The other night, we continued our tour of varying Japanese cuisines by hitting Hirosaku in Shimbashi.  It’s a family-owned and operated restaurant focusing on traditional dishes and high quality ingredients. 

“Is this a typical Japanese meal?”Ivon asked at one point.

“Yes,”my friend Jon replied – “for very wealthy Japanese families.”

“This is how they ate in olden times,”I added.

“Yes,”Jon agreed – “if they were very wealthy families.”

VERY wealthy.  But I get ahead of myself.

Armed with a map provided for us by our hotel concierge, we headed out on foot and promptly got lost looking for the restaurant.  We asked a helpful policeman, then wound our way around the neighborhood, stopping at the same spot to ask the policeman directions, then wound our way around to spot the same policeman awaiting our return.  Eventually, we asked some guy in an alleyway either stocking a store (or looting it) who was more than happy to direct us to a street we’d already covered twice – only to succeed in locating Hirosaku the third time.

Once inside, we were greeted by Mrs. Watanabe (who apparently remembered me from my last visit – Ohishashiburi desu ne?), and my friend and fellow foodie blogger Jon who calls Tokyo home (  http://iitokorone.blogspot.com/ – Can’t wait to read the write-up on this one).

We took off our shoes (It’s customary to hold a customer’s shoes hostage until the bill has been paid) and were then directed up the steepest staircase I’ve ever hazarded –

Look out below! I made sure to steer well clear of Ivon who has, thus far on this trip, stumbled and almost eaten pavement on three separate occasions.

– and seated in a private room –

Jon and Ivon contemplate the serenity of our surroundings.

We chatted, drank some sake, and enjoyed a very nice meal…

A double whammy = Fugu Shirako! I wasn't expecting Ivon to partake, but he displayed his adventurous side and did. Shirako is an acquired (textural) taste but I very much enjoyed its preparation here.
Crab served in a - I want to say ponzu jelly (?) - topped with - I want to say lavendar buds (?). You'll have to check Jon's sight for the details. I believe this is one of Hirosaku's signature dishes. Very nice.
Ivon already knows that the Japanese word "ankimo" means "monkfish liver". Here, presumably poached and served with what Jon ID'd as a teriyaki sauce. It had the consistency of foie gras and was the best preparation of the dish I've ever had.
My picture of Jon snapping a picture for his blog. Meta, no?
Mouth-melting maguro and a much more texturally challenging flounder fin. Loved the maguro.
An elegant little soup containing tender abalone and a tofu made with the abalone liver that proved so subtle it possessed no discernible liver flavor I could detect.
Ivon in happier times (aka before being presented with the bill).
The sashimi course: crab and hirame (flounder).
Scorpion fish and - I want to say matsutake mushroom (?). According to our server, it's an ugly fish - but very delicious. Well, I can't attest to its ugliness, but it certainly was delicious. And the mushroom was a little revelation.
Ah, damnit! I can't remember the fish. I want to say snapper... Jon, a little help here.
We concluded the savory portion of our meal with Hirosaku's handmade soba. I enjoyed the soba, for their toothsome texture in particular. Ivon wasn't as enthused (nor were the two British girls we spoke to several nights back who complained about ordering Japanese pasta and having it served cold with no sauce).
The starchy remnants of the soba are served as well.
Good times!
For dessert - some terrific strawberries. And, no, you're unlikely to find strawberries this good at your local Whole Foods.

Our meal concluded, we braved the steep staircase to reach the main floor and reclaim our shoes.  When we were presented with the bill, I did a double-take, not sure I was reading it correctly.  Unfortunately for me, there was no linguistic divide here.  They were universal numbers, not letters.  Specifically, 107 000 yen.  By far our priciest meal yet.  In fact, I’d say probably my priciest meal in Tokyo ever.

We paid and headed out.  As we left, the family and staff gathered to see us off.

We walked and chatted amongst ourselves.  About halfway down the street, I glanced back – and they were still standing outside, waving.  I waved back and continued on my way.  About a minute later, I glanced back.  They were still standing/waving.  We eventually too a corner – but not before I turned and gave them one final wave.  Even though it’s unlikely, I like to think that they’re still out there, gazing happily down that empty street, waving.

After dinner, we followed Jon through a series of alleys to a sake bar located in another alley.  It’s affable host recognized Jon immediately and welcomed him back for his second only visit to his establishment.

Our man Hideyuki

We were seated next to a table of four Japanese businessmen who had apparently been there a while.  One sat slumped in his chair, face down on the table, for the length of our entire one hour stay in the bar.  Another stumbled over at one point and attempted to recommend some sake but, sadly, proved too inchorent to be of any help.

Our neighbors. "You guys....you guys...you guys are the best friends I've ever haaaaad!"

Eventually, we let Hideyuki decide for us.  His selections –

All great. 

After a few drinks, we wound our way back through the streets of Shimbashi, dodging the gals on every street side and corner offering “massages”.  If I was guaranteed I’d get an actual massage, I would have happily taken them up on their offers.  My feet were killing me!

The next day, we enjoyed a late sleep, then met up with my friend Moro-san (of Pierre Marcolini fame) for an unagi lunch at Nodaiwa (located, interestingly enough, right next door to Birdland in the basement of the Tsukamotosozan Building).  We all had the special Christmas set –

Eel on rice. Eating it was a three step process. Step one: eat the eel as is with the rice. Step two: sprinkle a little shaved yuzu and/or tiny diced onions on top and enjoy with rice. Step three: Transfer some eel and rice to a bowl, top with wasabi and nori, then add tea and eat. There was no official step four, but Moro-san called it dealer's choice and I went back to the yuzu and green onion step.
And some unagi tamago.

It was a simple meal but one of my favorites so far.  Perfection.  I’ll definitely try to squeeze in a return visit before I leave, possibly to try some of Nodaiwa’s special wild eel (they’re one of the few places to serve it).

After lunch, we took Moro-san up on her offer to take us to Tokyo Tower in Shiba.  It was an interesting yet altogether terrifying experience.

It's called the Eiffel Tower of Tokyo, mainly because it looks a lot like the Eiffel Tower.
Moro-san snaps a pic. It's a long way up!

A looooong way up.  The glass elevator ride up to the observation platform was one of the most hair-raising experiences of my life.  The second we cleared the enclosure and were permitted a clear view of the rapidly receding ground below, I instantly regretted my decision to go.  Am I afraid of heights?  No, of course not.  It’s not like Ivon’s fear of small elevators and insects.  Afraid isn’t the right word.  It’s more of a medical condition that severely limits the strength in my knees once I rise past a certain height.  Anyway, the symptoms of my condition kicked in almost instantly.  I had to avert my gaze and assure myself that I would head right back down – and I would have if nor for the fact that, when the elevator doors slid open, the expanse of the observation deck looked a lot more solid and comforting than the prospect of an equally hair-rising elevator ride back down.

The terrifying view. I took most of my pics well away from the window. This one was the closest I got, with my right foot planted at the corner of the window while the rest of my body leaned waaaay back, my right arm extended to snap the photo. Ivon does a great imitation. Of course.
Look at him. So relaxed. And smug.

After walking the observation deck (hugging the far wall), it was time to head up to the SPECIAL observation deck at the top of the tower, about twice as high as the one I was standing on.  We headed up the stairs and, as we awaited the elevator to whisk us up, panic set in.  Well, not panic, really.  That medical condition I was talking about.  My palms were perspiring.  My heart was hammering.  I felt as if I’d downed six successive vodka shots.  And when the doors to that tiny elevator slid open to welcome us in – I bailed. 

Sorry.  Couldn’t do it.  Ivon and Moro-san headed up for what was, by all accounts, an even more terrifying ride up to the next level, punctuated by a soul-shaking rattle that elicited an audible gasp from Moro-san.

Eventually, they made their way down and Ivon took the opportunity to check out the crazy lookdown windows –

If you ask me, this is just asking for trouble.
And this.

Afterwards, we finally headed downstairs where we took in one of the worst wax museums I’ve ever visited – which was rivaled by one of the worst haunted houses I’ve ever walked through (which included one of the worst 3D spectacles I’ve ever witnessed).

It's Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman! One year after the movie ends and she's been back on the streets a while.
It's the Beatles! Ringo looks so sad.
It's a bunch of crap from somebody's basement!
Settling in for the scintillating 3D spectacular.

We concluded our visit with sub-par sundaes from a place called Cafe Motherfarm.

 Today’s entry is dedicated to blog regular Das.  Speedy recovery!  Don’t make me come out there and get you!

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Lisa R
Lisa R

Looks like you had a great day once more. I like seeing all the sights and food of Tokyo through expert eyes. Thanks for sharing.

PBMom

I know that medical condition, Joe. I experienced the same sensation when I was at Disney where they had a terrifying ride. My friends described it as a dark place where they had things that would go off that made you feel like things were crawling all over you. I forget the name of it. I was going to be brave and push past that fear, but I had a panic attack at the thought of being groped in the dark by things unforeseen at Disney no less. I made a quick exit and told my friends I’d see them on the other side.

I can tolerate heights in a closed environment. I’m terrified of open heights. I did fine though at the Space Needle in Seattle and on several lighthouses walking on the outside of them. I’m thinking more like a skydiving or bungee jumping open height. I’m fine in a plane, in a building, etc. I did feel this panic-like feeling though on the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver. I was so proud of myself for getting across it with some idiots deciding they were going to sway the bridge. Did horrible things for my vertigo. Then when I found out that the only way out was to go back across the bridge…just like you on that elevator.

Love the 3-D glasses. Thanks for letting someone else take a few pictures of you for a change.

JeffW

Loved the Maguro! Man, I’m hungry for sushi!

And are you sure that one was Ringo? He kinda looked like Paul to me…or maybe Davey Jones? Come to think of it they look like the Monkeys to me. Or maybe Davey’s the one on the right…hmmm.

Sparrow_hawk

That dinner bill was unbelievable! And I share your feelings about Tokyo tower. We skipped the super high viewing platform. I had a hard enough time dealing with the windows in the floor!

The unagi look delicious!

Soba water. The way I understand it, when you finish your noodles you scrape whatever is left of your wasabi and onions into the dregs of the broth, then pour in the hot soba water and drink it like tea. My friend Sueko thinks it’s the best part of eating soba.

woody woodward

Thanks for another fun read!
“hey PBMom!!!!”

Ponytail
Ponytail

I think that was more like a Mannequin Museum. Pretty pathetic figures. No way is that the Beatles! Ivon looks more like a Beatle than those figures do. And the “bunch of crap from somebody’s basement!” made me laugh so hard!

I’m still in shock that Ivon can just walk in a store, grab a pair of glasses off the shelf and start wearing them. I’m so blind my glasses have to be special made and cost a fortune. Ivon looks really cute in his glasses. He looks like he is really enjoying himself. Either that, or he is always really drunk.

Keep those pictures of YOU and Ivon coming.

@ DAS –you got sick from putting orange juice in your coffee?? Hope you feel better soon. Make Joe come out there and get you! (After all, you are his favorite.) smile

Airelle
Airelle

Aw, you all look so cute in your new glasses.
I agree with the up too darn high thing, whoa. Now you never have to go to that place ever again.
That is so not the Julia Roberts I remember. bad wax job. Are you all ready to come back home yet? More adventures planned? Thanks for sharing your food, your day and your friends with us. It has been great fun for me so far. Enjoy!

My Name Is Scott
My Name Is Scott

Hey Joe, if you see something Godzilla-related, snap a pic for this kaiju fan! Thanks grin

cherluvya

Hey Joe,

The food…is..well…very interesting. I think I much prefer seeing your GREAT pictures and reading your blog…than it would be to touching MOST of that food with a ten-foot-pole.

I keep shaking my head..I don’t remember last year being THIS interesting. hmmmm Probably me that has changed and NOT the food.

I LOVE your journeys…it is all fun and VERY educational.

Best to you Joe,
Always,
Cheryl smile

P.S. You are certainly NOT alone in the “fear” of heights department. Add air sickness to what you experienced and THAT would be ME. hehehehe ugh

Sherry
Sherry

I sincerely hope that meal was worth it. Even splitting it three ways (I really hope that was the total for all three of you because for one person, that’s more than insane — which it kinda already was), it still would be me do a double take and wince.

Jon

Hey hey, thanks for the link! The purple buds were shiso flowers, you’re right that the white fish was snapper, the sake place is Ishii いし井, and New Tokyo Tower is already taller than the old one. And more menacing.
See you next year if not sooner!

Paul Moody
Paul Moody

Hirosaku sounded awesome but a bit freaky how the staff watched you go like that. I reckon you were over charged or fed the dangerous cut of fugu; they were watching on either to see if one of you fell to the floor, clutching an achey belly or if you’d come back and query the bill. Course, it might have just been politeness -knowing the Japanese it was probably that…

Lexxye
Lexxye

Thanks for today’s entry. Good to see you are really in Tokyo. smile

Lexxye
Lexxye

Holy Crap! I choked on my chocolate cake and almost had a heart attack after converting your bill!

Jovanna

I like heights. Not because I can stand them, but to see how high up I can bully myself into going. Get a terrific rush when I can overcome the condition… but just imagine standing there and then having someone come up behind you and pushing you.

Tammy Dixon
Tammy Dixon

I second what Lexxye said, “Holy Crap”.

You guys look so handsome in the picture above!

Das: I hope your feel better today. We miss ya!

Sue Jackson
Sue Jackson

That little restaurant looked cozy. Except for the fish liver…the food looks good. That scorpion fish looked yummy. The eel on rice looks absolutely delicious! smile Love soba….yumm. But…don’t think I would eat the starchy remnants. razz Sushi looks yummy.

That Eiffel Tower of Tokyo looks really cool…and a lot of fun. LOL! Joe, you look cute with 3D glasses.

JimFromJersey
JimFromJersey

Joe,

I think the family @ Hirosaku kept waving because you dropped over $1,200.00 on an (arguably) $200.00 meal. I’d wave a lot too if I were them. =)

Good thoughts to Jelly and Das! Get better girls!

DP
DP

@das – no internet? I hope you get better soon (and get some internet soon). What kind of hospital has no internet?

@Joe – My brother-in-law went to a lunch for 4 in Japan that cost the equivalent of $10,000 dollars.

Shiny
Shiny

Nothin’ quite like Tokyo sticker shock; that 107 k yen dinner takes the cake though. The dinner looked beautiful and delicious, and very traditional even if it was an arm and a leg (and a mortgage).

Pretty sure they took the wax body of say Darryl Hannah and said “hey, we can make more money dressing this gal up as Julia Roberts!” I’m pretty sure half of those Beatles are really left over Osmonds. Loved the junk drawer museum.

Thornyrose
Thornyrose

That traditional meal looked delicious, start to finish. But 1270 canadian dollars worth? Not so much. But that eel dish had me drooling. I could live on that one dish for a year. (well, the same dish over and over; I may be overweight but I don’t have that much flab to spare). Giggled at the sake bar experience. I see things haven’t changed much in four or so decades. Work hard, play harder..
A pity you couldn’t bring yourself to make the rest of the trip up the tower. But better conceed your limitations than suffer the humiliation of being rescued and hauled to a hospital after almost stroking out. Personally, I’d love to throw a line off the top and try a rappel. I’ve a healthy respect for heights, but it’s confined spaces that give me the symptoms you suffer. To each his achilles heel.
Thanks for sharing and keeping your posts so detailed and long. Snowing here in Virginia, and the neighborhood stray has finally decided to trade in frozen freedom for a warm place to bed and acclimation to human company. Now, to get her and my K’Tesh to actually be friends…

Jeff
Jeff

Wow, Joe, I cannot believe you guys dropped that much money on a meal. But if you have the money to do it, who am i to complain. It looked great though! glad you guys enjoyed it. I’m sure Ivon is left wondering if the meal was worth the price, lol. Dont blame you for bailing, as much as i would tell myself theres no way i’d die, it still looked very scary! Love all the pics of the food and sight seeing your doing!

lspacediva3
lspacediva3

I have never really thought much about traveling to Tokyo until reading about your adventures there — now I hope I can get there someday! Here’s a fun little article about shirako I found — I would try it smile

lspacediva3
lspacediva3

And here’s the link to the article that I forgot to attach..

http://nymag.com/restaurants/features/25585/

Robin
Robin

“107 000 yen”

Dude. According to the currency converter, that’s… a lot of money. That’s more per person than my friends and I managed to spend at Morimoto in NYC, even with cocktails, appetizers, and a monstrous bottle of the house sake. Sounds like it was well worth it, though. smile

I look forward to reading about your trip each year with a mixture of glee and envy. You always have such grand adventures that make me crave ramen and sushi the likes of which are pretty close to impossible to find in Boston.

While I’m mostly okay with heights, it was a little scary being on the (exterior) top of the dome at Il Duomo in Florence on the windy day we happened to make the climb. The view was magnificent, though, so the scary and tiring parts were easier to justify.