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Yakitori suggestions

p.s.: If you go for Fuku, take the Chiyoda line from Hibiya station (note: Hibiya station = the same as Yurakucho). It is quite a distance away by cab, but the train takes you there in 17 minutes (Yoyogi-Uehara station), and then it is a 4 minute walk from the station to the restaurant in a pleasant neighbourhood, walking along a single street with lots and lots of restaurants and bars on it.

You can also go from Shimbashi station (closer to your hotel), but then you would have to change trains once, at Omotesando).

Jun 10, 2014
Asomaniac in Japan

Yakitori suggestions

And note that Fuku is closed on Wednesdays. And on Saturdays and Sundays, you can only reserve for a start at 6pm (or 6:30pm, I forget) or earlier, while you can kick off at any time on the other days of the week.

I love Fuku. The yakitori is great, the atmosphere as well, and it happens to be remarkably cheap. Owner Suzuki-san is a very pleasant, cheerful man, as are all the staff at Fuku.

I have now been to a number of the high end yakitori places and I still prefer the much cheaper and much less up-itself Fuku. In fact, only yesterday I went to Yakitori Shinka, which is very highly rated on tabelog and is a kind of upmarket yakitori and wine place. 10 counter seats. No smoke from the grill at all. The setting is exactly like a sushi place, interestingly. My wife and I enjoyed it very much: they offer some cuts of chicken you do not see in many other places, some of the non-skewer dishes are excellent and imaginative, they are great at using spices (e.g., a sancho powder and honey mix to dip a particular cut of chicken into) and the wine list is very decent for a yakitori place. (I still prefer sake and beer with yakitori, but certain wines do work incredibly well, and it is a nice additional option to have.) The owner speaks very good English, which was great for my wife as she does not speak Japanese. BUT: while we loved it, at the end of the meal when we considered which yakitori place to book for a dinner next month with some friends, we both immmediately knew that we still prefer Fuku. Depends on what you're after, but if you want some honest, good quality yakitori in an informal atmosphere, Fuku remains my favourite.

While I find the notion of awarding Michelin stars to yakitori places absurd, I was curious and tried some of them out. I have found them quite disappointing. Ginza Birdland for instance is eye-wateringly expensive and rigid in its approach (set courses only, strict ahrerence to sittings so if you have the early sitting you have to be out by a certain time) while some other place in Gotanda whose name I have already forgotten was also unremarkable for the price and the way it took itlsef way too seriously. Give me Fuku any time.

The Yurakucho yakitori places under the railway tracks are really fun in terms of the atmosphere (and if you want to get into random conversations with drunk businessmen sitting next to you), and I would recommend it for the experience. But the quality of the actual food in most cases is really low.

Jun 10, 2014
Asomaniac in Japan

Takazawa or Tapas Molecular Bar

Indeed. And not weird in a good way. I will never forget how Narisawa managed to destroy perfectly good foie gras terrine by blasting it with liquid nitrogen. Gratuitous nonsense. Or how they drowned a dish in very concentrated squid ink sauce that killed off the delicate, subtly-flavoured ingredients in that dish.

The atmosphere was a bit stiff and formal. Perfectly polite service, but not warm. Not a place to relax. But because the wankerati from the international press rate it and some celebrity chefs endorsed it, it is now touted as one of the best restaurants in Asia. It's not even the best restaurant in Minami Aoyama.

Apr 30, 2014
Asomaniac in Japan

Takazawa or Tapas Molecular Bar

Narisawa - hugely overrated, overpriced and emperor's-new-clothesy. To be avoided at all costs, unless jumping on the international press bandwagon is something you would like to do.

Takazawa and Molecular Tapas Bar are two very different places. It's like asking if you should go to a Japanese or an Italian restaurant - the answer is go italian if you fancy Italian, and go Japanese if you fancy Japanese.

Takazawa is not really a molecular restaurant. They employ some of those methods (the occasional liquid nitrogen etc), but it is not at the forefront at all. It's basically quite innovative cuisine using Japanese ingredients to create Japanese dishes with a European slant (and some of the dishes happen to employ techniques you would associate with places like the Molecular Tapas Bar). What you get is a 7, 9 or 11 course menu of actual courses. Also, it is a proper restaurant with three tables and an all-evening experience.

The Molecular Tapas Bar is basically a gimmicky "meal" of 25 or so little molecular dishes, prepared in gimmicky fashion in front of 7 people looking at the chef as he does his thing and explains the process. There are two sittings (I think 6-8:30 and 8:30 - end, though I last went about 6 years ago so who knows if that has changed), and behind you is a huge space with many people as it is in the middle of a hotel (i.e., the set-up and atmosphere are also completely different from Takazawa).

I find the Molecular Tapas Bar quite fun (though going once or twice was enough, at least for me, though I did very much enjoy it) and if you are into that sort of thing, you should go and explore it.

In other words, either option is fine, but don't decide thinking that you are comparing like and like. Decide on the basis of whether you want a proper molecular experience (with a zero Japanese angle), or a full meal of innovative Japanese/French/European food that also features molecular techniques.

Kozue - I agree with pauliface.

Apr 30, 2014
Asomaniac in Japan

Yakitori Shinka - has anyone been?

Belated thank you for this. Made me want to go (I have always thought that my wife would appreciate a wine-decorated handbag), but whenever I want to book, I try to do so at fairly late notice, and it has been booked out every single time. Unless "manseki" is their way of saying that they don't like my telephone manner. Looks like it's now one of the highest rated yakitori places in Tokyo on tabelog.

Apr 30, 2014
Asomaniac in Japan

Japanese Kalbi: Different than korean?

Monica - but the meat quality differs often. I have found kalbi in Korea quite different from karubi in Japan because of the beef used. If you have wagyu vs Lorean beef then for me the wagyu wins. (of course, you might end up with Australian beef on both sides).

Apr 23, 2014
Asomaniac in Japan

Aquavit Tokyo?

Yes. I went last Tuesday. Changed a bit but still good. Worth visiting if you are in the mood for modern Scandinavian. No idea how they make money (it is huuuge, with lots of staff on prime real estate, and only half full) - maybe weddings on the weekends, a licence to print money in Japan, but in any event, if you liked it in 2009 you will still like it. The changes are minimal over theast 5 years, and quality is consistent.

Apr 12, 2014
Asomaniac in Japan

How many months in advance for Michelin reservations?

Unless something has changed, Saito only takes reservations two months in advance.

By the way, while the sashimi starters are really incredible, the sushi is nothing that special at Saito. Very good but no better than elsewhere. He belongs to the Kamesaka chain (and apprenticed under Kanesaka), and I found out from a friend that the same fish is used for all of Kanesaka's restaurants, which maybe explains why the sushi is no better than at many other high end sushi places. If you are going for the sashimi part, then I agree that this is very special.

Mar 24, 2014
Asomaniac in Japan

What do you think about the bar that's suing Tableog?

I don't know the position under Japanese law, but under other laws such as English law, if you are suing for damages, you need to prove loss. What is their loss here? I don't see how they could possibly prove loss.

They could ask for an injunction to get tabelog to remove the review, but that's quite different from damages.

Don't think rights to their decor comes into this claim, if the claim is as reported in the article.

Feb 25, 2014
Asomaniac in Japan

What do you think about the bar that's suing Tableog?

from a legal perspective I don't see how they would have a case.

Feb 23, 2014
Asomaniac in Japan

Hedone [London]

Initially (after opening) there were hit and miss dishes and execution was flawed. Ingredient quality was the best in London though. Now execution is excellent and ingredient quality is still best in London. One of the very best the city has to offer, no question.

Feb 12, 2014
Asomaniac in U.K./Ireland

L'Osier (very short review)

I went to the reopened L'Osier last night. We had a very good meal, but I must say that I much preferred the old L'Osier in terms of food and ambience. Most dishes were executed very well last night, but there was no memorable standout that will remain with me a year from now (or even a month).

We had the Menu Degustation - lovely foie gras, interesting tandoori lobster, slightly overcooked duck, generous cheese platter, magnificent mont blanc. All good, but it does come at a price (JPY 28,000).

The wine list is quite good, but certainly not the best or most varied you'll find in this city. We limited ourselves to some boring old classics for red and white (a 2005 Meursault (Boillot) and a 1998 CdP (Beaucastel)). Started off with a 2008 Nyetimber sparkling, which was not only very good as Nyetimber tends to be, but it also flabbergasted Lionel, who had not tried it before and could not believe that the English can produce such a decent champagne look-alike.

Lionel was on form. Initially I did not recognise him - he lost about 20 kilos, is now very fit and incredibly thin. He was probably my favourite aspect of the evening.

Anyway - a very good night, but probably won't become a regular feature in my calendar at JPY 200,000 for four people.

Oh, and the decor: zero atmosphere, don't really like it. Very sterile. Our dining companions also remarked on how all other diners were basically a bunch of old rich Japanese men with either their clients or ‘nieces’. I didn't really care, but it did feel a little odd.

Feb 06, 2014
Asomaniac in Japan

Wine events in Hong Kong

Charles,

very kind, thank you very much for getting back to me. I will email you.

Wine events in Hong Kong

I will probably be in Hong Kong for 3 or 4 days at some point towards the end of March or beginning of April. I would be very grateful if anyone could let me know if there is any particularly good source on the internet informing of wine events / dinners being organised in Hong Kong (accessible to anyone, i.e., non-trade). Thanks in advance.

Sunday night inTokyo -- 7 choices...

I'd say it's a close-run thing, Uncle. Not many places do mediocre international quasi-tapas coupled with overpriced mediocre wine with as much dedication as Cicada. Then again, Gonpachi does have Koizumi's seal of approval.

Dec 11, 2013
Asomaniac in Japan

Prague, Krakow, and Berlin over XMas and New Year's

Brilliant, thank you very much for the link.

To my eternal shame, I did not know about Sapa even though I am from Prague. I can't wait to check out the food when i am in Prague for 3 weeks starting later this month.

I have travelled Vietnam extensively and absolutely love the food, but have not found much in Prague (the odd Vietnamese restaurant in places like Smichov, but they often do more Chinese food than Vietnamese as it seems to be easier to market to Praguers). I have not made a lot of effort to be fair as I always primarily focus on Czech food when in Prague (as I only manage to go home twice a year so want to have comfort food from my childhood), but will definitely check it out. My (Dutch) wife gets tired of all the meat within a few days so she will really appreciate Vietnamese as well.

Dec 02, 2013
Asomaniac in Europe

Daisan Harumi - Changes

Kawashima-san, Nagayama-san's long term assistant, has left Daisan Harumi. I understand from the restaurant that they may no longer open on Saturdays because of that (Kawashima-san used to be in charge on Saturdays whilst Nagayama-san has other engagements). Beyond tragic.

They did not divulge why he left, and it was not appropriate to ask in front of a full restaurant, so I acknowledged the information without further query. If anyone knows, I would be very grateful if you could share the information. If he is opening his own shop, I want to go to it.

Nov 18, 2013
Asomaniac in Japan

Crab feast (and pastry shops) recommendations?

Agreed. Note the very high price though.

Nov 07, 2013
Asomaniac in Japan

Ethnic restuarants in Salzburg, Vienna and Prague

Someone here recommended Sansho in Prague - I can only wholeheartedly agree. Run by an interesting Englishman who started off as a Chinese butcher in Chinatown in the London. (As in, he is English but somehow ended up working in Chinatown, learning all about the proper cuts for Chinese food.)

Nov 04, 2013
Asomaniac in Europe

Best Kaiseki in Tokyo

Indeed. It is still kaiseki though (but I won't be the one to disagree with him to his face).

Oct 31, 2013
Asomaniac in Japan

Best Kaiseki in Tokyo

Kikunoi's prices are transcendent for what you get. The Tokyo branch is a joke.

Oct 30, 2013
Asomaniac in Japan

Sunday night inTokyo -- 7 choices...

The post meal festivities upstairs are brilliant. And I don't meant that izakaya he ownes upstairs, I mean the other place around the counter.

Oct 25, 2013
Asomaniac in Japan

Sunday night inTokyo -- 7 choices...

I really loved Yukimura. We went during winter and pretty much all dishes had some form of crab in them. Not great if you are not into crab, obviously, but great if you are. The master was incredibly generous with sake as well, once we had established my sake otakuism, he brought out some spectacular stuff he did not charge for. The other guests were also great, it was very interactive and at one point another set of guests shared their bottle of very fine Burgundy with us. Very warm, generous and open.

I have nevertheless only been once (because it was very expensive; I think the crab meal is over 30,000 yen per person, though I understand his set menus outside of the crab season are cheaper). I therefore cannot say if the atmosphere we experienced was representative or if we got lucky in terms of the other guests (though one thing that was clear was that they were regulars), but I can definitely say that the master treated us wonderfully.

Oct 25, 2013
Asomaniac in Japan

Tokyo - Ramen without Pork?

"Ramen" would be a good key word to start with. If you used the term "raman" that you used in your original post, I can see why the search function proved frustratingly ineffective. There are hundreds and hundreds of posts and many will give you the information you want.

I am by no means an expert (there are many posters on this site who are quite knowledgable about ramen - I am not one of them). But I think some simple tips should help: You will not find a lot of ramen with beef, so you don't have to worry about that. Ordering ramen with a non-pork broth, such as miso or shoyu, helps as well. Then make sure they don't put chashu pork on top, and you should be fine. Many ramen places will accommodate your criteria.

Oct 24, 2013
Asomaniac in Japan

Recommendation for someone who loved Ishikawa?

L'Auberge de l'Ill is a branch of a restaurant of the same name in Alsace. The original restaurant is the most consistent restaurant by Michelin standards (and bear in mind this is in France, where - unlike in Tokyo - a French restaurant has to have seriously high standards to be awarded stars). It has maintained a 3 star rating for over 40 years, every single year.

The Japan branch is in a grand setting in Tokyo - see their website: http://www.haeberlin.jp/eng/aubergede...

The food is Alsatian, though they do take liberties with that concept as there are dishes that are clearly heavily influenced by other French regions. I particularly enjoyed the Alsatian pigeon breast with black truffle and foie gras filling and port sauce: http://www.haeberlin.jp/eng/aubergede...

I also love the wine list as I love Alsatian wines, especially aged Alsatian Riesling and Pinot Gris. We had an array of 20+ year old Alsatian whites, and they were phenomenal. Uncle Yabai and I once spent a very memorable evening there. I am still paying off the mortgage on that dinner.

Regarding the 3 star Robuchon: I don't want to dissuade you because if you are after a fairly formal, grand French experience, I think it is one of the only games in town, along with L'Auberge de l'Ill. My issue with that one is just that the food is not spectacular. Don't get me wrong - it is very well made, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. But equally, there is also nothing spectacular about it. Within a day I had forgotten almost all of the courses, and there were 17 of them. All I remember is the foie gras terrine, and not because it was special, but because the wine match of Condrieu was so spectacular. Also, even for a huge eater like myself, it was just too much food, I thought I would explode (though I aprpeciate this is very subjective).

Oct 23, 2013
Asomaniac in Japan

Odd question about trout

p.s., although maybe it is not the species but their diet- this is what wikipedia has to say:

"Farmed trout and some populations of wild trout, especially anadromous steelhead, have red/orange flesh as a result of high astaxanthin levels in their diets. Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant that may be from a natural source or synthetically produced. The resulting pink flesh is sometimes marketed under names such as Ruby Red or Carolina Red."

Oct 22, 2013
Asomaniac in Europe

Odd question about trout

There are several species of trout. Trout are related to salmon and some species are pink / orange, but the ones I know from Europe and I grew up with are always completely white.

Oct 22, 2013
Asomaniac in Europe

Recommendation for someone who loved Ishikawa?

You're not wrong on Hiramatsu, but I see little difference to the small Robuchon (e/g, the one in Roppongi Hills). All good, nothing outstanding. And EXACTLY the same as anywhere in the world, including the decor. Literally identical to the one in Hong Kong.

Ristorante Aso (of the Hiramatsu Group) actually used to be a lot more than your standard wedding / hotel catering operation, but went downhill massively. Such a shame. I posted about it elsewhere - some years ago, that was one beautiful, innovative restaurant. When I last went about 3 years ago, it was a shadow of its former self and I will never go again unless I hear that things have improved. I wonder what happened.

Now L'Osier I loved, and would have recommended for French if it was not still closed.

Oct 21, 2013
Asomaniac in Japan

Visiting Tokyo from NYC for the first time!! (Researched)

Also: just out of curiosity, why Yoroniku?

Oct 13, 2013
Asomaniac in Japan

Visiting Tokyo from NYC for the first time!! (Researched)

You should do Daisan Harumi on a Saturday (lunch or dinner, same menu). Much better value for the same fish, more relaxed atmosphere.

I am 99% sure that Sushi Saito is closed on Sundays.

Oct 13, 2013
Asomaniac in Japan