Restaurants of the week
Chanko nabe is the protein-rich hotpot dish eaten by sumo wrestlers to build up their massive bodies, and there’s no better way to enjoy this traditional favourite than by having it cooked by a former wrestler. Koto Kuroshio is still a larger-than-life character, despite having shed plenty of weight since his active years, and welcomes all comers to his Kagurazaka restaurant. Photographs of his glory days adorn the walls, a trophy can be seen here and there, and Kuroshio will happily put up for a photo op to authenticate your sumo eating experience. Contrary to popular belief, chanko nabe is actually very healthy. Containing fish, chicken, meatballs and tofu while also brimming with vegetables such as leek, carrot, peppers and mushrooms, it’s cooked in a dashi stock flavoured with either soy sauce or miso. However, a pot usually consumed by four diners would be eaten up by a single sumo wrestler. Kuroshio uses white barley miso for the stock – something that gives the soup a slightly sweet flavour. The fish varies depending on the season but is always included in generous chunks. Chicken is the sole kind of meat used, as it’s firmly believed that sumo wrestlers should only eat animals with two legs – to help them remain standing in the heat of a bout, of course. Considering the sumo-sized portions, we recommend bringing both a large group and a true rikishi attitude. You’re guaranteed warm service and a relaxed atmosphere with plenty of sumo memorabilia.
A branch outpost of Waseda's Bib Gourmand-recognised Yamaguchi, this Toyocho shop wows with its Special Mabo Mazesoba, a spicy mixture that comes sprinkled with locally grown coriander. Masochists who need even more fire can rest assured that there's always a helping of green Sichuan pepper powder at hand. Slightly different from regular Sichuan peppercorns, these are picked when still young and raw from a similar hua jiao plant, and create a slight numbing sensation when eaten. On the other hand, if you can't quite handle your spice, let the staff know; they'll be happy to serve you a version without chilli oil or pricky pepper. Although we're fans of the mazesoba, it's rivalled by the Ajitama Iri Shio Ramen, made with a sauce based on a combo of three East Asian sea salts: Ama no Mojio from the Seto Inland Sea, Nuchimaasu from Okinawa and Fukuen from Fujian.
Enter through the butcher shop – what a brilliant concept for a steakhouse. Nakasei is, above all, a purveyor of the finest quality aged Tajima beef: they welcome a new cow every couple of weeks, butcher the poor thing and hang its meat to dry anywhere from six weeks to six months, depending on the part. At the butcher’s quarters – pristine, like a surgeon’s operating room – you can buy around 20 cuts of beef to take home. The selection rotates daily and depends on whichever piece of aged flesh is most appetising right then. Only checking out the shop, you’d never guess that a restaurant sits behind the stainless steel door in the back. Diners choose their favourite cuts at the shop before being guided into the inner sanctum: a spartan concrete space that looks very much like a cold storage room. Wooden tables and steel chairs provide the bare minimum décor required, butcher’s hooks and naked light globes hang from the ceiling. It’s quite clear that this is a den for appreciating meat, and no frills are required. Your cut of choice is first presented at your table, and the waiter will ask how you’d like it cooked. Just remember – this isn’t the kind of place where you ask for a well done steak. Next, pick sides to accompany your pound of flesh; fries, mashed potato and/or spinach, plus condiments like soy sauce, wasabi, mustard and yuzu. Once the grilling is done, you’re in for the carnivorous experience of a lifetime. Do expect to pay a premium for this level of quality;
Upcoming food events
Ministry of Crab pop-up restaurant at Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo
Famous Sri Lankan-Japanese chef Dharshan Munidasa will present a limited-time pop-up at Shangri-La Hotel Tokyo, featuring his award-winning seafood restaurant Ministry of Crab, which has been a regular on Asia's top 50 restaurants list. For four nights only, you'll have the chance to sample an exclusive five-course dinner highlighting Sri Lanka’s famous crab executed with a Japanese twist. Expect dishes such as the pepper crab in a gusty sauce made with hand-crushed and whole peppercorns, as well as the original garlic chilli crab, which blends italian olive oil, garlic, Sri Lankan chilli flakes and Japanese soy sauce for a flavour punch that will have you craving for more. The setting of this pop-up restaurant resembles the original interior design of the Ministry of Crab in Colombo, making this dining experience as close as possible to the original restaurant. There are four seatings per evening (from 6pm, 7pm, 8pm and 9pm), and limited to only 20 diners per seating. The dinner is priced at ¥18,000 per person (inclusive of service charge and consumption tax, excluding beverages). Reservations open from August 1, 12noon through phone (03 6739 7888) or online.
KFC is doing all-you-can-eat fried chicken every Friday this summer
It's like Christmas come early: rather than only gorging yourself on pricey KFC on December 25, you can now fill up on fried chicken every Friday until the end of summer. KFC Japan has announced that until August 31, they'll be having an all-you-can-eat fried chicken deal at selected outlets across the nation, including some 47 shops in Tokyo itself. The best bit? It's just ¥1,380, which gets you 45 minutes of unlimited binging on their original fried chicken, plus small servings of curly chips, biscuits and drinks to top it all off. Of course, to contain the chicken-frenzied masses, you'll have to reserve a spot to get the deal, which runs from 4pm until closing time. It's perfect for dinner. Reservations should be made directly with the KFC shop of your choice; for a full list of participating outlets, click here (Japanese only). Some larger KFC outlets in central Tokyo seem to be participating, such as those in Shibuya Dogenzaka, Ikebukuro, Asakusa, Akihabara and Hatchobori. Other than that, they're mostly clustered outside of the Yamanote line loop – hey, you've got to work for your chicken. When making reservations, you'll have to state that you're coming for the 'tabehoudai' deal. After that, it's all about the chicken. No more Netflix and chill, everyone – date night now means heading straight to KFC on Fridays. See you there!
The Oak Door Summer Beer Garden
Dine on southwestern style barbeque and seafood from the northeast at The Oak Door’s beer garden this summer. The restaurant is offering a range of flavours from various regions around the US served up by American cuisine specialists, including pit master Craig White, who also introduced smoked barbeque to Japan. Diners can also opt for a free-flow plan with bottomless margaritas and a wide selection of other drinks. If you can’t choose between barbeque or seafood, go for the VIP plan and dine in luxury on a comfy sofa with an endless supply of their finest champagne.
Forest Beer Garden
An expansive outdoor spot located within the children’s play area inside Meiji Shrine’s Outer Gardens, the Forest Beer Garden is separated from its boozy cousins by its tranquil, tree-lined surrounds and bubbling waterfall. The popular all-you-can-eat-and-drink option includes everything from barbecued beef and pork to flavoured rum cocktails, wine and three kinds of draft beer. Despite being one of the largest beer gardens in Tokyo, with a capacity of around 1,000, at weekends and during the holidays it gets extremely busy, so advance bookings are recommended.
Peter X Artisan Chefs of Japan
The Peninsula Tokyo’s signature restaurant Peter is hosting four award-winning chefs for a special culinary series. These chefs come from acclaimed restaurants, which are amongst the toughest reservations to score in the city. They will be partnering with Peter’s chef de cuisine Masateru Kiriyama to create special lunch and dinner menus over four weekends starting in August. First up is chef Masayoshi Nishikawa from the two Michelin-starred Gion Nishikawa in Kyoto (Aug 31-Sep 1). He will be showcasing the sublime art of kaiseki haute cuisine while featuring Japan’s local and seasonal produce. Plus, you can expect a meal which engages all your senses. Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa takes over on Sep 28 and 29; he’s the chef-owner of two Michelin-starred Den in Tokyo, a restaurant which is also ranked No. 2 in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant list for 2018. He will be serving a modern and creative take on kaiseki cuisine. Over the Oct 26 and 27 weekend, you can look forward to Chef Yoshiaki Takazawa’s complex and imaginative French-Japanese fashion dishes. His namesake restaurant in Tokyo has been named one of US Food & Wine Magazine’s World’s Top 10 Life-Changing Restaurants. The final installment, on Nov 30 and Dec 1, will be hosted by Chef Hiroyasu Kawate from Florilège in Tokyo. His restaurant has earned two Michelin stars as well as the No. 3 spot on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018 list. Expect locally-sourced Japanese produce and ingredients interpreted through classic French tech
Aloha BBQ Beer Garden
Tokyoites just can't get enough of Hawaii, but with a limited amount of yearly paid holidays, this Hawaiian beer garden on Ikebukuro Parco's rooftop serves as a decent alternative right here in the capital. The decor tries to channel a posh resort in the tropics, while the barbecue-heavy set menu comes with unlimited french fries, edamame and shaved ice. Hawaiian beers and tropical cocktails will of course make an appearance as well, and for a bit of added entertainment, you can look forward to hula dancing and performances of Hawaiian music.
Hot new openings
Inua could very well be the closest thing to Copenhagen's Noma in this part of the world. The main reason? It is run by Thomas Frebel who has worked in the said prolific restaurant for ten years – in fact, he was the man behind research and development, which is to say he was usually the creator of the first draft of new dishes. Moreover, Inua is backed by Noma head chef and co-owner Rene Redzepi, as well as Japan’s Kadokawa Corporation. Inua’s food philosophy is similar to the modern Nordic approach spearheaded by Noma, and you can look forward to a menu informed by the indigenous ingredients and flavours of Japan, but executed with techniques and influences from around the world. The food here will reflect Japan’s seasonality and diversity in landscapes, from the cooler climate of Hokkaido in the north to the subtropical conditions of Okinawa in the south. To prepare for this restaurant, Frebel and his team has travelled throughout Japan to discover new ingredients, develop their knowledge on local culture, and build relationships with producers and suppliers. Inua will present a complete Japanese-Nordic dining experience, as the interior of the 60-seat restaurant will combine Danish designs with Japanese craftsmanship. The dinner tasting menu is priced at ¥29,000. Wine pairing is available from ¥16,000 while non-alcoholic pairing is priced at ¥10,000 (all prices exclude 8 percent consumption tax and 10 percent service charge).