Michelin Star Eats in Tokyo

Gastronomic experience in Tokyo (16 - 26 Dec 2012)

Tokyo is one of my favourite cities, because I love Japanese food, it’s one of the cuisines I could eat forever. I would love to live in Tokyo, but it’s too expensive to live there unfortunately. I alway dream of living in Tokyo city in a nice hip neighbourhood like Daikanyama or Aoyama, then go down to the rustic areas of Japan and try out a new ryokan, see new sights and try that town’s local native cuisine. Sighhh! Oh and did you know how much they love Care Bears over there? There’s like a Japan fan club and all. Ok that’s a separate story altogether.

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Anyway back to Tokyo, this was a  fantastic yummylicious trip if I had to sum it up in 2 words! We came to Tokyo to meet R, after Las Vegas and Los Angeles where Y and I joined a few other girlfriends for a hen’s trip to celebrate Auntie KK’s “last days of singlehood”.

I ate a lot of food, but here’s the recommended ones from the list of restaurants I tried, some of which are my favourite Michelin Star Eats in Tokyo such as Mikawa Zezankyo, Ryugin and Takazawa.

Lovey’s Tips:
• All these need at least 2 to 3 months advance booking which the hotel concierge can help you to book.
• Japanese concierge are really the most helpful based on my experience of bugging many different hotel concierges to book restaurants for me. They are so helpful, earnest and efficient! Remind them to print the restaurant maps for you in Japanese if you are planning to take a taxi as it saves a lot of hassle in communicating with the driver.

EATS 

1. Imahan
Odakyu Daiichi Life Building 1F
2-7-1 Nishi-Shinjuku Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Tel: +81 3 3345 1470
www.imahan.com

The first thing I always have to eat when I arrive in Tokyo is BEEF and it’s usually sukiyaki or shabu shabu. We usually go to the Imahan at Takashimaya for convenience, but our hotel concierge booked this location for us, as Takashimaya nearby was full for lunch. We had our own private room, and the whole meal was a wonderful experience, as the sukiyaki here was even better than the one we had at Takashimaya mainly because of the star dish at the end, which was these soft scrambled eggs over Japanese rice.  I highly recommend this specific location for Imahan.

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First, they use beef fats to cook the beef which really brings out the aroma. After they cook the beef slices, they cook the assorted Japanese vegetables and mushrooms, which we dip in their lovely Japanese eggs. Japanese eggs are another species on their own, the egg yolks are so orange, you never see that in Singapore.

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Once we are done with the beef and the vegetables, the Japanese lady then breaks more eggs into the same pan which has bit of the left over sukiyaki sauce combined with the aroma and flavour of the Japanese beef. She scrambles the eggs and drizzles it over our Japanese rice – It’s HEAVENLY!!

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I would love to go to their original branch as Asakusa, which has been around since 1928! Hopefully can squeeze that in my next trip in October 2013.

2. Sukiyabashi Jiro
6-12-2 Roppongi | Roppongi Hills Keyakizaka-dori 3F, Minato, Tokyo Prefecture, Japan
Tel: +81 3-5413-6626

This branch at Roppongi Hills is owned by Takashi – the younger son of the very famous Jiro from the noted documentary film “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”. We decided to try this place for lunch, as firstly, it was impossible to get bookings at the old man Jiro’s restaurant, and also we heard that his son’s place was slightly more affordable especially during lunch and also can take one’s time to enjoy.

When we say affordable, we also spent around 26000 yen per person, converse to paying close to 50000 yen I heard at the original branch.

Outside the restaurant - the signage is all in Japanese characters with a discreet entrance, so it took a while to figure out this was the restaurant. Outside the restaurant – the signage is all in Japanese characters with a discreet entrance, so it took a while to figure out this was the restaurant.

It’s interesting as the layout of the restaurant also seemed to look very very similar to his father’s restaurant in Ginza, it’s like a mirror image of his dad’s one actually.

The verdict: All the sushi was done very well, the sushi rice was especially cooked well, I think it’s all the learnings from his dad, it’s gruelling the kind of training regime the chefs go through under the house of Jiro. I am not sure if this is the best sushi honestly, I think there are better ones in Tokyo for sure, but nevertheless, I am glad I came here to check it out. Overall it was still a nice experience, and Takashi & his assistant were very friendly, even posing for photos with Y & R after the meal.

Takashi - although he didn't speak a lot of English, he was very friendly.
Takashi – although he didn’t speak a lot of English, he was very friendly.

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Great knife skills…

The assistant - Y and I thought he was quite a cute boy hee hee.
The assistant – Y and I thought he was quite a cute boy hee hee.

My favourite sushi is highlighted in the bigger square boxes - Uni sushi (top left) and their signature inverted V shape Tamago (bottom right). Everything else was also very good, like the eel, prawns, scallops... yummy My favourite sushi is highlighted in the bigger square boxes – Uni sushi (top left) and their signature inverted V shape Tamago (bottom right). Everything else was also very good, like the eel, prawns, scallops… yummy


3.
Ryugin
7-17-24 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo Prefecture 106-0032, Japan
Tel: 03-3423-8006
http://www.nihonryori-ryugin.com/index_en.html

Seiji Yamamoto does fine Kyoto modern kaiseki cuisine at his best here. Only tasting menu is served here, and I would say 90% of the dishes were really well done and executed. It was recently rated 3 stars in the Tokyo Michelin Guide 2013, and ranked 22 in the San Pellegrino Top 50 restaurants. But for me, i will give it 2.5 stars, just because I didn’t feel every dish was mind blowing. For me, that’s necessary if it is 3 stars.

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Giant “dragon” plate greets us in the reception hallway.

I think the decor looked a bit strangely Chinese Oriental, but the plates that were used for the food were really beautiful and exquisite, every dish looked like a piece of Japanese art. I loved their sake glasses especially. After coming here, I have been on a look out for similar sake glasses but it’s so hard to find. Being a sweet tooth, I loved their final dessert which looked like a “ma lai gou” (you know that malay cake you order in dim sum restaurants), served with Japanese soft ice cream. They managed to do such a simple comfort food dish in a beautiful dignified manner and still made me go WOW with the taste.

11 course menu, thank goodness we booked dinner at 9pm so we were quite famished.
11 course menu, thank goodness we booked dinner at 9pm so we were quite famished.

Cute sake glasses which we got to pick from a wonderful selection of glasses.
Cute sake glasses which we got to pick from a wonderful selection of glasses.

Sake recommendation from Ryugin's sommelier
Sake recommendation from Ryugin’s sommelier

Ryugin gastronomy
Ryugin gastronomy


4. Mikawa Zezankyo

1-3-1 Fukuzumi, Koto-ku, Tokyo (03) 3643-8383
Tel: (0066) 9670-15049
http://mikawa-zezankyo.jimdo.com/

This restaurant located a bit off from the city centre of Tokyo (it was around 25 – 30 mins by taxi at night in no traffic), is the main branch of the Mikawa enterprise. They have 2 other branches which I read that he handed over to his apprentices to run, but this one is where Chef Saotome is typically based. My first trip to his branch was his old location at Kayabacho in 2008, and it’s been my consistent must go tempura joint everytime I come to Tokyo.

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It looks like he stays in this building where the restaurant is located, and he has an amazing collection of pottery, antiques on the upper floors which we took a quick look after dinner.

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Can’t wait to dig in, this is our condiments for the tempura.

Here at Mikawa, you just look forward to every piece that appears on your plate, every piece is so well done that the taste is just sublime.

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We had a great conversation with one of his apprentice who originates from China and has been working under Mikawa for quite a few years and he also shared with us a sushi restaurant that his boss has been going to religiously almost every day, will share that later in my EATS section (see Pt 7). We started talking, as he asked us where have we tried so far in Tokyo, and we told him we tried Jiro’s son’s establishment in Roppongi. He was explaining Jiro’s restaurant in Ginza is really simple, and some may not understand why they have to eat a very expensive meal within less than 45 mins at a restaurant that does not even have an attached toilet. He did explain there’s actually a lot of better sushi restaurants in Tokyo, but Jiro’s dedication to the sushi craft is admirable, and that’s what draws many people to his restaurant. However, due to the success of “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”, it has drawn so much awareness from overseas guests, that he has to contain the reservations for tourists versus locals, hence why it is so hard to get a table there.

Apprentice who chatted with us. Look out for him next time you visit. Speak Mandarin please.
Apprentice who chatted with us. Look out for him next time you visit. Speak Mandarin please.

Perfect tempura pieces - Yummylicious!
Perfect tempura pieces – Yummylicious!


5.
Kawamura
Ginza 6-5-1 Ginza Mst Building 8F Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061; Tel.03-6252-5011

Kawamura is a famous steak house known best for their Kobe beef. It’s teppanyaki style and the signature is their steak. There’s like a “hall of fame” wall when I entered the restaurant with so many certificates and recognition which our teppanyaki chef later explained was certificate on the Kobe cows they bought at auctions.

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Our teppanyaki chef told us, they only buy female Kobe cows as the marbling is better than male ones, and they are ideally slaughtered at 24 months as that’s when the marbling is better. They also check the lineage of the family to ensure that the cow’s breed is the best even looking at her mother, grandmother and so on. That’s a lot of care in checking the genetics man, to ensure what they serve to customers is 100% the best.

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Our chef at work, he has an extensive 20 over years of culinary experience.

Our perfect piece of Kobe steak
Our perfect piece of Kobe steak

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Abalone teppanyaki style

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Abalone teppanyaki style

What's teppanyaki without a lovely garlic fried rice at the end?
What’s teppanyaki without a lovely garlic fried rice at the end?

Tip from our chef is: Come here for lunch, the meal is similar and you pay much lesser. How nice of him to tell us that!


6. Aronia de Takazawa

3丁目-5-2 Akasaka Minato, Tokyo 107-0052, Japan
Tel: 03-3505-5052
www.aroniadetakazawa.com

This is a really hard restaurant to book, as they only accept reservations 2 months in advance, and they only sit 3 tables with probably capacity of 10 persons I heard from my hotel concierge, so it was great that we managed to get a table, as it’s thanks to me emailing them 4 months before the trip with my restaurant list, thanks to a recommendation from Y’s friend KS who’s a big foodie and goes to Japan all the time.

Interestingly I had googled this for Michelin ratings, and Chef Takazawa has no Michelin rating. He’s quite a handsome chef I must say, and he was very stylish the way he went around almost “performing” in his show kitchen which looked like a centrestage for the restaurant.

Secret shot I took on the phone when he wasn't watching…
Secret shot I took on the phone when he wasn’t watching…

His wife Akiko served us and speaks perfect English, and she told us we weren’t allowed to take picture of him while in service, but were welcome to take picture of the food. I sensed he was more a shy guy. She recommended an amazing bottle of Japanese Ice wine that apparently it’s exclusive to their restaurant, from a small vineyard. It’s a great bummer as I can’t seem to find this in any of the Japanese supermarkets so far.

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Cute wine menu with beautiful imagery of Japanese grapes, and that’s when we asked about some nice sweet wine.

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Amazing bottle of Japanese ice wine – must try if you come here.

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Y holding up the menu for me to take a shot of the degustation menu. It was Christmas themed since we had the dinner around Christmas time.

My degustation menu .. I only included the more interesting and memorable dishes.
My degustation menu .. I only included the more interesting and memorable dishes.

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Even their toilet is as minimalist looking as the restaurant.

And that ends my Part 1 of my Tokyo Dec 2012 trip, check out my next post on Tokyo Dec 2012 Eats – Casual and Cafes


7. Harutaka

3F Ginza Kawabata Building, 8-5-8 Ginza
Tel: 03-573-1144
Opens from 5.30 pm till late

As mentioned, this last sushi restaurant is a recommendation from the apprentice at Mikawa Zezankyo. It’s where the owner Chef Saotome goes religiously everyday for his meal. I think that says something about the quality of this place. I feel it’s like an insider guide, so am sharing it with you here! I read in some other blogs, that apparently this is a chef’s favourite sushi place, even Ryugin’s Seiji Yamamoto. Interestingly, the chef of this restaurant was the right hand man of Jiro Ono of the famous Sukiyabashi Jiro, but with a less crazy price tag. It’s a pity I didn’t have time to try this trip. Hope to have a chance to try this the next time I am in Tokyo. See review here (updated in October 2013)

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