This is actually a guest post from my friend who just got back from a trip to Tokyo. I was a bit disappointed on my recent trip, but I blame that on myself for being ill-prepared. If I had gone to the restaurants my friend went to (make sure to RSVP beforehand), I’m sure my belly would have thanked me more and my wallet thanked me less. Regardless, if you go, you should check out one of these places. I definitely will the next time I go. By the way, note that my friend titled this “2016” meaning this wasn’t her first rodeo, so she has perspective on the other high-end restaurants.
We were excited to be able to join Chef Kawate and his team in January, 2016 at Florilege*, having just been named as the “One to Watch” for 2016 by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.
It was an exciting and fun 10+ course French meal with many Japanese ingredients and inspirations. When you walk into the restaurant, your eyes are immediately drawn to the hustle and bustle of the open kitchen, surrounded by a semi square granite countertop seating arrangement. Food was exquisite, and well proportioned, and can be accompanied by either a wine or juice pairing. We settled on juice, and while some of the concoctions where delicious and really complimented the dish (such as the yuzu yogurt drink), some were gooey and warm, which was off-putting.
My favorite dishes were the crab bisque with sticky rice, and the 13 year-old beef carpaccio. The crab bisque was similar to a risotto but with a higher ratio of crab to rice. It was rich and sensationally flavored, but surprisingly not heavy. I would have loved to have some bread to soak up every last bit of the bisque. The 13 year-old wagyu beef carpaccio left me speechless. The tender, fat, buttery, beefy taste and aroma was accentuated by the jus, and I tried to savor every bite!
With all the wonderful restaurants in Tokyo, one has to be quite extraordinary for us to visit it every time we go. That one restaurant is Yakiniku Jumbo. While all the high end Yakiniku restaurants in Japan serve high quality beef; Jumbo is no exception, serving only A5 grade Japanese wagyu beef; we prefer the casual relaxed atmosphere at Jumbo. The well-seasoned Sirloin Noharayaki is the signature cut at Jumbo. These thin slices are grilled for only 2-3 seconds on each side, and then eaten with a freshly beaten raw egg. The smoothness and creaminess of the bite is like slurping beef from a nice warm egg bath. Other raw egg offerings include the Yukke (raw beef tartare).
Other cuts of beef that we would recommend are the misuji (not shown) and karubi (above). Misuji is the rare and pricey cut from the shoulder of the beef, with each cow only yielding a few hundred grams. It is ultra-marbled and tender, and melts in your mouth. Karubi is a bit more of a thick cut, and the deep meaty taste goes really well with a bowl of rice and kimchi pickles.
Torishige in Shinjuku is one of the most popular yakitori restaurant in Tokyo, with the restaurant being around for more than 65 years. The restaurant is always full with locals, so make sure you make a reservation in advance! They offer tasting menus, priced from 2000- 12000 yen. We chose the 8000 yen menu this time and received a variety of dishes that included beef sashimi, yakitori, grilled sirloin steak, grilled vegetables and a rice/noodles course. Even though we couldn’t see the chef personally prepare the meat, we thought the dishes were very evenly seasoned and put together. MAKE SURE you order this dish in advance: Wagyu steak topped with uni and caviar. This is the dish where all my favorite ingredients come together in one plate, and I often think of this dish from time to time (drooling). The steak was perfectly grilled, having both sides nicely charred but keeping the inside tender and raw. The uni and caviar blend different taste profiles and textures, while adding a nice salty element. When you eat everything in one bite, it is pure joy and satisfaction.
My favorite yakitori offerings were the pork liver and chicken intestine. The pork liver was nicely grilled, with a bit of crunchy texture, and some squeezed lemon juice added a welcoming acidity. The chicken intestine was irresistible in its flavor and texture, so much so that my boyfriend immediately ordered another one after devouring all of his and half of my plate.
Finally, who doesn’t love more perfectly grilled wagyu beef steaks? Next time, we’ll try the 120,000 offering as it includes black truffles.