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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, 31 May 2009

Au Chapon Fin, Hachiyamacho

Au Chapon Fin is a little French restaurant/deli situated in a back street not far from Daikanyama. The place is obviously a labour of love for the chef and his little team (and that's nice) but I have to say that their idiosyncrasies, during a recent Sunday lunch, did grate on the nerves just a touch.

To start with, virtually nothing that was listed on the menu was actually available - so every dish I ordered was a compromise. I don't understand the point of having a menu if the chef is going to change his mind on the day or deliberately under provide. To hand someone a menu, have them deliberate over it for ten minutes and then not let you order anything that's actually on there is a bit odd in my opinion. Maybe one could suggest a blackboard?

Anyway, for 2,600 yen you can order a lunch set of entree, main, dessert and coffee with a 500 yen supplement to add a soup. I settled on smoked duck, mushroom soup and beef cheek (with the dessert being a chef's surprise). The smoked duck was swizzled with a balsamic sauce and paired with a cold sweet tomato consomme in a shot glass. The duck was pretty smokey and went well with the tomato in a combination that I've not tried before. For the next course I think the waitress heard me comment about how small the mushroom soup was so she assured me that there was a full bag of organic mushrooms in every cup. Even though it was just a little cup, the soup was rich and delicious. The beef cheek was good, but rather small. My dining partner's chicken confit looked as if it was more the hungry man's choice!

Dessert, which like everything else, took forever to come out was a rather yummy orange jelly with hints of Cointreau and chunks of nougat and this was followed by coffee. If you can look behind the lack of customer orientation, Au Chapon Fin is pleasant enough. However it's really not great when your waitress doesn't even know what the specials of the day are or what they're serving for dessert. It's also not the best show when you're paying the bill and she just disappears in the middle of the process for a couple of minutes, then the chef arrives to sullenly finish the process. The couple waiting behind me actually got asked whether they enjoyed their meal, so I guess maybe we were getting on eachother's nerves.
Tel: 03-5489-0517  

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Boschetta, Shirokane

In a back lane in Shirokane, near the top end of Platinum Street you'll find a near-new residence that has been converted into a lovely Italian restaurant called Boschetta. If the building had stayed as a house it would have been a trendy little family home, but it has made for a restaurant with a homely, yet stylish atmosphere.

Recently I went there for dinner on a Saturday night and ended up having an excellent experience in one of the bedrooms (and just with the food). For 10,000 yen you can order the Menu Degustazione which comprises three starters, two pastas, one main and a dessert with a coffee and petit fours.

My dining partner and I kicked off dinner with a couple of glasses of lovely, refreshing Mumm champagne and an amuse of fresh mozzarella topped with a transparent tomato jelly and basil powder. This delicious, buttery concoction was served on an artistic glass spoon. Indeed though the meal each dish was served on a beautiful piece of glassware - a unique feature of this restaurant.

The first starter was a fish carpaccio, topped with sliced fresh tomato and sweet watermelon jelly. Usually I'm not a great fan of fresh tomato or watermelon but this dish worked really well, especially owing to the successful contrast of the tomato and the sweet jelly. The next starter was a small foie gras crème brûlée topped with an apple mousse. The crème brûlée tasted deliciously strongly of foie gras and was a delight to consume. The last starter was a soup of hamo fritter and truffle. Again, usually I'm not such a big fan of eel, but this dish of the utmost freshness worked really well for me.

The first pasta I ordered was an asari (baby clam) and avocado spaghetti. The second was a lobster linguine. Both were competent and tasty. For the main event I ordered the Shamo chicken with sauteed vegetables including morels, which I think taste really special. The chicken was about the best chicken I've had in recent memory - slightly underdone with a confident, strong taste that's how I imagine fresh, happy chickens must taste!

For dessert, I ordered the chocolate cake, and this was followed by a chamomile tea and some delicious petit fours. As most of the dishes were seafood I paired the meal with an Italian chardonnay, and this turned out to be a good choice. The service was good - a little solemn and lacking in warmth of personality for my liking, but I can overlook this as the food really shone through.

The only real complaint I had is that eating in a small room with only two other tables meant we had to hear every work of the loud guy adjacent to us trying to impress his date the whole evening. Poor girl!

All in all, I'd feel very confident in recommending Bochetta to you and would be very happy to return in due course.
Tel: 03-5798-2442

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Tetsuya's, Sydney, Australia

Tetsuya's, located on the southern end of Sydney's CBD behind the cinemas of George Street not far from Chinatown, virtually defines destination dining. This is, hands down, the most hyped restaurant in Australia and usually makes it onto lists of the finest restaurants in the world.

The chef, Tetsuya Wakuda, is a migrant from Japan who landed in Australia with no formal training over 25 years ago, worked in some of Sydney's trendiest kitchens and then opened a humble little restaurant in the suburb of Rozelle in 1989. By all reports there was nothing to be humble about when it came to his cooking and his reputation as a chef built steadily to the point in 2000 he opened his current location in the beautiful old house that used to house the Suntory restaurant with its beautiful courtyard Japanese garden in Kent Street.

So it was with much anticipation, but with the nervousness of one who is often disappointed, that I arranged for dinner with two VIPs who needed impressing. There is only one menu at Tetsuya's - a modern take on the kaiseki tradition. This approach of having the chef choose for you would be quite familiar to anyone who has spent time in Japan, but for most Australians is quite novel.

On the evening in question dinner opened with an amuse of chestnut and cepe soup, which was pleasant enough. Then we were offered, upon the agreement to pay a supplement, an oyster served with ginger and rice wine. I found the taste more than acceptable - an opinion echoed by my guests. The next course was an egg-yolk served on chopped, smoked trout garnished with herring roe. Although the tastes were not so powerful, this was an interesting looking dish. This was followed by a fairly bland, but pleasant savoury custard with caramelised leek and Queensland spanner crab.

The next course was raw Crystal Bay prawn served with soy caramel and King Island cream, a combination which I imagine was inspired by the current Tokyo trend for salty caramel. I'm not such a big fan of raw prawns (don't come the raw prawn with me!), but this was perhaps the most interesting course of the whole night - and was judged a hit by the table. Following this was the trout confit crusted with salty konbu (seaweed) crumbs which is the specialty of the house, and this was voted superb. After the trout, a terrine of crab wrapped in seaweed paired with avocado cream was served. This was very tasty. The final fish course was a barramundi served with fennel and black bean, which made no great impression.

Two meat courses were to follow, the first being a boneless (thanks!) spatchcock with a foie gras stuffing and a wagyu (for once meat called wagyu in Australia actually was wagyu) served with mushroom, wasabi and ponzu jelly. The beef was a real hit. After the meats came four dessert courses. The first a dish of canelloni beans and mascarpone, followed by two shot glasses of green apple sorbet and liquid strawberry cheesecake. This was followed by an lighter-than-air ile flottant with a super-rich chocolate mousse after that.

Just writing all this makes me tired, but I assure you that eating it was no chore. In fact, it was only after I finished the mousse that my sufficiency exceeded elegant. As for wines, I was driving that evening so had to go easy, but the sparkling aperitif of the Crosser Piccadilly Valley had a fairly memorable flavour.

The service is superb - at a level that really stands out in Australia. My only beef (non-wagyu) is that we were served by so many different waiters. I prefer to have the same person look after me all evening, but just a preference that didn't take away from my enjoyment. Overall, I would have to highly recommend Tetsuya's. It's far from cheap, but not outside the norms of what one would pay for a similar meal in Tokyo - even accounting for the currently cheapish Australian dollar.

Could you experience a meal of similar quality in Tokyo? The answer is yes, but this should not detract from the wonderful experience that has been created for my fellow mere Australian mortals who, even though they like to boast about the quality of their restaurants, do not usually have access to this standard. I have to admit to not eating anything that surprised or excited me, with the possible exception of the caramel prawns. For destination dining such as this, I would have liked to have been surprised by more daring and passionate combinations and creations - but I suspect that the chef knows his customers pretty well and understands that for most of them, what he serves each evening is plenty creative enough.

Tel: +61 2 9267 2900