December 1, 2009: Tokyo Travel Day #7 – Gordon Ramsay, Mo Shibuya Stroll, Ishikawa (and I mean it this time!)
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.
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)…
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.
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.
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.
44 thoughts on “December 1, 2009: Tokyo Travel Day #7 – Gordon Ramsay, Mo Shibuya Stroll, Ishikawa (and I mean it this time!)”
How do you find the prices of things as compared to your trip last year? Do you see any evidence of any economic downturn there like we are experiencing in North America? With no signs outside the restaurants and small dining rooms, I am wondering how these restaurants make a profit and how the customers find them? Do you order off a menu or do the chef’s prepare for you what they choose?
I am really enjoying all your blogs. I know it takes a lot of your time, and I appreciate it.
Found your desert to be very intriguing
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.
The persimmon dessert also looks wonderful.
maybe you should swing by here on your way home?
“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.”
I’ve lived in Japan for close to 11 years, and tipping *is* frowned upon. I’m not just saying that from an ex-pat’s perspective, but all of my Japanese friends have said the same thing.
That being said, in certain relationships, like between people at a restaurant and frequent guests, well-heeled guests sometimes “gift” the employees something. At one of the Tawaraya-owned restaurants, a frequent diner sometimes gives the staff special (read “expensive”) ingredients to use for themselves.
But if you do not have a special relationship with the staff and you leave a cash tip, you will most likely be seen as a rube. They may accept it, but it doesn’t mean they don’t think of it (or the tipper) as being crass.
Puffer fish, mmmmm. I believe I saw that episode on CSI, Law and Order and Qunicy Jones. You are a brave man!
Praying for your safety from Mississippi. 😉
Ok, here’s a silly question…….what exactly do tyre people know about restaurants and hotels? Who would think to put the two together. I’m imagining a Michelin meeting way back when.
Person 1: The tyre business is going well but we need to find a new angle.
Person 2: Yes! Yes! Something no-one would every associate with Michelin.
Person 3: We could make chocolate.
Person 1: I had the most amazing chocolate pudding last night.
Person 2: That’s it! Restaurant reviews! We could write a guide to the best restaurants and give them a rating.
Person 3: And people would listen to us?
Person 2: Why not? Tyres, restaurants…..it’s all the same.
Person 1: Brilliant!
Person 3: It’s a plan! Why years from now people won’t go to dinner without checking the Michelin Guide. This could be bigger than the tyres…….
Looks AWESOME and makes me want to go but uh.. yeah I won’t be dinning at ANY of the places you have listed.
The grilled Kinki fish looked to be something really good but crab guts….. REALLY?? hmm…
Hope you found either a needle and thread and or new jacket. Maybe Fondy could fed-ex you some more business cards?
Looking forward to Tokyo trip day 8 run down.
Are you getting used to the time difference now?
you survived blowfish! You are now truly an awe-inspiring hero. I’d be willing to try the stuff, but only because I have an unfounded sense of invincibility. But how did it actually taste? Or did you let your paranoia paralsye your taste buds momentarily? Loving the reports. I hope the last few days of your stay continue to be as successful as the first half of the trip seems to have been.
you seem to do a very taty trip.
Take care !
Thanks, Joe! Was wondering about that, because I could never bring myself to eat at such a fine restaurant without leaving a tip. It’s in my blood…no matter how poor we were as kids, dad always left a generous tip wherever we went.
These meals are overwhelming to me! I can’t even imagine eating like this once, let alone every day for a couple of weeks.
But just a comment about the cost. You say that a lunch is a bargain at $80. Well, from what I see, that’s a great bargain! You know I live in a resort town, with some restaurants still serving what they did back in 1975 – fried flounder or chopped sirloin, with soggy string beans and a dried-out baked potato wrapped in foil, and for stuff like that you’re paying over $18 an entree. Even the higher end restaurants (with entrees between $25-50 dollars) stick with more traditional combinations and presentations. Last year when we ate at our favorite restaurant it cost us $150 for two. Most appetizers, soups, salads and desserts are over $10 a pop – some well over that. Granted, we had wine (alcohol always pushes up the bill), and the food was certainly tasty, but we were not eating works of art! If I had 3 or 4 apps (most apps are about the size of those you’ve been enjoying), a main course, and dessert, then a far lesser meal – especially in presentation – than what you’ve been enjoying would easily cost me $100, sans alcohol.
So even if a meal in Tokyo ends up costing twice that, then I’d say it was well worth it for just the experience alone! You’ve had some amazing things, not to mention very beautiful presentations. From where I sit, so far the loveliest have been:
The sashimi at Chikuyo-tei – that should be a painting hanging on the wall!
The eel, foie gras, fig, and Spanish pepper at Les Creations de Narisawa – with a great presentation, to boot.
The desserts at Ginza La Tour and Michel Troisgros – both were great presentations, with that mint and chocolate combo the most striking yet!
(Though not necessarily a special presentation, that venison at Troisgros is – by far – the most appetizing picture you’ve posted! I’ve been DREAMING about that meat ever since! Heh. First succulent piece of meat that I’ve lusted after since Todd! 😀 )
And the crab, sweet corn and tomato with avocado app at Gordon Ramsay – though I must say that ALL the dishes there were presented beautifully, the most consistant presentations from one restaurant thus far. Not sure if you would agree with me since you’ve seen them all firsthand, but in photos they’ve come across the best.
All said and done, that sashimi at Chikuyo-tei is – by far – the most beautiful.
Thanks, as always, for sharing! From where I sit, this year seems to be out-doing last year’s trip – but maybe because it seems there’s more meat/venison this time around – stuff I like and can drool over a little easier. I will never, EVER be able to drool over cod sperm, so no more of that, okay? Thanks. 🙂
Gordon Ramsay – glad that you enjoyed the f****** meal. We Scots are actually taking over the world one step at a time.
Glad the trip is going well – but I bet the hounds are missing you… and maybe even Fondy is missing you a little.
SGU Ratings update:
I think you addressed this the last time you went to Japan, but how do you arrange these meal outings (or dates if you will) with these various people?
@ Tammy Dixon – You forgot the most famous of them all! Louis Jourdan as the baddie in Columbo, poisoning his rival by injecting fugu poison into a bottle of wine through the cork. One of my favorites! 😀
Fugu? Nice. Although I never did develop a taste for it.
I must have had some badly prepared sea breem, or I misunderstood the name of the fish… because the sea breem pictured looks marvelous.
When we left Iran after dad’s contract with Northrup was finished, we stayed at the Sheraton in Tehran. Top rate hotel, paid for by the company. There were a few other families with us who were also departing. One evening, Dad took Mom and I, and two of my young friends to the restaurant on top of the hotel. I wasn’t completely oblivious to the elegance, and I had my first filet mignon. Oh. My. Goodness. The beef, veal and salmon were flown in daily from Scotland. Alas, as a self-centered 16 year old, I don’t recall many details or even the name of the restaurant, but I do remember that first bite of deliciousness. Dad said the company gave him hell over the $70 bill for five of us. This was in 1974, I think perhaps the prices may have risen?
About tipping… if you eat in the hole in the wall places in Yokosuka, the ones with the plastic replicas of the dishes in the front window, when you leave a tip there, they chase you down the street to give it back. True story, we were dining with reservists, and one left a nice tip. The waitress caught up to us a block later and handed it back. Tokyo is a different world however, so tipping there would be more accepted.
Oophs for me too :oophs: It’s not Quincy Jones, it’s just “Quincy” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quincy,_M.E. .
I did forget Colombo. Great shows back then. I’m going to look at Nick at Nite to see if they are replaying them again.
Das is right (I’m sure you never get tired of hearing that Das)! $80.00 a meal is very good for all that you have received!!!!
The dessert pictures are my favorite. I knew that the Japanese culture seemed very streamlined and clean looking. BUT to have that encompass the food, it’s amazing. What skill!
My big culinary experience lately has been a country store buffet. Southern food at its best; mashed potatoes, chicken n’ dumplings, fried green tomatoes, black eyed peas….and lots more goodies. Hmmmm, fat, fat and more fat. Which is why Mississippi leads the nation in obesity. 😉
Mr. M, are you trying the Japanese poor foods? Street vendors, noodle shops and such? I seem to be drawn to ethnic foods that are for the poor sections of town. More fat maybe?
GE is selling NBC!
Doesn’t that mean SyFy will be out from under GE, too?
This is a happy day for televised science fiction.
Agree with Rona Y, tipping is still frowned upon in almost all typical, daily situations. But at the places you’re gracing with your presence, it would certainly be acceptable. At a place like Jyangara Ramen? No way. I have literally had employees rush after me panicked because I left change on the table (by accident!). The one time my friends and I went to an upscale place in Aoyama (which would probably be slumming it for you, LOL!) we offered them a discrete tip for their excellent service and they humbly accepted it.
I wasn’t even going to ask about the prices for your meals on the trip, as I’m well aware that even those little stops you have here and there for pastries and hot chocolate can run above US$20 – 30 in Tokyo. An actual meal at a Michelin site? That wouldn’t even buy the dessert, let alone the main course. XD I’ve been assuming your meals are about $200-$300 a pop per person, so if it’s less than that, good for you! I admit to studying the menus and pics very closely, as if there is one that truly catches my eye, I’ll make a point of making it a stop on my trip (either later this month or next summer) and budget accordingly.
After taking your life in your hands with the blow fish, how was it?
Thanks for sharing the bill with us Joe, I think I now have more of an understanding if I were to go to on of these places. I would have to make the reservation well in advance..
As for the ratings update given by maddog, I must express my regret for not being able to contribute to much to those numbers since my work starts at 5pm and keeps me over until 10pm central time. So I wait for the Hulu update on Saturday and watch it then, what I like about it is the limited commercials, dont have to wait for more than thirty seconds, sometimes less if I get lucky and watch a 1:30sec commercial before the start of the show.
In every meal you had foie gras and the whole time I was thinking, “what the hell is it?” You’ve had it with almost every meal, so I broke down and googled. ‘Force-fed duck or goose’s liver’, as delicious as the description sounds, could you describe the texture and flavor as being similar to escolar? I am not from the upper level of income as far as family, so my experience with fine dining is limited to the Capitol Grill in Houston. They did not serve foie gras. I should also point out I am a community college student, and an “Apprentice Sushi ‘Chef'”. By quotes around the Chef part I mean I am not a chef, the words are only an empty title and all…so I suppose you could say cook, but one does not usually cook sushi. I am confused as to how to present myself and position. Perhaps I should say I prepare Sushi, identity crisis abound, ahh what it is to be 22.
Well, I suppose this recent addition you have shared has brought me limited excitement; should I visit Japan, Korea, or New York, I will definitely make a reservation for at least one of their fine dinning establishments, referring of course to Michelin. I think the thought of having the Chef come out to meet would be interesting. Would you be considered a high profile guest for them, or is it your situation as something of a food critic and the fact you came all the way from Canada seemingly just to dine entirely at the most exceptional of Tokyo’s finest establishments? It could possibly be the questions you ask and the pictures you are taking, what kind of camera are you using again?
ça va bien? vous avez encore mangé de bien bonnes choses aujourd’hui 🙂
Moi j’ai eu une heure de conduite…un c’était un désastre, j’espere réussir un jour à bien conduire.
Passer une trés bonne journée, attention aux éxcès 😉
I probably would have eaten the food that they served at the Gordon Ramsay restaurant. That dessert looked so yummy.
No to the blowfish. Just, no.
After reading the previous post, the letter ‘I’ was used most frequently, sounds boring, sorry..
Not sure if you have the time to answer questions, but are you observing Japanese customs while you eat?
I’ve heard that it is polite to both slurp soups and eat every last grain of rice as evidence that you are enjoying your meal. Is this true?
I am astonished that some of those lunches were near $80/ person! That truly is a bargain!
One question that I am very curious about; are most of your meals served with tea? Either during or after?
The couple of tea assortments you have pictured so far look amazing! I am a bit of a tea fanatic and I am dying over not being able to sample any of them! You will also have to let us know how your new matcha tastes!
i’m loving looking at most of the desserts, especally the macarons and hot chocolate combo.
Every guidebook and resource I used/visited before my trip said the same thing, then once I was there, my local guide reiterated the point; tipping in Japan is condescending at best. She described an incident where a waiter actually chased after someone with the change they had left behind as a tip. I was told that if someone really wants to show their appreciation, a small gift such as sweets would be appropriate, but leaving money would be seen as confusing or even rude. I don’t feel in the least bit guilty, in any case.
Our “Western” societal norms do not apply where people are paid properly for completing their duties. It would be nice if we could adopt that particular little custom. Until then though, I’m only going to be tipping (at home) when I receive excellent service.
Ironically, the only restaurant in the universe guaranteed to get tips from me automatically is my local Japanese and that’s because I love it so much that I probably eat there at least twice a week, even though I’m trying to save money. God, I could totally murder some oshinko maki, beef kushiyaki, chicken yakisoba and boiled, salted edamame RIGHT NOW! (My eyes are bigger than my belly, I know.) The place is called Ichiban for a reason… This blog never fails to make me hungry. I’ll have to make do with a piece’n’sausage, I suppose.
This is just fantastic Joe! All the gormondising will go straight to your hips though 😀
Very much looking forward to your next adventure, though I don’t think Japan in anywhere close to the top of my list of travel destinations, I thoroughly enjoy your view of it.
Cheers for now.
I know your on a vacation, and in such times the last thing you want to think about is work, but…..
After seeing SG1 and SGA I have great respect for the talents of anyone involved in the creation of those shows.
I’m wondering if the Stargate Universe show is really something you consider to be the best of your abilities? Or is everyone just taking a break. I mean, I know it must have been allot of effort to make SG1 and SGA concordinately, and the finished product was just awesome. That being the case I think all fans owe you guys for making such great entertainment, so maybe you deserve a break, that is, if SGU is easier to produce.
I’m not normally a Sci-Fi fan, nor am I accustomed to blogging, but these shows really hooked me.
I wanted to like SGU, but I just can’t get into it. It really is hard to believe it is made by the same people as the other two shows. Please, I’m begging you, after SGU is done with it’s first season, do something more reflective of your true potential. I’ve always encouraged people who have special talents to continue on for the sake of all the good that comes from their efforts. Think about how many actors / writers / technitians were employed and made a living from the success of the previous shows, and more directly from your talents and contributions.
The way things are looking now, SGU is not going to do so well and that really makes me sad when I know you all have it in you to make things right and live up to your potential.
I’m in construction and since the market crashed,me and my family have been strugling to earn a living, I really hope that doesn’t happen to you guys, but this show is killing your fans.
Hope you find a way out of this, or you’ll be in the same boat as the rest of us.
Wow. I love that your vacation revolves solely around food. I can’t even imagine eating that much. When I go on vacation, food usually doesn’t happen until I’m so hungry I’m about to faint. I love living it through you, though! I’d like to meet your friend Stefan. He seems like a great dinner companion.
Slow down Joe, you’re gonna wear yourself out, you’ve already worn out your coat!!!
If I at that blowfish – I’d be on floor, being allergic to fire ants and and other insect bites, God only knows…
I thought with you being a day ahead of me I for once would be able to keep up, I think I’m still a day behind. Be safe.
http://video.yahoo.com/watch/6522901/16929718 – y’all gotta see this, this is the cutest darn thang.
Hi Joe — This is one of the most incredible virtual tours ever. I’m glad you’re having a great time (especially since getting better adjusted to Tokyo time); and again, many thanks for everything you’re putting in the blog to make it possible for us to share a bit of the experience.
Everything looks so good and sounds great in these particular combinations. (Ah, um, doing the math, I guess that’s how the chefs earned their Michelin stars or other accolades.) Although I admit I’d be too much of a wimp to try fugu, even when it’s in the hands of a competent chef. Props to you for taking that step. In that last pic, you look only slightly affected by neurotoxins. *w*
Love the pics of the local scene in the various neighborhoods you’ve been going to. Fun things, beautiful and interesting things — all intriguing.
I hope you are getting some receipts while your there. The persimmon, rum jelly, brown sugar jelly, cream cheese soup sounds great! Get the receipt!
Tipping may have started as a way to show your waitress/waiter that you appreciated them. I think it also started as a way to help supplement a poorly paid position. Maybe if you tip in a high quality restaurant, it is like saying they don’t pay their servers enough. Since you “get what you pay for” I bet the servers are highly paid too as they are representing the restaurant also. Your presence, enthusiasm, and praise might just be all they need.
Too bad Chef Ramsey wasn’t there!! That would have been a great story and picture!
I am sitting here reading your delicious blog, eating a Hershey Chocolate Kiss, while my crazy puppy beagle sits at my feet, chewing on the stinkiest bone imaginable, as an occasional fart drifts up from her and hits me like a toxic slap in the face. I’ve got to get a life!
(Did I make you think of home?)
Oooops! I meant RECIPES not receipts.
Hey Joe,glad you are having a great time, and I thank you in advance for letting me push our 1st annual Joe M. blog lunch. ATTENTION ALL FLORIDA PEOPLE, Remember- lunch on Sat. Dec. 5th 2009 in Orlando, Fl. At TU TU TANGO on International Dr. , just off I-4 and Sandlake Blvd. BE THERE! Trish, and your friend, kabra, deni, maddog, airelle, and you other FL. people-we would love to meet ya!! Blog back and let us know if you think you might come to lunch. You can also just show up. We are gonna have a fun lunch!! all welcome, Sorry joe, you will still be in Japan. We would have loved to have ya there!! Fl. is nice in Dec. Bye all, see ya on Sat. Sheryl Berwick- Meet in the lobby at 12:00 noon!!
Not to be outdone by my father (who is home, btw, and back to all his usual shenanigans 🙂 ), I just got back from the ER.
See…ever since last winter, I’ve been having nosebleeds. I didn’t have any over the summer, but lately they’ve been coming back. They usually stop in a few minutes after an initial gush. But tonight it didn’t stop…in fact, it’s the worst nosebleed I’ve ever had. So I went to the ER, figuring that they could cauterize whatever it is that keeps bleeding on me (I had a CAT scan in the spring to rule out tumors, etc. – the theory is it’s just week membrane and dry heat causing the problem). Well, seems the hospital doesn’t cauterize nosebleeds anymore, and though they suggested I follow up with my ENT doctor, they basically told me to stop blowing my nose, put a clamp on it, and suggested I find a way to get more moisture in the air. I keep my (electric baseboard) thermostats set at 66 degrees, but it seems keeping a cool house isn’t the same as keeping a moist house. Hubby went out and bought a small humidifier while I was wasting away in the ER – so we’re set, for now. lol. I betcha I’m growing mushrooms in here by January!
So…anyway…I’m okay (nobody panic!), but just really stressed out because it’s really not nice seeing a sinkful of your own blood. They even did a blood test on me, and my hemoglobin is 15, on the high end for women, so they basically said to sit back and enjoy the medieval bloodletting – I can spare it! 😛
“Easily the greatest Japanese dessert I’ve ever had: Persimmon, rum jelly, and brown sugar jelly with cream cheese so.”
You had a dessert with fruit in it????
Dang!!!!!!! I’m mopping up my drool off the floor as I type this!!!!!!! Food is epic.
Also I have to agree with Adamz. I mean don’t get me wrong SGU is great, but there is so much untapped potential that could make SGU a groundbreaking show, not just a great show.
Despite being a fan of the stones, I think they’re being overused and despite liking the young-wife-Telford and Scott-old girlfriend-child stuff. It screams soap opera and it should be the b story not the A story.
I’ve heard before people say SGU is storytelling at it’s best, and actually your darn right. However storytelling at it’s best is not entertainment at it’s best.
So that’s my little rant I’ve been holding back, so all in all…… Enjoy your vacation!!!!!
Thanks so much,
Major D. Davis
Those desserts look delicious enough to die for! I would totally visit those places just for the desserts! (I’d prolly only have enough money to pay for dessert, anyways…)
Great great pictures and food. All makes me wish I were there. hmmm, such an experience. Sweet of you to share with us.
Best to you Joe,
Lovely food…I bet the crew of SGU would like a bite. LOL!