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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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Saturday, 28 November 2009

Tankuma, Korakuen たん熊 後楽園

Tankuma is an excellent Kyoto style restaurant in the Tokyo Dome Hotel serving tempura and teppanyaki in separate, dedicated rooms. On a recent visit for lunch, when I was lucky enough to be taken by both my Japanese teachers (yes, I am so incompetent that I need two teachers) I came away very impressed by the subtlety and quality of the cooking and service.

Each course that comes is explained by the staff as to what it is and how to season it. The tempura is light as can be, and the oil is changed well before one might even begin to consider it necessary. If these people could make me actually enjoy eel, then from the crunchy prawn legs to the tempura ice cream (which required another oil change!) I'm sure you will be impressed also.

Tel: 03-5805-2111

C'est La Vie Nagano, Shinjuku セラヴィナガノ 新宿

Sorry if there's any confusion around the name - this French restaurant is in Shinjuku, not Nagano. I may even get round to asking the owner some time about the name, as this tiny, ageing, basement level hot-bed of cream and foie-gras worship in Shinjuku, not far from Shinjuku Gyoen could become a little regular of mine.

I've been twice for dinner, and on the second visit, I also took some work colleagues who ended up more than happy. The menu is actually quite large for such a small place but on both occasions I ordered the lamb with foie gras and cassis as my main. On my more recent visit this was washed down with a bottle of Alsatian Pinot which was exceptionally pleasant. Perhaps it's easy to impress a bunch of hungry blokes with food that is off the dial in terms of its hedonic/calorie index. We're talking "pre-nouvelle" cuisine here, but that's where I find the charm.

I wouldn't call this a friendly place, but the chef and his assistant are diligent and professional. For the occasional old-fashioned indulgence, if you're in the area and feeling like a big feed of comfort food with a bit of panache, then I'd give them a try.

Tel: 03-3350-7610

Sunday, 22 November 2009

L'ami du vin Eno, Jingumae ラミデュヴァン”エノ” 神宮前

L'ami du vin Eno, is in the breed of small, owner operated restaurants where the chef has apprenticed in France and come home to create his own little corner of France in Tokyo. I really love these kinds of places, even though occasionally it freaks me out just how lovingly authentic they are. To see the attention to detail and, some might argue, to illusion is often worth a visit in itself.

I've walked past this restaurant on many an occasion and never really gave it much thought until I recently, on a whim, made a booking for Sunday lunch. I'm so glad I did because everything is excellent. The somber looking chef, who has a feather in his cap (literally) is clearly a self-styled master of game, and this is further attested to by the bird wings nailed to the door post. Yes, I know it's a bit gross, but clearly that's what they do in France. Just hold the cheese with maggots!

Nevertheless, this time, I didn't partake of anything gamey, just opting for the basic lunch set which comes with a nice rillette to start, an amuse of kidney shaped olives and scrape of fishy, garlicky potato (I think it's called a brandade), delicious bread with beurre echire and an entree, main and dessert as well as coffee and nibbles. Great value for 3,150 yen although my aperitif of a glass of champers added 1,680 to the bill.

In a word, the food was great. My lobster bisque seemed small at first, but was actually just the right size and well balanced between fishiness and creaminess. The tidbits of lobster in the soup actually tasted reasonably fresh as well. I'm not a huge fan of pate de campagne but my dining partner was very complimentary of his. For the main, I ordered the wagyu which was accompanied by plenty of braised daikon. My dining partner had the fish of the day - a suzuki which came on a bed of cabbage. The suzuki looked fleshy and tasty. My wagyu was absolutely superb, nicely balanced by the blander, but not bland daikon. Our mains were followed by a warm apple tart and ice cream, which was nice, but I suspect the desserts are not the speciality of the house.
I'll definitely be back. Perhaps next time, hopefully at dinner, I'll opt for something more gamey. I'm sure that chef knows just how to play it!


Thursday, 19 November 2009

Aquavit, Kita Aoyama アクアヴィット 北青山 

I have had dinner twice at Aquavit, first about a year ago and then much more recently. This slick Kita Aoyama restaurant located under the Oracle building and in the concourse behind the Lexus dealer recently celebrated its first anniversary. It bills itself as "modern Scandinavian" (great if you like salmon), and a franchise of a restaurant of the same name in New York City.

My impression of the restaurant after the first visit was a good one, with great interior design, a very personable European sommelier, good food, and efficient service. On my more recent visit I have to admit to having been slightly underwhelmed, and thinking that standards have slipped. Upon arrival my party of three was offered a table in the bar area to have some drinks. This was nice enough, but we were left alone long enough for me to begin to wonder if we were ever going to be sat at the table (this is a common risk I've found in Tokyo when you agree to a drink at the bar). Incidentally, at one point later in the evening we were all served what I think was some chilled vodkas, only to have them whisked away when the waitress realised she had served the wrong table. I suspect there is a better way to recover from such a faux pas! Later the main meals were served to the wrong people, a situation that we rectified ourselves. Not what you'd expect from a restaurant of such pretensions as this.

Eventually we were led to our table and menus were handed out, but only one menu showing the tasting menus was given, which meant that after handing the menus around I didn't really get to see what was on there properly until they arrived to take the order. Nevertheless I decided to order the chef's tasting menu and the bottomless glass of Mumm (now that's a good idea!).

The tasting menu consisted of an amuse of something foie gras-ish on a spoon, a sampler of tidbits including some smoked salmon and fish eggy and creamy things, a quite good foie gras ganache, some fairly average scampi and scallop served in a bowl with saffron cream soup, a main of a fairly bland, small piece of rare grilled beef with creamed spinach, what tasted like re-heated potato and some onion "marmalade" (except the onion was whole), then a sampler of desserts followed by some petit fours and coffee. I think there was one dish I can't remember but, to be brutally honest, either the food wasn't that memorable or the company was way more stimulating.

Even though they just scrape into my three star level, I'm sorry to say that I won't be rushing back to Aquavit anytime soon unless there is a proper revamp. The staff are pleasant enough, but they do not quite offer a level of food and service equal to the image and the price.

Tel: 03-5413-3300