Tokyo March 2019

Summary

TBA

Meals

Yakiniku Jumbo Hanare (焼肉 ジャンボ はなれ)
Delicious as last time, perhaps not as mindblowing. I had the omakase this time (booked via Tableall) and thought it was actually a fantastic time, especially as I was dining alone. The noharayaki was great, crushing 750g of chateaubriand by myself was a lot. Since I was solo, there was extra beef rice to take back to heat up and eat as breakfast at 6AM.

Ginza Kazami
I was actually trying to go to Ginza Kagari Honten, which is right next door to Kazami in the same little alley. However, they were taking a “regular holiday” that fine Tuesday and so I waited for Kazami instead and was the first in line. Honestly, not my cup of tea. I think generally, ramen in thick gravy-like broth is just not my thing. The noods were really really good though.

老四川 飄香小院
For what it’s worth, I’m from 四川 (Sichuan) / 重庆 (Chongqing). Quick sidenote, Chongqing is geographically located inside Sichuan, but is administratively a municipality under the direct governance of the central government, like Beijing and Shanghai. I grew up eating this stuff, visit this part of China every year or two, still cook it myself at home. I feel confident in judging a Sichuan restaurant no matter where in the world I am. And this place was solid. I got a beef noodle soup lunch set which came with four appetizers and pickles. The pickle flavor was spot on…just like the 跳水白菜 at the (one of many) hotpot shop below our home in Chongqing. All the flavors were there in the appetizers. As with much that is adapted for the Japanese palette, things were a tad more sweet. The beef noodle soup was delicious. While not as spicy “辣” as I would have liked, it was actually more tingly numbing “麻” than I expected.

Keita
Holy mackerel his shari is strong, pun intended. The akazu shari stood really well to the saba, sawara, and nodoguro and these 3 pieces are utterly unforgettable. Keita-san and his wife were both very friendly and hospitable. Despite him not speaking much English (his wife spoke more), they engaged in conversation with me and were a pleasure to observe and be around. I can’t stress how much more enjoyable this made the experience. No matter how good the food is, sitting with my back straight for 2 hours, somber and severe just wouldn’t be fun. So much food, plus nihonshu for 18,700yen at dinner. Wow.

Gen Yamamoto
I was not as blown away this time…maybe winter produce just isn’t really my thing? 2 / 6 were tomato based.

Hirosaku
The best lunch deal in town. For 3,300yen (less than $30 USD, all included), I was served a 6-course meal. Everything served was so laboriously prepared and the light flavors and preparations were so soothing to my soul and tummy (e.g. steamed yuba with uni). It was exactly what I needed after several days of feasting in Tokyo. Star of the show was the soba noodles made in house from two types of buckwheat that the chef mills in the shop. They were shockingly smooth, shiny and light in colour and tasted SO. DAMN. GOOD. Such good texture. This is what al dente, what noodle perfection is….not that undercooked junk served in so many Italian restaurants in the US. I will no doubt try to return next time I’m in town. Food for the soul.

été Mango Tart
Delicious as last time.

Ryusuke
Quirky ingredients (hirame and engawa with shaved black truffle and truffle salt? scallop cream croquette?), yummy food, fast service. Some outstanding pieces…I really enjoyed his kohada (great balance between neta and shari, and the neta wasn’t a sour bomb) and kinmedai. What irked me a bit was that the price my hotel concierge confirmed for the evening was ~20,000yen. I also had a beer, but no matter how you do the math, it doesn’t add up to 33,000yen. I didn’t bother to ask as I didn’t want to make a scene when language is a bit of a barrier, but this last little surprise at the end doesn’t make me want to come back.

Kimura
Wow…I loved this dining experience. Kimura-san is so friendly and jovial. His mother, the only waitstaff, spoke excellent English, explained sake to us, and treated us with such warmth I did not expect at a sushi restaurant in Japan (or anywhere in Japan, frankly). The food was really delightful and interesting. God I love it when that actually works out. Like soba with a cooked oyster. And shirako risotto — I somehow managed to eat an entire bowl of shirako rice without it feeling like too much! And a 醉蟹 (shoyu and liquor marinated raw crab)! Before the sushi started, we got a taste of his shari…it’s so rigid! Not punch-you-in-the-face flavorful the way Keita's was, but all that chewing helped me appreciate the flavor more. The aged fish were delicious. Sayori, kampachi, buri…all were amazing. The aging really does completely alter the texture and bring about a sweetness in the fish that is really enjoyable to eat. His aji might be the best mackerel I’ve ever eaten.  

Side note on the shirako — was served shirako at both Ryusuke and Kimura. The shirako in this season is of a different fish and tasted much milder than that I’ve had when I visited in November. Anyone have any insights into this?

Lodging

Citan
Japan is probably the only place where I’d happily stay in a hostel. On my first trip to Japan, I stayed at Nui in Tokyo and Len in Kyoto. Both, along with Citan, are part of the Backpackers Japan chain. All 3 have a similar set up with a bar / coffee shop located in the lobby and/or B1 floor (frequented by locals). The decor is industrial minimalist with lots of exposed concrete and rustic wood. The bathrooms and showers are kept clean with good amenities (and better water pressure than my last 3 apartments in SF). Citan is located a more centrally vs Nui and it is on the Asakusa, Hibiya, Shinjyuku subway lines and JR Sobu line, making it really easy to get around. For a very reasonable hostel price, what’s not to like?

Ritz Carlton Tokyo
Before the new Marriott “Bonvoy” program kicked in on March 5, 2019, it was possible to redeem 60K Marriott points for a night at the RC Tokyo. With 5th night free on award redemptions, this meant 240K Marriott points for 5 nights at one of the most expensive hotels in town. Why fucking not. The decor is very…RC, but more tasteful and slightly more understated in comparison to other properties. The service is also very RC…i.e. super attentive in your face and not subtle at all, but surprisingly, not unpleasant. The view from my basic room is superb (and from what I understand, the basic “Deluxe Room” view facing Shinjuku makes for a much better view at night than the “Tokyo Deluxe Room” facing the Imperial Palace as the latter is not lit up at night)