May 28, 2013

Edomae Unagi in Kanda

In Kanda Sudacho (神田須田町), we have a famous unagi (eel) restaurant named "Kanda Kikukawa (神田きくかわ)." They opened this restaurant in 1947 and nowadays have four branches in/around Tokyo. If you approach to Kanda Kikukawa, you will easily notice nice smell of unagi which stimulates your appetite very much. As Kikukawa never accepts reservation, we have to visit as early as possible or wait for a while.
Kanda Kikukawa (people are waiting...)
Inside (second floor)
Tea and pickles 
Unagi !
Bigger unagi bowl
A bit old building of Kikukawa recalls the image of previous "Showa" era. Since the inside is not so large, we could not be fully relaxed. But it is OK! This is the place only for tasting delicious unagi! As you know, unagi is an expensive ingredients and recently recognized as semi-endangered. Unagi is available from JPY3,000 even at lunch time. If you want to eat more, you have to pay more.

Unagi was delicious same as their fame. The texture was superb. Soft, airy and melted in the mouth. Kikukawa said they use only domestic unagi. Sauce of unagi is salty-sweet and strong as edomae. But they did not harm the taste of unagi itself. Sweetness using honey was well balanced. Also, savory aroma of charcoal also contributed to the good taste. My rating is 4 out of 5. Gochiso-samadeshita!

Kanda Kikukawa (神田きくかわ) 

May 26, 2013

Nostalgic French dishes in the Ueno Park

In the Ueno Park (上野公園), we have "Ueno Seiyoken (上野精養軒)", a restaurant and banquet complex whose business history started in 1872. Ueno Seiyoken is a pioneer of French dishes as well as Yoshoku in Japan. On a sunny weekend, I went to their main dining named "Grill Fulushima (グリルフクシマ)" for having a brunch. The entrance is a bit dark, inside was quite bright with sunshine and green of Park through the window.
A passage of Ueno Park
Ueno Seiyoken
Entrance of "Grill Fulushima"
Table setting
Terrine of scallop and smoke salmon
Consomme soup
Wagyu beef steak with red wine sauce
Grilled bass with seafood cream sauce 
Milk pudding with coconut jelly and tea
As a main dining, the price setting is high. A lunch set comprising a starter, a soup, a main dish and a dessert costs JPY7,000 per person. Even considering the location, it might be a bit expensive. Maybe thanks to that, there were relatively few customers and we could spend a private time.

Dishes were not so modern, but orthodox. In a good meaning, the taste and presentation were nostalgic. They would maintain their traditional style introducing trends bit by bit. This kind of orthodox restaurant might be valuable nowadays. Traditional consomme soup was very delicious. Other dishes were tasty averagely. Only beef steak, I was not so satisfied. They should select a bit better quality of beef for this price.

I like the nostalgic atmosphere in the historical Ueno Park, but seeing a restaurant, the cost-effectiveness is not so good. My rating is 3.2 out of 5. Gochiso-samadeshita!

Ueno Seiyoken (上野精養軒)

May 24, 2013

Teppanyaki in Hibiya on Mother's Day

In a few minutes walk from the Imperial Hotel (帝国ホテル) in Hibiya (日比谷), there is a teppanyaki restaurant called "Waka-kaiseki Yamatokan (若会席 大和館)" in the basement of a building. Yamatokan consists of only private rooms which is suitable for business entertainment and private gathering. Actually, eating in a private room with good service was really relaxing and nice.
Private room
Amuse (sesame tofu with sea urchin)
Starter platter 
Clear soup with bamboo root 
A chef cooks in our private room
Grilled fish with butter and champagne sauce
Shimane wagyu beef
Grape sorbet 
Cooking (teppanyaki)!
Steamed rice, miso soup and pickles
Grilled beef
In each private room, there is a teppanyak kitchen where a chef is cooking just for us. This experience is quite gorgeous. Before teppanyaki, amuse, starter and soup were served in a Japanese-kaiseki style. Every dish was delicate and gentle. Really, good starter for main teppannyaki!

Main dishes, namely fish and meat are cooked on teppan (iron plate). The cooking demonstration induced appetite. Grilled fish with rich butter and champagne sauce was delicious. As for beef, its quality depends on the price of course. Our beef seemed moderate. But their steak sauce using soy sauce became the taste much better. Eating with rice was very tasty. 

Dessert, particularly creme brulee was also delicious. The service was friendly. Price might be relatively reasonable as a teppanyaki restaurant using private room. My rating is 3.5 out of 5. Gochiso-samadeshita!

Waka-kaiseki Yamatokan (若会席 大和館)  

May 23, 2013

Homely cheese cakes of JOHANN

There is a cheese cake specialty shop called "JOHANN (ヨハン)" in Nakameguro (中目黒). Since their open in 1978, its simple and homely cheese cakes are widely loved by people. Recently we can buy their products at "Seijyo-Ishi (成城石井)", a bit posh super market chain.
"Natural" cheese cake
"Sour soft" cheese cake
One piece of their cakes is small. But as the taste is rich, this "bit-size"might be calculated. The taste is orthodox and a bit nostalgic as a whole. Even so, rich taste of cheese is noteworthy. Everyone would like the cakes. The price is reasonable. One piece is around JPY350. After dinner, this small cake is recommendable. My rating is 3 out of 5. Gochiso-samadeshita!

May 22, 2013

Histrical soba restaurant in Toranomon

In orthodox restaurants of soba, Japanese buckwheat noodle, there are three major lineages such as "yabu (藪)", "sunaba (砂場)" and "sarashina (更科)." And among three, it is said "sunaba" is the oldest, whose origin is latter part of 16th century when Toyotomi Hideyoshi built the Osaka castle. When the Tokugawa Shogun moved its government to Edo (Tokyo), they also moved here. One of the branches in Tokyo is Toranomon Sunaba (虎ノ門砂場) which has been continually doing business since 1872.
Toranomon Sunaba 
2nd floor of Toranomon Sunaba
Vegetable tempura 
Soba with Japanese yam sauce 
Same as its long history, Toranomon Sunaba is a traditional Japanese-style building where we can taste soba as feeling like edokko. We have to sit together with other people during rush hour like lunch time, but as we don't stay long, it is not a problem. As you may know, as a smart manner at soba restaurants, it is advisable to leave the restaurant soon after having short break of eating.

The taste of Toranomon Sunaba is definitely good. It is the one everyone likes. Moreover, the texture is very nice. Japanese yam sauce was a good harmony with the sophisticated soba. Tempura was also crispy and tasty enough. But the price is a bit high because of their fame. Tempura was JPY1,200 and soba with yam sauce was JPY900. If you'd like to enjoy the historical atmosphere of Sunaba, it might be affordable and if not, it might be a less cost effective. My rating is 3.2 out of 5. Gochiso-samadeshita!

May 17, 2013

Nice izakaya chain in Akasaka

Izakaya is a kind of gastropub in Japan where young and old enjoy drinking and eating reasonably. The number of izakaya is more than stars in Japan, and it is difficult even for Japanese which one we should choose for drinking party. Generally, most of izakayas are averagely good, but we can't make big mistake. If we select bad one, we are seen as "incapable" in socializing:) The other day, I chose an Akasaka (赤坂) branch of "Banya (番屋)", an izakaya chain and it was unexpectedly good.  
Entrance of "Banya"
Private room 
Sesame tofu with sea urchin 
Sashimi platter 
Shabu shabu
Fish cake 
Strawberry sorbet 
Banya comprises only private rooms so that we can concentrate on talking within own group. This is a very good point. The interior is modern and the atmosphere is stable because of dark lighting. Sometimes, there are less clean izakayas, but cleanness of Banya was high. Food quality was above than this kind of big chain izakayas. Sesame tofu and sashimi platter were delicate enough. Shabu shabu using pork was also tasty. Acceptance!  

The variety of drinking menu might be average as an izakaya. But within JPY5,000, you can enjoy the set meal (see the above pictures) and all-you-can-drink for 2 hours at night.  Access of Akasaka branch is good. Only 1 minute from Tokyo Metro Akasaka Station. If you face difficulty to choose an izakaya chain, Banya might be one option. My rating is 2.9 out of 5. Gochiso-samadeshita!

Banya Akasaka (番屋赤坂) 

May 9, 2013

Flavorful and nutritious Chinese dishes of Hotel Okura

Hotel Okura (ホテルオークラ) is one of the best hotel brands in Japan, whose head hotel is located in Toranomon (虎ノ門). As Okura is a bit far from any metro/subway stations, as a hidden spot in the center of Tokyo, political/business meetings are often held. The possibility of seeing celebrities is high. I like Okura’s stable and sophisticated service, but to be honest, their facilities are quite old. This point is a bit regrettable. 
Lobby of Hotel Okura Tokyo 
Entrance of "Tokarin" 
Table setting 
Cold starter 
Shark's fin soup
Deep fried spring rolls
Fried squid with seasonal vegetables 
Fried pork with sweet vinegar 
Fried rice with shrimp, meat and vegetables 
Sesame dumplings 
Almond jelly 

The other day, I had a chance to visit their Chinese restaurant called “Tokarin (桃花林)” at lunch time. The interior is gorgeous with Chinese furniture. In contrast to the silent outside, most of the tables were occupied by customers. The service was definitely nice. Staff smoothly served dishes as we requested. Lunch set meal we ordered was JPY4,400 including 10% service charge per person, which might be a bit expensive for lunch. 

But we could be fully satisfied with the nice meal. Every dish was delicious. Of course, any chemical seasoning is not used. Rich bouillon made by variety of ingredients was the basis of the good taste. The taste was very gentle but rich as a whole. I liked soup of shark’s fin, deep-fried spring rolls, and sesame dumplings, particularly. The balance of the course was favorable. My rating is 4 out of 5. Gochiso-samadeshita!

Hotel Okura (ホテルオークラ