Super Duper Insider Info: New Sushi Mitani

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Sushi Mitani is notorious for having an impossible waitlist (currently it’s at 3 years). Earlier this year, Mitani-san suffered from a heart attack and was out of commission for a few months. Sidetrack for a second and imagine waiting two and a half — possibly longer — years for a booking only to find out he isn’t well. Man, I don’t know how I would feel and what kind of person that makes me…

Anyway.

So Mitani-san, the man himself, is okay and back making sushi. His first apprentice Takano-san (who was standing in while Mitani-san  was recovering) opened a new shop in July. The other day, it was announced Mitani-san is closing his shop in Yotusya, moving to Takano-san’s shop, making sushi in the private room.

To sit in front of Mitani-san, the wait is still 2.5 years, as Mitani-san moved all the existing bookings from the original Mitani to the new Mitani. But, seats in front of Takano-san are still available.

As I keep repeating, sushi is personal preference and I’ve enjoyed Mitani-san’s sushi once and since I’ve found my favorite go-to sushi spots I will not be booking. But if you are planning a visit, I would recommend eating at Mitani at least once. The man is a legend. And if you’re into Michelin and stuff, he has two stars.

Hurry and make bookings at the new one while you still can! It will FOR SURE become another place where it is impossible to get seats.

Side-note: Mitani-san’s shop was a 2.5 year wait even when Takano-san was making the sushi. Frankly it doesn’t matter if you sit in front of Takano-san or Mitani-san as you will be able to enjoy the same neta (fish) that Mitani-san has access too, which is equally as important as skill.

Kioichō (I hope I’m spelling this correctly in roma-ji but it’s 紀尾井町 三谷) Mitani
03 6256 9566
Drop this into Google Maps↓
東京都千代田区紀尾井町1-2
Open for lunch and dinner (same price, unfortunately. Around $300 USD before tax and drinks); open 7 days.
http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1308/A130801/13198197/dtlphotolst/1/smp2/

$500 Grapes

The other day I was in Ginza Mitsukoshi which is the equivalent to Barney’s or Harrod’s in Japan to pick up some fruit to bring to Takahashi-san (my favorite sushi chef) and his staff. (I bring presents every time I dine there.) I got them three perfect peaches — which cost $50 but that’s another entry — from this famous fruit store inside Mitsukoshi. In the far corner, I noticed a windowed room with spotlights like in a wine or designer store, where all the special super duper expensive items are tucked away.

I walked into the glassroom out of curiosity and what the hell.

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That above are grapes. A single bunch of grapes. In wooden boxes. That cost between $3-500 USD. FOR A SINGLE BUNCH OF GRAPES. I mean. I like grapes but not enough to pay a sushi dinner’s worth…

So of course, I had to ask a fellow working there: “Have you ever tried the $500 grapes?

Him: “Yes, I have.

Me: “YOU HAVE?! 😳  What do they taste like…?

Him (matter of factly): “Exactly like the hundred dollar grapes outside of the glass room!

Me: “Oh. Okay. Thank you.” …in my head, I was wondering who in the F buys $100 grapes?! but instead, asked”do people actually buy $500 grapes…?”

Him (again, matter of factly) “No.”

And we both had a laugh. Japan is so ridiculous on all sorts of levels but $500 for a single bunch of grapes is just out of control. Part of me wants to work in that fruit shop just to see if I can sell $500 grapes to gaudy new-money tourists who swarm Japan as of late 😉

Japan endlessly entertains and delights. If you’re ever in Tokyo and feel like having a huge laugh, check out the silly fruit corners in high-end department stores. I don’t think there is anything like it elsewhere.

Here are the $500 grapes.

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Kaikaiya – Shibuya

 

Kaikaiya in Shibuya is one of my favorite places and I bring all out of town visitors here. It’s great for groups, the servers speak English, the vibe is great most importantly: the food is good. Their menu is mainly seafood. Wait, the menu is mainly approachable seafood, meaning it’s not weird with like eyeballs hanging off the fish heads or live shrimp dancing while hot liquid is poured on the spot. (They do have both on the menu, by the way. But there is a ton of ‘safe’ seafood. Like the ones you’d find at some European or American hotel cafe.

The sashimi plate is also legit — one of the neatest things is the piece of wasabi that comes and diners can grate their own. (Like in the photo up top.)

The flavors are Western / SE Asian, with a lot of Western / SE Asian spices like cilantro, Vietnamese fish sauce, Chinese chili sauces. The aromas and textures are familiar; but very, very, Japanese. For example, there is a carpaccio that is Vietnamese inspired but the fish sauce is so subtle, shrimp cocktail is ‘fishier’ than the amount of fish sauce used on the dish.

Then there’s the one dish that blows people’s minds:

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Maguro no kama (tuna collar) spareribs. It’s not very pretty but omg it’s so delicious. It’s spicy and tangy and acidic and the fish just melts in your mouth; easily one of my favorite dishes in all of Tokyo!

Another that I always order:img_6960

Crab ‘dip’ with rice crackers. It’s like the Japanese spinach and artichoke dip (LOL)… and tons and tons and tons and tons of other fantastic dishes that range from adventurous to even a kindergartener who’s never eaten seafood can eat it without being queasy.

Kaikaiya is also excellent with two people (request counter seats). This place is so on-point, I make sure to take all my favorite people!

Kaikaiya
Address (drop this into Google Maps)↓
東京都渋谷区円山町23-7

Calling at least two to three days in advance is recommended
http://www.kaikaya.com/index.html

Gen Yamamoto – A Tokyo Must

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Bar Gen Yamamoto is one of my favorite places in Tokyo and I recommend everyone and anyone coming to Tokyo to visit. He is beyond a ‘mixologist’ and more a magician, a flavor savant, a true genius of his craft. I’d even argue he may quite possibly be the best in the world when it comes to surprising and delighting with his cocktails.

People seem to freak out over a four or six cocktail tasting in fear of getting trashed but the thing is, his drinks aren’t boozy at all. The spirits he uses are activators, pulling forth the deepest, richest flavor notes from the fruits and vegetables he pairs them with and so basically, the drinks have only a splash or a touch of alcohol. I doubt anyone could actually get drunk off Gen-san’s cocktails.

These days I visit him at least once a month — sometimes more if there are people in town. Here are a few highlights from August:  Continue reading

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