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Tokyo 5 days,Kaiseki and Unagi choices.

Hi would appreciate help on deciding on a few meals in Tokyo this July.

For Kaiseki choosing between Kikunoi, Ishikawa, Takazawa or Matsukawa. I need to visit one for lunch and the other a dinner.

I heard really good things about Matsukawa but how does one get a reservation?

For Unagi Unatetsu, Nodaiwa, and Tamai.

Thank you in advance

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  1. I have dine at Ishikawa, Takazawa and Matsukawa. I have Kikunoi kyoto reservation coming up in 3 day as I am now in Japan.

    Takazawa is not really traditional Kaiseki but rather modern french cuisine with japanese influence but still very good. The atmosphere is more close knit, fun and interactive when I last dine there in 2011 where they only use to have two table. I am back again to takazawa tonight and hope things hasn't change.

    Ishikawa probably has the best cost to performance ration of the other 3. They also do lunch on friday and saturday. Their most expensive course is only 19k. I like their cooking is very simple, at the same time, he is able exude the best flavour from the ingredient that he used. I have the best gohan last September with the new crop of nigata rice. I prefer it over the other michelin 3 star like koju, ryugin, kanda, easki, and yukimura which I have all tried. However, Ishikawa weakest link is the dessert portion which I think ryugin so far has the best dessert when it come to Kaiseki. We are back to Ishikawa again tomorrow night.

    Matsukawa is the best traditional japanese kaiseki meal we have ever had in japan so far ( however the caveat being , we haven't tried mizai in kyoto, kyoaji in tokyo and kitcho arashyima kyoto which I heard is even better, as for the latter, we have reservation coming up in 3 day). Matsukawa san is a very talented chef and their food is just divine. I still remember vividly till now about the uni dish and crab dumpling it was served. His style is similar to Ishikawa which look simple but the flavour is just amazing. However it is expensive 40k yen ppax and cash only, We like it so much we are going badk again next thursday. We booked it via our hotel concierge.

    For Unagi, we have only tried Obana, which I think is good but not wow effect. Prepare to line up as there is already a long line even when we got there half an hour before the shop is open which I think is going to more crazy as summer is the season for wild unagi.

    Hope it help

    13 Replies
    1. re: silverlim

      Thank you for this.

      Looks like Matsukawa is the place to hit, how can you get a reservation from overseas?

      We will go to Matsukawa for dinner then try Ishikawa for lunch.

      Please do let me know how Kikoknoi is. Enjoy the rest of your trip in Japan

      1. re: HimUDB

        Ask your hotel concierge to make the reservation for you, we did it roughly about a month before

        1. re: HimUDB

          Just to report back that we are quite disappointed with our meal at Takazawa two night before. The plating is good as ever but the flavour is just appalling not to mention the price has also tripled since my visit in 2011. The only redeeming dish is the tempura ayu( sweet fish).

          On the other hand, ishikawa is as good as ever. I dive in on the Gohan cooked with hokkaido trout. Highlight for the day beside the Gohan is the kujira hifu ( whaleskin) nabe. It's once reinforce my notion to stick with washoku for my future japan trip.

          1. re: silverlim

            Thank you for this, did not know ayu was still in season, but Ishikawa sounds great.

            Will book Ishikaya for lunch.

            1. re: HimUDB

              Ishikawa is not open for lunch.

              1. re: HimUDB

                Here is a summary of my kaiseki meal in Kyoto

                Kitcho Arashiyama-- taste wise is the most refine kaiseki I have so far in Kyoto but still below par compared to Matsukawa. The service is impeccable and the atmosphere is gorgeous. However, lack of creativity compared to kikunoi kyoto. overall value is 8.5/10

                Nakamura-- taste and plating is average but the service is really homey. The portion of the food is also the largest, we could barely finish all the food. I have the 5th and 6th generation chef and okami visit us throughout the meal, It's a different experience that I will likely not forget. Overall value is 6/10.

                Hyotei--I have low expectation after all the bad review at Chow but I was surprise. Their focus is cha-ryori, the food is simple but it bring out umami flavour. The atmosphere is nice( private dining room) but the air conditioning is like non-existent, so we are roasting all the time. Their tamago is great. Service is the least hospitable compare to the other 3. Overall value is 7.5/10

                Kikunoi honten-- Taste wise is really on par with Kitcho but less refine. The plating is more creative and the ingredient is also more elaborate. Like their signature dish, awabi and uni baked in wakamae is really good. I like the tofu dumpling with anago the best. The service is more formal. Overall value is 8/10

                1. re: silverlim

                  Thank you for this.

                  We are renting an apartment in Tokyo and so we wont have a concierge.

                  How else can I book at Matsuwaka, seems to be the place to go.

                  I will also try Kikunoi as it has been part of the wish list for some time.

                  Again many thanks!

                  1. re: HimUDB

                    I am doubtful they will let you book without going through hotel concierge unless you know or hire someone locally like shinji nohara to book it for you. The other less politically correct way is to make a cancellable reservation in a hotel and then have the hotel concierge make the reservation for Matsukawa. When closer to your actual stay, you could cancel the hotel reservation but still keep the restaurant reservation.

                    1. re: HimUDB

                      Just to remind you, our experience in Kikunoi is at original restaurant ( honten) in Gion Kyoto, so we could not comment if the tokyo branch fare as well as their main branch.

                      1. re: silverlim

                        Sure, but apart from your review I have read and heard of others that just say the same. Many thanks.

                        1. re: HimUDB

                          Just to report back our meal at Matsukawa is just as good as before. The highlight of the meal today is actually the iced chilled soba and hamo shabu shabu. I was surprised that he still remember us from our last meal 6 months ago. I have yet to find any kaiseki restaurant surpass matsukawa. As a matter of fact, the chef told us the chef at Kitcho also dine at Matsukawa. We are hoping to come back again in October as we're told by the chef it is the best season for Matsutake. This just sum up our 12th trip to Japan.

                          Here are the restaurant we have tried in this trip
                          Gonokamiseisakujo ramen
                          Sushi Iwa
                          Sushi Taira
                          Takazawa
                          Sushi mizutani
                          Ishikawa
                          Kitcho Arashiyama-Kyoto
                          Nakamura-Kyoto
                          Hyotei-Kyoto
                          Kikunoi Hoten-Kyoto
                          Sushi Sawada
                          Joel Robuchon
                          Tempura Kondo
                          Matsukawa

                          1. re: silverlim

                            I have upcoming reservations at Matsukawa and they are contingent on my providing them with the name of someone who can "verify" their eating experience there. Any suggestions? Help! If you need my e-mail address to respond privately please let me know. Thank you.

                            1. re: markmich

                              markmich, congratulations on securing reservations at Matsukawa. You must be overjoyed. If you are not aware, reservations at Matsukawa are among the most precious in the city.

                              I wish I could take you up on your generous offer of a free dinner at Matsukawa with you in exchange for verification that I ate there, but unfortunately I have yet to enjoy that privilege. A dinner at Royal Host is a splurge for me these days. However, I have a suggestion. There is no shortage of people who have blogged about their transformative experience at Matsukawa. Why don't you try using one of their names?

          2. Tamai is an anago shop, not unagi. Having said that, I like anago kabayaki or hitsumabushi style more than I like unagi.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Uncle Yabai

              Thank you for clearing this up Uncle Habi.

              Would you have any recommendations for both Anago and Unagi? Both high end and reasonable neighborhood.

              Again thanks.

            2. For kaiseki i would highly recommend Matsukawa and Kyoaji. If you are unable to book one of the two then you should include Ishikawa, which imo is much better than Kikunoi.

              For Unagi, I have been to Nodaiwa, Obana, Chikuyotei and Kabuto. Out of the 4 Kabuto is by far the best, they only do dinner and you should get the omakase which includes many different skewers, white-grilled unagi and the regular grilled unagi. Also it is possible for you to request wild unagi as opposed to farmed ones.

              Hope I was able to help!

              1. Unagi you might want to try Sekine. I would not characterise Ishikawa or Takazawa as kaiseki.