I’ve just returned from a 5-day trip to Tokyo, where I visited 7 restaurants with a total of 10 Michelin stars, as well as a number of cafés and shops. I’ll start posting more detailed reviews soon, but in the meantime, here’s a quick look at all of them. (Addresses can be found at the end.)
1. First stop, Streamer Coffee Company.
2. The owner Hiroshi Sawada won the 2008 Free Pour Latte Art Championship in Seattle, and Streamer’s latte art was indeed very pretty. However the latte itself was quite weak… Better order double shot next time.
3. After passing through a tranquil residential neighborhood…
4. I arrived at a busy shopping district in Shibuya.
5. There’s a cute little specialty caramel shop here called Number Caramel.
6. Each of their 8 caramel flavors are numbered – hence the name of the store. My favorites were No.2 Salt and No.6 Orange Peel.
7. Bag of caramels in hand, I rounded the corner to find this cheerful little kakigori (shaved ice) stand. But seeing as I was on my way to sushi…
8. My first meal in Tokyo was Sushi Tokami (鮨とかみ). This one-Michelin-star sushiya in Ginza is ranked among the top 10 sushiyas in Tokyo on Tabelog, with a rating of 4.36. Sushi Tokami is famous for their tuna hand roll. (My mouth’s watering just thinking about it.) Stay tuned for my review!
9. Starting day 2 with a cup of coffee at Toranomon Koffee, formerly the famous Omotesando Koffee. The founder Mr. Kunimoto moved his café from Omote-sando to Toranomon Hills in 2014, and opened another branch in Hong Kong late last year.
10. The specialty at Toranomon Koffee is their iced cappuccino with cute bubbles on top. Learning my lesson from the weak latte yesterday, I ordered double shot this time and found it very enjoyable.
11. For lunch, some delicious tempura at the one-star Tempura Fukamachi (深町). My favorite part was their ten-cha (mixed seafood tempura cake over rice in Japanese tea). Fukamachi uses green tea rather than baked tea, giving the dish an elegant fragrance.
12. Summer is the best season for unagi (freshwater eel). Godaime Nodaiwa (五代目 野田岩) is a 200-year-old unagi restaurant now in its fifth generation and holds one Michelin star. Lucky for me, they had natural unagi (as opposed to farmed ones) on my visit. The box of una-jyu (eel on white rice) was simply sublime.
13. Sunday afternoon was spent wandering around Omote-sando. Feeling a bit tired, I stopped at Café Kitsuné, from the French designer brand Maison Kitsuné. The cup of ice-cold green tea was balm for the soul on the hot and humid day.
14. Without a doubt, my favorite meal in Tokyo was Florilège, a one-star establishment serving modern French/innovative cuisine. Chef Kawate brings about a formidable marriage of dauntless creativity and flawless techniques.
15. My strongest impression from the dinner is that Chef Kawate creates his dishes by thinking in terms of flavors before anything else. Each and every dish had a central flavor theme and served a very specific purpose. For instance, the oyster dish below was a study in contrast – the warm oyster contrasted against the frozen lemon meringue, while its creaminess contrasted against the crispy fried kelp on top.
16. I saw a huge line outside Échiré on Saturday morning, and thought I’d come back Monday morning and see if the line was any shorter. It wasn’t… Guess what they’re lining up for?
17. Croissants! Échiré is in fact an artisan butter producer from France, but their croissants are rumored to be the best in Tokyo. After half an hour in line, I finally got my hands on one. Was it good? Absolutely! But they were so heavy-handed with the butter that I had a feeling I wouldn’t be needing lunch if I finished it. (If you’re wondering, I chose lunch over croissant. More on that in a bit.)
18. Their madeleines and financiers were also very good. The madeleines were more fluffy, while the financiers were more moist. Personally, I preferred the financiers.
19. I gave up on finishing the croissant in favor of having lunch at Abysse, a one-star restaurant that specializes in seafood. Abysse occupies the former dining room of Florilège in Aoyama. Both Chef Meguro of Abysse and Chef Kawate of Florilège trained at Tokyo’s famous three-star French restaurant Quintessence. The seafood dishes at Abysse, such as the conger pike below, were very well done indeed.
20. The only three-star restaurant that I managed to get a reservation at was the kaiseki restaurant Kagurazaka Ishikawa (神楽坂 石かわ).
21. Chef Ishikawa didn’t speak a lot of English, but that didn’t stop him from being very amicable. His food might lack some visual impact, but every dish was made with heart. Below, a fritter of soft-shell turtle, lotus, and shiitake mushrooms. This is the third soft-shell turtle dish I had on this trip.
22. For my last meal in Tokyo, I went to two-star French restaurant L’Effervescence. The view outside the window was both stunning and relaxing.
23. L’Effervescence serves more traditional French-Japanese cuisine, but that doesn’t preclude some playfulness in Chef Namae’s food. For instance, the dish below was a whimsical but elegant rendition of apple pie (complete with a red box). This is Chef Namae’s 25th apple pie recipe, with a filling of Kegani crab, celeriac, mint, and of course, apple.
24. But the true theme at L’Effervescence is seasonality. The slow-cooked turnip below was an eloquent ode to the gifts of nature. Named “A Fixed Point,” this dish is served at every meal at L’Effervescence. The point of this constancy is to showcase the different taste of turnip through the seasons. During winter, the turnip is very sweet, whereas in the summer it becomes slightly spicy. (L’Effervescence will be the first Tokyo restaurant I review. Stay tuned!)
25. A few steps from L’Effervescence took me to the beautiful Choukokuji Temple. Some quiet minutes of reflection in the courtyard brought an end to my Tokyo trip.
Streamer Coffee Company | 1-20-28 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku 渋谷区 渋谷 1-20-28
Number Caramel | 5-11-11 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku 渋谷区 神宮前 5-11-11
鮨とかみ Sushi Tokami | 8-2-10 Ginza, Chuo-ku 中央区 銀座 8-2-10
Toranomon Koffee | 1-23-3 Toranomon, Minato-ku 港区 虎ノ門 1-23-3
深町 Tempura Fukamachi | 2-5-2 Kyobashi, Chuo-ku 中央区 京橋 2-5-2
五代目 野田岩 Godaime Nodaiwa | 1-5-4 Higashi-Azabu, Minato-ku 港区 東麻布 1-5-4
Café Kitsuné | 3-17-1 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku 港区 南青山 3-17-1
Florilège | 2-5-4 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku 渋谷区 神宮前 2-5-4
Échiré Maison du Beurre | 2-6-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda 千代田区 丸の内 2-6-1
Abysse | 4-9-9 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku 港区 南青山 4-9-9
神楽坂 石かわ Kagurazaka Ishikawa | 5-37 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku 新宿区 神楽坂 5-37
L’Effervescence | 2-26-4 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku 港区 西麻布 2-26-4