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The Michelin Guide has consistently awarded more stars to Tokyo dining establishments than any other city in the world. I created this blog as my personal Tokyo restaurant guide, but I hope you will also enjoy reading it. If you have been to any of the same places feel free to leave some comments about your own experiences.

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Sunday, 30 November 2008

Bernache, Kita Senzoku ベルナーシュ 北千束

Bernache is a little French restaurant in a side street off the Kita Senzoku mall, not too far from Ookayama station. The chef studied for two years in Paris and worked at several French restaurants in Tokyo before opening his own place last year. The ambiance is very casual and more like a café than a restaurant. The main feature in the dining room is the huge stainless steel kitchen, which focuses one's thoughts on the cooking.

On a recent visit for Sunday lunch, my dining partner and I were the only people in the restaurant. That's a great pity as the food is very good. Starting at 2,500 yen you can order a lunch set that includes an entrée, main, dessert and coffee. After sampling a delightful glass of Crémant de Bourgogne, I started lunch with a smoked goose salad topped with poached egg.
The goose meat was nice and smoky and went well with the runny egg. For my main I had the lamb which came with spinach, mash and ratatouille. The meat itself was well done but absolutely tender (excellent!) and the accompaniments first class. Dessert, which was selected at the discretion of the chef, was a crème brûlée, which went down very easily.

If you're in the area I'd really encourage you to support this young chef and his helper who worked hard and modestly to make our lunch a happy one, and I'm sure would do the same for you.

Tel: 03-5731-8451

Higashiyama, Naka Meguro 東山 中目黒

Higashiyama is a beautifully minimalist modern izakaya located in Naka Meguro, a bit of a hike from the station not far from Yamate Dori. The food is modern Japanese and consists of little creations which in the set menu I ordered on a recent visit included sashimi, daikon and crab, a salad with animal organs of unknown origin, gingko nuts, beef (among some others which I can't remember now!). In a burst of excess I also ordered some pork belly which was grilled to perfection and served with wasabi. This was washed down very pleasantly by my dining partner and I with a bottle of Californian Chardonnay and a glass of Zifandel.

Higashiyama is definitely a place worth experiencing, especially with out-of-towners who will be sure to appreciate the unique modern Japanese izakaya experience.
Tel: 03-5720-1350

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Miravile Impact, Ginza ミラヴィルインパクト 銀座

In the interests of full disclosure I have to admit that when I made the booking at Miravile Impact, I thought that I was booking at Miravile - the Michelin One Star restaurant located near Yoyogi. After realising my mistake at the last moment, I hurriedly changed my plans, informed my dining partner of the new destination and headed off for the Marronier complex near Printemps at Ginza. Even though I had booked days ahead the only table available to us was at the counter, which I found kind of annoying but it also gave a chance to see everyone else's lunch being prepared.

Miravile Impact is basically a little cake and dessert shop, although there is a 1,400 yen set offering a meat of the day or a fish of the day. We opted for the meat of the day which was a fried chicken with coconut Thai curry sauce, frites, an intriguingly presented salad in a glass and a small daikon soup and roll. The set also includes a dessert, which the house chooses for you.

The main meal was disappointing. It took a long time to be served, and the french fries were cold! No guys - you can't trade off your 1 star rating at your other location and serve fries up cold. Further, whilst the salad looked interesting its taste was rather less so with a stodgy potato and tarako whip at the bottom of the glass. The chicken was actually quite small, consisting of a tiny chunk of meat and a single chicken wing.

At one point I have to admit to being almost uncontrollably disappointed. However, after a really, really long wait dessert was served. This was an amazing combination of flavours in a martini glass. The first layer was black beans, followed by a layer of fresh yuzu, soy sauce (!) ice cream and a molasses crisp. This combination of sour, salt, sweet, chewy, crunchy and smooth was quite amazing. It was enough to restore my interest in the establishment. But please, don't eat lunch there - just turn up around 4pm for a lovely dessert.
Tel: 03-5524-0417

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Shin-a-hanten (New Asia), Daimon 新亜飯店 大門

If you're not careful you'll miss this well-worn Chinese restaurant in one of the main streets of Daimon (not far from the gate which is large enough for cars to drive through, where Daimon gets its name).

On a recent weekend lunch, the Shanghai-style yakisoba that came out first was generous and delicious, as was the wonton soup. But I was drawn here in the search for the perfect "shorompo" which, to the uninitiated, are steamed pork dumplings where the skin of the dumpling forms a bag containing a hot, oily pork broth (mind your tongue!). These are served with strips of fresh ginger, soy sauce and vinegar - which balance the fattiness of the dumpling superbly. The shorompo on offer here for 1,400 yen for eight pieces are the meatiest I've tried so far in Tokyo.

Almost every other diner in the place had ordered a serve of these, and they're obviously the speciality of the house.

I'd recommend giving these guys a go one Saturday or Sunday for lunch - you will not go hungry I assure you!
Tel: 03-3434-0005

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Restaurant Hashimoto, Ogikubo レストラン ハシモト 荻窪

Restaurant Hashimoto is a delightful little French restaurant in a backstreet of Ogikubo, not far from the American Express building and the train station. The chef used to work at L'ecrin in Ginza, and the refinement in food and service he learned there is evident.

Hashimoto features in Livedoor's list of best inexpensive French restaurants so I thought it may be worth trying out. For 2,500 yen you can order a lunch set featuring an entree, main and dessert. A number of dishes such as the foie gras or the duck require some supplement so you could end up paying more than that.

After starting with a very dry glass of the house sparkling white, I ordered a bolognaise risotto for my entree (sounded intriguing), while my dining partner ordered a meat terrine plate. My risotto was very tasty and was garnished with some very nice powdered parmesan and olive oil. I'm not that into charcuterie but I had to try my dining partner's ham mousse, which is one of the specialities of the house. It was an interesting, smokey, creamy concoction and went very nicely with the hot little bread rolls we were served.

The main for both of us was duck, topped with fresh fig, a viscous, sweet and slightly spicy fig sauce and a baby gruyère gallette. The dish was simply superb, with just the right balance of sweet and savoury flavours - I could have easily reached over and stolen the lady's one at the next table for a second helping!

Dessert was a dense marron cake topped with a scoop of homemade pear and caramel ice cream. Although there was no choice as to what to order for dessert, the dish was far from the afterthought you get in a lot of places. As much effort was put into creating this as was given to the rest of the meal.

If I was you I'd find some excuse, such as losing your Amex card, to make it out to Ogikubo to try this place out.

Tel: 03-3398-5552

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Tuk Tuk, Meguro トゥクトゥク 目黒

Tuk Tuk is a hybrid Thai/Italian (weird, I know) restaurant near Meguro. Adding to the eclecticism is a Danish touch with the Carlsberg sponsorship of the glasses and menu blackboards. Luckily they don't mix Thai and Italian in the same dishes! Actually the specialty for lunch is a rich soup based on a red curry base that you can order selecting one of 5 different levels of spiciness. It's really delicious, featuring minced meat, tofu, egg and lots of interesting herbs and spices. The staff are also absolutely delightful.

Tel: 03-3444-5150

Monday, 3 November 2008

Dhaba India, Yaesu ダバインディア 八重洲

I don't pretend to have the foggiest as to what constitutes genuine Indian cuisine but when I see Indians cooking in the kitchen and dotted throughout the dining room, I think we must be pretty close to the genuine article. Dhaba is an Indian restaurant located not too far away from Tokyo station and the PCCW Building in Yaesu near Marunouchi.

The dining room is done out in an interesting stucco painted blue theme - which I imagine is a simulation of a real South Indian dining room. For a recent lunch on a holiday Monday I selected a 2,000 yen "holiday" menu which features a masala dosa (a chick pea pancake surrounding spiced potato and onion) and the curry of your choice served with nan and rice. The curry I chose was a tasty coconut and prawn curry that featured soft and fragrant curry leaves (which I have never had before). My dining partner ordered a dark, creamy mutton curry with fenugreek leaves. This was even richer and more delicious than my prawn curry!

Overall the service was a little bit slow and I was unpleasantly surprised to be charged 720 yen for two extra nan breads (very mingy, guys!). I think also for 2,000 yen a small dessert should be included, not just masala tea, lassi or madras coffee. However if you are looking for a real Indian curry, this is one of the more interesting places I have tried in Tokyo. I am sure the spiciness is toned way down for Japanese taste buds, but I would not say the flavours themselves have been dumbed down.

Tel: 03-3272-7160

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Le Bonheur, Tomigaya ル・ボヌール 富ヶ谷

Once in a while you come across a restaurant where the passion the chef has for his cooking just shines through. Le Bonheur, located in Tomigaya not far from Yoyogi Park and the NHK Centre is one such example.

On a recent visit for Sunday lunch I decided to try the "Menu Bonheur" which for 3,800 yen includes an amuse, entree, chef's surprise, main, dessert and coffee. Before doing so, I was offered a glass of sparkling Japanese wine from Yamanashi. This was light red and came with plenty of grape skin dregs - intentionally. Well the wine didn't really work, being way too young and with persistent bitter overtones (and 1,200 yen!), but I rated the daringness of it and this seemed to bode well for the rest of the meal.

My dining partner and I started off with an amuse of a boudin noir tart, which we were told was specially made as we had reserved our table in advance. This creation just kind of pleasantly vaporised in the mouth! This was followed by a "millefeuille" of avocado and zuwari crab served with a flake of cooked parmigiano cheese and roasted chestnuts. This was superb and was followed by the chef's surprise of an excellent, flavourful little risotto with celery and clams.

The main dish (of which we were told we had been given an extra large portion??) was a delightful beef cheek served with potato puree, seasonals mushrooms and jus. This dish was rich as can be and melted in the mouth the way a good beef cheek should.

Dessert for me was a fondant chocolat covered with a crunchy lattice biscuit and caramel ice cream. My dining partner's dessert was a gallette covered with nuts and ice cream and looked even better than mine!

All in all this was a great lunch and I can't wait to go back for dinner. The tiny, hot little bread rolls that kept coming throughout the meal deserve special mention. The waiter was a little bit intrusive but I put this down to his natural enthusiasm and desire to connect with his customers. There's very little to criticise about that! The chef was also very personable and came out to explain the menu himself at the start at said goodbye at the end of the meal - very good manners and much appreciated.
Tel: 03-3467-6161