Success! Following five success days of post-feasting pre-day sloth, I actually managed an entire half a work yesterday morning! After showering up, I peeked outside and noted it was overcast, gambled, left the sunglasses behind and donned my coat. Later that day, as I was walking through Omotesando, one of my coat buttons came off in my hand. Now I have to track down a needle and black thread – AND find someone to run me off some business cards as I am now dangerously low. It seems that everyone you meet in this city expects you to exchange business cards with them. I figured I could play it safe by bringing along thirty and, with my trip almost at the halfway mark, I’m down to two.
Oh, to those asking the prices of the meals I’ve been enjoying – keep in mind, these are all Michelin starred restaurants, the very best that the city has to offer. They’re also, but for a few cases, fine dining establishments. In order to afford the meals, I booked my flight on points, got a deal on my hotel room, and am actually using the subway whenever humanly possible (ie. if it’s not too late and I’m exhausted). So, how much are these meals? Well, they range from the reasonable to the outrageous. Let’s put it this way. Many lunches are a steal at a little over $80/person.
Speaking of lunch – yesterday, I enjoyed a group outing with return diners Satch and Uccalele. We were also joined by Gregor Andreewitch, General Manager of the Conrad Hotel in Tokyo. We gathered at the Conrad’s 28th floor restaurant level to enjoy a meal at the famed Gordon Ramsay’s cool Tokyo eatery named, appropriately enough, Gordon Ramsay.
A spacious room offers a breathtaking (in my case, harrowing) view of the Tokyo skyline.
To start: Tian of crab, sweet corn and tomato with avocado puree and spicy vinaigrette. A fresh and refreshing start to our meal. Loved the tiny whipped avocado dollops lining the side of the dish.
Gregor was full of stories about his travels and time in my hometown of Montreal.
Sauteed foie gras with spiced prune, glazed chestnut and chestnut puree with espresso syrup and almond foam. My second experience with the foie gras-chestnut cream combo and it's been nothing short of revelatory.
Pan-fried sea bream with fondue of Welsh onion, cepe puree and claret sauce. Also known as tai, the fish is very subtle, some could argue neutral, in flavor, so much of the success of the dish depends on its texture (crispy topped yet tender) and its accompaniments. A flawless execution on both counts here.
Braised lamb shoulder with crispy bacon and herb gremolata, grilled potatoes, braisd lentils, and braised jus. Nicely marbled and topped with crispy bacon. What more could you ask for?
Pre-dessert: Liquid mango and jelly shot. Can I just say that I love the idea of a PRE-dessert.
One of the most delicate and elegant (not to mention tasty) desserts I've had the pleasure to enjoy - Earl Grey tea parfait ice cream of liquorice and milk chocolate with hibiscus granite.
After lunch, we were joined by Gordon Ramsay's formidable Chef de Cuisine, Shinya Maeda.
And then, to end the meal, some terrific little mignardises.
As we were preparing to leave, we were each presented with a framed photo of our table (subarashii 0-miyage, as the Japanese would say). I was also gifted this incredible - not to mention enormous - hardcover Gordon Ramsay recipe book that I will gladly lug back to Canada where it will find its place among my other half-dozen Gordon Ramsay books.
From the dizzying heights of Gordon Ramsay to the street level chaos of Omotesando, I was crosstown in a little under thirty minutes to meet my friend Akemi.
We strolled past the university located across from Pierre Herme (only after stopping in for some macarons and hot chocolate of course)…
Akemi strikes the traditional Japanese photo pose. As opposed to m traditional pose which involves me either squiting at camera or looking slightly inebriated.
Hey, it's Christmas in Omotesado! They turned on the lights lining the street and there were about a dozen camera crews on hand to cover the occasion.
I gave them an interview on consumer spending habits and the economy. When asked if I was planning on making any big ticket purchases in the near future, I informed them I hadn't planned on it...but it would seem I should be in the market for a new coat as my old one is falling apart.
I eventually headed back to the hotel where I updated my blog, recharged, and headed out for dinner at Ishikawa. No, really. I realized yesterday morning that the restaurant I had assumed was Ishikawa the other day was, in fact, Kadowaki. I read the wrong restaurant date and, on the night, there was nothing in the way of a Kadowaki sign to tell me otherwise. My bad.
Ishikawa is one of the city’s (actually, the world’s) top-rated restaurants, a three-star Michelin pick located in quaint Kagurazaka.
Quaint Kagurazaka. I was early, so I took a stroll.
And found the famous tea shop my friend Keiko was telling me about. There, I purchased about 400 grams of their top matcha (green tea).
We dined in a small, sealed-off private room where we were served by charming kimino-clad servers.
We started off with an appetizer of blowfish skin, fresh sea cucumber, monkfish liver, white radish and carrot. Now blowfish is one of those things that, despite my adventurous ways, I elected to never eat simply because of the horrific manner in which its neurotoxin affects its victims. I was a little leery, but decided to take the plunge. Still, I remained paranoid for those first few moments, imagining I was having trouble breathing or experiencing dizziness. I warned Satch I might keel over and leave her stuck with the bill to which she replied: "No, problem. I think I know how to find your wallet."
Sliced duck, gingko nuts and gingseng with home-blended salt. A wonderful dish and my very first duck tempura-style.
This was followed by a delicate and delicious soup of scallops, leeks, shiitake mushroom, mizuna green, and deep-fried tofu, then an equally delicate sashimi of flat fish – another subtly flavored fish but one possessed of a nice, meatier texture.
Snow crab with broth jelly. Yes, topped with crab guts. One of my favorites of the night.
Charcoal grilled kinki fish served with a plump shiitake mushroom.
Wow! Coe roe, oyster, spinach and turnip from Kyoto with melted tofu skin sauce. I repeat. Wow!
By this point, I was stuffed and couldn't eat another bite - but I made an exception for exceptional: Steamed rice with dried mullet roe served with egg yolk and dried seaweed. It was accompanied by miso soup and homemade pickles.
Easily the greatest Japanese dessert I've ever had: Persimmon, rum jelly, and brown sugar jelly with cream cheese soup.
I'm a very happy man.
One of our servers - and Ishikawa's Service Manager - the absolutely beautiful Chihiro Sugizaki.
And the owner and master chef himself, Hideki Ishikawa. What a delightful, self-effacing, incredibly genial guy. He came by the room several times to check up on us and chat about our travels, our interest in food, and how I happened to decide on visiting his restaurant. He seemed genuinely touched and humbled by the accolades being heaped upon him by the gourmet community.
After our meal, both Chef Ishikawa and Manager Sugizaki walked us out to our waiting taxi., putting the capper on a lovely evening. I felt as though I was saying goodbye to the comforts of a home away from home and extended family. I’m definitely coming back next year.
Finally, to Das who was asking about tipping. It’s not expected but those who’ll tell you it’s frowned upon or insulting are attempting to asuage their own guilty conscience. I make it a point to tip and, from my experience, the Japanese like it just fine.