Last night, I had dinner at Ryugin where I enjoyed a spectacular contemporary spin on the traditional kaiseki meal. Rather than break it down for you, I’ll let the pics do the talking. Suffice it to say, it was yet another very memorable meal. So far, that’s six for six on the high-end dining. Other meals, while perhaps not as magnificent, have not been without their charm. Take today’s lunch, for instance. After a (thankfully non-eventful) morning work-out and stroll through Harujuku, I might up with my friend Jessica for some okonomiyaki. For those of you who don’t know, okonomi, also known as Japanese pizza, is essentially pan-fried batter containing a variety of ingredients ranging from ground beef to squid. The restaurant we were going to on this day not only served okonomiyaki, but monjayaki that Jessica described as a “drippier” version of its cousin.
After waiting in line for some twenty minutes, we were finally seated in a room that I suspect as decorated by somebody’s crazed uncle. Wacky, occasionally rude cartoons graced the walls. Pez dispensers and action figures adorned the various nooks and crannies. A Cheech and Chong plastic light-up display hung behind our table which sported a large grill at its center. Apparently, we were expected to cook our own lunch. Fortunately, our menu came with English okonomiyaki preparation instructions. Unfortunately, we still couldn’t understand them. Fortunately, Jessica charmed our waiter into, at the very least, making the monjayaki for us. It was…well, certainly as goopy as I’d been led to believe. But the crispy underside was pretty good. His work done, the waiter served us our okonomiyaki ingredients and then left us to our own devices – at which point Jessica took charge, mixing everything up in the bowl and then dropping the entirety onto the skillet and shaping it into a nice, fat thingamablob. She fried it on one side for five minutes, expertly flipped it, fried it on the other side for another five minutes, and then served it up with a not-altogether-inspiring: “Check to make sure the pork is cooked.”. I’m not sure if it was but, regardless, it was pretty darn good.
After lunch, we took a stroll up Omotesando to Pierre Hermes where I picked up a box of the seasonal macaron selection – three suspiciously familiar tastes that I finally received confirmation on. Pictured above from left to right, the seasonal flavors: white truffle, black truffle, and foie gras. Delicious!
From there, it was a short cab ride to Tokyo Midtown and Dessert Stop #2, Sadaharu Aoki’s, where we enjoyed the plat de degustation offering a sampling of the shop’s delectable creations including my favorite Tokyo dessert: their matcha opera cake (which I also ordered as a side plate).
We finished up just in time for dinner, this time over to Akasaka’s Kikunoi. Even though this was my third kaiseki meal in a relatively short time, it was different from Ryugin as Ryugin was from Hamadaya. Here, the atmosphere was a little more relaxed. We sat at a counter and as each course was served up, we were simultaneously presented with the appropriate entry from the restaurant’s English language cook book. Another magnificent meal and, again, I’ll let the pictures do the talking on this one as well.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two of the highlights of my day – one named Taiso, the other named Fukusuke – two French Bulldogs who ended up coming across about an hour apart. Both adorable little guys and Fukusuke apparently has his own website: http://naturaldog.exblog.jp/
Tomorrow marks my long-awaited return to The Jiyugaoka Sweets Forest, a visit to Meguro’s Parasitological Museum, and a tea and crumpets primer.