakozushi (http://www.luxeat.com/blog/miyako-sus...), luxeat called it 3-michelin-star caliber, but there is very limited info on the internet regarding this sushiya, has anyone here been there and could share your experience? I am open to visiting 1 more, as of now I am considering going back to Sawada or maybe checking out something new if you guys have any recommendations. Price isn't an issue, and I am looking for something similar to the Sawada / Saito style as opposed to Umi / Sho where its less serious and more fun. Sukiyabashi Jiro? Sushi Ichikawa? Or any other up and coming shops that are worth visiting? (unfortunately Araki only opens till March and is already fully booked

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For Kaiseki I am thinking Matsukawa and Den (am pretty set on Matsukawa but not too sure about Den). Understand Matsukawa used to be referral only but apparently now they take reservations? Anyone been recently? (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/927521). And regarding Den, I have heard mixed reviews. Just wondering if you guys can let me know what are your thoughts on it / whether you have other recommendations. I read a post somewhere saying Ryugin is better (although hard to compare) but I honestly thought Ryugin was way overrated.

Tempura: Debating between Mikawa and Rakutei. A few friends say they are about the same level (better than Kondo which I did not enjoy at all). Anyone been to both? Coz I have been to Rakutei and really enjoyed it.

French: Quintessence vs L'osier? Been to Quintessence and really enjoyed it (lunch). Am thinking of going to dinner, is the experience similar to lunch or is it much much better? Also understand that L'osier just reopened, normally it would take a few months for them to get consistent but would appreciate if you guys can let me know how these two compare.

Unagi: Anyone been to Kabuto? Is it really THAT amazing? Been to Chikuyotei / Nodaiwa but they were just ok imo...

Izakaya: Also has anyone been to the likes of Kane Masu and Shimada? Can anyone please share your experiences (ive never been to any izakayas in Tokyo, apparently theres a minimum 1.5-2 hour queue every night.

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Thanks a lot guys! Look forward to hearing your feedback!

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  1. Miyakozushi is exceptional. Not just the quality of nigiri that is in line with the best, but watching the sushi chef at work is like watching a well choreographed dance with every motion carefully planned. I highly recommend it, but please be ready for disappointment as it is very difficult to get in. Ichikawa... I dunno. If you're looking for less-fun try Hachiguchi.

    Don't waste time on unagi-theme restaurants, really.

    Shimada - be there on a weekend at 5:45pm. But then, you can also do the same with a nice place like Kanemasu, or one of many Izakaya that doesn't try and sell the idea that you're getting three star kaiseki food (you're not) at Royal Host prices like Shimada, although it's still not bad at all.

    Matsukawa and Den are not comparable in any way. Both have their merits, although if you're looking for pure, no nonsense ingredient bliss than Matsukawa is the obvious choice.

    eta: But really, go to Ishikawa before you consider Den.

    15 Replies
    1. re: Gargle

      gargle -> very interested to know your favourite sushi haunt... heh ,

      jmui--> DEN if you like fun interesting amicable chef who engages fervently with diners , and more western tastes in dishes, and less on ingredient quality and execution, else matsukawa sounds better for food with the higher price tag.

      shimada, got in on a wednesday around 7-8pm , depends on your luck thou... did not see any queues outside, also i had a hard time locating it that night going round and round in circles based on my google maps.. passed by it numerous times without knowing and found it finally after my partner(who doesn't understand japanese asked me if that lantern was the one) .
      also at first i ordered 3-4 dishes( was planning to order more as we go along depending on the food and appetite) , and the chef looked at me and said something ( did not quite understand based on my caveman japanese, which i was guessing from his expression that we had ordered too little food) , not sure if this was the case, so i ordered few more dishes, and he confirmed it, in the end it was too much food for us...

      also my partner who is first time in real japanese food(kaiseki and sushi etc, did not like shimada, liked DEN the most, did not like kyoaji much ( ill that day (1st day of her month) , which i thought was best)

      unagi themed restaurants should not be a destination to go.. they were also only OK to me, after trying the supposedly the best there is...

      1. re: Lucil

        Whats wrong with unagi restaurants?

        1. re: Shirang

          I noted recently, the best unagi dishes I've had (and I didn't have that many) were at Higuchi, where they charcoal grill long sections of wild unagi, deboned, but in the skin, which blisters and crisps beautifully, and at Ishikawa, where a small portion of firm textured, fatty, grilled unagi was one of the best mouthfuls of the year.

          At unagi restaurants, the quality can be good but it's never *that* good (at least the four I tried), and the need to produce an entire meal from the same ingredient, which is becoming ever more expensive, but at a price that isn't as high as what a kappo place charges... doesn't end that well, imho. Put differently, I don't feel like I'm getting a particularly different experience at Obana than from having a nice piece of unagi here and there. So given a very limited number of meals, I'd put them at a lower priority (although maybe Obana for lunch...)

          1. re: Gargle

            does obana take reservations for lunch? but ive heard many good things about kabuto.. hv u been / heard anything?

            1. re: jmui852

              I believe you have to queue up, but it's not a long wait. Kabuto is better but iirc is dinner only. Nodaiwa was the weakest.

              1. re: Gargle

                Managed to score a reservation at both miyaki and kabuto!

                1. re: jmui852

                  How long is dinner at Kabuto? 60-90 minutes? We have a reservation at 5 pm (right when it opens).

                  Just trying to make sure we'll have enough time to get to Haneda Airport for a 11:55 PM flight.

        2. re: Lucil

          Favorite is difficult. I go to a few of them regularly, like namba or shingo because they've very good and very convenient for me, but I think Miyako and Saito (and probably Mizutani and Hachiguchi) are better, technically speaking. I also like Hatsune (already discussed below), with some reservations about presentation style... of the highly regarded ones on Tabelog I think it's easier to say I didn't care too much for Harutaka, Jiro in its current form, Ichiyanagi and Ichikawa (mostly because the chef was powerless to ask the most annoying drunk woman to stop bugging me, or even to cut her off, it was really distracting) than to say which is my favorite. Also, Oono is a really sweet, low key place, which if I were in Ginza more often I'd go to all the time.

          It's one of those things where what you'd recommend to a one time visitor who's looking for an exceptional experience but also wants to feel like the place is taking itself very seriously is not what you'd necessarily want on a weekly basis, you know?

          1. re: Gargle

            mind elaborating a bit on ichikawa? looked up hatsune but the nigiris dont exactly look that good. anything more similar to the sushi "temple" style such as saito / sawada?

            also u think i should go to ishikawa instead of den? how does it compare with matsukawa? also any thoughts on rakutei vs mikawa and l'osier vs quintessence?

            1. re: jmui852

              If I had to choose I would certainly go with Ishikawa for a more approachable / modern Kaiseki along with matsukawa before Den. Or, if you want another more classic there are many options... again, not that Den isn't very nice and great fun.

              I need to think about the sushi places. There's mitani too, but I don't remember if they let tourists book... anyone?

              Based on one meal at l'Osier post-reopening I'd certainly go to Quintessence - again, it depends on your stylistic preferences, these are all great options.

              1. re: Gargle

                Mitani is also one that takes months to book. But the pics look very ordinary. I'm most intrigued by ichikawa, as he was a disciple at araki (they reopened in nov to march but already fully booked in 3 hours). Heard anything about it? Also just wondering how did u book miyako? Supposedly u can only call on the first day of the previous month? But is it just like saito where if ur a regular they will let u book? How hard is it to secure a booking? Appreciate it if you could gimme some tips!

                1. re: jmui852

                  I didn't get a very strong feeling for Ichikawa's style, because, again, I was being hounded by this drunk...

                  There aren't tips to be given, I'm afraid. If you're not a regular then you (or your concierge) have to try and book right at the beginning of the month, or to keep calling in hope of last minute cancellations. But a productive approach is to remember that eating at any of the top couple of dozen places of a genre is going to be pretty awesome, so there's no need to obsess about not being able to get into *the* one. Of course if pics from Mitani look ordinary and from Hatsune not-so-good then maybe you're coming from some place with such great sushi that you shouldn't bother (sorry, just busting your chops ;))

                  1. re: Gargle

                    Lol no worries I got what u mean. Maybe ill just return to sawada or sth lol. But food wise what do u think of ichikawa? Also for kaiseki I'm now seriously considering dropping den for ishikawa. How would u compare it with koju?

                2. re: Gargle

                  How was ur meal at l'osier post reopening? Is there a good sushiya that opens for lunch? Btw hv u heard anything about sushisho shingo? Am wondering how it compares to sushi sho (chef was second in command at sho for 10 plus years). Also how would u compare koju (/ginza okuda) and ishikawa and ginza okamoto (any that opens for lunch)?

              2. re: Gargle

                hmm mind if i ask, namba belongs closer to which style???
                thanks for the answer!

                just to add on to DEN for jmui,
                dessert is a weak point there, usually i may have bias for restaurants with excellent desserts for proper elaborate meals..

          2. I prefer ishikawa over koju. The ingredient is far simpler in ishikawa and the chef bring out the essence of the food. I swear i have the best gohan ever in my life at ishikawa with just plain uonuma koshihikari rice with dry sesame is just pure bliss even without sea bream paste. Koju is good as you expect but no "wow " effect. The plating and presentation is more elaborate than ishikawa perhaps. I went during summer and winter and the dish serves is pretty redundant minus the crab for the winter. You certainly get fuller with Koju as the portion is larger. It seemed to cater western palate more. Being an asian, I prefer ishikawa style.

            1 Reply
            1. re: silverlim

              I visited both Ishikawa and Koju during my last trip. I also prefered Ishikawa.

              I also visited Nagazumi last trip.
              This was a very special evening. It is hard to compare because the food is quite different, but I definitely prefered Nagazumi to Koju. Somehow, because it was a Sunday, the only people in the restaurant were me, my friend, and the chef, Ogo-san. His two helpers had the night off. And because the chef's equipment is all at the counter, it was like being two people hanging out in the kitchen while Ogo-san cooked for us. As always in Japan, things began slightly stiff and awkward, but within 30 minutes we all began to loosen up. Ogo-san is a very sweet and talented man. The food was amazing, he was trying new recipes for us, some of which were mind-blowingly good (a raw oyster treatment that he had made up the night before, and a recipe he was trying for the first time, small fish that were fried, then boiled, then topped with a sauce, and for the meat course venison, which I've never had in Japan, that was incredible). I think we were very lucky to have this intimate experience and I do not expect to ever have such an experience again. Iit was a night to remember always.