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Quick report - only had a few nights in Tokyo on the way to another country. Much thanks to this board and tabelog for all the food and travel wisdom! On to the meals:
Sushi Sho Masa すし匠 まさ
- 4-1-15 Nishiazabu Minato Tokyo
This was a wonderful overall meal and quite reasonably priced for what you get. I was served 50 courses - give or take a couple, depending on how you count certain items. My bill, including one sake, was about ¥30,000.
At around course 45, the chefs could see me and the folks sitting next to me struggling, so they asked how much more we wanted. One of the people said she was done, but another one and I asked for a few more. Another couple there had more than I did, probably a few more pieces.
I appreciate how they serve not just a huge variety of seafood, but also a variety of cuts and preparations from particular types of fish. Some of my favorites included katsuo as nigiri, its outer part lightly seared, and then its belly as nigiri.
It was also a treat to try some fish with very short seasons. In particular, the nodoguro / black throat sea perch and masu nosuke / king salmon were awesome. I'm usually not a fan of shirako, but their lightly grilled version was actually quite good too.
I understand why the Sho style might not appeal to everyone, though. The order of the dishes served can feel random at times - in fact, at one point, the couple next to me were served a trio of buri pieces while I got something else. And then a couple pieces later, I got caught up with the buri trio.
The sheer quantity - especially of richer, fattier items - can also be overwhelming. Some of those were my favorite courses of the entire meal, but I wouldn't have minded subbing a couple out for leaner cuts to balance out the overall meal.
Oka-san, the chef/owner, and his assistants were all very friendly, and their English was very good. I felt totally welcome as an American. During my meal, out of the 7 seats, 5 were actually Americans and 2 were Japanese. Later, 2 more Japanese customers came in. It sounds like they have a lot of foreign customers in general.
Final note - I made my reservation about 3 months in advance through Visa Signature Concierge. Visa's team was responsive and given the time difference, very quick. They asked me for a credit card authorization form and then secured the reservation at the exact day/time I requested within 2 days. Highly recommend anyone w/ a Visa Signature card to use them.
Kaitenzushi Nemuro Hanamaru 回転寿司 根室花まる
- Ginza location
I went to the Ginza location of this small conveyor belt sushi chain from Hokkaido, and I had a great meal. I was impressed with the quality of all the seafood, and even though it's a little more expensive than most conveyor belt places, it's definitely a cut above. I actually enjoyed it more than my meal at Daiwa at Tsukiji (more on that below).
Nemuro Hanamaru offers a big variety of seafood along with numerous seasonal specials, so it's easy to try a lot of different things. They're quite foreigner friendly (at least in English, Chinese & Korean), with a thorough menu in all those languages. I arrived soon after opening, and there was no wait. By the time I left, there was a line of about 20 people.
Sugoi Niboshi Ramen Nagi すごい煮干ラーメン凪
- Golden Gai location
Sadly, Fu'unji was closed the day I tried to go (didn't realize it was a holiday), so I sought out another ramen place with heavy fish flavors. Saw this place highly ranked on tabelog and figured this should be good. And wow it was a smack in the face with intense sardine flavors, which I love. I got the special tsukemen, which comes with extra pork (just fyi not fully cooked, so it's quite pink), egg, and nori.
Along with thinner noodles, they also include wide flat noodles, which are very interesting with these flavors. Like pappardelle w/ ramen broth. Great bowl of noodles.
Menya Kaijin 麺屋海神
I ended up here actually because it was getting very late in the afternoon, and another place I intended to go to was already closed for lunch. This place stays open continuously into dinner, and there was about a 20 minute wait.
I ordered their standard ramen with yaki onigiri. A nice, lighter ramen whose soup is made with fish bones of whatever fish they happen to get that day. So the flavor changes from day to day. The onigiri is stuffed with pickled mackerel, and they encourage you to break it up in the fish broth after you've eaten the noodles. Reminded me of ochazuke a bit. Glad I tried this place.
Daiwa Sushi 大和寿司
- Tsukiji Fish Market
I waited in line for about an hour to get in. For comparison, the line at Dai looked twice as long and kept growing. Since Daiwa is in the middle of that alley, as opposed to the corner, they're probably only allowed to keep the line a certain length as they had to turn away several people while I waited.
The omakase meal was good but perhaps as a result of the line limitation, served so fast (in 10-12 minutes, everything had already come), I just felt like I was being herded in and out. Compared to the meal I had at Okame at Tsukiji before, this was more expensive (~¥3800 vs. 3500) and rushed without necessarily being better. Compared to Nemuro Hanamaru, the quality was no better, and for certain pieces, not even as good.
To be fair, the omakase is quite limited, so I didn't try all that much - 7 pieces of nigiri + tuna roll + soup. The soup was delicious, and I'm still glad I got to visit Tsukiji one more time before they move.
- Ginza location
This was a decent overall meal. More expensive than most yakitori I've had, but it's a nice space with an interesting wine list, and they're very accommodating to foreigners. It was easy to get a reservation in English, too.
They have various course options, but I ordered a la carte. My favorites were the tsukune with sauce/egg yolk, seseri / chicken neck, and curry rice. Given the quality of ingredients here, I was expecting more from the oyako-don, but the egg was cooked so that the yolk was about medium rather than runny. I saw another party get the dish like that, so I guess that's just how they do it. With the egg cooked so much, the dish lacked the gooey savoriness I was hoping for.
- Ginza Mitsukoshi B2F, in the Dessert Thé station
I had to wait a while for their famous millefeuille, but it was worth it! Large, luscious layers of vanilla cream balanced out by layers of pastry that were crisp but not hard. It was big enough for me to eat over 2 sittings.
Bake Cheese Tart
- Shinjuku Lumine Est location
Delicious small cheese tarts, double-baked in thick, dense pastry shells. Loved the buttery, crumbly shell. The cream cheese part is still gooey when you get it fresh, which was my favorite way of eating them. However, the cream cheese comes out more when it's refrigerated and firmer.
Pablo Cheese Tart
- Harajuku location
They were out of the mini tarts, so I couldn't do an apples-to-apples comparison with Bake Cheese Tart. I tried their standard size, which is humongous. Their pastry layer is also thinner and more flaky than Bake's. Overall delicious, but there wasn't enough pastry to balance out all the cream cheese filling for me. You can order Pablo's tart either melty or firm.
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