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The Michelin Guide has consistently awarded more stars to Tokyo dining establishments than any other city in the world. I created this blog as my personal Tokyo restaurant guide, but I hope you will also enjoy reading it. If you have been to any of the same places feel free to leave some comments about your own experiences.

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Sunday, 27 July 2008

Ristorante Matsuo, Sendagaya リストランテ・マツオ 千駄ヶ谷

If you a Tokyo driver like me, Ristorante Matsuo is super convenient as there is plenty of legal street parking nearby. If you don't drive then the new Kita Sando Station or Sendagaya are fairly convenient also. Of course, if you're just after convenience then you can always go to McDonalds....

A recent Sunday lunch at Matsuo was a real delight. For 3,500 yen you can order a set that features an amuse, a mixed antipasto, pasta, dessert and coffee. Just a small point but the very friendly but very polite waiter cleared the cutlery completely after each course - a small but important indicator of their overall attitude.

Lunch started with a small plate of duck ham and melon served with a balsamic reduction. This was followed by an antipasto plate of a small pea mousse, white fish carpaccio with drops of olive oil, basil and tomato. The most interesting thing on the plate though was the mambo, which is a delicious, chewy fish with a consistency in between fugu and octopus.

The main course was a home-made tagliatelle with fresh sea food featuring half a scampi, some mussels and some clams. This was light and delicious. This was followed by a lovely dessert of blood orange sorbet and Earl Grey Tea pudding.

All in all the food was uniformly delicious, and while it was quite a large meal I certainly did not feel bloated afterwards. My only gripe in an otherwise perfect experience was that they didn't take credit cards at lunch, which is not good service. I noticed that there were a few families at lunch but Ristorante Matsuo would also be perfectly suited to a business lunch, and I may well give it another go again for this purpose.

リストランテマツオセッテルーリオ (千駄ヶ谷)





Tel: 03-5848-6036

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Coldstone Creamery, Shibuya コールド・ストーン・クリーマリー 渋谷

I have known of the existence of Coldstone since they opened but I was damned if I was going to line up for it. I don't do queues. Well I recently made a little exception at their Shibuya branch, which is located in Mark City in the arcade leading up to Dogenzaka, as it was such a hot day. After standing in line for 15 minutes or so you can watch the shop girls and boys mash up your ice cream on a frozen teppan as they sing merrily and smile a lot. I ordered a minty creation made of creamy mint ice cream, chewy brownie and crunchy chocolate chips served in a fresh waffle cone. Yum! Was it worth 15 minutes and 540 yen (I ordered just about the cheapest - you could go well over 1,000 yen if you want to pig out)? Hmm, I could write a whole entry on my thoughts about the rationality or otherwise of queueing just to have the latest brand experience but at least you can say you've tried it.

コールド・ストーン・クリーマリー (渋谷)


Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Marché de Paris, Ginza パリの朝市 銀座

Marché de Paris seems like it has been around for donkey's years, and that is always a good indication that the owners know what they are doing. I recently dined here for lunch and was very pleased with the quality of the food and the friendliness/ competence of the service. My dining partner and I were seated at a little banquette style table near a window where we could spy on the passers-by on their way to hit the Ginza shops.

For 2,500 yen you can order a lunch set which includes an entree, main and dessert. On the day in question the entree of the day (the only option available) was a terrine of scallop with vegetables. This was a very interesting and tasty little dish, featuring zucchini and okra and topped with a plum sauce and peeled baby tomatoes. There were two choices for the main - fish or duck. We chose the duck and were rewarded with a plate featuring roasted vegetables, slices of duck breast and a heartier chunk of meat that had been braised in red wine. This was very tasty, although the veges were definitely not freshly out of the oven! Dessert allowed for three choices of a range of little cakes and was served with a scoop of yoghurt ice cream. The millefeuille was so amazing I wished I could have had seconds!

Marché de Paris was, for me, a perfect island of civilised respite to gather my senses over lunch before attacking the hustle and bustle of Ginza. I would definitely recommend it to you for a similar purpose, but be sure to book as this place is far from a secret.





Tel: 03-3543-9436

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Fureika, Higashi-Azabu 富麗華 東麻布

Fureika is the fussiest Chinese restaurant I have ever been to. Nothing is brought straight to the table. Rather, like an air-express freight logistics hub, food is brought from the kitchen to a special counter where deliveries are separated, put onto separate plates and sent to their final destinations. This is even done with the tea, which is filled and refilled at this special station in the dining room. I watched, fascinated at this spectacle of process management. The way the food is served is also impeccable. I have never had tea served as gracefully in a Chinese restaurant before. Not a drop even came close to the tablecloth!

For 3,300 yen you can order a yum-cha set for lunch. There are more expensive sets available such as a 6,000 yen shark-fin lunch set. I think that is a lot to pay for a lunch set at a Chinese restaurant but then again Fureika has earned itself a Michelin star. With the curtains closed the elegant dining room is quite dark but this created a quite nice atmosphere on a blazing hot summer's day. The trio of ladies striking up some Chinese tunes now and again also added to the soothing atmosphere.

But I did not come for the atmosphere or the logistics. The first item on the set was a plate with a few small pieces of barbecued pork and a couple of small pieces of cucumber. My dining partner speculated that this was the "amuse", but I had to confirm that this was indeed the first course. This was followed by a fried prawn croquette, a small fried radish cake and a steamer with a shu mai, prawn dumpling and vegetable dumpling. Whilst the dumplings and radish were good, the prawn croquette was the best I have tasted. This was followed by asparagus in special sauce. On the way to the serving station the chef came out and showed us the plate of green asparagus which looked rather modest. We were actually wondering where the other plate was, but to our surprise, this was divided into two before it was served to us. It was at this moment that it really hit us. This place is kind of stingy. After that came a small dish of yakisoba. The final act was a dessert which was a black sesame pudding.

I'm afraid to say that, even permitting for the divine prawn croquette, I was a little disappointed. Not in the quality of the food, which is very high, or the service, which is lovely, or in the overall setting or level of refinement. There just isn't enough food. I really am not the kind of person that thinks you need an enormous serving to call it a good lunch or dinner. I am far more interested in the quality than the quantity of food. But these servings of very typical Chinese dishes felt like rations, and Michelin star or not, I'm not sure that's the way to do it.

中国飯店 富麗華 (南麻布)





Tel: 03-5561-7788

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Cuisine(s) Michel Troisgros, Shinjuku キュイジーヌ[s] ミッシェル・トロワグロ 新宿

It was with trembling anticipation that I looked forward to my dinner at Cuisine(s) Michel Troisgros. This is only the second 2 star Michelin establishment that I have been to in my life, the other being Bastide St Antoine in Grasse some years ago, and of that I have only faded memories of everything tasting of butter and truffles. One tries not to be overly sucked into the Michelin star system, but without doubt it adds to the expectations and the pleasure if those expectations are met.

First off, I feel that I must compliment the service at Troisgros, which is flawless. Unlike some establishments where I have complained that the abundance of waitstaff actually detracts from the service, Troisgros seems to use its staff well and so I won't whinge too much about the 10% service charge. I think it also helped that on the Tuesday evening in question the restaurant was not at all crowded.

After starting off with a couple of glasses of Taittinger Rose Champagne, my dining partner and I chose the larger set menu of the two on offer, costing 18,900 yen. This morning, as I write this, my overhanging tummy makes me think this was a Romanesque level of extravagance. Before we had even ordered, we were served a plate of amuses comprising of a thinly sliced pineapple on a thin biscuit, a china spoon with a cherry tomato in jelly and a small cheese puff. Once we had ordered the menu another amuse of two small pieces of mackerel sushi on a powerful acidic dashi jelly was served. This was followed by a beautifully presented plate consisting of a checkerboard of thin slices of scallop, truffle and basil on a thin melba toast. The combination of flavours worked pretty well. This was followed by an exquisitely presented plate of peppered cod on a sunburst of passionfruit coulis with little leaves of oregano scattered around the rim. The herb, passionfruit and fish worked well. This was followed by buttered lobster meat, including some claw meat with tapenade and some onion. This tasted alright, but I did wonder if it was fresh or not. Then came the main event - a candied pigeon breast with its little drumstick hiding under a slice of cooked lemon. This was served with an orange and pepper gravy. Hmm. Well I can't say I'm a fan of the pigeon, but this has nothing to do with the skill with which it was cooked - just a bit too gamey for me.

This was followed by the unexpected highlight of the evening - the cheeses. Around cheese time we looked around and noticed that there was nobody else left in the dining room. It was before ten o'clock so perhaps being a school night and all, the locals had all begun the long journey home from Nishi-Shinjuku. This gave us a good opportunity to catch up with the maitre d'hotel. He offered us extra special servings of the cheeses on offer which included a delicious brie sandwich of mascarpone and truffle. The was followed by a PRE-dessert of a small pea tart topped with strawberry, served with ice cream. The main dessert event was a airy chocolate cake (actually it wasn't really a cake but I think off-hand what to call it) served with ice cream, a slice of beetroot and some beetroot jelly. For me, the combination of flavours in this dish was the most interesting of the evening and I enjoyed it to the last crumb. This was followed by coffee and petit fours which featured a yummy mini beignet dusted with icing sugar.

As I look back on it I can't believe we managed to put all this food away! All in all, it was a great dinner and a lovely experience. I wasn't too enamoured of the half bottle of Louis Latour Puligny Montrachet (2004) that I ordered to go along with the dinner, but I am early on my discovery of good wine so I should not say too much. I will say though that I suspect lunch would be much better value for money than dinner so, if anything, I would recommend you try Troisgros at lunch. Once I have paid off the credit card this is something I intend to do myself.

ミッシェル・トロワグワ (新宿)





Tel: 03-3348-1234

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Bon Chemin, Gohongi ボンシュマン 五本木

I discovered Bon Chemin on the excellent Pig Out Diary which I am finding very inspiring with its amazing photos - clearly the work of a master foodie! I can only wish I was as good a photographer of food...

Bon Chemin is a little French restaurant in Gohongi, which is very close to Yutenji and Gakugeidaigaku on the Toyoko line, a pleasant suburban area not far from Shibuya. The bright decor is very fitting for a hot summer's day, and it was on one such Sunday that I recently tried it out. For around 3,500 yen (including service) you can order a seasonal menu that includes an amuse, entree, main and dessert and coffee. Small but delicious bread rolls and pork rillette are also provided throughout the meal.

Lunch opened with a little amuse of marinated sardines on a crisp pastry. For my entree I had ordered the gazpacho which is being offered during summer. This was actually quite an interesting dish as it included not only beautifully prepared vegetables such as pungent celery strips and peeled, boiled eggplant but also two triangles of ayu pâté. I have to admit that I wasn't that crash hot on the pâté and I found the soup a little bit too acidic overall, but full marks to the chef for creating something that deviates interestingly from the norm. For my main I ordered the fish of the day, which comes straight from Tsukiji (I have somehow forgotten what it was, but I think a suzuki). The fish came in a delicious sauce of butter, tomato and what tasted like vinegar and tarragon. I detect an acidic theme in the cooking, which is really appropriate for summer.

My dining partner ordered the roast pork which looked so good it almost made me wish I had ordered it, and the little piece I managed to negotiate was as good as it looked.

For dessert, I declined the clafoutis that was on offer as it was topped with the dreaded banana, however they very kindly whipped up a delicious crème brûlée for me. This was so moreish I think I made the whole restaurant jump as I clinked my spoon along the edge of the plate trying to get the last bits out.

The people at Bon Chemin are really pleasant, thoroughly professional and very keen to ensure that you enjoy your meal. I would be happy to return any time.
Tel: 03-3791-3900

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Beacon, Shibuya ビーコン 渋谷

Beacon is located in the same space where another restaurant called Lunchan used to be. I never really understood what happened to Lunchan. It was a pretty decent American style restaurant pitched at the expat community serving good honest grub with broad appeal including, if my memory serves me correctly, a rather nice meatloaf. They also had quite a good champagne brunch on Sundays and I frequented there many a time for business or pleasure when I couldn't quite think of anything better. Then one day it was gone and in its place was a Royal Host. What the??? Anyway, thankfully the Royal Host interlude did not last long and in its place is Beacon which bills itself as an "urban chop house". Although it's shockingly ignorant of me, I don't really know what a chop house is, but I assume it's a slightly pretentious allusion to a traditional American steak house. I recently had a very pleasant dinner there with friends and can report that it is indeed a decent American style dining experience.

Our evening started off a little slowly as one member of our party had mistakenly gone all the way to TY Harbour Brewery at Shinagawa. Be careful with their website - the Beacon site does indeed say TY Harbour all over it so if you're not careful you may think you're going to the famous expat haunt at Shinagawa, not Shibuya. Anyway, the wait allowed us to sample a rather large and rather spicy (the way I like it!) Bloody Mary with a huge celery stick for swizzling and munching. The only problem with this was that it really filled us up before dinner so when we eventually moved to our table and were reviewing the menu, the set menu for 7,300 yen looked like altogether too much food. We ordered instead à la carte.

For my entree (sorry - my "starter") I ordered soft shell crab. One of our party ordered crab cakes and insisted on making a trade, which I was reluctant to do as I wanted the soft shell crab all to myself. However, I have to say the crab cake was very good as crab cakes go so it was indeed worth giving to receive in this particular case. For my main I ordered scallops wrapped in prosciutto. These came with steamed vegetables. To be honest the paper thin prosciutto wrapped around the side of the scallops did not really add anything to the flavour. The scallops were large and nice enough, but the sides we ordered of Portobello mushrooms with thyme, and mash potato with lashings of butter really completed the meal for me. I followed this up with a lemon tart with raspberry sorbet.

Including two bottles of white wine - a Dog Point 2007 from Marlborough, New Zealand and a Silver Stone 2006 from California (Dog Point was voted the clear winner), our aperitifs, starters, mains, sides and shared desserts the bill came only to 10,000 yen per head among five of us. Whilst it's far from cheap, I think this is pretty good going in terms of value for money. Their food is not really that challenging or interesting, but the upside of this is that you can take anyone there without intimidating them. Also the fact that the service is in English must be a real plus for the less adventurous. In this way, Beacon is really just a more stylish and up to date interpretation of Lunchan - and there's nothing at all wrong with that in my book.
Tel: 03-6418-0077

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Le Rond Point, Minami Azabu ル・ロンポワン 南麻布

Le Rond Point is a tiny restaurant located directly opposite the US Defence Force's Sanno Hotel near Tengenjibashi and Hiroo. Just as access to the Sanno hotel is restricted to those with a passport and a good reason, access to Le Rond Point is only possible via means of an advance booking. I recently tried Le Rond Point for lunch with a colleague and found it to be possibly the ideal place for a quiet business lunch. It's ideal because the food is of a good standard and because the restaurant is so small you may as often as not find yourselves the only people in the place. We took the basic lunch set comprising of an entree and main with coffee charged additionally which will set you back around 2,300 yen. It's not cheap but the quality and thought in the cooking is easy to see; and furthermore you would hardly take someone to a 1,000 yen joint unless they're a very close colleague. We started off with some delicious homemade wholemeal bread rolls.

Then the entrees came. I ordered a beetroot potage and my dining partner ordered a carpaccio of snapper. My beetroot potage was creamy and fresh with a (not-tinned) slice of beetroot which had a slightly earthy but not unpleasant flavour. My dining partner's carpaccio was tender and delicious with a mustard sauce. For the main I ordered pork cooked in beer, which was tender, juicy and huge for lunch on a hot day! My more sensible dining partner ordered the kinmedai (Golden Eyed Bream) which was also very tasty. We were too full for dessert, I suspect to the disappointment of the slightly gruff multi-tasked chef/waiter who basically takes your order then goes and makes it in the open kitchen right in front of you.

I would be happy to recommend Le Rond Point for a more intimate meal centered on business or pleasure.

ル・ロンポワン (南麻布)