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…

 

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: $180~ 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

Sushi in Tokyo Ranking

UPDATE: this is no longer just sushi. Scroll to bottom for all rankings.

Forget Michelin, the Japanese all rely on Tabelog, the Japanese equivalent to Yelp or Trip Advisor. Unlike Yelp or Trip Advisor, though, Tabelog’s rankings are accurate — any place rated 3.5 or higher (out of 5) is 99.99999999999999% of the time excellent.

The reason Tabelog is accurate, is because Japanese are passive. We do not complain directly to establishments when we have bad experiences. We do not tip to show appreciation of places we love. We return to our favorites and become jyōren (regulars). Places we dislike, we tell all our family, friends, colleagues to avoid and… rate on Tabelog. Tabelog is very accurate.

I put this together because I realized most people aren’t food nerds. When people ask for recommendations, they don’t really care about the whats, whys and just want “the best” (whatever that means).

So, for all the list chasers and ‘foodies’ who use Michelin as your food barometers, here you go. Knock yourselves out! Bookings are near impossible though; even through hotel concierges.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  1. Saito
  2. Sugita
  3. Hatsune
  4. Mitani
  5. Mizutani
  6. Tokami
  7. Hashiguchi
  8. Sushi Shō
  9. Miyaba
  10. Namba
  11. Masuda
  12. Takumi Shingo
  13. Arai
  14. Kimura
  15. Sushi-ya Ichiyanagi
  16. Sushi-ya
  17. Hashimoto
  18. Kanesaka
  19. Daisan Harumi Sushi
  20. Yoshitake

See the entire list here (in Japanese)

You’re welcome.

*in case you stumbled onto this post and looking to learn about sushi, I write my take on sushi in Tokyo here

Update 7/13/2016

Since I get asked for recommendations ALL the time, I’m just going to start listing the Top 10 of everything on Tabelog. So here we go, in no particular order:

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Sushi

Almost a year has gone by since I ate my way through Tsukiji and it’s time to update — especially since revisiting some older posts, my face turned hot and red; I am extremely embarrassed at how little I knew about sushi.

So today, almost 12 months and many, many high-end sushi meals later, here are a few things I have learned. Warning: this will be a super long and ultra nerdy post with barely any photos…

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