Lunch @ Kioicho Mitani 紀尾井町 三谷 (Tokyo, Japan)

January 3, 2019 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

Opened in mid-2016, Kioicho Mitani is the branch of famous sushi-ya Mitani in Yotsuya. And for the unfamiliar (since I previously was), Sushi Mitani is notoriously difficult to book. The waiting list at Sushi Mitani is… More than 2 years! And since I know it’s impossible for me to get a booking at Sushi Mitani, my closest bet was Kioicho Mitani. But having said that, one shouldn’t underestimate the difficulty of making a reservation at Kioicho Mitani too.

I honestly didn’t think of trying since I anticipated failure. But with the encouragement from a fellow foodie, I decided to just give it a go. At least no regrets meh, I guess. And thus, my hotel concierge enquired in December 2017 for February 2018. I was told the restaurant was fully booked for dinner, but had an available lunch slot for 1 of the days I indicated. Awesome! And to secure my reservation, I provided my credit card details too.

Upon entering the restaurant, I immediately noticed the 2 chefs; Head chef Hiroyuki Takano and sous chef Yoshinori Sugaya. The 750 years-old Taiwanese cypress L-shaped wood counter could sit 12 people, and I was led to the end where chef Sugaya san was. And I was glad I was assigned to him as he could speak English. Yeah! Shortly after I took my seat, I commenced my ¥30,000 omakase lunch with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Baby white anchovy (shirauo) with kelp sauce.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Hairy crab with its roe.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Black throat sea perch (nodoguro) and sea cucumber roe.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Monkfish liver (ankimo). And for this dish, chef Sugaya san took a chunk from the fridge, mashed it up with a fork, portioned it and sprinkled some salt before serving. And this tasted interestingly like ice cream.


5) Dish #5 (above) – Scorched rice topped with a creamy sauce made with cod’s milt.


  
  
  
  

6) Dish #6 (above) – Sushi assortment of squid, flat fish, adult yellowtail (buri), marinated tuna, slightly-seared medium fatty tuna (aburi chutoro), gizzard shad (kohada) and tiger prawn, and minced tuna hand roll. And I really enjoyed chef Sugaya san’s sushi alot. Very well made in terms of size and the proportion of topping (neta) to rice. As for the sushi rice (shari), I could taste the red vinegar although it was not distinctly strong. But it’s after my visit that I read the sushi rice was marianted with red vinegar, brown rice black vinegar, salt, sugar and 3 kinds of sake kasu (leftover paste from sake production). Wow.

7) Dish #7 (above) – The signature egg omelette (tamago). Such a beauty! And this was so good; Soft and fluffy within the various layers.

8) Dish #8 (above) – Clam soup.

  

9) Dish #9 (above) – I thought I had came to the end of my meal with the egg omelette and soup, but chef Sugaya san continued with 2 more; Clam (hamaguri), and ark shell clam (akagai) with sea urchin. Female version for the ark shell clam was without rice while the male version was with rice. And for these 2, chef Sugaya san served them directly onto my palm instead of placing them onto the plate before me. And I had read that the passing-of-sushi-from-hand-to-hand is Mitani’s style.

  

10) Dish #10 (above) – Pickled gourd (kanpyō) sushi roll. One served in seasoned tofu pouch (inari). Another Mitani signature.

11) Dish #11 (above) – Plum (ume).

I started my lunch at Kioicho Mitani at 12pm and was done by 1.40pm. And it was an enjoyable lunch by chef Sugaya san. One could tell he’s a shy man from how he couldn’t hold eye contact for long. Just like me. Keke. But despite his shyness, he kept his professionalism and introduced the various dishes, checked if I was full when I finished the sushi leg of my meal, etc. And I liked that; The zen-ness of the meal provided the ‘me time’ I wanted.

Would I recommend Kioicho Mitani? Well, the thing is… I always look forward to my meals in Japan not only for the masters’ culinary skills, but because the meals are value-for-money. And at Kioicho Mitani, I certainly appreciated the dishes by chef Nagaya san. So based on taste alone, I would definitely recommend Kioicho Mitani. But if one is looking at getting a good deal, one may want to consider other sushi-yas which omakase lunch menu is not as expensive as Kioicho Mitani’s. However if one is a hardcore foodie sushi-lover (like me), one should definitely come to Kioicho Mitani for Mitani-styled food since Sushi Mitani is virtually impossible to be booked by non-Japanese (unless one is extremely lucky).

And since Sushi Mitani is also known as a pioneer for their alcohol pairing, one should consider opting for it at Kioicho Mitani.

Kioicho Mitani 紀尾井町 三谷
Tokyo Garden Terrace Kioicho, 1-2 Kioicho, Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 千代田区 紀尾井町 1-2 紀尾井テラス 3F)
+81 3 6256 9566, Tablelog
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sun : 12:00 – 15:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Sun : 18:00 – 22:30 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 8

Dinner @ Ginza Shinohara 銀座 しのはら (Tokyo, Japan)

December 29, 2018 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

To dine at Shinohara was a ‘dream come true’ for me. Actually, to dine at any of the highly-rated restaurants in Japan is a ‘dream come true’ for me. Am always grateful when it happens.

So I got to know about Shinohara back in early October 2016 through a Japanese instagrammer. At that point, Shinohara had just relocated to Tokyo; Renaming themselves Ginza Shinohara from Shinohara Mikumo. Called them in mid October 2016 to make reservation for my November 2016 trip, but was told they were fully booked till December 2016. And to be really honest… Since then, I gave up all hopes of being able to dine at Shinohara in my next trip (which could only happen 1 year later, earliest) because they were gaining immerse popularity at an exponential rate. Even gaining 1 Michelin star in less than 1 year of operation. If even the Japaneses found it extremely difficult to book, what about me (a tourist)?

But I guess one shouldn’t give up. With plans to return to Tokyo in January 2018, I got my hotel concierge to call Shinohara in August 2017. But despite the 5 months advanced planning, I was given the bad news that they were fully booked. That’s when I decided to give it another try and asked my hotel concierge to check their availability for February. And with a stroke of luck, I was fortunate to secure a slot for early February 2018. And with that, I adjusted my travel dates to work around my Shinohara reservation. Got to admit I am a real hardcore.

  

For my 8.30pm reservation, I reached the place at 8.25pm. Upon entering through the entrance, the staff took my coat before directing me to my seat. And I noticed the restaurant could sit up to 8 customers in one seating.

The staff knew I was a non-local. So while everyone was settling down, (what definitely seemed to be) the sous chef came up to me and apologetically informed that they speak very little English. But they were too humble, honestly. Their grasp of English was pretty good. I understood them well. And once everyone was ready, chef-owner Takemasa Shinohara kick-started dinner by giving a short speech. I didn’t understand a word of it cause he said it in Japanese, but I assumed it must be his introduction to welcome everyone. And with that, I commenced my ¥23,000 dinner with:-

1) Japanese tea (ocha) (above)

2) Dish #1 (above) – Japanese spotted prawn (botan ebi) and ark shell clam (akagai) sashimi, kelp (kombu) and flower in dashi-vinegar sauce.

Just as we finished our sashimi dish, a staff went round with a bowl of live river fish (moroko). He tried to introduce the fish to me in English but ended up speaking Japanese. And it was cute because head chef Shinohara san and the sous chef were watching him from the counter. Just like how parents would peer through the window to watch their child during their first day at school. So when they heard him speaking in Japanese, they laughed and teased him with “moroko fish?” And that’s also when sous chef stepped in like a bigger brother and helped him out by telling me it’s river fish. And yes… No surprises that I was really liking the fun, relaxed ambience, and the chemistry within the team by then.


3) Dish #2 (above) – Milt (shirako) wrapped with tofu skin, in soup with grated winter melon (I think that’s what it was since it didn’t taste like grated radish) and yuzu.

4) Dish #3 (above) – Sashimi assortment of Spanish mackerel (sawara), flat fish, lean tuna (akami), medium fatty tuna (chutoro), and abalone.


5) Dish #4 (above) – Monkfish liver (ankimo) and crab on rice. And we were told to mix everything up. So, so good!


  

6) Dish #5 (above) – I didn’t manage to catch the name for most of the ingredients, but the plating was gorgeous. And for the pigeon, it was prepared at the grilling counter that’s visible to all. So I got to watch the entire process of grill-marinate-grill by sous chef.

7) Dish #6 (above) – DIY handroll with pickled radish, minced tuna and sesame seeds


8) Dish #7 (above) – Persimmon and foie gras sandwiched between wafer biscuit (monaka).

9) Dish #8 (above) – And the river fish made a returned appearance! Charcoal-grilled river fish (with accompanying vinegar sauce) and soft-shell turtle, and pickled radish which tasted more like pear to me. Haha. But it was not any plain radish. I initially thought they served 2 pieces because I noticed it was sliced. But when I picked it up, I realised they introduced a slit to smeared something within. I liked their attention to taste!

10) Dish #9 (above) – Soba.


11) Dish #10 (above) – Duck soup with sliced duck, meatball, mushroom, tofu and vegetables.


12) Dish #11 (above) – Claypot rice with crab. And it was a sight to see the entire team working together on the crabs to remove its flesh from the shells. Such great teamwork! After which, head chef Shinohara san went on to mix the freshly extracted crab meat with sea urchin and rice. Urchin sauce and seaweed flakes were further topped to the individual portions. And this was brilliant! I loved it so much.

  

13) Dish #12 (above) – Egg porridge.


14) Dish #13 (above) – Japanese confection (wagashi) of white bean and matcha filling.

15) Matcha (above)

Dinner was really fun. The dishes certainly lived up to all the raves I read on Instagram. And I really liked the friendly atmosphere which head chef Shinohara san created in his restaurant which allowed everyone to join in the group conversation and laugh at jokes together. Head chef Shinohara san looked stern but had a warm heart and a beautiful smile. Keke.

A male customer seated 2 seats from me was very fluent in English and became the unofficial translator. And head chef Shinohara san was noticeably less shy halfway through dinner; He made the effort to initiate conversations with me despite his broken English and without the help of our unofficial translator. It was really cute and I really appreciated it.

But as a solo diner, I also found myself needing to find stuff to do in order to kill time in between the dishes. At Shinohara, the preparation of food was an art itself so it’s done at the counter in front of customers. Since most customers came in groups, they would pass time by chatting. But I didn’t had much to do because there was no (mobile phone) signal at the restaurant which was located in the basement of the building. Sob!

Would I recommend Ginza Shinohara? For sure! It’s a must, although securing a reservation at this 1 Michelin star restaurant is a challenge in itself.

GINZA SHINOHARA 銀座 しのはら
Habiulu Ginza II, 2-8-17 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 中央区 銀座 2-8-17 ハビウル銀座2 B1)
+81 3 6263 0345, Tablelog
Overall: 9
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Mon – Sat : 17:00 – 23:00
Ambience: 9
Value: 8
Service: 9
* Closed on Sun

Dinner @ Sushi Takamitsu 鮨 尚充 (Tokyo, Japan)

December 24, 2018 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

When my hotel concierge contacted Sushi Takamitsu in November 2017 to assist me with my February 2018 reservation, the restaurant mentioned they only accept reservation for 2 people or more. Like what!?1 But luckily I knew someone who would be in Tokyo during the same period as me. And thankfully, she too was interested in checking out Sushi Takamitsu. So with that, my hotel concierge confirmed our reservation with Sushi Takamitsu for weekday dinner.

We were given 9.30pm slot and were informed that the menu was ¥20,000. I was quite surprised it was 9.30pm since I read from Tablelog that their seatings are 6pm and 9pm. Hmm…

I would usually search up the restaurant’s shopfront to help me identify the place easily. However, I forgot to do that prior to my dinner at Sushi Takamitsu. Big mistake… My friend and I agreed to reach the restaurant by 9.15pm in hope to start our dinner earlier. Thus I was in the area by 9pm. But I just couldn’t locate the restaurant’s entrance. After 10 minutes, I concluded Google map must have gotten it wrong by indicating the entrance as facing the main street. I was getting slightly frantic by now because it was nearing 9.15pm. I decided to try my luck by heading to the back of the shophouses. And along the quiet (smaller) street, a particular door stood out. However, I wasn’t sure. There was no sign to indicate it’s the entrance to Sushi Takamitsu. Another 10 minutes slipped by before I plucked up my courage to open the sliding door. And thank goodness it was the restaurant and not someone’s house. Ha.

My friend also faced some difficulty in locating the restaurant but managed to arrive by 9.30pm. So much for us trying to reach earlier. Haha. And since we were pre-informed of the menu, we commenced our ¥20,000 omakase dinner (once we were both seated) with:-

1) Appetiser (above)

2) Dish #1 (above) – Flounder (hirame).

3) Dish #2 (above) – Sea bream.

4) Dish #3 (above) – Flounder fin (engawa).

5) Dish #4 (above) – Smoked radish with mascarpone.

6) Pickle (above) – Burdock with sesame seeds.


7) Dish #5 (above) – Stuffed octopus.

8) Pickle (above) – Radish.

9) Dish #6 (above) – Squid.

10) Dish #7 (above) – Lightly charred big-eye snapper (kinmedai).

11) Dish #8 (above) – Steamed hairy crab.

12) Dish #9 (above) – Gizzard shad (kohada).

13) Pickle (above)


  

14) Dish #10 (above) – Steamed abalone, served with sauce made with its liver and sea urchin. We were also each given a ball of sushi rice (shari) to clean up the remaining sauce. Yum!

15) Dish #11 (above) – Blowfish (fugu) milt with sushi rice. And we were cautioned to be careful as it might be hot.

16) Pickle (above)


Halfway through our meal, chef-owner Takamitsu Yasuda took out a slab of tuna much to our delight. And he continued to place it proudly on his Louis Vuitton (LV) luggage which received more “whoa” and “ahhh” from us. Haha. And yes, I read that chef Takamitsu san is a big LV lover. It was amazing to personally see his LV luggages used as display counters. So cute! The expensive tuna just got more expensive being placed on LV. Keke.

17) Dish #12 (above) – Baby white anchovy (shirauo) with sea urchin.

18) Dish #13 (above) – Steamed egg (chawanmushi) with dried sea cucumber ovary.

19) Dish #14 (above) – Marinated tuna.

20) Dish #15 (above) – Medium fatty tuna (chutoro).

21) Dish #16 (above) – Monkfish liver (ankimo) and pickled gourd (kanpyō).

22) Dish #17 (above) – Premium fatty tuna (otoro).

23) Dish #18 (above) – Baby leek with miso.

24) Dish #19 (above) – Tiger prawn (kuruma-ebi).

25) Dish #20 (above) – Mullet roe (karasumi) and grilled rice cake (mochi). Such an interesting combination; A little salty, a little sticky. And very nice!

26) Dish #21 (above) – Belt fish (tachiuo).

27) Dish #22 (above) – Mackerel (saba) topped with kelp (kombu).

28) Dish #23 (above) – Leather jacket fish (kawahagi) with liver and spring onion beneath.

29) Pickle (above)

Such a beautiful sight. When I first saw pictures of the sea urchin galore on instagram, I knew I had to visit Takamistsu. The many types of sea urchin offered at Sushi Takamitsu was simply amazing! In fact, the 9 types offered during our meal was nowhere close to the 12 to 15 types he usually showcased. So I guess it’s luck if one could see some or many sea urchin types.

30) Dish #24 (above) – Sea urchin.

31) Dish #25 (above) – Sea urchin.

32) Dish #26 (above) – Seawater eel (anago) with salt.

33) Dish #27 (above) – Rolled egg omelette (tamago) made with wasenbon.

It was a fun and enjoyable dinner; Food was great, atmosphere was chilled and relaxed, and chef Takamitsu san was friendly. I noticed chef Takamitsu san using a really fancy glassware for his soy sauce cruet. It looked like the trophy which actors/actresses receive during award ceremony. I couldn’t help but nudged my friend to take a look too. Chef Takamitsu san caught on, brought it closer to us and tilted it slightly for us to see the bottom. And wow, Baccarat vase!

So while chef Takamitsu san couldn’t speak much English, I was glad we managed to interact with him since my friend could speak some Japanese and chef Takamitsu san had a westerner working in his kitchen who would come to the front and introduce some of the dishes on his behalf.

And it’s a pity we didn’t have time to order additional dishes when our meal came to the end. I was rushing to get onto the last train. Sigh. Else, I would have loved to order additional sea urchin nigiri sushi and his pressed mackerel stick sushi.

Would I recommend Sushi Takamitsu? I definitely would! But one shouldn’t just come for his sea urchin galore. Chef Takamitsu san had so much more to offer. Just like his fine taste in Louis Vuitton and Baccarat, he only used high-quality ingredients. An example would be the tuna which he gets from Yamayuki, the tuna broker at Tsukiji Market. And as an affirmation that he’s doing it right, Takamitsu has also joined the Michelin ranks. On 27 November 2018, Sushi Takamitsu was awarded 1 Michelin star by Michelin Guide Tokyo 2019.

And if one went, do let me know if chef Takamitsu san resembled the cartoon character Squidward Tentacles from SpongeBob SquarePants. I am also curious to know if I am the only one who thought so. Keke

SUSHI TAKAMITSU 鮨 尚充
1-28-2 Aobadai, Meguro, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 目黒区 青葉台 1-28-2 EXA 1F)
+81 3 3712 6999, Tablelog
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sat : 17:00 – 23:00
Ambience: 8
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Sun