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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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Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Chez Tomo, Shirokane レストラン シェ・トモ 白金

I recently bought an hypnosis CD to try to help me lose weight. Under a spacey trance it very sensibly tells me to stop eating when I am pleasantly full. However I don't think it was designed for when a) you are dining at your local Michelin starred French restaurant and b) your company is a mini foodies' summit comprising none other than myself, Jon and Terry - of Eating Out In Tokyo with (insert name) fame!

I'd been trying to get a booking at Chez Tomo for a long time, but somehow managed to lock them in for our little gathering. Terry warned me to bring a jacket, so I did. It never touched my back either inside or outside the restaurant but armed with this fabric talisman I had evidently met the requirement for respectability and was allowed entry upon arrival.

I think Jon has pretty much comprehensively summed up the experience and I endorse most of his comments and observations. The basic menu at around 6,000 yen is surprisingly reasonable, but it's uphill from there if you want something as luxurious as oysters or pork or herb tea. So while not a total bait and switch it's not really indicative of how much you could end up paying.

The quality of the food is good. The most interesting dish for me was actually the amuse of sea urchin and cheese bisque served in its little spiny exoskeleton. After that I ordered the oyster, cabbage and morel mushroom soup which was best described as creamy - I didn't really catch the character of the morels under all that cream. The next course was a beautifully presented plate of all sorts of vegetables - raw, cooked, sauced, plain etc. Following this was a carrot soup which I thought was rather bland although Terry, with his more sensitive palate, thought it quite praiseworthy.

My main was a duck roll which I found a little bit on the bland side - kind of a classy meatloaf. This was followed by some delicious cheeses and, for dessert, a flaming lime souffle which was, again, a little on the bland side. Dinner was capped off with a herb tea and some very soft caramels.

We had a couple of very nice wines but I shall leave it to Terry's post to detail what we actually drank as I don't remember!

The service is polished and attentive so I give credit where it's due. The food is good but to be brutally frank, apart from the sea urchin, I feel it lacks character. Jon beat me to questioning the Michelin Star, but I agree with him. Nonetheless Chez Tomo is well worth checking out and I would be happy to return at some point in the future to see how they have developed.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Ristorante Stefano, Kagurazaka リストランテ ステファノ 神楽坂

You know you're doing well when in this economy you have not one but two sittings for lunch. I considered myself lucky when I managed to secure a 1.30pm booking for a recent Sunday lunch at this well reputed Venetian restaurant. As it happens I prefer to eat lunch later on a Sunday so it was no hardship having to wait for the later sitting.

Upon arriving a special 4,500 yen course menu was offered which included a glass of sparkling wine (of unknown provenance but Italian I presume), four antipasto, two pasta, a fish, a meat, dessert and coffee. It was as much food as it sounds and is sensational value for money when you consider that the quality of the ingredients and preparation is very good.

The course started with a small dish of pickled vegetables. When I was very little, I still remember my grandmother used to make lots of pickled veges and this delicious taste brought me way back. This was followed by a magnificent antipasto plate of white fish carpaccio, white fish (pretty much like a rillette), a crispy ham and cheese salad and boiled white asparagus with warm egg sauce. Alongside this a bread basket groaning with different types of herbed rolls, focaccias and bread sticks was served. This was also unstintingly refilled later in the meal.

Following the antipasto we were served a delicious mushroom and Gorgonzola risotto and a fresh taglietelli with cream sauce, smoked salmon and orange chucks - served in a scooped out orange. Great combination! Following this came a tasty white fish, clam and tomato soup. The meat course was liver cooked with onions and paired with polenta. Hmm - I was a little bit apprehensive as I'm not a huge fan of the non foie gras liver variety, but this was delicious.

Lastly a dessert of pannacotta and a grapefruit granita topped off a truly satisfying lunch. Even the coffee tasted better than usual. It's quite clear to see (and taste) that chef Stefano puts his heart and soul into his cooking. He doesn't only stay in the kitchen and was friendly and solicitous through the meal. When, at the end of the meal, he asked us if we'd eaten enough I thought he was joking, but he wasn't. I'm a real fan of generosity in all its guises, and here is a chef generous in his talent, in his food and in himself. I'll definitely be coming back.
Tel: 03-5228-7515

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

La Luna Rossa, Naka Meguro ラルーナロッサ 中目黒

Yamate-dori in Naka Meguro is one of those unrelentingly ugly suburban thoroughfares that Tokyo seems to be full of. However losing faith completely in the aesthetic potential of Tokyo can be a little hasty, which Naka Meguro goes to show. Running through the middle of the suburb, parallel to Yamate-dori, is a sakura-lined river that makes for a veritable oasis in the urban jungle.

Among the trees is an Italian restaurant called La Luna Rossa. The main attraction here is the leafy view which, though commonplace in most other cities of the world, is a treat here in Tokyo. Ah, but then we face the problem common to all restaurants with a view - the food can tend to take second place.

After a recent Sunday lunch here I'm not prepared to say this rule has been disproven. It's not that there's anything wrong with the food per se, it's just that I felt a certain sense of underwhelment (is that a proper word?) that was pretty hard to shake. To start with, the prosecco that I ordered as an aperitif only filled half the reasonably sized glass it was served in (note the curvature which to my greedy eyes indicates the fill limit). It's not as if proscecco is an expensive wine that we need to be sparing with, is it?

The 2,500 yen pasta set includes an entrée, pasta and dessert and you can judge from the photos as to whether you think this represents value. Following a little amuse of cold pork, the soup with baby pork "dango", gourd and consommé could be best described as a dieter's special. Actually, to be frank, the cooking came across to me as the type of food you might cook at home when you're on a budget.

For my main I ordered the fusilli with corn and meat. This was tasty enough but again I couldn't shake the "feed a family on 1,000 yen" kind of image. The little square of chocolate tart as dessert was ok in itself but the squirt of banana sauce almost made me jump when I tasted it (I am pathologically hostile to banana but I can't blame them for thinking this would go well with chocolate).

I would come here just for the view, so it's probably best to try to arrange a table with a nice outlook when you book. Underwhelmed? Well yes, but the setting is pleasant enough so you might still like to give it a try. Also I have to give then some marks for writing a little welcome message on the tabletop paper - I'm a sucker for things like that. Let me know how it goes!
Tel: 03-3793-4310

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Reims Yanagidate, Kita Aoyama  レストラン ランス ヤナギダテ 北青山

The new AO building in Kita Aoyama is one of the more interesting pieces of architecture to have appeared in Tokyo in recent times. Just behind it you'll find Reims Yanagidate, a French restaurant run by who else but chef Yanagidate who can be seen at regular intervals rushing out to flash his jolly face and pay his respects to the departing diners.

On a recent visit for Sunday lunch my dining partner and I had the pleasure of sampling his cooking, which is not too bad at all. The standard lunch set which starts at 3,700 yen includes an amuse, an entrée, main, dessert and coffee. My amuse was a little piece of pork terrine, and my dining partner had a little bit of lobster - cute seeing as I had ordered lobster for my entrée and my dp had ordered pork terrine. Not long after downing that little morsel, my entrée arrived. It was described as a tomato stuffed in the manner of the house with lobster and scallop. Actually the tomato was not stuffed at all but just cut in two making a sandwich of some scraps of lobster and scallop. That doesn't sound like such an appetising description but the dish was very tasty, even if I could have done with a bit more of the seafood.

For the main I chose the quail and this came out with its little legs sticking in the air, stuffed with foie gras and green pepper, topped with a truffle sauce. This meaty bird was truly delicious and one of the few times that something really tasted better than I expected. My dining partner's pintade looked pretty good too, but this was probably one of those enjoyable moment when I didn't cast jealous eyes over the table!
Dessert was a delicious iced nougat for me and a millefeuille with fruits and ice cream. Actually my dining partner, who is French, joked that the millefeuille was more of a deuxfeuille, but that didn't stop him spooning to the last drop - clearly a happy camper.

Including a half bottle of pleasant Alsatian reisling and the 10% service the bill came to over 13,000 yen. Hmm - not a bargain, but the food is good and the service not too bad. I'd probably return for a businessy sort of lunch without too much hesitation.

Tel: 03-3407-3538

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Les Enfants Gâtés, Sarugakucho (Daikanyama) レザンファン ギャテ 猿楽町

Les Enfants Gâtés , which is beautifully done out in a modern art deco theme, is located just up from Namikibashi in the delightfully named Sarugakucho (I think it basically means the place where monkeys have fun, and perhaps that's why the restaurant is named in honour of spoiled children). It's an easy walk from either Shibuya or Daikanyama station.

On a recent dinner my dining partner and I had a go at their 11,000 yen course menu which, among its many courses, allows you a choice of one of eight of their terrines (which are the speciality of the house). The evening's culinary festivities kicked off with a little blancmange. This was followed by the terrine. I had chosen the lobster and tapenade and my dining partner, the rabbit. Mine was very nice, although a bit on the bland side so I made use of the coarse salt and pepper. My dining partner didn't finish his rabbit though. It kind of looked liked a half eaten tray of Cesar by that point (slap to self!).

The terrine was followed by a zucchini flower stuffed with white cheese and served in a little basil soup with vegetables. This was delicious and provided a nice lead in to the next course of sea bream which was served under its own canopy of cheese - excellent presentation! The main course was a generous and superb piece of wagyu paired with white asparagus and a few little brussels sprouts leaves (which is about as much brussels sprouts as I'd ever eat!). We had paired the earlier dishes with a decent Pouilly-Fuissé and my dining partner had a nice glass of Pinot with his meat.

My dessert was a terrine-like chequerboard of orange and prune topped with a yoghurt sorbet. This was delicious, but my dining partner's oozing raspberry fondant looked even better! Les Enfants Gâtés is notable for its refinement both in food and service. It's a top class establishment and you would do yourself no shame by inviting one of your important friends or business associates to dinner here.
Tel: 03-3476-2929

Monday, 1 June 2009

Monna Lisa, Ebisu モナリザ 恵比寿

Monna Lisa is one of my favourite destinations for fine dining in Tokyo. The courses are always beautifully presented and there's little that I don't like about their cooking or service. One dish I've enjoyed in the past that sticks in my mind is their capsicum parfait - amazing, different, brilliant!

On a recent dinner, my dining partner and I opted for the creatively named 11,000 yen "Course B". After we'd attacked the wine list with a couple of bottles of excellent Romanée something we ended up making a substantially higher investment than that, but the basic price of the food represents excellent value.

The delights of the evening started with an amuse of a little pie slice of pastry covered with tiny little prawns - yum! This was followed by a stuffed artichoke. Artichoke is actually one of my favourite vegetables so I was well pleased. This was followed by an excellent blancmange of white asparagus with shrimp. Then a scrummy dish of grilled scallop with walnut and dressed leaves arrived. This was followed by a sea bream topped with cabbage and served on a creamy, piquant sauce. For the main we had both chosen the lamb which was served with broad beans and cooked to perfection. It must be the wine, but I have clean forgotten what we ate for dessert, but I'm pretty sure it was good!

If you need to impress or just want to really enjoy a great Tokyo dining experience then Monna Lisa is a place that I would strongly urge you to visit. They have really earned that Michelin star!
Tel: 03-5458-1887