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OliverB's Profile

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Murray Circle recently? [Sausalito]

I know these threads pop up every so often with the same question: "How's M.C.? Anyone been?". I suppose this is a rehash. I haven't seen any mention in the past year while searching the board so I wanted to get some feedback. I just found out that Cavallo Point offers a local residents package with 50% discounted room rates on Sunday nights, so I decided to splurge on one of the historic city-view suites since my wife and I have always wanted to spend a night. I also made dinner reservations at Murray Circle, but wanted to get some feedback as past reviews have been spotty. Some were raves, some were on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. For the price, we could surely eat a great meal almost anywhere in the city but since we'll be staying at Cavallo for one night, it makes sense to just park ourselves there. If the food is nothing special though, I'd sooner have cocktails in the bar and then drive into Sausalito or elsewhere nearby. Any somewhat recent experience?

you go away for a week, and the food you miss most is....

I don't have any hidden gems but just about every restaurant in Little Saigon rates in my book.

Cocktails in SF -- 7x7 "big drink"

In case anyone needed further proof that this $pon$ored 7x7 list is utter bullshit, curiosity got the better of me and I ordered a gin and tonic at Empress last week. They don't even use real tonic. It was cheap well gin mixed with club soda from the fountain machine. I sent it right back without touching it. What a joke that it somehow made it onto a list of best anything in San Francisco!

MATSUMOTO & GIFU - Hikariya Nishi + Ishii Miso + Michiya-Zushi Okimuraya + Yamatake-Shōten

That looks like Itaru Honten Izakaya, right?

http://www.itaru.ne.jp/

Is there something similar in Kaga that anyone could recommend?

Aug 16, 2014
OliverB in Japan

MATSUMOTO & GIFU - Hikariya Nishi + Ishii Miso + Michiya-Zushi Okimuraya + Yamatake-Shōten

PS - It looks like that place is in Kanazawa as well. Do you know of anything in the town of Kaga (about 1 hour south) that rates highly for lunch? I don't want to have to drive into Kanzawa for every meal; we'll be spending the day in and around Kaga so a more conveniently situated lunch option would be best. I'm still curious to know the English translation of the name as I'd like to note it for our time in Kanazawa. Thanks!

Aug 16, 2014
OliverB in Japan

MATSUMOTO & GIFU - Hikariya Nishi + Ishii Miso + Michiya-Zushi Okimuraya + Yamatake-Shōten

Thanks E Eto!

Do you have an English translation for the name of that place you linked to? The food and ambiance look great and right up my alley!

Do either of you know anything about the historic tsukemono shop in Kanazawa that I linked to for kabura-zushi? Am I correct in assuming that it's less of a proper eatery and more of a place that might be suitable to pop in for a late afternoon snack?

Aug 16, 2014
OliverB in Japan

MATSUMOTO & GIFU - Hikariya Nishi + Ishii Miso + Michiya-Zushi Okimuraya + Yamatake-Shōten

Thanks Gargle!

Didn't realize it was a curry restaurant; somebody had mentioned it served regional dishes. I'm assuming there's no such thing as Ishikawa style curry? :) Doesn't seem all that unique and while I find tablelog difficult to translate, the reviews don't seem too enthusiastic. I suppose there's no reason to single this one out as a lunch spot, huh? I don't understand why I'd noted a curry spot as a place for fried Noto oysters... I wonder where I got that info?

Anyhow, do you have any interesting alternatives to suggest? I'm looking for something casual, not expensive, no reservations. Preferably unique to the area (jibuni, Kaga ryori, etc) or if not, exceptional homestyle cooking. I would like to find something near The Kayotei ryokan or close to Kakusenkei Gorge where we'll be spending our morning hiking.

On another note, is there a particularly good place to sample kabura-zushi or narezushi?

The Kanazawa tourism website highlights Shijimaya Honpo and I see that they even host a workshop. It looks to be a historic tsukemono shop dating to 1875. This is definitely my speed! I'm making note of this place for our time in Kanazawa and I would love to know whether it has any sit-down accommodations, whether it's take-out only, or whether it's suitable for a quick visit just to sample kabura-zushi in the shop?

PS - this place looks to serve regional local/fare:
http://tabelog.com/ishikawa/A1701/A17...

Is there an English translation for the name that I can search for? Otherwise, is anyone on CH familiar with this place? Looks like they serve wild duck among other things, including delicious looking crab!

Aug 15, 2014
OliverB in Japan

Best restaurants in SF for 120-person wedding reception dinner and dance party?

Here you go:

http://www.presidio.gov/venues/Docume...

Rental fee isn't bad at all, only $3,300 if you do it on a weekday. It's going to the Fed since it's Nat'l Park land, probably pays upkeep and preservation so it's a good cause.

Best restaurants in SF for 120-person wedding reception dinner and dance party?

Sorry for the late response; haven't been around much lately. Yes, the log cabin in The Presidio is indeed what I was referring to. It's a really beautiful venue with rich history and unbeatable surroundings. I've always wanted to throw a party there myself! :)

http://www.presidio.gov/venues/Pages/...

There's plenty of good photos on Google Images to flip through. I have no clue what kind of ballpark we're talking for rental fee but it's often used as a wedding or engagement venue and I'm pretty sure it's operate by the city or state so I'm willing to bet it's somewhat reasonable as far as these things go. Personally, it'd be my first pick; even if it meant being a bit more thrifty with regards to catering.

Is Frances regularly so difficult to book?? [San Francisco]

They're so nice; I got a call back this afternoon and the woman that I spoke with explained that the restaurant was reserved for a private function on that evening, which is why I ran into problems with OpenTable. She made a note on my current reservation and promised to call and offer me priority for the 13th if the dining room gets freed up. I knew something had to be up, it was too unusual that the entire place would get booked up that quickly that early! Anyhow, I'm glad we got a table.

MATSUMOTO & GIFU - Hikariya Nishi + Ishii Miso + Michiya-Zushi Okimuraya + Yamatake-Shōten

I actually have one final question... Kensantei in Kaga: anyone know anything about it? Supposedly known for their fried Noto oysters. I can't seem to find a tablelog listing so perhaps I'm screwing up the English translation. I found this on a sample itinerary from a TA and it sounded interesting. Would love to get more info; find out whether it's worthwhile, what the atmosphere is like, prices, necessity of reservations, etc.

Thanks again!

Aug 15, 2014
OliverB in Japan

MATSUMOTO & GIFU - Hikariya Nishi + Ishii Miso + Michiya-Zushi Okimuraya + Yamatake-Shōten

Also, has anyone tried the Hida Toro at MICHIYA-ZUSHI OKIMURAYA in Takayama?

I've only read about it through this blog and the author suggests that it's the oldest sushi-ya in Takayama:

http://paulstravelpics.blogspot.com/2...

Aug 15, 2014
OliverB in Japan

MATSUMOTO & GIFU - Hikariya Nishi + Ishii Miso + Michiya-Zushi Okimuraya + Yamatake-Shōten

I'm trying to figure out when to make reservations at Hikariya Nishi and was hoping to get some quick feedback.

We're staying at Myojinkan Ryokan and would be driving into Matsumoto to visit the Castle between 10-11 AM, most likely. It could be earlier. We'll have the usual breakfast in our ryokan beforehand. I'd like to set aside enough time to visit the Castle park as well as Nakamachi Street without feeling rushed. I would also like to drive around Kiso-ji Road, time permitting. We'll have a rental car so we'll basically spend the morning touring the Castle and then surrounding areas of the city and/or countryside. We have no other plans except that we need to check-in to Wanosanto Ryokan no later than 7 PM that same evening as it will be our first night stay and we have a kaiseki dinner as well as the usual ryokan check-in routine. So I would not want to eat lunch too late in the day. If it's recommended, we could always skip our breakfast at Myojinkan, leave earlier for Matsumoto, and have an earlier lunch.

It looks like Myojinkan is about 30 mins. (without traffic) from Matsumoto, but I trust the feedback that I've received from you more than I do the Google Map suggested times between destinations, as it often doesn't factor in a lot of things. Any help with planning this day out would be hugely appreciated!

Thanks as always!

PS - If we plan to visit Matsumoto Castle for 10 AM (leaving Myojinkan at 9:15 in order to account for traffic and parking) and give ourselves 3 hours which seems like more than enough time to not only take the tour but also wander around at out own pace and visit the museum, etc. - we would be finished by 1 PM. We could then potentially go straight to Hikariya Nishi for lunch and visit Nakamachi Street and all other sightseeing destinations afterwards, before driving to Wanosanto. Does that seem like the best way to plan out our day?

Aug 15, 2014
OliverB in Japan

Is Frances regularly so difficult to book?? [San Francisco]

Rats, I didn't realize OT updated right after midnight. That's a drag. I'm shocked at how quickly the entire dining room booked 2 months to the date. Anyhow, I got a table for 8:30 the following night so I'll just have to shuffle our other dining plans around a bit to accommodate this. Thanks for the tip on the 12:01 updates - I'll consider that the next time I plan for something like this.

Is Frances regularly so difficult to book?? [San Francisco]

I'd planned for the past month to make dinner reservations for a party of 4 on October 13th. I called the restaurant to find out exactly when their calendar opens for booking on this date. That would have been today. I added a reminder in my calendar and set two alarms, woke up at 7 AM and logged into OpenTable. No seating available within 2.5 hours. I decided to check for a party of 3. Same story. Party of 2. Same story. One person. Still no availability. Frustrated, I decided to make sure I hadn't made a mistake with regards to the date, so I tried for October 14th (the following day) and sure enough, OpenTable informed that the restaurant was not currently accepting reservations that far in advance. So at 7 AM on the date that Frances' calendar opened for our reservations, the restaurant already got fully booked? Is this normal?? I'm less disappointed or even aggravated than I am surprised and confused. I know it's a popular place with limited capacity, but is it par for the course to have the entire dining room booked before 7 AM two months to the date? I left a message on the restaurant's voicemail wondering if OpenTable was screwing with me so it'll be interesting to find out...

Matsukawa - Probably (the current) Tokyo's greatest restaurant

Thaks, I'm even more exciting knowing that as it will probably be a complete reintroduction for us... and we rate Kyo Ya highly!

Aug 14, 2014
OliverB in Japan

Matsukawa - Probably (the current) Tokyo's greatest restaurant

FourSeasons,

Have you ever experienced the kaiseki set at Hiiragiya ryokan; if so, what was your impression?

I wonder if we should request a shabu shabu course or nabe for our one meal at Hiiragiya (we are staying 4 nights but opted for only one meal in order to experience other restaurants) since we have so many other kaiseki meals booked for that week: Hyo-tei, Shoraian, Kamigamo Akiyama, Kitcho Arashiyama.

I would love to get feedback on the kaiseki (or any meal experience) at Hiiragiya before deciding. If it's exceptional and a highlight of the stay, I'll gladly leave it as is.

Thanks!

Aug 13, 2014
OliverB in Japan

Matsukawa - Probably (the current) Tokyo's greatest restaurant

Thanks tigerjohn,

Have you ever eaten at any of the noted kaiseki restaurants Stateside, like Kyo Ya in the East Village? If so, how comparable would that be to what's found in Kyoto?

Aug 13, 2014
OliverB in Japan

Matsukawa - Probably (the current) Tokyo's greatest restaurant

Thanks for the tip; we're actually spending 2 nights at Gora and I've read mixed reviews of the food. I'll be sure to request the beef shabu and hopefully they have a non red meat option for my wife. Do you have any other suggestions for our second night?

Aug 12, 2014
OliverB in Japan

Matsukawa - Probably (the current) Tokyo's greatest restaurant

Thanks tigerjohn,

I imagine we'll see that often at the more traditional ryokans like Hoshi Onsen Chojukan, Kanbayashi Senjukaku, Minamikan, Iwaso, and maybe Sakamotoya (not sure about kaiseki in Nagasaki actually) but in places like Gora Kadan, Wanosanto, Kayotei, we'll probably see a more modern approach, similar to the higher end Tokyo restaurants. Since we only have a single meal booked at each (with exception of Gora Kadan for lack of alternatives) I don't expect this will be a problem. We'll be eating plenty of other meals inbetween, so it's really just Kyoto where we'll be in kaiseki hyperdrive.

Aug 12, 2014
OliverB in Japan

Matsukawa - Probably (the current) Tokyo's greatest restaurant

Thanks FS, that's a good backup if we start to get bored of the traditional kaiseki services. The trouble will be remembering to call ahead, since we're always doing our one-meal at ryokans on the night of arrival. I definitely want to request Hida beef at Myojinkan. I'll put the missus in charge of remembering! :)

Aug 12, 2014
OliverB in Japan

Matsukawa - Probably (the current) Tokyo's greatest restaurant

Thanks Robb,

If it gets really tired, we could always cancel our reservations. I remember starting a thread several months ago in which I shared the same concerns, and the general concencus seemed to be that we wouldn't be receiving a rehash of the same meal at each place. The Tokyo modern kaisekis like Ishikawa seem to be world's apart from the traditional Kyoto institutions. My bigger concern was with regards to the meals served in our ryokans, but I figured it was part and parcel with the experience and we had to include at least one dinner with each stay. Since we'll be jumping from towns and prefectures at each inn, I'm hoping we'll at least experience some of the regional specialties which will make these meals feel a bit more diverse; plus we'll typically have several days worth of meals inbetween. I guess we'll find out for ourselves though!

Aug 12, 2014
OliverB in Japan

Question re. November Reservations - Restaurants I'm waiting to book and likelihood of availability/issues

I've asked before and I would still love to receive some examples! Since you feel it would be refreshing to discuss, I'd very much appreciate it if you would offer suggestions.

I think many visitors to the forum and to Japan tend to focus on Tokyo alone. I've explained how I interpret the mentality of many of these visitors in an earlier post above, and why their focus likely wouldn't be on growers, fishermen, farmers, etc. That's not really my focus for Tokyo either, though I would love to be able to read about what I may potentially be missing, as it might influence my decision and entire trip in the end. I certainly am interested in hearing about regional cuisines outside of Tokyo. I'll be spending time in Hakone, Gunma, Nagano, Gifu, Ishikawa, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Matsue, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. I think I have a fairly good read on most of these regions (the ayu in Gunma/Gifu; kakinohasushi and oyaki in Nagano-I'd actually love a recommendation for this; oysters from the Noto Peninsula and narezushi in Ishikawa; okonomiyaki & takoyaki in Osaka; chagayu & kasuzuke in Nara; shijimi clams and 'seven delicacies' of Matsue; toruko, Chinese {tompourou, buta kakuni, etc} plus regional champon, sara-udon & kissaten in Nagasaki; etc) but I would always welcome personal suggestions from local Chowhounders.

Aug 12, 2014
OliverB in Japan

Matsukawa - Probably (the current) Tokyo's greatest restaurant

Thanks again FS,

My only experience with kaiseki to date have been at places like Kyo Ya in NYC, Wakuriya in San Mateo, and Sakae in Burlingame. I eat a lot of Japanese food in the Bay Area (katsu curry is a bi-weekly lunch staple) but I have to say that my few experiences with kaiseki have been the most rewarding, and I personally favor this style of Japanese cuisine over anything else. Unlike other "degustation" multi-course menus in the U.S. and Europe, I find the understated approach towards the presentation of fresh, seasonal ingredients and undressed flavors incredibly satisfying. I could never do more than one or two meals per week like this in Paris for example, but I find Japanese kaiseki to be less overwhelming and in many ways, a more artfully curated and refined exposition of flavors and aesthetic; almost an auteurist approach to food, without sounding too pretentious. It isn't overly adorned or rich, and doesn't leave you feeling gluttonous afterward. In Kyoto, more than anything else I'm drawn to the environs and surroundings. The centuries-old residences and gardens; heritage and tradition combined with modernist ideas and approaches - it's definitely right up my alley and I'm very excited for this stretch of our trip! I definitely value the experiences over "the best meal" or "ecclectic dining" in Kyoto. It may seem short-sighted, but it's a personal preference. I'm sure we'll taste many of the same seasonal ingredients, but I'm sure each preparation and presentation of these ingredients will offer different interpretations of flavors. It will be fun to compare and if nothing else, we'll be dining and drinking in sublime atmosphere and I know I'll get a huge kick from the settings and cultural experience. My wife will be in orbit at Kitcho.

Aug 12, 2014
OliverB in Japan

Question re. November Reservations - Restaurants I'm waiting to book and likelihood of availability/issues

I completely understand and appreciate all of your points and I'm essentially in agreement with you. I certainly recognize the limited capacity of many restaurants in Japan and the importance of rapport and conversational etiquette between chef and patron that's inherent to Japanese restaurant culture. I'm not sure whether the latter can be attributed to the prevalence of intimate kappo style dining spaces or if form follows function in this case; eitherway they're interwoven facets of Japan's food culture and present themselves as a social barrier for Western travellers. Furthermore, with one glaring exception which I'll get to in a moment - any comparative links to cities like NYC or LA were made with the purpose of supporting your argument; that Tokyo is an entirely unique city with uncommon conventions due to the nature of all that's been highlighted above. This is indeed foreign and unusual for most Americans and it translates to many of us, as somewhat elitist, exclusive, and inaccessible; regardless of whether that's true of the greater Tokyo dining scene. My main point of contention however, is Chowhound's role in all of this. I simply don't put as much weight behind these forums as others seem to. Perhaps I'm being naive, but I've always considered the demographic of food-oriented community forums to serve a niche interest and I don't really believe that any information conveyed through these channels has any broad impact or influence on the recognition or popularity of restaurants, outside of a select discerning few. I would argue that it's probably a bit of a stretch to assume that a very good restaurant catering primarily to locals which currently flies under-the-radar, is in any danger of becoming a fashionable dining spot with demand overwhelming interest and becoming restrictive to regulars, just because it's name-dropped on Chowhound. I think that some of you may be granting too much influence to these little boards. Then again, I may just be naive.

Aug 12, 2014
OliverB in Japan

Matsukawa - Probably (the current) Tokyo's greatest restaurant

Thanks FS!

I think I understand exactly what to expect from both places... inconsistency is often a facet of that kind of "playful" creative molecular cooking; perhaps inherently. I have a feeling I'd enjoy Matsukawa much more but I'm gonna leave this decision to the missus. She goes for that theater and showmanship style of cooking more than me. Aronia is definitely the more 'unique for our trip' pick as it's a departure from everything I've chosen so far, so I'm gonna let my wife chose (she typically gives me carte-blanche for our restaurant plans).

Thanks for the feedback on both places!

Aug 12, 2014
OliverB in Japan

Matsukawa - Probably (the current) Tokyo's greatest restaurant

Thanks Gargle... well, I think so, haha. I have no idea how to interpret the last part of your post.

Am I correct in thinking that it's a more laidback and fun environment than Aronia as well? If so, I'm convinced and will try for a res!

(I never make requests on set menus, other than to alert the kitchen that my wife doesn't eat red meat)

PS - What would you consider the "closest" or most similar kaiseki to Matsukawa in Japan; is it unlike any of the places mentiond that we'll have visited?

PPS - what is the "me" reflected in my posts that you have trouble imagining at Matsukawa? I need to hear this :-)

Aug 12, 2014
OliverB in Japan

Matsukawa - Probably (the current) Tokyo's greatest restaurant

I've just discovered this incredible photo gallery of dishes served at Matsukawa and the meal looks etheral!

https://plus.google.com/photos/118237...

I have one special celebratory dinner saved for our very last night in Japan. We'll be leaving Nagasaki and returning to Tokyo for one single night before ending our trip. I would definitely like to do something more upsacle and fancy since we'll be eating strictly without reservations for at least a full week prior; all regional stuff and lots of Chinese in Nagasaki.

I was initially leaning towards Aronia, since it's unlike anything we'll have experienced to date, from what I gather. I had stayed away from most fusion cuisine in the planning of our meals and I have very little interest in any European fine-dining while in Japan, however Aronia was the one restaurant that seemed creative enough with it's use of ingredients and flavors (from the menus and descriptions I've read) to entice me.

I'm sure it's very difficult to compare these restaurants, but simply stated - if you had your choice of eating at either Matsukawa, Kyo Aji, or Aronia de Takazawa, which would you pick for a last meal in Tokyo?

Keep in mind that we'll have stayed in 10 different ryokans throughout our trip, experiencing at least one kaiseki meal in each. In addition, we'll have eaten "upscale" kaiseki meals at Gion Yata, Hyo-Tei, Hiiragiya, Kamigamo Akiyama, and Kitcho Arashiyama all in Kyoto... kaiseki overkill!!

We'll have a full 2.5 week break from any kaiseki with exception of one meal each at Minamikan, Iwaso, and Sakamotoya (though it would be absurd to compare any of the kaiseki meals served in our ryokans with what I've seen in the photo gallery linked above!).

We'll have had modern kaiseki meals at Ishikawa, RyuGin, and possibly Ginza Okuda (still debating whether to keep this reservation!) while in Tokyo as well.

With all of this information (or regardless!) would you go for Matsukawa or Aronia? Before anyone offers warning, I have an acquaintance in Tokyo who could most likely assist with a reservation, so that isn't a concern.

Strictly in terms of proficiency and skill, do you feel that Matsukawa or Aronia is the stronger kitchen? In terms of creativity and playfullness, does one win out over the other? Lastly, simply accounting for the most enjoyable and memorable courses that you've experienced, which of the two (or three if Kyo Aji's a contender!) would you stand behind?

Gracias!!

And apologies in advance to those who'll undoubtedly criticize all the fancy eating.

Aug 11, 2014
OliverB in Japan

MATSUMOTO & GIFU - Hikariya Nishi + Ishii Miso + Michiya-Zushi Okimuraya + Yamatake-Shōten

Thanks ks,

I really appreciate all of your help!!

Aug 11, 2014
OliverB in Japan

MATSUMOTO & GIFU - Hikariya Nishi + Ishii Miso + Michiya-Zushi Okimuraya + Yamatake-Shōten

Thanks so much!

How do advance reservations for temples generally work? Would I be able to call the morning of, after guaging our time and schedule, or would it need to be days before, weeks before, etc?

Would you suggest that it's worthile making advance reservations at temples or would it be more fun to just wander through towns like Kanazawa and Kyoto exploring on our own and at our own pace? I'm similar to you in that I prefer to take my time and not feel rushed, so I'm inclined to avoid most "pre-arranged" necesseties on our itinerary with the exception of great food - unless they're incredibly interesting or really culturally significant.

Thanks for the tip on Nishi and Higashi too. Would you recommend Higashi over Nishi? I'd intended to visit the old tea houses (Shima and Kaikaro) so I wasn't prioritizing Nishi very highly. In all likelihood, we'll probably spend most of the morning in the park, just wandering around and enjoying the gardens, visiting the castle and shrines. Then lunch, followed by the museum for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Then we'll kill time before dinner in Higashi Chaya, wandering around and exploring the shops, perhaps a tea service and sweets in Kaikaro, etc. If we still have time and it's not out of the way, there's always Fukumitsuya which might be a fun tour. Ultimately, the park, Komatsu Yasuke, the museum, Higashi Chaya, and dinner at Koide are going to be the focus so I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to experience it all at a leisurely pace if we blow into town from Kayotei early enough!

Aug 11, 2014
OliverB in Japan