Friday, June 24, 2005

Sushi Kanesaka, Ginza, Tokyo

What can be said of a serious food find? Words fail at every turn. I hope that some of these pictures serve to convey the pure joy we experienced when we encountered Mr. Kanesaka's secret mission to raise the game on sushi-land. When he opened his namesake sushi hole-in-the-wall five years ago, he was by far the youngest sushi chef to have reached this level of achievement, especially given that his shop is located in the prestigious and highly competitive Ginza district. Today, at a youthful 33 years, he remains the youngest among his peers.

Good sushi restaurants are intimate by nature, and Kanesaka is more intimate than most. We sat in easy striking distance of the chef's beautiful sushi knife, making it a really cozy situation. The staff was young, friendly, and although respectful there was not the sometime stuffiness that often pervades really good sushi establishments. Over and above the standard service was the chef's attitude. Kanesaka-san was very interactive throughout the meal, often inquiring into his 'performance' by seeking feedback on individual sushi served. This level of open-mindedness in sushi chefs is hard to find.

Here's a great part of this review. Legend has it that when Kanesaka-san started out, being the youngest chef on the block, he felt he had to stay true to his beliefs that sushi cannot be about quality compromises. He had to have the best. So he started outbidding all other buyers, daily, at the Tsukiji market, and ended up building a solid reputation for having the finest produce in the industry.

The omakase was well composed, without the usual overweight of sashimi. The torigai was the freshest we've ever tasted, and two types of uni were used separately for sashimi and sushi. I've never seen a chef prepare uni sushi by peeling entire pieces of uni to lay on top of rice! This was good quality ingredients.

Very reasonable for top quality sushi; omakase without wine brings you to roughly JPY20k+ per person.

Overall Rating:
3 burps out of 3. So good that we went back the immediate next day. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Agehan, Hong Kong

The best dark sauce tempura yet in Hong Kong.

SERVICE: Standard service with a Japanese flair. The Japanese maitre'd speaks mainly only Japanese, so you get an authentic "live-in-Tokyo" experience. You might get ignored a little, but not in a rude way. The decor is new and nice, subtle in a Japanese way. Lunch traffic is packed though weekends are much better for a relaxing meal with children. It's amazing how well behaved most the of kids are, who eat there.

FOOD: The one thing we go for here is the Deluxe Tempura. Served on a huge rice bowl, this meal comes with appetizer, soup and some cooked tidbits. The Tempura is huge and plentiful. The prawns are larger than most other tempura restaurants I've seen. The food is robust rather than delicate...almost like the Italian version of Japanese food. The dark sauce is rich and aromatic and is drizzled over the tempura and rice together. Aside from the requisite prawns, the tempura also includes kani (crab legs), several white fish, eel, a selection of different premium mushrooms, and a variety of vegetables. One other thing to note is that the store serves very good quality Japanese style coffee.

PRICE: around HK$250 per head.

OVERALL: 2 burps (out of 3). Great meal once every month. Not so much a business lunch as it may put you to sleep.

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Friday, August 13, 2004

Rakutei Tempura, Akasaka, Japan

rakutei, akasaka
Originally uploaded by joncheng.

This is the perennial favorite in Tokyo. The best tempura yet, and I've been looking for years.

Service: The room seats an even dozen customers who enjoy a quiet meal of enjoyment and reflection. The location is typical hole-in-the-wall-hush-hush-Japanese style in the Akasaka area. The chef owner speaks a decent level of English which he uses, sparingly, to make sure the meal proceeds smoothly. Otherwise the decor is minimalist and I would say in its mid-teens. Very clean and well kept.

Food: This is where it gets outstanding. There are two tempura fixed price menus and one sashimi fixed price dish. The seafood is absolutely fresh. Grey prawns are shelled and cleaned just prior to dipping in the batter and directly jumping into the freshly prepared oil. The batter is mixed uniquely and just in time for every can expect a different tempura coating for each course that varies in how well done it is, how crispy it is, and how thick it is. The seasoning is either an excellent dipping sauce with all you can eat mashed daikon, or a delicate seasalt and lemon juice sauce.

Price: Either Yen12000 or Yen10000 for the tempura meals.

Overall: 3 burps (out of 3). I would want to go there on every Tokyo visit!

Sukiyabashi Jiro (Roppongi Hills)

sukiyabashi jiro
Originally uploaded by joncheng.

With the Ginza sister rated by Zagat's as the top restaurant in Tokyo for food (a 26 pointer for food), we had high expectations of the sushi dinner. Jiro has two branches: the old one in Ginza, and the newer one (1 year old) at the Residence B complex of Roppongi Hills. We tried the latter.

We were greeted by a silent, austere environment (par for the course for high end sushi restaurants). With a closing time of 2100hr, we opted to start dinner early. The service was impeccable. Silent anticipation of every need. With sushi meals, an important aspect of service is the preparation and presentation. In this respect Jiro was par for the course, though not as spectacular as Kyubei Ginza in terms of presentation. The fish was brought in from the kitchen to the chef on a course-by-course basis.

Very good quality fish. In particular the white fish (hirame, sardine, saba) were very fresh. Special mention for the outstanding kurumaebi (giant shrimp) which came freshly boiled. The rice was a touch on the over-vinegared side for my tastes.

Prix Fixe menu at Yen20,000 per head plus plus. We started with some extra sashimi which brought the bill to just around Yen30,000 per head, inclusive of cold sake.

Overall rating: 2 burps (out of 3). Worth a visit, but I don't imagine going back again soon.