Last night, Akemi and I returned to our favorite sushi restaurant in Tokyo: Sawada. It’s always more than dinner, it’s a show, with Master Sawada-san presenting a feast of varied sushis and sashimis, from sweet Hokkaido uni to grilled sea eel, all expertly prepared and utterly delicious.  The restaurant itself is small, seating six at its modest counter, but this, says Sawada, is ideal as it allows him to give each diner his fullest attention.  The meal isn’t cheap, but it is always one of the culinary highlights of my year.

On this visit, we were seated beside a solo diner, Jeff, who was in town from London for two days of business.  We chatted film, television, and, of course, food.  The remaining counter seats were occupied by three 50-something Japanese women whose conversation grew more raucous, their laughter louder, as the evening progressed – no doubt owing to the amount of sake they knocked back.  At one point, one of them got up to use the bathroom, stumbled and almost ate tatami – but found much-needed support in the form of the opposing closet door that almost buckled under her weight.  Once our dinner had ended, I made sure they left first. The last thing I needed was an inebriated avalanche of drunken older women tumbling down the stairs toward me.

Anyway, no photos of the meal itself (Sawada-san enforces a strict no-photo policy – unless you get there early and there are no fellow diners to offend), but I did snap a pic of our new friend, Jeff with Akemi:

Today, we did a little shopping in Shinjuku…

The streets of Shinjuku

I touched and got “Make a mountain out of a molehill”.

Then to Nishi-Azabu for tonkatsu lunch…

Our walk from the metro station takes us by Aoyama Park.
Lunch at Butagumi with our friend, Masa.
The menu offers a wide variety of pork (breaded and fried to golden-tender perfection).
Let the pig-out begin!
This appetizer was the surprise star of the meal and probably the most delicious thing I’ve eaten all year. The pork is braised for eight hours, then cooked with garlic, green onions, soy, and shichimi (a Japanese spice made up of some seven other ingredients). I ended up ordering a second dish – and then a third. Unbelievably tasty.
We ordered three different tonkatsu’s. This one was the thickly sliced, medium-rich pork sirloin from Kagoshima prefecture.
This one was the Imo Buta from Chiba prefecture and was our favorite. Surprising since it was a filet and the leanest of the three.
The super rich Meishan-Ton from Ibakari prefecture. Akemi and I were expecting the marbling to be more evenly distributed. It was a tad queasifying. Is queasifying a word?

We worked off lunch with a walk down to Roppongi Midtown and stopped by Jean-Paul Hevin for macarons before heading back to Roppongi Hills – only to discover that the Mori Arts Museum is closed until mid-November.  WTF?!

Tonight, it’s dinner with my friend, Sachi, at Pierre Gagnaire and then tomorrow, it’s a LATE blog update as I spend the day (and early evening) with my friend, Moro-san, in Yokohama!

How are our friends on the east coast?  Hope you’ve all ridden out the storm and things are returning to normalcy.

19 thoughts on “October 31, 2012: Tokyo Day #3! Sawada! Shinjuku! Butagumi!

  1. The food looks wonderful! Glad you are having a good time! Can’t believe how cold it’s been here in Alabama for the last few days, but we’re supposed to be warming up to the lower 70s by the weekend.

    Have a great day!!!

  2. Japan does reside in the Ring of fire Joe. Infact 10 percent of the worlds Earthquakes occur in the country, though most are very minor, so if you thought you felt something, you probably did.

    By the way, the no photo thing in that restuarant is a bit odd. You’d think Chefs would want their work admired and loved by all and would be a means to draw customers into their restuarant..

  3. Earthquake? I hope it was a little one.

    Personally, we fared OK through Hurricane Sandy. The eye passed right over my town, according to satellite maps. We didn’t even lose power. Or trees. Just lots of leaves.

    My in-laws lost power, but had no damage. I took off of work yesterday to get them situated with ice and a generator. They refused to come to our house. (Stubborn old people!) And it was all for naught. Their electric was declared by PSE&G to be out until Nov. 5th. It came back on last night around 8PM.

    The surrounding towns have varying degrees of damage. The shore towns are literally devastated. I’m waiting for the OK to get into our campground to assess the damage to our park model. The site is just outside of Sea Isle.

  4. Oh how I love to read of your and Akemi’s adventures in Japan. The hubster is a rice and meat kind of guy and not really too adventurous. I need to find another foodie to try things with…

    Here in the Ottawa area, the wind howled all, making the windows rattle and whistled (another job before winter visits), scaring the dog. Other than that there was not much damage here. But in southwest ON / Toronto, the winds were strong enough to dislodge part of a sign which went flying and killed a woman walking. There was more damage in that area. It was interesting to see the clouds moving the opposite direction from how they usually do. We have our turns at inclement weather but it missed us this time. Unfortunately, not so for US eastern seabord. The pictures and video we’ve see on CNN and FOX are incredible. My wish is for strength for everyone to get through this shocking weather as unscathed as possible. Things can be replaced and houses rebuilt – a cliche, but true. People matter and it brings out the best in most.

  5. Don’t comment often, but read daily (your blog is addictive). I think your trips to Japan are my favorite. I end up hungry and a little jealous with each blog entry, especially with today’s description of your pigout appetizer. I think you need to arrange a food trip and bring your readers along.

  6. It sounds like the no photo policy is so other customers can feel secure in their privacy, especially if the place attracts celebrities. The exception for when you’re the first to arrive seems consistent with that.

  7. Wow. I’m feeling stuffed even reading these blog posts. It all looks so good though.

    Here in NB, we’re only getting the remnants of Sandy, with heavy rain and a few waves of thunderstorms. Not much wind, though. Such a BIG storm – we were getting its effects the same time as it was affecting Chicago and area.

  8. Earthquake? I’ll look it up.

    Those meat dishes would convert me from vegetarianism for a time…..

    What,…no dessert?

  9. I love Akemi’s brown coat with the wide lapels, what a great pic of her. I’m making pork cutlets tonite, I love marbeling so I don’t know that I’d ever find too much to be enqueasing; for me there is never enough crispy fat to go round. It’s just plain bleh out in my city, cold and wet, we’ve got some washed out roads and mudslides but nothing like they have further East.

  10. You had an earthquake?!! Oh my gosh!!!! I almost jumped out of my chair and ran for you! (Don’t know where I was going, but it’s the thought that counts…right?)

    Food looks awesome! Lucky Jeff!

  11. I survived Hurricane Sandy and did not lose power once and usually I do when there is a big storm. Happy Halloween have a good one. Have fun in Japan do they celebrate Halloween there?

  12. i’ve been following nyc chefs on twitter, and some are open, others are closed and have power issues.

  13. Duh. Silly me. I didn’t check yesterday’s posts. Das already checked in. Feel free to ignore my previous comment.

    Joe, what would a visit to Japan be without a little earthquake?

  14. I’m confused. Is this the entry for the 31st, or the 30th? Or did you skip a day? I’ve been quite distracted, needless to say.

    Finally got my house back together after evacuating to the neighbor’s. Some normalcy here. Went metal detecting with friends from Idaho. Back in Idaho he found a beautiful gold ring valued at about $950.00, and today he found a heavy silver earring on the beach. I found an Italian L.100 and about $1.43 in US currency, and a fishing lure. No gold, no silver, but I was more excited about my Italian coin than his silver earring! What can I say, I’m a cheap date. 😀

    Thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the nor’easter-Hurricane Sandy hybrid storm. The devastation is unbelievable! While some of the shore communities south of Atlantic City suffered damage, nothing compares to what happened to the shore towns above AC, and into NY. Just terrible! This storm reminds me of the stories I’ve heard about the March ’62 storm:

    Sometimes we feel ‘safe’ from big storms here in Jersey – Hurricanes usually fizzle before they hit us, we rarely see tornados above an F0 or F1, and along the coast we usually don’t even have to deal with major snowfall. But when these ‘perfect storms’ develop, then God help us all.


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