Holy crap it’s cold in Tokyo!  I don’t remember it being this cool or rainy the last time I was here.  Of course, my memory aint what it used to be.  Still, I can’t recall wearing my coat out so often.  Like today, for instance, when I headed out under overcast skies to meet my lunch date, Satchi, at Yonemura in Ginza.  It was a ten minute walk from the hotel but, by the time I arrived, I was positively chilled. I took the escalators up to the fourth floor where I wandered the corridors, past the eight similar-looking restaurants, not one of which sported an English sign.  Eventually, however, trial and error prevailed and I found the place.

The Yonemura in Ginza is the sister restaurant of the original Kyoto location offering a French take on Japanese tradition.  The main dining room rocks.  Forget the tables tucked away in the side room and head right for the curved counter seating that seats about 12 very comfortably.  The seats actually swivel!  I spent a good five minutes settling in, swinging back and forth to check out the chefs working at their various stations on the other side of the counter.  Them and the girl with the cowboy hat.

Satchi arrived and we settled in for a pleasant meal…

Chefs at work.

We got off to an interesting start: Spear squid and sea urchin with eggplant and mont d'or salad.
Up top: Oyster with flatfish (aka hirame, aka fluke). Down the bottom: Mustard spinach-wrapped seafood with caviar. Okay.
This one I loved. And no surprise since it considered three of my favorite things: sweet potato, foie gras, and black truffle.

Above: Steamed Rice with Crab.

So I was thinking – when was the last time I ate fugu?  Well here, the fugu is incorporated into a clam bouillabaise with outstanding results.

Again with the chilled pasta. This one served with prawn and an assortment of toppings. Still unconvinced.

Above: Grilled beef steak and vegetables with sesame dressing.  Love the meat in this country.  I suspect that even a marginal steak here would be considered out-of-this-world in North America.

After steak, I had some curry rice.  I really enjoy the Japanese version which is darker and sweeter than the Indian version.

For dessert, I chose the Mont Blanc (chestnut cream and meringue) with vanilla ice cream. Good.
Satchi orders an espresso. It was served in a cup with the most unwieldly handle imaginable.

The plan was to wander Ginza on the look-out for people walking their pugs and french bulldogs, but it was raining by the time we got out so we headed over to Matsuya where they were, coincidentally, having a sale on umbrellas.  Lots to choose from for the ladies and, after much searching, I finally found a nice, sturdy, wood-handled, black umbrella for myself.  It cost me about $60.  Did I mention they were on sale?

Then, as we headed out, Satchi noted that the hem at the bottom of my coat had unraveled.  Great!  First the button; now the damn hem!  And so, we headed back to the hotel where she watched Harry Potter and I uploaded pics and did a competent enough job of sewing up that hem.  I was in my hotel room sewing!  I’m supposed to be on vacation!

By the way, I’ve finally realized why I’m having such a hard time negotiating the Tokyo subway system.  It’s not that the system is complicated.  It’s actually quite straightforward.  It’s that I’m continually distracted by the mini-skirted, high-heel or boot-sporting women who frequent the place.  I mean – Holy Smokes! – it’s an endless parade of leggy brunettes.  It’s no wonder I keep boarding trains headed in the direction opposite to the way I was planning on going.   And I’m not just talking about girls in their late teens.  It’s women in their 20’s, 30’s, even 40’s.  It’s a wonder I haven’t strolled right off the platform onto the tracks.

Anyway, I mention this because I did take the subway to my dining destination: Ryugin, located in Roppogni.  I was early and took a stroll in the pouring rain before eventually ending up at the restaurant a little earlier than my reservation.  My dinner date, Stefan, arrived soon after.

We were having the Chef’s menu that night.  I’m not a big drinker – for a foodie, I know next to nothing about wine except for the fact that I do like the occasional German white – but I’m partial to cold sake.  I suggested we go with the sake course pairing, and Stefan – who IS a wine guy – was absolutely thrilled by the suggestion.

Anyway, we enjoyed a multi-course chef’s dinner with plenty of detailed explanations of our dishes…which doesn’t really help after your fifth glass of sake.  I asked our waiter whether we were getting a menu and he informed me that there was no written menu, but he’d be happy to send me a copy via email.  I have yet to receive it, so I’m going to have to rely on my booze-addled memory to remember what it was, exactly, we ate…

What is that? Abalone? Oh, yeah. Now I recall - it was a special Japanese abalone dotted with abalone liver on top and sitting on a crusted potato that did nothing for me and burned Stefan's tongue. Stefan thought the abalone one of the best things we had on the night.
This one I remember. Sort of. The bright orange tongue-like morsels are sea urchin.

Ah, now this one was one of my favorites: ankimo (monkfish liver) served with a miso-based sauce.  Again, I’m a huge fan of the sweet and savory, which this dish delivered.

Interesting. On top is a piece of sweet crab meat. Beneath it, a little island in a sea of soup, is a dumpling filled with crab and egg. We were instructed to sip the soup, then break up the dumpling and allow it to permeate the broth before sampling it again.
Sashimi. Japanese lobster, hirame (not Stefan's favorite), ika (in general, not on either of our top ten list of fave sashimi's), and some really well-marbled meguro from northern Japan.
Two types of clam. By this point, we were heavy into the sake and the subtle nuances of the various ingredients and components began to blur. As did, at one point, my vision.
At one point, Stefan had four different glasses of sake lined up in front of him. He suspected that if he didn't drink faster, they would have to pull up another table to accomodate the extra glasses.
Was this sea breem? Does anyone remember? I do remember the dish being texturally pleasant, crispy yet moist.
Japanese red beef from Kyushu (a lean yet very tender beef I sampled somewhere else on this trip), served with turnip, and some sort of yogurt soup containing ten types of vegetables. I wasn't a fan of the soup. Stefan, on the other hand, enjoyed its acidic kick.

House rice served with pickled vegetables and miso soup.

We were then asked if we would like to include a soba course.  We were both stuffed but thought what the hell.  Stefan had the cold soba with yuzu that I found quite tasty.  Yet cold.  I had the hot soba in a magnificent broth.

The soba course was followd by three successive desserts.  The first was an orange and mandarin sorbet that Stefan enjoyed immensely more than I did.

The second was a trio of beautiful-looking squares possessed of a marshmallow-airy consistency…

...that, again, Stefan enjoyed more than I did.

Our final dessert were two…well, how to describe them?…delicate soft dough-wrapped pastes, one chestnut the other…I can’t recall.

“You feel ripped off by dessert, don’t you?”asked Stefan.

Yes, I had to admit.  I felt a little underwhelmed.  However, I did enjoy…

The meal-ending matcha. Look a that froth? What is the secret to a good froth? It's something I'm unable to achieve.

Ryugin was the only restaurant I visited on my last trip that I made a return visit to this time simply because I had a great time in 2009, the dishes back then had been very inventive, and I expected a whole new experience this time.  And while it was true, I noted the talked-about shift away from the inventiveness of my first meal here and the more traditional approach of the more recent menu.  Stefan was unimpressed, turning to me at one point and declaring: “Regretfully, you were the best thing about this meal.”  While I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was unimpressed (because there were some lovely dishes in the mix), I can say that I wasn’t as enthusiastic this time out.

Which brings me to one of the many topics Stefan and I discussed over dinner.  Why wasn’t I as enthusiastic?  Could it be because I was at the tail-end of my culinary odyssey, experiencing gourmet ennui?  Would I have considered Ryugin a slam dunk if it had made an appearance earlier in the schedule?  Maybe.  And, then again, maybe not.  I’ll save the final summary for the conclusion of my trip but, looking over the list of 22 restaurants I’ve hit so far, there are 5 I’d consider outstanding (the rest range from good to very good), one on Day 1, another on Day 5, another Day 6, another on Day 8, and another on Day 9.  It’ll be interesting to see if any of the final seven restaurants scheduled make the top spot as well.

We were out the door and heading down the alleyway when Ryugin's Chef Miho Hoshimoto came out and almost had to chase us down to say hello and thank us for coming to his restaurant.

28 thoughts on “December 6, 2009: Tokyo Travel Day #12 – Yonemura, Ryugin, and Soused on Sake.

  1. Well what can I say? You obviously had a way better time than I did. 2012 is a humungous pile of disaster SFX with fuck all story and what little story it did contain had plot holes you could navigate a russian submarine through oh well…add to that the fact that my daughter told me to stop laughing and I think I may never frequent the cinema again! Now my cranial-rectal inversion is complete and its 1.21am I’m off to bed to sulk.

  2. I am starting to think that yes – you may be underwhelmed because you’ve eaten such a variety in so short a time. I believe – just like the sorbet served during the meal – you need a day ‘off’ of fine dining every few days in order to clear your palate. At least one day each week, I think, on a trip like this. I’ve noticed that ever since you said you weren’t hungry anymore, you started finding the meals less impressive…or at least your criticisms have increased.

    Either that, or maybe you’ve lost your taste for cod sperm and fugu, and have more of a hankerin’ for those leggy brunettes these days. 😉 I bet there are times you’re glad Fondy doesn’t read your blog.



    Well, wow. I watched “Justice” last night, but was too tired to think coherent thoughts. I’m very surprised, and pleased, that it was such a cliffhanger. Previous SG1 and SGA mid or end season finales were more of a standard formula team-in-jeopardy sort of thing.

    Alas, poor Spencer, we hardly knew ye…. did the character even get a first name? I will miss Josh Blacker’s take on unstable, always entertaining IMO. Interesting to see how the allegiances and loyalties of the Destiny’s travelers shift – who is really using whom? I think we’re about to see more cynicism from Eli going forward, since he’s bound at some point to figure out his importance and that both sides are willing to use him toward their ends.

    So, I’m either qualified to be a writer, or watch way too much TV (we’ll go with the latter) – since I was egging Young on during the fight: “Knock him on his a**! Leave him there, let him worry.” AND HE DID. OMG. I was sure that Young would be dragging Rush’s sorry self through the gate by the collar at the last minute. But he didn’t. And then he lied about it. Verrryyy interesting.

    So, when do we get to see the second half of the season?

    Sorry that you are having a soggy vacation 🙁 Still enjoying all the pics of sites, companions, and food, though. Sounds like it might be time to send the coat the way of your Mom’s old TV, and get a new model….


  4. LOL! You got tipsy on sake? Maybe that’s what made the meal not so great? Or did it make it better? 😀

    I still can’t believe the amount of food you’re putting down! I’m not surprised you’ve hit a wall. It’s got to be a superhuman feat. Man with four hollow, invisible legs! Must be charged up at all times…

    The chocolates your friend gifted you the other day look amazing! The cute animal macaroons, too.

    By the time you get home, I think it’s less you’ll not need to eat for three weeks but rather, you’ll pass out in a food-induced coma for a week.

    Also, cold pasta also not my thing. Like, ever.

  5. Hi Joe — thanks so much for taking the time to share your Tokyo experiences. The food looks amazing.

    Since I’ve been so quick to pass judgement on previous SGU episodes I must tell you how much I loved “Justice”. Young going dark side was just amazing. The shifting team dynamics are interesting to watch, especially since we are starting to get to know the characters, flaws and all. Definitely not square jawed heroes. A BIG plus — no “stone” trips!

    Question: Where is Riley? Unless I haven’t been paying attention, they haven’t mentioned him since he got hurt in “Earth”.

  6. Wow Joe…I’ve just been catching up. Its amazing how inventive chefs can be with the same ingredients. The service you’ve been getting sounds wonderful & the food looks incredible. Do you share your blog address so they can check out the review?

    You fix hems too? Is there no end to your talents? Want to fix mine?

    I don’t every worry about the rain myself. If I get wet, then I get wet. I hate having to worry about storing a wet umbrella or leaving it someplace.

    To catch you up on the news………….

    The British Defence Ministry has shut down its UFO hotline

    A shutterbug Orang-utan in an Austrian zoo is becoming a hit on facebook

    Some people are complaining about kangaroo & emu flavoured potato chips (‘cos it’s our coat of arms)

    …..yeah think that was about it…..nothing else big happened did it?

    Looking forward to a weird food purchase vid…….please?

    Cheers, Chev

  7. 😀

    Let’s hope for your sake that you were just not feeling adventurous and there was no culinary ennui! Perhaps a WFPotD will fix that feeling? Just a humble suggestion 😉

  8. @ shiningwit. I liked 2012, in a MST3K sort of way. At least I had no expectations from it, and so was not disappointed. Gotta love Hollywood’s constant disregard for basic physics.

    My mind boggles at the idea of the satorically splendid Mr. M. in a dishevelled state. Are you sure someone isn’t sabatoging your jacket? I’ve discovered just looking at all the food you’ve been sampling is enough to leave me feeling stuffed. Think I’m going to bookmark these entries and incorporate them into a weight loss program. Thanks for the great pictures, and almost coherent descriptions( it’s a good thing for us you don’t drink more often, or we’d be terminally confused as to what we wre looking at). Enjoy th remaining days of your trip.

  9. I must admit, I was a bit confused as to how you could be having trouble with the subway when I found it a piece of cake – *after* I hovered about my hotel reception for over an hour after check-out and with detailed instructions in my sweaty paw… I tell myself it was the heat and humidity putting me off going out, which in July in Tokyo may have a degree of truth to it. Maybe even 40 degress (Celcius) of truth to it. Don’t complain about the cold, man – I had SALT all over my clothes from the sweat. You just don’t get that in Glasgow!

    Again, I find myself hungry after reading your blog. I agree about the curry, it’s quite different to Indian style, much sweeter. Had one the other day and it was oh-so-good.

    You said you weren’t a big tempura fan, but what about sweet potato tempura? My local is kind enough to oblige when I ask only for the sweet potato when I order the yasai tempura because I think that mushrooms and aubergines are the food of the devil. And I don’t mean that in the sinfully good way, either.

  10. Argh!

    I’ve hated Col Young from the beginning. Right from the get-go I sided with Dr. Rush. What an excellent choice I made!

    Those of you supporting Young, he’s basically a murderer! So Rush attempted to frame him for murder, big deal. As noted, it couldn’t have gone through. But what Young did, that was much worse. Given his knowledge, he would know that he just beat Rush down and left him for dead. Of course, this is TV and we know that this book isn’t closed yet… but he doesn’t know it is TV. The man is a murderer!

    Well, here’s to hoping Rush returns to strike back at the evil Col Young. He’s not so innocent as the show portrays him. You’ve all been fooled! My friends and I will stand behind Rush.

    Ah yes, anyways, it was a 10/10! Excellent episode and my favorite yet.

  11. Joseph, you can not appreciate anything when you are inebriated. Drink more water. Everything looks so good. Now I’m hungry…

  12. 1 – you got pissed on sake at a restaurant? Why do I get images of you and Stefan , arms around each shoulder, singing bawdy Japanese ditties (are there any?)

    2 – you perving on short skirted lassies huh? Oh FOOOOOOOOOOONDDDYYYY (I’m dobbin’ ). She’s hot… no need to perv on the lassies. Next time Karma might push you on to the train tracks 😛

    3 – Are you all restauranted out? Are you looking forward to going home and having a nice bowl of good ol’ home made vegetable soup or a roast dinner with gravy?? I know I did when I did a restaurant tour of Sydney (highly recommended).

    4 – Shiningwit – agreed.. I did a few verbal ‘pshaw – suuuuuuuuuure’ outbursts whilst watching 2012.. great special FX. Love John Cusack and Woody . That’s it.

    Safe journey back Joe. btw, this snow doesn’t really agree with google Chrome 100%..

  13. Hello Joseph 🙂

    ça va bien?
    Eh oui déjà le 12iem jour! ça passe tellement vite. Au moins vous ne pourrez pas dire que vous n’avez pas profité^^!

    Cette j’ai rêvé que des hommes singes voulaient dévorer le cerveaux des hommes…..je préféré encore la période où je rêvée de vous!!

    Miss France 2010 a été élu hier soir…..c’est le sosi parfait de Paris Hilton….aprés faut t’il le prendre comme un compliment? -_-‘

    Passez une super journée!
    Gros bisou!!

  14. Heya Joe,
    Ytimynona may have point about your feeling less than satisfied with the current food consumed. Perhaps a WFPoTD will help your challenged palate? Perhaps a brute force change will be much more effective than a simple cleansing of the palate.

    Just don’t damage the taste buds! Unthinkable just before returning home when you have to make the rest of the restaurant choices on the list count.

    4-Ytimynona – after you shared what your name is spelled the proper sequence, I have to admit I would refer to you as – phonetically: “Why Timmy Nona.” And, now, cannot get it to unstick from the head.


    While I really enjoyed Justice, and admit Rush had it coming. I am a bit dismayed about Col Young, who has been “by the book” mostly. This is not in keeping with not leaving “one of our own behind” even if Rush is not military and IMO deserved the kick in the head.

    sigh…now to wait FOREVER before we discover what happens next. As others have pointed out – it is a VERY LONG time until April…rats.

  15. Loved “Justice”!!!

    “I mean – Holy Smokes! – it’s an endless parade of leggy brunettes. ” Maybe it’s all that sperm you’ve been eating?

    Stay warm.


  16. I loved Justice, too. That’s some gritty Stargate I can get behind.

    I bet you’re getting tons of coats for Christmas. If I complain in July to my mother-in-law about chopping onions, I can be sure to get some kitchen gadget for Christmas. Here you are announcing your mending troubles to all. (Where I stayed in Russia, they told us where the bathroom, cafeteria, and sewing rooms were. Yes, someone thought it was important enough to have a sewing room to translate that into however many languages.)

    @Shiningwit – I’m torn. Part of me is pretty snooty about Story. The other part is a shameless sucker for spectacle. Hmmm… I still have to see 2012 in the theater. I can put good stories in my Netflix queue.

  17. Of course its cold in Japan – it’s December! You want heat, go to Canberra (or stay in the subway 😉

    And whats this with all this food – take some pictures of the high heeled, short skirted women in the subway instead!

    It’s also a good cover (“its for the blog dear” 😉

  18. @morticae Tried to post this last night but got an error message. Remember Rush accused Young of not being able to make the tough decisions for the sake of the mission (i.e., in Rush’s POV). Young decided to make a tough decision for the sake of the mission (which in Young’s POV had to be done). One man’s villan is another man’s hero. I personally love that the unpredictable happened, that Young didn’t pull his butt through the wormhole. I like not being able to predict what is going to happen. My poor husband’s arm gets slapped a lot while I’m saying, “They did NOT just do that!!” quite a bit during the episodes of SGU.

    So I don’t spoil it for others, the actor who was the murder victim will be greatly missed.

    For everyone: I wanted to share the picture of my sweet golden retriever, Maddie, getting her picture taken with Santa Paws on Sat. She looks beefy there, but she is only 50 pounds, which is on the small side for a golden retriever. http://www.twitpic.com/sag8a

  19. The secret to a good froth? You need a good bamboo whisk (look for the ones with 100 tines), water that’s just off the boil, the right amount of matcha (two scoops with a hishaku), and it’s all in the wrist. Briskly whisk back and forth vertically; don’t swish. Move the horizontal position of the whisk side to side in the chawan/bowl using your elbow but always whisk with an up-and-down motion. And be patient. It takes more whisking than you think.

    But yes, the froth is the best part.

  20. After watching ten episodes of SGU, the verdict of my viewing group (me, DH, and our 2 good friends) is:

    Painfully boring.

    It is sad and disappointing and bewildering. Robert Carlisle in the new SGU should have been funny and made of awesome. But that’s not what we saw.

    We kept waiting to like RC’s character, but couldn’t get there. We’re not loving to hate him, either.

    SGU needs more exploration! They are on the far side of the universe, but we haven’t seen much of it. The camera is always focused (not too well focused — jiggle, jiggle, play peek-a-boo with the bed frame) on the bickering people in the poorly lit tin can. Or angsting on Earth.

    I have watched shows centered on character drama, such as West Wing and BSG. I can’t pinpoint why SGU’s character drama is so uninteresting compared to those shows. All I can say is that these people are not likable and don’t seem very real to me. I don’t care if the colonel repairs his relationship with his wife or if Eli gets Chloe. I would have preferred getting to know these characters by watching them take action and have adventures.

    The stones drain the show of all tension and jeopardy. On the one hand, we’re supposed to believe that these people are acting badly because they are the wrong people, stuck on the other side of the universe. On the other hand, Chloe and Eli go nightclubbing in DC. It’s impossible to feel too sorry for them, or be on the edge of my seat hoping they can get home someday. And every episode we wonder why they don’t bring qualified experts on board to help — a doctor, a psycologist, an Ancient expert. The stones continually create the mother of all plot holes.

    Dividing the characters into factions on the Destiny is utterly absurd, from my perspective. Why does Wray’s boss think this is a good idea? What possible benefit to himself can he be pursuing? Clearly, all the people on board (except for Rush) want to survive and get home. Rush doesn’t want to go home, and he has lied to everyone repeatedly — and they know it. So, why would anyone join Rush’s faction? What could Wary possibly offer to cause people to join her faction? It’s all very contrived for the sake of drama and conflict and not believable to me.

    SGU needed more exploration and humor to have kept our interest; we like to have fun watching sci-fi. Failing that, it needed to be GOOD character drama, with believable characters acting in plausible ways.

    I continue to be very grateful for the 15 great seasons of SG1 and SGA. It’s been lots of fun having dinner and Stargate with our good friends. We are now going to move onto Sanctuary and Warehouse13 and Legend of the Seeker for our sci-fi Fridays.

    We hope MGM will make the Jack-centered SG1 movie! We’ll buy it as soon as available for a night of good fun.

    Sadly, we are done with SGU.

  21. Bon, je vais au lit ..et oui c’est reparti pour une semaine de stage ! (snif)

    Profitez bien de vos derniers jours de vacance!

    Anais, votre plus fidèle fan 🙂
    A demain!

  22. Joe I got a question non-SGU/SG-1/SGA related but related to Stargate in general.Have ya’ll ever considered doing a prequal series.Say one about a small group of Atlantian’s , who didn’t return to Earth after the Wraith War, or a pre-Tau’ri Stargate series I should say.One based on event’s before the Tau’ri starting up the SGC.

  23. Joe,

    Glad to hear that you had at least one meal that was “sake” centric – just for fun. I think your idea of hitting more casual places within a mix of higher-end eateries next time is a good idea. It would be interesting to hit markets for some fresh street food and/or go for yakatori /sake – just for a variety of experiences.

    Having said this – I am grateful to read all about where you have been and the fantastic fare you have had the good fortune to consume. If you hadn’t hit a wall by now, I would have to believe that you were an insatiable “cyborg” foodie instead of the snarky, Renaissance guy we all know and love.

    Enjoy the remainder of the trip and keep those sewing kits on hand – just in case.


  24. Leggy brunettes? NO MORE SPERM FOR YOU!

    My friend wants to know (I shit you not) how they get the sperm from the fishies…peeing myself laughing here 🙂

  25. Joe I know we all appreciate you doing this site and taking your own time to answer fan questions. That being said is there any way to categorize your blog into Stargate and non Stargate related topics? With all the food topics it makes it extremely difficult to view the comments and post on here.

  26. Confusion or death via mini-skirt? I can see that happening.

    Can we look forward to seeing that in SGU? LOL!

    I think I read about your trip trying to fit these things into how could they show up in SGU. Sorry, just how my mind works.


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