When I travel to Tokyo, I usually stay at The Imperial Hotel. The service is great, the rooms very comfy, and I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather spending my nights. With the exception of Star Bar, a truly awesome basement bar Ivon Bartok and I discovered on our trip here a couple of hears back. Like The Imperial Hotel, the service is great and the room is comfy. Also, the drinks are outstanding. Whenever I’m in town, I make it a point to drop by. Master bartender Hisashi Kishi and his right-hand man, Yamasaki Tsuyoshi, are now like members of my extended family. I’m always thrilled to see them and, conversely, sad to part ways with them whenever my trip comes to its inevitable end.
I stopped by twice on this visit and, as always, Master Kishi-san was always at his warm, jovial, and welcoming best, whipping up killer cocktails and Moscow Mules that I’ll dream about long after I return to Vancouver.
Master Kishi-san rocks the shaker:
Yamasaki-san follows suit:
And Master Kishi-san ended up surprising me by presenting me with my very own Star Bar copper (Moscow Mule) mug. It was totally unexpected and greatly appreciated. Oh, and much needed.
Star Bar Ginza, B1F Sankosha Building, 1-5-13 Ginza, Chuo-ku,Tokyo; (03) 3535-8005
Last night, Akemi and I dined at Quintessence, a 3-star Michelin restaurant and, apparently, one of the top ten hardest places to book. Dinner was outstanding. Unfortunately, because of the no-photo policy (it may annoy the other guests), I wasn’t able to snap any pics of the culinary highlights. Fortunately, I was able to source some photos of the said culinary highlights from the internet:
After we were done and on our way out, the restaurant’s chef and owner, Shuzo Kishida, came out to meet us. At 34, he’s already been awarded 3 Michelin stars (four years in a row) for his work at Quintessence. We chatted, mostly in French, a language I assume he mastered while working in Paris at the 3 Michelin star l’Astrance. Unfortunately, I spent little time in Paris and it’s been a while since I practiced my French in Montreal so I was a bit…oh, let’s call it rusty. Still, I managed well enough to let him know what a spectacular it was – every dish brilliantly conceived and flawlessly executed – as great as our first visit/my second date with Akemi three years ago: (December 4, 2009: Tokyo Travel Day #10 – Quintessence, Monnalisa Marunouchi, I hit the wall – and I’ve still got 11 restaurants to go!)
Well, looks like our Tokyo Trip Late 2012 (not to be confused with Tokyo Trip Early 2012) is drawing to a close. I can look forward to three final no-doubt-memorable meals (and maybe about a half dozen notable desserts) before I head off. And I look forward to them. But for now, I’m looking forward to a nice change of pace breakfast:
Some restaurants in Tokyo require a reservation be made three months in advance. Others won’t accept reservations until a week before the requested seating. This year, just to be on the safe side, I forwarded the concierge at The Peninsula my list three months prior to my trip. When he sent me my finalized schedule about a week before departure, I noted that he had managed to get me a table at all but one of my choices: Quintessence. Despite the fact that he had called in my reservation request a month in advance as per instructions, I was nevertheless third on the waiting list. Well, I hate to wait – especially when it comes to eating – so I selected an alternate and didn’t give it another thought…until last week when the concierge informed me that Quintessence had called. There had been some late cancellations and, as a result, I was in for lunch.
I planned on taking the subway there (really, I did) but got sidetracked uploading photos (What else?) but still managed to leave 45 minutes early. It was pouring rain (You know that phony-looking movie rain? Well here in Tokyo it’s for real.) and I caught a cab. The driver asked me if I wanted to get there quickly. I told him, uh, sure – at which point he proceeded to merge into traffic, advancing at a snail’s pace, eating up a full thirty minutes of that initial forty-five in bumper to bumper queue. And then, with fifteen minutes to spare, he paid a toll, got on the expressway, and got me there with ten minutes to spare. Well, almost there. He pointed to the place and motored off. File this fact away for later reference.
I was early and decided to check out a nearby chocolate shop, then walked back to the place he pointed out. I stepped into the vestibule, stepped up to the glass sliding door and…nothing. I glanced over at the intercom, then back over at the legend that listed Quintessence as 101. I tried 101. Nothing. 101 *. Nope. 101 #. Nu unh. Growing increasingly frustrated, I tried *. Then #. Then variations of incomprehensible Japanese characters. Still nothing. I was about ready to scale the outside of the building when a guy walked out of the elevator. Of course, the door slid open for him. But rather than slipping through and potentially wasting more time looking for the place, I simply asked him: “Quintessence wa doko desu ka?” As it turned out, it wasn’t even in the building (despite the fact that it was listed as 101). It was next door.
By the time I arrived next door, Akemi was already waiting in the vestibule. They took my coat, then motioned me toward the dining room. I started forward, then had one of the waiters hold up his hands. Whoa there, buddy. I went to sit down. He muttered something and beckoned me. I straightened and stepped forward, realized he was ushering me toward the bathroom, told him I was okay, made to head into the dining room, and had him motion me back to the sitting area. I took a seat. At which point another server came in and motioned me inside. This time, I waited for Akemi to go first. She experienced no trouble so I followed.
We were seated in one of the nifty, glass-walled private dining rooms and presented with the menu. I flipped it open to reveal a clean white page. Carte blanche! The menu is entirely dependent on the day’s fresh produce and the chef’s inspiration. I was intrigued. And still somewhat wet. For her part, Akemi had the foresight to bring along an umbrella – but still complained about the job the weather had done on her hair.
Apologies in advance for the proceeding breakdown of our meal. The French-speaking staff member didn’t really do any of the serving and the staff member who presumably spoke English engaged Akemi throughout with elaborate explanations of the meal in Japanese that she conveyed in significantly more concise translations like “sweet potato” and “with vanilla”.
After dinner, we took a cab over to Roppongi Hills where we took in a double exhibition at the Mori Museum. The first was a jewelry exhibition by Van Cleef & Arpels titled “The Spirit of Beauty”. The second was an exhibition that explored life, death, and the human body through a collection of medical artifacts, art, and the anatomical drawings of Leonardo da Vinci. We had to motor through the latter as Akemi was creeped out by many of the unsettling pieces, but she wasn’t as bothered by the diamonds and sapphires of the other exhibition.
After visiting the Pet Station dog grooming shop (no pugs or frenchies), we went to Sadaharu Aoki Patisserie for my favoritest of favorite desserts: The Bamboo (matcha opera cake). We each had one and shared the plat de degustation.
Hours later, Akemi and I met up again for dinner even though both of us were still kind of stuffed from lunch (and, I’ve got tell ya, I wasn’t that hungry heading out to lunch either). Our destination on this night: Monnalisa Marunouchi located on the 36th floor of Marunouchi Building. And, in case you were wondering – Yeah, one hell of a view.
Alas, no menu this time either and I had to rely on Akemi’s translations yet again.
Above – Yep, yet again, shirako – served crispy this time. Holy smokes! I’ve eaten more sperm in these past ten days than…(insert rest of joke here).
Okay, I think I’ve finally hit the wall. I haven’t been hungry for a day and a half. I figure that by the time I get back to Vancouver, I won’t have to eat for at least three weeks.