2-5-4 Jingumae B1
Dining date: 11/9/18
On this most recent trip to Japan, Florilege was the choice for our lone fine dining meal in the country. The Michelin two-star restaurant, ranked 59th best in the world, was opened in 2009 by Hiroyasu Kawate after cooking at well-known Quintessance.
One of the unique aspects of the restaurant is that the vast majority of the seats surround an open kitchen. Diners are able to watch all of the action, and dishes are served directly by the cooks. Continue reading
6-3-7 Ginza 1F Yugen Bldg.
Chuo 104-0061 Tokyo Prefecture, Japan
Dining date: 11/2/16
Sushiya came highly recommended from my friend Tomo as one of the popular up-and-coming sushi restaurants in the city. It’s a relatively new restaurant, having been open for only a couple of years, but has gotten a lot of attention from many food writers both in Tokyo and abroad. The chef here is 30-year old Takao Ishiyama who has worked at a couple of very highly-regarded sushi spots – Sushi Kanesaka and Sushi Saito.
Interestingly, none of the diners this evening were English-speaking. Chef Ishiyama’s English is very good, which is probably an additional draw for international visitors.
5-37 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku
Dining date: 11/1/16
Ishikawa is one of the most highly regarded restaurants in Tokyo, known for its kaiseki dining. Here, diners are served a pre-fixed menu either at the counter or at a handful of private dining rooms. About a dozen small dishes are served in a careful progression featuring plenty of local seasonal ingredients for 22000 yen. I’ve dined at sister restaurant and fellow three-star restaurant Kohaku once before and had a great meal, so I was eagerly anticipating this one.
Itoh Dining by NOBU
1300-64 Gōra, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa-ken 250-0408, Japan
Dining date: 10/30/16
Hakone is a very scenic and quiet place in the Japanese countryside known for its onsen hot springs. It’s so quiet and quaint that there aren’t a whole lot of dining options in the area. We wanted to avoid the hotel restaurant and ending up opting for this place. It had high potential for being a tourist trap given its association with Nobu Matsuhisa and its ranking as the #1 restaurant in the area per TripAdvisor but we chose it nonetheless. And we were glad we did.
The restaurant is a teppanyaki spot, where chefs cook up the food right in front of you on the flattop. The specialty here is wagyu beef, of course, and the restaurant offers a couple of different varieties in both set menu form and a la carte. We opted for two set menus offering A4 beef, plus an a la carte dish of the top shelf Kobe beef.
Shimokawaracho, Higashiyama Ward
Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0825 Japan
Dining date: 10/29/16
One of the most notable dining styles in Kyoto is a kaiseki meal, a traditional dining experience featuring individual small plates using local and seasonal ingredients (not unlike a western tasting menu). The presentation are often as intricate as the foods – everything is thoughtfully presented and made to look beautiful. While in Kyoto, I visited one of the most well-known examples of kaiseki at Michelin three-star Kikunoi.
Each party that dines here sits in one of the 11 private dining rooms with a view of the grounds’ scenery, creating a very unique experience. It felt, at first, kind of weird being in a private room as a party of 2 but I quickly got used to it.
Tsukiji Fish Market
5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0045
Dining date: 11/21/12
I’d heard much about Sushi Dai well before coming to Japan, the super-popular sushi shop at Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market. The stories are almost legendary, talking about the early mornings, long lines and exceptionally fresh fish mere yards away from the fish auction itself. I attempted to eat at Sushi Dai in each of my first two days of the trip; on the first we opted for Sushi Daiwa’s much shorter wait and on the second, I gave up on waiting the estimated four hours for a seat. The third time was a charm – I had the opportunity to dine here on my last day in Japan.
Three of us woke up at 5am on a Wednesday for a short cab ride through the still-dark Tokyo streets to Tsukiji. We were still met with a line, albeit a relatively short one, and braved the cold.
Now, there’s two parts to the line at Sushi Dai. The first 20-25 people wait outside the restaurant, herded like sheep into about 4 neat rows (SO uncomfortable…especially in the frigid weather). The line then breaks (to make room for traffic through the market), and re-forms at the end of the street, where the rest of the line can stretch dozens deep. With our early-morning timing, we found ourselves at the front of the ‘second’ line. The total wait ended up being about 80 minutes. Continue reading