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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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Monday, 19 October 2009

Ninja, Akasaka ニンジャ 赤坂

What's a serious blog like mine (tongue firmly in cheek) doing reviewing a shameless tourist trap like Ninja? I mean, this restaurant even appears in the Qantas in-flight video on what to do in Tokyo! Expectations would therefore have to be very low in the food department, even if the ninjas are guaranteed to delight anyone under the age of 12. After a recent dinner at Ninja with a 4 and 6 year old I can confirm that they are indeed delighted by the place - my 6 year old nephew gushing it's the "coolest place in the whole world!". But it's pretty entertaining for adults too. I don't want to ruin the experience by telling you too much about how you get to the table, suffice it to say that the ninjas are surprising, friendly and just a bit tricky!!

Although the ninjas give you some thrills and spills, the food is the biggest surprise of all. Contrary to my expectation, even though we may not be seeing Ninja in the Michelin guide any day soon, the food is quite creative and, overall, very good. We ordered the least expensive set which (for some numerological reason?) is priced at 7,777 yen. After having sampled it I can't imagine how anyone could eat more than that, but there are more lavish set menus on offer.

The first event of the evening was pastry ninja stars served on some twigs with a foie gras spread - now that took some thinking! This was followed by a lobster pudding topped with dried-fried yuzu shreds. Next tempura vegetables served with a soy sauce foam were served. After this "exploding" sea snails were served, which the waitress helpfully set fire to. This was followed by a shot of eggplant with foam, then a tartare of tuna topped with avocado. Following this our waitress took some fresh vegetables in a wooden bucket and added some hot stones as the first stage in preparing a delicious tom yung soup for us (yes I know-Thai?). This was followed by a fish or beef main. I ordered the beef and this came with foie gras in a little covered dish and was not bad. As a final savoury dish we were served some sushi of tempura prawn and some maki rolls of purple rice, which was a hit. Dessert was a sorbet topped with a cream mousse on a bed of stewed fruits. This was topped off by coffee.

The kids had their own plate of yummy things that kids like - such as croquette, hamburger etc and a great little dessert which is pictured here. Our group found Ninja to be thoroughly entertaining, and the food to be of a level that would stand up well even without the theme. I can't recommend the combination of food and entertainment enough which, as a package, is something pretty rare - so I give it 4 stars. The Ninja concept screams cheesy, but it's not - and I'd be happy to take any visitor to Tokyo there!


Tel: 03-5157-3936

Friday, 16 October 2009

Dazzle, Ginza ダズル 銀座

I can't imagine how a place with a name as outrageous as "Dazzle" escaped my attention for so long. I'm not such a frequent diner in glittering Ginza, but last month when I wanted to find somewhere suitably dazzling to take some clients I stumbled across it on a last-minute web search, hoping that the name was a promise. 

I don't know about dazzling, but it's actually not too bad; and as I've been back since I can report on the balance of two experiences. The restaurant is at the top of the Mikimoto building in Ginza, adjacent to Printemps. The Mikimoto building is one of the more interesting in Ginza, featuring an asymmetrical/ naturalistic (I wish I knew the right architectural term) window treatment up and down the length of the building.

Upon arrival at Dazzle the elevator opens onto the kitchen and you are greeted by several staff with suitably dazzling smiles. There is a bar off to the side, where you may be parked for a while as we were on our second visit, or taken to another elevator which delivers you to the impressive high-concept, high-ceilinged dining room. A two-storey, part-funnel shaped glass wine cellar forms a very interesting feature in one corner.

My first impression was of a rather shallow, image-driven place somewhat like XEX Daikanyama; but unlike XEX the food actually tastes as good as it looks. On both visits as a pre-starter I partook of the oysters, which come in various creative dressings such as limoncello and mandarin, and I would say are about the best thing on the menu. Both times I ordered the crab cakes for entree and chef's special pasta for the main (I wish I could remember what it was on the first visit - on the second it was a pleasant blue-cheese ravioli). On my more recent visit I almost died with jealousy when my dining partner's wagyu arrived. She was kind enough to give me a decent piece off her wagyu mountain (very generous serving) which was impossibly rich and decadent - as wagyu should be. For dessert I highly recommend the fondant chocolat, which might just be the nicest I've eaten in recent memory.

Overall, even though the menu is too short for my liking, I'd rate the food above average - surprisingly good for a "concept" restaurant. The service is willing, but doesn't quite come together as it should in some niggly ways such as forgetting to take the wine order. I like the Aussie maitre d', but my French dining partner on the second visit found him slightly intrusive and insincere (la belle dame sans merci!). I think he's trying to do his job well, but can see how he would have created that impression. A bit more experience will round him out a bit. I think a bit more rounding is the order of the day for Dazzle - just a bit of a push on the execution and this could be a really great place.