June 28, 2010 | Travel Feature

How to Speak Sushi: Hot Tokyo Addresses

Sashimi from a kaiseki dinner at Nihonbashi. Photo: Takuya Susuki

I asked Yukari Sakamoto, a Japanese-American chef, sommelier and author of the essentuial Food Sake Tokyo (The Little Bookroom) to prepare a concise listing of the best of her Tokyo favorites for Insatiable-Critic.

         Tokyo is a food lover’s paradise. Michelin crowned it as the world’s top gourmet destination. With over 100,000 restaurants in the metropolis, deciphering where to go to can be a challenge. Here is my shortlist of Tokyo hot spots not to be missed.

Nihonbashi’s kaiseki mastery should not be missed. Photo: Takuya Susuki.

       If you have only one evening for dinner you must go to Nihonbashi Yukari, a Kaiseki temple celebrated for seasonal cuisine in several courses with exquisite presentation. Chef Kimio Nonaga was the 2002 Iron Chef winner. This third generation restaurant is just minutes from Tokyo station’s Yaesu exit, and close to Takashimaya department store. Dinner is reasonable when compared to other kaiseki restaurants but if the budget is tight, come for lunch and request the Yukari bento lunch. Ask for a counter seat to watch the talented chef at work.

Nihonbashi Yukari
Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-2-14
Tel. 011-81-3-3271-3436
11:30 – 14:00, 17:00 – 22:00
Closed Sunday and holidays
www.nihonbashi-yukari.com (Japanese – some English)
station: Tokyo or Nihonbashi

Tofuya Ukai is celebrated for its sublime fresh tofu. Photo: Takuya Susuki

        Tofuya Ukai is the ultimate in luxury with private rooms, a manicured garden, and a kaiseki menu renowned for its exceptional creamy tofu, but also including seafood and meat. The restaurant is located at the base of the Tokyo Tower.

Tofuya Ukai is known for the luxury of its private rooms. Photo: Takuya Susuki

Tofuya Ukai
Minato-ku, Shiba Koen 4-4-13
Tel. 011-81-3-3436-1028
11:00 – 20:00, no holidays
www.ukai.co.jp/shiba/tofu/index.html (English)
station: Akebanebashi

       Nose to tail eaters will want to try the standing bar Saiseisakaba in Shinjuku, for its innards, some served raw and many grilled. Wash it down with a cold beer or shochu on the rocks.

Shinjuku 3-7-3, Marunaka Building 1st floor
Tel. 011-81-3-3354-4829
17:00 – 24:00, no holidays
www.ishii-world.jp/brand/motsu/nihonsaisei/shinjuku3/ (Japanese)
station: Shinjuku or Shinjuku Sanchome

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        Tempura can be a revelation in Japan. The seasonal vegetables and seafood battered and deep-fried to a crisp at Kondo are remarkably delicate and ethereal. To best appreciate the difference, do not dip the tempura in the soy broth but season with salt.

Kondo Tempura
Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-5-13, 9th Floor
Tel. 011-81-3-5568-0923
12:00 – 13:30, 17:00 – 20:30, Monday - Saturday
Closed Sunday
station: Ginza

       Japanese beef, marbled with fat, melts in your mouth when simply grilled as it is at Ukai-tei where Teppanyaki cooking exists on another plane from what we know in the rest of the world. Top quality
ingredients are sparsely seasoned and cooked on a hot steel plate until the instant of perfection.

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-10-1, Omotesando Gyre 5F
Tel. 011-81-3-5467-5252
12:00 – 14:30, 17:30 – 21:00, Monday - Friday
12:00 – 21:00, weekend and holidays
www.omotesando-ukaitei.jp (English)
station: Omotesando

Come to the famous Hyatt bar at sunset to watch Tokyo light up. Photo: Takuya Susuki

        You’ll want to visit the New York Bar and Grill atop of the Park Hyatt, the unforgettable setting of the movie Lost in Translation. Arrive just before sunset and watch as the city lights come alive below you.

Park Hyatt Tokyo
Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 3-7-1-2
Tel. 011-81-3-5322-1234
http://tokyo.park.hyatt.com/ (English)
station: Shinjuku