With my first full day in Tokyo behind me, I have a lot to cover here on the blog – and a lot to look forward to in the coming days.  The change of pace and location has provided a much-needed, greatly appreciated distraction.  Still, I think of Maximus often and wonder how the other dogs are going to adjust.  According to my dog-sitter, they’re doing fine right now.  Bubba and Lulu are doing a lot of walking while Jelly is doing a lot of lying around, wrestling with her toys.  Christine forwarded the following pic of Lulu and Bubba rarin’ to go…

And speaking of rarin’ to go…

Akemi is absolutely thrilled to be back in Japan and has suggested, given my love for the place, that I may well want to consider moving here...or at least getting an apartment in Tokyo.

My trip to Tokyo happens to coincide with the what is billed as “the largest event dedicated to chocolate”: Le Salon du Chocolat.  As some of you know, I’ enjoy the occasional chocolate – and chocolate-related party (April 18, 2010: The Greatest Chocolate Party Ever!).  And so, yesterday, we met up with my friend Keiko and headed to Isestan Shinjuku which was playing host to some of the world’s greatest chocolatiers – and, of course, their creations.

The plan was to do a tour of the place, then go to lunch after which we would make our purchases and start sampling.  Well, yes, that was the plan.  We were only steps inside when we happened across a little seated area in which diners were being served some of the most incredible-looking chocolate creations I’ve ever seen.  After hardly any consideration at all, we decided to line up and sample the chocolate masterpieces.  They certainly looked incredible, but would they be as delectable as they appeared?  I’ll save you the suspense.  The answer is: yes!

Men (and women) at work - on the chocolate masterpieces.

The Kobe Kitano Hotel, igrekplus bakeries, with the help and coordination of Kobe Kitano Hotel General Manager and Executive Chef Hiroshi Yamaguchi, and accomplished restauranteur and International Vice-President of Relais & Châteaux Dominique Loiseau present…”les creations”:

Incredibly delicate and utterly delicious. The ultra chocolate construction sits atop a chocolate brûlée.
A chilled chocolate and passionfruit sphere wrapped in edible gold nestled in a dark chocolate box with chocolate-saffron foam.
A white chocolate brûlée cup supports fresh strawberries and strawberry mousse, mint parfait topped with "barbe papa" and liquorice root.
Topped with warm chocolate and... bon appetit!
Hiroshi Yamaguchi and Dominique Loiseau.

I ended up chatting with Dominique Loiseau who owns several restaurants in France including the 3-star Michelin Relais Bernard Loiseau (named after her late husband, the famed Bernard Loiseau) and she discussed the challenges of creating something that not only looked beautiful, but tasted wonderful as well.  I assured her she and her team has succeeded.

With dessert out of the way, we headed to lunch at a Wako-owned tonkatsu chain restaurant…

The menu - for those who can't read Japanese. Just check out the plastic selections.
I went with the rich agu beef from Okinawa. I like my marbling to run through my meat and while there was plenty running, it also seemed to concentrate in certain areas.
Akemi had the mochi buta from Nigata. The leaner selection.

My favorite was Keiko’s kurobuta from Kakoshima.  It struck the perfect balance.  Special mention should also be made to the killer wasabi seaweed served with the meal.  Akemi assured me we can find some before we head back to Vancouver.  Overall, a nice lunch – but, for my money, Butagumi is still the place to beat for tonkatsu.

After that, it was back downstairs for Desserts, Round #2.

At the Sadaharu Aoki booth - match-battered chocolate macarons.
Chocolate bears!
Chocolate art
Le chien au chocolat
Sebastien Bouillet's multi-flavored chocolate lipsticks. Unfortunately, sold out.
Bel Amer's white matcha chocolate with yuzu peel.
Building the chocolates, Japanese style.
Creepy chocolate art.
Frederic Madelaine (Le Pommier)

On this day, my high school French came into great use.  I stopped by one booth and ended up chatting with a Frederic Madelaine, chef/owner of Le Pommier in Kitazawa and Azabu-Juban (http://www.lepommier-patisserie.com/).  Incredible affable fellow.  Akemi loved his Japanese!  We purchased one of his nine-piece selections that we ended up enjoying this morning at the hotel!

Julien Gouzien of Henri Le Roux. Akemi picked up their wonderfully smooth white chocolate match bar.
Oh, I was tempted.
Spain's celebrated chocolatier, Oriol Balaguer (a Joe's chocolate party regular) has a shop in Tokyo as well. I picked up an assortment including which included his notorious pop rock chocolate.
Keko takes a break from the baby to take in some chocolate.
At the Pralus booth, an artist paints in chocolate.
The ultimate chocolate easter bunny.
The Salon offered a special commemorative assortment that included a piece from all of the event's top chocolatiers. Unfortunately, it had sold out by the time we got there.

Well into our chocolate high, we let the Salon and cut through the Isetan enroute to the metro…

We swung by the creepy baby department.
The basement of the Isetan, like most Japanese department stores, is a cornucopia of culinary marvels. If I hadn't had so much chocolate, I would have definitely picked up one of these striking pastries.

After returning to the hotel to unwind, I headed over to the Pierre Marcolini Cafe to say hi to my friend Moro.  And, since I was there, I couldn’t well pass up one of these –

The Caramel Parfait. It comes with a side of sea salt that you can sprinkle over the ice cream as you see fit.

 With the Salon du Chocolat and that late afternoon parfait behind me, I was finally ready for dinner.  I headed off to Nishi-Azabu where I ended up dining with the lovely Tomomi at Le Bourguignon.  We enjoyed great service, cozy and quaint surroundings, and an excellent food.

Tomomi - a little camera shy.
Rice and veal foot galettes with trompettes de la mort (trumpets of death), aka black trumpet mushrooms. I decided to go with the most daring items on the menu and was rewarded with a marvelous dish layered with textural contrasts.
My main = the beef heart. Texturally very similar to calf liver but quite tender and surprisingly subtle in flavor.
For dessert - the red pepper creme brûlée. And it packed a surprising red pepper kick that married nicely with the brule.
The restaurant's signature Mont Blanc. It was nice to go back and forth between the intensity of the red pepper brûlée and the sweeter more neutral flavour of the Mont Blanc.
And, just in case we hadn't had enough - an extra little dessert they offered us. The uber-buttery madeleine was the standout.
Chef Kikuchi kindly stepped out of the kitchen as we were leaving to thank us for coming. I told him how much we'd enjoyed our meal in my best faltering Japanese. At one point, Iapsed into French and he perked up: "En francais?" Pourquoi pas? We ended up having a nice little conversation to conclude the evening. Boy, I practiced my French more today than I have since learning it in high school!

It was ticking past 10:00 p.m. and I was exhausted.  But I knew that I had to visit one more place in memory of my wingman Ivon who couldn’t make the trip…

Yamasaki-san. Appropriately enough, he shares his name with a Japanese scotch.
Just like old times. The best Moscow Mule anywhere!
The Jack Rose - made with fresh pomegranate juice.
And the master himself - liquor legend Hisashi Kishi.
I was asked to put the word out regarding The Tokyo International Bar Show. It's where the world's top mixologists will gather!

Check out Star Bar here (スタア・バー・ギンザ) and info on the upcoming Tokyo International Bar Show here (Tokyo International BarShow – Info | Facebook).

By the time I got back to the hotel, I was exhausted and ready for bed.  Akemi presented me with a present from the friend she’d had dinner with.  Apparently, he knew I liked sushi and felt badly I’d missed out…

Needless to say after all I'd eaten, there was no way I could polish off another sushi meal. I ended up leaving the shrimp, some rice, and a half tamago.

35 thoughts on “January 29, 2012: Tokyo Day #2! Chocolate, Tonkatsu, Le Bourguignon, and a visit to The Master!

  1. Awesome pictures! A double WOW for all that delicious chocolate. It is making my bag of Hershey Chocolate Kisses look really dorky.

  2. Ok how come you are the size you are? If I ate that much I would be a beach ball!

    Kriss 🙂

  3. Wow, Joe… I just caught up on the last few days’ posts and am both red-eyed from grieving about sweet Max and salivating over the culinary tableau! I tried to comment on a previous post, but can’t tell if it got through – just want you to know how very sorry and sad I am and that I think you did exactly the right thing by him. It looks like your Japan trip has started out very well (earthquakes notwithstanding); thanks for all the yummy pics! Do have a wonderful, enjoyable time!

    Misty smiles, Julie

  4. WOW WOW WOW!! So much delicious chocolate! And stunning designs! Almost enough to make me want to hop on the skytrain to YVR and fly to Tokyo! And I must say I have no idea how you can possibly eat so much rich food in one day! Were you also a prize winning hot dog eater in high school to go along with the French?? 😉

  5. So Joe, are trying to tell us that you had no idea that there was going to be a huge “chocolate-off” while you just happened to be in Tokyo? I’m not buying it! That’s a little too convenient…

    Everything looks so amazing. I’m really beginning to think that while yes, you are a foodie, this blog is a way for you to torture us with all these amazing creations. While I could choose to live vicariously through your culinary adventures, I really don’t think I could eat as much as you can. I’m not properly trained in that way.

    That baby will haunt my dreams….


  6. Gosh the food looks so awesome, but really expensive 😀
    Looks like it’s worth going to Japan just for the chocolate and sushi.

    How’s the weather in Japan at this time of the year? It’s all foggy over here, but I guess it’s to be expected.

    Joe, have you watched the show the LA complex that Jewel acts in? If so, what do you think of it?

    Hope you’re having a good time 🙂


  7. So. Much. Chocolate. They looked so beautiful it would be a shame to eat them! In total, exactly how much food did you eat?? Still, it all looked amazing. Glad to see you’re having a great time.

  8. Yep some of those chocolates are real works of art. Having the FireFox add-on Image Zoom lets me get a closer look at them. 🙂

    Umm, suppose that was actually a real stuffed baby, just sitting there on display like that? 😮

    That Creepy Baby department might be a good title for a new movie or tv series, Creepy Babies R Us. 🙂

  9. I would be like a pig in a big not massive puddle of mud there. All that chocolate. My only fear is I wouldn’t know where to start.

    I live in London there has to be something similar happening here, surely. I’m going to have to find out.

    I’m no way near as adventurous in my food eating as you though.

  10. I’m still trying to figure out how everytime you go to Tokyo I end up gaining 10 pounds just reading your blogs.
    Just curious, have you ever checked your blood sugar during these trips? Don’t want you going Paula Deen on us.

  11. Hope you took your stretchy pants with you! Yum for the desserts, thanks for sharing. Happy you made it to the Star Bar, Ivon may be drooling and cursing you. Moscow Mule hooray! All that chocolate, what a rush. Please can I have some more! Have a wonderful day!!

  12. I’m stuffed just reading the blog. Marvelous!

    I’ll polish off any tamago you can’t fit in.

  13. Oh my… that baby was creepy.
    And wow! Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate…. I am off to go find some decent chocolate of my own.

  14. That’s a lot of food. The chocolate creations look especially tasty, but I’m surprised you didn’t explode from the amount you seem to have packed away during the day. I’m sure this has been asked before, but why aren’t you in the 500lb neigborhood?

    As for the fois gras and chocolate, I would have thought you would have pounced on it regardless of how much you ate. Is there a timeframe thing between “feedings”?

  15. Okay so it was certainly FATE that got you there during the “the largest event dedicated to chocolate”: Le Salon du Chocolat. My mouth is watering. I am a bit concerned about you though that you passed up getting the treats, but then you had another dessert and sushi so I guess you are okay. 🙂

    LOL, once on Buffy the principal and Faith were discussing looks and he said he was more attractive than her. I have to tell you that while you are cute, Akemi is utterly adorable. GO AKEMI! So glad she is getting time at home. And yeah, if not an apartment maybe a regular time share there! 🙂

    The dogs look good. Obviously your pet sitter is someone they love and trust.

  16. Such beautiful chocolate creations. Chocolate, and caramel, and fresh pomegranate juice. Some of my favorites. I like the photos. Thanks for posting them. The Bar Show, and the Le Salon du Chocolat, look like amazing events. That doll creeps me out. It looks like it could, and should, be saying, “Want brainzzzz.”

  17. SO glad both you and Akemi are enjoying Japan. The caramel parfait looks amazing and yummy. I’m glad you enjoyed the beef heart, but if that was placed before me, I’d send it back and ask them to finish cooking it, as in no red showing. I’ve said it before, but I’m a meat well-done girl or I cannot eat it.

    @ Ponytail Agreed, my little stash of Godiva squares looks puny next to those towering chocolate creations. I really love the artistry involved, proves creativity can be expressed in such an awesome variety of ways, materials, etc.

    Joe, do you intend to conduct any business while there? If so, I advise to keep it light, you need the relaxation and change of pace. Enjoy yourself!

    On my home front, the new cat addition Stash, is making himself at home. Last night he curled up beside me on my shoulder (I was laying down) and he placed his warm, furry cheek next to mine, purring contentedly. I took it to mean, “hey, I like you and gee, thanks for bringing me into your family and home”. Such a sweet little guy. Basil cat is also acting better towards him. I’ve seen them nose-greet each other peacefully. They share food and spaces without any fuss. Basil plays tag and chase (which is good, she needs the activity & weight loss) with Stash after he instigates the session. I’m reminded that every cat has their own personality traits and way of looking at the world. I’m grateful to be able to share space with them. I just wish us all a happy, contented life, free of strife and full of love. And on the days that isn’t quite possible, well, there are the memories of days when it was possible.

    Continue having fun and keep those delicious photos of fun & interesting places and of course, fabulous food coming our way. The effort you take to share with us is always appreciated Joe, please keep this blog going. My day is not complete without a several visits to our community here.

    2cats with
    Basil & Stash

  18. Unbelievable. And that white stuff is beef??? As usual, I’m in awe of your dining capacity. Like watching an Iron Man. And bravo on using your French. I think it’s far advanced of high school level!

  19. Wow i’m stuffed just reading this blog today. Joe how do you do it where do you put all this food? Glad your having a good time hoping to see some pics of Tokyo.

  20. Le chocolat, il n’y a rien de mieux, mais attention à la crise de foie!
    (Chocolate, nothing is better, but be careful, you ‘ll make yourself sick!)
    Everything looks terrific.
    Have a nice day.

  21. I am so frightened that Tokyo is going to steal you from us. Thank goodness for the Internet. Akemi is positively beaming being there! The idea of owning an apartment there sounds like a real winner.

  22. Ahhhhhhh. Chocolate. Mmmmmmm.

    All that food looks wonderful! Thanks for the pictures. I had beef heart in Munich last summer. It was tasty, but I’m betting yours was better.

  23. So You “know”.. I have a Birthday coming up in a few days.. And, I never say “no” to dark Chocolate!! — I can wait until You get back Home… ;-D

  24. Holy crap Joe, I’ve heard of comfort eating but you take it to a whole new level. Better book yourself TWO seats for you return home, one for you the other for your belly LOL

  25. How wonderful to see the smiles… on the puppy dogs, beautiful Akemi, you — looking relaxed and thoroughly enjoying yourself, and the talented people who create these works of art. When people do what they love, it really shows on their faces.

    This trip is medicine for you all, and in a way, probably for us, as well. Will Akemi’s Mom and Dad let us “see” them, too?

    The food looks gorgeous. What a treat!

  26. wow, wow, wow. did you intend your trip to be there during the chocolate festival? If so, I think that was a great move. If not, you are a lucky man. good for you! You only think you have seen Tokoyo. I think Akemi wil show you some new things. Have fun and enjoy everything. I am so enjoying every word you write and every picture you show us. so interesting.

  27. Awwww…Bubba and Lulu look so sweet! 🙂

    Oh…my…gosh! All….that…CHOCOLATE!! 🙂 As a chocoholic…my mouth is watering from seeing all that chocolate! 🙂 The chocolate art is just beautiful. But…knowing they are made of chocolate…makes me wanna take a bite.

    That sushi looks delish too! 🙂

    Joe…that’s so sweet of you to take Akemi back to Japan with you to see her parents. 🙂

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