Japan – April 2013 – Day 4 (Tokyo)

Tuesday April 16, 2013

Sushi Dai
5-2-1 Tsukiji Chuo, Bldg 6, Tokyo
http://www.tsukiji-sushidai.com/
http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1313/A131301/13002388/

We intended to see the tuna auction at the Tsukiji Fish market, but we arrived at 5am and it was already at its 120 capacity by 4:30am.  So we walked around a bit and eventually decided to get in line at Sushi Dai. It opens at 5am.  We got in line at 5:30 and ended up waiting about 45 minutes to be seated.  By 6am the line outside of Dai begins to extend down the block and appears to be a 2-3 hour wait.  If you’re a party of one you can skip a lot of the wait.  With patrons unwilling to wait it out, they begin to pour over and a short line ascends upon Sushi Daiwa. The winds were angry this morning, but the staff was kind enough to bring everyone waiting hot tea.  There is an 11 piece omakase for $40 and a standard 7 piece for $25.  Both meals include a roll, egg and miso soup.  There was also an a la carte menu with over 30 kinds of seafood being offered, we went with the a la carte.  The prices are $3-$5 for each piece and the toro was $7.  We were not sure what to expect as far as sushi quality.  It has a location that would indicate supreme fish, but the foreign popularity that would indicate overrated tourist trap.  Luckily it was great and just the ideal surrounding to enjoy a sushi meal.  Right on the outskirts of the market, you can visit the market after your meal and really take in the abundance and variety of seafood that is offered in the city.  You can even buy some fruit and a souvenir bag like we did.  It is not on the same level as either Michelin sushi restaurants that we went to, but definitely as good as any LA sushi spot and the variety offered is easily better.  We just started ordering anything that looked good until we couldn’t eat anymore.  We started with some of our familiar favorites, but made an effort to also try some fish we don’t typically get in the US.  Some of our favorites were the toro, mackerel, scallop, sea urchin, botan shrimp, baby shrimp and whitebait.  We ended the meal with an unusual seasonal offering of fugu sperm sac, something we had never seen before.  The piece was actually served warm and after the previous 17 or so pieces in my mouth it proved to be too much.  I had a tough time swallowing the hot sperm, overall though truly one of the great food experiences in the world.  We paid the check and bid farewell by all the sushi chefs.

01 Sushi Dai - Exterior

Line outside at 6AM – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

02 Sushi Dai - Green Tea while waiting

Free green tea while we wait – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

03 Sushi Dai - Sumo Wrestlers

Small sumo wrestlers exit an adjacent restaurant – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

04 Sushi Dai- DoorSign

Sushi Dai menu options – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

05 Sushi Dai - Menu

Sushi Dai a la carte menu – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

06 Sushi Dai - Interior

Dining area and friendly service – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

07 Sushi Dai - Fatty Tuna

Fatty Tuna – 9/10 – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

08 Sushi Dai - Horse Mackerel and Tamago

Horse Mackerel – 8/10 and Tamago – 3/10 – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

09 Sushi Dai - Scallop

Scallop – 8/10 – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

10 Sushi Dai - Miso Soup with fish

Miso Soup – 5/10 – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

11 Sushi Dai - Lean Tuna

Lean Tuna – 6/10 – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

12 Sushi Dai - Surf Clam

Surf Clam – 6/10 – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

13 Sushi Dai - Abalone

Abalone – 6/10 – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

14 Sushi Dai - Salmon

Salmon – 5/10 – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

15 Sushi Dai - Akamutsu Nodoguro

Nodoguro – 9/10 – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

16 Sushi Dai - Uni Sea Urchin

Sea Urchin – 8/10 – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

17 Sushi Dai - Botan shrimp

Botan Shrimp -9/10 – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

18 Sushi Dai - Baby squid

Baby Squid – 7/10 – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

19 Sushi Dai - Anago Sea eel

Sea eel – 7/10 – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

20 Sushi Dai - Baby shrimp

Baby Shrimp – 9/10 – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

21 Sushi Dai - Whitebait

Whitebait – 9/10 – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

22 Sushi Dai - Japanese Gizzard Shad

Japanese Gizzard Shad – 4/10 – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

23 Sushi Dai - Boiled Octopus

Boiled Octopus – 6/10 – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

24 Sushi Dai - Fugu sperm sac

Fugu sperm sac – 2/10 – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

25 Sushi Dai - Line at 7am

Line at 7:30AM – Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

(7:36AM Line at Sushi Dai at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan)

16 Tsukiji Fish Market

Aerial view – Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

03 Tsukiji Fish Market

Transport carts – Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

01 Tsukiji Fish Market

Fresh wasabi at Tokyo Metro Central Wholesale Market – Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

02 Tsukiji Fish Market

Knives at Tokyo Metro Central Wholesale Market – Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

13 Tsukiji Fish Market

Nuts at Tokyo Metro Central Wholesale Market – Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

06 Tsukiji Fish Market

Produce at Tokyo Metro Central Wholesale Market – Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

07 Tsukiji Fish Market

Scales at Tokyo Metro Central Wholesale Market – Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

08 Tsukiji Fish Market

Tokyo Metro Central Wholesale Market – Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

09 Tsukiji Fish Market

Pickled vegetables at Tokyo Metro Central Wholesale Market – Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

10 Tsukiji Fish Market

Bonito flakes at Tokyo Metro Central Wholesale Market – Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

11 Tsukiji Fish Market

Tokyo Metro Central Wholesale Market – Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

12 Tsukiji Fish Market

Kumquats at Tokyo Metro Central Wholesale Market – Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

14 Tsukiji Fish Market

Broccoli at Tokyo Metro Central Wholesale Market – Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

(Outside Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, Japan)

Tsukiji Fish Market 01

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

(Live Squid at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan)

Tsukiji Fish Market 02

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

(Filleting Fish at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan)

Tsukiji Fish Market 03

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

(Walking around Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan)

Tsukiji Fish Market 04

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

Tsukiji Fish Market 05

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

65 Tsukiji Fish Market

Sea urchin – Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

57 Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

Next, we got our daily subway pass and headed to Nezu shrine.  There’s some picturesque orange torii, a worship hall, a pond and during spring months the azalea festival.  It wasn’t our most popular site, a little small and not much to see aside from the azaleas.  If you’re going to Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto I would pass on this shrine.

01 Nezu Shrine

Nezu Shrine, Tokyo, Japan

03 Nezu Shrine

Nezu Shrine, Tokyo, Japan

04 Nezu Shrine

Nezu Shrine, Tokyo, Japan

On the way out we passed takoyaki vendor and were able to try an order.  This thing was such a hot mess.  Start with octopus chunks in a batter, add pickled ginger, tempura scraps and green onions.  Then generously top that with seaweed powder, bonito flakes, takoyaki sauce and if that wasn’t enough add mayo.  It tasted like it sounds, just plain nasty.

01  Takoyaki

Takoyaki stand outside Nezu Shrine, Tokyo, Japan

02 Takoyaki

Takoyaki stand outside Nezu Shrine, Tokyo, Japan

03  Takoyaki

Takoyaki stand outside Nezu Shrine, Tokyo, Japan

04  Takoyaki

Takoyaki outside Nezu Shrine, Tokyo, Japan

05  Takoyaki

Takoyaki outside Nezu Shrine, Tokyo, Japan

Obana

5-33-1 Minamisenju, Arakawa-ku

http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1324/A132401/13003509/  

 Lunch time at Obana, our choice for unagi.  Once you get off the subway stop at Minamisenju, it’s a 5 minute walk to the restaurant.  The only decision to make is whether to go north or south.  We chose north and headed nowhere fast.  We asked a local where the restaurant was and he walked with us for a few minutes leading us to the green signs directing us towards Obana.  We thought he happened to be walking this way, but he actually went out of his way to ensure that we got to our destination.  it was the second time in four days that a local went out of their way to help us out.  Back home everyone is always in a rush, caught up in their own priorities, but in Japan it is a different mentality.  Obana is a popular and thus busy restaurant so we scheduled it on a weekday with only six people ahead of us, the wait was only 20 minutes.  You sit on the floor and it is very uncomfortable.  Every 10 minutes I would adjust to a new position, but to no avail my assimilation efforts were fruitless. We’re at the tail end of the wild unagi season and the only eel available during our visit was farmed.  If you’re looking for a place that will prepare the eel in front of you, this isn’t the place.  The kitchen is far removed from the dinning room.  We started off with some salted vegetables and ordered appetizers of Uzaku and Umaki.  The Uzaku was very well prepared, crispy crust, sweet, juicy and very flavorful.  We had high hopes for the Umaki and although it was beautiful, the flavors of the egg and eel mixture were awfully bland.  We got two different preparations of the eel for our main course.  While both were good, it wasn’t significantly above the quality that you get from sushi chefs or the flavor that you get in the US. As a afterthought we were presented a light broth with the eel liver.  The meal was good, but if you are pressed for time I don’t think Obana will redefine unagi for you.  If you are stuck on an unagi fix, maybe try one of the well regarded places that prepare the eel in front of you like Unagi Kabuto.  If you fancy, you can even try the still beating heart.

01 Obana - Sign

Signs leading to Obana – Obana, Tokyo, Japan

02 Obana - Exterior

Obana, Tokyo, Japan

03 Obana - Line

Line at 1PM – Obana, Tokyo, Japan

04 Obana - Interior

Dining area – Obana, Tokyo, Japan

05 Obana - Oshinko Freshly Salted Vegetables

Oshinko Freshly Salted Vegetables – Obana, Tokyo, Japan

06 Obana - Uzaku chunks of grilled eel with cucumber in vinegar

Uzaku chunks of grilled eel with cucumber in vinegar – Obana, Tokyo, Japan

07 Obana - Umaki grilled eel wrapped in an omelet

Umaki grilled eel wrapped in an omelet – Obana, Tokyo, Japan

08 Obana - Pickled Vegetables

Pickled Vegetables – Obana, Tokyo, Japan

09 Obana - Shirayaki Plain Grilled Eel with Soy Sauce and Wasabi

Shirayaki Plain Grilled Eel with Soy Sauce and Wasabi – Obana, Tokyo, Japan

10 Obana - Unaju Grilled Eel with Teriyaki Sauce on a bed of rice

Unaju Grilled Eel with Teriyaki Sauce on a bed of rice – Obana, Tokyo, Japan

11 Obana - Kimosui clear soup with Eel Liver

Kimosui clear soup with Eel Liver – Obana, Tokyo, Japan

Rikugien garden is considered one of Tokyo’s best.  It is popular during fall as the maple trees bring brilliance autumn colors and during April when the weeping cherry tree is in full bloom.  Unfortunately, our tree was a bright green.  It was a nice garden and an excellent example of Japanese landscaping.  We strolled the grounds for about an hour and worked up an appetite for a afternoon snack.

01 Rikugien Garden

Rikugien garden, Tokyo, Japan

02 Rikugien Garden

Rikugien garden, Tokyo, Japan

03 Rikugien Garden

Rikugien garden, Tokyo, Japan

04 Rikugien Garden

Rikugien garden, Tokyo, Japan

05 Rikugien Garden

Rikugien garden, Tokyo, Japan

06 Rikugien Garden

Rikugien garden, Tokyo, Japan

Kanemasu

Kachidoki 1-8-1 Kachidoki View Tower 1F

Tokyo Chuo

http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1313/A131302/13002243/

We were off to Kanemasu, a small Izakaya that impressed Ferran Adria enough that it peaked our interest.  They had a dish of raw wagyu with sea urchin that was calling our name so we decided to check it out.  The bar was packed when we walked in just 30 minutes after opening.  We ordered an Yebisu beer while we waited.  Two Japanese business men made room for us and we toasted our drinks with an explanation of “Kampai”. The chefs didn’t speak English so we just showed one of the chefs pictures we had saved on our iphone.  We put in an order of the tuna sashimi and the raw wagyu with sea urchin.  He also recommended a beef katsu dish and we took him up on that.  Both our picks were huge disappointments.  The tuna was so poorly sliced and there were chunks of cartilage that interrupted each bite.   The raw wagyu was too rich that it completely overwhelmed the sea urchin.  I almost wanted to spit it up.  We should have just let the chef chose our dishes as the beef katsu was the sole bright spot.

01 Kanemasu - Exterior

Kanemasu, Tokyo, Japan

02 Kanemasu - Interior

Dining area – Kanemasu, Tokyo, Japan

03 Kanemasu - Tuna Sashimi

Tuna Sashimi – 5/10 – Kanemasu, Tokyo, Japan

04 Kanemasu - Raw Wagyu Beef with Uni

Raw Wagyu Beef with – Uni 4/10 – Kanemasu, Tokyo, Japan

05 Kanemasu - Beef Katsu

Beef Katsu – 5/10 – Kanemasu, Tokyo, Japan

The Kabuki-za is Tokyo’s primary theater to present Kabuki drama art form.  The original Kabuzi-za was built in the 1889 and over the years has been damaged, restored, burned, rebuilt and finally met its maker when it was demolished in 2010.  A new theater was constructed and opened this year.

They don’t allow photos or video once the show starts.  The entire play as I understand it last a full day and there are three shows per day.  Tickets for each show range, but will probably cost you $100.  If you just want a glimpse into the kabuki art form, we got a ticket for one act or about an hour for $20.  These seats are first come, first serve and it’s a good idea to show up 30 minutes prior to the show. The seating is a bit tight. There is an English audio guide available for $5 and I highly recommended getting it as you’ll be clueless if you don’t speak Japanese. Talking or even moving is frown upon once the performance starts. But, it’s not common to cheer each character when they make an appearance.  Luckily we were seated next to a big fan and yelled out “Huggie Bear” every time he appeared or even was referenced in the show.  After a couple times, we got the hang of it and cheered “Huggie Bear” along side him. I believe Huggie Bear was the main character’s brother who had disgraced his country during the war and they were contemplating whether he should pay the ultimate consequence with his life.  The actors speak in weird tones and at times can be difficult not to laugh at the whole spectacle.  We stayed for about half an hour and walked around Ginza for part of the evening. I guess we’ll never know if Huggie Bear ever made amends with his country.

04 Kabuki-za

Outside the Kabuki-za theater, Tokyo, Japan

02 Kabuki-za

Kabuki-za theater, Tokyo, Japan

03 Kabuki-za

Kabuki-za theater, Tokyo, Japan

Roppongi is an area within Tokyo that is known for its nightlife. Tourists have been known to have some bad experiences being drugged or robbed or strong-armed inside the area’s clubs as some are controlled by the infamous Yakuza gangs.  In 2003, the area received an economic boost when the Roppongi Hills complex was complete. The entire complex includes a shopping mall, office space, residential housing, restaurants, movie theater, museum, hotel, outdoor amphitheater, observation deck and a park at a mere cost of $4 billion. Right outside the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower is the sculpture Maman designed by the French artist Louise Bourgeois who died in 2010 at the age of 98. The 30 foot art piece encases 26 marble eggs.in its abdomen. She has sold numerous replications that have permanent locations throughout the world, each in the five to ten million dollar range.

01 Roppongi

Roppongi Hills Mori Tower and Maman sculpture, Tokyo, Japan

04 Roppongi

Maman sculpture, Tokyo, Japan

03 Roppongi

Outside Roppongi Hills, Tokyo, Japan

Nihonryori Ryugin

Side Roppongi Bldg. 1F, 7-17-24 Roppongi

Minato, Tokyo

http://www.nihonryori-ryugin.com/ http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1307/A130701/13001457/

 Chef Seiji Yamamoto opened Ryugin in 2003, a simply decorated 18 seat restaurant that took modern kaiseki and Japanese traditions and re-tooled dishes with modern techiques. His approach has turned heads in the culinary world where he awarded two Michelin stars in 2008 and promoted to three in 2012.  He currently has peaked at #22 on Restaurant magazine’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants and #2 in their Best of Asia list.

We wanted to try his food based on the preceding, plus blogs reviews were positive overall and the pictures looked good.  Narisawa and Takazawawa were other modern restaurants on the same calibar as Ryugin that we were contemplating.  Reviews were mixed on Narisawa and Takazawa’s eight seats were already booked when we contacted them.

 There’s one set menu offered each night, so the only thing left to decide was what to drink.  I started off with shochu and Jen got a glass of a Japanese Cabernet Franc.  Yes, the Japanes do make wine.  Pretty good actually, I think it would fall somewhere in quality between Santa Barbara and Napa Valley. The oceans array dish was the highlight of the evening, a composition of six elaborately executed sashimi dishes on one plate. We also loved both desserts. The strawberry taken apart and put back together in molecular fashion, then top with more strawberries, so complex with simple satisfying flavors. Jen wasn’t fond of the grilled firefly squids, but it worked for me.

01 Ryugin - Exterior

Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

02 Ryugin - Interior

Dining room – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

06 Ryugin - Shochu Drink

Shochu – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

03 Ryugin - Japanese Cabernet Franc

Japanese Cabernet Franc 6/10 – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

04 Ryugin - Seasonal Vegetables Pine Nut Dressing

Seasonal Vegetables with Pine Nut Dressing 6/10 – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

05 Ryugin - Clams Clear Soup

Clear Clam Soup 5/10 – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

07 Ryugin - Grilled Firefly Squids, Egg Custard, Burdock Root Soup and Green Peas

Grilled Firefly Squids, Egg Custard, Burdock Root Soup and Green Peas 6/10 – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

08 Ryugin - Dashi Soup, Kuruma Prawn Dumpling and Simmered Abalone

Dashi Soup, Kuruma Prawn Dumpling and Simmered Abalone 5/10 – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

09 Ryugin - Array of Oceans Delicacy

Array of Oceans Delicacy 10/10 – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

10 Ryugin - Bonito Lightly Smoke Mustard Soy Sauce

Bonito Lightly Smoke Mustard Soy Sauce – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

11 Ryugin - Red Snapper Grated Daikon Radish, poms vinaigrette light chile

Red Snapper, Grated Daikon Radish, Poms Vinaigrette, Light Chile – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

12 Ryugin - Pinshell Clam flower of wasabi - Use a little soy sauce

Pinshell Clam, Flower of Wasabi, Soy Sauce – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

13 Ryugin - Surf clam flower of wasabi - Use a little soy sauce

Surf Clam, Flower of Wasabi, Soy Sauce – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

14 Ryugin - Squid use soy sauce and wasabi2

Squid, Nori, Wasabi – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

15 Ryugin Tofu with abalone liver with horsehair crab on top

Tofu with abalone liver and horsehair crab on top – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

16 Ryugin - Kinki Fish from Hokkaido grilled on charcoal stuffed with grilled eggplant and grilled avocado with uni

Kinki Fish from Hokkaido grilled on charcoal stuffed with grilled eggplant and grilled avocado with uni 6/10 – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

17 Ryugin Pickled Fuji Apple with a ginger flavor

Pickled Fuji Apple with a ginger flavor 9/10 – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

18 Ryugin - Chicken Wing Tip filled with shark fin and spring vegetables

Chicken Wing Tip filled with shark fin and spring vegetables 6/10 – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

19 Ryugin - Kuroge Wagyu Beef filet grilled on charcoal with bamboo shoots

Kuroge Wagyu Beef filet grilled on charcoal with bamboo shoots 6/10 – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

20 Ryugin - Sanshoo pepper rice wSeasonal Vegetables Miso Soup Pickled vegetables

Sanshoo pepper rice wSeasonal Vegetables Miso Soup Pickled vegetables 5/10 – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

21 Ryugin - Green Tea

Green Tea 5/10 – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

22 Ryugin - One piece of strawberry with Pop Rocks

One piece of strawberry, Pop Rocks 9/10 – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

23 Ryugin - Strawberry cracked open

One piece of strawberry, Pop Rocks – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

24 Ryugin - Strawberry topped with macerated fresh strawberries

Strawberry topped with macerated fresh strawberries – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

25 Ryugin - Baked Ginjou Sake Oyaki Souffle with milk soft serve ice cream

Ginjou Sake Oyaki Souffle with milk soft serve ice cream 9/10 – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

26 Ryugin - Matcha Tea

Matcha Tea 5/10 – Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan

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