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Food Itinerary -hit it or miss it?

Hi everyone!

I have been lurking at the board trying to find suggestions for my trip in a few months time to Tokyo for 1 week. It would be my 1st time here and I would like some comments on my planned food stops so I can probably filter it down.

I don't speak any Japanese but am learning some basic phrases so as to at least be able to convey basic terms.

Sushi:
Saito/sawada/ miyako (though I doubt I will get reservations at these 3)

Sushi Iwa/Harutaka more realistic for a chance of a reservation?

Any other recommendations- love to hear from ninisix who seems such a expert on sushi!

Tempura- Kondo/Asagi/fukamachi

Ramen- Afuri/Rokurinska/Ivan

Kaiseki- Ishikawa/Den - quite torn on this, review suggests ishikawa is probably better in quality, but Den seems like such fun and do know that neither are very traditional kaiseki style. Just don't think I have the sophistication of palate to go for the traditional ones.

Tonkatsu- Katsuzen

Yakitori- Toritake

Steak- Shima, any other recommedations? or perhaps a teppanyaki place?

Since I am quite a few months away, I have yet to give this list to my hotel to ask them to assist with restaurants reservations, would greatly appreciate if the board can provide some feedback on this.

Thank you very much!

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  1. Iwa is not too difficult to get a reservation at, with enough time. I made a reservation for a week from now, about a month ago. Iwa's assistant speaks some English (he lived in California before).

    If time is important, you might skip Rokurinsha at Tokyo Station. I usually end up there at least once a trip, but I always stay really close to Tokyo Station, so the wait is not a big deal to me. Budget an hour in line. There are so many other Tsukemen that are as good in Tokyo. I'd point you to Brian's recent "Best of" column in his Ramen Adventures blog.

    Personally, I would ignore the Michelin * and skip Katsuzen. The atmosphere is really nice there, but it is more expensive than other places like Tonki, or even Katsukura, which I think are as good. I've not been to Butagumi, but I really want to.

    If cost is important, for steak, try Satou in Kichijoji. I also go there about once a trip. For Y 10,000, you get a really nice Matsuzaka steak dinner.

    Dale

    2 Replies
    1. re: angler

      Dear angler,

      thanks for the advice,

      I heard that Tonki has long lines? Should I go at 330 pm for their 4 pm opening?

      Satou looks like long lines as well, do you know when do they open? May need to go early to avoid long queue!

      1. re: chri1720

        I've never had to wait at Satou (I've been there three summers in a row). However, I never went in the evening. I ate at Noon, 2PM, and 5PM. They open at 1100 AM.

        Likewise, I've only waited about 10 minutes at Tonki, but I didn't eat in the evening.

    2. I’ve been to several high end kaiseki restaurants and Ishikawa was my favorite – more so than Morikawa and Shigeyoshi which cost significantly more. I don’t think you need a sophisticated palate to enjoy the experience. I don’t have one and I remember loving every dish.

      Sawada gets a lot of press – but I was extremely disappointed with my meal there. It’s not that it was bad, by any means. It just didn’t seem to offer any real pick-up (for me) versus places like Iwa which are considerably less. It was one of the few restaurants I’ve been to where I felt foolish about spending so much money on a meal. Given the cost (~$360 for tsumami + sushi – I think sushi only is around $250), and despite it only having 6 seats I doubt you’ll have a problem getting a reservation --- but perhaps that should be a warning. For my money, I’d rather have dinner at Ishikawa ($150 or $190 menu – difference is ingredients, not number of courses) and a sushi lunch at Iwa ($85).

      For ramen I love Rokurinska – their thicker noodles are amazing.

      I’d also highly recommend a yakitori place – they’ve been some of my most enjoyable meals in Tokyo.

      Have a good trip!

      1. To be fair, I should have added that Iwa's comparable meal to Sawada's full omakase is around $225 at lunch... but for $85 you can have a nice amount of sushi. I can't remember how many pieces, maybe around 12-14.

        1. I'm not a fan of Ivan, I think Afuri and Rokurinsha would be a good contrast of light vs heavy.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Shirang

            Avoid both of them (all branches) at lunchtime and you will save yourself some time. Check their hours with your concierge.

            1. re: kamiosaki

              Noted, probably either a late night snack for Afuri and morning weekday breakfast since found out Rokurinsha does serve breakfast at Tokyo Station branch.

              1. re: kamiosaki

                Azabujuban location of Afuri isnt that crazy, Harajuku seems crazy, but around 7pm I've had 5-10 min waits.

            2. Sushi Saito, Miyako sushi are not available for reservations until 2015, and Saito San is refusing even regulars, for (some of) them too, it is full until the end of the year !
              Sushi Iwa, during week days, at lunch, is very enjoyable with its small counter, and is reasonable priced at 8000yens without taxes. You can also ask your concierge to arrange for a more personalize lunch including uni(sea urchin), and, if in autumn, oily shime saba !
              If you want to eat maguro at its best, I recommend you sushi Tokami at dinner. Its omakase is including various maguro good pieces, and its begins with a temaki of maguro mousse like ! Don't miss his tsumami, a dinner feels more like a French course, but it is very impressive for its maguro..

              24 Replies
              1. re: Ninisix

                HI Ninisix,

                I am actually going next year Feb 2015 so should I still try Saito/Miyako or should I stick with Iwa/Tokami?

                Tokami is quite new, isn't it? Seems cheaper but just as good as Sawada, so definitely will consider this.

                Do you also have any good teppayaki restaurant to recommend?

                Thanks!

                1. re: chri1720

                  Miyako sushi, you might have a chance if you find a good concierge, sushi Saito is 'only' between regulars, and was ranked by Tabelog first restaurant in 2013 !

                  I didn't have teppanyaki recently, Shima steak are good, other side of the menu isnt worth it, better stick to steak 'a la carte'.

                  Tempura Fukamachi is as Kondo San an apprentice of tempura Yamanoue, good practice and smaller, more close to the chef.

                  1. re: Ninisix

                    Ok thanks Ninisix, will try Miyako and see if I can get lucky!

                    3 questions,

                    1.for sushi iwa, do I need to tell them when I book that I want a special set? If yes, what do I say to hotel concierge? Or can I do this when I get there to restaurant?

                    2. Sushi Tokami, is their normal set = tsumami + sushi or is that something I also need to request separately?

                    3. Don't quite understand on your tempura comment, are you saying I should go with Fukamachi? Since Kondo and him are apprentices of Yamanoue?

                    1. re: chri1720

                      It is always better to set the price at time of reservation, especially if you want to personalize your lunch menu, and go for example for 16 pieces. If you are not sure you can eat such quantity, you can still order supplements any time, but consider that each supplement is rather expensive (around 2000yens each). Kind of similar to one time newspaper versus subscription price!
                      I enjoyed tempura Kondo, tempura Fukamachi is even more enjoyable for the reason it is smaller, and the oil it uses is in part sesame oil !
                      As for sushi Tokami, just order the full menu at night, it is fine.

                2. re: Ninisix

                  Would an early lunch reservation at Saito make it easier do you think?

                  1. re: Roysen

                    I think if a restaurant is not available for reservations for the rest of this year, and is turning away regulars, the discussion of whether an "early lunch reservation" is more likely would be purely academic.

                    1. re: Uncle Yabai

                      Ok, I understand. My question was only in regards to the post above telling he had no problems getting a reservation every summer at early lunch hour. Some restaurants are easier to reserve at certain hours and I thought it might be worth asking, but I of course understand it is a long shot.

                      1. re: Roysen

                        Lunch at sushi Saito is reduced to one service, early lunch won't be accepted.

                        1. re: Ninisix

                          Dear Ninisix,

                          I hope I can ask you to send me a personal e-mail on royovehagen@gmail.com. I have something I would like to discuss with you in private. I think you might be interested.

                        2. re: Roysen

                          The poster was referring to the steakhouse Satou rather than Sushi Saito.

                          Sushi Saito is pretty much fully booked for dinner until the end of the year. Weekday lunch reservations are still possible (at least they were a few weeks ago) but are being held back for 'real' regulars, for want of a better term.

                          Equally Saito-san occasionally stays open for a second lunch service for such regulars.

                          1. re: kayoubidesu

                            Where do you see a reference to the steakhouse satou? Says right there in black and white Sushi Saito.

                            1. re: Gargle

                              Gargle - this is what is says in black and white:

                              Angler:

                              "I've never had to wait at Satou (I've been there three summers in a row). However, I never went in the evening. I ate at Noon, 2PM, and 5PM. They open at 1100 AM."

                              Roysen:

                              "Would an early lunch reservation at Saito make it easier do you think?"

                              "My question was only in regards to the post above telling he had no problems getting a reservation every summer at early lunch hour."

                              1. re: kayoubidesu

                                Ah, I see. But if you pay careful attention to the Re: chain, you'll see the source of (your) confusion.

                                Anyway, I realize this is all just a way to explain that you're a *real* regular, or invited by one, which is cool.

                                1. re: Gargle

                                  Despite your ever helpful sarcasm, perhaps you'd like to set out where exactly my confusion lies? I've followed the chain back and it seems perfectly clear. Ta.

                                  1. re: kayoubidesu

                                    I'm not Gargle, but it took me a few reads before I figured it out. I'm pretty literal, however, and because Roysen wrote "Saito" and replied to Ninisix's post, I couldn't get it out of my head that he meant Sushi Saito. Plus he had only previously asked about sushi, so my mind was still stuck there.

                                    1. re: prasantrin

                                      Yes, Roysen meant Sushi Saito.

                                      However, he misread the earlier post regarding Satou which is why he asked if it was possible to get an early reservation at Saito. His second post makes that clear, because unless something has been deleted, no-one else references going to Sushi Saito every summer in this thread.

                                      Perhaps I created ambiguity when I wrote "The poster was referring to the steakhouse Satou rather than Sushi Saito" - this was directed at Roysen, rather than Ninisix, and this is now where (Gargle's) confusion lies.

                    2. re: Ninisix

                      How is Saito booked or unavailable until 2015 when they only accept reservations one month ahead? The concierge at The Peninsula is trying to book two seats for me in November. Are you certain they are booked solid until the new year and if so, how is that possible given their supposed scheduling policy?

                      1. re: OliverB

                        They only accept reservations one month ahead but all of the seats are already booked (or are expected to be booked) by regulars. Same story as Miyako, Mitani, etc.

                        1. re: Gargle

                          Ah I understand; that's really frustrating though.

                          I guess I should start considering other options as it doesn't look like I'm getting seats at Saito given the odds.

                          It had been numero uno on my dining list since I began planning this trip so it's really disappointing. I guess I should email The Pen and ask them to try for Sawada or Mizutani. They're already trying to line up reservations at Yoshitake for us. I wanted to do two high end sushi spots in Tokyo with Saito being the benchmark but I can see the odds aren't in my favor with this one.

                          1. re: OliverB

                            Why is it 'really disappointing'? Have you eaten there, and know what you're missing? Or you think you're missing something and that is what is disappointing?

                            1. re: Uncle Yabai

                              I have been anticipating a meal at Saito for years and was expecting to finally experience it on this trip. We were greatly looking forward to it and I'm disappointed that we won't have the opportunity to do so.

                              1. re: OliverB

                                Hi everyone, thanks for all the recommendations!

                                Just missing Teppanyaki:

                                Any opinions? So far read decent reviews for Sazanka/Ukai-tei Omotesando/Omae Xex?

                                Would love your inputs!

                                Thanks!