Dom quote

Dom quote

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, 18 December 2011

Kawakamian, Azabu Juban 川上案麻布十番

Really I don't know why soba can be so expensive, especially when it seems so plain and the servings can tend on the small side. I have to admit though that I am increasingly drawn to its subtle pleasures. Kawakamian in Azabu Juban is a favourite of many and on a recent lunch I had the chance to try it. It's a basement restaurant, decorated in an attractive Japanese style, perhaps in need of a lick of paint. A colleague told me that the store has its origins in Karuizawa, and that Nagano (traditional name Shinshuu) is renowned for making some of the best soba in Japan. Knowing this certainly adds some pleasure to the experience!

Deep fried soba with salt (moreish!) and soba tea

Mochi soba

Oyster tempura soba
Tel: 03-5439-5757

Kathmandu Gangri, Meguro

At Katmandu Gangri you can try Tibetan and Nepalese food in a spartan basement in Meguro. Sounds inviting? Well, come here for the spicy food, not the decor. The service is friendly and prices not too bad!

Dumplings - you spoon the sauce in!

Chicken stir fry

Chicken saag

Monster naan

Himalyan pizza - it's got a layer of meat under the cheese and quite a soggy pastry. I ate it with lots of curry sauce...

Prawn curry
Tel: 03-3493-4712

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

moRi, Ebisu

I write with no shame that I am a semi-regular connoisseur of the "B-O-M" (this to the uninitiated is the blow-out-meal). The components of the BOM consist of more courses than you would eat in a normal week, rich sauces that would make a cardiologist blanch and enough wine to fuel a bacchanalian feast. For this reason, I write "semi-regular" as if it was any more regular than "semi", I would need to crane to get me out of the house. But for special occasions, there's nothing more enjoyable.

My latest foray was to moRi at Ebisu, a cosy, inviting French restaurant in Ebisu. There are some tables in the restaurant, but the best seats are at the counter where you can watch every detail of the cooking. How chef Mori is able to produce such a large amount of food in such a small space is beyond me. It is certainly heads down and tails up for everyone working there, but he was not too busy at the end of the evening to graciously farewell my dining partner and I with a full bow.

But I didn't go here to receive a full bow, charming as it was. The food was thoughtfully conceived and more than satisfying. The chef is the only one cooking and I felt that it was really evident that some parts of the meal would have benefited from fresher preparation, as several were taken out of the fridge. Also his assistant was so busy through the night, he did kind of neglect the wine side of things. These things are not deal-breakers, but they do take away from one's enjoyment somewhat. Nevertheless I would be happy to recommend moRi, especially for a date with someone special!

Amuse of ratatouille bavarois, tomato mousse (my pick of the three), and the lollipop on the right is a roll of pork rillete. 

"Kabu", which is a type of root and yogurt. This was a little bit on the heavy side, but good nonetheless.

Pork consommé with the house white ham. This was very tasty - definitely a step above what I eat out of the packet when I need to warm myself up in these winter months.

Foie gras wrapped in crepe. Just a personal preference, but I would have liked it a bit crispier, but it was totally nice as it was.

This was an interesting one - fish liver. With its fishier taste, somewhat of a contrast with the foie gras.

This is a lobster croquette with a crustacean soup. Certainly a classier croquette than I'm used to eating!

This is a rare wagyu with potato and truffle, with bordelaise sauce.

Dessert was a chocolate mousse.

Tel: 03-5942-6299

China Blue, Shiodome

Three of the golden rules that have stood me in good stead over the years are:
a) don't expect great food if the view is great
b) don't eat at hotels unless you have to because you're staying there
c) don't pay for expensive Chinese food

When I booked at China Blue I knew I was breaking all three rules, but I thought that the Michelin star that has been bestowed upon it was a guarantee of experiencing something out of the ordinary. I'm afraid the only extraordinary experience was an extraordinary rip-off. Sure, the setting at the top of the Conrad hotel in Shidome is spectacular, but there is little pizazz in the "over-seasoned" food and the service is decidedly lacklustre. Things like mumbling out what each dish is and leaving before we had properly understood, failing to show the way to the bathroom until I had to track someone down, and having to ask for my jacket at the end of the evening. Or to top it off, the chef coming out to speak loudly to a group of Chinese visitors and completely ignoring us as we left. I could understand it at the local chukka joint, but when you pay around 45,000 yen for dinner including one very standard bottle of Cloudy Bay you kind of expect a minimal level of regard.

For 15,800 yen each my dining partner and I opted for the unremarkable Menu Fuki, all of which are pictured below. The most interesting part about the food was the fake prawn konnyaku vegetarian dish at the end but, hey, for that money I think they could afford real prawns. 

Every dish served tasted OK and was of reasonable quality, but fine dining this is not. I have no idea what the Michelin guide is thinking, but I can easily get better food and eat like a king at some local Chinese places for a TINY fraction of the price. 

Amuse of radish cake

Steamed dumplings

Deep fried steak with lettuce and tomato

Shark fin soup

Fish with coconut sauce

Stir fried vegies and konyakku "prawns"

Fruit dessert with a bit of fairy floss

The last course was not on the menu, but necessary nonetheless...

Tel: 03-6388-8745

Sunday, 4 December 2011

W Omotesando The Cellar Grill, Omotesando

The Cellar Grill is a relatively new restaurant that opened earlier this year in a basement just off Aoyama Dori in Kita Aoyama. Despite the upmarket location and nice cellar/ wine-bar style fit out, the prices are extremely reasonable. This type of place has all the ingredients for success among today's more sober, value-conscious Tokyo diner, and the full house on both evenings I have been there recently is a testament to this.

The wines on their extensive international list are marked at retail prices and can, I believe, be bought and taken home as well. The food is mostly prepared at the counter, and is of very good quality.

My only gripe is that on the last visit, they charged for a bottle of wine that we never drank, and it wasn't until the next day that I'd realised they did this. An honest mistake? Let's hope so, but it's certainly taken the shine off what, so far, have been two very enjoyable evenings.

The oysters (from Hokkaido) were not as enjoyable as expected, lacking somewhat in taste (but they looked great).

Sometimes you just have to have some fries!

Chunky grilled bacon (this is my favourite thing on the menu)

Grilled chicken

Octopus carpacio

Grilled pork

Creamy cheese risotto - in no way necessary, but an excellent final indulgence!
Tel: 03-3400-3552

Jasmine, Hiroo

I noticed a while back that Cardenas Chinois at Hiroo was no longer with us. It started off god knows how long ago as a trendy fusion restaurant, but had to kind of hang on during the recession by offering a pretty substantial 5,000 yen tasting menu which was actually pretty good value. However when a restaurant starts offering a 5,000 yen tasting menu which looks like it's too good to be true, you know the end is nigh. R.I.P. Furutoshi...

However in recent months it seems to have been jettisoned from the Cardenas group and been reborn with very little interior renovation as "Jasmine" (well actually the door has moved which caused me no end of confusion). The menu seems more hard-core Chinese with an emphasis on rich flavours and sauces. I don't know how authentic it is, but it's certainly a style that I've come to enjoy in Tokyo; so being not Chinese as all, there's need to be too snobby about it.

The service from the all-male ikemen staff is actually kind of a bit weird, with the communication skills somewhat lacking. This is not a language issue as my Japanese dining partner did most of the ordering - more a kind of inattentiveness mixed with nervousness which made us feel somewhat not at ease.

But in the final analysis the food trumped any issues we may have had with the service. I'd be more than happy to go back and would recommend it when you're looking for something casual but substantial.

Tofu and corriander salad - an excellent and refreshing combination.

Juicy gyoza - the dipping sauce was divine!

Scallop stir-fry - simple but delicious

Fried fish - I felt the sauce somewhat overpowered it but enjoyed it nonetheless.

I'd seen their stewed pork belly (buta kakuni) on their website and HAD to try it. It was as good as it looks, however the mashed potato accompanying it was lumpy and not good at all. What a pity...
Tel: 03-5421-8525

Pizza Strada, Azabu Juban

It's funny sometimes how two people can eat exactly the same meal and have a totally different reaction. Such was my experience when I finally ventured down to Pizza Strada at Azabu Juban to try out Tokyo's latest "authentic" Napolitan pizza joint.

It's a fairly small restaurant with a big counter plus a few tables with tiny, uncomfortable stools. The centrepiece of the restaurant is the iron wood-fired oven, which looks like it would have cost a bomb to get in there!

The ikemen staff are not particularly obliging, and have this kind of attitude I've found in other Italian restaurants in Tokyo that are trying oh so hard to be authentic - kind of macho and rude basically sums it up. Nevertheless, our needs were basically attended to so...

The menu is quite small, with hot and cold appetisers and about 5 or so pizzas to choose from. My dining partner and I opted for the cold marinated swordfish as well as the meatballs for the appetiser. For the pizza we shared the "Tamaki" which is billed as the chef's special, and made with smoked mozzarella and cherry tomatoes.

I found it all to be tastier than average, but my Japanese dining partner seemed almost scandalised at the quality and volume of the food for the price which, including a beer and a wine, came to 4,000 yen. The flavours are not exactly delicate and there's probably a bit too much bouillon in the tomato sauce but I thought it was ok.

I'll guess I'll be back, but perhaps with a different dining partner!
Tel: 03-6435-1944

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Biodinamico, Shibuya ビオディナミコ渋谷

I have the dearly departed Jon (from Japan, not the planet thank goodness) to thank for putting me onto Biodinamico. However, it's taken me the best part of a year to make it down there but I could kick myself for waiting so long.

This is one of the best dining experiences I've had in Tokyo for a while. The chef and his team are clearly dead-serious about their food, but in no way up-tight about it. There is nothing pretentious about the food - just tasty, creative cuisine with an emphasis on organic/ biodynamic ingredients.

Dinner with paired wines (I had more than my dining partner) came to just over 30,000 yen. Not cheap but certainly an experience to remember.

Foie gras amuse

Assorted entree

Duck and a special, pressed risotto

Homemade pasta with prawn - very strong prawn taste

Homemade pasta with cheese - delicious

A selection of beautiful vegetables - served just with salt

The main event - I forced myself to eat the tongue - and it was good!

Dessert of carrot soup


Petit fours
Tel: 03-3462-6277