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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, 22 February 2009

Bills, Kamakura ビルズ 鎌倉市

For those who don't know, Bill Granger is a well known Australian chef/café owner, with boyish good looks and a dazzling smile, who has published quite a few cook books. He offers a breezy, laid back cuisine fitting into an aspirational idea of what it's like to live the Sydney brunch lifestyle. His latest project is best described as a lifestyle café situated on the sea at Kamakura/Enoshima. On a recent Saturday I decided to make the trek out to Kamakura with a couple of friends for lunch to see whether the promise of Sydney could really be transplanted to the ancient capital of Japan.

I have been to Bills in Sydney quite a few times over the years and have found that, even though you need to line up most of the time, the food is pretty tasty and just the kind of thing that hits the spot after a boozy night out. When we arrived at Bills Kamakura the dining room was half empty, yet the efficient girl with the clipboard told us to come back in an hour. After having some improvised appetizers in the 7/11 carpark over the street, we returned after only 45 minutes to find a table was available for us.

The food itself bore some resemblance to the Bills formula but in truth it was hard see how it really differed from any other similar modern café in Tokyo. The fit-out looks great, but there's a certain stiffness to the crowd and the staff that really makes it a stretch to believe you're really living the casual but glamorous Bills life. As for the food, we found it to be a bit light on in terms of the serving size and one of my dining partners gave some pretty mixed reviews about the quality and temperature of her scrambled eggs and bacon. The food wasn't bad but we all felt a little hungry afterwards.

The food is pretty dear and the drinks are horribly expensive eg small cappucino for 600 yen and a ginger beer which was mostly ice for 700 yen. All in all I have to say, even though it feels way too pretentious to say this about Aussie café food, the execution at the Kamakura branch lacks authenticity. Indeed, I felt it could a facsimile of Santa Monica as much as Sydney. By all means go, but remember they don't call it "Bills" for nothing.

Tel: 0467-33-1778

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Kushiwaka Maru, Naka Meguro 串若丸 中目黒

Kushiwaka Maru is a smoky little dive not far from Naka Meguro station specialising in yakitori and other "things on sticks". I visited there years ago when, quite memorably, the entire building started shaking in what was a relatively strong earthquake. I recently ventured there again with a good friend, hoping it was only the food that would make the earth move!

Well I can report that basically everything we ordered was better than delicious. Their tsukune is particularly juicy and moreish but all their chicken is tender and cooked to perfection. What really stood out though was their seafood. Their grilled oysters were fresh as could be, plump and juicy. The highlight of the evening though for me was a jumbo prawn served with tomato salsa. It was just everything a prawn should be - meaty and full of flavour!

What's even more pleasing is that the prices are dirt cheap for the quality. So I'd highly recommend you get down there if you have an informal dinner pending. Seeing as this place is clearly no secret I would recommend that you reserve a counter seat for around 6.30pm. This means you will have until about 8.10 until they politely but firmly throw you out (I have to admit I took a look at their table plans and could see in advance when we would be booted). Anyway, if you make it that far you'll be so full you'll need to take a walk anyway; and you'll be sure to do so with a warm inner glow.
Tel: 03-3715-9292

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Koya, Mita 香家 三田   

The search for the ideal tan tan men has taken another turn for the better. Situated very close to Keio University's Mita campus you'll find Koya, a tiny but stylish noodle joint specialising in tan tan men without the soup.

You can order the varieties half and half as my dining partner did for certain dishes. I however was fascinated with the special tan tan men that was served without mala 麻辣汁なし担々麺. In place of the usual Sichuanese spicy sauce that you find in tan tan men, there is Sichaun pepper and star anise. At first it looks like garden clippings, but this was a veritable pepper explosion with a combination of tastes that I found completely novel. It's so great to find somewhere that can serve a really nice surprise!

This is served with your choice of side dish, and I chose the bbq pork which actually looked much better than the picture on the menu. Not being able to stop there I also ordered some delicious suigyoza, which came with a piquant dipping sauce, to share. If I was you I'd definitely get down and try the "mala-less" tan tan men sooner rather than later!
Tel: 03-3453-1958