• Sugalabo – more than just fine dining

    A restaurant that calls itself Sugalabo, or “Suga’s lab” in Japanese, may conjure images of beakers full of rainbow-colored liquids and steaming test tubes.  And the decor of Suga’s lab – shiny metal accentuated by transparent light bulbs with glowing filaments – does set the mood for futuristic culinary experiments. Whatever experiments may take place there, the restaurant where chef proprietor, Yosuke Suga, and his staff prepare their fare, is a tightly controlled ship. Meticulous attention to detail and careful… Read more »

  • Yuzukosho: Capturing that Citrus Zing 

    I have long been a fan of yuzukosho, a condiment made with the Japanese citrus fruit, yuzu, and chili peppers. The yellow-green paste gives an added kick to dishes with its fresh citrusy aroma and spicy zing. It is a delicious accompaniment to grilled chicken, fish or roast beef, or simply mixed into the soup of a hotpot. In recent years, yuzukosho has been discovered by the culinary world outside Japan and re-discovered in its home market — becoming one… Read more »

  • Yoshizawa – Refined Kaiseki in the Heart of Roppongi

    The minute we stepped through the traditional wood and stone entrance to Yoshizawa we were spirited away from the contemporary minimalism of Roppongi Hills, where this acclaimed Japanese restaurant is located, into a serene world of sliding doors and aromatic incense.  As we were led to our seats along a narrow, paved corridor flanked by private rooms behind sliding doors and latticed shoji screens, we could almost pretend we were walking along a pathway in 18th century Kyoto. We had… Read more »

  • Innovative Kaiseki at Waketokuyama

    In a video created by the Onigiri Society, a non-profit that disseminates information on Japanese rice balls, Hiromitsu Nozaki, the chef proprietor of Japanese restaurant Waketokuyama, http://japonica.info/waketokuyama-refined-japanese-cuisine-in-elegant-surroundings/ talks about his love of rice and, particularly, of onigiri rice balls. He reminisces about coming home from school and finding huge onigiri in the cabinet, which his mother had made for him as a snack. For Nozaki, those rice balls were full of his mother’s love for him. Such memories and the clear… Read more »

  • Maison KEI – A Touch of France at the Foot of Mt Fuji

    Social distancing restrictions triggered by the coronavirus outbreak have yielded a few modest upsides, including making it much easier to book a table, even at the most popular restaurants in Japan — with the exception of some very special destinations, including Maison KEI. Even though it is located in Gotenba, a city of less than 36,000, a good hour-and-a-half drive southwest of Tokyo, trying to book a table at this French restaurant requires patience, determination and above all, luck. We… Read more »

  • Okadamae – a Feast for Carnivores

    When Kenichiro Okada worked at a grilled meat restaurant in Tokyo’s Nishi-Azabu neighborhood, customers would often ask to sit at the counter right in front of him where they could watch the diminutive chef wield his knife and expertly slice choice cuts of meat while offering nuggets of culinary insights. Those loyal customers coined a phrase for that special spot – Okadamae, or “in front of Okada.” As chef Okada tells it, when he decided to open his own restaurant… Read more »

  • An unexpected gourmet night in Hiroshima: Nikai Sasaki

    The name Hiroshima means different things to different people. For most foreigners, the name of this medium-sized city in southwestern Japan immediately evokes images of the devastation caused by the atomic bomb in World War II. To baseball fans in Japan, the name brings to mind the beloved local team, the Hiroshima Carp. And for car buffs, it is the birthplace of Mazda and its legendary rotary engine. One thing the name Hiroshima does not usually bring to mind –… Read more »

  • Tradition Meets the 21st Century in the World of Wagashi Confectionery

    At first bite, there is a distinct flavor and aroma of raspberry. Then there are strong hints of lychee and rose as the smooth, sweet jelly dissolves in the mouth. The ingredients and flavors, as well as the name, Ispahan, suggest that this block of dark magenta confectionery is an exotic Middle Eastern delicacy. In fact, Petite Yokan Ispahan is a Japanese sweet made by a traditional confectioner, Toraya, founded in the early 16th century, which built its reputation on… Read more »

  • How the Pandemic Threatens Japan’s Culinary Culture

    TOKYO — Hanasato, a high-end Japanese restaurant housed in a sprawling mansion surrounded by lush gardens, has been serving traditional multi-course kaiseki cuisine in the suburbs of Yokohama for decades. But on July 19, Hanasato welcomed diners for the last time, ending its 40-year history as a purveyor of traditional Japanese fine dining. Hanasato’s decision to close its doors follows in the footsteps of Tokyo Mimiu, a Japanese restaurant famous for its udon sukiyaki, which closed its six restaurants in… Read more »

  • Ristorante Honda – An Italian Take on Japan’s Seasonal Fare

    As we walked through the front door of Ristorante Honda, an elegant Michelin-starred restaurant in Tokyo’s Gaienmae neighborhood, I was struck by the realization that eating out may never be quite the same again. Inside the restaurant’s stylish dining room, with its neutral tones and white table linen, stood two men wearing face shields over their masks, looking like characters out of a Star Wars film. “Some customers are quite concerned about contagion,” explained the maitre d’ from behind his… Read more »

  • Gourmet Bentos for the Homebound

    When I was growing up in Japan, ordering meal deliveries from restaurants was a common way for housewives to take a break and for families to enjoy professionally cooked dishes in the comfort of the home. These deliveries, known as demae, were typically from local eateries that served casual food, such as udon and soba noodles, donburi, or bowls of rice topped with various ingredients, from pork cutlets (katsu-don) to stir-fried chicken and egg (oyako-don). Young delivery men (I have… Read more »

  • Narisawa – Cuisine Inspired by the Japanese Countryside

    Before the coronavirus put a virtual halt to dining out in Tokyo, we visited Narisawa in Tokyo’s chic Aoyama neighborhood on an unseasonably warm day in early March with a cloudless sky and a light spring breeze. I had not been to chef Yoshihiro Narisawa’s innovative restaurant for several years, partly due to the frustrations of trying to get a table at this expensive yet highly popular establishment with its 2 Michelin stars and partly because I was not confident I could… Read more »