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Japan Japanese Tokyo Trip Report

Japan trip in (late) Sep & (early) Oct 2015

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Japan trip in (late) Sep & (early) Oct 2015

Bu Pun Su | Oct 21, 2015 09:24 AM

At the end of September this year, my wife and I visited Japan again; staying there for 10 days or so. Both of us love many aspects about the country: its hospitality, safety, comfort and of course the food. I will kick off the trip report with our dinner at Yukimura. Similar to what I did a couple years ago, it will be quite slow and may take 1-2 months for the whole reviews – so bear with me and be patient ;)

Azabu is quite an elegant area with plenty of foreign embassies in south of Roppongi. I heard many politicians are the regulars at Yukimura. The restaurant was not easy to find. However, thanks to technology (in particular google map), Azabu Yukimura apparently is popular enough that the google map had no issue to accurately point the exact location – so we thankfully didn’t waste a lot of times to get to the restaurant. During reservation process, I was told that the main dining room was full. Thus, we would be seated at the annex (at 5F of the same building if I recalled correctly) – it’s a small counter that could accommodate 6 diners and all the seats were taken too.

The shingetsu was handled most of the time by a sous chef (who previously worked with Yukimura-san at Muromachi Wakuden) and 2 other junior staffs. Chef Yukimura visited our dining room, introduced himself and spent about 20 minutes preparing the soup and his signature dish, Hamo yaki with Matsutake. The counter is at the same level as the preparation area and we caught a short moment when the master showed his expertise in using the (Aritsugu) knife. Although Yukimura-san did not directly supervise our food, we found that the kitchen usually delivered dishes that were consistently delicious and well executed. Our (kappo) kaiseki meal contained about 10 dishes and here what we had:

-We started the meal with the famous, refreshing and flavorful appetizer: lightly steamed uni with ise ebi broth and flying fish roe
-Followed by (chilled) soba with finely grated karasumi. We had no problem finishing this ‘simple’ and tasty dish
-The hassun part was alright (and without any pretty presentation). I quite enjoyed the sweet corn tempura and cured saba (te)maki. The hamo kimo was very rich and the junsai was ok
-Next dish was the soup prepared by Yukimura-san himself. The ingredients were appealing such as mushrooms, yuba, winter melon etc. However, the end result was not as delicious as I initially hoped for – a bit too bland for my taste

-A "roll" of grill matsutake mushroom wrapped in pike eel was delicious and served in generous portion. Both the hamo and matsutake were of high quality and precisely executed. I loved its smoky smell and flavor; the right amount of sudachi provided slight acidity. One of my favorite dishes here
-Cold kabocha somen acted as palate cleanser before the next dish
-Ayu shioyaki. The beautiful and delicious sweetfish (hardly any sign of bitter taste) was well complemented by the sweet and tongue-tingling sansho ‘sauce’. Another excellent dish
-The seasonal vegetable happened to be poached Kyoto eggplant with sweet white miso and balanced by green bell peppers

-That night, the kitchen provided 2 rice dishes: gingko gohan and matsutake gohan. Both were very good and served with miso soup and tsukemono. The chefs made onigiri out of the left over rice wrapped in big leaves for our breakfast the next day
-Dessert is hardly a strong forte in any Japanese restaurant. I’m usually happy with top quality Japanese fruit. This time we ate figs (also from Kyoto) with bitter caramel ice cream – not bad

Since our Japanese was limited, there’s not much interesting communication going on. But, we appreciated the effort of the sous chef. He tried his best to explain each dish and guided us how to eat the food when necessary. For instance, the hamo+matsutake were huge. I thought we had to eat whole (the other diners tried to do the same at first); the sous chef explained that we should cut and ‘opened’ it with our chopstick; eat half and only after that added the green lime for different experience.

The cuisine at Yukimura is a blend of traditional kaiseki with some contemporary twist. Yukimura-san was talented and passionate at what he’s doing. He meant business when working. He looked very serious and the staffs seemed to be ‘afraid’ of him when he visited the annex. It was a big contrast at the end of the meal when Chef Yukimura met us. He was very relaxed, full of smile and tried to communicate with us using our (broken) English and Japanese. Overall, it was a very pleasant meal. I would give it 95 pts (2 ¾*) for the food, about the same level as my meal at Ishikawa. We just reached Tokyo at noon that day and were quite lucky that the restaurant didn’t mind our reservation. I was told that some places would refuse foreigners’ booking when they just arrive at the ciry in the same day of the lunch/dinner despite the CC guarantee.

For the pictures, please open this link: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

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