Wednesday, July 28, 2010

TOKYO---And now for the entry you have been waiting for. The restaurant guide to Tokyo. Well, not exactly. More like Hiro-O and vicinity since I don't like to go very far. I am proud to say, though, that we have 2 Michelin star restaurants in our 'hood. But I'm not reviewing those.

My favourite, which I have lunch at twice a week before I go to the supermarket is GINZA DAISHIN (in fact, I'm going there later), a restaurant (if you can call it that) the size of my bathroom in Tokyo which seats SEVEN--as in seven people, not seven tables--along a sushi counter. They are open for lunch everyday during the week. For dinner and weekends, you have to call a day ahead. Tempura is cooked one at a time for freshness. Sometimes I feel bad when I'm sitting there reading the paper and the guy has to wait until I find out how the British NHS is going to survive.

There is no 'sizzling'sound when the tempura is frying because get this---'sizzling'tempura, except for scallops, means there is a lot of water in the produce which is not a good thing.
phone: +81(3)3443-0314, (03)3473-3280
address: 5-16-11 minami azabu next to post office, near 100 yen store, fruit market and spa/beauty shop

Two restaurants that debunk the vegetarian reputation of rabbit food are EAT MORE GREENS in Azabujuban and J Restaurant and Bar which has a French-trained Japanese chef who specializes in preparing vegetables.

Eat More Greens has a seasonally-based menu and believes, in true Japanese hippy manner, áll you need is love and vegetables.' (Did Yoko Ono say that?) I has a great Indian red curry with black (not red) rice and chocolate cake. But going to Eat More Greens does not limit you to healthy living. You can always sit on the terrace, drink and smoke like the two Japanese salarymen I saw who smoked an ashtray-ful of cigarettes in the hour that I was there.

J is in my 'hood and surprise, down the street from the tempura place (above wine store Enoteca)! With a fish marinade with green tomato gazpacho at 2400 yen (close to 30USD) to Gastroback Duckling in Orange sauce at 4600 yen, this is not exactly where you would bring 'the kids'or eat at everyday (but they have lunch plates for 1500 yen which is cheaper than the tempura place at 2200 yen). But it's a great gastronomical experience especially for the vegetarian simply because of they way veggies are prepared and presented (Like the way they do meat and seafood at what-we-think-is-naff-but-what-our-parents-thought-was-classy ''old people' restaurants with wood and green chairs. You know the ones).

I love how the Japanese are the Frenchy-iest of Asians in that they 'know how to live." ENOTECA has a very charming terrace and patio where they have 'Happy Hour' during the week from 2-4Pm when you can sample their wines and champagnes. It's an excellent marketing scheme and for the customer, a chance to engage with the staff and try new wines. Unfortunately I have not tried it yet because grocery shopping and their speedy delivery always get in the way. The way they present, market (and of course price) wines is certainly worth a look--"on tap", in cold storage by year and by price, 'samplers'' on jumble sale, etc..

Meanwhile, at the Tokyo American Club, there is a "wine buffet'' every week where they offer wines by theme or terroir such as Öld World", New World, Western Australia, etc..You get to drink as much as you want (or can) for 2 hours for 3000 yen and and extra 1500 yen for every additional hour.
J : phone +81 (3)5798-9070;
Enoteca: +81(3)3280-3634

HOMEWORK'S (with an apostrophe S no less) is my go-to restaurant after yoga and after I get my hair done (at the place that uses cold water and mint shampoo) or if I am just lazy and want food delivered. It is known for its burgers and sandwiches. I order either the vegetarian or falafel burger. They also do great fries and yummy onion rings. Forget the coleslaw. They also have a branch in Azabujuban and they own The Pantry (I'm told same menu) in Marunouchi and Roppongi Hills (I hate going there but we usually take the airport bus from Grand Hyatt...prefer Midtown).

DO NOT go to Priya, the Indian place near Homework's. It was not only the worst Indian meal I've ever had, the most expensive if 'pro-rated' (980 yen including 4 beers) but the worst meal evah!! (but there were LOTS of Indians--maybe they don't have a choice in Tokyo) ANY Indian joint in London would have done better, hands down, at half the price. Plus the dryer in their Toto toilet didn't work and we didn't get any change (no tipping in Japan, remember?). A bad sign for me amidst Tokyo's perfection.

Being 100% vegetarian is very difficult in Japan because a) they have such great produce and b) it's a pain to go thru watashi wa vegetarian-u and only order tamago (egg) and takwan (yellow radish) and cucumber. The only place that I did not feel bad about ordering quail was at LACHERIR, a tiny French restaurant that seats at most 20 people. It is secreted on a residential street in Shirogane. Menus are only in French and Japanese yet the couple who run the place don't speak French. Husband is the chef and wife the hostess. The French menu (since I don't read Japanese) seemed pretty correct except for the use of selon for seleccion (?? selection?) but what do I know since my French ain't great either.

There is hardly any info on this place in English. The only review I read was written by someone who found it while ''jogging' which is exactly how my husbanmd found it.

The amuse-bouche of mint and carrot "soup"" and ávant dessert of something like an affogato were very pleasant surprises but we are certainly going to be back for the food---quail and leeks for me. I forgot what my husband had but I remember he paid the bill which was---95000++ yen (okay, 10x more than the Indian place but look!!!)---ncluding fizzy water and Chateau Gloria 2002. Obviously not a 'family restaurant.''
phone +81(3)5789-4450