Tokyo hot list

Posted on May 1, 2007 by Aun

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I don’t think I’ve ever eaten more in such a short period of time as I have in the 4 ridicously decadent days I’ve just spent in Tokyo. Because most of my recent travel has been either alone or with colleagues, and has been primarily for business, I had kind of forgotten what travelling with my darling wife S was all about, i.e. food, food, pastries and more food. And while I do try to squeeze in as many good meals as possible during business trips, eating overseas with S is a whole other animal. It means eating like a hobbit: breakfast, second breakfast (usually pastries), lunch, afternoon tea (more pastries), and dinner, all of which is punctuated by whatever odd and exciting nibble we might stumble across. By our last day in town, my usually iron-clad stomach was feeling a tad sensitive — obviously a reaction to the sheer amount of rich food I had forced it to process. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I enjoyed every single bite. I just need to remember to pick up some antacids in Los Angeles.

Below is a list of the places that S and I especially enjoyed visiting. Please note that by no means is this meant to be a proper Tokyo guide. It’s simply the places we went to on this most recent visit.

Pastries

Sadaharu Aoki
Visiting one of Sadaharu Aoki’s salons was one of the two things S had told me were at the top of her must-do list for Tokyo. She had read so much about him and has been dying to try his pastries for years. We visited his Midtown salon twice and his Ginza branch once. Everything we tried was lovely. We were both floored by the first taste of his salted caramel tart. But our favourite items were his eclairs. We tried 4, which I have listed in order of my own preference: yuzu, green tea, black sesame and cassis. I would love to be able to have one of his yuzu or green tea eclairs weekly. Both of us can’t wait to visit his Paris branches in just a few weeks.
The Midtown branch is unit 13 in the basement.
Tel: 03-5413-7112

Toshi Yoroizuka
Yoroizuka makes beautiful pastries and the long lines at his Midtown salon attest to his popularity. While I personally prefered Aoki’s desserts, these were very tasty and very pretty. If you can spare a half an hour (because that’s how long you’ll be in line), definitely give these a try. Tokyo Minato-ku Akasaka 9-7-2
Tokyo Midtown east B-0104
Tel: 03-5413-3650

Hidemi Sugino
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Going to Sugino was the other must-do on S’ list. This cult pastry chef turns out some of the most beautiful and ethereal cakes on the planet. He has only one branch in Tokyo and getting in requires a ton of patience. We had been forewarned to get there by 930am (the shop is supposed to open at 10am). By the time we arrived, there were at least a good 20 or so people already ahead of us. Once the doors opened at 1015am, we were ushered in slowly, the staffing allowing only about 10 or so people in at a time. Regardless of whether you are buying take-away or are planning on sitting down at one of the few tables in the back, you have to stay in the queue, wait your turn at the counter, and then pick your cakes. Sugino is most famous for his mousse cakes (many of which have been gorgeously recreated on Keiko’s blog Nordljus) which often combine several complimentary flavours. They are light and delicious. Quite simply, Sugino is in a class of his own.
Kyobashi Building 1F, 3-6-17, Chuo-ku
Tel: 03-3538-6780

Simple food

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Yummy katsu place
Unfortunately, I can’t actually give you the name (I think it translates as “peaceful pig”) or address of this fantastic, rustic and tiny katsu place. The restaurant’s card, as is often the case, is entirely in Japanese and I stupidly forgot to ask them to help me translate their information. I can give you their phone number though. Hopefully, if you are staying at a good hotel, your concierge can call them and get the details for you. I can say that it’s a stone throw from Tsukiji, just south of Ginza. This little restaurant has a small counter and just two tables. The menu is fried, breaded pork. You have a choice of either loin or filet. S and I had the loin (“rosu”) and it was delicious but also a tad scary. It was hands-down the fattiest piece of katsu I have ever been served. It was also one of the tastiest. Each katsu is served with a large mound of cabbage, (curiously) some spaghetti with tomato sauce, and rice.
Tel: 03-3542-1547

Ippudo
This is one of the most well-known and popular Kyushu style ramen joints in town. It is excellent and very affordable.
They have several branches around Tokyo
www.ippudo.com/index.html

Essenza
A chef-friend recommended we try Essenza, a stylish pasta bar on the 5th floor of the Marinouchi Building. S and I really loved this place. Quick, delicious and well-priced pasta dishes are made from scratch before your eyes. We were especially impressed that the pasta was all homemade and the ingredients were all top-notch. S had a crabmeat and spring onion pasta while I indulged in one of their combination plates. I ordered the seared duck breast, sauteed white asparagus and spaghetti carbonara plate. It was fabulous.
Tel: 03-3240-0103

Sushi heaven

Sushizanmai
My friend M sent us to this popular sushi place in the Tsukiji market area for lunch. Since her boyfriend is in the tuna business and does a lot of that business at Tsukiji, we trusted that she knew her sushi shops. Sushizanmai was a whole lot of fun and it served terrific sushi to boot. Plus, the prices were great. S and I (as expected) totally over-indulged by ordering mass quantities of o-toro (fatty tuna) and aburi-toro (seared fatty tuna). I think we freaked out the chef assigned to us. Mid-way through our first order, he yelled, “Stop!” and made us eat what we had already ordered before letting us order more stuff.
10-8, Tsukiji 4-Chome, Chuo-ku
Tel: 03-5148-3737
www.kiyomura.co.jp

Gourmet experiences

L’Atelier de Robuchon
S and I are huge fans of Robuchon’s L’Atelier restaurants. We plan on dining at the ones in New York and Paris as well in the upcoming weeks. The Tokyo branch is similar in decor to the others and offers a similar menu. The food was excellent and the staff very nice. We recommend going here for lunch; there are a number of well-priced menus available then.
Roppongi Hills Hillside 2F 6-10-1 Roppongi Minato-ku
Tel: 03-5772-7500

Le Bombance
La Bombance is a cute little place in Nishi-azabu. It has a counter that seats 8 and one small table that can take 4 patrons. There is only one menu, priced at Y10,000, which given the kind and quality of the food is a great deal. Our 9 course dinner was excellent. S’ favourite dish was a plated trio consisting of an Okinawan corn mousse, grilled sushi with a firefly squid from Toyama, and a morsel of red-bean rice with sauteed beef from Echigo. I was really taken with the very first course, a warm soup of Asari clams, duxelles, sauteed shirako, wild sea-bream and Asatsuki scallions. The friends who recommended this place to us (and who kindly made our reservations) have advised that La Bombance is a real local favourite and booking is essential.
106-0031 2-25-24-B1 Nishiazabu Minato-ku
Tel: 03-5778-6511
www.bonbance.com

Lauburu
Ever since I first heard about Lauburu, I’ve been dying to try it. This cute, quaint little French place off Kotto-dori specializes in pork. Working out the menu was an amusing challenge in itself since it was handwritten in Japanese and French and none of the staff seemed to speak any English. The pate was pleasingly rustic and authentic. We loved the grilled pork cutlet and cassoulet. This is a really charming place with yummy, hearty food… perfect for pork-lovers in search of an off-the-beaten track experience.
6-8-18 Minami Aoyama Minato-ku
Tel: 03-3498-1314

Restaurant Yonemura
I was utterly blown away by Restaurant Yonemura, a two and a half year-old branch of one of Kyoto’s most respected cult restaurants. The food here is stunning. It is modern, exciting, surprising and delicious. The chef we spoke with called it “new Japanese” (actually, because he only spoke Japanese and French, he said, “Nouvelle Japonaise”). It is a blend of Japanese and European styles and ingredients, served in small bites. At dinner, only a 10 course (Y14,000) tasting menu is available. There is a counter with 12 seats and another room with a few small tables. S and I chose to sit at the counter, which allowed us to see most of our meal cooked right in front of us. Easily the best course of the meal was a small bowl with some fish that had been breaded with panko and deep-fried. Nestled under the fish was a morsel of foie gras that had also been breaded and fried. This was all sauced with a veal jus reduction. The foie gras was amazing! Other outstanding dishes were a lobster and young bamboo shoot gratin; sauteed white asparagus served with jamon iberico and dehydrated chervil; and angel hair pasta served with fresh sea urchin, baby squids, rape leaves, and tomato salsa. This was easily the best meal we had in Tokyo and a place we mean to revisit sometime soon.
Kojun Building F4
Chou-ku, Ginza
Tel: 03-5537-6699
www.restaurant-yonemura.com/

Cool shops

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Aritsugu
This small knife shop in the Tsukiji market area was recommended to me by both a pastry chef and my friend in the tuna business. The knives are handmade and are of a high quality. He sells both blades made with either carbon steel or alloy steel (which doesn’t rust). He also makes a variety of specialty knives, such as ones for chopping chicken bones or specific knives for making different incisions in certain fish.
4-13-6 Tsukiji Chuo-ku
Tel: 03-3541-6890
www.aritsugu.jp

Higashiya
Edible art. This wagashi boutique blends modernity and tradition effortlessly. S bought some gorgeous black sesame wafers which were designed to be filled just before you eat them (the sesame filling was packaged in individual sachets). They tasted great, looked amazing and were packaged with a style and precision that can only be described as uniquely Japanese. In addition to the great snacks, Higashiya also produces some beautiful ceramics. S went nuts buying gifts for friends (and herself) and we also found the perfect wedding gift for friends getting married this week in California.
1-13-12 Aodadai, Meguro-Ku
Tel: 03-5428-1717
www.higashiya.com/top.html

Nagae
Founded in 1908, this Seto porcelain producer is renowned for its traditional techniques. We fell in love with the tea-set they made especially for the Ritz-Carlton. Their porcelain is so fine that it is translucent. The matt finish of some of their pieces gives the otherwise traditional pieces a contemporary edge.
D-0319 9-7-4 Akasaka Minato-ku
Tokyo Japan 107-0052
Tokyo Midtown Galleria 3F
Tel: +81 (0)3-5413-3343
www.nagae-seto.jp

Toraya
Japanese desserts are beautiful. They can also be delicious and the ones from Toraya are among the best in the country. Ask the staff for recommendations or look at the English translations in their catalog and choose whatever most appeals to your tastes.
Many locations: www.toraya-group.co.jp/english/

Room with a view

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Ritz-Carlton Midtown
This stunning new hotel sits on the top 9 floors of the new Midtown Tower, Tokyo’s tallest building. That means that the rooms and suites on the 53rd floor have the very best views in the city. Of course, as in all Ritz-Carltons, the service is impeccable and the clientele tres chic. Check in for a few days or follow the Japanese and check in just for one night in order to experience the hotel. I was thrilled to see that one of the concierges that had made my recent visit to Osaka so wonderful had been transferred to the Tokyo hotel. Situated smack in the middle of the Midtown development, the hotel is also fantastically located. Midtown is amazing, not only because 40% of the land has been allocated to public parks, but because of the great mix of art, food, design and shopping situated within the project. www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/Tokyo/Default.htm

Cool art space

21_21 Design Sight
Built by Tadao Ando and managed by Issey Miyake, this concrete, glass and steel contemporary art space is really cool. I wish we had spaces like this in Singapore. By chance, we visited on the day that 21_21 launched an exhibition on chocolate, which was both visually and intellectually stimulating.
9-7-6 Akasaka, Minato-ku
Tel: 03-3475-2121
www.2121designsight.jp

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. Cenk May 1, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    Those eclairs look amazing. I am planning to visit his shop in Paris next month and can not wait to taste every single item sold.

  2. Swee San May 1, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    Oh my!! I think if I go to Tokyo, I’d have to bring another extra empty stomach. (or a super-high metabolism). I just love the pastries in Japan!! truly not for the faint hearted. Hehe

  3. hxy May 2, 2007 at 12:21 am

    the katsu place looks like this one here:
    http://tokyo.gourmet.livedoor.com/restaurant/info/4338.html
    (typo on the phone number?)

  4. Samantha May 2, 2007 at 12:32 am

    Those Eclairs are gorgeous! For a second, could not figure out what it is till I read on =). Eating, walking, and more food is the great thing about Japan. Reading your travelogue on Tokyo makes me want to get a ticket this instance and visit again =).

    Wow, CH & S, both of you are at different countries every now and then, must be exhausting huh? Good thing there are good food to comfort =). Take care and looking forward to your next exciting read about Los Angeles.

  5. Esther May 2, 2007 at 10:52 am

    Your photos are amazing! And they remind me of the wonderful (tho tiring) time I had in Tokyo recently.

    Coincidentally, I stayed at the Ritz-Carlton as well and that view – oh my goodness! :) But what tops everything is their truly impeccable service.

    I also ate at Sushizenmai at Tsukiji, but a friend was telling me that Sushi Daiwa is very very good as well altho there’s a long queue most times cos the restaurant was mentioned in th Tokyo Lonely Planet guide.

    Looking forward to your posts from other parts of the world!

  6. Emy May 2, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    Oh my goodness! I really ought to start saving up for a foodie trip to Japan!

  7. Inne May 2, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner… But what about elevenses?

    Sadaharu Aoki in Paris is wonderful, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Now if only Hidemi Sugino had a shop in Europe as well…

  8. Lynn May 2, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    Holy Cow that’s a LOT of place to visit in only four days!! I’m glad you made it to both Lauburu and Idemi =o) Heard so much about Yoshi Yoroizuka. It’s on my must-go list on my next visit to Tokyo.

  9. offspring May 2, 2007 at 10:31 pm

    wow wow wee wow. you make me wanna go back to japan

  10. Deborah Dowd May 3, 2007 at 8:29 am

    This sounds like quite a whirlwind, thanks for taking us all along! I would not have associated Tokyo with pastries and desserts (obviously nota world traveller) until seeing your post, but you have opened my eyes to the variety of food that can be enjoyed there.

  11. Hayashi May 3, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    I’m pleased to know that I’ve visited some of the places you mentioned…! Even after one year in Japan, I feel that every meal I’ve eaten is heavenly. Japanese food is truly edible art.

  12. TIna G May 3, 2007 at 7:05 pm

    If you can scan the “katsu” card to me, I can translate it for you!

    I love your site!

    Tina

  13. Chubby Hubby May 3, 2007 at 11:24 pm

    Cenk: The eclairs are indeed amazing! Have fun.

    Swee San: I feel like I’ve gained an extra tummy. I think I’ll be returning to Singapore seriously heavier.

    hxy: I think that’s it! Thanks!

    Samantha: We really love Japan and already can’t wait for our next trip back. LA has been fun so far but no real gastronomic revelations as yet. The hotel we are in right now, though, (the Ritz-Carlton Laguna-Niguel) is stunning!

    Esther: We decided against Daiwa because I hear that every Chowhound and eGullet reader makes a beeline for it — which makes the lines ridiculously long.

    Emy: Oh, you must! If I had to choose just one place to go eat in and splurge a year’s worth of savings, it would be Japan.

    lnne: Oh my, forgot Elevenses! I knew we hadn’t eaten enough! ;-)

    Lynn: Hola… thanks for the Lauburu suggestion. Was awesome. Hope all is well back at home.

    Offspring: Sorry ;-)

    Deborah: Actually, during a conversation S and I had with Valrhona chocolate’s regional pastry chef, he contended that the level of French pastry is actually higher in Japan than in France at the moment. After what I’ve seen, I tend to believe him.

    Hayashi: I totally agree! Looks beautiful and tastes amazing.

    Tina G: Thanks so much. I don’t have a scanner with me, but I will take a photo of the card later and email it to you. Please send me your email address. Thanks again!

  14. Timothy May 4, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    Dude, your shots are incredible ! I get a lot of inspiration from your work. Thanks to Rasa Malaysia for showing me your link.

  15. Annie May 4, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    Your pics are great! im going to Japan in June and want to go to the places that you went to but since we dont know the language we will probably get lost trying to find the places!!

    The eclairs look delicious!

  16. Ming the Merciless May 4, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    WOW, what a spectacular post. I love sushi and all things Japan. Your post is a keeper.

    Thanks.

  17. Christophe Widmer May 4, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    Well done Aun! Great poste of Tokyo and I am glad you both have enjoyed ESSENZA the same way as I did many times over!! Have a great trip and see welcome you both in Dubai!

  18. Claire May 5, 2007 at 4:02 am

    I was in japan for several weeks this past summer, and I managed to stay in food heaven the entire time. Sounds like it was a compressed experience, but man did you make the circuit! Tsukiji is a place unlike any other – thank you for the wonderful pictures. They brought me right back.

  19. Ken May 6, 2007 at 11:32 am

    Hello Aun, the name of the katsu restaurant is pronounced Katsu Hei and it is located in Tsukiji 7-11-7. Hope that helps!

    Great post.

  20. sooishi May 8, 2007 at 11:54 pm

    i really love your selection, Higashiya was one of my best food experience in Tokyo, so perfect for the eyes and the “palais” !

  21. The Guvnor May 9, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    I remember sushizanmai!!!! too many post-all nighter-clubbing mornings spent there where in our ineberiated states we thought it would be a great idea to go to tsukiji to gape at the huge tuna being carted round the market and have raw fish for brekkie and ask the sushi chef silly and irritating questions with our pidgin japanese. love the brunches at the park hyatt and ropponggi hyatt too – ropponggi hyatt do this amazing french toast. man. i really miss eating my heart out in tokyo!

  22. cecilia May 17, 2007 at 5:47 am

    Sushizanmai is really very good. i went there last june and stuffed my face with at least ten different diffent types of sushi (est ¥150 to ¥300 per piece) and their hairy crab soup (only ¥550) and i spent

  23. cecilia May 19, 2007 at 1:36 am

    (contd)less than ¥2000 for the whole lot. it’s great value for good quality sushi.

  24. Jean June 11, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    Just wanted to thank you for your recommendation of Restaurant Yonemura in Ginza. My husband and I went there for lunch on Saturday, and the food was indeed excellent! 10 courses, and my favourite dish was definitely foie gras & fried ayu (a river fish) risotto – the foie gras was amazing!

  25. Chubby Hubby June 11, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    Jean, I am so glad you tried it and liked it. I can’t wait to go back to Yonemura.

  26. japonais June 15, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    Hi! I just returned from Tokyo and I wanted to thank you for your reccomendation of Sadaharu Aoki’s cakes. I went to Tokyo Midtown and shared 5 fantastic cakes with my mother, and I brought back $100 worth of macaroons and cakes to Singapore. :)

  27. japonais June 15, 2007 at 3:24 pm

    oh my goodness, I just realised I went to Ippudo in Ginza as well. It was definitely one of the best ramen I’ve eaten in Japan and Singapore.

  28. Lester June 18, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    Hey Aun. Came upon this news article from the sunday LIFE and i was pretty amazed with your strong craving for food. Which is why it has brought me here today to seek your recommendation. My friend had actually get me to check on some well-know buffets in town. That really pose a challenge for me as i’m not that of a great food “hunter”. I was hoping you could recommend me a few if you happen know about such places. Our budget is ranged between 30 to 20. Thanks and have a great day. =)

  29. Sal August 12, 2007 at 4:51 am

    Thanks for all the great info on Tokyo. Will be going soon and would like to stop at some of these places. Great blog.

  30. marc August 24, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    TAPAS MOLECULAR BAR in Mandarin Oriental… best dining experience…

  31. Daniel October 13, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Hi CH,

    Love your blog and this post really helped! I will be visiting the Land of the Rising Sun in December and am seeking your help!

    Being a student and on a relatively tight budget, I was wondering if there are any more ‘simple food’ places you would recommend? Great food at affordable prices would be perfect.

    Thanks in advance!!

  32. ambien August 20, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    i love ippudo…and your food shots!

  33. cheap tokyo hostel March 3, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    Toshi Yoroizuka spent several years in Europe training in various pastry houses in Germany, France and Belgium before returning to Japan and opening his first boutique and cafe in 2004. The Roppongi store features a kitchen where pastry chefs assemble seasonal desserts to order. Be prepared to wait in line or make reservations.

  34. Sophia Fukunishi (@fashimi) August 30, 2011 at 10:01 am

    You now have a new fan!

    Thanks so much for this wonderful blog post! I live in Tokyo and it’s always great to read about other people’s food experiences here.

  35. cell phone repair parts September 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Stealing the show and the stars in the Michelin awards last year, Tokyo is certainly a destination for food lovers of all tastes. Tokyo restaurants include virtually any kind of cuisine you fancy while for those wanting to stay more local in their choices, Tokyo food has much to offer.

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