Day Two in Tokyo started with a pretty legitimate hangover, for everyone involved–futsukayoi in Japanese. The Tokyo Fixer may go out for a living, but it seems to be one of Chao’s most well-developed skills, which made for a long night. The Tokyo Fixer called to delay our start a bit (fine with us), getting us all together for a 11:30 AM start.
We started with a walk to the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, Mori Tower for short, the fifth-tallest building in Tokyo at 781 feet, it is a 54-story mixed-use skyscraper that was completed in 2003. With panoramic views on the 50th floor and a helipad on the top floor (why should celebs and other a-listers use the door, after all?), a walk and a little elevation were a surprisingly good remedy for our hangovers.
Having completed a fairly mainstream tourist activity, our next journey was the complete opposite. The Tokyo Fixer had planned for us a series of hidden gems, only accessible to a select, connected few. (You can imagine our excitement.)
Nishiazabu Sushi Shin
The Tokyo Fixer had been telling us for a while about this one sushi restaurant in Tokyo, known for blowing the minds of celebrated chefs from all over the world. In short, after a meal at this establishment, most leave speechlessly satiated, saying something along the lines of, “I will not eat sushi for another 3 months after the meal.” That’s enough of a reason for us.
|The Tokyo Fixer got us right in to this sake restaurant-meets-religious experience, Nishiazabu Sushi Shin, where we were met with owner and executive chef, Shintaro Suzuki. No cameras are allowed, but the chef was gracious enough to allow us to take the photo below.|
We went upstairs to what appears to be a very high-end condominium, the perfect, lush setting for what would soon take a spot in our top 5 meals of all time–and hands down best sushi meal of our life. (Wonder which one of these places will get the boot from the list…) The “restaurant” is as simple as a seven-seat sushi bar and a booth for four–refined, tasteful, perfectly complementing our meal. We were both blown away, left just as speechless as the Tokyo Fixer said we’d be. The lack of menus would have made it hard to tell you what was served… if we hadn’t pretty much memorized the lineup:
|1. Madai – snapper sashimi with sea water
2. Saba – mackerel with soy
3. Tako – octopus with salt
4. Kue – sake-steamed grouper
5. Nika – baby squid stuffed with rice
6. Karasumui – preserved fish eggs
7. Steamed Shako – special type of shrimp
8. Chamamuchi – steamed egg custard with salmon roe
9. Shirako – cod sperm sack
10. Hirame – fluke marinated in kelp
|11. Smoked Buri – yellowtail
12. Akami – tuna
13. Toro – belly of tuna
14. Anago* – sea water eel
15. Kuruma Ebi – boiled Japanese prawn
16. Uni Two Ways** – murasaki and bapun
17. Hotate Gai – scallop with yuzu
18. Sayoir – needlefish
19. Tamago – egg omelet
|*Mike’s favorite **Chao’s favorite|
So, we’ve made it pretty clear that this is, without a doubt, the best sushi–but how does he do it? He works with the best of the best. He has the best connection at Tsukiji, meaning he knows the right people, and they get him limited quantity, top-of-the-line ingredients, stuff that most restaurants would die to get their hands on.
Once he has the ingredients in hand, he’s incredibly careful in the way that he stores, preserves, and prepares the fish, down to the most minuscule details. Some of the fish is stored in special wooden boxes, filled with salt. He adds a touch of red vinegar to the sushi rice and the faintest dab of sauce to his ingredients. Most importantly, his technique is flawless: artfully cutting the fish with his custom-made knife, surrounded by only a few apprentices and a handful of adoring diners.
Floating (and a little bewildered) after the ultimate sushi experience, we headed to Aoyoma to do a little shopping and check out some of the neighborhood’s boutiques/attractions. The Tokyo Fixer’s mission to show us the best-kept secrets in Tokyo, however, was not over. This was another mind blower. Daibo is known for its hyper-fresh coffee, hand-dripped into cups for this incredibly pure, flavorful taste. We managed to get one picture before we got yelled at:
We then continued our assault on the fashion district, Mike picking up a few souvenirs for friends/family and Chao pining after numerous pairs of brightly colored sneakers (but holding himself back, waiting for his upcoming knife investment in Osaka). Unable to walk any further, we headed back to the hotel for some downtime and a few beers. On our way over to dinner, we stopped by Hinokicho Park to see their holiday lights extravaganza:
Once we’d had our fill of holiday lights, we made our way over to a high-end mixology bar called Bar Rage. The guys behind Bar Rage dominate Japan’s mixology scene, despite the fact that the bar’s next to impossible to find. This is in part due to its location on the third floor of a building with only two floors listed up front (see photo on the right).
The Tokyo Fixer led us up to the secret third floor, where we were met with some badass drinks. Chao had the best Bloody Mary, complete with freshly smashed tomato, while Mike sipped a strawberry and basil martini. Everything we tried was mouthwateringly fresh and probably too easy to drink…
Our one piece of advice for our next stop: you’ll want to go with a full tank of gas. RyuGin is a modern Kaiseki restaurant, definitely more of a marathon than a sprint. The twelve-course lineup was a mixed bag, with the final consensus being a solid “good,” just short of “great.” A bottle of sake and several truly spectacular dishes provided temporary relief, including an incredibly tender venison (below, right) and a special crab in soup broth. Further establishing our reputation as gluttons for punishment, we chased our endless meal with a quick bar trip, but ended up back at our hotel in no time.