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Tokyo Itinerary...Thoughts and Suggestions?...

I will be in Tokyo for six days and nights in September (after spending four days in Kyoto). I have a tentative dining plan, but I would appreciate comments and suggestions. I am planning on booking reservations for about half of the meals there (six reservations); I would like to leave open spaces for more casual/ local and spontaneous dining.

A little about me; I have been to Tokyo only once (and to Kyoto three times), but to various places in Asia quite a bit. I will be staying near Ginza at The Conrad. I have spent a lot of time in Paris, and to give you a sense of my taste, I love L'Astrance, Sola (modern, artistic French-Japanese fusion by Japanese chef, and Pierre Gagnaire. So, generally, more creative contemporary cuisine and atmosphere is preferred. Quintessence seemed like a perfect choice for me, but they are closed the week I am there. I live in Los Angeles, and I love great sushi, though with Omakase, I am not always happy with everything the chef chooses, so sometimes I prefer to choose for myself (I understand that Omakase is part of the high end Sushi experience, and that is fine). I have done high end kaiseki several times, and it is generally not my favorite experience; I will be doing one kaiseki meal in Kyoto, and I do not want to do one in Tokyo.

I would appreciate comments about my general plan, as well as specific suggestions or alternatives.

My tentative plan is as follows:

- Sushi Yoshitake, dinner
- Edition Koji Shimomura, dinner
- Tapas Molecular Bar, dinner
- Narisawa, lunch
- Leffervescence, lunch
- Pierre Gagnaire, lunch, or possibly dinner (How does this compare to Paris? Would you recommend other French options instead...Robuchon Le Chateau, Beige?)

- I plan on doing at least one Teppanyaki (or Japanese beef) restaurant. There is a beef place in Kyoto called Hafuu that I like a lot; will the options in Tokyo be different/ better?

- I might want to do one more high end sushi experience, but, as I mentioned, I am reticent to do another omakase since sometimes I feel like I end up eating a lot of things I don't like (tako, Ikura, clam)

My hotel suggested two places for teppanyaki: Biefteck Kawamura and Ginza Ukaitei; any thoughts?

I also plan on doing sushi at Tsukiji Market, though I am not generally a person who will stand in line for an hour or more to partake in some tourist ritual. Any suggestions here?

Thank you in advance for the help.

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  1. I haven't been but it sounds like Esquisse might be a good fit for you. http://gm.gnavi.co.jp/shop/0120140126/ When I was at L'alchimiste (also french; a wonderful experience, with playful presentations: http://gm.gnavi.co.jp/shop/0120140097/) the staff there gave it their highest recommendation. Also commented on here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8892...

    1. You can do sushi 'a la carte' almost everywhere, the tricky part being to order in English, and the price ! The best way is to set the price when reserving, and check up front, when booking, if they accept the 'a la carte' for for ex. 19,000 yens ! Sushi Iwa will accept if you don't set up indecent prices vs expectations, and it will be a nice sushi yasan after your experience at sushi Yoshitake.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Ninisix

        Shouldn't be that hard. All you have to say is "Sumimasen, ______ o kudasai". Knowing that you are a foreigner, they'll forgive you for the 5 year old way of speaking. Works for me everytime I go into a sushi place. Just take that leap and you'll be rewarded greatly.

      2. i wouldn't recommend tapas molecular bar, its very gimicky and flavor is very soso. i would replace pierre gagnaire and narisawa with quinteseence (chef shuzo who's a friend was the sous chef at l'astrance) / l'osier / florilege / robuchon le chateau. for teppanyaki ukaitei omotesando is better than the ginza branch. yoshitake is pretty good but id much prefer sushi sawada.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jmui852

          Thanks for this (somehow I missed these replies). Quintessence was at the top of my list actually (L'Astrance is one of my favorite restaurants in the world); unfortunately they are closing the week I am there. I got rid of Narisawa due to mixed reviews and there apparent refusal to take reservations for one person. I have also put Gagnaire on hold, thinking I want more authentically Japanese experiences or Unique-to-Tokyo restaurants, though I am still considering going to lunch there if the desire strikes and they have availability.

          Thanks for the Esquisse recommendation, I booked it to replace Narisawa. I also added Sushiso Masa.

          Regarding Tapas Molecular Bar, I have booked it, though I am reconsidering. Not sure I want a gimmicky/touristy experience, though I'm still undecided as many speak highly of it.

        2. Hi There,

          As someone who lives in SoCal as well, I do understand you wanting to settle your craving for high end French gastronomy as the area is lacking in that department relative to the SF Bay Area and NYC. Tokyo is the the best city outside of France for French cuisine.

          I would definitely recommend Pierre Gagnaire as I was there for dinner in June 2012. The great thing about Pierre Gagnaire's restaurants, unlike say Joel Robuchon, is that each location is unique by incorporating the ingredients and cooking techniques of the region the restaurant is in. There will be a huge Japanese influence present in the cooking and his chefs execute it so well of welding the two cuisines together to make an ideal harmony. Along with great food, sitting high up on the 36th floor overlooking the Tokyo Tower and the city is another great perk about the restaurant.

          Another restaurant that I would suggest is L'As in Omotesando, Tokyo. Although much more casual, it has an enticing price of 5,000 Yen for both Lunch and Dinner of set menus only. Even though I haven't eaten there yet, it is on my list for my next Tokyo trip. It should have rave reviews for their French-Japanese cuisine. Here are some links along with their main site:

          http://www.las-minamiaoyama.com/en/in...
          http://tokyoeater.blogspot.com/2012/0...
          http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2012...
          http://foodfile.typepad.com/blog/2012...

          2 Replies
          1. re: mlbartender

            Thank you. That is very helpful. I think I will book Gagnaire as it will be interesting to compare it to the Paris location. They seem to offer some great value lunches, though I may try for dinner depending on how my schedule shapes up. L'As looks interesting as well, I will keep that in the back of my head.

            1. re: mlbartender

              I went to L'As last year and thought it was great. For the money it is great value. That said I rated L'Alchemiste much higher -- BUT it is twice the price, but comes with quite a few more courses. Each is casual fine dining. l'As has more of a bistro feel in that it can be a bit loud whereas L'Alchemiste is a bit more refined but still relaxed. Next door to L'As is a sister restaurant -- same kitchen I believe -- called Cork. Never been but looks fun for wine drinkers.

            2. Although not on your list, there is a Joel Robuchon in Ebisu. Just an fyi

              1 Reply
              1. re: Sushi Otaku

                Thanks. I have a few friends who love it, and think the lunch value is great. It was actually at the top of my list when I started planning. I've been to many of his restaurants, and I am not a big fan of L'Atelier, in particular. I am trying to do more unique French with Japanese influences, and JR seems somewhat classic and formal, which I am not very interested in. I also do not want to book too many things in advance; I've reserved one restaurant per day so my days are free and I have flexibility to do different things and explore local casual places, and lighter more "normal" meals. I did book Gagnaire due to input here about it being very different than Gagnaire in Paris, and that it incorporates a lot of Japanese influences into the food.