Shin Ika #Sushi

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Shin Ika so smooth it looks like a dolphin’s tummy! Shin-ika, like shinko (baby kohada) is a baby squid and are accessible only towards the end of summer. It’s so smooth and sweet and melts in your mouth!! It was so pretty I just had to share.

Of course this is at Takahashi, my favorite sushi restaurant in Tokyo. Takahashi-san is so talented — I only eat his sushi now. I know, I know, I need to get out more. But I can’t help it. I’m now treated as a regular and as a regular’s advantage, I get special dishes like this ↓ (points below)

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I mentioned in passing the other day I loved his aji tsumami (appetizer). It’s aji with the Saito pesto, egg yolk and sesame seeds. It wasn’t included in this menu but he made one just for me!! It was, as always, super delicious and one of my favorites of all time. Love him!!

Also, he served tako (octopus) which I hadn’t had in a while. But the ceramic (kozara) was one I’ve never seen before. Even more amazing is that it’s shaped like the Bat symbol (from Batman!!)

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Highlights:
– steamed awabi, this time with kimo (liver) sauce that was AMAZING
– lightly charred anago with three condiments: wasabi, tōgarashi (red pepper) dipping sauce, salt and his raw shichimi (he shared the recipe with me this time!!!)
– aka mutusu a.k.a. nodo guro a.k.a. sea bream sakamushi (steamed with a sake base) with ponzu and some sort of sea vegetable OMG this was delicious
– tai (snapper) that was kissed with a touch of smoke

…and who am I kidding. Everything was super delicious. Takahashi-san makes me so happy.

By the way it’s almost time for fall foods. I love fall foods in Japan. SOOOOOO pumped!

Julia Child

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credit Paul Child, courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf

“People who love to eat are always the best people.” This has nothing to do with Japan or sushi or ramen or gyoza or Tokyo or booze but it does have to do with food. And anyone who loves food, has to love Julia Child. Right? RIGHT??

Anyway. August 15th was Julia Child’s birthday and she would have been 105 (!!!) Here are some of my favorite quotes because Julia Child is really, that amazing.

“I enjoy cooking with wine. Sometimes, I even put it in the food . . .”

“The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon appétit.”

“It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate – you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.”

Bon appétit!

Gyoza and Champagne

Gyoza and champagne, two of my favorite things in one place at once? YES PLEASE. It was hard for me to imagine gyoza (ghetto cheap food) with champagne (a ‘special occasion’ drink) but this place pulls it off.

Located in between Shinbashi and Toranomon, the interior is elegant; not smokey and gross at all. They just opened in May, their champagne list is extensive, menu is well thought out with a healthy selection of classy nibbles that extend beyond gyoza. Like their ‘kimchee’ which technically is an assortment of fresh vegetables marinated in the kimchee mix.

But the star is their crispy, juicy gyoza with four delicious dipping sauces: spicy sesame miso (Kobe style), dashi ponzu with chokushichi (直七) a citrus between yuzu and grapefruit from the Kōchi prefecture that is super light on acidity, green pepper and fond de veau, white truffle oil. (My favorite was the dashi ponzu and just eating with a bit of sprinkled salt).

I have a feeling this place is going to end up super popular — give it another year or so. Definitely recommended!

Champagne & Gyoza Bar
Drop this into Google Maps↓
東京都港区西新橋1-18-11 ル・グラシエルBLDG.16 1F

*No website, no reservations, closed on Sunday

Yoroniku

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Yoroniku is this super amazing yakiniku restaurant in the Minami Aoyama area of Tokyo. A friend says “it’s too posh” but there is a reason for that you see. In Japan, beef (and steak) used to be super luxury foods. This derives from the pre-war time mentality when beef was accessible only to the wealthy and royals.

Fast forward to about the 80’s (1980’s, to be precise), post-war, post-industrialized Japan or as we affectionately deem: The Bubble Era when Sony, Toyota, Mitsubishi, etc., were raking in tons of cash as were the people of Japan, meat and other Western foods became commonplace.

A lot of wartime children though, grew up in an era when Korean, Chinese, French, Italian, basically any non-Japanese cuisines were considered ‘exotic’ and even yakiniku — Korean BBQ — was considered special occasion meals. Super high-end yakiniku became a huge boom and you still see some of those effects today. Japanese people are also OCD and anal, so we don’t really like stinking of bbq coals and smoke. Most high-end yakiniku places in Japan have super duper high tech ventilation systems so our attire and hair do not reek of bbq.

The servers at Yoroniku cook the food and they know techniques for every cut of meat to best cook and serve. Every piece of meat is amazing. They also have a ‘hidden’ menu of gyu katsu (steak katsu) made from a chunk of wagyu grilled in front of you (the photos below are of the beef katsu).

I’m not going to go too much into details of the food but every. little. thing. there is so delicious it makes me want to cry.

There are two ways to order at Yoroniku. Choosing between two tasting menus (¥7,000 and¥9,000) is one, the other is telling them your budget and they serve you a meal within that cost. I prefer the latter.

And here is more insider info: there are two sister restaurants that are easier to book. While they may not offer the same exact menu as the original Yoroniku, the other two are more accessible.

Misuji (no website)
030-557308929
Drop this in Google Maps↓
東京都港区赤坂3-16-3 伊勢幸ビル2F

Namaiki (no website)
030-5817-8929
Drop this in Google Maps↓
東京都千代田区外神田6-14-7 2F

And for Yoroniku (no website)
030-3498-4629
Drop this in Google Maps↓
東京都港区南青山6-6-22 ルナロッサ B1F

I can’t guarantee access to the beef katsu (you have to go with a regular to first access and once you order once, you can keep ordering) but, I’ve heard stories of people ordering on their first time…

 

Saito

 

I had the good fortune to visit Saito-san again and… I don’t think I will be returning. I’m just not interested or as obsessed anymore. Granted, his fish is the best in all of Tokyo, perhaps the world, but I no longer enjoy my meals there.

This is part of what I wrote on Tabelog:

昨日久し振りに伺った際シャリがベチャベチャ、毛蟹に小浦が入っていてショック。斎藤さんのレベルまで達成すると多少シャリが絶好調でなく、おつまみがハズレとてもネタがあまりにも最高級で、まぁまぁ美味しく頂けるが。

前みたいに「行きたくて行きたくてしょうがない」と思う気持ちは薄っすらで、距離感がある接客も気になり、客層も微妙で、あまりにも有名だからしょうがないけれど、個人的にはもういいや、みたいな。

When I visited the other day, his rice was a bit mushy, there were lots of shell / cartilage in the kegani. I was shocked.

However, when you reach Saito-san’s level, a sushi chef has access to the best ingredients, especially the fish. So even if he has off days with bummer dishes, the fish is so spectacular, one can enjoy a delicious meal.

I’m also not really a fan of the clientele and he isn’t as warm or welcoming. Probably because he’s so famous now he doesn’t need to be. Or when he is a bit kind to people, they pester for bookings so he only interacts with his regulars.

Whatever the case, I’ve been several times and his sushi is extraordinary but Saito is now, like a Jiro type place to me, where I am grateful to experience but would rather go elsewhere.

Different strokes for different folks.

My seats were fantastic though! And in case you are wondering, the inconsistency is probably due to shifts in staff and how his #1 guy is in Malaysia for a while, with a new guy in the kitchen.

Takazawa Bar

Takazawa is a restaurant in Akasaka, notorious for being impossible to book. The space itself is beautiful and there is a warm, welcoming scent of tea that whisks you into another world. Scent is, perhaps, a huge part of the experience and I would love to try his food one day. The inside only has four tables (I believe — I was only inside for a brief moment) and rumor has it, the wait list to dine there is longer than some sushi restaurants.

In 2015, he opened a bar around the corner from his restuarant and those curious can try his food in more casual setting. ‘Casual’ in the loosest manner, as the bar is pretty posh.

I finally visited the other day. Enjoyed his scaled down vegetable parfait and an extremely intense squid dish.

Three glasses of wine and two appetizers cost apprx: $100~ USD. I was a bit shocked by the bill. The squid dish was too rich and I could only eat half as the capers and acidity from the tomato based stew were way too much, turning the dish into a chore to finish.

The imbalance was my fault, as all three dishes (two appetizers and one otōshi) had tomatoes and it should’ve occurred to mix base flavors…

I probably will not return because of the cost performance and the dishes that were delicious but not so memorable.

Takazawa Bar
http://www.takazawa-y.co.jp/bar/

Hot Pot for Tofu

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I am seriously obsessed with this hot pot made just to make warm tofu (yudōfu in Japanese). There’s a little copper section to put hot coals (binchoōtan) to keep the water simmering.

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This one is made from hinoki wood — hinoki, if you don’t know, smells soooooooooooooo good.

$300 a pop.

Yudōfu by the way, is a Kyoto specialty. Kyoto is known for the amazing tofu. The broth is just water + konbu. Maybe a drop of soy sauce. Kyoto tofu is so rich, the only thing it really needs is the garnishes. If you’re ever in Kyoto, do please find time to try.

Here are five places that serve only yudōfu:

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  1. http://www.to-fu.co.jp/
  2. http://www.kyoto-sagano.jp/sagano.html
  3. http://www.tofuokutan.info/
  4. http://www.tousuiro.com/index.html
  5. http://www.sanjo-togaden.com/index.html